Summer Solstice Bike Commute

I left home an hour early today, not because it is the summer solstice but because I needed to get home early. The weather could not have been better: warm with a touch of humidity. I didn’t see any of my regulars; I was traveling too early for that.

When I passed beneath the Woodrow Wilson Bridge I noticed that the sun was on the north side of the bridge. Big Nellie thought this was odd too. (I’ll bet you didn’t know that bikes have thoughts. They do. It’s some kind of two wheeled woo woo thing.) It made me think of the short days of winter. I hate winter. I should get a summer home in New Zealand or Australia or Argentina.

I often see Chris, Kathy, Dave, Shawn, or lawyer Mike during my bike commutes. Although they also bike commute along part of my route, I hardly ever see Paul, Emilia, or Flogini. I half expected to see one of them today, because of my early departure from home. No dice. Maybe they lie about bike commuting and carpool together. Maybe they see me coming and hide. I would if I were them.

I took a picture of a man fishing on his boat in the Potomac River with the Washington Monument in the background. Fishing must be an introverts delight. I’d probably get into it if I didn’t think fish and bait and unhooking a fish were gross. The picture was taken from the Humpback Bridge. I love that name. It was named after Ronald Humpback, the recently expired bridge superintendent for the Department of the Interior. Or not.

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You can see the Washington Monument and Jefferson Memorial. Also, you can just make out the Smithsonian Construction Crane exhibit. Would I lie about such a thing?

 

 

Full Moon Baseball

Twice this spring I have had tickets to baseball games that were rained out. The first one was called before I got to the ballpark, but I managed to make it an eventful day by being hit by an SUV. For the second game, I rode to the ballpark from work and stood around for an hour while the rain came down. The game was called and I rode home in what I expected to be steady rain. Once I was a few miles along, the rain stopped. Go figure.

So the makeup game to that second rainout was last night. I sat with two co-workers, Bob and Karen, and Richie, who retired after working with Bob for many years. I rode to the ballpark on Little Nellie in case I wanted to get a ride home from Bob by folding Little Nellie up and dropping her in the trunk of his car.

The Nationals arrived back from a west coast road trip at 1 am. This meant that many of the older star players would be getting the night off. The starting pitcher had been struggling all season. So I was expecting the Nationals to lose and for the fans rooting for the Orioles to be really obnoxious.

Instead the Nationals dominated from the outset. The good guys won 6-1 thanks to the performance of Dos Padres, speedy shortstop Trea Turner and pitcher Joe Ross. Turner and Ross are young players that the Nationals acquired in a trade with the San Diego Padres. What were the Padres thinking? These two guys are great.  Turner never hit the ball out of the infield but managed to get on base on three weak singles. Then he stole bases at will. He also made one of the best defensive plays I’ve seen. Ross pitched up a storm, striking out 12 and lasting into the 7th inning.

The haircut on the kid sitting in front of me was as good as the game. He got it for the last day of school.  Sister Irma would have had a heart attack if one of us showed up with a mohawk.

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During the game a full moon rose over the Anacostia River to the east of the park. This was a good omen for my ride home. The game was over by about 10 p.m. and I made my way to the bike valet. I usually run into Klarence there but not this night. (I miss you Klarence, but, no worries, my mouth’s still bleeding. Stay proud.)

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Once clear of the ballpark traffic I made my way around the Jefferson Memorial and over the 14th Street bridge to Virginia and the Mount Vernon Trail. The moonlight reflected off the river and made for a sweet transit.

The trail, of course, was empty. The air was cooling and I was rolling along in trance mode. The moonlight reflecting off the path was only occasionally disturbed by car headlights on the parkway.

I rolled through Old Town Alexandria and didn’t see a single car. There were no tourists. Only peaceful quiet soothing breezes, and the glow from the moon.

Back on the trail south of the beltway, I started down from the bridge over Cameron Run. I spotted a dark mass at the bottom of the brief decline in the shadows. It was a homeless person, dressed completely in dark clothing huddled along the left edge of the trail facing the bushes along the river. If he did not have white hair, I don’t know if I would have even seen him.

The rest of the ride on the trail was just me and the cooling evening air with Mr. Moonlight casting a glow on the proceedings. No bugs to annoy, only a breeze and the sound of my breathing.

