Little Nellie Is Growing Up

Today on my last ride of November, Little Nellie celebrated turning 19. In the past I have tended to avoid riding this bike because it beats up my back, but lifting weights has really helped me tolerate the bumps transmitted by Little Nellie’s wee wheels.


And so I put this bike away for the winter and switch to my other three steeds. They miss me.


Superhero Bicycleman or Lucky Duck

I’ve been watching a lot of superhero movies and TV shows lately. It seems that no matter how hard a superhero gets bashed up, he or she gets up and fights again. What’s up with that? Then I thought about my run of luck this year.

At the end of March, I managed to get hit by an SUV. Somehow, instead of getting run over, I bounced off the damned thing. My momentum carried me in front of the car. It stopped but I was going down until I somehow consciously threw my weight over the left side of the handlebars and righted myself. Who the hell gets clobbered by a 3 ton machine and walks, make that rides, away from it without a scratch?

On my ride to work one morning, my brain went on vacation. I turned left into the Intersection of Doom. The cross traffic had a green light. The cross traffic often seems to seek out pedestrians and cyclists and mow them down. So when I put myself directly in their path, nobody honked, nobody yelled nobody mowed me down. How could it be?

During my bike tour, I was riding from West Palm Beach toward the east coast of Florida. My bike lane suddenly stopped. Normally, I’d have just merged into the car lane and rolled on. This time I stopped. A dump truck missed my left shoulder by about a foot.

A couple of weeks later on the tour I was returning to my motel from a trip to the grocery store. I had a full pannier on the left rear of The Mule and a grocery bag slung over the right brake hood. You could say the load was not balanced very well. I stepped up onto the porch in front of my room and started to put my key in the lock. Leaning forward upset the delicate balance of things, the weight shifted and The Mule and I fell backward off the porch. I saved The Mule by catching it across my torso. On the way down my right rib was speared by a landscape light. I had two days to go to reach my train. Did my mess up rib stop me? Nope. I healed in about ten days.

On Friday, I decided to change an electrical socket. Things didn’t go well. In order to brace myself as I leaned over the counter top to work on the socket, I apparently hyperextended my left knee somehow. Afterward, my leg wouldn’t bear my body weight. So I took some vitamin I and elevated my leg. The next day my knee was better but still not ready for jump shots. What are you going to do? I went for a 34 mile bike ride. When I got home I took some vitamin I and elevated my leg. I woke up this morning and my leg would bear my weight. The weather was perfect for hiking but I didn’t want to push my luck so I went on a gentle 33 mile bike ride. My leg feels like it’s almost back to normal.

I’m either Superhero Bicycleman or one very lucky duck.

Let’s hope my luck doesn’t run out.

One-Knee Bike Ride

Yesterday I spent an hour screwing around with an electrical socket that refused to work properly. I failed. It still doesn’t work. Afterwards I noticed the back of my left knee hurt like a bitch. My leg wouldn’t support my weight. The leg just gave way. In scientific terminology this is WTF! Who the hell hurts their knee swapping out an electrical socket?

Um. Me, apparently.

So I took some vitamin I and elevated my leg as I watched the DareDevil series on Netflix. When I was a kid, I owned the first several DareDevil comic books. The series got good reviews based, I am sure on the first few episodes which seemed faithful to the comics that I read. After 23 chapters I was losing interest. It was hard to figure out which was more disturbing:

  • The fact that DareDevil got his head bashed 20 times per show and rarely showed concussion symptoms
  • The number of people who were gunned down or run through with sharp objects (waaay too much gore for me)
  • The fact that everyone who wasn’t in a superhero suit would drink whiskey whenever they walked into an office

After the TV binge, I stood up and my leg didn’t want to have anything to do with propelling me to bed. Not fun.

I took some more vitamin I and hobbled up the stairs.

This morning the knee hurt more worser. Ow. So I read the newspaper and kneaded the back of the knee with my fingers. It seemed to get better.

It was over 60 degrees outside. What’s an invalid to do?

I went for a bike ride. Nothing epic. I rode my old bike commute route along the Potomac River. Then I climbed up the hill in Rosslyn and rode the roller coaster called the Martha Custis Trail along I-66. I rode back on the nearly flat W&OD and Four Mile Run Trails. For about 25 miles my gimpy knee was doing fine. Then it weakened.

