Riding to Eagles and Beatles

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The weather was perfect for a bike ride. Yay, April. So off I went on Little Nellie to DC. As I passed beneath the Morningside eagle nest I spotted a white head sticking up from the nest. I couldn’t tell if it was an eagle or an opportunistic osprey but it gave me an idea for a destination: the National Arboretum and its bald eagle nest.

I took the Woodrow Wilson Bridge across the Potomac River. The climb away from the river passes the enormous new MGM casino complex. It’s a whole lot of ugly, but you can eat at posh restaurants and see a show and throw away your hard earned dollars there. Go get ’em. I’ll pass.

At the top of the hill, I took a sidewalk (because MDOT hasn’t figured out how to accommodate bicyclist for beans in this area) to Oxon Hill Farm and descended back to the river. You see this climb and descent is required because MDOT couldn’t figure out how to add a trail along the river as there has been in Virginia for over 45 years.

The descent was a little scary because my left hand is messed up from getting jammed in flood debris on my hike yesterday. I think a small piece of wood may be lodged in my left middle finger. So braking is rather difficult.

I rode through Anacostia and made my way to Anacostia Park where there was a big festival. I ran into Nelle and Ursula from WABA. They were busy getting set up for the event.  At an adjacent booth I talked with Carlos (I think that’s his name) who used to work in my local bike shop. He immediately recognized Little Nellie and asked how many miles she had on her (17,500+). Carlos did good work.

After being social for a few minutes I went back into introverted rider bliss mode along the Anacostia River.  Puffy clouds and blue skies were reflected in its calm waters. I crossed over the river on the Benning Road overpass and took busy Benning northeast. Not a lot of fun but it got the job done. No way I would ride this street on a weekday. Two more busy, bike-hostile roads (17th Street and Blandensburg Road) and I was into the Arboretum. I walked by bike past a road block allowing only pedestrians to enter. Alas, further up the road a more restrictive sign appeared. No entry. Period. So I turned around.

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You can check out the bald eagle nest on dceaglecam.org.  There are two very cute eaglets in the nest right now. They seem to be thriving for all I know.

After my eagle fail,  I headed across town to the new REI store where a free beer event was to be held later in the day.  I arrived way too early so instead of drinking beer I went gawked at all the merchandise. It’s a outdoorsy wet dream. Kayaks and bikes and clothing, oh my.

The store is in the renovated Uline Arena, the site of the first Beatles concert in the US. (The place was called the Washington Sports Arena back in 1964.) The store gives a nod to this history (and other events that happened there) by putting replicas of concert posters on the concrete support posts in the store. The Beatles concert occurred a few days before their appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show that I watched in my jammies. (I found it utterly incomprehensible. I had three older brothers who, like every other kid in the country, became big fans. As, eventually, did I.)

After being overwhelmed with retail madness I headed home. The traffic on the streets and the trails was quite heavy. Tourists were stopping without warning on their bike share bikes. A couple of Lance Mamilots tried to impress the word with their speedy and agile bike riding on the narrow Mount Vernon Trail. The annoyances were minor.

I made it home to watch the end of the baseball game and to re-lube my chain. Yesterday I removed the clipless pedals from Big Nellie. Today I remove the matching cleats from my biking shoes. I am an old school toe clip dude. Sue me.

Postscript: the piece of wood in my finger popped out while doing dishes tonight. All in one piece. That’s never happened to me before. It looked like a dark brown rice kernel. Ewww

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The S Word

I am told that Monday was the end of meteorological winter. Who the hell came up with that idea?

It was damned cold here this morning. I was ready with my chemical toe warmers and layers and such. The ride to work was comfy although I had to switch from Big Nellie to Little Nellie. It was a footwear thing. Big Nellie has clipless pedals and my clipless shoes are not good for cold weather. So I put on my hiking boots and rode Little Nellie which has pedals and toe clips.

The only problem I had was when I fell into my trance approaching the Memorial Bridge. I hit a section of the trail covered intermittently with black ice. Eek!

I rode over some of it then swerved over to the grass for the rest.

Winds were light-ish today. You can now discern the buds on the trees. The willows have a light green tinge to their cascading branches. Soon we’ll get some leafy protection from the wind.

