A Ride to New Places in My Own Backyard

  • I found a wet parcel on my doorstep after a storm yesterday. Inside was a new Kryptonite U-lock. I had first bought a Kryptonite literally decades ago. There was a bit of a scandal when some YouTube dude showed you could break the lock with a Bic pen. So Kryptonite re-designed the lock and gave owners a new one. That happened about 8 or 9 years ago. The lock mechanism on my replacement lock started failing a few months ago, so I contacted Kryptonite and they sent me a new lock. For free. Awesome.

Kryptolok

  • I decided to go on a long-ish ride to reach a milestone on Big Nellie. I stopped at Canal Park along the Mount Vernon Trail. My friend and fellow bike commuter Linel had taken a picture at this park a few days ago. I have been riding past it daily and never knew it was there only a short walk from the trail. (Bike riding is not allowed.) It is a wonderful place to go to contemplate your navel, read a book, or just hang out. (There are plenty of benches and very nicely maintained lawns.) There is also some odd public art.
  • I rode to Key Bridge (basically my commute) and then into Georgetown. Traffic was very light. Turning left on Wisconsin Avenue I rode up and up and up to Cathedral Heights. I turned downhill and found my way to the new Klingle Valley Trail, over 20 years in the making. It’s only 0.8 miles long but it is worth checking out.  I only took one picture because by now anybody can search for it on Flickr and find dozens of better pictures. One you get past this barrier you descend down a curvy paved path into woods. Sweet. Klingle Trail
  • I got home after 42 miles in increasing heat and humidity. Big Nellie reached another milestone, 41,000 miles. She will get a rest now. Well done.  Big Nellie at 41
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Errandonnee No. 5: Tater Tots and a Tailwind

After work today I diverted from my normal route along the river to attend a happy hour hosted by the Washington Area Bicyclists Association. WABA has happy hours on a rotating basis monthly throughout the DC area. Since this was Alexandria’s turn, I felt duty bound to have a brew.

The event began at 6 so I left the office a little late. A tailwind made the ride to the No. 9 Lounge on Mt. Vernon Avenue in the Del Ray neighborhood a, sorry, breeze. To my surprise I arrived early.

I sat down and talked with Ben Wokas, WABA’s membership coordinator and happy hour honcho. Then I went to order a beer. The first beer on the draft menu was called, I kid you not, Shower Beer. I

I ordered a burger and some tater tots. Tater tots are powerful bike commuter food, according to the Mount Vernon Bicycle Commuter Society. (Not a real society.)

Kathy (known in the Twitterverse as @arlingtonrider) came in and sat down. We used to talk almost weekly at Friday Coffee Club which I no longer attend due to time constraints. So it was terrific to touch base with her.

After a couple hours, Kathy and I headed out. We went our separate ways, she headed to north-ish and I headed south-ish. I still had a bit of a tailwind. The skies were clear and black overhead. At the horizon the black turned to a band of dark blue, edged by a thin strip of white.  Not a bad view at all. Car traffic was light so the ride home was stressfree and seemed effortless.

Category: Social Call

Miles: 1/2 (the incremental miles from my regular bike commute)

Observation: In my mind Shower Beer is synonymous with Alex Baca. We miss you Alex. Cheers.

First Bike Quack of the Year

There was rain. Persistent. Light. Rain. And a headwind. And it was only 46 degrees outside. I have a cold. I rode to work. I am an idjit.

The rain soon overwhelmed my Goretex hiking boots. So much for their waterproofiness. Somewhere along the line I tore a hole near the inseam of my rain pants. My mittens were sopping wet. So were my socks.

Are we having fun yet?

It took about 20 extra minutes to get to work in this slop. I just could not make any speed at all. I had fresh legs too having taken yesterday off.

Just before my office I nearly collided with a bike commuter. It was my fault. I was tired and wet and wasn’t looking up and he/she was RIGHT THERE. Sorry. My bad.

So 2017 starts with a discouraging, soggy bike commute.

 

My office was festooned with wet gear. It was as if some alien being had decided to put out decorations for the post-holidays.

Fortunately my stuff was mostly dry-ish when I left for home. There was still a lingering mist. It stopped after about 20 minutes. And I had a tailwind. And it was still 46 degrees outside. So the ride home was not at all unpleasant.

Until I came upon a Comcast service vehicle parked in the middle of the Mount Vernon Trail in Old Town Alexandria. After I nearly crashed getting around it, I found myself confronted with three cars aimed in different directions in the next cross walk. They were likely driven by parents picking up their kids at the crew facility down by the river. But they decided to park, u-turn, and such in the crosswalk where the Mount Vernon Trail passes through.

