Five Buck Bikeabout

Yesterday’ weather was fantastic.  Good weather for goofing off is also good weather for getting stuff done around the house. Sorry to disappoint you, my friends, but I chose responsibility over slacking.

I mowed the lawn and painted the shed. Most of the painting had already been done by Mrs. Rootchopper during the week but I took on the tedious chore of painting the trim. Four plus hours of pure fun. Not. When I was done I reloaded the shed with all the stuff. It’s good to be back to normal, but my efforts were rewarded with lower back pains.

So I started the today with my usual noga (My wife says it’s yoga, I say it’s back exercises so let’s just call it noga, okay?). After that I languished on my deck reading the Sunday paper. Had I stuck around it would have been tea and buttered scones but I decided to go on a recon ride to DC. I am riding my ninth 50 States Ride in a month and need to find a parking spot near the start. (It’s not too late to sign up. You have to be a WABA member, or come as the guest of one. )

So off I rode to DC on the Mount Vernon Trail. It was busy, mostly with tourists on rental bikes. You can tell because they gape at all the stuff I see every day. On the Dyke Marsh bridge I caught up to a bike tourist. We had a ten second chat from which I learned that he is riding around the perimeter of the 48 contiguous states. He started in Minnesota and is riding counterclockwise. So he’s already been from midnight to three o’clock. The ride will take him 14 months. Go dude! (I found his journal when I got home over on Crazyguyonabike.com. The journal notes say that he also took a side trip to Hawaii and dropped down into Mexico for a few days.)

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After ten miles of weaving around the rent-a-bikers, I made it into DC and headed for Rock Creek Park. Along the way, I spotted a cricket match because this is DC and DC is eclectic as fuck.

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The weather was nearly as good as yesterday. The park side trail is being refurbished and looks great for most of the way from Georgetown to Military Road. At one point, people were gathering along the trail to look into the creek. Five bucks were making their way across the creek. The road crossing had all us bystanders holding our breath. I think they made it across without incident. (The picture shows only the southbound half of the road just after a merge to the left out of frame. The grassy median is wooded and wide. They had to make it across another two lanes of northbound traffic after that.)

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I made it to the new Klingle Valley trail which I had ridden downhill recently. Today, I slogged up the hill. I kept my breathing and effort constant and had no trouble making the climb. Of course, neither would you at 7 miles per hour.

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Once i reached the top, I check out some of the local streets for parking. As long as you are willing to ride a mile (or less) to the start of the ride, you’ll have no trouble finding a place for your metal fart barge (Colin made me say that.)

After the recon was over, I rode to Meridian Hill Park for no other reason than it’s one of my favorite places in DC. The water cascade was dry earlier this summer but it is now flowing in all its glory. The park is built into a hill. Looking down from the top (near the swordless statue of Joan of Arc) the cascade is pretty. Looking up from the base of the park, it is just WOW! And it sounds so soothing you could sit beside it all day canoodling with your canoodle-ee.

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Mon Dieu! Ou est mon epee?
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Cascade from the top of the park
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Cascade from the bottom of the park

I thought it would spoil the vibe if I started canoodling with myself so I made my way home down the 15 Street cycletrack. This was a mistake. It took a really long time. I could have been bombing down 16th Street instead. Riding in a cycletrack in DC feels like you’re in a video game. People, ubers, delivery vans, dogs, and other random stuff seem to appear. You’ll never score enough points if you don’t pay attention.

The ride home was a breeze. Literally. I took a side trip through Del Ray for a change of pace. After 40 miles, I didn’t feel the slightest bit tired. I’m ready for my tour, Mr. DeMille.

Some more pix of my ride are on my Flickr page.

Bike 1, Quinoa 0

I slept in.

When I woke up it was a perfect summer day. The second in a row. There was just one thing to do.

I rode my bike.

You saw that coming, didn’t you.

After all, I could have spent my day doing something truly exciting like dry toasting some quinoa. (Or driving a funicular railcar. I actually know people who did these things today.)

But I rode my bike.

I chose the Cross Check for my adventure. The first ten miles were unremarkable which is remarkable for a Sunday on the Mount Vernon Trail. Normally, the MVT is a zoo on a nice weekend days but today it was less busy than a weekday evening. I rode it all the way to DC. Unmolested.

