Fifty States with a Six Pack

For the last couple of days, I had nothing in my legs. I’d pedal and it felt like my legs were just lifeless. This is what happens when I ride 6 days in a row for 210 miles. So did I take the day off before the hilly, 62-mile 50-States Ride? Surely you jest.

For the uninitiated, the 50 States Ride is the main event for the Washington Area Bicyclists Association. It is held annually for at least the last 12 years (I did it in 2006 and it had been held before that). The route traverses the entire city as bicyclists ride on the streets named for the 50 States. After about 20 miles of warm up, the ride also appears to seek out every hill in town.

The day broke with clouds and a beautiful sunrise over the Lincoln Memorial as I drove to the start. I arrived at around 7 a.m. just in time to see Brian (@sharrowsdc a.k.a Gear Prudence) heading out alone. I begged him to stay and ride with me to no avail. Celebrities don’t ride with the little people.

IMG_0186

I took my disappointment to the start where I somehow managed to put together a fantastic team of riders:

  • Rachel (Don’t call me “Bob): Rachel and I met several years ago at Friday Coffee Club a few years ago. When she worked in a DC bike shop, she sold me my bike du jour, a Surly Cross Check. I have sung her praises before in this blog more than once. Despite our cycling connection, we had never ridden together.
  • Miss Emilia: Emilia was one of the five rookies that I rode with on the 2014 50-States Ride.  With her constant smile, deep voice, and Venezuelan accent, she lifted my spirits during the heat and rain and hills three years ago. As I noted recently, she is a much stronger rider now, pedaling slowly but powerfully.
  • Scuba Michael: Michael, another Friday Coffee Clubber, was one of the co-leaders of our 2015. Nothing bothers Michael, probably because he literally swims with sharks. Seriously. He’s a powerful rider who takes mercy on old dogs like me.
  • One-bag Kevin: Kevin moved to DC last fall. We met at Friday Coffee Club a few weeks ago. He rode the ride with one Ortlieb roll top pannier filled with an assortment of foods including a jar filled with mystery glop.
  • VIP Steve: Without Brian’s celebrity we needed to upgrade our group’s status. Steve payed the big bucks for VIP status. He wore the VIP 50 States cycling cap, which cost about $1 per state. Steve is a man with sartorial priorities and strong cycling legs.
IMG_0189
Lesly, a course marshal and the voice of #bikedc, with Rachel and Emilia at the start

We rolled away around 7: 50, closely following Kitty’s Club. Kitty (real name Grace) was marshaling the ride and had a bunch of friends in tow. Big groups move a bit more slowly than our six pack.  The temperature was in the high 50Fs with a gentle breeze. Ahhh.

The downtown section of the ride was changed this year but we were not fooled one bit. Wyoming, California, New Hampshire, Vermont, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, and New York were conquered without a fight. Once I we hit New Jersey, the next few states fell like dominos without more than a glance on the 12-page cue sheet. Louisiana, Delaware, Maryland, and Washington. A police road block put Virginia in jeopardy but we picked up the 600 block without a bit of trouble.

Once clear of downtown we cruised down to Hains Point on Ohio Drive. The breeze off the river was refreshing. We negotiated the construction zone at the Wharf project on Maine Avenue. A long stretch down M Street led us eventually to an alley that plopped us on the sidewalk across the Sousa Bridge on Pennsylvania Avenue across the Anacostia River. The sidewalk leads to a shaded sidepath down to the Anacostia Drive along the river. The shade obscured some truly nasty tree roots. Nobody crashed and good dental work kept our fillings intact.

IMG_0190
Emilia, Todo Sonrisas, in East Potomac Park before the Hills

My dead legs were already in evidence on the flat terrain. Now, after a rest stop break, we headed into the dreaded hills of Anacostia. These are overrated. There are many more and harder hills yet to come. Bwa ha ha. My dead legs didn’t much care. Dead is dead.

Before starting the climb, I took a wrong turn. Oops. We quickly corrected the mistake and headed up. A fortuitous red light on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard broke up the first long climb. No problem. We descended to Mississippi and enjoyed the flat cruise alongside parkland. All good things must come to a hill. Up Stanton Road we rode. Bye y’all. The five left me in their wake and I huffed and puffed all the way to Alabama. I rejoined the group at a red light and we proceeded to climb further to the eastern top of the city. This climb (and the many others to follow) were MUCH easier in the pleasant temperatures and low humidity of this early September day.

We rode down Pennsylvania to Texas, an ironically small side street. After doing a quick circuit through a residential neighborhood we made our way along peaceful, downhill Fort Davis Drive to Massachusetts. The descent back toward the Anacostia River is one of the high lights of the ride. The sensible members of our group rode cautiously. It was fun passing them. Yee haw!