A couple blocks late at 426 N. Union the car with Maryland plates was parked perpendicular to the curb obstructing the bike lane. Again.

Alexandria is a bicycle friendly city. Really. The League of American Bicyclists seems to think so. Apparently you fill out a form or two and say “We like bikes” and the LAB gives you some sort of award. Sure glad I am a member. Not.

Do I sound cranky?

Quack.

Just Another Fed Up Boy on the MVT

I rode my inland route to work today. I was going to work from home but the lack of rain in the morning suckered me in. I took this route because the National Park Service refuses to plow my regular route, the Mount Vernon Trail. The inland route makes us of 3 bike trails in Alexandria City as well as a a trail that runs along the edge of Arlington National Cemetery. All of these trails were plowed and are in good shape.

As usual the ride in was fun. I especially like passing the big back ups of cars at traffic lights and stop signs. (I am careful to keep an eye out for opening car doors and abrupt lane changes when I do so.)

A funny thing happened as I waited for a red light at West and Duke Streets in Alexandria. I was on West street facing north. A bike commuter rode to the west on Duke Street through the green light. This exact same bike commuter rode through the light as I was waiting on Monday and Tuesday. What are the odds of that happening?

I made it to work with a smile on my face. I didn’t even mind climbing that last annoying hill near the Netherlands Carillon.

In the evening it was raining. I didn’t feel like fighting traffic in Rosslyn to get to my inland route so I headed to the Mount Vernon Trail. It was finally cl

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The MVT in the Rain

ear all the way home. This is not because the National Park Service, which maintains the trail, shoveled it. It is because nearly all the 20 odd inches of snow melted. This took over a week. Furthermore, one short section of the trail was still clogged with snow except for a narrow path shoveled by a couple of bike commuters.

I made it home without incident but decided that waiting eight days for snow to melt is unacceptable. The Mount Vernon Trail is a major commuter route for hundreds of people. So I wrote to my three members of Congress:

“The Mount Vernon Trail is used by hundreds of bicyclists as a commuter route in the DC area. I have been using it to get to work for over a decade. The National Park Service maintains the trail, but, unlike other local jurisdictions, refuses to plow the trail after snow events. The bicycling community has complained for as long as I can remember and still the Park Service has not lifted a shovel. This past week some bike commuters actually took shovels to the trail to clear spots with particularly large piles of snow. I would like you to please contact the Park Service and tell them to stop making excuses and start maintaining the trail during the winter.

I greatly appreciate the fact that the Park Service does an outstanding job of clearing downed trees and fixing damaged bridges on the trail after non-winter weather events. So it is especially troubling to see the Park Service neglect the trail after snowfalls. Your intervention in this matter would be greatly appreciated.”

Today the Park Service announced that it is willing to sit down with stakeholders and begin discussions on how to clear the trail next winter. I have a better idea: National Park Service get off your asses and clear the trail this winter. Just as you clear the GW Parkway that runs right alongside it. No more excuses. No more delays. The status quo is simply unacceptable.

If you are a bike commuter in DC, especially if you use the Mount Vernon Trail, please write your members of Congress.

 

Shamu’s Test Commute

I haven’t been on a bike since the Snowzilla storm. So today I went for a ride to see what my commute will be like next week. The day began with an impressive amount of black ice in my driveway. My solution was to do puzzles all morning. I managed to get all but the Scrabblegram which Mrs. RC and I have taken to doing. (Worst part is finding out that answers often include completely bogus words)

I used The Mule because it is my bad weather bike. I had to roll it through some snow in the back yard but that took all of three minutes.

Every street along my normal route to the Mount Vernon Trail was clear with the only problem areas where homeowners had shoveled snow into the street earlier in the day. Why people do this when they have a front lawn to throw the snow on is beyond me.

I arrived at the Mount Vernon Trail, took one look and gave up. It is a glacier. Just like it is every year. Thanks to the National Park Service, the only trail owner that doesn’t even try to plow or treat area trails. (They own significant real estate in the city. They don’t plow there either.)

I climbed up the hill to Fort Hunt Road, the only alternative to the trail. This took me to US 1. A trail connects US 1 to Washington Street in Old Town Alexandria. The first 100 yards of the trail were covered in plow residue. VDOT or Fairfax County couldn’t be bothered to clear the trail, I guess.

