How Do You say “Sandbagging” in Spanish

To recover from yesterday’s 55 mile meander I decided to do a 36 mile meander on Big Nellie. I mean why not meander while the meandering is good? Again, unbelievably, the weather was absolutely perfect for riding a bike.

Off I rode to do the Tour of Arlington, a loop around Arlington County Virginia entirely on bike trails.

I headed north on the Mount Vernon Trail. I stopped after a half mile to buy lemonade from a little boy and his mom. They were giving the proceeds to a  hurricane Harvey charity.

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Apparently the word got out that the trail is a nifty place to ride on a holiday with perfect weather because it was CROWDED!!!! Once I cleared Belle Haven Park I was enveloped with the scent of honeysuckle so I stopped to smell the flowers.

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I took my time and rode into Old Town Alexandria. The streets were CROWDED!!!! I made it through unscathed and approached the warehouses at the north end of Old Town. I spotted a woman riding up ahead and thought it might be Emilia. Sure enough it was. She didn’t recognize me apparently because I was on my unobtrusive long wheel base recumbent.

Once I said her name and waved she said “Hi John. Is that Nellie?” All was right once more. Big Nellie was flattered to be recognized. If a bike could blush, she would have.

I rode behind a friend of Emilia. They seemed intent on making good time. Emilia and I tried to talk but the one-behind-the-other thing didn’t work. I rushed ahead to get a decent photo of them but they flew by before I could get my phone ready. Then about 10 other bikes rolled by. Soon I was faced with the task of getting past all these people and dealing with heavy on-coming traffic. This is harder on Big Nellie for two reasons: (1) Big Nellie does not accelerate fast and (2) Big Nellie is low to the ground so I can’t see what is coming and what is coming can’t see me. I think I kind of pissed off some people but I managed to get around the crowd and caught up to Emilia and her friends. Her friends went north on the trail at the airport; I followed Emilia west on the Four Mile Run trail. Now when I tried to talk to her, Emilia was on her phone. Oh well.

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I sagged back a bit so as not to intrude on her conversation. That it was in Spanish meant that I had no idea what she was talking anyway, but I wanted to be polite. I kept pace and looked down. Emilia, riding a hybrid with wide tires and chatting on the phone, was cruising along effortlessly at 13 – 14 miles per hour.

I signed Emilia up for the 50 States Ride this year. Ever since she has been sending me messages that she is slow, that she is out of shape, and that I should be nice and wait for her during the ride. She repeated this today during our brief chat.  The reality will be rather different, I fear.

Last weekend Emilia and some friends rode to Harpers Ferry (and back) along the C&O Canal. The distance including the ride from her house to the start was about 65 miles each way. Nearly all of it on unpaved surfaces, some of it muddy. When I saw a picture of her in Harpers Ferry on Saturday I thought “Wow, they must have left early.” I thought this because Emilia looked like she had showered and changed clothes. I was wrong. She had just finished the ride. She looked completely relaxed and composed.

The same was true today. She just cruises along. No effort. Today she told me she no longer drinks alcohol or eats sugar. I’ve got a bad feeling about this.

Como se dice “sandbagging” en Espanol?

Anyway, when she got to the end of the Four Mile Run Trail she turned left to go home and I turned right to continue on the Washington and Old Dominion Trail.

After a few more miles I turned right onto the Custis Trail that heads back to the river. The trail has a series of rolling hills. Big Nellie started hill hopping, flying down one hill and up the next. This was why god invented bicycles. Fortunately, this trail was not at all crowded. Wheee!

Back at the river the trail was once again CROWDED!!!! I took my time and pedaled onward. I stopped at Gravelly Point to take some pictures.

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I arrived in Old Town to find it even more CROWDED than before. I think it had reached peak tourist. The intersection of King and Union was absolutely gridlocked with cars and walkers. I rolled to the front of a long line of cars waiting at the stop sign at King Street. A huge pick up truck was stuck in the middle of the intersection unable to move because of all the pedestrians. When a gap in the pedestrians opened up, I slowly rolled past the rear of the pickup, waited for a gap in the pedestrians crossing in the next cross walk and rolled free. Alexandria really needs to ban cars in Old Town on days like today. They serve no reasonable purpose.

A few blocks further on, I spotted  a massive line of people winding along the sidewalk from the left and turning down the sidewalk along Union Street. The line was 3 or 4 people wide. It turned out that all these people were there to see a tall ship that had docked this morning.

I cleared the mass of humanity and headed for home amid the breezes and the warm sun and the smell of the honeysuckle.

 

 

 

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Spring, Kindness, and Shackelton’s Great Grand Daughter

Robin Rides to Work

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

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

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

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

Be Kind to Clueless Touroids

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

Enduring Rosslyn

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

 

From Arte Johnson to Tater Tots in 39 Miles

Those of you old enough to know who Arte Johnson is know that he made famous a couple of bits of schtick. One was a lecherous old man who mumbles and grunts at Ruth Buzzi’s old lady in a hairnet until she whacks him with her purse. The other was of a man on child’s tricycle riding until he falls over sideways.

I pulled Big Nellie, my Tour Easy recumbent, out for the first time in over two months. I planned on looking at colorful leaves and the upright seating position on this bike is just the thing I needed for maximum enjoyment. Sadly, peak foliage around her is at least a week away. (This is great news for those of us who will be riding the Great Pumpkin Ride in Warrenton VA next week, however.) Of course, if I wanted to see foliage, I should have gotten out of bed and driven to the Blue Ridge. But I slept in.