I distracted my knee with some Halloween candy. Applied orally. Snickers worked better than Bit-O-Honey.

Image may contain: sky, outdoor and nature

I made it home okay. 34 1/2 miles. Getting off the bike was a tad interesting. Good thing Little Nellie has a step-through frame so that I didn’t have to put weight on my left leg for more than a couple of seconds. (Now that I thing about it, I can’t remember the last time I got off a bike on the right side. It’s a bit like swimming freestyle and breathing from the same side all the time.)

So long story short, I can function pretty well as long as I don’t put weight on my left leg. I can ride my bike, lift weights, do my physical therapy, watch TV. Hell, I bet I could even drink whiskey.

Now there’s an idea….


Opt Insane

So it’s Black Friday. With no intentions of going anywhere near a store, I rode to Old Town Alexandria to take in the holiday vibe. The air was crisp as were the leaves on the ground. I was surprised that there were few people on the streets. I made my way to Alexandria’s Del Ray neighborhood. Same story. I headed back home, stopping at the gym to lift some weights.

Once the riding and lifting were done, I headed to our neighborhood hardware store to buy an electrical outlet to replace one that died in our kitchen. It happens to be the one that I use to recharge my bike headlight so I had a particular interest in getting it fixed. After six tries, I found the circuit on our poorly labelled circuit board, then I took out the old outlet and connected the new one. Connecting the outlet should be easy, it’s just three wires after all, but the wires did not want to bend the way I needed them to bend. Much cussing ensued. Finally I got the wires attached, pushed the socket back into the wall and couldn’t get the damned thing to connect to the box in the wall. After 40 minutes of trying, Mrs. Rootchopper came to my rescue. Except she couldn’t get the thing to connect to the box in the wall either.

At this point I threw in the towel and called an electrician. Alas, it is the day after Thanksgiving and good luck finding one who will answer the phone.

As an afterthought I took a table lamp and plugged it in to the new socket. The lamp didn’t turn on. Damn. The problem isn’t the outlet; it’s the wiring to the outlet. Who knew?

There is mysterious electrical issue nearby as well. The socket is on a wall under a cabinet and above a counter top. There is a florescent light, connected to a wall switch, under the cabinet. The light stopped working while I was riding to Florida.

I don’t see now the light, which is connected to five other similar lights that all function properly can be connected in some way to the wall socket. I smell a mouse. Hopefully, this can all be sorted out without taking our kitchen wall apart.

Black Friday indeed. Home repairs drive me insane.

Looking on the bright side, we now know we have a problem that is beyond our skill level. A man has to know his limitations.


Termites and Crazy Eights

I’m crazy.

Many years ago termites descended upon Casa Rootchopper. We called in the bug people who did their bug thing and the termites made a hasty and persistent retreat (knocking hopefully termite-free wood). Termites pretty much own the southern U. S. so we have beaucoup company with our little winged friends.

We signed a contract for annual inspections which includes treatments if necessary. At 11 this morning the termite killer called and said they’d be at the house between 1 and 5.  Now I had planned to go for a bike ride this afternoon. (Big surprise.) I wanted to be home to let the inspector in to check the basement. What to do?

As luck would have it our neighborhood is essentially two loops, one about 0.75 miles in length, the other about 0.40 miles long. I decided that, after running a 3-mile errand on Little Nellie, that I’d ride another 27 miles on this figure 8 course.

At the end of each loop, I would look at my house to see if the Inspector Termite was at my house. Around and around and around. I am pretty sure the rest of the neighborhood thinks I’m a few spokes shy of a wheel but I kept on keeping on. I did 23 laps at somewhere between 12 and 18 miles per hour. I rarely glided. I spun my pedals as efficiently as possible making sure to put out a steady level of effort.

You must have been bored, they all said. Nope. I focused on my feet contacting the pedals, my ankles flexing, my knees bending, my quads contracting and releasing. Om. Just like on my bike tour. Without forty pounds of gear.

Focusing on my pedaling kept my mind off the fact that my toes were not in happy land on this barely 50 degree day.

Cars went by. Leaves fell. Leaf blowers blew. Lawn mowers mowed. Dog walkers walked. Suburbia suburbaned. And they went by like sticks in a stream. And I pedaled.