If you think that is too much to ask, you are wrong. Once the trail crosses into Alexandria city, it is totally clear. I tag on Alexandria a lot about being hostile to bicyclists but whoever is in charge of plowing did a great job here.

I took the streets through the western part of Old Town. I crossed over the rail line at Slaters Lane and US 1. The sidewalk here is also a bike lane. It was cleared quite adequately. Another round of applause for Alexandria.

I rode Monroe Street (kind of a melting mess) to Mount Vernon Avenue, the main drag through the Del Ray neighborhood. No problems. I made my way to the trail along Four Mile Run. The trail on the Alexandria side was impassible because of a creatively crappy plow job that ended in a snow bank.

I walked around this mess and hooked up with the Four Mile Run Trail on the Arlington side of Four Mile Run. Arlington done good.

Here I bailed out on the trails. I had gone 10 miles and I was tired. I spent the last week shoveling and eating. I feel like a whale and my shoulder muscles are still incredibly tight.

I headed back to Old Town via Potomac Avenue and its new side trail. All was clear sailing. Alexandria. I retraced my path to Fort Hunt Road and slogged my way up two hills trying hard to stay out of the sand and salt that had accumulated on the edge of the asphalt. Most roads in Virginia lack a paved shoulder so you can pretty much count on wrecking your drive train if you bike around here in the winter.

I made it home, a total of 20 1/2 miles. Not bad for my first day back. Tomorrow is supposed to be a 60 degree day. That should take care of the problem areas I discovered today. It will take a week of warm temperatures or a responsive and responsible Park Service to clear the Mount Vernon Trail. Alas, the smart money is on the weatherman.

 

 

Ride Hills and Chew Grape

I normally sell some of my leave back to my employer. It’s a good benefit for sure but this year I decided to use it all. I thought I had it all planned out. One week off for my tour. A few days here and there for hikes and baseball games. Then a bunch of time off for my once-in-a-lifetime vacation in Australia/New Zealand/Thailand.

Somehow I ended up with 40 hours of vacation time. So I took a day off last week and took this week off.

Since Mrs. RC has to work (her biggest annual deadline is tomorrow), I am staycationing. The holidays and rain have conspired to keep me off my bike for several days so yesterday and today I got the Cross Check out on the neighborhood streets.

I live near Mount Vernon next to a horse farm. Sounds kind of nice doesn’t it? Well, I live closer to US 1 than the Potomac River and the horse farm is a mud pit and a dump (literally, they seem to dump old equipment along the farm’s perimeter).

One nice thing about it is that there are five traffic lights between my house and the Beltway, a distance of about five or six miles. Most of the streets are quiet neighborhood streets. If I want more I need only ride down past Mount Vernon where there are many more miles of suburban streets with only two traffic lights. And for the hell of it I can ride 1 1/4 mile loops in Fort Hunt Park.

So I took advantage, paying special attention to climb some hills, something I avoid with great dedication. Yesterday’s jaunt included riding up to Oxon Hill Road from the Wilson Bridge. This is a mile-long slog but the ride back down is pretty sweet.  I also picked off the Park Terrace Drive hill, which I once used daily to prepare for a tour. The rest of the hills were not too hard.

Today’s ride featured the Regent Drive Hill which climbs above the Park Terrace Drive hill. Most cyclists just avoid this one because its more bad. Another fun hill that I typically avoid is Belle View Boulevard which climbs Beacon Hill. Not today. I rode up that sucker.

In between bouts of cycling masochism, I rode some flat-ish streets. One of them is East Boulevard Drive which runs on the opposite side of the GW Parkway from the Mount Vernon Trail. Today I saw a giant construction machine chewing up a house. It was a big house. If it were in good shape it would sell for nearly $1 million. Whoever bought it decided that some new monstrosity would better suit its massive lot.

In Old Town I spent five minutes taking pictures of polar bears in a tree and this faded sign on a brick wall. I love these old signs. I recall one from my childhood for the soft drink Moxie on the side of brick building in my father’s home town.  I also like Mail Pouch tobacco signs on barns in the Midwest. They almost make you wish tobacco was as tasty as chocolate.

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So Chew Grape. It’s good for what ails you.

 

 

 

 

To the Trestle and Back

Today I had the day off for Veterans Day. I still kind of like the original name, Armistice Day, the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, and all that.  It’s a decent Paul Simon song too. No disrespect to Veterans, mind you. My father was an amused Veteran. He used to tell the story that medical school students were drafted and left in school. The army would take them out to a base on Long Island and march them around. My father said they were pathetic, skinny, pale, uncoordinated. Gomer Pyles but with brains. My father stayed in the reserves through the Korean War. All this was before my time.

