Opera, Deer, and the Bat Shit Crazy

  • Last night on the way home from work I stopped to listen to the opera busker at the Torpedo Factory in Old Town.
  • This morning on the way to work I was riding along the underside of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge when a doe and two fawns came jaunting across the trail about 50 yards ahead of me.
  • A few days ago my friend Emilia (who is not bat shit crazy) took an Instagram video as she rode across the boardwalk at Dyke Marsh on the Mount Vernon Trail three miles from my house. I found the video mesmerizing, watching it over and over. So much of nature’s beauty captured in ten seconds. The funny thing is: I ride that same boardwalk every day.
  • Didn’t I tell you I have the best commute ever!?
  • To (sort of) thank Emilia I sent her a notice about a casting call for people to appear as a model in promotional material for Bike Arlington. It pays $200 for a few hours of work. In order to apply you need to submit photos of yourself. I found several pictures of  Emilia from the 50 States Ride we did together. Like so many others before her, she had no idea how hard the ride was going to be. Heat! Rain! Hills! 62 miles! Her triumphant victory photo at the post-ride party was one of my favorite pictures of the year. No automatic alt text available.
  • It’s been a long time since I’ve seen an in-line skater on the Mount Vernon Trail. They were all the rage about a decade ago. I even tried them, and I can’t skate worth beans. I would go to Fort Hunt Park and skate around in circles. I learned how not to fall too often. What eventually led me to give it up was not the falling so much as the fact that I have very wide feet. My feet would be all blisters and blood after I went skating.
  • The other night I saw a skater on the trail. He was heading north from Belle Haven Park. The trail is canted toward the river his right, my left as I was heading south on my ride home from work. I saw him drift toward the edge of the trail. His left arm started carwheeling, then his right, then his left, then he was off the trail and falling. He landed on his tailbone on the edge of the asphalt. Ow. He was more embarrassed than hurt. I gave him a 5.6 for style, but had to deduct points for going off the trail.
  • Yesterday I came to the conclusion that one of my Facebook friends is bat shit crazy. I mentioned this on twitter without naming names. Ricky tried to claim the honor. I then upped the count to two bat shit crazy people. To be honest, Ricky is not even close to as crazy as the other.
  • A couple of friends have tried to help me with my bike tour planning. “When you get to Miami, you can take a train.” Um, if I’m going to take a train, why ride there in the first place?
  • Larry McMurtry once wrote
    • A woman’s love is like the morning dew; it’s just as apt to settle on a horse turd as it is on a rose.
    • I think it’s a sickness to grieve too much for those who never cared a fig for you. [Particularly if they are bat shit crazy.]
  • The father of a former co-worker died of pancreatic cancer the other day. He was diagnosed only a few weeks ago. She went home to see him before he died but dang. Then I learned on Tuesday that an old grad school roommate of mine died of cancer Monday night. We knew that he had been dealing with cancer based on the note in his Christmas card but we had no idea he was as sick as he was. Mrs. Rootchopper summed it up, “He was the nicest guy in the world.” Word. Amen.
  • On Monday I threw my back out getting my Bike Friday into the trunk of my daughter’s subcompact car. I was taking her car to a mechanic for an oil change. A few days later I read a tweet that mentioned a 50% off deal for a year’s $85 membership in Capital Bikeshare. For $42.50 a year I can save big money on physical therapy!
  • In 49 days I am retiring. I am still relatively young and want to do a few things before my body completely rebels against my mega mileage shenanigans. I am noticably slower this year than last. i also weigh 10 pounds more.
  • I have been riding Big Nellie, my recumbent, for about a month now. A couple of years ago this would have caused my right foot to go completely numb. I almost sold the bike but this spring I took off the clipless pedals I was using and put on old school platform pedals with PowerGrips (leather straps that cross the pedals on a diagonal). I have been wearing Teva sandals and riding to work. No pain. No numbness.
  • I really like biking in sandals. I am thinking about putting the same kinds of pedals on my CrossCheck, at least until fall.
  • I have stopped wearing a helmet. Life is too short not to feel the wind in your hair. If I haven’t hit my head in 55+ years of bike riding, I like my odds.
  • Even when people are  bat shit crazy, you can still miss them. A lot.

 

Only 400 States – What a Slacker

My favorite bike event is the 50 States Ride here in DC. I’ve written about it many times. It’s hilly. It’s hot, except when it rains like a monsoon. It’s long. It has an impossibly complicated cue sheet. And I have met dozens of people doing it.

For some reason I have had it in my head that this September would be my 10th time riding it. Nope. Only number 9. Bless me father for I have sinned.

I did the ride in 2006, 2007, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2016. I skipped 2008 and 2009 to attend my son’s high school football games. 2010 was so hard that I never wanted to do it again before being coerced by a friend who I met on the 2007 ride. By 2014, I had once again decided to retire but the same friend convinced me to do it again. In 2015 I was in Australia visiting my globe trotting kids. Last year was a solo effort.

So this year will be number 9. I am delaying my bike tour just so I can ride it. Registration isn’t yet open. I highly recommend doing this ride at least once, especially if you are new to DC.