The downhill ends at a dead stop at a traffic circle. Around the circle and along Minnesota Avenue which led to another traffic circle. And lots of traffic.

Soon we were back on Anacostia Drive along the river. The riders in front of us were making a wrong turn en masse onto the south side of Pennsylvania Avenue. Having made this mistake a couple of times, I yelled “No turn. Go Straight.” The clipped in riders started wobbling and falling. Temporary chaos. No fatalities. On to the turn to the north side of Pennsylvania which took us back across the river to Kentucky and South Carolina on the east side of Capitol Hill.  We missed the turn to the lunch stop (the turn wasn’t indicated on the cue sheet) but recovered after a little tour of tree lined streets and the lovely townhouses.

After a burrito and some other munching and libations, we headed off on North Carolina into Hill East. Tennessee led to Oklahoma. Sooner (sorry) we were headed back across NoMa to pick up Florida and West Virginia in the Trinidad neighborhood past Gallaudet University. At Mount Olivet Street, Michael peeled off for home. His shoulder gave us 36 good miles and we were left to fend for ourselves as a quintet.

Mt. Olivet goes UP. I was dropped again. I caught and passed the group on the 9th Street Bridge over the railroad yard into Brentwood. I led the group up another hill and over to Montana Avenue. We rolled downhill to South Dakota, with its heavy traffic. I hate this road. It just feels unsafe. We escaped intact and turned left onto Taylor Street. This led us to Michigan which is nearly as awful as South Dakota.

We crossed back over the railroad tracks. This time I took the sidewalk and the rest of the group took the road. Dropped again. Dead legs.

After a brief reprieve near Catholic University, we climbed up Hawaii Avenue to more ups near the Soldiers Home Cemetery. We rode downhill to Upshur. This is a slight change from prior years so we missed the ensuing turn onto Illinois Avenue. No worries, we back tracked into Grant Circle and picked up the route on Illinois headed northwest. To Kansas back toward the southwest. The turn on Iowa sent us northward to Arkansas and a northwest heading. A turn on Georgia took us north so that we could turn left and left again to Colorado headed northwest to Missouri to the southeast. And you wonder why people get lost!

After some side streets we headed back to the northwest on North Dakota. We nearly missed a turn at 3rd Avenue (my bad) but recovered again. Soon we were in the Tacoma Park neighborhood and arrived at the fourth pit stop at the home of Crazy Rando Mike and Lisa. (Lisa’s not crazy, just Mike.)

After a chat with our cheerful hosts, we headed north to Alaska. Works for me. Alaska head down to 16th Street then onto Sherill Drive into Rock Creek Park. If there were fewer cyclists and an open gate into the park this would an awesome descent. Even so, it was a blast. It led to the closed Bingham Road. We rode on a hilly, windy sidepath to another hilly, windy side path along Oregon Avenue. The terrain kept us from reading our cue sheet and we rode past our turn off the path. When we realized the mistake we walked through some weeds to Oregon and backtracked. Then it was up Beech on my legs which were starting to show signs of rigor mortis. Needless to say I got dropped again.

Utah, Nevada, and Nebraska were conquered without a fuss.

I rejoined the group and Emilia told me that she was having trouble getting her lowest gears to work. She was kicking my ass on the hills and spotting me three gears. She really is La Terminadora!

Up we rode on Fessenden Street. Actually up they rode as I was dropped again. Hello morgue, you have my legs.

After a brief rest stop we climbed Wisconsin to Tenleytown where we picked up Nebraska past American University, Rachel’s alma mater. Nebraska becomes Loughboro and descends. Arizona is a left hand turn at a stop sign. I confess I blew through the sign. In front of a DC patrol car. Oops. The police officer must have sensed my legger mortis and did not pursue me for arrest and incarceration. The other four in our group actually stopped. I feel so ashamed.

So, once they caught up to me (I waited), I missed the turn to go back up the hill on Ashby. I believe my legs had affected my brain. After a reprieve on 49th Street, we faced the climb up Garfield, the dreaded worstest hill on the entire ride. Some sicko added this beast to the course in 2014. Emilia, not knowing it was coming, was not amused. A detour put us instead on Dexter.  My faint hope of topographical forbearance from Mr. Dexter was dashed as soon as I turned and looked UP. DANG!

Up went Steve. Up went Kevin. Up went Rachel. Up – without her lowest gears no less – went Emilia. I wanted to cry. Not. Gonna. Walk. Dammit. And I didn’t.

