Errand No. 1: The Incompetent Errandonneur

Category: Personal Care

Distance: 6 miles

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

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Deja Vu All Over Again

It’s only my fourth bike commute of the year and it’s already getting repetitive. Good thing I have only 7 months and 1 week to go.

Today was an especially good day because the sinus problems that I had yesterday were nearly cleared up. I used a nasal rinse gizmo (mine has a filter so I can use tap water) patterned after a neti pot twice last night and once this morning. And I took vitamin I to reduce swelling. Success.

So today my head didn’t hurt, the sun came up and it was beautiful. See for yourself.

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And just like last winter the untreated wooden bridges on the Mount Vernon Trail were icy menaces. I was warned by the hoppy runner who was turning around at the bump out where I took the sunrise picture. I was very careful to ride in a straight line and made the crossing of the Dyke Marsh bridge with my rubber side down.

North of Old Town I bypassed the bridges on the river side of the power plant, but decided to take a chance on the beaver bridge just north of Slaters Lane. A walker on the bridge heard me approach and waved me off. I dismounted and immediately realized that the bridge was very slippery. So slippery in fact that I could see two cyclists recovering from a crash. It took me few minutes to walk the football field long bridge. I saw several fresh gashes in the wood decking, most likely from pedals. I actually had to grab hold of the chain that acts as a railing along the side of the bridge because my feet were sliding out from under me. Several cyclists rode by. I didn’t hear any crashes. I don’t know how.

The concrete bridges near the airport were icy but passable. By the time I made it to the wooden Trollheim bride that passes beneath the TR Bridge into DC the ice on it had mostly melted. I rode across without incident.

It was 55  degrees when I started the ride home. It was downright pleasant so the squirrels in my head could run freely. Thoughts bounced around. Then the trance came. Big Ed blew by me without realizing it was me. He nearly took out a ninja runner in the process. I cracked up. So much for that trance.

I rode into Old Town and my old friend was back. The car illegally parked blocking the bike lane at 420 North Union Street was in its usual scofflaw position. I called the police and asked them to ticket it. Again. If this keeps up, I may ask for an accounting of the number of times police responded to my complaints, how often a ticket was issued, how many fines were collected, and such. What really gets me is the fact that nobody else on this block parks like this. They used to but stopped. It takes only one entitled millionaire to ruin a bike lane. Lest we forget, Alexandria is a certified Bicycle Friendly City.

Once I cleared Old Town and headed down the trail in the dark the trance came back. I honestly lost track of where I was on the trail. I must have ridden two miles before I had that how-did-I-get-here moment.

 

 

 

 

First Bike Quack of the Year

There was rain. Persistent. Light. Rain. And a headwind. And it was only 46 degrees outside. I have a cold. I rode to work. I am an idjit.

The rain soon overwhelmed my Goretex hiking boots. So much for their waterproofiness. Somewhere along the line I tore a hole near the inseam of my rain pants. My mittens were sopping wet. So were my socks.

Are we having fun yet?

It took about 20 extra minutes to get to work in this slop. I just could not make any speed at all. I had fresh legs too having taken yesterday off.

Just before my office I nearly collided with a bike commuter. It was my fault. I was tired and wet and wasn’t looking up and he/she was RIGHT THERE. Sorry. My bad.

So 2017 starts with a discouraging, soggy bike commute.

 

My office was festooned with wet gear. It was as if some alien being had decided to put out decorations for the post-holidays.

Fortunately my stuff was mostly dry-ish when I left for home. There was still a lingering mist. It stopped after about 20 minutes. And I had a tailwind. And it was still 46 degrees outside. So the ride home was not at all unpleasant.

Until I came upon a Comcast service vehicle parked in the middle of the Mount Vernon Trail in Old Town Alexandria. After I nearly crashed getting around it, I found myself confronted with three cars aimed in different directions in the next cross walk. They were likely driven by parents picking up their kids at the crew facility down by the river. But they decided to park, u-turn, and such in the crosswalk where the Mount Vernon Trail passes through.

A couple blocks late at 426 N. Union the car with Maryland plates was parked perpendicular to the curb obstructing the bike lane. Again.