Cutting through a neighborhood about a mile from home, there was movement. An animal darting across the road in front of me. A mature fox was crossing the street at a trot. The fox population has exploded near my home in recent years. They tend not to care a whole lot about humans being around, even humans on funny looking machines.

Little Nellie made quick work of the last half mile and we flew across the lawn into the back yard. I didn’t really need my bike light to open my shed; it was illuminated by the moon.

I honestly can’t say which was better, the game or the ride home. I’ll have to try again. Soon.

A Little Water Won’t Kill Ya

It rained last night. The passage to my backyard was a mud pit. It was drizzling as I, without a whole lot of thought, pulled Little Nellie out of the shed.

I wore rain gear fImage may contain: tree, plant, outdoor and natureor the ride to work. All was going well until I reached the Mount Vernon Trail. Normally, the river is to the right of the trail. Today, the trial was beneath the river. As I cleared the Dyke Marsh boardwalk, I hit about 40 yards of deep water. I’d guess it was 6 inches deep. The density of the water slowed me to a crawl and I pedaled through it getting my feet thoroughly soaked. I stopped to take a picture that doesn’t do it justice.

I hopped back on Little Nellie, pedaled 20 yards, and was deep in the soup again. Pedaling through this much water is hard work. I cleared that flood, had a 20-yard breather, then hit the next one. And the next one. And the next one. No lie. I was pedaling really hard as I hit the last one and the backwash from Little Nellie’s wee front wheel caused the water to splash up over my knees.

After another deep section north of Belle Haven Park,  I made it into Old Town without need for scuba gear.

Old Town, of course, is notorious for flooding and today it did not disappoint. Union Street (which includes the Mount Vernon Trail) Image may contain: one or more people, people sitting, motorcycle and outdoorwas closed at King. Little Nellie posed for a picture. I watched a pick up drive through the water but decided not to press my luck especially with a police car in the distance.

I turned up one alley and over another and found myself on King just to the left of the water in the picture.

Free and clear, right? Wrong. I managed to avoid submersion for a couple of miles before hitting deep water twice near Daingerfield Island. The force of my bike through the flood again kicked water up over my knees.

Dang.

I really should have chosen a bike with bigger diameter wheels. I hope Little Nellie’s hubs are not completely messed up.

In the afternoon Doppler radar was showing a really nasty storm approaching. I ran into the No. 2 person at my agency who was carrying his motorcycle helmet. Good luck! Our admin assistant and I both told my boss to hit the road on his cargo bike. He rides into DC and he probably made it unscathed.

I, on the other hand, was scathed. I made it about 9 miles in decent shape. The good news was the flooding had receded. The bad news was I was heading into dark, dark clouds with wind and rain and thunder and lightning.

Oh my.

I rode through Belle Haven Park aware that at any time a limb could fall from one of the giant old trees along the trail. It had happened before but not today. South of the park I had to deal with the fact that my glasses were covered with rain drops and condensation. I could barely see to make my way.

There was nothing to do but pedal, so I did. A bicyclist zipped past me. How he could see was beyond my ken. As I went through the slalom south of Dyke Marsh branches with wet leaves slapped me in the face.

Pedal. Pedal.

All the while, lightning was flashing across the sky.

I followed a curve in the trail up and to the right. Out from behind an overhanging branch came a bicyclists. A woman on what looked like a beach cruiser. She was riding in a frenzy without rain gear and nearly collided with me. I veered off to my right and she flew by.

Sections of the trail now had run off from the adjacent parkway. Some of these were fairly high speed and gave me cause for concern. Would they sweep my wheels out from under me?

Nope. It’s good to be lucky.

Once I left the trail the rain subsided. There was still some thunder and lightning but it was not all that intense.

I rode across the front lawn, around the muddy side of the house, and down the small grassy decline to the shed. After opening the shed and getting the bike inside I started to wipe everything down with an old t-shirt. Then

BOOM!

A clap of thunder erupted directly overhead. The walls and the floor of the shed shook. I felt the vibration in my torso.

Double dang.

A little water won’t kill ya, but the thunder’s a bitch.