Having the day off, I decided to do one of my favorite rides, from my home in Mount Vernon Virginia to Bethesda, Maryland with a stop at Rock Creek Trestle. The temperature was in the mid-50s when I left with a strong northwest breeze, a headwind. You don’t get many windy days in the DC area when its warm so the breeze was a portent of many cold windy days to come.

I rode my Cross Check on the Mount Vernon Trail to Old Town Alexandria. The trail was covered in leaves and I was fearful of slipping and falling so I was extra careful. Once in Old Town I decided to leave the Mount Vernon Trail and head through most of Alexandria on a couple of newer bike trails. I picked the first trail up just off of West Street and rode it to the Braddock Road Metro station. There I zigzagged to get on the new trail that runs several miles, nearly all the way to Crystal City in Arlington. No lights. No stop signs. No obnoxious ticketing by Alexandria Police.

I rode through Crystal City and hit every traffic light on the green. This NEVER happens. My route took me on Boundary Channel Drive along side acres of Pentagon parking. Then I rode through Lady Bird Johnson Park, under the GW Parkway, up and over the Humpback Bridge, onto the 14th Street Bridge and across the Potomac River.

During this part of the ride the rear fender of the Cross Check became disengaged from its frame mount for what must have been the 20th time. I re-attached it and decided it was time for a permanent fix.

Once in the city, I rode the the K Street Bicycle Space store where a mechanic did what mechanics do and soon I had a fender that would not fall off. Knock wood. During the repair, I noticed that Paul, the mechanic most likely to play Doc Brown in Back to the Future IV, was working on an HP Velotechnik Street Machine. This is a recumbent to die for. The owner and I talked about the bike. He bought it from a Canadian for $1,500 Canadian. New this bike costs 2 – 3 times as much. The owner, who looked to be in my age cohort, rode it across the country. Dang! Bike envy!!!

Another customer came in to get her bike ready for Saturday’s Cider Ride. I didn’t have a chance to talk to her but maybe I’ll see her during the ride.

From Bicycle Space I headed up Sixth Street to check out the church whose congregation is upset by the possibility of having to share the street with a protected bike lane. Sixth Street is WIDE. I don’t see the problem here other than selfishness.

Beach Drive
Beach Drive in Rock Creek Park

I wended my way through town and up the protected 15th Street bike lane at Meridian Hill. This short hill is quite a bitch, I must say. I recovered by doing a slow lap in the park. On weekends the park is a hive of activity but today it was nearly deserted. I checked out the view of the water cascade and then headed through Adams Morgan to Rock Creek Park.

On weekends and holidays, Beach Drive, the main drag in the park, has limited car access. I rode north on the windy road, wind in my face, sun on my shoulders. It was a mighty fine ride. I made my way to the Georgetown Branch Trail and to the Rock Creek Trestle. The view from above the treetops is one of my favorites.

RC from Trestle
Rock Creek View from the Trestle
RCT and CC
The Cross Check Takes a Breather on the Trestle High above Rock Creek Park
GBT
Georgetown Branch Trail Heading West from the Trestle

After taking some pictures I headed west on the trail to Bethesda. I could tell that my body was not feeling it today. I still haven’t recovered from Sunday’s hike. I slogged on stopping only to refill my water bottles when I should have stopped to eat.

In Bethesda I picked up the mostly downhill Capital Crescent Trail and a tailwind. Ahhh.

Normally I be bombing along this trail at 20+ miles per hour but not today. I was suffering from insufficient junk food syndrome or IJFS. Don’t get this. Eat you donuts, people!!!

On the way home I rode past the Lincoln Memorial. I expected the place to be mobbed with Veterans checking out the nearby Vietnam, Korean, and WWII Memorials. There were plenty of people, many obviously veterans, milling about but I think whatever festivities there were had concluded hours earlier.

I made my way to the 14th Street Bridge and retraced my route to the south end of Old Town. Not wanting to ride the Mount Vernon Trail for the 400th time this year (a guess, but not too far off), I took Fort Hunt Road and Sherwood Hall Lane home. This is a pretty hilly route and I had nothing left in my legs so the going was slow.

Long story short:I managed to ride 55 1/2 miles on a sunny November Day. Not half bad.