Alexandria is a bicycle friendly city. Really. The League of American Bicyclists seems to think so. Apparently you fill out a form or two and say “We like bikes” and the LAB gives you some sort of award. Sure glad I am a member. Not.

Do I sound cranky?

Quack.

Old Town Bike Stroll

After 150 miles of cold bike commuting, I was going to take the day off. I lazed around the house until I couldn’t stand my boredom. Then I remembered that the Washington Area Bicyclists Association was doing some sore of work at Jones Point Park, about 5 1/2 miles from my house. I decided to go there and lend a hand.

I rode Deets, my Surly Cross Check. It was the first time in two or three weeks. Without loaded panniers, I cruised along at 3 miles per hour faster than The Mule. I felt like I was flying.

There was some ice on the edges of the river. Yes, it’s really winter now. Temperatures were just a bit above freezing. I pedaled along with little effort. When I arrived at Jones Point Park, there was nobody there. I checked social media and learned that WABA had plenty of help and made fast work of their project.

So I decided to cruise through Old Town looking for stocking stuffers for the ladies of the house. I spotted a vintage fire engine in front of a fire house. When I went to take a picture I saw that Santa and an elf were posing with kids.

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After that I made my way to the farmers’ market at City Hall. The vendors were packing up for the day. I noticed a  harpist bundled against the cold. From the looks of her donations box, it had not been a particularly fruitful morning. I tried to engage her in conversation but she had on her cloak of introversion. I left her a dollar and rode off.

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I made it to the new outpost of the Italian Store on East Wythe Street. Word of m
outh says that this place makes awesome sandwiches. I had to walk down the street and up the next to find something to lock my bike. Then I walked back to the store. Inside I found that there was no seating, only chairs on the patio. Not wanting to freeze I decided to come back in the spring when I can get a sandwich to eat outside.

I made my way back towards home. Old Town was not at all crowded. I took the Wilkes Street tunnel for the first time in over a year. Something about it is inviting.

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I had about 6 1/2 miles to go. With 4 miles left my toes started to ache from the chill. Instead of focusing on my toes, I thought about how I could modify my toe clips with some neoprene toe warmers. Maybe I can use zip ties to attach a toe warmer to the cage. Hmm…..

 

 

Doing All the Things

What a beautiful Saturday. I could have gone for a hike but I had things to do. Eight things to be exact.

Thing 1

I rode my bike to the government center down the street and I voted. I could vote early because I will be out of town on election day. The only down side to voting early is that other voters don’t get to see me bike to the polls. Oh well, at least I got a new sticker.

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I bike and I vote

Thing 2

Next up, I rode to the drug store to score some drugs. Okay, it was asthma medicine which isn’t all that exciting until I don’t have it when I need it.

Thing 3

I rode the Mount Vernon Trail to the farmer’s market it Old Town Alexandria. The place was packed. There were apples. LOTS of apples. I didn’t buy any. I was just people watching. There were people. LOTS of people. I didn’t know any.

Thing 4

Next up was a Thai massage. After all the biking I’ve been doing, it was time to cash in the gift card that Mrs. Rootchopper gave me on my birthday in August. It was for a one-hour session including a foot bath. I’d never had a foot bath like this before. The therapist kneaded my feet. I laughed through the whole thing except when it hurt. I have tender puppies. So it hurt quite a lot. When it was over, it felt pretty awesome. If you are a runner, you should have a soaking foot massage.

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Thai massage place in Old Town

Then the message happened. Dang are my muscles tight. After 20 minutes, I asked to extend my message for an extra 30 minutes. This was going to take some time. My massage therapist was Dau. She did a great job. Some of it hurt but I told her to keep working on the sore parts anyway. It differed from the other Thai massage I had last year. For one thing, I was on a massage table instead of on a cushion on the floor. This gave Dau a different angle on manipulating my body. Another difference is that, although my legs were tight, I did not have numbness in my right leg. Last time the therapist had to limit the work on my thighs.

When it was over I walked out feeling totally relaxed. My thighs were so relaxed. I had no idea how tight they were. And my back felt like new.

I am not a massage kind of guy. I usually feel like I have better things to do with my time. This was different. It was definitely worth the time and money.

Thing 5

Mrs. Rootchopper does the grocery shopping after her Saturday morning Pilates class. I forgot to tell her that we needed coffee and raisins. So I swung by the grocery store to get some. They fit nicely in my Carradice saddle bag.

