It’s Hard to Like April

Mostly, April 2018 will fade from memory, because nobody wants to think about cold, wet, windy weather. April did have a few high points. For a start, my pulmonlogist was pleased with my recovery and backed off the prospect of leaving me on blood thinners for years or maybe even forever. She also lowered the dosage of my asthma medicine. And hopes to further lower it when I get back from my bike tour.

My bike tour planning is going along very well. I received several bike maps from the Adventure Cycling Association a few weeks ago. This allowed me to plan my trip as far as Missoula, Montana. There are numerous options for the rest of the trip to the coast. The southern route goes through central Oregon and follows the Adventure Cycling Transamerica Route. The middle route follows their Lewis and Clark route down the Columbia River gorge, through Portland, and on to the coast. Both these routes are encumbered 50 miles on road construction through the Lochsa River valley. In this corner, Felkerino, who is a man of many miles, advises that this road is awesome and contains a continuous downhill stretch of over 90 miles. In the opposite corner is Andrea, a woman of many miles too who rode the Northern Tier from Seattle east. She (and some commenters on this blog) both say the Cascades are awesome.

Two more maps arrived today from Adventure Cycling. One is for the missing segment from Missoula to the western edge of Oregon on the Lewis and Clark. The other is the segment of the Northern Tier that goes through the Cascades. To get to the start of that route, I’d need to ride a truck route along the Flathead River. I’ll plan both routes out and wait until I get out west before finalizing the way to the coast.

Getting back to my health, I did an acupuncture treatment last week that has done my left arm and shoulder a world of good. Yesterday I rode a 52-mile event ride called Breaking the Cycle. It was cold. The first 28 miles were uphill into a headwind. I rode The Mule as a test ride for the tour. It did fine except for some chain skipping on the cassette (which I had tended to today). At Friday Coffee Club last week, I bought a Brooks Flyer saddle from Felkerino. I mounted it too flat and spent much of the ride sliding my butt back to the rear of the saddle. This caused pain in my bad shoulder. Today I tipped the nose of the saddle up just a bit and my shoulder is happy again. So happy in fact that today’s visit to the gym involved two machines that I have avoided for over a month. So I cancelled tomorrow’s physical therapy session in a fit of optimism.

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The Mule at the Turn Around Point

A word of warning about acupuncture, if you don’t want to look like a junkie, you might want to avoid acupuncture if you are on blood thinners.

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The Golden Arm

Near the end of April, the sun came out. The trees and grass did their thing and we got to enjoy a shit ton of pollen. This is my car today.

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There was one excellent thing that happened in April, I went to three baseball games! On my bike, of course. I missed catching a home run at the first game. The Nats lost. At the second game I nearly killed my buddy Kevin with a nacho bomb. The Nats lost.

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At the third game, I avoided batted balls and gut bombs but the Nats still lost. I sense a disturbing pattern.

Despite its crummy weather, April did give me my biggest mileage month of the year. I rode 27 out of 30 days for a total of 789 miles during the month. For the year, I’ve ridden 2,743 miles. That’s a pretty decent foundation for what lies ahead.

 

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Two Tailwinds, Two Paisanos

The early afternoon weather in DC was beautiful. 70 degrees with a strong breeze out of the south. As luck would have it, the Washington Nationals were playing a game against the Arizona Diamondbacks at 4 p.m. I bought a ticket and jumped on Little Nellie, my Bike Friday, and rode the tailwind 15 miles to Nationals Park.

It was a lovely ride except for the bit about the big black car nearly hitting me 100 yards from the stadium. The driver’s window was open. I barked at him that he had just done something incredibly dangerous. He seemed not the least bit concerned. Then I jumped off my bike and beat the crap out of him. There was blood everywhere. I beat my chest and howled.

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Not a bad day for a baseball game or a bike ride or a nap in a hammock

Okay, not really. I let it go at words and went in to enjoy the game. I sat down the left field line. My seats were on the field level. I brought my glove for protection. Sadly no foul balls were hit my way but a woman two sections over got clobbered by one and was escorted out for medical attention. The two teenage boys in the row behind me ate their way through the first eight innings. Mom bought them hot dogs and pizza and funnel cake and ice cream. I could sense them growing with each passing inning.

