Solo in Charm City, Hon

Today was the annual Tour Dem Parks, Hon ride in Baltimore. Charm City has its, well, charms, and, as it turns out, so does this ride. I learned about this ride from my friend Paris who I ran into a couple of years ago when I was visiting Baltimore. Paris was in the middle of the ride and having a blast. So, it went on my to-do list.

Things didn’t start particularly well. I had hoped that my friend Linel, bike commuter and mama to Daphne the wonder dog, was hoping to join me. Sadly she bailed last night. So I did the ride solo.

The ride is a counterclockwise circuit of the city of Baltimore. The route passes through eight city parks. Along the way, the ride shows off the city’s extensive bike route system, including the Jones Falls, Gwynns Falls, and Herring Run Trails.

The trails and the city could use a lot of sprucing up. Some of the trails were riddled with tree routes. Some of them are signed routes on sidewalks.  The city is a strange mix of beautifully restored and maintained old buildings, hundreds of row houses, and a depressing number of dilapidated buildings, commercial, industrial, and residential. It struck me as sad that I was riding through slums with a view of a publicly funded football stadium in the distance.

Normally, I bring a point and shoot camera with me.  And I did today. I forgot to charge its battery so there would be no picture taking on the fly.

Enough depressing stuff. The ride itself began in very comfortable temperatures with pleasant breezes. Since it begins on a trail there is a long string of bicycles for the first five miles. You just have to be chill, and I was. Not having a working camera or anyone riding with me made for a very meditative mood. I’d get into my trance focusing on my legs spinning then snap out of it when another rider would do something unexpected (like veer in front of me, stop in the middle of the trail, etc.)

The scenery varied. Druid Hill Park, the Cylburn Arboretum, and Gwynns Falls and Leaking Park were all stellar. They provided dense shade and rippling streams. At one point we went through Dickeyville, a 19th century village. The road wound past stone walls and picket fences. Beautiful.

Long stretches of the ride were on city streets. Traffic was practically non existent. This let me get my speed fix. My Cross Check may weight a lot but it can roll nicely.

After Leaking Park we rode to the Inner Harbor, passing briefly through Carroll Park.  Near the inner harbor we climbed to Federal Hill Park with its views of the harbor.

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After the inner harbor we went to Patterson Park where we had a rest stop at a pagoda. This is such a beautiful structure and a stop you really need to make if you ever visit. It’s not always open. (It was today but I passed on taking in the view from the top. I’ve climbed the steps many times before.)

 

 

 

 

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Just behind the pagoda there was a yoga class wrapping up on the lawn. Shucks, I missed it.

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The ride headed on city streets into the northeastern section of the city.  Clifton Park seemed more about playing fields than most of the rest of the parks. This was followed by Herring Run Park, where there was a rest stop at 32 miles. My cue sheet had a big 35 on the front so I wondered why a rests top was needed three miles from the finish. The answer was that the ride was actually 37 miles long.

Once we entered the Inner Harbor area we were riding on shadeless streets and the temperature was in the low 90Fs, warmer still because of all the asphalt and the masonry row houses.

So what’s a couple more miles when your cookin’, right. As it turns out the last two miles were in shady Druid Hill Park. Ahh.

On the way up the next to last hill, I ran into John Roche pulling daughter Ellie in a trailer. John used to live in DC, but he and his wife Kate left town a couple of years ago. We chatted for a minute. Ellie was looking pretty wiped out. They headed home and I headed to the finish for a burger (excellent), a hot dog (meh), and a cold beer (might fine).

Before leaving for DC, I stopped by John’s house. I expected Ellie to be asleep but she was full of energy. The last time I saw John and Kate, Kate was past her due date, so this was my first time to hang out with Ellie. She’s a charmer. She speaks a form of English only day care teachers can translate. Talking to her was a bit like watching a French movie; I could understand a word here and there, but it was hard work. After an hour or so, I headed back to DC.

I think the drive home was harder than the ride. I was groggy from the heat.

Bottom line: this is a ride well worth doing. It is a good companion ride to the Tour du Port event that I’ve done four or five times.

 

A Proper, if Reluctant, Recovery

After totally botching a recovery ride yesterday, I decided to give it my all today. It being a national holiday, the last one for many weeks (a stretch of the calendar that I call The Long March as if it is comparable to Bataan), I slept in. Then I did what most old farts do, I ate a slow and methodical breakfast and read the dead tree edition of the newspaper. The good folks at the Washington Post had the decency to load up the sports page with baseball stories causing me to cry tears of joy in my Rice Chex.

Next came some web surfing. This is normally utterly unproductive, especially when accompanied by solitaire playing. Today was an exception. I learned (and saw with my own eyes) that the bald eagles at the National Arboretum have produced one egg. You can watch the entire process of egg sitting on the webcams that the U.S Department of Agriculture set up. This is a phenomenal time killer as not much happens for days. It is oddly addictive, however.

Interspersed with eagle watching and solitaire playing, I read some of Bill Bryson’s In a Sunburned Country. It is a funny travelogue about Australia, which I happened to have visited a couple of years ago.