Big Nellie is my only bike with clipless pedals, the kind that attached to the bottom of your shoe. I anticipated that this might be a problem and I wasn’t disappointed. After dodging 4,397 runners, walkers, cyclists, and escaped convicts on the Mount Vernon Trail, I made my way down Union Street in Old Town Alexandria. I had made it half way through the tourist zone near King Street when I came upon a Mazda stopped in front of me at a stop sign. I rolled slowly up to it. It didn’t move. Nobody was in its way. It just didn’t move.

As I came up to its bumper I realized I was going to have to stop. I went to unclip and nothing happened. My left foot wouldn’t release. So I veered to the right of the car as I frantically twisted my foot to no avail. I lost my forward momentum and started falling to the left. I reached out to brace myself on the Mazda’s back left fender. Then it moved and I completed my Arte Johnson and landed on my side on the pavement.

My recumbent seat is only a couple of feet off the ground to begin with. Breaking my fall by contacting the Mazda made the normally uneventful fall even less so. Yet I was still lying on my side in the middle of the street with this ginormous bike attached to me.

A Latina pedestrian came over to help. She was saying something in frantic, accented English but I couldn’t understand her. During the fall, my left foot unclipped but my right foot stayed attached. As she was speaking, I was twisting my right foot and hoping it would release so I could get my body out of the street.

The driver and the passengers in popped out of the car in a panic. ARE YOU OKAY? No, I have a really bruised ego! An my foot is stuck!

A cyclists with gray hair flowing out from under his helmet appeared. Her grabbed my right arm to pull me up. No. Please. I am fine. I just feel like a complete dweeb lying in the street with this chaise lounge attached to my right foot.

Finally, my right foot released and I stood up. Latina smiled. Gray hair bike rider looked relieved. Mazda people got back in car free from the fear that they had somehow contributed to the clumsiest cycling accident of the month. (As I write this four hours later, only my left knee feels any pain. Mostly from getting whacked by the bike’s top tube as I twisted my right leg to free it.)

Well, if any of the people who were there are reading this, thanks for your concern.

I continued riding up the trail of a million weekend warriors until I reached Teddy

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Roosevelt Island. I ride by TR Island every day on my way to work, but the last time I set foot on it was at least 20 years ago.

 

I locked the bike and went for a calming walk on its dirt trails. The island is an oasis of green in the Potomac River only a few hundred yards from the Sunday brunchers on the riverfront in Georgetown. It would be an incredibly relaxing place but the noise from airplanes flying into National Airport and the cars rumbling across the Teddy Roosevelt Bridge ruined the ambiance.

Teddy Trail

Before leaving I did an Interwebs search for pizza. I was hungry. There’s an Italian place right next to the Custis Trail about 2 miles away. It’s called The Italian Place. Damned clever if you ask me. So I rode up the long hill out to Rosslyn then up some more until the universe decided I had had enough. After a half mile down hill run, I came to the place. They should change its name to The Place with the Incredibly Long Line. I was took a number. 87. Then I heard them call “47!” I walked out.

I continued on the trail up/down/up/down/up/down etc. Until I came to a flat stretch. Lance Mamilot came riding past from the other direction. He blew a snot rocket to his right. Then just as I reached him he blew one to his left. What an asshole! I got a misty spray of his nasal excretions on my left leg. Ewwww!

At the W&OD Trail I headed back toward home. Nineteen miles down, only 17 miles to go. I decided to leave the trail at US 1 and work my way through the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria. I stopped at Del Ray Pizzeria. I was going to get t

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hat pizza after all. Sadly, they don’t serve individual slices. This was almost as upsetting as the snot rocket and the Arte Johnson. I had a cheese steak instead.  It was humongous. I looked great but did not live up to its visual wonderfulness. It was probably a good cheese steak as cheese steaks go, but I am not much of a cheese steak person. Nick Hornby once remarked that there are well written books that are poorly read. Perhaps this was a good cheese steak that was poorly tasted.

In any case, the cheese steak came with tater tots. Tater tots cure everything. I’ll bet that if Arte Johnson ate tater tots, he’d have stayed upright.

 

 

 

And They’re Off

Today was the first bike commute of the year. Yay, me. I rode in after sunrise because I waited for my daughter to leave for the airport before starting out. I was rewarded with a big hug and a relentless headwind. The hug lasted 10 seconds, the headwind lasted 14 1/2 miles.

At lunchtime I went out with some co-workers which is something I rarely do. We went to a Thai restaurant. The last time ate Thai food was 1980. I kid you not. The 1980 Thai food was fire in my mouth. Today’s was much tamer. It was good but it didn’t stick to my ribs.

One the way to the Thai restaurant a co-worker pointed out a garage with a historical marker. It’s where Bob Woodward met “Deep Throat” during the Watergate scandal. This marker is within 100 yards of a marker commemorating the begining of the ARPA net, the precursor to the Internet. Who would have thought that lousy Rosslyn is the home of two incredibly important events in recent history?

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During the day a friend announced that she is going on a vacation for a couple of weeks. She doesn’t currently have a job.  Hmmmmm…….

When I left work there was still some daylight. Yesss!

Then I got to the Custis trail and it had been sprayed with de-icer.  Way to go Arlington County!! Of course, when I got to the Mount Vernon Trail it was untreated because it is under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service. Boo, NPS!!

The ride home was a breeze. Literally. The morning’s headwind was now at my back and the riding was effortless. Passing over Four Mile Run I noticed that Arlington County had treated the Four Mile Run Trail too. Yay, again.

Tomorrow we expect the first snow fall of the season. As luck would have it I have an appointment with my acupuncturist so I am driving to work. Barring a medical miracle it will be the last. The treatments are having no effect at all. Even my arm is starting to hurt again.

And Wednesday promises to be brutally cold. I am going to miss the fun of bike commuting because I need my car to get to an early evening event in McLean.

I plan to be back in the saddle (if the Mount Vernon Trail is clear) on Thursday.