Not to get ahead of myself, but if all goes according to plan, I’ll do the 2018 50 States Ride as a victory lap after a cross country bike tour.

Stay tuned.  xxx

 

 

Sun Does a Huey

This morning at 5:44 the sun did a huey. I caught it in action. Sort of. It wasn’t moving particularly fast. It was obviously further downriver, south, that it was a month ago. I know colder days lie ahead. I know, somewhat counter intuitively, later sunrises do too. (Something about the tilt of the earth, the sun greed of the Maoris, and voodoo. Trust me, I know science.) Looking on the bright (pun intended) side, opening day is 103 days away.

solstice

So The Mule posed for a picture with the sun just a couple of hours after it changed course.

Facebook sent me the perfect reminder of the winter solstice: a picture of two friends hanging out at a rest stop during my second 50 States Ride in August 2007. Huh? They look pretty good in the picture but the heat soon did Paul in. Flor, who seemed immune to the elements, rode like she had wings. It was one of the hardest bike rides I can remember. It got hotter and more humid as the ride progressed. A rider I met afterward cooled off by jumping in Rock Creek.

paul-and-flor

It was good that I looked at the picture before I left for work. It took the edge off a cold December morning.

Four Hundred States (and Counting)

Yesterday I rode the 62-mile  50 States Ride for the eighth time. If you asked me at the finish if I’d ride it again I’d say, “Hell no!” After a day of recovery (I rode 32 miles round trip to the Nats game and they won) I am already thinking about next year. I guess my fusiform gyrus isn’t the only broken part of my brain.

At the sign in, Chris M. helped check me in. I normally don’t recognize him, when he’s in bike clothing. But this day, he wasn’t. It was a good omen.

I needed one. It was 7:15 am and it was already oppressively humid. The heat was rising by the minute.

I said hello to Reba, Robert and Ed. I told Ed I was starting early. I knew how hard this day was going to be. 2007 was just like this. I was 9 years younger and it took everything I had to finish that ride. Part of what made 2007 so hard was trying to keep up with Flogini (erstwhile spiritual adviser to the Rootchopper Institute) whom I had met at the Anacostia rest stop about 15 miles into the ride. She is 21 years younger than me (remarkably still is) and in excellent shape then (and now, for that matter). Ultimately, she dropped me and two others in Rock Creek Park around mile 50. We simply couldn’t keep up.

I wanted to beat the heat and ride, to the extent possible, at my own pace. So Deets and I left at around 7:30 just before the WABA safety speech that I have heard many times before. I quickly met a couple who were going my pace. Wyoming, California. We made our way through downtown, missing one turn but not missing a state, just a piece of the 15th Street cycletrack. New Hampshire. Rhode Island, Vermont.

I led them through some tricky turns. As we turned onto Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House, and on coming cyclist nearly took me out. He had swung wide at high speed directly into my path. I yelled and her veered off.

New York, Indiana, New Jersey, Louisiana, unmarked but always important Delaware, Maryland, Washington.

We picked up a third rider in Southwest who yelled at me when I nearly rode past Virginia Avenue. Nice save, third rider.In East Potomac Park, the nonstop turns of the first 9 miles gave way to 3 miles of smooth sailing on Ohio Drive. Rather than push myself to keep pace with the three, I lagged behind.

At least there was a breeze off the river. Did I mention it was hot?

On Maine Avenue in Southwest as I rode by the massive waterfront construction site, a tractor pulling a gooseneck trailer blocked the entire road. It was trying to turn but there was not enough space. I turned around and improvised a route around the mess. (It’s part of the route I use to ride to baseball games.) Once again, no states missed.

I caught all but 1 traffic light on M Street but missed a turn onto unmarked K Street Southeast. I had made this same mistake in the past. The intersection is near some road construction and looks different every time I ride through there.

I turned around, got on K, and was soon across the Anacostia. At the rest stop I caught up to the couple I met in the first mile. I said hi to WABA  Jeff and his associate whose name escapes me, of course.

After the rest stops the hills begin. Up MLK Jr. Boulevard for about a mile. I passed a second couple who were struggling. At the second rest stop, they complemented me on my climbing skills. I almost choked on my burrito. I suck at climbing. I proved this very point about ten minutes later. We descended the back side of the hill and after a brief flats stretch on Mississippi Avenue we climbed right back up on Stanton Road. The fun continued on Alabama Avenue. Lordy. I made it to the top without a major coronary event.

The rest of the ride in Anacostia involves a short downhill to Texas (which isn’t big at all) and the climb back up to Fort Davis. From there the route goes about 1/2 mile down hill on Massachusetts Avenue. Weeee! It ended at a red light. Boooo! This is what makes the ride so hard. You rarely benefit from all that climbing because the downhill fun stops abruptly.

After a few more turns and Minnesota Avenue I crossed back over the Anacostia. The instructions are very specific so I didn’t follow them of course. But I corrected my sins (I said two Hail Marys like a good retired altar boy) and made my way into Capitol Hill on Kentucky Avenue. After South Carolina, I was ready for lunch.