At about 1 pm, I tired of my sloth and jumped aboard Deets for a ride to my local bike shop to have my front derailler looked at. It started throwing the chain to the inside a couple of days ago and I couldn’t get the appropriate adjustment screw to adjust.

Lucky for me there appears to me a time warp going on in DC. It feels like April. Flowers are coming up. Pollen is dusting cars windshields. The sun is warming bicyclists in shorts.

I expected there to be a long line at the bike shop and was delighted to see there was none at all. The mechanic on duty made quick work of the adjustment advising me to put the chain in the biggest gear before fiddling with the adjustment screw. I knew there had to be a trick. The adjustment was free (thanks Spokes Etc.) and I was on the road in no time.

I stopped at the scenic jersey barriers at the Belle Haven Marina for a photo op. Pay no attention to the ugly developments on the far side of the river.deets-at-marina

I rolled into Old Town and could see that the Presidents’ Day parade was still going on. I took the Wilkes Street tunnel from Union Street to check out the proceedings. The air in the tunnel was about 10 degrees warmer than on the street. It was also dark owing to the fact that I was wearing sunglasses.

A walker said hello and used my name. It was Bruce who I worked with until recently. He was dressed in white. Immediately behind him was a group of four or five people including his wife Paula – with whom I still work – dressed in her mandatory black. They looked a bit like Spy vs. Spy from Mad magazine.

I stopped to take in the parade. I couldn’t for the life of me get my phone to work properly to take a decent picture in the glare of the sun. I saw some bagpipers and what looked like Mummers driving itty bitty cars.

Having marched in parades for six years during my military school days I can only tolerate them in small doses. I hopped back on my steed for a slog along the perimeter of the parade and its crowds.

Once I found a street that would take me back home across  the parade route I took it. Slowly. The idea was to recover from the last two days. I took the hilly route home, mostly to test out the derailer. It worked fine.

After 17 miles, I dropped off my bike and drove to Huntley Meadows Park for a quite stroll in the woods. As I drove down the entrance road, I passed dozens of cars parked, an overflow from the normally empty parking lot. So much for solitude. Now I know what there was nobody at the bike shop.

So I bagged the idea of a walk in the woods and came home.

Sometimes recovery happens. Sometimes it is thrust upon me.

 

Recovery Bikeabout

I woke up sore and hungry. I immediately took care of the latter. Mrs. Rootchopper prepared a breakfast casserole that tasted like a plate of Denny’s comfort food all smashed up together. Add a heap of salt – because it’s how I roll – and you have the first course. Then I ate a bunch of strawberries. Then some mixed nuts. And a bagel. And OJ and coffee. Feed me Seymour! (1)

Mrs. Rootchopper came downstairs and opened all the windows. It was early May outside. Qu’est ce que le fuck?

With aches like Aunt Blabby (“All over my body”) I hit the road bound for the National Arboretum and its nesting pair of bald eagles. My first stop though was the local hardware store where I took a lawn mower blade to be sharpened. It was my preparation for the Errandonnee 2017. If you are a bicyclists anywhere in the world, you should do this. I will post the link when the Errand Queen starts the clock.

mower-blade

The ride up to DC wasn’t too bad, except for a very slow line of traffic north of Old Town. I am told that patience is a virtue as rewarding as a new love in spring. (2) So I calmly took my time. I was into DC without too much of a delay and rode along the National Mall which was teeming with tourists. There were three lines, each several people wide, lining up to get into the Air and Space Museum. Up Capitol Hill and out Maryland Avenue to Bladensburg Avenue, which must be a cycling death trap at rush hour. This area of DC is scruffy but development is springing up. At this pace, in another 50 years all the old crappy parts of DC will be gone.

As I rolled by the Arboretum I looked into the tree tops for a nest. I had no luck and my luck worsened when I turned into the grounds of the Arboretum and encountered the pedestrians only sign. With over 100 miles on my legs in the last 26 hours there was no way I was going to go hiking in search of the next. (I had already passed three or four nests on my way to DC.)

I rode around the interior perimeter of the Arboretum. The place was crawling with people.  I wondered where the hell all these people are the other 364 days of the year.

I took a spin through Trinidad on my way home. This neighborhood was notorious for drug-related violence only a few years ago. It sits on the edge of Gallaudet University, the nation’s (and maybe the world’s) most prestigious college for the deaf. I rode by Klarence’s house.For some stupid reason I don’t have Klarence’s phone number. Klarence responds to DMs and emails with an idiosyncratic two-week lag so there was no way to contact her ahead of time. So I continued on through NoMa, across Capitol Hill. I rode down the hill up Independence Avenue. This was where the main body of the Women’s March had formed. With the road laid out before me, I could only think “WOW”. The march filled this entire avenue and every street near it. I could see where we were standing and there must have been 50,000 people between us and the main gathering.

I passed the opposite side of the Air and Space Museum. Tourists were milling about. I overhead one tell another, “It’s free.” I wonder how much longer that will last.