The ride home was a piece of cake. I noticed that Arlington County had sprayed brine on the trail connecting the Custis Trail to the Mount Vernon Trail. Arlington County rocks. Too bad the National Park Service doesn’t follow suit.

About a mile from the house, snow flurries started swirling about. Sorry to use the S word in meteorological spring. The flurries were pretty. We may get and inch or two overnight.

The slushy mess we will have gives me an excuse to work from from home tomorrow .I rode five days in a row this week for a total of over 155 miles.

I think my legs are ready for spring.

 

 

 

Bike, Wash, and Drink, Oh My!!!

We were under a tornado watch. A long north/south line of intense storms, about 10 miles wide and a hundred miles long (both guesses), was tracking to the north. From the animation on the weather sites, it was clear that no matter what I did, short of staying at the office until 8 or 9, I was going to have to ride through this beast.

The good news was that it was warm out. Over 60 degrees. The first half of my commute was into a strong and gusting headwind but it was toasty. Then, at the 7 1/2 mile mark near the power plant in Alexandria flashes of lightning started. Not cloud to ground but bright enough to get my attention. Old Town passed without incident. Light rain, with big drops, started to fall. As I approached the Wilson Bridge I caught a glimpse of the sky to the west. NASTY. Dark. Reddish. Eek.

The wind now changed direction. It blew me up the ramp to Washington Street. Then I turned left to head down the trail. Oof! Gusts from my left pushed me toward the street to my right. I tucked and pedaled hard to maintain my forward momentum. More gusts. Stronger. More lightning. Then the rain began. Moderate but blowing every which way. The water was cold but the air was warm so my wool clad feet stayed comfortable.

More lightning. Thunder. Every time the trail took me behind brush or trees the force of the wind gusts diminished. As I cleared the trail at Northdown Road the skies opened. I opened my mouth and it was as if I was drinking from a glass. I couldn’t see ANYTHING. So I navigated on instinct having ridden this road hundreds of times. Standing water was several inches deep. A torrent came down the little hill from the stone bridge.

I crested the hill and crossed the bridge and damned it the rain didn’t intensify. This was INSANE! And sooooo much fun. I took the lane mostly because about four feet at the edge of the road had four inches of water rushing along it.

I barely made my turn on Shenandoah Drive. Brakes are not real useful in this sort of deluge. I tried to keep an eye out for debris in the road. It was hopeless. I had all I could do to stay ON the road.

I lucked out when a car pulled in front of me and activated the traffic light at Fort Hunt Road. I blasted across and kept riding. Cars were giving me plenty of room. A mile from home an intense blast of lightning, then, a second later, a bone shaking blast of thunder filled the sky.

Woot!

Pedal, pedal!!!!

I had to come to a stop to make the turn on Collingwood Road a quarter mile from home. I let five cars go by so that I wouldn’t have to worry about them running me over in the blinding rain.

After 15 miles, I pulled into the yard.

If I had driven, this commute would have sucked. On my bike it was a thrill.

We should have tornado watches more often.

Post Script: This is apparently what I rode through after it tracked east about 15 miles. Dang!

Super Monday

The day after Easter is called Easter Monday. Don’t ask me why. As far as I know not much happened on Easter Monday. Maybe Jesus bit the ears off some chocolate bunnies. But I digress.

Not really, I haven’t even started yet.

Stop arguing with yourself.

I rode to work on 6 hours of post Super Bowl sleep. Who won? Sydney, our Super Bowl party hosts’ Australian Labradoodle. Sydney is the most well behaved puppy I have ever seen. I think Sydney is actually some sort of animatronic muppet. Sydney was infinitely more interesting than the game. And not nearly as bizarre as the numerous LSD-influenced commercials.

So I rode to work on The Mule, back on the Mount Vernon Trail for the nonce. (24266061624_4058a63836_mDid he just say “nonce?” I’ll bet he drinks Dew and eats Doritos.)

I left just a few minutes before dawn. By the time I got to Dyke Marsh the sunrise got the jump on me but I took its picture anyway. My camera was not up to the task though.

The squirrels in my head have been especially busy lately. So I tried to concentrate on nothing during the ride. If that seems contradictory, it kinda is. Which is why it didn’t work very well. So the squirrels won.

