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.
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.
The Fifty States Ride is an event put on each September by the Washington Area Bicyclists Association (WABA). The ride covers every nook and cranny of Washington DC so that participants can ride their bikes on every street named for a state. I’d done the ride six times: 2006, 2007, 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013. In 2006 and 2007, the ride was held in the sweltering heat of August. WABA moved the ride into September but the 2010 ride had all the heat and humidity of the August rides. Last year it poured buckets for the last hour. No matter what the weather, riders have to be prepared to climb a dozen (probably more, I lose track) hills. Every few blocks, riders come to a stop sign or red light, making for sore hands from so much braking.
When I lived in Boston, I drove a cab during the sunmers. The only part of the city my college friends knew, was the half mile around the subway stops they used. The same happens in every city. DC-area residents know the area near work and home, and a few other often frequented parts of town. The rest is a mystery. Riding the Fifty States ride gives a cyclist the chance to experience the entire city, warts and all.
Getting to know the city is a plus, but the real secret to the Fifty States Ride is the fact that all the starting and stopping all but forces riders to sociallize. I’ve met dozens of people because of this ride and they represent an incredible breadth of humanity. Students, writers, scientists, lawyers, educators, police officers, librarians. Black, white, asian, latino. Young and old. Incredibly fit and not so much.
A Plan Falls Apart
My friend Florencia and I have never done the entire ride together, In 2007 she abandoned me in the oppressive heat of Rock Creek Park. In 2011, she took off after we reached the lunch stop. So the plan was to ride the entire route together. Then life interceded and she had to cancel. Sad face. As it turns out, her friend Emilia had signed up but didn’t know anybody. So I agreed to ride with her.
I drove to my office in Rosslyn and rode the 3 1/2 miles to Adams Morgan in DC for the ride start. While waiting for Emilia, I started talking with Lorraine, a first-time rider who was having some anxiety about getting lost. I invited her aboard the Rootchopper Bike Bus. Next I spotted Emilia. As I introduced Lorraine, she said she was my “daughter” so I introduced Emilia as my wife. Instead of adopting a son, we added Jeremy Cannon, the son of Bob (Don’t Call Me Rachel) Cannon. Bob was marshalling the shorter 13 Colonies ride. I did the Great Pumpkin Ride with Father and Son Cannon last October. Then we added rookies Kristen and Elizabeth with whom I did the Backroads ride last September. Up stepped John Roche, Mr. Hoppy 100. Dave Salovesh, man with the Green Bay Packers bike, joined in. (It had belt drive. You gotta have belt drive in your group!) We tried to draft Rachel (Don’t Call Me Bob) Cannon, but she had commited to riding with Ursual Sandstorm who was a volunteer ride marshall and her friend Jordan. So we went into the draft and picked a ringer: Friday Coffee Clubber, Michael Brunetto a man who knows DC like the back of his bicycling gloves. From my pix, I can see we were joined by a tenth rider, a woman in green, whose name I neglected to get.
Leading Is Overrated
Kristen decided that we should leave before the formal ride start. This turned out to be a great idea because it meant that we avoided the usual congrested roads for the first 10 miles. Since I was the grizzled veteran I was dubbed the point man for our group. I nearly missed the first turn, so Michael grabbed the reins and off we went spiralling through DC neighborhoods and downtown.
Despite gray skies, there were smiles all around as we picked off states in quick succession without much effort. We skirted a 5K race near the Mall, and zipped over Capitol Hill and into Southwest DC. The route took us to East Potomac Park where the friskier riders among us sped away. We regrouped at a public restroom and headed for Maine, crossing the path of the riders who had started after us.
We rode past Nationals Park where Emilia proudly told me that three of her Venezuelan countryman (Ramos, Cabrera, and Lobeton) were on the ballclub. Go Nats! Go wife!
I led the posse through the confusion of near Southeast, through an alley, and over the Souza Bridge. We hit the pit stop in Anacostia Park, chatted with some friends and headed out for the first hills of the ride. We climbed Martin Luther King, Junior Avenue. It was a bit of a shock as the climbers among us got their ya yas out. All I could think of was: this ride is going to suck if I don’t get my legs in order. The next climb came a mile later on Stanton Road. By this point my legs were loose and I made a decent showing of things. Our climbing contingent – Elizabeth (QOM), Justin, Michael, and Jeremy- put us to shame but they kindly waited at the top for the rest of us.
On the way to Texas a woman riding ahead of us almost took a wrong turn. It was the first of many wrong turns we witnessed and thwarted throughout the day. We zoomed down Massachusetts Avenue (a real thrill on the 20 inch wheels of Little Nellie, my Bike Friday) and headed back to Anacostia Park.
My peeps were pretty happy to arrive at the Eastern Market rest stop for lunch. Our rookies were smiling so we knew that the pace was reasonable. We took our time and steeled ourselves for the second half.