Did I mention it was hot? Well, now it was waaaay hotter.

I think I made it in decent shape to the second rest stop at Eastern Market where lunch awaited. I ate a District Taco veggie burrito. It was delicious. It was also way too much to eat in one go when you are about to ride 32 miles of the 3 Hs – heat, humidity, and hills.

 

 

 

 

 

After brief hellos to WABA’s Greg and Michelle, I jumped back on the bike and rode with my belly distended by a Mexican gut bomb. North Carolina, Tennessee, Oklahoma.

Did I mention it was hot?

We buzzed around Northeast. I missed a turn and found myself backtracking on H Street, which has trolley tracks. I managed rather tensely not to get my wheel caught in them and got back on course.

On busy Florida Avenue a school bus passed within inches of my left arm. At the next stop light I motioned to the driver to give me three feet. He opened his door and said, “Did I hit you?” I said “No” and he shrugged as if to say “What’s your problem?” I only wish my heat fried brain had retorted “If I shot at you with gun and missed you by three or four inches, would you think that was okay too?” I shudder to think that someone is entrusting their loved one to this jerk.

A few miles later I passed Klarence’s house as I made my way up West Virginia Avenue I didn’t drop by. Klarence probably has air conditioning and I doubt I’d ever leave if I went inside. Also, I wouldn’t want Klarence to see me cry.

The climb up Mt. Olivet Street was hard, but I knew it was coming. At the top I turned onto 9th Street to head into Brentwood. A MetroBus beeped at me twice as I began my turn so that he could right hook me without killing me. Don’t you just love polite drivers?

The climb through Brentwood is deceptively hard. I wasn’t deceived though because…

Did you know it was HOT!!!???

Montana led to South Dakota which is normally a cycling hell hole but had no car traffic today. Drivers were probably home because..

It was HOT!!!!

After Michigan I was cruising by Catholic University. Hawaii and its long bumpy hill came next. Normally I stop at the 7-11 at the start of Hawaii but I had plenty of water and didn’t want to fall asleep in its air conditioned splendor. I did not factor in ice. My water bottles were hot. Drinking from them was no fun. I drank anyway.

At the top of Hawaii a stag appeared from the woods on my right. It had an impressive rack. I made some noises so that he wouldn’t jump into me. Death by deer is nothing to joke about.

Back into Northwest we went. I started pouring water over my head. Illinois gave way to Kansas which we took the opposite way than 2007. This was good because Flogini climbed the sucker effortlessly leaving us in severe pain trying to keep up. (The sight of her floating up the hill still pisses me off. How dare she be young and fit. Try it when you are old and fat, honey.)

Northeast is hilly but manageable. I rationed my water as Arkansas, Georgia, Colorado, Missouri and North Dakota went by. The route is so meandering that after 8 times I still have no clue how to get around this section of the city.

My head was pounding. I was out of water. Thankfully I was only a mile or so from Mike and Lisa’s house, the Tacoma rest stop. Normally they have a sign or something welcoming me. This year they had something better. They had ice. YES! They had water. YES! They had WABA’s Adventure Katie. WOW! They had healthy foods. MEH! They had a sprinkler. AWESOME!!!! I picked it up and inverted it over my head. BLISS!!! After discussing Lisa’s serious baseball addiction (the woman need professional help – takes one to know one), I rode off for the last 15 miles.

Alaska led to a fun ride in the shade into Rock Creek Park.On Beach Driver, two riders were stopped trying to figure out whether to turn at an intersection. Follow me! I knew it well. Here, with riding partner Shane lying on the ground in pain, Flogini abandoned us in 2007. Also near here, a 2007 rider later told us she jumped in Rock Creek to cool off. It was that hot.

After Oregon took us northward we headed back south through Chevy Chase DC. Utah and Nevada led us to an abrupt, bumpy painful climb on 36th Street. This was added in 2014 just to piss me off. It succeeded. It’s a gift that keeps on giving too.

Did I mention it was HOT!!!!

Time for some coffee, no? The last rest stop was at a coffee shop. Okay, they had water and healthy food and salt. WABA’s Ursula thinks of everything! And she gives high fives like a maniac. And sometimes looks like she’s coming down a ski jump for no apparent reason.

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I did mention that it was HOT, didn’t I?

After topping off my water bottles, I did away with Wisconsin and rode on Nebraska past American University.Then down the long hill on Arizona so that at 58 miles we could climb all the way back up.

Did I mention it was really, really HOT!!!

The climb back up was brutal. Deets does not have super low granny gears so it was just a battle of wills with my lungs and knees on one side and topography on the other. Lungs and knees won but it was a close contest. After New Mexico, the hills continued until we crested Cathedral Heights, so named because it’s up high. How clever!

The last bit was a downhill roll past The Maret School – Go Frogs! – and onto Connecticut Avenue. Once again the traffic was light perhaps because it was HOT!

I was gifted a green turn arrow and blasted left across the Calvert Street Bridge back to the finish and after party at Mellow Mushroom in Adams Morgan.

When I walked in Bicycle Space‘s Phil Koopman greeted me and handed me a big glass of ice water. I nearly cried. The perfect gift!