Over the top to a series of rolling hills. New Mexico was conquered without a shot. Once we reached Idaho the cue sheet went away. We rode crested Cathedral Heights and cruised down to busy Connecticut Avenue. With Connecticut traffic stopped at a red light, we took the left lane and made it to the left hand turn onto Calvert Street. And the triumphant final half mile to the after party at Mellow Mushroom in Adams Morgan.

When we walked into the bar, I raised my hands and yelled “NINE!!!!” Then Emilia posed for a recreation of her 2014 t-shirt photo,

IMG_0192
Missing gears. No problem! Way to go Emilia. Let’s do it again.

Next, Rachel took a shot of the two of is together. Note how I have helmet hair and she doesn’t. Dos Sonrisas.

IMG_0194

I can’t imagine doing this ride without my lowest gears. Emilia didn’t complain. She just found a way and buried me on every hill. Awesome.

After a big and well deserved un fuerte abrazo, Emilia hit the road and the remaining gang of four headed to the roof for pizza and drinks. Thanks for the pie, Rachel. How good to finally ride with you.

Once the party broke up, I drove up town to Petworth to see Alex Baca, my favorite bike ride stalker. We met because she spotted a SharrowsDC pin on my saddle bag on a bike ride in Baltimore. Brian sold the pins to raise money for WABA. She just celebrated a birthday and is still recovering from a nasty crash that resulted in a broken jaw. I am happy to report she looks great and seems in good spirits. And, to bring the day full circle, Brian and his wife Nikki (married all of three weeks) walked in. Brian, a solo rookie, finished the ride too.

Many, many thanks to:

  • the volunteers and staff of WABA, many of whom got up well before sunrise to run the pit stops, take our picture, and keep us safe
  • Laura Miller who was the WABA staffer in charge. Not a bad debut! You can handle the WABA weather machine any time you want
  • the course marshals, particularly Kitty who’s group we road with on and off throughout the day
  • the  folks at District Taco and Mellow Mushroom who fueled our two-wheeled foolishness
  • all the other sponsors including Signal Financial, the lead sponsor of the ride.
  • the people of DC, who once again supported us with smiles and shouts, all day. What a change from 2006 when drivers cussed me out!

And big, big thanks to my team six pack. You guys were so much fun to ride with.

 

Advertisements

Eve Teasing

In India, Eve teasing is what we call catcalling or public sexual harassment. We do not approve of Eve teasing here at the Rootchopper Institute. We do however get teased by the eve of big events and tonight is one of those.

Tomorrow is the 50 States Ride. It sold out a few hours ago. There is a new rule this year: if you don’t ride the whole thing you can go to the after party but you have to give your beer and pizza to bona fide finishers.  (Me.)

I rode to Friday Coffee Club at dawn. The temperature was hovering just above WTF. (It was 51 degrees F when I hit the road.) Now that the sun has moved a bit further south, I can take a sunrise picture at Dyke Marsh. So I did.

Image may contain: 1 person, riding a bicycle, standing, bicycle, sky and outdoor

Former co-worker Kelly saw this picture and thought I had gone back to work. No. Not gonna happen, Kelly.

Coffee Club was hopping. I signed up Kevin to join Team Rootchopper. Scuba Michael may also be joining us if his ear infection clears up. “Us” so far is Emilia and me. So if you’re coming and riding, we’ll be at the start around 7 am looking for other victims.

It warmed up for the ride home so the jacket came off. The weather has been glorious around here, such a start contrast to the news from the Caribbean. Hang in there Renee and John and Wendy. Based on today’s forecast (a Category 4 or 5 storm running right up the spine of the Florida peninsula), the bike tour to Key West isn’t going to happen. I still have fingers crossed but the Plan B (DC to Erie to Burlington VT or Albany to DC) tour is beginning to look like a real possibility. I have to be mindful that the point of this tour is to do my longest tour and see how my body reacts in preparation for a ride to the west coast next year.

This eve is also the eve of Clinchmas, the day the Washington Nationals clinch the National League East and a spot in the playoffs. The magic number is 4, so the clinch could happen tomorrow.

As soon as the Nats game is over, I’m going to sleep.

Volunteering for Ducks

It rained all day here in DC. I knew I was volunteering at WABA tonight so I didn’t bother to go out in the gloom and wet. At around 4 pm I headed to DC in rain jacket and pants. It was only about 62 degrees. i warmed up in a half mile. The ride was not half bad except for the 10 minute wait for a school bus to unload grade school kids in a downpour. I was okay with them taking their time but some of the kids went back on the bus to fetch things they had forgot. Must not kill.

I took the 15th Street cycletrack about 10 blocks north. The cycletrack is supposed to encourage bike commuters but I find it really unnerving especially when visibility is impaired by rain. I lived. End of story.