Staying Off Track
The route took is through the eastern side of Capitol Hill which combined flat roads with numerous turns. As we headed northward, we encountered a closed road. I took us down H Street which has trolley tracks right where we would be riding. At the next cross street, I dismounted and walked across the tracks, fearful that our entire posse might catch a rail and fall. (This is not a good road design, folks!)
The climbers took off up the steep hill on Mt. Olivet Road. They waited for the rest of us to pull up the rear. We crossed over the railroad and US 50 in pursuit of scary North Dakota Avenue. The gray skies had given way to a light rain. I was grateful that the traffic was light and we made it unscathed to Taylor Street. Soon we were riding busy Michigan Avenue and lucked out again with light traffic.
After riding past Catholic University we were treated to Hawaii Avenue, another big climb. We plodded on undaunted. The rookies were holding it together. The rabbits were humoring by waiting at the top of each climb.
Zig, zag, pedal, pedal. We made good work of long stretches in Northwest, as the rain started coming down hard. Jackets came on. Lorraine and a bunch of other riders from other posses headed back home. The rest of the crew plowed ahead, thankful to reach the Tacoma rest stop at the home of Mike and Lisa. For some reason, Mike gets a kick out of my Twitter name, Rootchopper. Last year he stood on his porch shouting ROOTCHOPPER as I rolled in. This year, he had a banner up that said “Hail Rootchopper!” It’s nice to be loved.
As I walked around at the rest stop, a funny thing occured to me: this is the best I have felt after 50 miles of biking ever. I felt like I could have ridden for hours and hours more. This soon would fade into memory.
The Rookies Start to Work
After the rest we climbed to Alaska and flew down into Rock Creek Park. On Beach Drive we saw a woman rider on the ground with several riders looking on. They had called an ambulance so we left her in their hands.
On the west side of the park we rode into Chevy Chase, the high rent district. Yes, there were more hills. The Rookies were starting to ask, “Are we there yet?” Shut up and climb.
The route differs from year to year. One of this year’s new wrinkles was 36th Street. It is a pretty little windy street with dense tree cover. And bumps. And a steep hill. Ugh. My wife wanted a divorce. When she reached the top of the hill she had a big smile on her face, but then she said “My legs were gone.” Fortunately, the final rest stop had coffee which seemed to revive her. For the climb up Wisconsin Avenue. Ugh.
Is Arizona a State?
After riding past American University, we rode downhill, picking up newly paved Arizona Avenue, and giving up all our climbing work from 36th and Wisconsin. After a flat stretch on MacArthur Boulevard, it was payback time. With five miles to go we rode up Ashby, up 49th Street, then up the sadistically steep Garfield Street. My wife had given up pn divorce; instead she wanted to kill me in my sleep.
After recoveinrg, we forged ahead. This neck of the woods is called Cathedral Heights. To get there you have to go….up. Emilia was one hurting unit but still she climbed. What a warrior. Finally, we crested the heights and made the gradual ride back down to the start. Of course, it wouldn’t be loads of fun without riding on busy Connecticut Avenue. A ride marshall (Rod Smith, perhaps) had taken the left lane in preparation for the left hand turn onto Calvert Street. We followed his lead.
We arrived at the after party with big smiles on our faces. We were triumphant. Photo ops with our hard-earned ride shirts were taken. Beer was imbibed. Other riders arrived. Rachel and Jordan and Ursula appeared with had big smiles. Fists were pumped. Riders were hugged. Faces wore satified smiles.
Very big thanks to the folks at WABA, especially Michelle Cleveland, who works for months putting this ride together. Thanks to the volunteers, especially Mike and Lisa, who literally opened their home to us.
Thanks to Flor for getting me to ride this again. I missed you.
Thanks to the posse. To Lorraine, Dave, John, Justin, Kristen, Elizabeth, and Jeremy. Thanks to Michael who refused to let me get us lost! And special thanks to my new friend Emilia, mi esposa por un dia. Muchas gracias, senorita.
Did you know peripatetic is a noun? If you look it up, you’ll see a picture of my friend Florencia right next to it in the dictionary. Would I lie to you?
Flor and I have been doing rides together since we met on the 50 States ride in 2007. It doesn’t seem possible that seven years have passed since we met. We were going to do it again this year, but she has a conflict. Boo. Her friend Emilia is riding for the first time and is a little worried that she won’t be able to handle the 50 States course. So Flor thought it would be a good idea to get us together for a little shakedown ride.
It was a nice Sunday morning so I decided to bypass the Mount Vernon Trail and ride Fort Hunt Road to the streets of Old Town and Potomac Yards in Alexandria, Crystal City in Arlington, and (according to the sign on the side of the road) the Pentagon reservation. (Apparently the Pentagon was one of the little known tribes of the pre-colonial days.) I met up with Flor at the Jefferson Memorial. Emilia was a no show. Sad face. Flor later told me that the two of them are doing a 120-mile two-day ride in the weeks ahead. I do believe Emilia will drop me after about 10 states.