After dodging dozens of cabs and Ubers, I made it back across the river. I had a nice tailwind for my ride home. Too bad I couldn’t take advantage of it. The Mount Vernon Trail was packed with people from the 14th Street Bridge to beyond National Airport and again into Old Town. I gave up on Union Street after I saw cars back up for two blocks.

The ride home was pleasant. I made it a point to check out each bald eagle nest but I didn’t see any of my feathered friends.

Once at home, I fiddled with my front derailler, made a snack, put some laundry in, and settled on the deck in my shirt sleeves with a cold beer.

41 miles and I am pronounce myself recovered.

Some pictures of my bikeabout can be found on my Flickr page.

If you are wondering what the parenthetic numbers are, they indicate obscure pop culture references from the more than 30 years ago. Anybody want to guess where they are from?

Have a fun Presidents’ Day.

 

 

I May Be Old…

With superb weather on tap for the three day weekend, I had been working on a plan to bike and hike like a maniac. After one day it is apparent that I failed to factor some basic truths in to my thinking.

1. I am old.

2. Eating a shit ton of Christmas cookies has added dead weight to my aging carcass.

3. I have not ridden a hard ride in months.

So the plan was to ride to Whites Ferry and back, an all day, 100-mile loop that is basically flat. But it was cold in the early morning so I decided to do a somewhat shorter ride.

I don’t know why 90 miles struck me as easy but that’s what my brain locked onto. I have never ridden the full 59-mile Vasa ride called the Vasaloppet. I always opt to ride the 31 mile, HalvVasan. When I add the 31 miler to the distance to and from the start in Georgetown, I get a nice metric century, 62 miles. I’ve done this ride during the official event in mid-March and at other times throughout the year. So today I decided to do the 59-miler plus the 31 miles to and from my house.

I began at 10:30. It was about 60 degrees. I went to put on my prescription sunglasses and the right lens fell out in my hand. So I rode Deets, my Surly Cross Check, to an optician on my way to the city. The optician had a waiting list. No thanks. I rode to Old Town where I found an optician who fixed my glasses without waiting. Thanks Voorthuis.

The ride to the start was flat and fast. The Mount Vernon Trail was not at all crowded. I felt pretty darn good. Of course, my apparent vigor was actually a tailwind pushing me along. You’d think after riding a bicycle for over 50 years I’d clue in. But NO!

The Swedish embassy is the starting point of the Vasa rides. They had a sign out front inviting people to come inside. Swedes are nice. I took a pass. I’ll be back in a month when I volunteer at the official ride.

I rode out of Georgetown on the Capital Crescent Trail and climbed up to MacArthur Boulevard without any difficulty. I was 20 miles into the ride and I was feeling my oats.

The ride to Great Falls Park along MacArthur has one hill but it otherwise flat. Deets and I were cruising along at 16 miles per hour. Life was good.

I stopped at a bathroom at the kayakers’ parking lot near Great Falls. After using the facilities I found out that the water fountains had been shut off. I would need to ration my water carefully. I rode up the big hill toward Falls Road. I ate a smushed banana as I went. The banana was soft but the riding was hard. I tossed the peel and fell into a rhythm. A road crew had blocked off one lane so I had to stop half way up the hill. With rested legs, the remainder of the climb was a piece of cake. I rode into Potomac Village still feeling strong.

When I do the HalvVasan, this is where I turn around. Today I rode onward into the hilly back roads of filthy rich Potomac Maryland. This is pretty heavenly biking. Windy roads, streams, farms (mostly now developed with megamansions). The road surfaces could use a little work though. I made it to Travilah Road where my cue sheet told me to turn around. I spotted a convenience store and bought a big bottle of water and a Clif bar. I filled my nearly empty water bottles and inhaled the Clif bar and headed back to Potomac Village.

Now I noticed the wind. It made the hills consequential. The bumps got bumpier. My odometer seemed to increase ever so slowly. On a climb, I shifted to my small chainring and the chain fell off. Arg. (This happened again 5 miles later. I need to adjust my lower limit screw.)

Once past Potomac Village I rode the smooth pavement through the Avenel development. New-ish roads make for happy cycling. After Avenel, I rode past Congressional Country Club and continued on for five miles until Bethesda.

In Bethesda I jumped onto the mostly unpaved Georgetown Branch Trail. Normally, this trail is icy and muddy at this time of year. Today it was dry and hard.

At the traffic light to cross Connecticut Avenue, a passerby admired my bike. He said he has one too and commutes 10 miles to work every day. We gave each other the secret Surly handshake and carried on our separate ways.

At Jones Mill Road, I was feeling pretty worn out. No worries, just 25 miles to go. I pulled a bagel out of my saddlebag. I had made it before leaving home. I am a genius.

Jones Mill led me to five miles of nearly carfree riding in Rock Creek Park. If your city does not have a big green gash down the middle of it with hiking trails, a bubbly creek, horse stables, and picnic areas, you need to move. Rock Creek Park is the best!