Swim to Work Day

Last Friday’s Bike to Work Day was such a success that we decided to hold Swim to Work Day today. It was difficult to dress for the rain. The temperature was 58F when I left home. So I decide to go with a water proof jacket with a hood. My bare legs got somewhat cold but no worries they were sore as hell from yesterday’s hike.

I am proud to say I did not run over any ducks or geese on my way to the office, but I cannot vouch for any earthworms.

Also, I want to that VDOT for aiming the storm drains from I-395 directly onto the Mount Vernon Trail. Nothing makes a rainy day wetter than riding through the waterfall from the highway above.

This is what my office looked like. (My jacket and shirt were hanging up across the room.)

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I didn’t bother with a shower. Seemed kind of redundant.

Quack.

 

Bike to Work Day in DC – Recap

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I woke up early. I was having leg cramps. Not good. The dinner concert we went to last night did not serve free water, so we drank beer. Dumb on all counts.

After walking around a bit and drinking a pint of watered down orange juice, my cramps subsided and I was off about 1/2 hour ahead of schedule on my last Bike to Work Day. (Please note the capitalization. I am still biking to work for another three months. Y’all can’t get rid of me that easily.)

Pit stop MV.JPGMy ride to work is about 15 miles. I decided to take the longImage may contain: sky, tree, ocean, plant, outdoor and nature way and stopped 1 1/2 miles from home at my first pit stop of the day. This one was located near the Mount Vernon Trail and was staffed by a couple of guys from my local bike shop, Spokes Etc.‘s Belle View location. At the pit stop, I ran into Nancy Duley who lives near me. We had a good chat. Having already eaten breakfast, I turned down the free muffins and bananas and other goodies and headed toward Alexandria. Along the way I stopped to take in the sun rising over the river. (Wanna know why I bike to work. The picture tells it all.)

In Old Town I stopped at my designated pit stop. (I had switched at the last minute to avoid the lonImage may contain: 1 person, outdoorg lines in Rosslyn. ) Good move. The lines were short. I picked up a t-shirt and a water bottle. Then I popped two donut holes in my mouth. They were from the aptly named Sugar Shack. Big Ed was also there and the two of us rode with massive sucrose buzzes to Crystal City.

Once I dismounted I came to realize the the relative humidity was somewhere north of New Orleans in August. Dang.

The Crystal City pit stop was very well attended. I saw several people I knew including Kathy and Sam (that’s her on the left below). Once again I passed up the free food and coffee.  Hot coffee was not looking really appealing as the sweat poured off me.Image may contain: 4 people, people smiling, outdoor

I left Ed to his socializing and headed to Rosslyn. Rather than cut back over to the Mount Vernon Trail, which I assumed would be chock-a-block full of bike commuters, I rode the streets through Crystal City, past Long Bridge Park, and around the Pentagon. I picked up Route 110 with its highway traffic and rode its broad paved shoulder until I exited at Arlington Cemetery.

There was nobody on the path around Arlington Cemetery which made for swift passage to Rosslyn. The streets of Rosslyn were packed with cars but I managed to weave through them. I decide to check out the Rosslyn pit stop conveniently located in the Intersection of Doom which was made more better by construction on the nearby bike trail.

The Rosslyn pit stop was packed. There must have been over 100 bikes parked and many, many more in the hands of their owners meandering about. I was glad I switched stops, even though Rosslyn had the best swag of all four that I visited.

I ran into Lawyer Mike, who, like Big Ed, I know from Friday Coffee Club. But for passes on the trail during commutes, I hadn’t seen him in ages. So it was good to catch up.

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I took off for work. When I got to the office I gathered up my co-workers who had ridden to work. There were five of us, but only four because one of my co-workers who is new to this bike to work thing, missed her pit stop. That’s them in the picture at the top of the blog.

The picture does not include our boss who rode his kids to school (as he does every day) and a former co-worker who works on another floor. So my office did itself proud today.

The interview I did yesterday ran on WAMU  (a local NPR station) today. I was included in the text but did not make the audio version. There’s good reason. Ian, yet another Friday Coffee Clubber, was the lead subject. He commutes almost twice as far as I do. I can’t even….

After work I rode to Adams Morgan in DC for a Bike to Work Day party hosted by WABA. They mentioned something about free beer and pizza and I was a goner. I arrived under threatening skies. As I went to lock my bike, rain fell. Cold rain. It cut through the humidity splendidly.

