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.

 

Deets Turns Five as I Thank the Bike Gods

I was preparing to change into my riding clothes to head for home. My clothes and reading material go in one pannier, my shoes and my lock in the other. So I pick up my shoe pannier and immediately notice my lock is in the pannier.

Yep, I didn’t lock my bike this morning. I rolled it into the bike room at work, leaned it against a floor rack, and left. I have never done this before. Ever.

I went down to the bike room with a sense of dread. Deets, my Surly Cross Check, was my ride today. My newest bike. I swiped my access card and waited as the garage door rose. Slowly. So slowly.

And there it was. Right where I left it.

It would have sucked if someone had stolen it. They would have ridden it somewhere and they would have seen the odometer flip to 5,000 miles.  The bike gods were kind to me today.

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A Change of Steed

Spring bike events are coming. I do events on my Cross Check which has spent most of the last 5 months in dry dock. Today marked its bike commuting debut for the 2017. With no offense to my other three bikes, the Cross Check, which I named Deets, is the best commuting bike I’ve ever ridden. It even negotiated the mulch detour at TR Island with no trouble at all. Also, it doesn’t hurt at all that I go 2 miles per hour faster on it.

So this morning Deets posed for a picture. In the usual place.

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I plan on riding it to work all week then taking it to Skyline Drive on Sunday. This plan is contingent on me waking up super early Sunday morning. This will be difficult because (a) I am lazy and (b) I am going to an Orioles/Red Sox game in Baltimore at Saturday night. I should get to bed around 1 am.

Let’s just say that scheduling is not my strong suit.

First Day of Spring: This Bird Doesn’t Get the Worm

I took the day off to go to the doctors office. The weather looked great but there was still a chill in the air, especially considering this is the first day of spring.

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I rode to the eye doctor’s office, picking up my first errand of the 2017 errandonnee in the process. I was expecting to be dilated which would have ruined my ability to read for the next several hours. Instead, the doctor checked my personal field. My right eye didn’t fare well. A closer examination of my eye revealed protein deposits on the membrane behind my lens. My lens is artificial having been replaced during cataract surgery. I had notice some difficulty seeing in low light and was planning on getting new glasses. Now the glasses will wait until I get the membrane cleared. This will be done with a simple laser procedure. It takes about three minutes. Still, to my mind it counts as eye surgery. It will be my 7th surgery and my 3rd of this type.

After the doctor’s visit, I rode to DC to check out the cherry blossoms. Basically, there were none. The cold temperatures knocked the trees for a loop. I rode to Hains Point and then up to the Tidal Basin. So disappointing. Next I  stopped to help some visitors from Minnesota. I took their picture under the non-blossoming trees with the Jefferson Memorial in the background. They have come to DC five times to see the blossoms and haven’t seen a peak bloom yet.

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I biked and walked around the Tidal Basin then headed for Virginia. I wanted to check out the sale of winter gear at the Spokes Etc. store on Quaker Lane in Alexandria. I rode the Mount Vernon Trail to the Four Mile Run Trail to Shirlington. This was about 6 or 7 miles without a traffic light and only two stop signs. Not bad. Once in Shirlington I backtracked and rode up the long hill to the Quaker Lane shop. They were all out of the jacket I wanted so I headed for home along the King Street bike lanes. The city did a pretty nice job with this. On the way home, I swung by the Belle View Spokes Etc. shop where I had tried on a jacket a few days ago. The jacket had been sold so he who hesitates doesn’t get the worm. Or something like that.

Some more pix from my excursion are on my Flickr page.

 

Errands No. 1 and 2: The Incompetent Errandonneur

Errand No. 1

Category: Personal Care

Distance: 6 miles

Observations: If you tuck the camera away you’ll forget to take a picture of your bike at two bike shops which would have made this a three errand day. I am such a putz. My eye doctor is a bike commuter. This is my Cross Check parked across the street in Old Town Alexandria. Notice that although Alexandria is a bicycling friendly city, there were no bike racks of any sort on the other side of the street.

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Postscript: I decided to re-enact my trip to one of the bike stores just to get a picture. So I went today (4/1) and posed Deets in front of Spokes Etc. at Belle Haven. This is my local bike store. They’ve done so many repairs on my bikes so I wanted to give them a shout out.  So now my trip to spokes on March 20  counts.

Errand No. 2

Miles: 4

Category: Store

Observation: I could have taken a picture any day in the last two weeks but today was the first day that I’ve ridden my Cross Check since the errand.

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Pre-peak Cherry Blossom Ride

Winter has returned. It was in the 30s with a northwest wind. A snowstorm looms in the days ahead. DC’s famous cherry blossoms are in jeopardy. So I went up to DC today to check out what was in bloom. Short answer: not much.

I parked at Gravelly Point Park near the airport across the river. This was a good idea because the highways heading into the city were jammed with traffic. The 1 1/2 mile ride was pleasant enough. Blue skies and puffy white clouds practically commanded me to look up. So I did. Here’s one from the back side of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial.