Beautiful Ride – Ugly Reality

The day began with crisp fall air. I was ready for it as I pit on my vest, arm warmers, and head band. Dressed perfectly, I headed north on the Mount Vernon Trail bound for DC and Friday Coffee Club. The ride in went so smoothly that as I rode onto the 14th Street Bridge over the Potomac River I had that strange how-did-I-get-here sensation. A tailwind and fresh legs (I drove to work yesterday) probably helped.

Coffee Club was crowded. It was good to see some faces that I haven’t seen in over a month. This definitely eased my recent feeling of social ennui.

I rode to work on the narrow side path on the Teddy Roosevelt Bridge. I stop for DC-bound cyclists because there just isn’t enough room to pass on the fly. One of them asked me if the bridge was one-way. He was new to DC and he couldn’t believe the trail was so narrow. I assured him it wasn’t. Welcome to the land of improving bicycling infrastructure.

I left work and head for home, once again assisted by a trail wind. It was a similar vibe to the morning. No discernible effort involved. I barely broke a sweat. My delight in this wonderful autumn commute came to an end. I stopped to take a picture of this sign posted next to the trail north of Old Town Alexandria just after the Slaters Lane turn off.

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It’s a sad reality to the women of this area that enjoying area trails comes with this risk.

Not 100 feet after starting up again I was passed by an on-coming woman running. She had earbuds in her ears.

Every safety expert I know warns against doing this. I know it sucks and it’s unfair but you are responsible for your own safety. Whether you are trying to avoid a potential human assailant or a garbage truck you need to hear what’s going on around you.

Speech over.

The rest of the ride was thankfully peaceful. For me at least.

Be careful out there.

Allison, My Aim Is True (Sorry, couldn’t resist)

The weatherman said that the morning commute would be wet. Fortunately for me, the rain left the area around 6 a.m. I felt a sprinkle now and then but I didn’t mind them one bit. It was a pretty nice ride. The post rain sunlight, no longer a sunrise due to the lengthening days, looked pretty on the Potomac at Dyke Marsh. Little Nellie posed for a picture,

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The ride home was an entirely different matter. At four storms started showing up on radar. My office mates in Rosslyn sent my boss home because he picks up his kids by bike. I waited a while longer because the radar looked much worse than what I could see out the window which was light rain. By this time Allison, one of my co-workers, was in full freak out mode.

I hit the road at a bit after 4:30. There was only a sprinkle now and then. The cold raindrops were noticable in warm spring air on my body. The wind wasn’t too bad and I could see blue sky peaking through the clouds. The cars approaching on the GW Parkway did not have their headlights on. So I was pretty sure I was safe riding.

DSCN3706_837At the southern end of Old Town Alexandria things changed pretty quickly. I rode under the Wilson Bridge and could feel a blast of cold air. Not good. Heading south from the beltway on the Mount Vernon Trail I could see that the cars all had their headlights on. Looking down river a line of rain presented itself. And it was approaching fast. I stopped to take a picture and put on my rain jacket. These two things took maybe 30 seconds to do. By the time I had zipped up, I was in a downpour. I jumped on Little Nellie and headed into the maelstrom. The rain was so hard it hurt my skin. My shorts were soaked through and through within 15 seconds. Then the waves of wind gusts came, announced by the sheets of rain they sent directly into me. There was a distant rumble of thunder but otherwise I was unconcerned. I’ve ridden in much worse. Since I could see the gusts coming, I could brace for impact. As I made it to Belle Haven Park my concerned shifted from rain to falling tree limbs. Twice in prior years I have narrowly escaped getting clobbered by a huge falling limb.

By the time I cleared the park, the rain and gusts had stopped. Two minutes from start to finish. The rest of the ride home was actually nice.

Three hours later, all hell broke loose. Timing is everything. My aim is true.

Got Kids, Get Kidical

I recently found out that there is a ride for kids coming up. It goes from Jones Point Park, over the Woodrow Wilson Bridge, down a spiral ramp, around a cove, over an unpaved trail along the river to National Harbor. This is fun for an adult. It will be a gas for a kid. So if you have a kid and a bike, check out the Kidical Mass Alexandria ride to National Harbor.

If you think “My kid can’t do that” consider this. My son did 13 miles of Bike DC in the rain when he was 10. He also did the Tour du Port, 20 miles on the streets of Baltimore at the same age. He had only a one-speed bike but he didn’t care. He was so proud of himself. He had a blast. Give your kid a chance to have a blast and do the Kidical Mass ride from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Sunday, September 28.

Check it out here.