Chatting, Squalling, Passing

My bike commutes are mostly solo affairs in which I go into a trance and re-emerge at the Intersection of Doom. Nothing takes you out of a deep meditative state quite like near certain death.

This morning, however, I rode about 8 miles of my commute with Big Ed, a caffeine addict with a biking problem. I call him Big Ed because, well, he’s big, but it also distinquishes him from Felkerino, who drinks espresso like tap water.

Big Ed sure is loquacious. Normally I’d rather ride along but he was splendid company and didn’t take out a single oncoming ride. He rides a Surly Ogre which is a rather intimidating steed. On coming riders moved off the trail, dismounted, and bowed.

Ed veered off at the Crystal City connector trail next to National Airport. He was in search of his morning fix. I later learned he achieved caffeine satisfaction.

While Ed was amping up, I found myself riding into a headwind which suddenly turned into a snow squall. I tried to take pictures but I lack patience and photographic skill. Here’s a couple of my failures.

Sadly, the dried geese poop on the trail can be confused with the few snowflakes. At least the Washington Monument is in a snowy haze.

The rest of the ride in was a bit of a struggle into the wind but I managed.

The wind maintained during the day allowing me to ride home effortlessly with a cold tailwind. Near the Memorial Bridge I passed Flogini, the erstwhile spiritual adviser to the Rootchopper Institute, as she rode toward me. It was only the second time our paths have crossed in a year and a half. (I don’t think she recognized me because she had no eye protection and was taking a cold wind to the face.) It’s sad to think that in all that time we’ve seen each other for about 3 seconds.

The rest of the ride home was, forgive the expression, a breeze. My pedaling mechanics seem suddenly to be quite good, especially for this time of year. I am also getting out of the saddle much more than I have in years.

Tomorrow will be another cold commute, then the next seven days should be in the 60s and 70s. In February. In DC. Wow.

 

 

Spring, Kindness, and Shackelton’s Great Grand Daughter

Robin Rides to Work

As it gets warmer and lighter, we begin to see signs of spring. Today I saw my first new bike commuter. I’ll call her “Robin.”

There is a short connector trail that links the Custis Trail along I-66 with the Mount Vernon Trail along the Potomac River. The connector trail starts/ends at the Intersection of Doom. Along side the trail is a little used service road that goes basically nowhere. It is often confused with the connector trail.

As I reached the IoD traffic light on the connector trail, I spotted Robin coming from the Key Bridge toward the IoD. She looked confused and started to turn down the service road. We made eye contact and I shook my head “no.”  Then I motioned with my head “this way.” (My hands were busy braking.) She immediately got the point and veered off the service road. As she rode past me she said, “Thanks. It’s my first bike commute.” Based on her gear – bike with rack and panniers – she was not an inexperienced rider; she was just new to commuting in DC. She would have figured out her mistake so I saved her all of 20 seconds. Nevertheless it felt good to help a fellow traveler.

So here’s a reminder to all #bikedc commuter. Spring is almost here and, with it, many Robins. It doesn’t take much to help them out. Maybe just a nod or a shake of the head. Give them directions or offer to lead the way. Invite them to one of the scads of bike commuter coffee get-togethers. Tell them about upcoming local events like the Vasa Ride.

Be Kind to Clueless Touroids

And while I am on the subject of being kind, we are just a few weeks away from the massive influx of tourists. Tourists in DC think they know where they are and what they are doing because they see DC on TV every night. The truth is most of them are clueless. Be kind to them. (Yes, I admit I lose my cool with five abreast cherry blossom tourists on the trails. I will try to be more patient this year.) Be especially kind to the ones from far away lands, particularly those who do not speak English. If you’ve ever been disoriented in a place far away, you know how frustrating and scary it can be. The people you help will long remember what you did for them.