Thing 6

After I got home, I mowed the lawn. During summer our back lawn grows much faster than the front. In autumn, the front grows faster. Either way, it’s much easier to mow the lawn when it’s not 95 degrees outside.

Thing 7

I read the paper. Two hours later I woke up. This is primo napping weather. Resistance is futile.

Thing 8

I bought tickets for my daughter to fly home for Thanksgiving. Free. Boy am I glad Southwest flies into National Airport.

 

Random Thoughts on a Down Day

Taking the rest of the day off

  • It’s hot as blazes outside. And I have ridden 188 miles in the last four days. So I decided to skip my usual night baseball game this week. And I am working from home today as well. I haven’t had a day completely off the bike in two weeks. It’s no wonder that I slept like a log last night. I am still a bit drowsy today, but I will be back at it for tomorrow’s 50 States Ride.

Blog power?

  • The car that was parked illegally for over a week in the bike lane at 420 North Union Street in Old Town was gone yesterday morning. Did somebody read my post? Or is it coincidence?  Either way, good riddence to the scofflaw parker.

Coffee in a tree

  • The forecast calls for horrific heat and humidity. Thank god the last rest stop is at a coffee shop around mile 55. Nothing says relief on a hot summer day like a big hot cup of joe. My friend Ursula will be running the rest stop. The thought of heat and hills and hot coffee gave me a weird dream the other night. (I rarely dream so it has stuck in my head.) I am climbing a tree. And there, sitting on a branch, is Ursula. Drinking hot coffee. She is cheerful. Then she spills the coffee and we mourn the loss.

Keeping my rubber side up

  • A shout out to the bike rider who nearly crashed on the Dyke Marsh bridge on the Mount Vernon Trail yesterday morning. He was passing a runner when he saw me coming toward him. He hit the brakes and his bike went skidding every which way. I was surprised he didn’t go down. His misfortune was a warning to me to take it easy on the wooden bridges which get really slippery when wet. Good thing. There was a pile up on the Trollheim, the boardwalk under the Teddy Roosevelt Bridge, yesterday morning. I wasn’t involved but rode through the crash site about 40 minutes after.

Road rage in North Old Town

  • I was on the receiving end of an act of road rage last night. I was coming to the place in North Old Town where the trail crosses the railroad tracks at an angle on First Street. A driver was approaching from the left. I was braking for the stop sign. About 50 feet before reaching the stop sign, the driver passed in front of me. He honked his horn and started yelling and pointing at me from behind his rolled up windows. He must have been having a bad day. It was weird.

Greetings while you sweat

  • A woman gave me the peace sign after I rode through the Memorial Bridge underpass last night. Then a passing male cyclist said hello. (Odds are it was Chris M. who I never recognize.) Just before the road rage incident two other unknown cyclists said hello. Considering the brutally oppressive heat and humidity, I’d say the people of the Mount Vernon Trail were having and exceptionally cheery day.

Flogini’s healing bike commute

  • My friend Flogini, erstwhile spiritual adviser to the Rootchopper Institute, wrote a cryptic note on her Facebook page yesterday. It was about bike commuting home in the rain and having the rain wash away her heartbreak. She broke up with her boyfriend that morning, on her birthday. I have been in a down mood the last few weeks. Her note was eloquent (not a surprise), and it somehow made me feel better. Whatta ya know about that, Burt? I reached out to her for the first time in months last night.

Impermanent friendship

  • Flogini and I have known each other for over nine years but we don’t hang out together anymore. A couple of years ago she just stopped saying yes when I asked her to get together. After several nos I stopped asking. Then she stopped reading my blog and following me on Facebook. So I unfollowed her. If she read this, she’d almost certainly say “Nonsense. We are still friends,” but her inaction speaks louder than her words. Sometimes life goes “CLANK.”

Any day will do

  • There is no good day to break up a relationship. That is to say, when a relationship is not working out, any day will do. I sympathize with Flogini because I broke up with a girlfriend on her birthday back in my grad school days. It was the right thing to do but the timing was unintentionally unkind. 19 years later she sent me a letter apologizing for breaking up with me! I had to remind her that I was the dumper not the dumpee and that it happened on her birthday. Derp. Time heals all wounds. We are on good terms today.