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The giant presidents at the ballpark are very creepy up close. Shortly after I took this picture, Washington ate these two fans.

During the game I had a chat online with my friend Emilia who was sitting across the stadium. Emilia is from Venezuela. She and I keep tabs on the Nationals players from her country. There have been five paisanos in recent years. For the last few weeks there were none. Emilia texted me to let me know that Adrian Sanchez, who was called up from the minors to play third base for the injured Anthony Rendon, was from Venezuela. A short while later she texted that the Diamondbacks David Peralta was also from Venezuela. “I will not root for him,” she said.

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That’s Emilia. Somewhere up there.

As it turns out, we have the lesser paisano. Peralta hit two home runs (he eats the National’s pitchers alive) and the Diamondbacks won in ten innings.

Around the 7th inning the skies grew dark and the wind changed direction. I thought for sure I’d get soaked but rain never came. Instead I was pushed all the way home from the game. Even the clouds of bugs didn’t ruin the ride.

So let’s recap with some maths:

Two Tailwind Ride > Big Black Car + Wrong Paisano + Bugs in My Mouth

And a  final note: Big congratulations to Blissful Britt who finished her last exam for her college degree today. On to grad school. (Just kidding.)

Rainy Friday, Worth the Ride

Rain. Cold rain. On a Friday morning when most retirees stay in bed. I got up and hit the road a little after 6:30. The rain, blown by a northeast headwind, spit on my face. And I rode. I arrived at Friday Coffee Club (yes, we capitalize it) around 8. The crowd was predictably small, given the crummy weather: Ed, Ricky, Andrea, Jeff, and a player to be named later. (Sorry, I didn’t catch your name.) Ed and Andrea were discussing a 400 kilometer randoneuring event they are participating in tomorrow. (Ed is riding. Andrea is volunteering.) That’s 248 miles (plus 5 because the course designer is a sadist.) In one day or so. I can’t even.

Ed brought a lightly used Brooks Flyer saddle with fancy copper rivets. I bought it from him for my tour. It has lots of room for tension adjustments. My tush should be a happy camper.

After Andrea, Ricky, and the PTBNL left, Ultrarunnergirl made her first appearance of 2018. Yay! I haven’t seen my biking-hiking-baseball-flaming drinks buddy in a very long time. Hugs and smiles. She took the bus because she is nursing a messed up hip. We must get her well for future adventures.

After I left FCC, I rode to the gym and went all Hulk for 40 minutes. Next, I did 20 minutes of physical therapy at home. Then, I went to an acupuncturist down the street.

I had a hard time tuning my ears to my acupuncturist’s heavy Korean accent but with some forbearabce, we managed to get the gist of my problem understood. He examined my tongue and poked various parts of my body. Mostly this was painless, but a couple of pokes in my feet caused sharp pain. (A similar discomfort shortened a Thai massage a few years ago.)

As I lay on my back, He pinned me in my upper left arm and at various other points all over my body. After about 15 minutes, he flipped me over and repeated the process. Acupuncture is rather hocus pocus to me but I have had success with it in the past. I have to say that my arm does feel better this evening. I’ll wait a day or two before declaring the trip a success.

At the end of the appointment, he placed small stickers on spots on my hands. This mark points that I should prod and massage to help my shoulder heal.

When I got home I ordered two new maps from Adventure Cycling. Over coffee, Ed has made the road west out of Missoula sound like bicycle heaven. He said there is a 90 mile gradual downhill that follows a river through the mountains. I stumbled across a blog online that described the shortcut to the Cascades in less than glowing terms. I will use the maps to work out itineraries for both routes.

One of the maps contains a small surprise, a short cut to Missoula from the east. I’ll have to give that a closer look at that. (It probably involves a climb of horrific proportions.)

I think the only way to properly plan for this trip is to go with the flow and see how I feel when I get to Montana.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Like Father….

I have friends who like to travel. A lot. Then there is my daughter. She’s addicted. I used to keep a list of all the countries she’s been to,but I gave up. Okay, I’ll give it a try:

Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Denmark, Finland, the UK, the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Russia, Latvia, Lithuania (I think), Estonia, the Czech Republic, France, Spain, Vatican City, Monaco, Italy, Greece, Cyprus, and Turkey. Some of these she has visited multiple times.