I arrived at WABA world headquarters. Volunteers were already at work at 6 pm. We were helping WABA staff get ready for Saturday’s 50 States Ride. (As of this writing the ride is not sold out but it probably will in the next day or two.)  I spent the first 90 minutes moving stuff out of storage to staging areas for the pit stops. Tables, banners, food, pens, zip ties, id labels for people staffing the stops, scissors, tape, binder clips, tents, a cooler, powdered sports drink, etc. When that had run its course, I helped put together the 12-page cue sheets. The 50 States Ride route is notoriously complicated. It’s part of the fun.

Image may contain: 3 people, people smiling, people sitting and indoor
Volunteers Hard at Work

If you are doing the ride, you’ll be stopping a lot. Don’t get frustrated. Go Just with it. Say hello to the people at the stop light or stop sign. The secret sauce of the 50 States Ride is that it is a social event that even introverts will love.

After a couple of hours, the evening’s activities came to a close. Cue sheets were still being run off the office printer. I suspect someone will be feeding it paper for another hour or so.

I rode home in the rain. It was dark. I was concerned about visibility so I wore a bright yellow belt that lit up from within.  I also had my Stella headlight blazing away. With raindrops on my glasses I couldn’t see very well but drivers would have to be blind not to see me. My wet glasses made it extremely hard to see when I was facing headlights. So I rode very slowly. The ride home took nearly 2 hours.

 

Ten Year Almond Anniversary

In a weird coincidence Pearls before Swine ran this strip yesterday.

So why is it a coincidence? Exactly ten years ago today, I had a similar conversation with a cyclist. (Somehow she has friends.)
Paul and I were riding the 50 States Ride in DC. For the uninitiated, this ride traverses the entire city so that participants can ride on streets named after the 50 States. It’s hard. It’s hilly and there are scores of stop signs and red lights. The route covers about 62 miles (depending on whether you get lost).
Nowadays the ride is held in September but back in 2007 it was held in August. August 24, 2007 was a hot and humid day in DC. Paul, his friend from Chicago Jane, and I were suffering. We had not yet hit a single hill and had ridden only about 15 miles. It was taking forever when one of us spotted an Asian woman a few hundred yards ahead. We decided to catch her.
Wimps that we are we only managed to catch her at the rest stop in Anacostia. There we met the not-Asian Florencia munching almonds from a bag. Paul pulled out his gorp and conversation ensued.
1236042608_392208b701_z
Soon we were riding up the hills of Anacostia. Paul and Jane decided on an early lunch at an air conditioned restaurant at the highest point in Anacostia. (Showing an astounding amount of common sense they quit the ride.)  Florencia and I soldiered on, sort of. She rode ahead and I caught her at stop lights and stop signs.
After another ten miles or so, we stopped at a 7-11. Flor only bought water. I bought the entire snack aisle and gallons of sports drinks. When we came out Shane was lying on the grass in the shade next to our bikes. She did not look like a happy camper. Adam was standing nearby. He was not looking really please either.
We rode off, the four of us, into the hills of Northeast DC. It got hotter. And muggier. Time and again Flor pulled away, often with Adam in tow. (For some reason I thought they knew each other or were a couple, but it was just the way the group fell out.)
We descended into Rock Creek Park and stopped to rest under a big shade tree. Shane looked like she was dying. I thought she was getting heat exhaustion. Adam looked very unhappy.
1235183797_038a5c2257_z (1)
Flor munched more almonds. (I managed to take the worst picture ever of her as she ate.) She was bullet proof. She didn’t even seem to be sweating.
1235181959_65251ce675_z
Impatience got the best of her and Flor rode off alone. Adam, Shane and I continued for a few miles as a trio before Adam went home to eat some cold quiche.
Shane and I rolled on. We got to the rest area at American University. Shane went inside to get snacks. She came out with a handful of goodies. Only then did we realize that she had inadvertently stolen them from a seminar. Oops.
We continued on. I was aiding and abetting a snack thief’s getaway. The police didn’t pursue and we finished somewhere near Dupont Circle. Shane laid down on the sidewalk. Her problem wasn’t the heat, it was an ill-fitting bike.
She asked me to go to a bar nearby where survivors of the ride were celebrating. I took a pass to get home to daddy duties. At the bar Shane met Jeff (no relation to the guy in the comic strip, just another coincidence).
Jeff, Shane, and I did a ride in Baltimore a few weeks later.
1700693630_95c8289391_z
For a while I was doing rides with these characters on a semi-regular basis but then life intervened. Sad face.
Happy anniversary to the Paul, Shane, Jeff, and Flor. It was epic, wasn’t it?

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.

IMG_0138.JPG

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.