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.

 

Feel

This morning’s bike commute, my fifth this week, began with a sense of dread..Last night, for the third night this week, I woke up at 3:30 and couldn’t get back to sleep. My circadian rhythms are not amusing me.

I pulled on my overboots and layers and hat and whatnot. Ugh. I left early and was plodding away on The Mule. About two miles into the ride, my friend Reba blew by me like I was standing still. She made a friendly mocking remark about my utter lack of celerity. I mumbled profanities.dyke-marsh-and-mule

At three miles I stopped to sit on a bench and take a slightly pre-sunrise picture.

Do I have to get back on that bike? Can’t I just sit here and freeze to death?

The merry prankster in me said “Further!” and I mounted my two-wheeled steed. It’s so hard to turn off your mind, relax, and float downstream when you’re on a bike, groggy, and struggling upstream.

My head hung low but I slogged along. Then out of the top of my peripheral vision I saw something. I looked up. A woman was walking her large dog. She was on the right edge of the trail and the dog, on a leash, was on the left edge of the trail. I hit my brakes and the squealed. “Oh!” I shook my head as I passed. “Duh!”

Once I was at work and had switched out of my overboots and layers and hats and whatnot the muscles in my upper back went into spasm. Off and on. All day.

Then my head cold returned.

The first one of you who says “You should try yoga” is gonna get it.

Strangely, once I was back on my bike for the ride home, my back felt fine. The ride home had a tailwind-ish feel. A passing rider even said “sort of a tailwind.”

Riding down from a short bridge just south of Alexandria, my hanging head almost did me in again. The headlights of the oncoming cars on the adjacent parkway were blinding me. Then I saw them: two ninja walkers, dressed in dark clothing, backlit by the headlights. As I was about to go around them, two bike commuters came speeding past. The first one calling out his pass almost too late. The second one didn’t bother.

The rest of the ride was actually pleasant. When I got home I did the back exercises (that Mrs. Rootchopper calls the “Y” word). While in a shoulder stand, my upper back went into spasm. I rolled out of the position, sat, and breathed calmly. Go away spasm. And it did.

And so ends six days of riding 179 miles in January. At age 61. Feeling every year.

 

 

Let There Be Light

The last time I commuted by bike was last Wednesday. Moving just 5 days along the calendar this time of year brings a sweet benefit: daylight. I noticed that I can now see the combination lock to access my bikes without a headlight in the morning. It’s still before sunrise but there is enough emerging light that I can make do.

I start my ride with “be seen” lights. A blinking front and two blinking rear lights allow drivers to see me (if they are looking, more on this below). I arrived at my sunrise spot today just a tad early. The Mule posed for a picture.

mule-before-sunrise

You may notice one peculiarity about The Mule. It’s pedals don’t match. I replaced the left pedal when it disintegrated on my bike tour last summer. I haven’t gotten around to replacing the right one.

After I put my phone away, the sun broke over the horizon. I appreciated it’s brightness all the more because of a string of dreary, gray days.

I wore a holey wool sweater under my wind breaker shell in the morning. The bright sun warmed things up considerably on the ride in.

I left work before sunset with March-like temperatures just below 60 degrees. The wool sweater was in the bottom of one of my panniers. I know this warmth was only for one day but did it ever feel good.

The ride homeward went off without a hitch until I had an all too close encounter in Old Town. I stopped at a stop sign. (No lie.) A big black SUV had its turn signal on and turned left across my path. I started pedaling. A red SUV was behind the black one. It did not have its turn signal on. It did not stop at its stop sign. Instead it started turning right at me! For a split second my brain didn’t process what was about to happen, then I yelled WHOA! WHOA! I veered to my right and looked left so that my helmet-mounted headlight would shine in the driver’s eyes. As far as I can tell the red SUV never slowed. The driver never saw me. He just missed taking me out.

After something like this happens, the adrenaline feeds the squirrels in my brain. The next couple of miles were rather un-trance-like. Once I cleared Old Town and its dance with death I fell back into a trance for about a mile. Then I noticed cars backed up heading in my direction on the GW Parkway to my right. This could mean only one thing: a big crash. Sure enough, at the sweeping turn near the fishing hole (really just a popular river bank fishing spot) I could see one small car all bashed in with no windshield. Friend of the blog Nancy who lives down my way said the accident also involved a motorcycle. Ugh. I didn’t stop to gawk because this was obviously a serious situation and the emergency responders didn’t need me getting in the way.