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There were only a handful of trees in anything close to peak bloom. And the wind picked up as I walked and rode among them. Even without peak bloom the blues skies and the trees and the monuments made for pretty views. Deets couldn’t resist striking a pose.

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Here are a few more over on my Flickr page.

 

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.

 

 

 

September – One Bike, One Month, One Blowout

It was a great month for riding and I took full advantage. I rode 916 miles, all of it on Deets, my Surly Cross Check. I rode to work 18 times for 505 miles. I did the Indian Head 100, the 50 States Ride, and the Backroads Century. I also rode to three baseball games. Yay bike valet!  I had one blow out. Boo, bad tires. I didn’t do any hiking (sad face) but there’s only so much activity my body can take in a month.

For the year, I’ve ridden 6,155 miles and ridden to work 133 times.

I’m looking forward to the Seagull Century next weekend. And the Great Pumpkin Ride later in the month.

I am also starting to think about next summer’s tour. If my plans pan out, it will be my biggest tour ever.

 

TGIF – BOOM! or The Tao of Bike Commuting

Every bike ride this month was on Deets, my Surly Cross Check. It has been a terrific machine. Then today happened.

I was riding to work this morning. The Mount Vernon Trail was flooded near Dyke Marsh so I took my feet off the pedals and glided through the waters like a little kid. Wheee!

I rode down Union Street and saw more flooding at the intersection with King Street. Wheee!

isn’t it great how bike commuting can make you a carefree kid again. 

Just past the Washington Marina at Daingerfield Island:

BOOOM!!!!!

My back tire blew out. This is, I think, my first flat tire of 2016. When I took the wheel off I could see that I was not going anywhere on my back tire.My exploding tube had blasted the rubber from the tire off the wire bead that holds the tire to the rim.  I could have put in a new tube but the odds of having another blow out were very high.

So I started walking. I got to National Airport and walked to the bike parking area. As it turns out the area is open-air which is not good on a rainy day. Worse still, one of the bikes (the yellow one)  locked there had had its rear wheel removed. There was no way I was going to leave Deets there.

It was too early to put my bike on Metro (they allow bikes at 10 am, after the morning rush). So I resigned myself to walking to Rosslyn, 5 miles away. After a mile, I came upon the parking lot at Gravelly Point . There were several taxi cabs parked there including a minivan.

FWAAAA!

The driver agreed to take me. As I was putting my bike in the taxi I discovered that I did not have my wallet with me. I had test driven Mrs. Rootchopper’s car last night and left my wallet in my pants that were hanging on my bedpost at home. I could borrow the cab fare from a co-worker but the rest of the day would be a total hassle without my wallet. So I had the cabbie drive me home. This cost me $36. Oof.

People who know me well will be surprised to learn that at no point during all this did I lose my temper. I just laughed it off. I guess meditation is worth something after all.

Some people I know believe that the universe has a plan for each of us. We may think we are in control but it is an illusion. We control nothing. So you just go with the flow that the universe has created for you.

Or you can look at things another way. A former colleague of mine says: Life is a shit sandwich and everyday we take a bite.

Today I took two bites. 

Afterword: I went to District Taco for lunch today.  I always order a veggie burrito bowl and eat inside the restaurant. It normally takes 5 minutes to get your food. Today, I waited 25 minutes for my order  Finally, I gave up and tracked down the manager. My food was ready. It was packaged to-go. They had tried to find me in the scrum of take-out customers and gave up.

As shit sandwiches go, it tasted pretty good, despite the wait.
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Deets Zooms His First Commute

I bought Deets, my Surly Cross Check, this time last year. I really haven’t ridden it much, if you can call 1,500 miles not much. Today that changed. I rode it to work for the first time.

It was the fastest commute of the year. I can’t tell if it was the adrenaline of riding my newish bike or the bike itself.  Deets has different gearing than my other bikes. Instead of three chainrings (the gears in front) and eight or nine cogs (the gears in the back), it has two chainrings  and ten cogs. This set up is called a compact double. It is zoomier, because the gears are more bigger (and maybe because it weighs less than my other tanks, er, bikes). My old legs don’t like big gears but seeing as how they had no choice in the matter they turned the bigger gears which made me more faster.

Something about the geometry of this bike makes it easier to ride standing up. This comes in handy when short hills are in the way .So I stood up a few times and the little hills seemed to disappear.

I was a little concerned that the climb up to Rosslyn would be nasty on my knees but I zoomed up that too. (Okay, I zoomed relative to my normal climbing speed. I still climb like a sloth. No bike can fix that.)

The ride home was equally zoomy, despite a hot, muggy headwind.  I think I cut five minutes off my normal commuting time.

This was fortunate because dark clouds were forming overhead. Yay, speed.

I think I’ll ride Deets again tomorrow.

Zoom.

Oh two one three four!