One a recent break from grad school in London, Lily explored the Balkans after a brief stop in Venice. So add Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzecovena, and Montenegro to the list.

After writing an amazing email about Venice, she decided to start a blog. That’s my girl. Check it out

https://stillatourist.wordpress.com/

 

 

Settling In before Moving On

I confess to be dealing with sporadic pre-tour anxiety. I can feel it welling up inside. And with it comes the little voice of depression. Welcome to the party, old friends.

For the last few days I have been feeling worn out physically. Doubts about my physical ability to ride 4,000 miles started creeping in. Time to apply exercise therapy.

Before jumping on Little Nellie, I raised the saddle about 1/8th of an inch. You’d think this wouldn’t matter much but it does. It felt like a new bike. It felt like it fit me perfectly. And off I went down the road effortlessly. After 7 1/2 miles I arrived at the gym. It was crowded, so I used the machines as they came open instead of following my usual boring routine. When I was done I felt a little queasy. This is a good sign. It means I pushed myself beyond my comfort zone. I’m going to need that somewhere around the middle of North Dakota.

After the gym, I went for an easy 18 1/2 mile ride. It felt great, my first enjoyable ride in days. It occurred to me that the arm strength I have developed over the past few months at the gym will vanish by about the time I cross into Ohio on my tour. This is not a bad thing. I need to take weight off the engine before I reach the big mountains out west. If history is a guide, I’ll weigh about 20 pounds less when I reach Montana.

After the ride, I signed up for an acupuncture session at the local spa. The benefits of my physical therapy have reached a plateau. My left arm now has a normal range of motion but I still have pains when I move it in certain ways. So it’s time to shake things up a bit. I had the interesting thought that doing acupuncture while on blood thinners could be rather colorful.

After watching the Nats crush the Giants on TV, I did some further research on the alternate route I am considering between Missoula and the coast. The stretch from Missoula in the lower right through the Flathead Reservation and the Coeur D’Alene National Forest is about 190 miles along Highway 200. It’s a scenic byway with two big climbs and many miles of riding along the Flathead River. What I know is this is a two-land highway with some stretches lacking a paved shoulder. There will be logging trucks and other big metal things to deal with, but I can’t imagine it can be any more intimidating that my route through South Carolina and Georgia last fall.

Alt Route to Anacortes

Once I reach Sandpoint, Idaho, I can pick up the last segment of the Adventure Cycling Northern Tier route. The good news is I will have all kinds of information about services. The bad news is that there are several mountain passes that may kill me. I have no experience whatsoever with riding a bike up honest to god mountains. Eek.

Riding up these mountains will be no big deal once I am doing the business of actually riding. These things tend to get cut down to size when you experience them first hand. It’s a bit like painting the peak of the exterior of my house. The 24-foot ladder looked scary as hell from the ground, but once I was at the top with my brush and can all I saw was the siding in front of me. My mind had cut the daunting 18 foot elevation of the side of the house down to a four-foot-by-four-foot chunk. As long as I didn’t do something stupid, I was perfectly safe. The mountains are high, but I am slow and I have all damned day to get over them. Lord willin’ and my blood don’t clot.

I figure the total distance will be about 650 miles. That’s about 11 days, factoring in a couple of short mileage days for climbing.

 

 

 

 

 

Tour Planning – Many Moving Parts

The longer the bike tour, the higher the probability of hitting snags. My trip to Key West was fraught with weather complications. My UP tour presented the possibility of sea sickness on three ferries. Both tours worked out fine.

This tour is twice as long as the Key West tour. I bought some bike touring maps from Adventure Cycling Association. Using these I constructed an itinerary in a Google spreadsheet.

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This is the tab covering the main route. There is an alternate, slightly shorter route in Minnesota. That itinerary is on the MN Shortcut tab.

One thing I discovered is that there are beaucoup camping opportunities, including in city parks, presumably for free. Free is bueno.

I tried to make an itinerary that averages about 60 to 70 miles per day. Each day’s segment is determined by the availability of shelter. Food and water are generally available along the route, with the exception of a 78-mile stretch in Montana. As long as I know this, I can plan accordingly.