Flor and I soldiered on. We rode the Halfvasa route from DC to Potomac Village and back. We managed to survive the onslaught of tourists on bikes and idiots looking for parking spaces on K Street in Georgetown. The Capital Crescent Trail had little traffic allowing us to settle into a nice groove. At Fletcher’s Boat House we cut over to Resevoir Road managing to avoid several toddlers who seemed determined to die by under our front wheels.
The ride up reservoir was long and slow. For me. Flor didn’t seem to be working with the same gravitational field. We rendevoused at the top and proceeded side by side out MacArthur Boulevard chatting all the way. The hill near the reservoir made us work a bit but we cruised over the top and enjoyed the breezy downhill on the back side.
MacArthur has no shoulders making it hard to ride side by side so we took to the side path and chattered away. Yoga, rolfing, vegetarian food, being a proud big sister, DC condo values, riding motorbikes in Thailand, and Montessori education. She has a lot going on. She also gave me an update on our pal Richard who rode the 50 States with us in 2011. It’s good to hear that he’s still the kind of person who never has a down day.
Along the way, Flor yelled, “DEER!” There, dead ahead. was a young deer grazing in the grass next to the road. As we approached the deer bolted, thankfully away from us, and joined two others in the roadside shadows.
We reached the dreaded hill at the end of MacArthur and slowly, ever so slowly, made our way up. The chatter stopped. The work was honest. We made respectable time. After a brief stop to discuss our route, we headed down Falls Road to Potomac Village.
We chilled in the shade, enjoying iced drinks and continued the conversation. Once we were talked out, we headed back to DC via the Avenel neighborhood of massive houses. “They’re just boxes holding stuff. Once you get enough stuff, it owns you.” Life according to Flor.
We made our way back to MacArthur. Since Flor lives in the city uphill from the river and the memorials, I thought it would make sense to cut through Georgetown instead of heading downhill to the river. And so we did.
Once we crossed Rock Creek Park, Flor took over navigation. She knew the best route to her place. Just before we got there she asked if I wanted to go to Meridian Hill Park and hang out. And so we did.
We sat in the sun and talked with Jeff, a friend of Flor whom I met at a happy hour last winter. We talked and listend to the drum circle drummers until the sun wore us down. Flor and I headed to our respective homes. She got the better of the deal by about 15 miles. Or maybe not. Riding down 16th Street to the White House followed by ten miles along the Potomac River is a mighty fine way to go.
After my 1000-mile June, I backed off a bit in July. I rode to work 18 times. The only times I didn’t ride to work were days I took off or worked from home. My parking space at work must have cobwebs on it.
Other than a half-mile spin on The Mule to check out its new drivetrain, all my riding was on Little Nellie, my Bike Friday New World Tourist, and Big Nellie, my Easy Racers Tour Easy recumbent. I rode Little Nellie for 16 commutes (including one where I rode from work to Nationals Park). Big Nellie picked up the other two rides to work.
My long ride for the month was Big Nellie’s 111 mile ride to Purcelville and back.
Total mileage for the month was 746 miles. About 2/3rds of which was on Little Nellie which pretty much tells me that my back will tolerate big miles on its little tires.
Off the bike I finally started doing some hiking. The Billy Goat A trail is only about 3.5 miles but it proved to be brutally hard on an oppressively hot and humid day. I did the Billy Goat B and C trails, a total of at least six miles. It was a much more enjoyable hike. I really like doing these hikes as a thing unto itself and as a break from all the biking I do. I need to further investigate the trails in the woods of Great Falls as well as the Rock Creek Park trails which I am ashamed to admit I’ve never hiked.
For the year I have racked up 91 commutes, 41 on Little Nellie, 24 on Big Nellie and 27 on The Mule. I’ve ridden 4,544 miles, a little under 650 miles per month.
After a late night of watching the rain fall down at Nationals Park, I awoke in a bit of a fog. Unfortunately the fog in my brain was accompanied by humidity outside. I rode off into the mugginess officeward.
There was considerable leaf and twig debris on the roads. Somehow this debris was concentrated along the right side where I normally ride. So I boldly moved toward the center of the lane. No drivers’ egos were harmed.
Near Belle Haven Park, a tree had fallen across the trail. According to fellow bike commuter Reba, the tree nearly nailed a passing runner. As a former marathon runner, I can attest that this can ruin your whole day.
I made my way around the tree on foot and proceeded northward-ish. Near the power plant, I came upon a tractor trailer which had fallen across the trail. I rode around it on the grass.