It is also a canyon. And after 5 windy, downhill miles, I turned away from the creek and headed up. Eventually climbing for one mile on Brandywine Street. I should point out that this climb is notorious. I was doubting its reputation until I came to realize that it never seemed to stop. I blame Michelle. She has been trying to kill me by designing events for WABA. As my knees were screaming for me to stop, she was eating biscuits and gravy and sipping coffee in a bookstore in Seattle. She was probably thinking, “He’s dead now for sure. Bwa ha ha.” (She’d make an awesome Bond villain.)

Wrong.

I made it to the top and after a few miles of traffic mayhem rode screaming down Arizona Avenue, gleefully tripping the speed camera as I rode.

At the base of the hill I rejoined the first five miles of the ride and made my way back to the embassy. When I reached Capital Crescent Trail, I saw to my left a fire truck heading outbound on Canal Road. Soon two ambulances were in hot pursuit. Then to my right I saw a fire rescue boat speeding up river. Something very bad must have happened.

Near Georgetown Waterfront Park, the car traffic was insane so I jumped onto the bike path. It too was insane with scores of sundrunk people wandering around at random. I went very slowly and managed somehow not to hit anyone.This madness continued well past the embassy. At one point I followed a 300 pound man on a bikeshare bike. People got out of his way and I benefited from his slipstream.

At the beach volleyball courts near the Lincoln Memorial (Abe was an awesome spiker, they tell me), I saw two women on bikes looking bewildered. “Are you lost?” “We’re trying to find the MLK Memorial.” “Follow me.”

I was headed that way anyway. I led them to a spot between the FDR and MLK memorials and continued on my way. Because of one way streets I ended up swimming with big metal dolphins on Independence Avenue. Traffic was heavy so I took the lane. I wasn’t slowing anyone up but the driver of a Prius decided to swing around me to get to a red light faster. The Prius nearly hit a big white cargo van. Beeps were exchanged. I just rode on until the driver of the van started yelling at me. Then he said the magic words “Get on the sidewalk!”

You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.

I was tired. I was being a good cycling person. I looked at him through his open side window and told him,  “Fuck Off!” I pointed at my lane and told him, “I belong right here. Tough shit if you don’t know traffic laws. Shut your PIEHOLE.” (Thanks to my daughter’s grade school friend Camille for telling me to shut my piehole when she was 8. I’ve been wanting to use it for years.) So much for my zen-like bike trances.

After I thought about it for a few miles, I realized that Van Driver was blaming me for Prius Driver’s incompetence. It sucks that I reacted as I did but I was in need of an adrenaline boost and Van Driver provided it.

The boost was useful until I encountered the bike and pedestrian traffic on the Mount Vernon Trail at Gravelly Point Park. Hundreds of people and dozens of little kids were walking every which way, looking up to see planes land or looking across the inlet to the airport where planes were taking off. I slowed way down and carefully made my way through the mob. After coming out the other side, I was passed by a cyclist who said with a chuckle,”What a cluster fuck.” Indeed.

A similar cluster fuck occurred in Old Town Alexandria where pedestrians wandered off sidewalks as if the roads had been closed. (Not a bad idea, by the way.)  It was anarchy. It was also dark. Drivers and cyclists were uncharacteristically well behaved and patient.

I was grateful to get away from the madness, when two kids ran out from between parked cars at a park several blocks to the south. I shook my head at them.

The last six miles were cool. I had taken off my sweater after 40 miles and now I was missing the warmth. With only a few miles to go, I pedaled on. With sore knees and an aching back I crushed the last mile at about 18 miles per hour.

90 miles on a 70 degree day in February. I may be old, but I’m sore.

 

 

 

Bike Me Out to the Protest

Where should I ride today? is a question I ask myself often on the weekends. After riding 150 miles during my workday commutes, I tend to sleep in on Saturdays and Sundays. When I awaken, it’s too late to drive somewhere far for a pleasant ride in the country.

During baseball season, if the schedule permits, I ride to Nationals Park. It’s about 16 flat miles including the first 12 miles of my bike commute. I get to use the bike valet and relax in the sun with a cold beverage and a snack or two. Blissful. (To borrow a word from one of my favorite bloggers.)

Alas, opening day is still more than two months away. For years cynics said that Washington DC could not support a baseball team because it’s favorite sport was politics. In that spirit, I decided to ride to today’s somewhat spontaneous protest of the administrations ban on immigrants from certain predominantly Muslim countries.

After riding to the cellphone store for a tweak to my phone, Deets and I headed for the White House. With temperatures in the mid-40s and sidewinds, the normal weekend mob on the Mount Vernon Trail took the day off. In fact, other than Sunday brunchers in Old Town, I was mostly riding alone. Until I got to within a few blocks of the White House, that is. I was in the 15th Street cycletrack stopped at a red light. There were scores of people coming toward me from Freedom Plaza on Pennsylvania Avenue. As I progressed up 15th, I could see crowds of people coming toward me on each side street I crossed.