I looked for signs of spring on the wispy branches of the willow trees along the trail opposite the Washington Monument. No luck. No buds. We’ll have to wait a few more weeks.

I turned left at the Intersection of Doom and fell in behind a lycra clad cyclist with a spiffy racing bike. He was going suspiciously slowly. Then I noticed that he was holding his left crank arm in his hand. Dude, that’s not how it works!

I’ll put up with squirrels in my head any day over pedaling with only one leg. (This is actually really hard to do but is supposed to smooth out your pedal stroke.)

The ride home was a bit of a slog. The 6-hours of sleep was not enough. The squirrels had gone to bed so I fell into my commute trance. This ended when I nearly ran over a walker who was coming toward me on my side of the trail. (Walk on the right people!!)

She was not a ninja because it was light outside. It stayed light for the first 7 or 8 miles of my ride home. I could get used to this.

In the dark the curvy last two miles of the trail to the stone bridge confuse me. I lose track of where I am in the sequence of turns. Did I cross the long bridge yet or just the two short ones? Did I pass the fishing hole?

All was revealed when I spotted the mansion with the Spanish roof tiles near the top of the gradual climb to Northdown Road. A VDOT plower whimsically left a pile of plowed snow in the middle of the street. Fortunately I was out of my trance by then.

At the intersection of Fort Hunt and Shenandoah Roads a rather ominous cluster of snowplows stood in wait for the approaching Dusting to 3 Inch storm of the century.

All this means is I will probably drive to work tomorrow.

The squirrels in my head don’t like ice.

 

 

It’s Sunday in ‘Merica

Yes, today is a patriotic American Sunday. I bought my tax software yesterday and in about 2 hours finished the first cut at our returns this morning. It looks like we’ll be getting back a little over $300. I think that cuts the withholding to the quick.

After doing taxes, I decided to go for a short bike ride around the Fort Hunt neighborhood. This was a fairly uneventful lolly gag until I worked my way over the the Mount Vernon Trail and started heading north toward Fort Hunt Park. Then I heard a loud screech in the air to my left. I pulled off the trail and looked up and over and saw a bald eagle swooping down into the trees toward the massive Fort Hunt nest. I know of at least four bald eagle nests between Mount Vernon and Old Town and this is by far the biggest. Like all the MVT nests this one is nearly impossible to spot after the trees get their leaves.

My eyes were distracted from the swooping bird by another bald eagle soaring in a tight circle above. I looked back to the nest and spotted the other eagle perched on a large branch in the tree directly behind and above the nest.

The birds were too far away for me to get a picture with my camera phone. So my apologies for not capturing the moment.

The eagles behavior was consistent with this description of mating. So maybe we’ll have some eaglets in a couple of months.

I hopped back on my bike and rode around the Fort Hunt area until my toes became too cold.

I am back home preparing for the Super Bowl. This means taking a shower and carting the beer out to the car for our annual Super Bowl/Paulie’s birthday extravaganza. What better way to celebrate America and the onset of senility than by watching 300 pound men clad in plastic armor smashing into each other.

In concussions we trust.

 

Just Another Fed Up Boy on the MVT

I rode my inland route to work today. I was going to work from home but the lack of rain in the morning suckered me in. I took this route because the National Park Service refuses to plow my regular route, the Mount Vernon Trail. The inland route makes us of 3 bike trails in Alexandria City as well as a a trail that runs along the edge of Arlington National Cemetery. All of these trails were plowed and are in good shape.

As usual the ride in was fun. I especially like passing the big back ups of cars at traffic lights and stop signs. (I am careful to keep an eye out for opening car doors and abrupt lane changes when I do so.)

A funny thing happened as I waited for a red light at West and Duke Streets in Alexandria. I was on West street facing north. A bike commuter rode to the west on Duke Street through the green light. This exact same bike commuter rode through the light as I was waiting on Monday and Tuesday. What are the odds of that happening?

I made it to work with a smile on my face. I didn’t even mind climbing that last annoying hill near the Netherlands Carillon.

In the evening it was raining. I didn’t feel like fighting traffic in Rosslyn to get to my inland route so I headed to the Mount Vernon Trail. It was finally cl

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The MVT in the Rain

ear all the way home. This is not because the National Park Service, which maintains the trail, shoveled it. It is because nearly all the 20 odd inches of snow melted. This took over a week. Furthermore, one short section of the trail was still clogged with snow except for a narrow path shoveled by a couple of bike commuters.