Near the Memorial Bridge, a gaggle of geese formed an occlusion of the trail. I rode through them undaunted. One goose mouth a goose obscenity at Little Nellie, I am pretty sure this goose is a columnist for the Washington Post. He was probably upset that in years past geese were ticketed for using the trail.
Over the course of the day, it got muggier. Or as the French say, “I’ll fait icky.”
I rode home under ominous skies. Sprinkles turned to light rain. Distant rumbles turned to thunder booms. The tractor trailer was gone but the trail was blocked by a cyclist chatting with a surveyor and a pedestrian. I stopped for the pedestrian almost certainly ruining my credibility as a bike terrorist.
On Union Street in Old Town, the bike lane was blocked twice. The first blockage was by an SUV double parked in the bike lane. Shortly thereafter the but end of a luxury car was parked so as to preserve the entrance to a townhouse’s garage. It’s butt end blocked the trail.
At King and Union a King Street Trolley (actually a bus) stopped mid-block obstructing my way up Union Street. I was begining to think this was Block the Bicyclists Day, sponsored no doubt by the Washington Post.
The last five miles home were under a steady rain. The distant thunder and lightning suddenly became directly over head. BOOM! CRACK!
Uh oh. Not good. The hairs on my calves (the lower part of my leg, not my baby cows) stood on end. Eek.
Fortunately, that was the worst of it. I arrived home soaked having somehow not terrorized anybody.
You may have noticed that I have been making oblique references to the Washington Post today. This is because Courtland Milloy, a Post columnist, wrote a column today that expressed his exasperation with having to share the city with cyclists. In addition to some veiled racist remarks, he said that the $500 fine for hitting a cyclist with your car was worth the expense.
Mr. Milloy’s column demonstrated an astounding combination of ignorance, intolerance, and race baiting, quite the trifecta. It also contained many factual errors. Here are some facts for Mr. Milloy to think about:
My wife was run over on a crystal clear day by a careless driver in a hurry. She was lucky. She got to spend three months in bed. It took her the better part of a year to get back to something resembling normal. The driver nearly killed her in another way, because the aftermath of the crash left her unable to have surgery for a malignant tumor for one year.
My friend Rachel volunteered to ride sweep during a cycling event last December. Her job was to make sure that the very last riders finished safely. She was run over by an inattentive driver near FedEx Field. She was injured but fortunately recovered rather quickly. She is still jittery about riding her bike in the city.
My friend Charmaine was run over by a pickup truck while riding to work on Michigan Avenue in Northeast DC. The crash broke her right arm and destroyed her bike. She missed weeks of work and endured months of painful physical therapy. (It was the second time she’d been hit by a car.)
I didn’t know Alice Swanson, but six years ago today, she was riding her bike in a bike lane near Dupont Circle when she was run over by a truck and killed.
I could go on with more examples all night.
In my entire life of riding about 100,000 miles I only know of one death by cyclist. This happened when a kid at my grade school lost control of his bike and struck an old lady walking home from church. As bad as we all felt for the victim, we felt equally bad for the kid who was going to have to live with this for the rest of his life.
I hope Mr. Milloy parks his car and his hate. If he rode his bike in the city he might see what I see.
Riding through Anacostia on a Sunday morning is a joy. The church goers, dressed in their Sunday best, wave and say hello, even though in Mr. Milloy’s mind I am an evil suburban white guy on a bike and they are black and there are no bike lanes on MLK Boulevard.
That riding through all eight wards of the city during six or seven Fifty States Rides has revealed a city that is finally rising from the ashes of the 1968 riots and the farce of a crack head mayor. The restored Union Market and Lincoln Theater, the hundreds of rehabilitated rowhouses, the new buildings springing up everywhere, the resurrection of near Southeast. You miss this driving in and out of the city with a death grip on the steering wheel.
And that during those same rides and many, many more in DC, dozens of people have waved, cheered me and my fellow riders on, and made sure we didn’t take a wrong turn. Over and over again.
That little kids see me go by on my funny looking recumbent or my equally odd folding bike and say, “COOOL!”
I don’t like riding my bike in DC during rush hours, but I’ll do it to get where I need to be. That doesn’t mean I am an inherently bad person or anti-car or racist. It means that I am rational. I dislike driving in the city too. The difference is that in a car I have steel barrier between me and people like Mr. Milloy. On a bike, I am apparently a viable potential target for a pathetic man with a small mind.
Mr. Milloy should be ashamed of himself. As a 30-year subscriber to the Post, I have but one request. Stop running his columns. They are reckless, irresponsible, and hurtful. Find someone with a positive voice to fill the space.
I took a day off yesterday after a hilly 57-mile ride on Thursday and a 109-mile ride on Friday, both in hot and humid conditions. What I should have done was gone for a short, easy ride, but I mowed the lawn in oppressively swampy weather and took a chill pill for the rest of the day. As a result of this semi-off day, my legs felt tight and sore. Walking down stairs was a little difficult, not unlike the day after running a marathon. (Been there, done that, had to walk downstairs backwards back in the day.)