I took a left into the car-free plaza that runs in front of the White House on Pennsylvania Avenue from 15th Street to 17th Street. I could see what looked like a very loud, very large crowd. It was too dense to walk my bike through but it was only about 10,000 people. It looked like a lot more because the people were hemmed in by the temporary fencing protecting the inauguration viewing stand that had yet to be dismantled.

I took a couple of pictures and doubled back to 15th. I duck walked Deets to H Street and then back toward Lafayette Park across the plaza from the White House. Hundreds of people were streaming toward me from all directions. Then I heard a familiar voice call my name. It was Ted, a #bikedc and #fridaycoffeeclub friend. He was standing at the curb trying to get a hold of Jean, his S.O., who was somewhere in the now rapidly growing crowd. We talked for about 15 minutes. He introduced me to his friend Hector who is a photojournalist.

After a brief chat we went our separate ways. I waded into Lafayette Park. It was now on the back side of the protest crowd. The crowd was on the eastern end of the White House plaza having been denied access to the space on the western end (nearest the Oval Office and the president’s residence.) From my vantage point it didn’t seem like the protest was going to further develop so I made my way west through a steady stream of people arriving. As I mounted my bike, I said hi to Joe, another photographer (and author), who was walking toward the festivities with camera in hand.

For a change of pace, I rode home via the Mall and the Memorial Bridge. I took the inland route past the vast Pentagon parking lost which were being treated with brine in advance of tonight’s inclement weather.

The ride home was peaceful. I through in a few hills just to goose my heart rate. When I got home, I checked my phone. I was shocked at how many people I knew were in the crowd only a few yards from me in Lafayette Park. And I was doubly shocked to see how large the crowd grew. I left the White House and marched to the Trump Hotel and then on to the Capitol.

So the weekend ended. Tomorrow I work from home so that I can let the plumber in. It’s just a coincidence there may be unpleasant conditions for bike commuting.

I wonder if there will be a protest next weekend. It would be nice if there weren’t one but my sense is that this is the new normal. What bizarre times.

 

Intentionally Outdoors

I have been sick on and off for the last three weeks. Nothing major, just a cold that seems to be wandering around my body disrupting things. Mostly, it makes me tired. So I thought I would use this weekend to just lie around in my jammies and rest.

I did pretty well. I watched some football, something I don’t usually do without my son’s insightful and amusing play by play. He is 12 hours away so I went solo.

Knowing I was going full coach potato during the games, I intentionally hopped on Deets yesterday for an easy bike jaunt. I decided to ride the tour of Arlington (a bike trail circuit around the county) in a counter clockwise direction. I also planned to throw in a quick ride to Hains Point in DC because it’s what #bikedc people do.

On my way past the airport I ran into Ryan, master planner of our No Wrong Plan bike tour in 2015. He was riding from Bethesda to buy a used seat post for the Frankenroadbike he is building. During our discussion he gave me the idea to switch my route to a ride up Rock Creek Park. Once I left, I reconsidered. I was already tired and a clothing experiment I was trying was not working out leaving me chilled.

So it was down to Hains Point then back across the Memorial Bridge. The city is teeming with tourists who think it’s perfectly okay to walk four and five abreast on sidewalks. I refrained from giving them a good talking to hoping they’d scurry back to Peoria in due time.

Around the foot of Arlington Memorial Cemetery where the white gravestones are still adorned with a Christmas wreath. I could tell my body was not having fun when I climbed the hill near the Netherlands Carillon. The fun lessened as I rode the hilly Custis Trail, all the while thinking, “What crackpot thought this route up?” (Er, that would be me.)

I reached the turnaround at the W&OD and its gradual downward decline toward home. I arrived at home super tired after my 40 mile rest ride and realized I had a splitting sinus headache. I went to use my sinus irrigation gizmo but it was broken. I took drugs, watched the Steelers win, and went to sleep.

Today I slept in. (The drugs were good.)  I needed to get a new sinus gizmo and a book to read since I was nearly through with The Arm. Mindful of my intention to rest, I rode to the Barnes and Noble in Potomac Yard, because that is the only bookstore anywhere near my hours. Ten miles away. On the way I noticed a stalker in Dyke Marsh. A great blue heron that was sticking around for winter.

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I bought Michael Lewis’s Flash Boys at the bookstore and turned around for home. It was surprisingly nice out, especially for mid January. (We will pay for this in a week or two.)

Just before I reached home, I stopped at a drug store and bought a neti pot. It was time to go old school. I used it when I got home and felt quite a bit better.

In two days of rest, I rode 60 miles. It was good to be outdoors again. I only work Wednesday and Thursday this week. I am hoping the weather is good for inauguration day so that I can ignore the festivities hiking somewhere. For those of you who want to save time, here’s what will happen. The big wigs assemble at the Capitol. They swear the new guy in. He makes a lame speech. There’s a parade.

Go outside. It’ll be huge.

 

 

42, 4001, 2017, Bike!