There was much talk with #bikedc folks with more ice water and iced cold beer. Mr. Felkerino bought the gang a couple of pizzas. Thanks Ed.

So that’s it. 50 States number 8 is in the record books. 400 States. (There is some doubt in my mind. It could be 399 because I think I accidentally missed Vermont one year. Then again, I may have ridden it and gotten confused. 50 states in a day can do that to anybody. Especially when it’s HOT.)

I can’t believe I signed up for another long, event ride next weekend. They don’t have any states either. What a gyp that’s going to be.

 

 

Fifty States in a Day

Many years ago some loony at the Washington Area Bicyclists Association (WABA) concocted a ride through all eight wards of the District of Columbia. As the name implies, the 50 States Ride takes participants along each of the 50 roads named for states in DC.

It is a challenging ride, but it is not a race. After about 20 miles of flat riding near downtown, the hills begin. There are many hills, a few steep ones, a few long ones. What goes up must come down, right? Well, not so much. Nearly every downhill ends in a stop sign or a traffic light. Riders do the work but they don’t get the full benefit of the hills. That’s why it is harder than nearly any other 62 mile ride you can do. (Also, make sure your brakes work!)  What I am trying to say is this: if you intend on doing the whole ride, bring your A game. Or bail on the Metro back to the after party. We won’t judge. (Rosie Ruiz, phone home.)

Another fun part of the ride is the 9-page cue sheet. It is practically impossible to do the ride without making a wrong turn. The route changes from year to year so even experienced riders screw up. I missed the second turn in 2014 and I’d done the ride six times.

The frequent stops and insane directions have an added benefit: they practically force you to talk with the other riders, many of whom will be strangers (unless you are one of those creepy people with over 1,500 Facebook friends). If you don’t meet people on this ride, you may have deep personal issues. I first did this ride in 2006. As I have said many times before, the 50 States Ride is responsible for me meeting over 60 people.

Here’s another benefit: when you do the ride several times over the years you get to see first hand the incredible transformation that has occured in DC. A friend of mine and I have done the ride together twice. In January 2012 we attended a WABA happy hour at a bar near Nationals Park. She remarked that she had never been in this section of the city before. When I told her that we had ridden past that very spot only three years before, her jaw dropped.

I have worn a 50 States t-shirt outside of DC many times. I love it when people ask me incredulously, “You’ve ridden in all 50 States?!”

In order to do the ride, you must be a WABA member.  So click on the link up above and sign up. This year’s ride is on Saturday, September 10.

I will be out there for the 8th time this year. Somebody give me a push up Garfield Street please.

 

Some Ride/Hike Ideas for 2016

About a year ago I was admonished by a friend for sounding wishy washy regarding my 2015 vacation plans. “Stop planning. All we have is today” was her way of saying don’t plan, DO!  Irony alert: in January 2014 she told me of her plans to obtain certification to teach in DC schools and to open a business. She followed through on none of it, eventually leaving town. Even so, she had a point.

I suck at advance planning. Somehow I managed to do a bike tour, a non-bike trip around the world, nearly a dozen day hikes, half a dozen bicycling events, and take in a bunch of Nationals games. So with that in mind I began thinking about things to do in 2016.

I anticipate one non-biking vacation (to Sweden and thereabouts) to visit my daughter.  (A return to Thailand in the dry season would be nice but I can’t face the 18 hours of flying right now. Maybe 2017.) That will leave plenty of vacation time. So here are some ideas I am tossing around in my head.

Hiking: there are still many, many hikes to do in the Shenandoah National Park. Also, I have barely scratched the surface of hiking in nearby Maryland and Pennsylvania along the Appalachian Trail. One possibility is to gear up and do some overnights. I have never done this and it would be an interesting extension of my day hikes (not to mention save on driving home after a day’s worth of hiking).

Biking Events: WABA swears that it’s going to offer a century ride this year.  If it works into my schedule, I’ll definitely do it. Then there are the usual events: Vasa, Cider, 50 States, Backroads, and Great Pumpkin. I’ve done all of these several times, but the Backroads course was moved to West Virginia this year. I was in Australia and missed it. I can’t wait to do the new version. Two more that I keep threatening to do are RAGBRAI and the Five Boro Ride in New York City. Both of them are cattle drives. Both offer logistical challenges. Some of what follows are a lot easier to do.

Bike Trails: There are all kinds of cool trails around here that I haven’t ridden. Here’s a list of Virginia trails:

  • The Virginia Capital Trail goes between Williamsburg and Richmond. This could be a fun 2-day deal or a long single day ride.
  • High Bridge State Park down near Farmville and Appomattox looks really cool with a long, high bridge.
  • The Virginia Creeper Trail is a bit of a drive from DC. It’s only 34 miles but could be a beast of an out and back ride.
  • The New River Trail is a 57-mile trail that looks really promising with 30 trestles and bridges and two tunnels. This is a two-day ride with camping I think.

In Pennsylvania the Pine Creek Rail Trail runs 63 miles through the Grand Canyon of the East. Looks like a good overnight camping round trip to me.