I made it to trail along the Potomac on the DC side before disaster almost struck. I was patiently following two tentative riders as they made their way through the narrow underpass of the TR Bridge. There was stream of bikes coming our way then a runner. Just as Tentative Rider number 1 came upon the runner a stream of Lance Mamilots came around the bling corner on the other end of the underpass. Two got past the runner but the third nearly hit her. The tentative riders somehow managed not to find themselves in a big pile up. As did I. The runner was rightfully pissed. I yelled something non-obscene at Lance.

Another mile went by. As I approached K Street, I was following a rider on a very Eurpoean-style city bike. She was riding very slowly and came to a stop a the turn off for K Street. Somehow she fell sideways into a small patch of grass. She was more embarrassed than hurt. So I turned onto K and headed toward the Capital Crescent Trail. The CCT was busy and a few impatient riders nearly caused head on collisions. I just moseyed along and kept a positive attitude. It was just too nice a day to get upset.

Approaching Bethesda, I was passed by another Lance. He was headed straight for an on-coming walker. Oncoming walker was an unassuming looking, thin woman, perhaps in her late 60s, with thinning brown hair. In a vaguely eastern European accident she shouted: “Get on the other side of the trail, ASSHOLE!”

I could not stop laughing. For miles.

In Bethesda Row, I stopped at Bethesda Bagels (I love places with creative names) and bought a bagel sandwich. I rode to the trestle over Rock Creek Park and ate half of it there, looking out from the treetops to the creek far below.

And to think I could have been dry toasting my quinoa.

Dang.

With my tank topped off, I headed  outbound on Beach Drive. I had some company, mostly on bikes. At Garret Park I turned around. I had a bit of a head wind and put my head down for a moment. When I looked up, I nearly rode into a fawn. There were two in the road. So cute.

Back to DC, staying in, mostly car free, Rock Creek Park. Lord, was it nice. Warm, breezy. The soothing sound of the creek rushing past only a few yards to the side of the road.

I climbed out of the park on Park Road and made my way to Columbia Heights. Normally this hill is difficult for me. Not today. I rode the bike lane straight up Irving Street, passing a long stream of cars waiting in line for the short light at the top of the hill. Sucks for them, I thought.

Soon I was sitting on a bench in the shade in Meridian Hill Park. The rest of my sandwich didn’t have a chance.

For some reason, riding down 16th Street on the way home has become a favorite of mine. There are so many interesting buildings and people. Unfortunately, it ends with a ride through the touroids near the White House. I managed to get behind a tour group on Segways clogging the 15th Street cycletrack.

Riding a bike behind Segways is only marginally more enjoyable than dry toasting quinoa.

I survived. Nobody killed me as I rode out of DC. The MVT was once again not half bad. The last ten miles were not the easiest. I have to remember to drink more water while I am riding during my tour next week.

I rode all winter, all through a cold, wet spring. Today’s beautiful 63 1/2 miles was payback.

Tonight, I’ll dry toast some quinoa.

Just kidding.

Too bad there aren’t any funiculars around.

Nice Day for a Spring Ride

I waited for the temperature to rise. I didn’t want to ruin a good spring ride by freezing my toes off. At 11:00 I leaped into action. Sort of. I kept misplacing things. After 45 frustrating minutes I head out on the Cross Check for a bagel. In Bethesda. Over 25 miles from home.

The Cross Check still doesn’t feel right but rather than mess with the set up I decided to ride it a ways. After six miles I stopped and slid the saddle back. I was feeling cramped and too upright. Afterwards I felt more comfortable. I breezed through Old Town with its abundance of well dressed church goers. (My church has two wheels, by god.)

North of Old Town the Mount Vernon Trail started getting crowded. The crowds didn’t bother me but the impatient riders passing with bike oncoming did. Some of these were Lance Mamilstrongs. Others were new to riding on busy, narrow trails. Thankfully, I managed not to get hit. I crossed over to DC and rode Ohio Drive and its pathetically designed side paths up to Rock Creek Park. The side path in Rock Creek Park improves somewhat. After a couple of miles of mediocre, it becomes downright horrible. Tree roots, 90 degree turns, pinch points, blind, low descents under overpasses. People with dogs obstructing the entire path as they admired each others pooches. Must not kill.