And when I hit 30 miles, I quit. An hour later the termite dude showed up. He found a few teeny tiny carpet beetles, but no sign of termites.


After he left, I turned on my computer and saw that registration is now open for the Hains Point 100. It’s a mostly social event in which a few deranged souls ride 100 miles in 3.3 mile laps in East Potomac Park on December 17. Sounds like Crazy Os to me.

The event is for a good cause, the Washington Area Bicyclists Association’s Women and Bicycles Program. I am told that the percentage of DC-area bike commuters who are female has risen from 24 to over 40 percent. Build it and they will come.

If you are in DC, you should go to Hains Point and join in the festivities. You don’t have to ride 100 miles. There is a raffle and there’s food (did somebody say “pie”) and nice people to talk to. Just show up and say “Hey, Katie” and you’ll have at least ten new friends.

So follow the link and sign up. You don’t have to be a WABA member to ride. Just make a donation of whatever amount floats your boat.

It’s crazy.



Okay, No More Triple Headers

I am wiped and whipped.

When I left for the gym on Little Nellie it was 55 degrees. There was a strong wind but that didn’t stop me from turning the four-mile route into an eight-mile meander. The gym was crowded, this being a federal holiday. Even with twice the usual number of people, I didn’t have to wait for a machine. This is not a good thing. I tend to go too fast when I can hop from one torture device to another.

I finished in a little over an hour. It takes a lot less time when I skip the leg machines. Skipping the leg machines also means I don’t wake up at 2 am with nerve pain shooting through my knees and thighs.

Who needs leg machines when you have a faithful steed like Little Nellie.

(By the way, the weight routine is making me feel much more stable when riding. My back can take the bumps without complaint. It isn’t making me faster or better at hills. Just more comfortable.)

I walked outside and discovered the temperature had dropped about ten degrees and the winds had increased noticeably.

As Dave Stoller once said, “Mon Dieu!”

So I rode into the wind like an idiot. I headed for a hardware store in Old Town Alexandria in the hopes of buying a box of chemical hand warmers. (I put them in my shoes on days like today.) They only had individual packs so I said “Mon Dieu” and rode on. After reaching the north end of Old Town, I reversed course and headed home. I stopped at my local hardware store, Village Hardware, which had ten-packs. (Is it any wonder that Village Hardware was voted the number 1 hardware store in Virginia?)

I arrived home with 21 miles on my odometer and cold toes.

After an inventive lunch of tuna salad and baked beans (I know. Sounds gross. Wasn’t half bad though.) I got the genius idea to mow the lawn (and bag all the leaves and clippings). By the time the chore was done, I was done. Tired. and thanks to still lower temperatures I was frozen. Mon Dieu.

And so my exciting Friday night will feature ibuprofen, comfy socks, and a book.

Tomorrow I promised my body I’ll rest. The weatherman is cooperating. Record low temperatures are expected.

Side note: Today is the 100th anniversary of my father’s birth. Is it any wonder that I feel old right now?