Bike Tours: Right now I have eight possibilities on my list. All in the Eastern U.S.

  • Skyline Drive and Blue Ridge Parkway: This is a monster tour, 578 miles from Front Royal, Virginia to Cherokee, North Carolina. How the hell I’d get back is anybody’s guess. It’s also super hilly so I figure I’d be lucky to average 45 miles per day, 13  days of riding. This could be beyond my physical abilities. (Never stopped me before.)
  • The Natchez Trace: This 444 mile road is truck free. Tack on another 90 miles or so and the route would go from Nashville to New Orleans. Logistics on this one is a bit pricey (two bike flights). Bike Friday to the rescue?
  • Figure 8 in Vermont, New Hampshire, and New York: Adventure Cycling has two routes that form a figure 8. One loops around Lake Champlain, the other does a lap of the Adirondack Park. This one would be logistically pretty easy as I have family in the Albany area where the Adirondack route begins. The total distance exceeds 700 miles. The riding in Vermont and upstate New York is incredibly nice. Also weather up yonder is pretty much perfect for cycling in June – August.
  • La Route Verte: There are over 5,000 kilometers of marked bike routes in Quebec. The possibilities are endless. Then there is the interesting prospect of conversing in my horrid, mostly forgotten high school French. The idea of cycling to Quebec City, which I have never seen, or around Montreal is pretty intriguing. Getting there is a bit of a haul, but c’est la vie.
  • A New Kind of Rail Trail – North: Amtrak now has roll on bike service on the East Coast. Theoretically (relying on Amtrak is always an iffy proposition) I could take my bike on a trail and ride to Brunswick Maine, then ride up to Acadia National Park and ride all or part way home.
  • A New Kind of Rail Trail – South: Alternatively, I could take the train to Florida, ride to Key West, ferry to Tampa and ride across the state to Amtrak in Miami. Or just ride home.
  • Around Lake Michigan: This one starts in Monroeville, Indiana, one of the most bike touring friendly small towns in the US. It heads north through lower Michigan into the Upper Peninsula. Then across to Wisconsin and returns by crossing Lake Michigan on a ferry.  It’s 1,100 miles. Logistics would be simplified by using my in-laws house in north central IN as an alternative starting point.

In the increasingly likely (yet still somewhat improbable) possibility that I retire there is this:

  • The Trans Am/Western Express/Northern Tier Cross Country Ride: There remains a faint possibility that I might retire this year. If so, adios, amigos! I don’t know which route I’d take but the possibilities are numerous. The Trans Am is the classic route from Yorktown to the Oregon coast through Yellowstone. The Western Express shortens the Trans Am by taking a b-line across Utah and Nevada for California. The Northern Tier goes close to the US-Canada border.

Once I find out when the WABA Century and the Sweden trip will happen, I’ll pick two of the tours and as many events and hikes as my aging bones can handle.

 

 

 

There Must Be Some Mistake

After yesterday’s sweatfest, today was sublime. Clearly, the weather gods did not get the memo.

To: Weather Gods

From: Washington DC

Re: July

We will suffer each and every day through impossible heat and humidity. You will give us awesome weather in spring and fall. K? Thx.

I rode Big Nellie to work in shorts. The cool air was blowing up my legs. Eek!  I passed Ed on the way. Ed was going slow because he’s Ed and Ed does that sometimes.

I am pretty sure Chris M. came by with a GoPro camera on his head. It looked pretty silly but I may just be a video star once he edits my belly out of the picture and fills in my bald spot.

Even the drivers in Rosslyn were nice. Okay, nice-ish. I got into the garage at work unscathed only to be nearly vaporized by a massive pick up going way too fast. Big Nellie moved this way and that with aplomb. Okay, maybe aplomb isn’t the right word maybe azucchini.

My co-worker Kelly returned to bike commuting. The recent threat of evening storms scared her off. Of course, you’d be scared too if you were caught in rising water on your second bike commute. 19735364850_a005ed17db_z

At the end of the work day, she boldly slapped on her helmet for the perilous trip down the elevator to the locker room to change.  She also took a water bottle in case the elevator got stuck for more than a day. We haven’t heard from her since she left.  Also, she has a habit of talking to walls but I’m sure this pre-dated her adventures in bike commuting.

I left about an hour later. I stopped to take a picture of the beautiful blossoms covering the Mount Vernon Trail just across the the Washington Monument. I heard somewhere that this tree is a white ash tree. I h19736818498_f0309d11e2_zave not verified this. In fact, I am about as good at tree identification as I am at facial recognition. I took a picture but I got in the way.  I wore a helmet to keep the blossoms off my fusiform gyrus. I think it worked.

As you can see I was in a good mood. I was congratulating myself about giving some advice to a friend. The advice panned out nicely for her. As a result, I figure I  will probably not see her until autumn 2016 or so. I apparently have a talent for this sort of thing. A few years ago I advised someone to quit her job. She moved 12,000 miles away a few weeks later. If only I could work this magic on tech stocks.