My plan for today was to go for a nice easy spin on Big Nellie and see where the bent gods took me. As I made my way into Old Town Alexandria, my legs loosened up considerably. I decided to hit a few bike shops to see if they could fix a problem with one of my pedals. On my recumbent I wear sandals and use PowerGrips. These are straps that go across the pedal diagonally. Normally I use toe clips (I am not a fan of clipless pedals) but nerve problems in my left foot led me to try PowerGrips in search of relief. They work reasonably well except that the strap on my right pedal is at a steep angle, and rubs against my toes. The one on my left pedal fits properly, only touching the outside of my pinkie toe. The reason for the discrepancy is that the pedals attached to a metal plate. The left plate looks like an old bottle opener, flat with a bend at the end. The right plate as a second bend in the middle causing it to extend out too far from the pedal.
I stopped at Wheel Nuts in north Old Town but they were closed. Seven miles down. I decided to try the Velocity bicycle co-op in Del Ray a few miles away. They had all kinds of junk parts (just what I thought I needed) but no plates for PowerGrips.
Twenty years ago, The Mule, my Specialized Sequoia, had a recurring problem: it’s headset (the part that the handlebars attach to) kept coming loose. NOBODY could fix it. After giving many mechanics a crack at the problem, I took the bike to Papillion Bicycles on Columbia Pike in Arlington. Bailey, the owner, couldn’t figure it out but he said try Paul at City Bikes. I called Paul and before I could finish my description of the problem he knew what was wrong. And he did. It needed a ten-cent washer that he happened to have among his two bazillion bike parts.
Paul is now the head mechanic at Bicycle Space in DC, so I decided to let him have a go at the pedal problem. Several miles later, Dr. Paul examined the patient. “You don’t need a new part. It looks like you bent this one in an accident.” Paul is also psychic. I did indeed crash the bike a year ago and came down on the right side!
He took the right pedal off, walked into a back room with a hammer in his hand and began the operation. I was a little troubled by the hammer and the fact that he did not sterilize his hands before surgery. After a minute, he came back out, hammer in hand, took a look at the left pedal, and went back to the OR. A few whacks later he came out and the pedal was exactly right. Dang,
With a smile on my face, I headed for home. Not wanting to go back the way I came, I decided to ride back via Anacostia. I picked rode east to 11th Street Northeast and took a right. I rode over the Anacostia River on the wicked awesome new 11th Street Bridge (such a clever name, no?). In Anacostia, 11th Street becomes Martin Luther King Junior Boulevard. The MLK (very L.A. sounding, don’t you think) is an interesting ride. There are signs of gentrification with new restaurants, cafes, condos and such. And there are the depressing signs of DC’s poorest neighborhoods with housing projects, job training places, and people handing out on the street corners. Along the way, I glanced at an electric sign outside a church. 104 degrees!!!
After the first hill, the MLK descends to cross busy South Capitol Street. Here the road surface becomes a washboard. At 25 miles per hour, it’s downright hairy. (DC needs to up its game with some serious roadwork on the MLK.) Once you get up a good head of steam, you are greeted by a red light at the bottom of the next hill. Argh!
From a dead stop, I climbed the next hill, slowly. At Blue Plains Drive I banged a right and headed down a steep hill, breaking the speed limit in front of the DC Police Academy in the process. I am a brazen scofflaw.
After a couple of left turns, I was on the Oxon Cove Trail. Park maintenance has gone by the wayside this year. Tufts of grass four or five inches tall protrude from all the cracks in the pavement. Grass on either side of the trail is two feet tall.
The trail and the park were completely empty. As I rode next to the cove, I spotted the remnants of an large bird of prey, either an eagle or a hawk. There were some big feathers and some bones but not much else; it had been picked clean.
The trail enters the grounds of Oxon Hill Farm where it turns away from the water and climbs, gradually at first, but steeper and steeper all the way to the top. I think this is the toughest hill in the area. On the way up I saw what looked like the hoof and lower leg from a young deer. Yikes! A little further on, I spotted a beautiful feather, from a hawk or eagle. I stopped and put it in the flag slot on my Arkel seat back bag.
The steepest part of the hill remained so I yelled “Get ’em up, Scout” and started to ride. (I didn’t actually say that, but I am pissed that Johnny Depp has screwed with Tonto. Tarzan is Johnny Weissmuller. Avery Brooks is Hawk. Jay Silverheels is Tonto. That’s it. Don’t mess with my childhood icons. Okay, the new Star Trek actors are infinitely better than the old ones, but that’s an anomaly.)
After the monster climb, I got to ride down the crazy fun downhill toward National Harbor, then up the corkscrew hill to the bike path bridge over the beltway. (This corkscrew design is brilliant.)