I put The Mule away. Inside my house I started walking down the stairs when my left leg gave way. I somehow managed to strain my  left iliotibial band, the thin muscle that runs from the outside of the hip to the outside of my knee. Lucky for me I bought some vitamin I today with an added sedative. Zzzzzz.

 

 

Winter Moments

Many years ago I taught at a college in Newport Rhode Island. The academic building was located on the cliff walk next to the famous summer “cottage” of the Vanderbilts known as The Breakers. Many times I would arrive just after sunrise and the entire school and all the mansions would be completely socked in by fog. A fog horn moaned in the distance.

This morning as I rolled out of my driveway I had a flashback to my Newport days. I can’t remember it ever being so foggy here in DC. I could not make out the main road that is only 50 yards from my driveway. I stopped to take a picture.

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The pickup truck is parked at the corner. The illuminated street light is on the opposite side of the main road.

I forged onward totally paranoid that the car drivers would not be able to see me. To add to the peril, the fog condensed on my glasses making it even more difficult for me to see. Fortunately, they were being careful and my route for the most part is on quiet side streets.

I figured by the time I reached the river the fog would have lifted. I figured wrong. Readers of this blog will know that I take sunrise pictures from a bump out in the wooden bridge that carries the Mount Vernon Trail over Dyke Marsh. Here’s today’s sunrise.

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Dang.

The ride to work along the trail was safe but spooky. The regulars were out. The hoppy runner. The mom pushing what must now be a 1 1/2 year old in a jogging stroller. If she keeps this up, she’ll be She Hulk in a few years.

I looked to see if there were bald eagles in the tree at the Belle Haven nest. I couldn’t see the tree.

Once I made it through Old Town the fog began to lift, only to be replaced by a persistent, annoying headwind. It was the kind of headwind that made me check my brakes to see if they were sticking against the rim. I stopped briefly to report the scofflaw parker blocking the bike lane at 420 N. Union Street. Again. (Apparently last night’s call didn’t result in a ticket. We should all be treated with such forbearance by the police.)

I was really looking forward to the ride home because the temperature was in the high 50s. That’s pretty sweet for January in DC. Then I rolled out of the garage and was treated to a nice surprise. Sunlight. It was still light out. Are you kidding me? Yes!

And it stayed light out for 15 minutes.

Bike commuting in winter does have its moments.

Some Things You Can’t Miss

  • I was one sick unit this morning. I have a cold that has morphed into a sinus problem. It’s been going away and coming back. I might have to go for some scotch if this doesn’t get better soon. I broke out the neti pot thingie (not an actual neti pot but does the same thing) and flushed my brains. I felt better. Probably all in my head though. (Oooh, did he pun again? Sorry.)
  • Of course, the sickness didn’t keep me from bike commuting in 26 degree weather. Hey, I had a tailwind. No way I’d pass that up. So I made it to Dyke Marsh at sunrise. Never gets old. Note the frozen river. Image may contain: outdoor
  • The rest of the ride to work was an ice free slog except for a treacherous patch on the street at the north end of Old Town. It was just there in the middle of the lane for no reason. I rode over it rather than try to maneuver around it. No slippage.
  • I am happy to report that the scofflaw car parker who blocked the bike lane at 420 North Union Street is no longer scoffing the law. I’m watching for any backsliding.
  • I made it to work in one piece, did my thing for 8-ish hours, and headed for home. While I was in transit I was invited to my third happy hour this week. So on Thursday we take a departing co-worker out for a drink. Then I go do a volunteer thing at my kids’ high school, then I swing by the WABA happy hour in Adams Morgan. Then Friday night there’s a birthday happy hour for a friend downtown. If this doesn’t cure my cold nothing will.
  • When I got home, I checked my Twitter feed to find all this stuff about Russia and the president elect and golden showers and kompromat and such. Somebody put acid in my Dayquil. Come on, fess up.
  • So sick or not, I’m riding to work tomorrow. I may be barely making 10 miles per hour but it’s going up to the 50s and I’ll have a tailwind and I won’t be exposed to any more of Trumpster fires for about four hours. Bike commuting has its benefits.