I met a half dozen people at the party. My fusiform gyrus was given a major work out. I still remember Rachel, Lisa, Grace, Eric, and, I think,…, well, I forgot the other guy. And I know I’ve met him before. Ack.

The highlight of the event was the ovation we gave Nelle Pierson, who had just finished her last day on the job with the Washington Area Bicyclists Association. Suffice it to say, there was an awful lot of love and admiration in the room.

I finished the evening with a ride home under threatening skies. Jeanne who was at the Crystal City pit stop and I rode back to Virginia together. Once on the south side of the Potomac, we found ourselves riding through clouds of flying bugs. Jeanne veered off north of Old Town. As I made my way through Belle Haven Park the clouds of bugs intensified. It was totally gross for about 1/2 mile. Then the swarms cleared and all that was left was the circle of light ahead of my bike. Four miles of riding in the night with a few flashes of heat lightning for good effect.

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Bike to work day. 14 hours from start to finish. My last one. Well played BikeDC. Well played.

Many, many thanks to all the volunteers and staff who worked on this event. Also, thanks to the sponsors for donating all the goodies.

 

 

I Missed the Shot!

On the way to work I spotted my first bike commute ducklings of the year. There must have been 12 of them. I stopped my bike and frantically opened my handlebar bag. Where’s my damned phone? Ayy! Then I realized it was in the back pocket of my vest. I put it there so it would be easily accessible in case I saw something good to take a picture of on the way to work.  My middle name is mindfulness.So I pulled out the phone and turned to see the ducklings following momma into the tall grass.

Maybe I should bring a proper camera. Earlier in the ride I saw an osprey flying overhead. It was banking toward the Belle Haven nest with a branch in its mouth. Looks like the abandoned bald eagle nest is a fish hawk fixer upper.

The ride home was work. I had a head wind. What I didn’t realize was that the temperature in the direct sun was near 100 degrees. That’s not the official temperature, but the thermometer on my deck read 100.9F. I decided not to mow the lawn tonight.

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Bike to Work Day approaches. We have at least five people in my office participating. I don’t think my boss signed up but he’ll ride his cargo bike to work as well.

Hopefully, this will be my final Bike to Work Day. My original plan was to retire today and ride to the west coast after picking up  my Bike to Work Day t-shirt. But I decided to work through the summer for financial reasons. (I am greedy.)

I think all my office mates will be going to the Rosslyn pit stop location. I’ll be going to the Old Town Alexandria location. Both are on my line of travel. After work I hope to ride to a happy hour. There are several of them. The one being run by WABA is free. I like free. I might even ride through a thunderstorm to get free.

A Letter to Linel

Dear Linel

Sorry to hear about the treadmill attacking you yesterday. I am sure your sore knee will be fine in a day or two and you will be back to riding your bike to work.

You didn’t miss much today.Image may contain: closeup This was the second day of Bike to Work Week. I broke out one of my vintage Bike to Work Day t-shirts. I have no idea what color this is. Coral? Salmon? Tomato soup?

The weather was bad. I had to wear arm and ear warmers for part of the ride to work. Until it warmed up, that is. Such a drag. On the way home, it was 80F. I had a cooling headwind off the river. Imagine that. It slowed me down a little. Ugh.

There were lots of people out and about. They looked like they were having fun. It made me long for the days when the trail was empty and I was bundled up against the cold. Introversion rocks, don’t you think?

You would have hated the strong sun. My arms are so tan. I hate tan. I might even get some more freckles by Friday. I hate freckles too.

There was an osprey flying over my head in the morning.  I mean what did he think he was doing? There were geese and ducks and puffy white clouds, too. Just north of Belle Haven Park there was a dude in a kayak with three fishing rods. Just sitting there soaking up the glistening morning sun.

You’d have hated it.

Try to stay away from hostile exercise equipment. Hope you get better soon.

Cheers

RC

Let the Mayhem Begin

It’s Bike to Work Week which culminates with Bike to Work Day on Friday.  Bike to Work Day is to year-round bike commuters as New Years Eve was to W. C. Fields. If people like me are going to get through the week, we have to chill. We have to have extra patience. We have to be extra aware of every minute of our ride to and from work.