Next I rode over the Woodrow Wilson Bridge (a good place to watch the fireworks in Old Town next Saturday night, by the way) and onto the Mount Vernon Trail. Then, for reasons that escape me, I rode up another nasty hill on Westgrove Boulevard. After a stop for a Gary’s Lunchbox sammich at Sherwood Hall Gourmet, I rode home.
What started as an easy spin evolved into a 37-mile hill fest. So much for my plan. At least, I got my pedal fixed. Thanks to Paul and Bicycle Space. It was worth the effort.
Since it is the longest day of the year, it makes sense to go all in on activities. The day started with splendid weather. It was actually sweater weather when I woke up. (This is especially odd since it was 100 degrees on the same day last year.) The day quickly warmed up to the comfortable 80s. Ahhh.
I left home early despite staying up late to watch the NBA finals. On six hours of sleep, I rode Big Nellie into town. The Mount Vernon Trail is just indescribably nice on summer mornings like this. I left about a half hour early so most of my regulars were still messing with visions of sugarplums. The Trash Walker, however, was doing his thing, keeping me on my toes. Under the 14th Street Bridge, Nancy Duley stood next to her bike. This is as far as she goes, like there is a force field just beyond. It would be interesting to see her bounce off the force field while riding. BOING.
She was turning around after escorting Mr. Nancy Duley most of the way to his office in DC. Next time, I am taking her through the force field and into the city. I have to figure out how to get through the barrier because I can’t use my bicycle death ray. It turns out death rays are illegal. Who knew? We’ll breach the barrier somehow.
Friday Coffee Club was once again a men’s only affair for the first hour or so. Kirstin (@ultrarunnergirl) showed up to liven things up a bit. Then, as always, we went our separate ways to earn a buck. Crossing the TR Bridge, the river looked beautiful, the breeze felt splendid, and the skies were blue. I went to work anyway.
After work my son and I took Metro to Nationals Park to watch a ballgame. It was on of my Fathers Day gifts. Our seats were on the lower level behind the third base dugout. As Wayne Campbell would say, “Excellent.” I resisted the urge to yell, “Let’s go! EXPOS!!!” through out the game. (This whole Nationals thing is a charade. They should wear those goofy looking Expos hats a few times a game. Maybe even have the announcers repeat everything en francais.)
The game was a pitching duel with Steven Strasburg striking out 9 in 7 innings. The highlight of the game came when my son and I, singing like a couple of eunuchs, hit the high note of “Take On Me” during the seventh inning stretch. We were tempted to start singing “Staying Alive” in faux Bee Gee falsettos, but thought better of it. (Another beer, though, and I would have gone for it.)
Well, the Expos won and we made our way back to Rosslyn to retrieve the car and Big Nellie. We were prepared to put the bike on the back of the car and call it a night, but the weather was perfect and I was not the least bit tired. So my son drove home and I hit the Mount Vernon Trail.
It was the summer solstice. I expected to find all kinds of Shakespearean characters along the way but only saw 6 cyclists. Three were riding without lights. When I had a solitary stretch of the trail, I turned my headlight off. The moon was intense! Big and nearly full. Combined with the clear skies it was casting a glow on the river and the greenery along the trail. It looked almost as if someone had sprayed silver on the grass and leaves and water.
I cruised along at 12 miles per hour taking in the views and making sure to keep my mouth shut so as not to take in the bugs. I arrived home at 12:30 ready to call it a day.
The weatherman warned of nothing but sprinkles for my ride to work. It sounded like a good day for me to wear sandals and ride Big Nellie to Friday Coffee Club. I stepped out of the house ready to go when the sprinkles became a steady rain. Urgh! I prefer to ride The Mule in the rain so I went back into the house to put on some cycling shoes and a vest. Back outside, I saddled up and headed for DC.
I’d only ridden 6 or 7 miles since Sunday. Biking with fresh legs is joy. The pedals seem to go round automatically. I could hear the gears make a buzzing sound. Pedal, pedal, buzz. Riding up North Royal Street in Old Town Alexandria I watched as a young girl broke away from an older girl and dashed across the street in front of the SUV that I was behind. The SUV stopped and the girl made the crossing unharmed. She had a sheepish look on her face that made it clear that she knew she had done something foolish. As I rode past, I told her “Don’t do that again!” I hope she remembers. SUVs make for unpleasant pedestrian experiences.
Trash Walker said hello as I passed him near the airport. It must be good to be retired and healthy.
I crossed Maine Avenue and something seemed different. It wasn’t until I saw a tweet from Katie later that I realized that the terrible rutted and potholed road surfaced and been repaired.