Enduring Rosslyn

Later in the morning I had to go to CVS for some things. I decided not to bother with a sweater or jacket since it’s only a block away and 45 degrees is tolerable in shirt sleeves. I was totally comfortable. I spotted a woman walking toward me in a cross walk. She had on a heavy winter coat, oversized sunglasses, and big ear muffs. I stifled a laugh and wondered if her last name was Shackleton. Then I realized she was a friend of a friend, the kind you know of but don’t actually know. Derp. I guess it’s not spring for everyone yet.

 

Winter Bike to Work Day

Apparently today is International Winter Bike to Work Day. It’s that day of the year when the wheelpeople of the southern hemisphere ride around in shorts to mock us in the frozen north. Yesterday was a planned day off and it was a good thing because it was cold and very windy. Today was colder still but the winds were light, my legs were fresh, and the antibiotics were still kicking in.

I rarely climb out of the saddle but I did it three times on the way to work today. I am feeling my oats. Nothing like having two functioning lungs to get my ya-yas out.

About 100 yards from my driveway I was stopped in my tracks by the most amazing blazing sunrise I’d seen in ages. I pulled over to admire it. As I was pulling out my camera for a picture a motorcade of school buses and cars came by and obscured my view. So you’ll have to take my word on it.

I banged a left and climbed a short hill out of the saddle. A car came up behind me and honked loudly. It’s a residential neighborhood with narrow streets but Mr. BMW was bound and determined to demonstrate is automotive superiority complex. Do people who drive like this realize what incredible asses they are?

sunrise-02102017

I pedaled on into the cold winter air. It was in the 20s but I had dressed nearly flawlessly for the occasion. I had extra high socks on under my rain pants. I had chemical hand warmers between my shoes and my overboots. I had three layers on my head: skating cap, Buff, and jacket hood. The only part of me that got cold was my thumbs which never seemed to recover from taking this picture of The Mule at its usual sunrise posing place in Dyke Marsh.

There was a dusting of snow on the boards of this bridge but I didn’t slip. I just chugged away to the office arriving surprisingly comfortable.

The ride home feature gray skies, a headwind, and ten degrees less cold. I enjoyed the grind except for two close passes by cars whose drivers were in a big rush to get home. One, of course, was a BMW. Ask any bike commuter what cars have the most obnoxious drivers and you’ll hear “BMW” more often than not.

I made it home in one piece with a smile on my face. Not a bad way to end a workweek.

I hope you fine readers have a splendid weekend.  I plan on doing as much..

 

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Shorts and Tailwinds

Winter around DC is normally cold and blustery. Cold winds blow down from the north and west unimpeded by leaves on trees. Day after day I typically find myself bundled in layers, grinding away into a cold headwind, spent by the time I get to work.

Not today.

This has been a remarkably mild winter. The wind has not put its big cold hand on my chest as I pedal. At least not nearly as often as usual.

Today I rode to and from work in shorts. And I had a tailwind both ways. When I got home I made a sacrifice to the bike commuting gods. It was only a small child. I doubt my neighbors will miss him.

The ride to work really seemed effortless. Considering the fact that I was bedridden only 48 hours before this ease of movement made me positively joyful. People that I rode past must have wondered what brand of whisky I had with breakfast.

Normally this sort of ride leads to a trance. Today my trance had brain squirrels running amok. They were inventing awkward social situations for me to deal with with smart ass retorts. You know, the kind that you never think of during the situation but come up with three hours later.

Then Dave rolled up alongside to chat. I was thinking of telling Dave that I was already talking to someone but I feared he might call the folks from the psychiatric facility nearby. After a half mile my sluggish pace bored him and he rode off.

The ride home was every bit as fun. The slight tailwind made me feel like I was in midseason form. Runners, obviously fit ones, were everywhere. These folks were flying in t-shirts and shorts. I felt a pang of jealousy, as I recalled my long ago running days in Providence.