Latest Sunrise, No – Rise of the Ninjas, Yes

I thought today was the latest sunrise of the year but I got it wrong. We’ve reached the earliest sunset. Sunrises get later until the end of the year. Yeah well. Here’s the picture I took of The Mule at Dyke Marsh on the Mount Vernon Trail.

On the ride home, I nearly hit 5 ninjas – walkers and runners wearing absolutely no reflective or light colored clothing. In addition to it being too dark to see them, they are also backlit by car headlights.Good luck you clueless ninjas. I hope I don’t hurt myself when I clobber one of you.

 

Eagles Fly, Turtles Lay

As regular readers of this blog already know, I am gaga for bald eagles and snapping turtles. Last night on the way home, I spotted my first turrle. It was off in the grass between the trail and the river about a mile from my office. Since I was away during the first seven days of June I probably missed the trutles laying eggs along the trail this year. I am still hopeful though.

There are (at least) two active bald eagle nests on my commute route. One is located near the Morningside Drive exit of the George Washington Memorial Highway which runs right next to the Mount Vernon Trail. The other is near the Tulane Drive exit. (For locals, these are between 2 and 3 miles south of the beltway.)  They are both very hard to see now that the trees have their full set of leaves.

The trail passes through Dyke Marsh Preseve. The Friends of Dyke Marsh often look for wildlife activity. This week they saw the eaglets being taught to fly. This probably takes place along the river’s edge, away from the trail, but I am going to give it a close look on the way home.

The Friends have a Facebook page (doesn’t everyone?). Here’s a link for those of the nature nuts who read this blog.

 

 

 

Riding to Daylight

I hadn’t ridden to work since Friday. So today’s bike commute, four days later, had a nice surprise: daylight! We had 6 minutes more daylight today than Frida23872236113_82eb6ba061_zy. On a bike you are more in touch with your surroundings so you notice these sorts of things.  I stopped on the Dyke Marsh boardwalk just before sunrise for a picture. I wonder if it is coincidence that the Spanish word for smile is sonrisa? Sunrise is the first smile of the day.

 

I used chemical hand warmers in my shoes today. The left one must have slipped to the rear because the toes on my left foot were frozen when I arrived at the office. When I jumped in the shower, the toes screamed with pain. Yet another reason why I don’t miss living up north.

People think I am crazy for riding to work on a day like today. Maybe I am but I consider these kinds of bike commutes an adventure. Is it crazy to start the day with an adventure or with a frustrating drive in bumper to bumper traffic? If you live in the moment, choose the moment that gives you a few minutes of happiness. Even if your toes freeze.

It felt like it was 10 degrees warmer for the ride home. I certainly appreciated the daylight for the first few miles. I was greeted by a snow squall for the last 6 miles of the commute. The snow was reflecting my headlight back into my eyes. I was riding blind. At one point my rear tire skidded after hitting a gum ball (not the candy, the seed ball from a gum tree). I remembered Bri’s advice to keep my upper body loose and go with it. The snow started sticking. It was getting slippery. Stay loose. I made it home without any more skidding. I had fun but I suspect this thin layer of snow will turn to ice overnight. This will mean no biking to work for me.

The current weather forecast calls for up to two feet of snow for Friday and Saturday. With any kind of luck it will be melted in a few days. I will probably be off the bike for a week afterwards because the National Park Service doesn’t plow the Mount Vernon Trail.

 

 

 

I Can’t Believe I Am Getting Used to This

It was 17 degrees when I left the house. Winds were calm. I left late and sunlight was upon me.

Cowabunga!

After two days, I have the clothing aspect down. Same as yesterday but today I swapped two layered mountain bike shorts for underpants and tights. Also, I swapped to my new Performance rain pants from my Marmot Precip pants. The former is cut for cycling and has thinner material. Perfect.

After my usual 10-minute warm up, I was cooking with gas (nods to my college friend Susan who used to say this all the time back in the day). I stopped at Dyke Marsh as usual, this time where the stream cuts through to the river. Ice and sunrise. Pretty stuff.

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The boards of the Dyke Marsh bridge were cover with a crunchy frost which was surprisingly grippy, another benefit of 17 degree weather.