I arrived at Swings to see the early birds already in attendance. As usual most of the Friday Coffee Club folks in attendance were guys except for Lisa who usually leaves before I arrive and Kel who I haven’t seen in quite a while. Chris rode his monster bike. I forgot to get a picture. The tires are so wide that I couldn’t get my hand around the tread. (As the owner of a clown bike and a rolling lawn chair, I am in no position to make disparaging remarks about his choice of two-wheeled transpo.) A few months ago Jesse was visiting from Seattle. He was back today with the news that he had moved to DC. Welcome to the madhouse!
Felkerino arrived on his massively impressive CoMotion tandem with his daughter riding in the stoker seat. Then one by one women began arriving. It was a cascade of femininity, the likes of which the Coffee Club has not seen in ages. Reba, Rachel, Mary, Kristin, Katie, Kirsten, and Kate (making it a 2-Kate Coffee extravaganza) all grabbed a seat. Somehow Mike and Bob (Don’t Call Me Rachel) Cannon sneaked in undetected. Even with satellite versions of Friday Coffee Club now operating in the burbs, we were overflowing with cheerful faces.
Finally, our guest of honor arrived. Lauren (@lkono), a Coffee Club fixture from early on (which is to say last spring), moved to Dublin last fall to go to grad school. I am ever impressed with how she can bike around this city dressed in stylish clothing and not look the least bit disheveled when she arrives at Swings. (I ride ten feet and I look like I slept in a ditch all night.) She’s only here for a couple of days before jetting off to do field work in rural Brazil. (Lauren, can I have your life please?) Suffice it to say, we were all happy to see her. Felkerino took a picture of Lauren and me. (Lauren, can I have your bangs while we’re at it.)
After Coffee Club I still have a couple of miles to go to get to the office back in Virginia. The Teddy Roosevelt Bridge has become my route of choice. I was passed by two inbound cyclists who didn’t register with my brain. I think they were Shawn and Mark, who have both been known to appear at Swings on Fridays.
The ride home was marked by the usual car hassles in the Rosslyn Circle of Death (RCOD). Two cars, one in the left-most lane and one in the center lane, were about to take right turns on red, directly in front of me. I yelled at both and they stopped but not before fully obstructing the crosswalk and curb cut I use to get onto the bike path. (Bitch about scofflaw cyclists all you want, but I can show you some seriously dangerous drivers on a daily basis in the RCOD.)
There are few things more life affirming than a tailwind on the ride home on a Friday night. The Mule and I felt like Dave Stoller and his racing bike. I could almost hear the overture to Rossini’s Barber of Seville. (You’ll note that I felt like Dave Stoller, but The Mule does not follow semis doing 60.)
The Mount Vernon Trail was somewhat crowded, mostly with bike riders going too fast and not announcing their passes. It won’t be long before I see another rider on the ground from this stupidity.
At Gravelly Point a man sat under a tree and played his trumpet Bike commuting is often made better when you have musical accompaniment.
Down near home, the Mount Vernon Trail merges with Northdown Road. Road construction crews are busy rebuilding the road. It needed it because it was nothing but one bumpy patch after another.
Tomorrow I hope to get out for a long ride in the country. This will require getting out of bed early which seems dubious in light of the fact that it is 12:45 as I type this.
After several days of swamp weatherFren followed by a monsoon, I was relieved to see sunny skies and feel cool, dry, breezy air this morning. This is perfect New England running weather, but it will do just fine for a DC bike commute. There have been a spate of articles lately about bike helmets. It turns out helmets are pretty useless for anything but the worst kind of crash and don’t do a blessed thing to prevent concussions. In all my years riding with one on, I’ve hit my head on the ground once, and that was a glancing blow that I may have avoided altogether but for the weight of the helmet. (My daughter’s helmet once kept her head from going down a storm drain, but that’s a story for another day.)
I can understand the concern about head injuries but you’d think they’d design helmets with the most common head injury in mind. Nope. What seems strange is that there is no call for widespread use of body armor by cyclists. I have smashed my left arm dozen times or so. At one point I took to wearing rollerblade elbow pads because my left arm was running out of meat for crashes! Nobody has ever required me to wear elbow pads at a cycling event. (I have since learned to sacrifice my left butt cheek during crashes.)
All this helmet talk is preamble to the fact that today I eschewed (yes, he used “eschew” again!) my helmet for my official 2004 Boston Red Sox World Series Champion baseball cap. It doesn’t protect me against a concussion either but at least it shades my eyes and I can doff it at pretty girls as I ride past.
Speaking of pretty girls, I saw French Braid Girl on the way to work. She is relentless. I’d bet I see her on 90 percent of my commutes.She pretty much has the same expression every time we pass. (It says, “What a pathetic dude you are.”) I also saw Hardware Store Guy on his Serotta, and The Hun on the way to work. The Hun is a new regular. He looks like he should have horns coming out of the side of his helmet. He has dark facial hair to complete the look.