Raw Thoughts

  • I had pancakes and bacon for breakfast today. It reminded me of a great Calvin and Hobbes cartoon.  When you think about it, pancakes and bacon are pretty barbaric. Let’s see, I’ll mix some flour with cow squeezings then drop in an chicken egg embryo. Swirl it all around and throw it on a skillet. Then I’ll fry thin strips of pork belly and have that on the side. Eww.Image result for calvin and hobbes milk
  • Sometimes it’s best not to think too much about these things. I once had eye surgery while I was awake. Wanna hear about it? First, the surgeon sticks a needle in your eye….What? Okay, I’ll stop.
  • For lunch I had a tuna fish sandwich. When you open up a can of tuna, it’s like a mystery substance. It doesn’t look like it could possibly be part of an actual animal. Just in case somebody might happen to identify it, we mix it up with mayo (more chicken embryos) and some random bits of veggies. We’d probably eat a lot less tuna if there was a tuna eye in the can. Ewww.
  • I have no idea what made me think of these things. I blame the weather. The temperature dropped over 20 degrees last night. I went out for a bike ride to beat the approaching rain. I lost the race. It rained for the last seven miles of a 23-mile zig-zag ride through Fort Hunt, Virginia. I was pretty comfortable except for my toes. They were cold and wet. After over 50 years of bicycling, I still have no cure for cold wet toes.
  • I saw my friend Nancy. She was out walking with Mr. Nancy. It was before the rain started. They were wearing shorts. Climactic optimists. Nancy was wearing one of those knit skating caps with a ball on top. She’s ambiclimactic.
  • I saw a family watching a tree being removed from their backyard. It was a majestic old tree. It must have been 100 years old. I’ll bet it was magnificent. When I rode by it was nothing more than a thick 30-foot wood pole. Maybe they needed space for a new addition to their house. I’ll bet the addition isn’t half as awesome as the tree was. These people are barbarians.
  • Cold, wet weather is described as raw. Our brains can’t handle raw weather. We forget about it. Then it’s here and we are surprised. In the northeast, they don’t have autumn; they have raw. There are few things more miserable than watching a football game in the raw. Maybe that’s where the RAW RAW RAW cheer came from. (Sorry. Stole that from Firesign Theater.)
  • How raw is it? It’s so raw that I didn’t go out to buy a box of toe warmers for the days ahead. Tomorrow will be rawer. Is rawer a word? Go outside and say rawer three times real fast. The folks in the white coats will come and get you soon. You should probably go inside now.
  • The saddest part of raw is the leaves. They are all coming down. Our next door neighbors have a gigantic maple tree in their front yard. It always puts on a great show. Show’s over. Nothing to see here. Move along.

Well, it felt like I was busy…

After breakfast, I made a to-do list for the day.

I rode 13 miles to the Lincoln Memorial. I was going to ride to the gym which is only four miles away but the weatherman said it would start raining about 1 pm and I wanted to get a warm dry ride in.

Of course, it didn’t rain. So I rode back to the gym. Because of new nerve problems in my legs, I decided to lay off the leg machines. Instead of doing two circuits on all the machines, I did three circuits on the upper body and core machines. This was probably not a good idea. For a start, my right foot went numb after I used the first machine (a shoulder raise gizmo).

I stuck with my plan. I arrived a little before 11 am. The people in the weight room were all business. There was no chatter, no sitting around. So I made it out of there by 1 pm without having to wait at all.

My upper body was a tad annoyed with me. I could hear my biceps saying “You are such an asshole” all the way home on Little Nellie.

Gym and bike ride done!

Next came lunch. Then a clock reset-a-thon. I have four bike computers, three different kinds. So I had to find out how to do the deed without obliterating other settings. After about 1/2 hour I succeeded. In the process, I saw that my computers have over 112,000 miles on them. Whoa.

Reset the bike computers. Done!

Next up were the clocks in the cars. Done!

Then I took a picture of a foundation wall crack in the back of the house and emailed it to a contractor who knows about such things. He emailed me back to tell me to keep and eye on the cracks. They are probably caused by the marine clay soil under the house drying out from the summer with very little rain. I am taking his advice because I can do nothing like a champ.

Deal with foundation cracks. Done!

Laundry was next. Done!

Bill paying. Done!

Check book balancing. Done!

I meditated for 30 minutes. Done!

The only things I haven’t done are shredding (our file cabinet is bursting at the seams) and read my Fredrik Backman book.

So what do you do when you retire? All the crap that you cram into the evenings.

Still, it didn’t feel like I accomplished much.

I’ll try again tomorrow.


Cider and Elbow

I usually have a tough time thinking of gift ideas. Every so often a good gift idea pops into my head but more often than not, my gift ideas are duds. Sometimes unintentionally. I bought Mrs. Rootchopper a certificate for a massage at her favorite massage place. It closed a month later. I bought her a gift certificate to an ice cream parlor. It closed within months.

Last spring I was put to the test. Her birthday, retirement, and Mothers Day fell within one month of each other. Somewhere in there I bought her tickets to see Elbow at the 9:30 Club in DC. (Elbow is a band from Manchester, England. Like my man Neil Finn, they’re much bigger in the UK than here.) We’d seen Elbow two or three times before. They seem to fit the 9:30 like a glove. The concert was last night.

As luck would have it, WABA’s Cider Ride was held during the day. So I got up and drove to the start at daybreak. Having helped put the cue sheets together Thursday evening, I kept one for myself. (It was an extra or so my conspirator told me.) This meant I could leave before the official 8:30 start time.