My route follows several ACA routes and, by design, goes through Missoula, MT, the home of the ACA. The map, that would guide me from Missoula to Clarkston, Washington along US 12, is out of stock. I did receive an addendum to this map, however. It notes that US 12 in Idaho will be closed intermittently for 50 miles this summer. Adventure Cycling is working with the Idaho DOT to figure out how to get its members through the construction zone.

I called Adventure Cycling for more information. They didn’t have much to say other than they are still trying to work something out with the Idaho DOT people. I guess they don’t call it adventure for nothing.

I do have a viable option, albeit one that pretty much rules out stopping in Missoula or riding through Oregon. This one would simply follow the ACA Northern Tier route across the top of Montana, Idaho, and Washington, ending in Anacortes, Washington. This is conveniently close to a high school friend’s home which I was planning on going to anyway. It is also at least 200 hundred miles shorter than the route I have been working on. So depending on how the US 12 situation plays out, I may just call an audible and take the northern route.

And another thing. I learned this morning that my son, who lives in Thailand, is thinking about coming home for a few weeks in July. He would be bringing his girlfriend, whom I have never met. So for obvious reasons I’d like see him while he’s here. Unfortunately, July coincides with my route being in the middle of nowhere. As the Christmas song says, I’ll have to muddle through somehow.

 

 

Tour Prep Begins

Today was the day I planned to take some baby steps to get ready for my bike tour to the Pacific northwest. It turns out it was a good thing I started today.

To kick things off the Post Office made a surprise delivery of the Adventure Cycling Association bike maps I ordered last week. I now have all but one of the maps I’ll use on my trip. (The missing map was out of stock.) With a block of a couple of hours, I can make a day by day plan of the trip using the info on the maps.

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Just follow the directions and your dreams will be fulfilled

Next, I put new tires on The Mule, my 1991 Specialized Sequoia. I am using Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires. The ones on the bike were still in decent condition but I didn’t want to worry about having my tires wear out in the middle of nowhere. The new ones took some convincing to get on. Then I took the bike for a test ride. The tires felt fine and so did the bike. This bike owns me.

Unfortunately, my bike computer had a battery light on, indicating that one of the two batteries was low. I guessed that the one needing replacement was on the pick up which is mounted to the right fork blade. I rode the Mule to the drug store and bought a new battery. When I went to install the battery I learned that the screw-on cover to the battery compartment was stripped.

I rode to my local bike shop. They confirmed that the cover could not be removed. They did have, however, a replacement and they gave it to me for free. I rode home and installed it. No matter what I did I couldn’t get the computer to get a signal from the pick up. I think perhaps the reason the bike shop had this part lying around was that it didn’t work.

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This thing basically wasted a Sunday afternoon

In the course of all this messing around, I found out a couple of other problems. The strap to the right toe clip was frayed and the metal clasp was rusted. So I replaced the strap with one from an old pair of pedals I had lying around. Of bigger concern was the fact that my right front brake pad was not releasing from the rim. Last fall I had paid a mechanic to take care of issues like this but apparently it was beyond his ken.

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They used to make these out of leather. Yeah, well.

So tomorrow, it’s back to the local bike shop for a new bike computer and some brake maintenance. You would think that a brake mechanism would last more than 27 years and 45,500 off miles, but nooooo!

Another thing I discovered is that my leather saddle is almost out of adjusting room on the tensioning bolt. The saddle feels fine riding around the neighborhood but I had some very unpleasant perineal nerve pain during my last two tours. So I think I will check out a new Brooks Flyer saddle to replace this one.

I was planning on test riding this bike next Saturday during a 50-mile event ride but that doesn’t look likely now. Drat.

I am considering starting a separate blog just for the trip. Stay tuned.

One final bit of planning that I need to do is to come up with a name for the tour. Hmm…

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I hope I don’t forget the maps

Whenever I travel, I obsessively check for my wallet and keys. Losing them can ruin your whole day. On the second day of my trip from DC to northern Indiana, I lost my vest on the C&O Canal. (I made a hurried exit to get away from a camper who was grossing me out.) A few hundred miles later I was caught in the rain. I stopped at a convenience store and bought some 30 gallon garbage bags. I take a 27 gallon bag but you have to make do with what you can.

