Five Buck Bikeabout

Yesterday’ weather was fantastic.  Good weather for goofing off is also good weather for getting stuff done around the house. Sorry to disappoint you, my friends, but I chose responsibility over slacking.

I mowed the lawn and painted the shed. Most of the painting had already been done by Mrs. Rootchopper during the week but I took on the tedious chore of painting the trim. Four plus hours of pure fun. Not. When I was done I reloaded the shed with all the stuff. It’s good to be back to normal, but my efforts were rewarded with lower back pains.

So I started the today with my usual noga (My wife says it’s yoga, I say it’s back exercises so let’s just call it noga, okay?). After that I languished on my deck reading the Sunday paper. Had I stuck around it would have been tea and buttered scones but I decided to go on a recon ride to DC. I am riding my ninth 50 States Ride in a month and need to find a parking spot near the start. (It’s not too late to sign up. You have to be a WABA member, or come as the guest of one. )

So off I rode to DC on the Mount Vernon Trail. It was busy, mostly with tourists on rental bikes. You can tell because they gape at all the stuff I see every day. On the Dyke Marsh bridge I caught up to a bike tourist. We had a ten second chat from which I learned that he is riding around the perimeter of the 48 contiguous states. He started in Minnesota and is riding counterclockwise. So he’s already been from midnight to three o’clock. The ride will take him 14 months. Go dude! (I found his journal when I got home over on Crazyguyonabike.com. The journal notes say that he also took a side trip to Hawaii and dropped down into Mexico for a few days.)

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After ten miles of weaving around the rent-a-bikers, I made it into DC and headed for Rock Creek Park. Along the way, I spotted a cricket match because this is DC and DC is eclectic as fuck.

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The weather was nearly as good as yesterday. The park side trail is being refurbished and looks great for most of the way from Georgetown to Military Road. At one point, people were gathering along the trail to look into the creek. Five bucks were making their way across the creek. The road crossing had all us bystanders holding our breath. I think they made it across without incident. (The picture shows only the southbound half of the road just after a merge to the left out of frame. The grassy median is wooded and wide. They had to make it across another two lanes of northbound traffic after that.)

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I made it to the new Klingle Valley trail which I had ridden downhill recently. Today, I slogged up the hill. I kept my breathing and effort constant and had no trouble making the climb. Of course, neither would you at 7 miles per hour.

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Once i reached the top, I check out some of the local streets for parking. As long as you are willing to ride a mile (or less) to the start of the ride, you’ll have no trouble finding a place for your metal fart barge (Colin made me say that.)

After the recon was over, I rode to Meridian Hill Park for no other reason than it’s one of my favorite places in DC. The water cascade was dry earlier this summer but it is now flowing in all its glory. The park is built into a hill. Looking down from the top (near the swordless statue of Joan of Arc) the cascade is pretty. Looking up from the base of the park, it is just WOW! And it sounds so soothing you could sit beside it all day canoodling with your canoodle-ee.

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Mon Dieu! Ou est mon epee?
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Cascade from the top of the park
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Cascade from the bottom of the park

I thought it would spoil the vibe if I started canoodling with myself so I made my way home down the 15 Street cycletrack. This was a mistake. It took a really long time. I could have been bombing down 16th Street instead. Riding in a cycletrack in DC feels like you’re in a video game. People, ubers, delivery vans, dogs, and other random stuff seem to appear. You’ll never score enough points if you don’t pay attention.

The ride home was a breeze. Literally. I took a side trip through Del Ray for a change of pace. After 40 miles, I didn’t feel the slightest bit tired. I’m ready for my tour, Mr. DeMille.

Some more pix of my ride are on my Flickr page.

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A Ride in the Pine Barrens

Over 30 years ago John McPhee wrote about a place that was disappearing. The Pine Barrens are a vast area of southern New Jersey where, back in McPhee’s day,  not much happened. People lived without telephones or electricity. The Barrens were primitive, despite the fact that they are located about an hour east of Philadelphia and 90 minutes from New York City. McPhee wanted to see it before it became modern.

It’s still rather rustic in the Barrens but there are now two-lane highways criss-crossing the area. Vacation tourism was evident here and there. I saw jet skis on the waterways. I should go back and read McPhee to see what it was like back in the day.

I drove down from central New Jersey where I stayed the night. My day began with a visit to my maternal grandparents’ grave and their house, still standing. It was decorated tastefully and the porch was fixed up a bit, but it was still an old, old frame house. The side yard once had a garage and decrepit barn. Both are gone, replaced by a modern middle-class home. There is no arbor on the side of the house, no grape vines hanging from it. The big vegetable garden is gone too. My grandmother died when I was ten, during a summer that also took my paternal grandmother and godmother. My funeral suit got a lot of use that summer.  It was weird getting birthday presents at one of the wakes. I just wanted it to end and to go back to the routine of school. My grandfather lived for another 15 or so years. He died in his bed in the house.