It’s a new year. Normally I start the new year with an easy hike, but I did one the other day so I decided to take my Cross Check for a spin. I rode the Tour of Arlington, which is a loop around Arlington County entirely on paved trails. Instead of riding from Rosslyn to Alexandria directly, I took the Key Bridge into Georgetown. Riding down M Street and then around Washington Circle is always a bit nerve wracking. Good thing Washington Circle has an ER just in case.

I took a brief detour to check out the progress at 17th and G Streets. This is where Friday Coffee Club used to convene before somebody decided to renovate the building. I wanted to see if the outdoor seating area was still intact. It was. The sign outside said the project will end on 5/12/2017. This is a Friday so I am marking my calendar for a return to Friday Coffee Club. img_20170101_133511

Next I rode across White House Plaza, the section of Pennsylvania Avenue that goes past the front of the White House. The review stand for the Inaugural Parade was nearing completion. There are police and guards all over the place. And fences. I found the whole thing depressing to be honest. I haven’t been this depressed about a president since Nixon. img_20170101_134208

From there it was down the 15th Street Cycletrack, dodging the tourists from back home who didn’t get that a cycle track was for bicycles not for standing and wondering where Ford’s Theater is.

For giggles and kicks I rode a lap around Hains Point. I was getting pretty tired because breakfast was about five hours earlier and I didn’t bring any health Christmas cookies with me (except those stored in the rolls of fat around my waist). On the way toward the point, Grace pulled up alongside me. We follow each other on Twitter. She slowed down to chat with me for a lap before I veered off for home.

The ride down the Mount Vernon Trail was automatic. Just south of the airport I stopped to celebrate reaching 4,000 miles on my Cross Check. As soon as the winter is over, I am riding this bike nonstop. 20170101_143037

At the north end of Old Town Alexandria, a sign was posted next to the trail. A small dog had bolted from its owners during the New Years Eve fireworks display. The dog looked distressingly like that of a friend of mine. I kept my eyes peeled for the dog for the next mile. No luck. On the south end of Old Town a notice was posted. It said that a bicyclist had been bitten by a dog while riding on the trail just south of the Beltway. The dog was on a leash! The Notice was a BOLO. (My daughter and I were binge watching NCIS this week. They say BOLO all the time on that show. Just don’t call me Jethro.) Police are looking for the dog and its owner. It’s the first time I’ve heard of a bite and run.img_20170101_145312

I slogged the final six miles home. Nobody’s dog bit me.

The best part is I can now truthfully say that I have ridden 42 miles everyday in 2017. At least until tomorrow night.

I hope you had a great start to the new year.

 

 

 

Seagulling

Everybody I know who rides bike events in the DC area raves about the Seagull Century. Seagull is held every October out of Salisbury University on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. With over 6,000 participants paying in-season hotel rates, this ride provides a big economic boost. I did not participate in the hotel part of the proceedings, however, choosing to forgo some sleep to save a few bucks.

I left home at 4:30 a.m.

I arrived at Salisbury just before 7. I put my cue sheet on my bike. Threw on my rain jacket because the skies were overcast, and headed to the start. I looked around for people I knew but, seeing no one, set out on my own.

Getting to the start involved riding through a tunnel. Weee!

The start was obstructed by people milling about and straddling their bikes. This was a good reminder that people would be lacking situational awareness during the ride.

After about a mile I struck up a conversation with another rider who told me that organizers had chopped off four miles of the 100-mile route due to flooding. It had rained 15 inches in the area during the previous weeks causing major flooding in some communities along the course. After discussing the flood, he asked me what time I was trying to reach. Time? Seriously? I usually try to reach a zen moment by mile 30 but that’s about the extent of my riding goals.

Within five miles, Chris M. (@manymodecommute on the Twitter) pulled up along side me. We met on the inaugural Cider Ride a few years ago. Ever since I have struggled to remember his face. Another victim of my defective fusiform gyrus. Also, Chris is chatty so the zen thing kind of went out the window. (Except for about a minute late in the ride when my brain went on vacation and Deets decided to ride some rumble strips. How I managed to keep all my filling is a mystery.)

Chris was riding about 1 – 2 miles per hour faster than I normally do but I decided to ride with him anyway. We zipped along in an every changing pack of bcycles.A while ago someone told me that it was wise to skip the first rest stop. They were right. It was a madhouse.

Chris and I made our way through all the people lingering on the road and headed forth looking for Rest Stop No. 2.

Meanwhile we noticed that the road was utterly flat. For those of you wishing to do a very fast 100 mile bike ride, this is your dream ride. I wasn’t looking to prove anything but it was hard not to ride fast. Despite my efforts to make Deets gallop, we were getting passed by scores of bicyclists, sometimes gather in groups. Velomobiles also clipped by us. These are little bike cars.

At the second rest stop 40 miles into the proceedings we had some water and some rather disappointing snacks. A participant while refined interwebs taste said “Hi Rootchopper. I like your blog.” Once again my fusiform gyrus failed me. (If you read this, please identify yourself.)