The only negative on my ride home was a dangerous pass. I was heading south, a cyclist was heading toward me going north. A tall (perhaps 6 foot 3 inches or more), helmetless cyclist riding a bike with a straight handlebar and with ear buds in his ears passed me without warning at the same time as the oncoming cyclist. There were mere inches of room between my left hand and Ear Bud. I yelled at him to not be a douche. I yelled at him last night in nearly the same spot, doing nearly the same stupid maneuver.

But that was two seconds of bad in 2 1/2 hours of bike commuting bliss.

I’ll take it.

 

Bike Commuter Thanks Scientists

There seems to be a lot of people in this country who don’t like science. I for one am not one of them. After all if it weren’t for the discovery of anesthetics, my back surgery would have been rather unpleasant. Or take the fact that I (ironically the son of an ophthalmologist) have had six eye surgeries and see better at 61 than I did at 16.

I woke up yesterday sore all over. My head ached. My lungs were full of gunk. I was having fits of coughing. At 3 pm I saw my doctor. After a thorough examination he sent me off to the pharmacy for three little pills. Antibiotics. I took one at about 5 pm.

By 9 pm I was feeling considerably better. I was still coughing but my headache had eased and my body aches too. I awoke this morning feeling nearly human. What a difference 24 hours and one little pill made!

Aware that I was not quite 100 percent, I decided that the promise of a bike commute in warm weather compelled me to try to ride to work. It felt like I was riding with one lung. I huffed and puffed and coughed and spit but I pedaled on.

The passing of four days since my last bike commute made a noticeable difference in the sunrise. The sun was well above the horizon. The Mule posed for a picture:

sunrise-feb-7-2017-edit

When I tried to get underway, I realized that my balance was not so good. After nearly careening off the wooden bridge, I got my act together and pedaled slowly onward. The running mom (with kid in jogging stroller) gave me a big smile. Did she know I was sick?

I made it rather deliberately to the climb from the river to Rosslyn. Ugh. I think I can. I think I can. I can. Boy were my lungs burning.

After a shower and a cup of coffee (and some danish provided by our Chief Data Officer for reasons unknown) I felt wonderful.

From time to time I would feel light headed but I was shocked that I was feeling better with each passing hour. My hat’s off to Alexander Fleming, who discovered penicillin in 1928.

The ride home featured a strong headwind. This did not upset me one bit. It was 72 degrees out in February. I was in shorts. I had a smile on my face for 15 miles, despite the fact that the warm weather had released Lance Mamilots and clueless bicycle hipsters (earbuds in, passed without warning within inches, must not kill) upon the trail. This was all thanks to Svante Arrhenius, the Swedish scientist who first proposed that fossil fuel consumption would result in global warming and climate change. He figured this out in, wait for it, 1896.

So I owe today’s bike commute to two scientists,  one who has saved countless lives already, another whose discovery may one day save all of us.

Ain’t science great?

Bike Commuting Karma

I often write about my bike commuting trance. In fact, people I know in DC bring it up all the time in conversation. Last night I popped a couple Tylenol PMs to help me sleep through Mrs. Rootchopper’s nasty cough. (I swear I did not give this disease to her. Her boss did. Really.)mule-post-sunrise I was still groggy when I headed out for work on The Mule.

I managed to make it nearly all the way to work without incident. I even stopped for a sort- of-sunrise picture. Sorry, readers, but the sunrises a little too early for me now. (This is a good thing for my visibility and my mood, however.)

I was plodding along, comfy with temperatures in the 30s and light winds. Then I rode up the short steep hill to the Intersection of Doom. The IoD is called this because of the number of people on foot and wheel who have been hit there. It is the meeting of North Lynn Street on which north bound traffic heads into Georgetown via the Key Bridge, US 29, and off- and on-ramps to I-66. Does that sound like a mess? Well, add a helluva a lot of impatient car and bike commuters and you have a recipe for disaster.