The starting point of my ride was Batsto Village State Park. Batsto was once a thriving  a close knit community built around an iron furnace, mills, and such. People lived in orderly two-story, unpainted frame houses. The folks who lived here had to get along; there was nobody else around. The village is in the middle of hundreds of acres of sandy soil and trees, mostly pine trees.

On the drive to Batsto, I stopped for breakfast at a New Jersey diner. Diners are New Jersey. The food was starchy and hot and creamy and filling. The coffee gave me a jolt. After gorging, I drove on to Batsto passing a few miles from Lakehurst, the site of the Hindenberg disaster. My mom told me that when she was a little girl she waved at dirigible passengers as they passed overhead. She probably didn’t wave at the Hindenberg that night on account of a tragically violent thunderstorm.

The parking lot of the diner was filled with bicyclists getting ready for a ride. I overheard the diner owner saying he expected about ten of them to come in without a reservation disrupting his quiet Sunday morning. Oh the temerity.

As I drove I passed large groups of cyclists riding in and out of the dappled shade of the woods on either side of the road. Some miles further on, I passed cranberry bogs.

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After parking I began a 43 mile loop ride on Little Nellie through the Barrens. The roads were high speed but the traffic was light and the pavement smooth and free of debris. And flat. Pool table flat.

I rode past blueberry farms. Miles of them. Billions of sweet little blue berries. Kerplink, kerplank, kerplunk! 

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Trees rather scrawny, the result of the never ending sandy soil. The road frequently crossed streams and inlets.  Some of the smaller roads had wooden deck bridges.

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I spotted an osprey nest on a pole next to the road. Two ospreys were clearly visible making a racket. One flew off as I approached. It had a critter of some sort in its talons. The remaining bird stayed at the nest squawking. The flying osprey circled the nest as I rode by as if to say “Look at me!” My guess is the nest had young ‘uns in it.

A few of the turns on my map were unsigned. So naturally I missed a turn. Fortunately, I discovered my mistake at a point where a brand new road doubled back toward the route.

I didn’t bring enough water so I was starting to flag after only 30 miles. With temperatures in the low 80s, low-ish humidity, and light winds, I felt a bit like a wimp.

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Pedal, pedal.

Did I mention it was flat.

More sand. More trees. A canoe with a man and woman came toward the road as I crossed a creek. They were framed by overhanging trees. It looked perfect.

Unpaved pathways intersected with the roads. Some were hiking trails. Some were more like sandy roads.

A mile later a doe and her fawn stood on the side of the road. They regarded me with caution then started to meander away. How many deer must there be in this place?

About a mile from Batsto, I looked down a sandy road to my left. Two wild turkeys were walking along. They looked like they might be talking to each other. Of course, when I tried to get a picture they turned and walked away from me. Don’t you just hate antisocial turkeys?

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My ride ended back at the car. I don’t recall ever riding a bike at my grandparents’ house when I was little so this was my first-ever ride in the state of New Jersey. It’s my 18th state. (The others: New York, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, California, Maryland, Virginia, Hawaii, West Virginia, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Ohio, Indiana, North Carolina, Michigan, and Wisconsin. As well as the District of Columbia.)

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I placed a bunch of pictures on Flickr.

 

Why Run? The East Bay Bike Path

Back in the Reagan administration, I was a marathon runner. At the end of one of my years in grad school we had a picnic to celebrate. It was in Colt State Park about 15 miles southeast of Providence on Narragansett Bay. I figured I’d kill two birds with one stone by running to the picnic. Much of the run was on an old rail line.  That rail line is now the East Bay Bike Path.

The path begins in India Point Park at the head of the bay in Providence.  The path crosses the Seekonk River leaving Providence. Although it sounds awful, this section of the path is alongside I-195. I hardly noticed the cars because the path was separated from the road by a short wall with a tall metal fence on top. Walkers had nothing to worry about. They had their own path on the opposite side of the path.

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After riding a few blocks on side streets in East Providence, the path begins again. Mostly it runs along the edge of the bay. From time to time it moves away from the bay to pass a town or some private homes.

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The path has some shortcomings. It crosses scores of mostly small streets which gets annoying, For about a mile there are small expansion gaps across the trail that jolted me on Little Nellie with its little wheels. And in other spots surface tree roots gave me some jolts. These are quibbles. It’s a beautiful path. Which leads to my last complaint: it’s crowded!!

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The views are pretty darn spectacular. Whether you’re looking at the bay, the gorgeous houses, the inlets, or the occasional picture postcard towns of  Barrington, Warren, and Bristol.

My side trip through Colt State Park was delightful. From time to time, the smell of the place reminded me of Phillip Island near Melbourne, Australia. No wallabies here though. I rode around the perimeter of the park ending up riding along the bay for a half mile or so.