I made it home without incident but decided that waiting eight days for snow to melt is unacceptable. The Mount Vernon Trail is a major commuter route for hundreds of people. So I wrote to my three members of Congress:

“The Mount Vernon Trail is used by hundreds of bicyclists as a commuter route in the DC area. I have been using it to get to work for over a decade. The National Park Service maintains the trail, but, unlike other local jurisdictions, refuses to plow the trail after snow events. The bicycling community has complained for as long as I can remember and still the Park Service has not lifted a shovel. This past week some bike commuters actually took shovels to the trail to clear spots with particularly large piles of snow. I would like you to please contact the Park Service and tell them to stop making excuses and start maintaining the trail during the winter.

I greatly appreciate the fact that the Park Service does an outstanding job of clearing downed trees and fixing damaged bridges on the trail after non-winter weather events. So it is especially troubling to see the Park Service neglect the trail after snowfalls. Your intervention in this matter would be greatly appreciated.”

Today the Park Service announced that it is willing to sit down with stakeholders and begin discussions on how to clear the trail next winter. I have a better idea: National Park Service get off your asses and clear the trail this winter. Just as you clear the GW Parkway that runs right alongside it. No more excuses. No more delays. The status quo is simply unacceptable.

If you are a bike commuter in DC, especially if you use the Mount Vernon Trail, please write your members of Congress.

 

Taking the Inland Route

Nearly all of my bike commutes make use of the Mount Vernon Trail. Unfortunately after significant snowfalls the lack of plowing by the National Park Service turns the trail into a linear glacier. I don’t like falling down (which I did last year) so I decided to take the alternate route, inland.

For the first mile and a half the ride is the same. Instead of crossing Fort Hunt Road to make my way to the trail, I stayed on Fort Hunt Road. This road like all crappy roads in Virginia often has no  shoulder. It is also a main route to US 1 and the Beltway. It gets a steady stream of motor vehicle traffic.

The four-ish mile ride to the Beltway was uneventful. At the Beltway I took the connector trail to Washington Street. I had to walk ten feet because of snow and ice. Not too bad.

At Washington I took a left to stay on the sidewalk. Once across the Beltway I made a series of lefts and rights until I was on West Street in Old Town. I was probably 13 blocks west of my normal route. I continued on West to Braddock. A left on Braddock led to the Potomac Yard Trail. This trail was surprisingly crowded with people walking dogs, walking to the subway, riding bikes and such. It also has no traffic lights and is flat for two miles. Bike commute heaven.

The trail isn’t finished yet so I jogged over to Potomac Avenue, a new and mostly undiscovered road that runs between US 1 and the GW Parkway. This took me to Crystal City.

I took Crystal Drive and its bike lane straight through managing to make nearly every traffic light.

At the north end of Crystal City I picked up Long Bridge Drive. Flat and smooth. Long Bridge leads to Boundary Channel Drive. Bumpy and rough.

Boundary Channel took my past a breathtaking Pentagon parking lot. It’s not a scenic route but there was no ice to deal with so you take your victories where you can find them.

Boundary Channel led to Jefferson Davis Highway, a high speed divided road with a rare paved shoulder. About a quarter mile later I was on Memorial Drive and that led to a trail that runs along the edge of Arlington Memorial Cemetery. The graves still had the wreaths that were place on each one by volunteers in December.

The trail took me to North Marshall Drive which goes up and down and up. At the entrance to Fort Myer, I banged a right and headed down North Meade Street which splits and becomes North Lynn Street. My bike allowed me to roll right past all the cars waiting at a traffic light.

I arrived at work only a couple of minutes late. My odometer said that the trip was actually about a quarter of a mile shorter than my usual ride along the Potomac River.

The ride home involved some improvising. I headed uphill from my office and turned left on North Moore Street. This took me back to the cemetery and Memorial Drive. I could have taken Jefferson Davis Highway but I would have been riding against the traffic. I didn’t feel like dying so I took Memorial Drive to the Mount Vernon Trail which was clear.  After less than 100 yards I took a right and rode up Washington Boulevard on the sidewalk. This took me back to the Pentagon parking lot. From there I simply rode my morning commute in reverse. The only difference was that it was dark and intensely foggy.