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This morning’s ride to work was surprisingly normal. There were plenty of new bike commuters but they all rode predictably and sanely. Despite a cool headwind it was an enjoyable ride.

The ride home was a different matter. It was like being in a video game. I had a strong tailwind and the temperature was in the low 70Fs. Speeds were a bit higher. People were looking around. Leafed out trees and bushes were obstructing sight lines.

On the ride down to the bike trail, I made my way around two young women with two dogs taking up the entire trail. Ding! They moved. I hit the chicane and there were three people arrayed across the width of the path. The one on my side of the path jumped to the side and said “Sorry!”

A line of bikes approached me on the super nice new trail at the TR Island parking lot. One of them decided to pass the others and came right at me. Good thing the new path is wider. I made some snide remark at the pathlete and rode on.

The next few miles were cool. As I rode I directed traffic like a quarterback point out the coverage in the defensive backfield. You go. Keep coming I’ll wait. Pointing my passes out. Hike!

Approaching the beaver bridge north of Slaters Lane, two short old-ish women dressed for February were having a conversation. One on the left side of the path, the other on the right. They created a pinch point. DING! I slowed and threaded the needle without incident.

I came around the blind curve at the Slaters Lane apartments and there were people on either side of the trail. One stepped back realizing they were positioned dangerously. She said “Sorry!”

After the power plant comes a right followed by a left that takes the trail along the railroad tracks. A grandpa, a grandma, and a toddler  were standing along the trail. Grandpa crossed the trail. I rang my bell. Toddler followed Grandpa. Grandma followed Toddler across the trail without holding Toddler’s hand. Grandma didn’t react to my bell at all so I slowed to a near stop. She never looked at any of the other people approaching her on the trail either. Grandma needs to see an audiologist.

I made it through Old Town without incident allowing a bus to run interference for me through the pedestrian throngs.

Under the Wilson Bridge I was cruising along when a girl on a skateboard came sailing toward me from an access path to my right. I yelled “Hey” and she stopped with a smile on her face as if to say “My bad.”

On the climb to Washington Street, I caught up to Big Ed, who was fighting gravity and losing. Ed and I rode together for the next several miles. We crossed the Cameron Run bridge. A Hispanic mom, dad, and daughter were fishing from the bridge. As I approached, mom and daughter back pedaled in front of me. I said “Hello” and veered around them. They didn’t react. Next time I’ll try “Hola.”

The rest of the ride was a slalom run around pedestrians. Lots of pedestrians.

We didn’t hit a single one. We are professionals.

I didn’t drop a single f-bomb. Ed cursed a blue streak. (Okay, I’m kidding. About Ed.)

My hope is that heat and humidity will keep the number of evening strollers down as the week progresses and the number of bike commuters increases.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ear Bud Coffee Ninja Tuesday

Yesterday on the Mount Vernon Trail was Butt Cheek Monday. My thanks, once again, to the designers of skin tight running shorts for women. Today was Ear Bud Coffee Ninja Tuesday.

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I was plodding along going up a slight rise in the trail. The base of the rise is where I was nearly shuffled off my mortal coil by the driver of an SUV a couple of weeks ago.  As I made my way past the bus stop, a man came off a staircase to my right and walked directly in front of me. He was in ear bud heaven and his left hand held a cup of joe at about the level of my head. If I had hit him it would have been a literal hot mess.

I froze, proving that meditation can get you only so far in bike crash world. I swerved left and came to a stop avoiding making a four-ten split of some more folks waiting for the bus doors to open. (Why the heck do all these people have to stand when the bus is just sitting there with its doors shut?)

I said something exclamatory that did not include the letter f, shook my head, and rode away. Ear bud coffee ninja didn’t say a word.

I have ridden past this bus stop thousands of times. This is the first time I nearly crashed into someone. Maybe all my past caution has given me a big balance in the karma bank.

Today was cool with rain and wind. By Saturday, it will be 90F degrees. Bring it on. I am torn between riding 16 miles to the Climate March or riding 16 miles to the Nationals baseball game. (They are both in DC, about a mile apart.) Everybody knows that saving the planet is roughly as important as winning the NL East.