Trees. Sodden farmers’ fields. Chicken farms. I kept saying we were getting a headwind but Chris was pretty sure we weren’t. It was just the fact that I rarely ride 17 -20 miles per hour.

Just before 60 miles we approached Assateague Island. The bridge to the island looked ominous. It was a trick of the eye. We flew over it.

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Chris gets his climbing in

The rest stop at Assateague was a bit better than the previous one. It had packaged, crustless PB&J sammichers. They looked like sponge bread raviolis. The texture was strange but the calories were welcome.

As we left the island we stopped for a photo op with some ponies. Chris is a better wild pony model than I am.

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Once we came off the bridge we encountered a bona fide headwind. You mean we have to work at this? Well I never! It was short-lived. In fact, the overcast skies and light winds made for a perfect day to ride hard. We obliged.

Another ludicrously flat 20 miles went by in a flash. The final rest stop loomed. After I parked Deets, I picked up another rider’s bike after it had fallen over. It was made of carbon fiber. It was about half as light as Deets. No wonder so many riders were passing us. (Note to self: never admit you are fat, old, and slow. Find excuses wherever you can. K? Thks.)

I had heard a rumor about pie on this ride but the first rest stops had left me feeling short changed. But no! There was pie at the last rest stop. Cherry pie with vanilla ice cream too.

Major YUM. Chris has so much will power. He made me leave after one piece of pie. I cried.

The last 20 miles featured a climb over a highway. The overpass actually was a little difficult. Not much. Well, not at all actually. There was even a surprise pit stop that featured, I am not making this up, free beer. Dang. (We did not partake, however.)

We rode to the finish line through a tunnel and past throngs of our adoring fans. Okay, maybe one or two said “Hi” but still..

The after ride festivities were pretty nice too. Music, beer, food that didn’t taste like it was made last week.I even ran into Dave (@darsal) and Jean (@oskarchat) who told me about the amazing exploits of Ricky (@bikeeveryday) and Ryan (@ryansigworth) who scorched the course in under five hours. And a special surprise came from seeing Phil F. who I worked with for about 20 years.

The post ride activity was a fun game of Find the Car. When you get up at 4 a.m. and river over two hours you don’t think to make a note of where you park. I had plenty of company. I think I won the game though. I found a campus map. Then made my way to the route I drove in on. That led me to my car. Ta da. Only took me 30 minutes.

Another bonus was the fact that the Nats game got rained out. Now I can recover watching the game tomorrow.

Special thanks to the organizers and volunteers at this very well run event. You did yourselves proud. Also thanks to the many police officers (including Maryland State Troopers) who protected us at busy intersections. And to the EMTs who carted a handful of riders from the course after they crashed.

Bottom line: If you want to do a first century ride, this is your event. The flat course made 100 miles much easier than most metric (62 mile rides I’ve done). If you want to ride your fastest 100 mile ride, this is also the event for you.

I posted a bunch of pictures on my Flickr page.

Bike 1, Quinoa 0

I slept in.

When I woke up it was a perfect summer day. The second in a row. There was just one thing to do.

I rode my bike.

You saw that coming, didn’t you.

After all, I could have spent my day doing something truly exciting like dry toasting some quinoa. (Or driving a funicular railcar. I actually know people who did these things today.)

But I rode my bike.

I chose the Cross Check for my adventure. The first ten miles were unremarkable which is remarkable for a Sunday on the Mount Vernon Trail. Normally, the MVT is a zoo on a nice weekend days but today it was less busy than a weekday evening. I rode it all the way to DC. Unmolested.

I made it to trail along the Potomac on the DC side before disaster almost struck. I was patiently following two tentative riders as they made their way through the narrow underpass of the TR Bridge. There was stream of bikes coming our way then a runner. Just as Tentative Rider number 1 came upon the runner a stream of Lance Mamilots came around the bling corner on the other end of the underpass. Two got past the runner but the third nearly hit her. The tentative riders somehow managed not to find themselves in a big pile up. As did I. The runner was rightfully pissed. I yelled something non-obscene at Lance.

Another mile went by. As I approached K Street, I was following a rider on a very Eurpoean-style city bike. She was riding very slowly and came to a stop a the turn off for K Street. Somehow she fell sideways into a small patch of grass. She was more embarrassed than hurt. So I turned onto K and headed toward the Capital Crescent Trail. The CCT was busy and a few impatient riders nearly caused head on collisions. I just moseyed along and kept a positive attitude. It was just too nice a day to get upset.

Approaching Bethesda, I was passed by another Lance. He was headed straight for an on-coming walker. Oncoming walker was an unassuming looking, thin woman, perhaps in her late 60s, with thinning brown hair. In a vaguely eastern European accident she shouted: “Get on the other side of the trail, ASSHOLE!”

I could not stop laughing. For miles.

In Bethesda Row, I stopped at Bethesda Bagels (I love places with creative names) and bought a bagel sandwich. I rode to the trestle over Rock Creek Park and ate half of it there, looking out from the treetops to the creek far below.