Off I went. Having done this course twice before and being absolute shit at cue sheet reading, I made numerous wrong turns. (I blame the folks in Maryland and their utterly confusing trials.)

Little Nellie and I had quite a good time cruising under the fall foliage along the Anacostia River and through and beyond the USDA farmland north of the Beltway. There were pits stops with donuts and cider at one and pie and hot cocoa at another. In keeping with my recent dietary restraint I refrained from hoovering all the foods.

The ride concluded with a cruise down the east bank of the Anacostia, into the Hill East and Capitol Hill neighborhoods, and back to the start along the Metropolitan Branch Trail.

Most rides have after parties. Usually they are duds, but WABA seems to have a special talent for these things. Riders gathered at the Dew Drop Inn. There was a great disturbance in the Force. I saw somehow managed not to see a single Katie. I did, however, talk with two Graces and two Rachels. There was also Kathy, Steve, Tara, Michael B., Jeff, Sam, Tyler, Ted, Adam, Greg, Ursula, Kristin, and undoubtedly others whose names escape me.

It took forever to get out of there because I kept bumping into someone I knew.  I arrived home in time to clean up, grab a bite, and drive right back into the city for the concert. We had to wait about 30 minutes in the rain to get in but once we did we had a blast. The 9:30 is a small venue and Elbow owns it. They had the crowd signing their songs all night. At one point they had the men in the audience sing 9. All in one note. Then the women sung 30. Somehow it came out in harmony! How the hell did that happen? Very cool.

In one strange moment, someone in front of me stuck their cell phone in their back pocket, facing outward. It glowed through the fabric as if their right butt cheek was radioactive. (I swear I was sober. My mind just works in strange ways.)

When we arrived home I could barely stand. I had spent 3 1/2 hours standing on concrete after riding 53 miles. My legs were a wreck. I took some ibuprofen and slept for 9 hours. I got my money’s worth out of my Saturday.

The return to standard time saved my Sunday which included reading newspapers from the last two days, finishing a book, taking a nap, and doing a gentle 22 mile recovery ride.

Tomorrow is another day at the gym. This time I’ll skip the leg machines. The  weight lifting is causing nerve entrapment in my legs causing sharp pain at night and numbness during the day. I think it’s time to start up my physical therapy exercises again.

Age is all in your head, except for the part that the legs go first.

Big thanks to the folks at WABA and the volunteers who made the Cider Ride a big success.


Weights and Lights

No matter what I do, lifting weights makes me want to throw up. I have no idea why. A few hours later I feel great but immediately afterward I feel like calling Ralph on the porcelain phone.

I rode eight miles to the gym which is four miles from my house. The shortest path between two points may be a straight line, but Archimedes never rode a bike in the fall in Mount Vernon.

I did two rounds on the equipment. I am being very careful. I choose a weight that I can raise and lower slowly for 10 to 12 repetitions. So far, so good. I also found out what the mystery workout station is for. This station has no weights. It turns out you are supposed to drape your upper body over a padded bar, then raise your upper body upward. And repeat. Sure thing. Not in my lifetime. They probably use this “exercise” at Gitmo.

There is one station where you hang by your forearms then raise and lower your knees to your chest. Sweet mother of god. My tummy hurts when I do this.

I rode home, had a late lunch, then hit the road again. This time I rode to the Crystal City bike light giveaway, sponsored by the Crystal City Business Improvement District. I was a bit early. I picked up a few lights then hung out to see if I knew anybody who showed up. Of course, I couldn’t remember the name of the first person. She’s Chris. I’ve met her a few times before. My brain, once again, just locked up. The next person to show up was Chris. This Chris rode his folding cargo bike. He’s an old Friday Coffee Clubber.

He Chris
Mr. Blinky Light
Did you say free?

The next person I met was a reader of this blog. He looked familiar. We chatted for about ten minutes. When he told me his name was Ken I knew I knew him, but couldn’t remember when or where we met. It turns out Ken rode some of the final miles with me (and Big Ed) at the tail end of my Pittsburgh to DC tour in 2015.

After about an hour, I headed home to get ready for tonight’s final game of the World Series. It’s been one for the ages.