Trees at the ballpark

  • I hate my birthday. It’s like New Year’s Eve. Expectations are rarely realized. And the next day, if you’re lucky, you wake up another day older. I don’t need to be reminded of the ticking of my life clock. My knees and back and neck and shoulder and bladder remind me of it every day. I just wanted to hide in a hole this year. After the day had passed, I went to a Nats game alone and hid in plain sight. The people in the stands around me were anonymous like the trees I rode by on my bike tour in July.

Charlie’s an angel

  • Finally, a shout out to Kelly, my co-worker who has forsaken bike commuting this summer for baby making. Last night, she gave birth to a healthy baby girl named Charlotte. Sometimes happiness comes in warm 7.3 pound packages. Congrats to all. (BTW, I lost the friendly, no-awards office pool by a little over 3 hours. Her due date was September 1. When I guessed the 9th, she wanted to burn my desk.)

Old Town Bike Lane Parking Lot

Today I took a picture of the car blocking the Union Street bike lane at 420 N. Union. This bike lane is part of the Mount Vernon Trail and it gets heavy bike traffic at rush hour and on weekends. This car has plenty of company. Often the entire lane is blocked. Sometimes the entire sidewalk is blocked. Sometimes both.

 It’s been there for more than a week. I spotted a parking enforcement officer parked nearby. So I asked him why he doesn’t ticket obvious parking violators such as this.

He told me that they had been routinely issuing $40 tickets to Old Town residents who park in their driveways in such a way as to block the sidewalk and/or the bike lane. According to the officer, residents complain that they are “parking in their driveways” and “have nowhere else to park.”

As you can see from the photo, driveways in this area of Old Town are little more than curb cuts. As such they are  too short to fit most cars. Every house has a garage, but the residents won’t park in them. Of course, there is nothing to prohibit them from parking parallel to the curb like anyone else. In short, their argument is bovine scatology.

But the ticket office at City Hall feels their pain. Their tickets are routinely dismissed. So the ticket officers have stopped ticketing. It was not clear whether the officers were told to stop ticketing or whether they gave up out of frustration. In any case, the officer said, “The city is trying to work something out.”  

What’s to work out? 

The League of American Bicyclists designated Alexandria as a “Bicycling Friendly City.” How many other BFCs allow parking in the bike lane for days at a time? Maybe the League needs to reconsider its award process. Maybe I need to reconsider my membership.

 

Deets Turns 2 and a Blast from the Past

I rode Deets, my Surly Cross Check, to the barbershop. I wore a baseball cap. I always get the same haircut. This time the barber must have mistaken me for a second grader. The short haircut became a buzz cut. Ugh. Good thing I had the baseball cap. I’ll be wearing it for about six weeks.

I rode to Old Town along the Mount Vernon Trail. The weather was breezy and just warm enough. Perfect. Just north of Belle Haven Park police cars were parked next to the trail with their lights flashing. A police officer was taking down yellow crime scene tape along the river side of the trail. I couldn’t see any desperados or axe murderers so I rode on.

I made it to the bank and did my business with the magic money machine. When I turned around there was Emilia. We did the 50 States Ride together in 2014, one of my very best days on a bike. It was also a very hard ride. She hasn’t talked to me since. (Just kidding.) What a great surprise.

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Emilia Shows Off Her Trophy

I dawdled a bit in north Old Town before heading home with a very pleasant tailwind. A police officer was still sitting in his car at the scene of the mystery but I decided to leave it to some other citizen crimestopper to find out what was going on.

On the way home, Deets decided to hit a milestone: 2,000 miles. He’s all ready to ride the Southern Maryland 100 on Monday and the 50 States next Saturday.