I was on the connector trail that links up the Custis Trail with the Mount Vernon Trail. Thanks to my drug assisted trance and the effort from the hill, my mind was completely out to lunch. At the IoD I took an immediate left from the connector trail across an I66 off- ramp via a cross walk. I looked up and saw that the WALK signal had a red 10 illuminated. I had 10 seconds. I noted that there was no traffic heading from my right to my left. And for some reason my brain did not register the fact that this meant that the I66 off-ramp cars had a green light. I signaled my left turn, looked left, made eye contact with the driver of the lead car in the first lane of three that I had to cross, and I turned.

It was only as I was directly in front of the car that I realized that the car had a green light. Ack! I was saved by the simple fact that a recent change to the traffic signals prohibited a right hand turn while the WALK light was not in steady red hand STOP mode.

But I still had two lanes to go. For some reason, the bike commuting gods had blocked off the center lane with traffic cones so I actually had a place to stop in the middle of this godforsaken crossing. I was about to stop when I noticed that no cars were coming up the last of the three lanes. I quickly pedaled across it to the safety of the sidewalk beyond. Dang.

I am one lucky mule driver.

I was a lot more attentive on the ride home. Good thing too. The Mount Vernon Trail goes uphill from Jones Point Park to get to South Washington Street in Old Town Alexandria. At South Washington the trail takes a left across South Street and continues along the river. I had a white WALK signal for my left-hand turn. A car was waiting at the red light. I aimed my helmet light at the driver and slowed down. Despite the fact that there were 500 lumens of my headlight beam in her eyes, the driver took a right on red, WALK signal be damned. Dang again.

I yelled at her but my heart really wasn’t into it. There was some kind of bike commuting karma going on today.

Funny thing was, that within a mile I was back in my trance. I rode up a long gradual incline and got that “how did I get here” feeling.

Just lucky I guess.

 

Feel

This morning’s bike commute, my fifth this week, began with a sense of dread..Last night, for the third night this week, I woke up at 3:30 and couldn’t get back to sleep. My circadian rhythms are not amusing me.

I pulled on my overboots and layers and hat and whatnot. Ugh. I left early and was plodding away on The Mule. About two miles into the ride, my friend Reba blew by me like I was standing still. She made a friendly mocking remark about my utter lack of celerity. I mumbled profanities.dyke-marsh-and-mule

At three miles I stopped to sit on a bench and take a slightly pre-sunrise picture.

Do I have to get back on that bike? Can’t I just sit here and freeze to death?

The merry prankster in me said “Further!” and I mounted my two-wheeled steed. It’s so hard to turn off your mind, relax, and float downstream when you’re on a bike, groggy, and struggling upstream.

My head hung low but I slogged along. Then out of the top of my peripheral vision I saw something. I looked up. A woman was walking her large dog. She was on the right edge of the trail and the dog, on a leash, was on the left edge of the trail. I hit my brakes and the squealed. “Oh!” I shook my head as I passed. “Duh!”

Once I was at work and had switched out of my overboots and layers and hats and whatnot the muscles in my upper back went into spasm. Off and on. All day.

Then my head cold returned.

The first one of you who says “You should try yoga” is gonna get it.

Strangely, once I was back on my bike for the ride home, my back felt fine. The ride home had a tailwind-ish feel. A passing rider even said “sort of a tailwind.”

Riding down from a short bridge just south of Alexandria, my hanging head almost did me in again. The headlights of the oncoming cars on the adjacent parkway were blinding me. Then I saw them: two ninja walkers, dressed in dark clothing, backlit by the headlights. As I was about to go around them, two bike commuters came speeding past. The first one calling out his pass almost too late. The second one didn’t bother.

The rest of the ride was actually pleasant. When I got home I did the back exercises (that Mrs. Rootchopper calls the “Y” word). While in a shoulder stand, my upper back went into spasm. I rolled out of the position, sat, and breathed calmly. Go away spasm. And it did.

And so ends six days of riding 179 miles in January. At age 61. Feeling every year.

 

 

Deja Vu All Over Again

It’s only my fourth bike commute of the year and it’s already getting repetitive. Good thing I have only 7 months and 1 week to go.