Today, the cleaning people came to our house. I took off for the gym.  It’s 3 1/2 miles but I went the long way to kill some time. By the time I arrived,I had ridden 22 1/2 miles. I dismounted and immediately noticed that my pannier which contained my lock was not on my bike. Oops.

Retracing my steps wasn’t an idea that pleased my frozen toes so I decided to ride home and see if I left the pannier there. I found the pannier inside the front door. I never carried it outside. Moron.

I rode back to the gym and worked out. By the time I arrived at home, I had ridden 33 miles.

This evening I began mapping out the route I plan to take to the Pacific Northwest beginning in late May. I had figured I’d do about 3, 700 miles. Wrong. It will be more like 4,200. Dang. I selected some maps from the Adventure Cycling Association. One was out of stock. I hope they print more or I am in a bit of a pickle.

Basically, the route goes from DC to Iowa, turns north to Fargo, North Dakota, then west to Montana. There it angles southwest to Missoula (home of Adventure Cycling) before turning west again for the Pacific Coast. I’m still trying to figure out where on the coast I should go. Once there I plan on heading north into Washington State where, if all goes well, I will flop on my high school classmate Tim Jones‘s lawn and declare “I will ride no more forever.”

All I have to do is follow the black line that I drew on top of Adventure Cycling’s U. S. route map. (Note how there are multiple routes through Montana to the coast.)

One of the cool things about this route is that it is all downhill and there are nothing but sunny skies and tailwinds.

My route to the PNW

Friday Double Header in Shorts

Spring finally arrived for a few days on Friday. It was shorts weather at the break of dawn so I rode to DC to attend Friday Coffee Club properly attired. The ride featured a warm tailwind, the best kind. Little Nellie’s wee wheels were rolling just fine.

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@edbikes’s apple fritter and coffee

After hanging out with the cool kids at Swings House of Caffeine, I headed back home. Of course, I took another walking lap around the Tidal Basin and a spin down to Hains Point to absorb all the cherry blossom goodness.

Inebriated on all the pinky whiteness, I rode home into the aforementioned wind which was decidedly less than joyous but I had shorts on and I didn’t care.

After a few hours at home, I rode back to DC for some baseball watching. My route back glanced off the cherry blossoms at the Tidal Basin again. (If you don’t do cherry blossoms and bald eagles, you might as well not live around here.)

I met Kevin U. at The Wharf, DC’s newest, absurdly overdone development on the water. What it replaced was utterly forgettable, but the excess of this place is just inane. Kevin and I ran into Ted and his mother and her friend Bert. I think this is the first time I have seen Ted without cycling clothes on. Now that I think of it, it may be his mom’s first time seeing him with cycling clothes on too.

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I parked Little Nellie in here. It’s the best thing ever.

Kevin and I walked to the ballpark. He wouldn’t accept payment for the seat he gave me so we agreed that I would buy him some nachos. At the nacho booth, the server was being a bit stingy with the portions in the chicken nachos for the customer in front of us. The server’s co-worker started kidding her about it. Then I got into the act as a joke. Stingy server moved down the line of ingredients and Co-worker waited on me. The co-worker put his finger to his lips to keep me quiet as he made a HUMONGOUS bowl of chicken nachos for Kevin. We all had a good laugh when Kevin hefted the thing.

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Here’s Kevin, slim and trim before eating his nachos
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The Nacho Bomb: Kevin’s gonna need bigger pants

Back at our seats I pulled out my food from home and Kevin dove into his nachos. In the spirit of the thing, he did his best to eat as much as he could but it was a titanic calorie bomb. I brought a glove to catch foul balls (our seats were down the first-base line). Good thing too, because the nachos had rendered Kevin immobile.

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The view from our seats. Note the nets put up to protect fans during batting practice. They take them down for the game.
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I brought my son’s glove for protection. Note that it is an ARod model. As a former resident of Boston, I felt a sense of intestinal distress putting it on.