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On the way back to Providence I stopped for a frozen lemonade at Del’s. This is a Rhode Island institution. If you drink one too fast, you’ll get a wikkid brain freeze. I did. Stand up and bend over. Lick the roof of your mouth. Slow down.

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With the temperatures in the 70s and light breezes coming off the bay, I never felt the slightest bit uncomfortable.

My Flickr page has lots of pictures.

 

Whites Ferry 101

I have a few rides that I seem to do every year. One of them is the Whites Ferry Loop. Starting from my home in Mount Vernon Virginia about 6 miles south of Alexandria Virginia, I ride about 10 miles to the start of the Washington and Old Dominion Trail in Shirlington. Next I take the W&OD to Leesburg Virginia, about 35 miles to the west northwest. In Leesburg, north for five miles until I reach the Potomac River at Whites Ferry. Across the river on the ferry, bang a right and I’m cruising back to DC on the unpaved C&O Canal towpath all the way to Georgetown. I ride the last 16 miles home along the river.

Todays jaunt began with a hearty, completely inappropriate gut bomb of a breakfast. Grape Nuts with banana and strawberries and milk. And a chocolate chip scone. I waddled out to the bike and headed out. There was not much to report. It was in the 80s with partly cloudy skies. The trail was crowded but I managed to make decent progress. Somewhere west of Vienna, I was passed by Flogini, almost certainly another one of her dopplegangers. It’s impossible to know unless I turn around and give chase so I pedaled on.

In Herndon about 30 miles into the ride two women triathletes passed me on their super fast bikes. I caught up to them at a street crossing. They moved to the center island of the street. The one on the left couldn’t get free of her clipless pedal and went down sideways. I thought of my friend Dave S. who did the same thing in DC and broke his leg. Woman on the left seemed fine and I made a remark “That’s why I don’t use them.”

Off I rode on the trail I had ridden scores of times before. I didn’t stop. I banged a right in Leesburg and played with cars for a few miles. The turn onto Whites Ferry Road was a bit of a relief. Two lanes. Trees and manicured lawns and farms and blues skies and puffy white clouds. It’s a shame the road only lasts a mile or two.

The ferry, called the Jubal Early after the Civil War general, is a kind of goofy operation. It only goes a couple hundred yards, but it’s worth the $2 fare.

In the rather pathetic general store, I bought a large bottle of water and an Eskimo Pie. I am a bike nutrition god.

Onto the towpath I rode. No pavement and rainy days means mud. With each passing mile the mud got worse. I figured out that the best tactic was to ride straight through puddles. The bottoms of the puddles had a stone surface. No sliding but there was a mess building up on my bike.

The last 25 miles were smoother sailing, but bumpier. My triceps were really starting to feel sore. On the plus side, the canal is beautiful.

I was waved to a stop by three women who wanted directions to a field of sunflowers. I hadn’t seen any but we got to talking and they had no idea what the C&O National Park was. I explained how there was a plan to use it as a highway until Justice William O. Douglas to a bunch of reporters on a hike. Their stories led to public support for a national park.

Lesson finished, I cruised on down to Great Falls where I stopped for water.

Into the crowds I rolled. Among the people I likely passed was Kelly, my co-worker who sits right outside my office. Never saw her. My fusiform gyrus made a crackling sound.

A mile later I was riding past my favorite section of the canal called Widewater. Here, the canal widens and looks like a pond. Deep blue. Often, but not today, with waterfowl in abundance. What was in abundance was people. All ages. Some kids on wobbly bikes. Hikers. Groups of bros. Families. An emergency cart.

Once past the crowds, I fell in behind the cart at a dreary 8 miles per hour. It pulled off at the far end of Widewater where a dozen first responders were standing on the edge of the path. It looked like a drill of some sort.

Just 12 miles to Georgetown I passed the Carderock area where I go for my New Years Day hike. Just before riding under the beltway, I saw Lawyer Mike, a Friday Coffee Clubber, pedaling toward me with a purpose. Of course, it could have been yet another misfire of my fusiform gyrus.

The bumps were really getting to me. Luckily, the paved Capital Crescent Trail came to my rescue. When I cut over to the CCT, my speed picked up by at least 3 miles per hour.

The remaining ride home involved no dopplegangers or co-workers. I had neglected to drink enough water or eat appropriate food and I started riding on fumes through Old Town Alexandria.

Thankfully the wind stepped up big time and blew me along. I arrived home with a dirty bike and a sore body.

But 101 miles on the odometer. I’ll take it.

I made a Flickr album with some pix over here.

Post script: It was indeed Lawyer Mike so I am not completely losing it.

 

 

 

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.

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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.

Heron at Dyke Marsh 2.jpg

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.