Today was an especially good day because the sinus problems that I had yesterday were nearly cleared up. I used a nasal rinse gizmo (mine has a filter so I can use tap water) patterned after a neti pot twice last night and once this morning. And I took vitamin I to reduce swelling. Success.

So today my head didn’t hurt, the sun came up and it was beautiful. See for yourself.

Image may contain: sky and outdoor

And just like last winter the untreated wooden bridges on the Mount Vernon Trail were icy menaces. I was warned by the hoppy runner who was turning around at the bump out where I took the sunrise picture. I was very careful to ride in a straight line and made the crossing of the Dyke Marsh bridge with my rubber side down.

North of Old Town I bypassed the bridges on the river side of the power plant, but decided to take a chance on the beaver bridge just north of Slaters Lane. A walker on the bridge heard me approach and waved me off. I dismounted and immediately realized that the bridge was very slippery. So slippery in fact that I could see two cyclists recovering from a crash. It took me few minutes to walk the football field long bridge. I saw several fresh gashes in the wood decking, most likely from pedals. I actually had to grab hold of the chain that acts as a railing along the side of the bridge because my feet were sliding out from under me. Several cyclists rode by. I didn’t hear any crashes. I don’t know how.

The concrete bridges near the airport were icy but passable. By the time I made it to the wooden Trollheim bride that passes beneath the TR Bridge into DC the ice on it had mostly melted. I rode across without incident.

It was 55  degrees when I started the ride home. It was downright pleasant so the squirrels in my head could run freely. Thoughts bounced around. Then the trance came. Big Ed blew by me without realizing it was me. He nearly took out a ninja runner in the process. I cracked up. So much for that trance.

I rode into Old Town and my old friend was back. The car illegally parked blocking the bike lane at 420 North Union Street was in its usual scofflaw position. I called the police and asked them to ticket it. Again. If this keeps up, I may ask for an accounting of the number of times police responded to my complaints, how often a ticket was issued, how many fines were collected, and such. What really gets me is the fact that nobody else on this block parks like this. They used to but stopped. It takes only one entitled millionaire to ruin a bike lane. Lest we forget, Alexandria is a certified Bicycle Friendly City.

Once I cleared Old Town and headed down the trail in the dark the trance came back. I honestly lost track of where I was on the trail. I must have ridden two miles before I had that how-did-I-get-here moment.

 

 

 

 

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.

Coffee is Dangerous

I was riding home as usual on the Mount Vernon Trail. In Old Town Alexandria the trail merges with a bike lane on Union Street. At 426 North Union I left the bike lane to avoid the rear of a car parked perpedicular to the curb. Then I came to a full stop at two stop signs. Then I approached the busy interesection with King Street.

I came to a full stop at the stop sign as two pedestrians slowly crossed the street in the crosswalk in front of me. Take. Your. Time. People.

Then I crossed King. Just beyond the next crosswalk a car was parked illegally blocking the right lane. My lane. It had its flashers on (making it clear to anyone who might care that he was parking illegally) and its white back up lights were illuminated. I approached with extreme care not knowing what the driver was going to do. Cars were legally parked at the curb in front of the Starbucks across from the illegal car. Two cars were coming toward me. Their headlights were shining directly in my eyes. Because of the illegally parked car I had only a few feet of roadway to use.

As I passed the illegal car, I turned to look at the driver. The headlight on my helmet lit up his face and hands as he played with the cellphone in his hand. Typical.

I turned my head forward and there was a pedestrian. Mid block. Dressed in dark clothing. About one foot in front of my front tire. She was holding a Starbucks cup. She shrieked and quickstepped. I have no idea how I did not hit her.

 

Starbucks addicts do this sort of thing routinely at King and Union. Mrs. Rootchopper told me last night that about a mile away Starbucks addicts  dash across the street in mid block during rush hour to get their caffeine fix at a Starbucks on North Washington Street, a major commuting route for cars and buses.