I put my headlight on low to keep from being blinded. The ride back home was again uneventful. So my first inland bike commute was success.

Tomorrow I’ll probably do this route again. After that the Mount Vernon Trail should be clear.

A few minutes ago I signed up for DC Bike Ride. It’s a 17 mile ride on closed streets. It was once called Bike DC. It’s not intended to be a serious ride, more like a meander. I meander like a boss.

Not a Bad Start

For all the time I spent shoveling snow, I am surprised that I covered as much ground as I did this January.

  • 10+ hours of snow shoveling, including 15 minutes today to liberate my bikes
  • 1 hike on the Billy Goat B and C trails to start the year right
  • 446 miles of bike riding
    • 10 on Little Nellie
    • 105 on Big Nellie
    • 331 on The Mule
    • The Cross Check took the month off
  • 10 bike commutes for 301 miles
    • 9 on The Mule
    • 1 on Big Nellie

I probably gained 10 pounds because of beer and junk food. It felt like it yesterday when every mile felt like and ordeal, but today’s 26 mile jaunt was much easier.

On my ride today, I found a new pizza and beer place. To celebrate the end of January, Mrs. RC and I will check it out. It’s tough work but somebody has to do it.

 

Shamu’s Test Commute

I haven’t been on a bike since the Snowzilla storm. So today I went for a ride to see what my commute will be like next week. The day began with an impressive amount of black ice in my driveway. My solution was to do puzzles all morning. I managed to get all but the Scrabblegram which Mrs. RC and I have taken to doing. (Worst part is finding out that answers often include completely bogus words)

I used The Mule because it is my bad weather bike. I had to roll it through some snow in the back yard but that took all of three minutes.

Every street along my normal route to the Mount Vernon Trail was clear with the only problem areas where homeowners had shoveled snow into the street earlier in the day. Why people do this when they have a front lawn to throw the snow on is beyond me.

I arrived at the Mount Vernon Trail, took one look and gave up. It is a glacier. Just like it is every year. Thanks to the National Park Service, the only trail owner that doesn’t even try to plow or treat area trails. (They own significant real estate in the city. They don’t plow there either.)

I climbed up the hill to Fort Hunt Road, the only alternative to the trail. This took me to US 1. A trail connects US 1 to Washington Street in Old Town Alexandria. The first 100 yards of the trail were covered in plow residue. VDOT or Fairfax County couldn’t be bothered to clear the trail, I guess.

If you think that is too much to ask, you are wrong. Once the trail crosses into Alexandria city, it is totally clear. I tag on Alexandria a lot about being hostile to bicyclists but whoever is in charge of plowing did a great job here.

I took the streets through the western part of Old Town. I crossed over the rail line at Slaters Lane and US 1. The sidewalk here is also a bike lane. It was cleared quite adequately. Another round of applause for Alexandria.

I rode Monroe Street (kind of a melting mess) to Mount Vernon Avenue, the main drag through the Del Ray neighborhood. No problems. I made my way to the trail along Four Mile Run. The trail on the Alexandria side was impassible because of a creatively crappy plow job that ended in a snow bank.

I walked around this mess and hooked up with the Four Mile Run Trail on the Arlington side of Four Mile Run. Arlington done good.

Here I bailed out on the trails. I had gone 10 miles and I was tired. I spent the last week shoveling and eating. I feel like a whale and my shoulder muscles are still incredibly tight.

I headed back to Old Town via Potomac Avenue and its new side trail. All was clear sailing. Alexandria. I retraced my path to Fort Hunt Road and slogged my way up two hills trying hard to stay out of the sand and salt that had accumulated on the edge of the asphalt. Most roads in Virginia lack a paved shoulder so you can pretty much count on wrecking your drive train if you bike around here in the winter.

I made it home, a total of 20 1/2 miles. Not bad for my first day back. Tomorrow is supposed to be a 60 degree day. That should take care of the problem areas I discovered today. It will take a week of warm temperatures or a responsive and responsible Park Service to clear the Mount Vernon Trail. Alas, the smart money is on the weatherman.

 

 

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.