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Random Sunday

  • I rode to the Nationals game after work Friday night. It was suffocatingly hot. The Nats lost to the lowly Braves. I went alone. I had a great time.
  • An usher ejected  a fan for heckling the Braves left fielder. The fan got his money’s worth. He certainly gave me a few laughs. Well played, dude.
  • An Atlanta player hit a home run that landed about four seats away from me in the row behind mine. It bounced off a fan and the rebound went to a guy in my row about six seats away.
  • A mom brought three kids to the game. They were sitting in the row in front of me. She went to the concession stand. When she came back and found out that a home run landed two seats behind her she couldn’t believe her bad luck. The kids thought it was pretty funny though.
  • I had the seat at the end of the row. Home run guy and his buddies wore me out with their pee runs. Never buy seat 1 or seat 20.
  • Another home run landed in the seats a section to my left. The fan caught it on the fly. Barehanded.
  • I almost caught a t-shirt during the t-shirt toss promotion but another fan got two hands on it just as it was about to hit my hand. She paid for the shirt: her chest hit the railing in the middle of the aisle. Ow.
  • The ride home was aided by post-game fireworks. Less car traffic means better biking. Boom!
  • The ride through Old Town Alexandria at 11:30 pm was scary. The sidewalks were full of loud, drunken idiots. I assumed that drivers were similarly inebriated. I was extremely careful and am thankful that I made it through in one piece. Of course, the Alexandria police (who spend their time ticketing early morning bike commuters) were nowhere to be found.
  • I have decided to call the Cross Check Deets. After Joshua Deets, the scout for the Lonesome Dove cattle drive. He is described by Capt Augustus McCrae as “Cheerful in all weathers. Never shirked a task. Splendid behavior.” I hope my Deets is as noble.
  • After a year of light riding, I will be using Deets for commuting starting tomorrow. The rack has bigger tubes than the racks on my other three bikes so I had to adjust the hardware on my panniers. I test rode the bike with panniers for the first time. My heels had plenty of clearance so tomorrow’s commute should be sweet.
  • This morning I went for a short ride down to Woodlawn by way of Mount Vernon on Deets. Every time I stopped the oppressive heat and humidity sucked the sweat out of every pore in my skin. It was gross. There will be better days for weekend excursions. Maybe a hike next weekend. It’s been too long.

Today’s News: Annoying, Depressing

Cement Truck Parking

The Mount Vernon Trail is one of the most heavily used trails on the East Coast. Ab28624928742_d40e68caa3_zout two miles from my house, the trail merges with Northdown Road. As
you can see from the picture, at this point, the trail and road are only one lane wide. It is in fact a trail not a road. That didn’t stop this cement truck driver from parking in the trail. I’d use the words “middle of the trail” but the truck obstructed the entire trail. Every last inch. Perhaps the driver thought “Hey, look at this trail. It’s the perfect width for parking my truck.”

Trail users had to dismount and make their way through the mud on the side of the trail. It was barely wide enough to get by.

I may be making a big deal out of nothing but this is the kind of disrespect that bicyclists and bicycle infrastructure routinely get, especially in places like Fairfax County. All this truck driver had to do was park where I was standing when I took this picture and trail users would have had free passage.

Death by Parking

Earlier today, a 92 year old driver was parking his SUV in an alley a block from the Mount Vernon Trail in Old Town, Alexandria. He hit a parking attendant, then he hit another man, killing him. How the hell you can kill someone in an alley that is about as wide as the trail in the picture above is beyond me. Why in the world does Virginia allow 92 year olds to drive?  Will somebody from the DMV show up at the funeral to explain this to the loved ones of the deceased?

I’m Walking Here

Meanwhile in the 400 block of North Union Street an SUV was parked perpendicular to a house. It’s front end completely obstructed the sidewalk. Sticking in the ground next to the front bumper was a sign that said “No Not Block Driveway.” There is no end to the entitlement mentality of the landed gentry of Old Town Alexandria.

$2.5 Billion for Nothing

On Friday evening at rush hour my family and I drove to Tyson’s Corner. (This is the first time I have driven to Tyson’s in a year. It will be the last, but that’s another story.) On the way we got on the Beltway at US 1, just west of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge. Traffic heading to the bridge from Virginia was backed up for miles. In all six lanes. The bridge is only a few years old. The project to rebuild the bridge and the adjacent roadway and exits cost about $2.5 billion. The rationale was that this would relieve congestion. Trying to relieve congestion by adding more capacity is like trying to achieve happiness by buying more stuff. If only I had one more lane! If only I had one more HDTV!

The bridge was designed with the capacity to carry a Metro rail line. This has yet to be implemented. Already people are calling for the rail line space to be converted to car lanes.