I took a dang-it’s-a-nice-evening lap of Hains Point then headed for home. Big Nellie was really cruising along nicely when I ran into Mike and Lisa aboard their purple DaVinci tandem. It has the cool feature that unlike most tandems the captain (up front) pedals independently of the stoker (in back).

Every once in a while, Mike and Lisa ride down the Mount Vernon Trail to explore my neck of the woods and beyond. They have an impressive cruising radius and appear to like riding up steep hills. We chatted for nearly a half hour on the side of the trail. One would think that I’d think to take their picture. One would be wrong.

We did talk about this year’s 50 States Ride. They host one of the rest stops at their home in Tacoma Park. It is the best rest stop ever. In 2013, I pulled up to the house and Mike stood on his porch and yelled “ROOTCHOPPER” repeatedly. Lisa threatened to call 911 and he stopped. In 2014, he put a banner on his house that said, “All Hail ROOTCHOPPER.”  This year’s ride is on September 12. I can’t recommend it enough. I’ve done it seven times including each of the last five years. Be forewarned, it’s a lot harder than it sounds, but it’s a pretty good bet that you will meet some great people along the way. I will be out of town for this year’s event, but I expect a complete report from my #bikedc peeps.

We made our promise to go to a ball game together. We haven’t pulled this off yet but one of these days the stars will align and we’ll get it done.

We went our separate ways. I took the long way home.

The weather gods were pleased.

2014 in Pictures

This was a truly eventful year. I don’t normally talk much about my family here but today I will make a few exceptions.

Icy Sunrise over Dyke Marsh - 1/9/2014

January: I have been a year-round bike commuter for several years now. Ice and snow are usually deal killers for me. This day in January was an exception. The frozen Potomac River at Dyke Marsh was beautiful. Even in the dead of winter, my bike commute is the best part of my work day.

Woveling

February: For most of the winter and spring, I was dealing with severe back pain. The weather gods did not cooperate by hitting DC with several snow storms. I decided to fight back; I bought a Wovel. Damned if it doesn’t make snow shoveling enjoyable. And it didn’t bother my back one bit.

DSCN2890_032

March: I finally decided to take care of recurring, painful cyst on my middle finger. It made for fun pictures.

DSCN2903_086

April: In 2006 I met Charmaine on the 50-States Ride in Anacostia. We’ve done dozens of rides since. She got the idea to go to coastal North Carolina for a three-day bike riding event. We pitched tents on the banks of the Neuse River. Sunrise was something special.

Eamonn BS

May: My son graduated from Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, New York.  After a summer job, he took off on the Great American Road Trip, which included a three-day hike to the base of the Grand Canyon. I am one proud and jealous papa.

SharrowsDC: The Ogremeister

June: I was getting ready to start the 2010 50-States Ride  when Mary came up and took my picture with Little Nellie. Sometime later, she, her husband Ed, Brian, and Lane launched Friday Coffee Club at M.E. Swings coffee house in DC. It has become a thing and has many imitators. I have been going nearly every week and have met so many great people. Here’s Brian, pre-coffee. You can tell by the fog.

She's Like a Rainbow

July: I really got into following the Washington Nationals. I love how the long season traces a story arc, something I first came to appreciate in 1975 when I was living in Boston. (Go Sawx!) I took my son and daughter to a Nats game and it rained like crazy for hours. The game was called but we got to see this amazing rainbow.

Thankfully, the Valley Trail hung a right just at the end of this bridge
Thankfully, the Valley Trail hung a right just at the end of this bridge

August: I started doing day hikes this year. I was a little too ambitious at first nearly killing myself by hiking the Billy Goat A Trail in Great Falls Park on a sweltering day. I’m still getting used to the slower vibe. There’s so much to see, like this bizzarre series of tree roots from an 11-mile hike in Rock Creek Park.

Emilia Shows Off Her Trophy
Emilia Shows Off Her Trophy

September: Early in the year, my friend Florencia returned from over a year and a half abroad. We made plans to do the 50-States Ride in September. She had to cancel but not before sending Emilia my way. Emilia blew me away with her enthusiasm. 65 hilly and rainy miles later she proudly held up her prize.

Flor Tending to Sundance

October: Florencia and I spent many great days together this year, making up for the time she was away. In October, we took a golden retriever named Sundance to Sugarloaf Mountain in Maryland for a nearly four-hour hike among the changing leaves. Sundance had us worried as he wouldn’t drink any water all day. Here, back at the car, Flor watches with relief as Sundance finally drinks some water. Thanks for coming, Sundance. Thanks for coming back, Florencia.

Hawk on a Wire 2

November: We always seem to have some interesting wildlife near our home. In the spring we watched kit foxes play in our back yard. At the end of November this hawk stood guard over our neighbor’s house.

Accupuncture leg

December: Sometime in late November my right foot started to go numb. I suppose this is what I get for years of beating the bejesus out of my feet. I went to a neurologist who creeped me out something fierce. Then on the advice of Kirstin, with whom I cycled beaucoup miles this year, I went to see a sports acupuncturist. As of this writing I don’t know if the treatment worked but it was certainly an interesting experience.