I cruised through Old Town without a care and made it across the two long wooden bridges to the north without slipping. Oncoming bike riders looked pretty tense but I just laid off the brakes and tried to minimize leaning.

How nice it was to break free of the tree cover and not be smacked in the face by a headwind.

Across from the Washington Monument, I stopped to take a picture. Damn, this city is pretty. I never get tired of this place. Funny how I can say that about the last two cities I lived in as well but not about my hometown. I suppose if I lived there now I’d see it in a different light. As Confucius said, “No matter where you go, there you are.”

The ride home was another day in the park. It was actually above freezing but I didn’t notice. It felt no different from the morning. The geese apparently disagreed. They were having a party in the river.

The rest of the ride home was dark. Unlike dying people, I went toward the white light.

Somewhere along the way I passed 100 miles for the year. Woot.

No bike commute tomorrow. I’m going to a high school basketball game after work.

 

 

 

Greetings from Hoth

I couldn’t sleep. I was really worked up about my bike commute today. I turned on the TV at 4:30 am. The weather report said temperatures were 17 degrees colder than yesterday. Wind chill was 0. (That’s Farenheit not your wimpy centigrade wind chill. And what happened to Celsius? Did he get fired?)

I went back to bed because all that’s on TV is ads for herbal penus enhancements. Insomnia and gullibility apparently go hand in hand.

I woke up at 5:50 and went out to get the newspaper. Dang. Twas cold.

After a hearty breakfast of oatmeal and fruit I got dressed. Underpants, tights, socks nearly up to my knees, wind pants, hiking boots with chemical hand warmers inside, long sleeve base layer, t-shirt, holey wool sweater, rain jacket, balaclava, mittens. Now if I could only move my body.

I penguined outside and managed to climb on my bike. I would have taken my tauntaun but it froze to death. So off I went on The Mule.

Twas cold.

Pedal, pedal.

I was so encumbered by my layers on layers that sustaining 10 miles per hour was a challenge. The headwind didn’t help. And there’s always a possibility that The Mule needs some TLC.

I don’t think I broke 20 mph on the Park Terrace descent. Usually, I hit 30 with ease.

I stopped for a sunrise picture at Dyke Marsh. It was too soon. Too soon for the sun. Too soon because 100 yards further along there was beautiful ice in the marsh. I didn’t take a picture of this because…

Twas Cold

Pedal, pedal.

Lots of effort. Very little speed. And I was overheating.  I lowered the zipper on my jacket. In minutes my upper chest was frozen. Yeah, well.

In Old Town the illegally parked car at 406 North Union was gone. It was replaced by another illegally parked car. At least this one wasn’t blocking the bike lane.

An astonishing number of people were riding on the trail. I saw a woman running. She was pushing a stroller. Don’t mess with this family. They are from Hoth. (Hotians?)

Ed, a bike commuter who lives near me, blew by me like I was standing still. As did pretty much every other DC-bound commuter.  Ugh.

As usual the headwinds intensified between the airport and TR Island. I started talking to myself. Mostly cuss words. Slow progress. Pedal harder, mofo. My left eyeball started to feel frozen. Gross.

I found that I had to stand to get up the Rosslyn hill. Something really must be wrong with this bike. Or could it be the 4,000 cookies and 3 cases of beer I ate and drank over the holidays?

I arrived at work. The garage attendant and a maintenance worker congratulated me. All bike commuters should have fans.

It took me another 10 minutes to peel off all the layers. I got to the office 30 minutes late. It was so worth it.

I was looking forward to a tailwind all day. Then I got the news. The winds had calmed but it was a springlike 31 degrees outside.

Arlo Guthrie once referred to a 40 degree day in the Berkshires as New England tanning weather. I was practically ready to break out the sunscreen. Instead I ditched my t-shirt layer.

The ride home was truly lovely. For the first ten minutes it was light out. I warmed up immediately and was perfectly comfortable. Even better I was riding at my normal 11 – 12 miles per hour. Between the TR and Memorial Bridges I came upon hundreds of Canada geese. They posed for a picture then I did my best Charlton Heston and made them part.

Geese

Okay, Moses didn’t yell “Yee Haw!!!!” but I did.

The rest of the ride home was geese free. In Old Town, the bike lane was free of parked cars.

I am looking forward to my ride to work. It will be in the 20s with light winds.

I cannot believe I just wrote that.