The game was a bit of a yawner. The Nats played poorly and lost 2-1. During a pitching change, the stadium played some dance music and hidden cameras panned the stands for people dancing. A woman in the row behind me was dancing up a storm. That’s how I, standing with my arms crossed looking bored, ended up on the Jumbotron. (It was my second time on the big screen. The previous time was under similar circumstances as the cameras spotted the large couple in front of me wearing Virginia Tech clothing on Virginia Tech Day.)

Well, I didn’t catch a foul ball, but Kevin and I had a good time. Kevin’s gastroenterologist, however, will probably not be amused.

As always, my favorite part of riding to night games is the ride home in the dark. Even the headwind didn’t spoil the fun. I made it home at midnight.

I awoke late on Saturday. At 10:30 a.m. I found out that the Nats were playing at 1 p.m. I could go! Sadly, I was too pooped to pedal. Double headers are hard.

My thanks to Kevin for a fun evening.

 

Extra Innings by Bike

One of the benefits of retirement is you get to go to baseball games whenever you want. Today’s Nationals vs. Braves game started at 1 p.m. All during breakfast and my hour of physical therapy at home I checked the weather. I didn’t want to go and freeze my butt off.

I checked ticket prices. I found a seat in the front row of the left field grandstand about 20 feet to the fair side of the foul pole. For $10. I figured, if it gets too cold, I’m only out ten bucks so what the hell.

Little Nellie and I took our time during the 15+ miles to the game. As I passed the Tidal Basin, I could see that it was still peak bloom for the cherry blossoms. One tree in particular just gobsmacked me. So I took it’s picture.

 

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No words

My seat was perfect. My friend Katie Lee who is a baseball fanatic sent me a message asking if I had brought my glove. I laughed and said no.

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Caution: Baseballs are closer than they appear

I looked up and there was that foul pole. In the first inning, the second batter, a former National named Kurt Suzuki, hit a home run that hit the pole (the foul pole is in fair ground) about 20 feet above my head. BONG!

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It’s hollow

Maybe Katie was on to something.

The game was entertaining with some strange things that made it notable. The Braves tried to steal home plate late in the game and nearly got away with it. It was one of several plays in which the Nationals’ players seem to fall asleep mentally. On another a Braves batter managed to get a double because no Nationals fielder bothered to cover second base on a bloop hit. Derp. The Nationals had a runner on first base late in the game. The next batter hit the ball hard with a resounding WHACK and his bat shattered sending the top two thirds like a spear down the third baseline. The ball made it to the third baseman who threw out the batter to end the inning. If that bat had stayed intact I might have had another home run come my way.

The Nationals tied the game with a homer in the bottom of the ninth. Extra innings. For ten bucks. (I actually paid as much for a soda as I did for my seat. Normally I drink water but the water vendors who set up outside the park were not there today.)

The sun was in and out of the clouds all day. In the first inning I wore two layers topped with my hooded jacket. After the sun dropped below the stadium roof line, I put on a wool sweater and put my hood up.

Did I say something about another home run. Well, Kurt Suzuki hit another home run. It was coming right at me. Holy crap. My brain said “If I catch it with my bear hand the blood thinners will turn my hand into a black blob.” I turned to watch it come and went to stood up. At this point I realized that my now four layers of clothing had turned me into a hooded, immobile mass. A virtual Charlie Brown in the dead of winter. The man sitting in the row behind me three rows to my left “fielded” (more like shielded, I guess) the ball off his oversized scorebook. It bounced to the row behind him.

I thought again of Katie, who keeps score at every game she attends. She’d have made the catch if only to protect her scorebook. She would give a rats ass about my blood thinned hands. (JK, KL.)

There is a video summary of the game on Facebook. You can clearly see me dressed like the Unabomber in the front row.

In the 12th inning the Braves prevailed. Sad face.

I’d have ridden straight home, but the cherry blossoms called my soul. I did another lap of Hains Point. I saw two trees without blossoms. But the rest were just stunning. I just had to take another walk around the Tidal Basin. I was surprised to see that the sidewalk wasn’t very crowded.

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I’m drunk on cherry blossoms

After feeding my addiction one last time, I started the long slog home into a steady headwind.

I’m going to Friday night’s game. It will be in the 80s during the day. No more Unabomber outfits for me. And maybe I’ll bring a glove. Or a scorebook.