In Memoriam

Brother Mike and Me

My younger brother Mike passed away in October. His death was not unexpected. I defy you to find a cuter baby or toddler, than he. When picture books gave way to word books, it was clear that Mike was dyslexic. Before the alcohol did its insidious work, Mike was a talented special ed teacher in upstate New York, turning his struggle with learning into a a gift for his kids.

Lore and Flor

I learned of the tragic death of Lorena Gimenez, one of Flor’s dearest friends, in September. I had seen her just a few weeks before at Flor’s birthday picnic in Meridian Hill Park where this picture was taken.  They were celebrating 15 years of friendship. Flor, as one of four “soul sisters”,  gave a brief eulogy at Lore’s memorial service. It made me laugh and moved me to tears. About a month later, we learned that American University will award Lorena a Bachelor’s degree in International Development next May. Well done, AU. Congratulations, Lorena.

IMG_0268

Speaker after speaker at the memorial told of how Lorena comforted them in times of crisis and gave them some simple advice. Her advice invariably  boiled down to three sentences that I subsequently put on my white board at work. She died on the eve of her 42nd birthday. She was wise beyond her years.

A Ride with the Rookies: 50 States in a Rainy Day

The Fifty States Ride is an event put on each September by the Washington Area Bicyclists Association (WABA). The ride covers every nook and cranny of Washington DC so that participants can ride their bikes on every street named for a state. I’d done the ride six times: 2006, 2007, 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013. In 2006 and 2007, the ride was held in the sweltering heat of August. WABA moved the ride into September but the 2010 ride had all the heat and humidity of the August rides. Last year it poured buckets for the last hour. No matter what the weather, riders have to be prepared to climb a dozen (probably more, I lose track) hills. Every few blocks, riders come to a stop sign or red light, making for sore hands from so much braking.

When I lived in Boston, I drove a cab during the sunmers. The only part of the city my college friends knew, was the half mile around the subway stops they used. The same happens in every city. DC-area residents know the area near work and home, and a few other often frequented parts of town. The rest is a mystery. Riding the Fifty States ride gives a cyclist the chance to experience the entire city, warts and all.

Getting to know the city is a plus, but the real secret to the Fifty States Ride is the fact that all the starting and stopping all but forces riders to sociallize. I’ve met dozens of people because of this ride and they represent an incredible breadth of humanity. Students, writers, scientists, lawyers, educators, police officers, librarians. Black, white, asian, latino. Young and old. Incredibly fit and not so much.

A Plan Falls Apart

My friend Florencia and I have never done the entire ride together, In 2007 she abandoned me in the oppressive heat of Rock Creek Park. In 2011, she took off after we reached the lunch stop. So the plan was to ride the entire route together. Then life interceded and she had to cancel. Sad face. As it turns out, her friend Emilia had signed up but didn’t know anybody. So I agreed to ride with her.

Family Planning

I drove to my office in Rosslyn and rode the 3 1/2 miles to Adams Morgan in DC for the ride start. While waiting for Emilia, I started talking with Lorraine, a first-time rider who was having some anxiety about getting lost. I invited her aboard the Rootchopper Bike Bus. Next I spotted Emilia. As I introduced Lorraine, she said she was my “daughter” so I introduced Emilia as my wife. Instead of adopting a son, we added Jeremy Cannon, the son of Bob (Don’t Call Me Rachel) Cannon. Bob was marshalling the shorter 13 Colonies ride. I did the Great Pumpkin Ride with Father and Son Cannon last October. Then we added rookies Kristen and Elizabeth with whom I did the Backroads ride last September. Up stepped John Roche, Mr. Hoppy 100. Dave Salovesh, man with the Green Bay Packers bike, joined in. (It had belt drive. You gotta have belt drive in your group!)  We tried to draft Rachel (Don’t Call Me Bob) Cannon, but she had commited to riding with Ursual Sandstorm who was a volunteer ride marshall and her friend Jordan. So we went into the draft and picked a ringer: Friday Coffee Clubber, Michael Brunetto a man who knows DC like the back of his bicycling gloves. From my pix, I can see we were joined by a tenth rider, a woman in green, whose name I neglected to get.

Leading Is Overrated

Kristen decided that we should leave before the formal ride start.  This turned out to be a great idea because it meant that we avoided the usual congrested roads for the first 10 miles. Since I was the grizzled veteran I was dubbed the point man for our group. I nearly missed the first turn, so Michael grabbed the reins and off we went spiralling through DC neighborhoods and downtown.

Making Progress

Despite gray skies, there were smiles all around as we picked off states in quick succession without much effort. We skirted a 5K race near the Mall, and zipped over Capitol Hill and into Southwest DC. The route took us to East Potomac Park where the friskier riders among us sped away. We regrouped at a public restroom and headed for Maine, crossing the path of the riders who had started after us.

Smiles - Before the Hills
Smiles – Before the Hills

We rode past Nationals Park where Emilia proudly told me that three of her Venezuelan countryman (Ramos, Cabrera, and Lobeton) were on the ballclub. Go Nats! Go wife!