I keep trying to get pictures of my regulars but they come and go so quickly that I can’t get my camera up and ready in time. Today, I got a picture of French Braid Girl. My photography skills being only slightly better than my climbing ability, her mother would be lucky to ID her from this picture. I’m betting her name is Kate though.
The ride home was as splendid as bike commuting can get. An asshat on a mountain bike passed me as another bike approached and a runner jogged in front of me. Mr. Studjumper nearly causing a four person accident. Seconds later, I was lost in the bliss of cruising along at 20 miles per hour with the wind in my fairing. Life is good.
I was back in the saddle – er, foam pad – for an early morning departure. I haven’t been to Friday Coffee Club in a long time so I was looking forward to it. It was nice of Mother Nature to give Big Nellie and me a tailwind assist. The miles seemed to fly by. I spotted a garbage bag next to the trail just south of Belle Haven Park. It turned out to be a beaver all balled up. I think he was dead. He certainly wasn’t looking very spunky.
Since I left earlier than usual, most of my regulars weren’t out yet. So the critters kept me entertained. Near the power plant another critter caught my eye. It was a black snake coiled up in the middle of the trail. I think he’s with the beaver in critter heaven.
Near the airport I cruised by Trash Walker, my first regular of the day. Trash Walker hoofs it along the trail and picks up trash as he goes. And he always waves and says “Hello”. He didn’t get the memo about crumpy-assed bike commuters like me.
The early morning brings out the Lancelots, the bike riders who have delusions of cycling grandeur. (Digression No. 1: Look people, you’re on a bike trail with hardly any hills. You don’t look badass passing a bike commuter carrying 30 pounds of crap on his recumbent. You are pathetic. Chill.) I came off the first of two flyover bridges at National Airport at considerable speed. Three cyclists coming toward me decided to pass a walker just as I came upon them. (Digression No. 2: The levers on your handlebars activate your brakes. Don’t pull out into the path of an on-coming bike when you don’t have to. Wait your turn, just as you would when you’re driving your car. Otherwise I will have to use the bicycle death ray on you. You’ve been warned.)
I rode into the city with two other commuters. At the Jefferson Memorial I was overtaken by a vast bicycle commuting conspiracy. This included one of my regulars, the guy with the mountain bike with slick tires and aerobars who looks slow but goes lickety split.
Crossing Maine Avenue, French Braid Girl came past. Normally I see her four miles closer to home, so I had a good idea how early I was. As I passed the Washington Monument, a bike came from my right and a runner came from my left. Somehow we avoided a calamitous collision. At Constitution Avenue the light was green (which never happens without a long wait) making up for all of life’s early morning injustices. Soon, another injustice appeared in the 15th Street Cycletrack.
At Swings, the weekly meeting of the WAAMCCD (Washingtion Area All Male Cycling Coffee Drinkers) was in session. Fortunately, we were soon joined by Kate Drake, fresh from her vacation in the high Sierras, and her friend Kate. New Kate makes the fifth cycling Kate that I know in DC, and sixth overall. The three Lisas (all local) need to up their game.
Out of the garage I bolted into the bike lane on Lynn Street, kinda cutting off a cyclist. My bad. I caught all the lights and made for the bike trail. Two cyclists on the sidewalk to my right passed me unexpectedly on my right. No warning. Thanks, guys. (Please see discussion of the bicycle death ray, above.) Down on the Mount Vernon Trail there were all sorts of walkers milling about. I came to a stop until they finished milling. All the way to the airport the wind was gusting into my face. A bike commuter passed my and said “This sucks!” Dude, try it in February. This is positively lovely. Takes the edge off the heat and humidity.
Once south of the airport the trees gave me relief from the headwind. Big Nellie and I tootled home. We stopped to take a picture of the beaver. He was still dead.
Kate Drake asked me about the bald eagle nests. I put her off coming down to see them. The trees have made them very hard to find. It’s a shame. I should have put together a bald eagle ride earlier in the spring.
Tomorrow is the Tour de Fat.It’s a big party with bikes, acid rock, live nude girls, and beer. Oh, and it’s family friendly. I know this because every ten minutes somebody tweets or posts something on Facebook about it. (If you are fat, they let you in for free, I hear.) I was tempted to go for the entire event which lasts something like six hours. I can do six hours of bikes or beer or acid rock or live nude girls. (Okay, I am kidding about the live nude girls. There will be at least 1,200 Kates in attendance so that counts for something.) Owing to my age and marital status, I decided I’d go for one hour. My plan is to ride to the Washington Folk Festival at Glen Echo Park to see my friend Lisa’s Japanese taiko drum group at 2 then ride to the Tour de Fat. I hope they have some beer left.
Being confronted with adversity in your life is inevitable. Just keep in mind that it does not have to defeat you. Adversity is often short lived. Giving up is what makes it permanent. As a certified fitness professional, this blog is my way of helping you feel capable of anything.