And to think I could have been dry toasting my quinoa.

Dang.

With my tank topped off, I headed  outbound on Beach Drive. I had some company, mostly on bikes. At Garret Park I turned around. I had a bit of a head wind and put my head down for a moment. When I looked up, I nearly rode into a fawn. There were two in the road. So cute.

Back to DC, staying in, mostly car free, Rock Creek Park. Lord, was it nice. Warm, breezy. The soothing sound of the creek rushing past only a few yards to the side of the road.

I climbed out of the park on Park Road and made my way to Columbia Heights. Normally this hill is difficult for me. Not today. I rode the bike lane straight up Irving Street, passing a long stream of cars waiting in line for the short light at the top of the hill. Sucks for them, I thought.

Soon I was sitting on a bench in the shade in Meridian Hill Park. The rest of my sandwich didn’t have a chance.

For some reason, riding down 16th Street on the way home has become a favorite of mine. There are so many interesting buildings and people. Unfortunately, it ends with a ride through the touroids near the White House. I managed to get behind a tour group on Segways clogging the 15th Street cycletrack.

Riding a bike behind Segways is only marginally more enjoyable than dry toasting quinoa.

I survived. Nobody killed me as I rode out of DC. The MVT was once again not half bad. The last ten miles were not the easiest. I have to remember to drink more water while I am riding during my tour next week.

I rode all winter, all through a cold, wet spring. Today’s beautiful 63 1/2 miles was payback.

Tonight, I’ll dry toast some quinoa.

Just kidding.

Too bad there aren’t any funiculars around.

It’s Iconic – DC Bike Ride

Today was the first DC Bike Ride. This closed streets ride is the successor to Bike DC, an event I did several times in the past. They changed the name because Bike DC had a weather hex on it. The ruse did not work.

The course meanders through the erstwhile swampy bits of DC before heading over toward the Pentagon on the HOV lanes on I 395.  The ride costs about 50 bucks for 17 miles so if you were looking for a bargain, this wasn’t it. But it was an opportunity to show people in this area that you support bicycling in DC, even if it means pruney hands.

With temperatures in the 50s and a steady light rain, 8,000 folks gathered on Pennsylvania Avenue. I spotted the #bikeMVT contingent consisting of Linel, Amber, Ed, and Reba. We were later joined by Sam and her mom, Joanne.

Cathy Plume stopped by. Sam, Cathy, and I participated in the protest that completed the installation of u-turn barriers on the Pennsylvania cycletrack last summer.

An announcer came on to give us useful information about all the iconic things we would see on the iconic streets in this iconic city. Somebody shut this guy’s iconic piehole, please!

Soon the announcements were over and the 14 mph group waddle to the starting line. One waddler fell over and his shoe stayed stuck to his pedal. It looked embarrassing and utterly pathetic.

Off we rode. At a brisk 10 mph. We rode into Southwest wear we could see iconic rain. We rode with great enthusiasm (which made up for our lack of speed). Over to Foggy Bottom which seemed aptly named. We made our way to the iconic Whitehurst Freeway. The route seemed to fold back on itself. It also seemed to avoid National Park Service roads, simplifying the clearances needed to put on the ride.

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Iconic Rain and Crane

We turned around at the Key Bridge and retraced our route until we crossed the Mall at 14th Street. Just past D Street we could see a minor problem. The early wave of riders were on hold as the last wave of riders cleared the ramp to Maine Ave.

Continuing on 14th,  we rode across the iconic Potomac River, near the site of the iconic Air Florida crash. Onward past the iconic Pentagon until we did an iconic U-turn and headed back to DC. On the way, I spotted Nelle (now there’s an icon!) from WABA waving like a maniac. Or perhaps she was pointing out an iconic jersey barrier. I also saw Ultrarunnergirl who fortunately seemed not to be water soluble. Ultrarunnergirl was finishing being best bike buddy of the Big Bike Weekend. I saw her on Bike to Work Day riding south on the Mount Vernon Trail. She rode to Huntington, probably 12 miles past her office, to escort her friend Yolanda on Yolanda’s first bike commute. After the ride, I chatted with them. Yes, she also rode with Yolanda during today’s ride.

We continued on, finally riding around 14 mph. Wheee. Then we turned on to Pennsylvania Avenue. Kathy Lewis waved us in to the finish line.

I rode to the after party which had no signage for bike parking. Erp.

There I hung out with Chris, who volunteered like a maniac all weekend. I met Chris on the first Cider Ride in 2013. I talked to a whole bunch of people, the decided to head back to my car which I had parked at Gravelly Point in Virginia.

WABA walked off with $38,000 from this event. And raised tons of awareness about Vision Zero. Not bad for a truly crummy day of weather.

All things considered DC Bike Ride seemed to be a smashing success. Perhaps next year it will even be iconic.

I stashed a whole bunch of Flickr pix here.

Thanks to the staff people at WABA and the volunteers for all the work you did on this event. Also, thanks to the EMTs and police that stood out in the rain to get us through the event safely.