I led the posse through the confusion of near Southeast, through an alley, and over the Souza Bridge. We hit the pit stop in Anacostia Park, chatted with some friends and headed out for the first hills of the ride. We climbed Martin Luther King, Junior Avenue. It was a bit of a shock as the climbers among us got their ya yas out. All I could think of was: this ride is going to suck if I don’t get my legs in order. The next climb came a mile later on Stanton Road. By this point my legs were loose and I made a decent showing of things. Our climbing contingent – Elizabeth (QOM), Justin, Michael, and Jeremy- put us to shame but they kindly waited at the top for the rest of us.

On the way to Texas a woman riding ahead of us almost took a wrong turn. It was the first of many wrong turns we witnessed and thwarted throughout the day. We zoomed down Massachusetts Avenue (a real thrill on the 20 inch wheels of Little Nellie, my Bike Friday) and headed back to Anacostia Park.

My peeps were pretty happy to arrive at the Eastern Market rest stop for lunch. Our rookies were smiling so we knew that the pace was reasonable. We took our time and steeled ourselves for the second half.

Staying Off Track

The route took is through the eastern side of Capitol Hill which combined flat roads with numerous turns. As we headed northward, we encountered a closed road. I took us down H Street which has trolley tracks right where we would be riding. At the next cross street, I dismounted and walked across the tracks, fearful that our entire posse might catch a rail and fall. (This is not a good road design, folks!)

The climbers took off up the steep hill on Mt. Olivet Road. They waited for the rest of us to pull up the rear. We crossed over the railroad and US 50 in pursuit of scary North Dakota Avenue. The gray skies had given way to a light rain. I was grateful that the traffic was light and we made it unscathed to Taylor Street. Soon we were riding busy Michigan Avenue and lucked out again with light traffic.

After riding past Catholic University we were treated to Hawaii Avenue, another big climb. We plodded on undaunted. The rookies were holding it together. The rabbits were humoring by waiting at the top of each climb.

Hail Rootchopper!

Zig, zag, pedal, pedal. We made good work of long stretches in Northwest, as the rain started coming down hard. Jackets came on. Lorraine and a bunch of other riders from other posses headed back home. The rest of the crew plowed ahead, thankful to reach the Tacoma rest stop at the home of Mike and Lisa. For some reason, Mike gets a kick out of my Twitter name, Rootchopper. Last year he stood on his porch shouting ROOTCHOPPER as I rolled in. This year, he had a banner up that said “Hail Rootchopper!” It’s nice to be loved.

Hail, Rootchopper!
Hail, Rootchopper!

As I walked around at the rest stop, a funny thing occured to me: this is the best I have felt after 50 miles of biking ever. I felt like I could have ridden for hours and hours more. This soon would fade into memory.

The Rookies Start to Work

After the rest we climbed to Alaska and flew down into Rock Creek Park. On Beach Drive we saw a woman rider on the ground with several riders looking on. They had called an ambulance so we left her in their hands.

On the west side of the park we rode into Chevy Chase, the high rent district. Yes, there were more hills. The Rookies were starting to ask, “Are we there yet?” Shut up and climb.

The route differs from year to year. One of this year’s new wrinkles was 36th Street. It is a pretty little windy street with dense tree cover. And bumps. And a steep hill. Ugh. My wife wanted a divorce. When she reached the top of the hill she had a big smile on her face, but then she said “My legs were gone.” Fortunately, the final rest stop had coffee which seemed to revive her. For the climb up Wisconsin Avenue. Ugh.

Is Arizona a State?

After riding past American University, we rode downhill, picking up newly paved Arizona Avenue, and giving up all our climbing work from 36th and Wisconsin. After a flat stretch on MacArthur Boulevard, it was payback time. With five miles to go we rode up Ashby, up 49th Street, then up the sadistically steep Garfield Street. My wife had given up pn divorce; instead she wanted to kill me in my sleep.

After recoveinrg, we forged ahead. This neck of the woods is called Cathedral Heights. To get there you have to go….up. Emilia was one hurting unit but still she climbed. What a warrior. Finally, we crested the heights and made the gradual ride back down to the start. Of course, it wouldn’t be loads of fun without riding on busy Connecticut Avenue. A ride marshall (Rod Smith, perhaps) had taken the left lane in preparation for the left hand turn onto Calvert Street. We followed his lead.

Happy Campers

We arrived at the after party with big smiles on our faces. We were triumphant. Photo ops with our hard-earned ride shirts were taken. Beer was imbibed. Other riders arrived. Rachel and Jordan and Ursula appeared with had big smiles. Fists were pumped. Riders were hugged. Faces wore satified smiles.

Acknowledgements

Very big thanks to the folks at WABA, especially Michelle Cleveland, who works for months putting this ride together. Thanks to the volunteers, especially Mike and Lisa, who literally opened their home to us.

Thanks to Flor for getting me to ride this again. I missed you.

Thanks to the posse. To Lorraine, Dave, John, Justin, Kristen, Elizabeth, and Jeremy. Thanks to Michael who refused to let me get us lost! And special thanks to my new friend Emilia, mi esposa por un dia. Muchas gracias, senorita.

Emilia Shows Off Her Trophy
Emilia Shows Off Her Trophy