 

I finally made it to Beach Drive which is closed to cars. It was apparently open to every grade school kid in a 100 miles radius today. They were swarming like gnats. It took a while to get clear of them. Once I did, I found myself cruising up the  gradual incline at 14 1/2 miles per hour. I wasn’t straining at all. The Cross Check was just getting it done.

I took the Georgetown Branch Trail to the Rock Creek Trestle. I love hanging out in the treetops over Rock Creek. A woman was sitting in the bumpout on the opposite side of the trail. She was speaking on her phone in a Spanish accent. Next to her was a copy of Nick Hornby’s latest book. I love Nick Hornby. I passed up the opportunity to strike up a conversation with her because my tummy was having a conversation with my head. FEED ME!

I backtracked on the GBT to Bethesda Row where I bought a drink and a bage19217984431_878c8b2188_m.jpgl. I sat and ate and watched the people stroll by. This street is really good for people watching. And dog watching too. A golden retriever with waves of flowing red hair was laid out on the sidewalk next to my bench. What a beautiful creature. (Full disclosure: I grew up with a golden retriever. They are the best dogs. Dumb as dirt but they will let you use them as a pillow when you watch TV. And they will defend you to the death.) I want to be a golden retriever in my next life.

After my snack, I headed over to Bradley Boulevard. I rode through Bethesda amid azaleas and dogwoods in bloom. The temperature was perfect for riding. The traffic was light. Yay spring!

Bradley to Kentsdale to Newbridge to Democracy to Falls. I was cruising among the megamansions of Potomac. I hear they have real housewives here.

A left  onto Falls took me through Potomac Village and all the way to Great Falls Park. Cars were parked illegally everywhere. I took a right to ride down to the C&O Canal on the access road. After a fun half mile glide, I came upon a half mile line of cars waiting to get parking in the parking lot.  I rode past the cars and made it to the admissions booth. I was waved in. It was National Parks Day. Admission was free. “Free” sounds like a good idea. Sometimes it’s not. I rode very slowly through the throngs for at least 15 minutes. It was like riding on the sidewalk in Manhattan. Nothing ruins nature quite like tens of thousands of well meaning people.

After the falls the crowds thinned a bit and I could get up to about 10 miles per hour. Carefully, I avoided spooking the strollers near Widewater, easily one of the best parts of the entire 185 mile long park.

I finally cleared the swarm and brought my bike up to a 13.6 mile per hour cruising speed. Why 13.6? I don’t know. I just locked into that speed.

I am happy to report that the Cross Check loves the towpath. I can see many gravel rides in the future. (North Central Rail Trail? Anybody? Bueller?)

I was on autopilot all the way back to Georgetown. I switched over the paved Capital Crescent Trail at Fletchers Boat House. It has way too many tree roots until you get to the last mile which has been recently paved. Zoom.

K Street under the Whitehurst Freeway was a parking lot. I think we need to just ban cars in certain places on Sundays. They are just too big and clumsy. We could pile them up and burn them. We could invite all kinds of latter day hippies, techies, and spiritual whack jobs. Maybe we could do this in the desert. Rosslyn on a Sunday would work. We could call it “Burning Car”.  Maybe we could get the drum circle from Meridian Hill Park to come and not keep a beat.

The ride home retraced my northbound journey. The trails were not as busy as before. Behind the power plant near Old Town, the MVT goes through some blind curves. As I approached I rode my brakes. Sure enough a rider came around the curve on my side of the path. I avoided a head on collision for sure. The rider seemed shocked that passing two pedestrians on a blind curve might not work out so well. I do hope she doesn’t drive a school bus for a living.

I rolled south on Union Street in Old Town. A police cruiser pulled out in front of me. I followed it to the intersection with Gibbon Street. This is where Alexandria police ticket cyclists for rolling through the stop sign. So I watched as patrol car 1414 rolled through the very same stop sign. It was the third such incident this week. The League of American Cyclists will soon designate Alexandria as a Bicycle Hypocritical City at the Silver level.

I rolled home with my lungs burning. The pollen and towpath dust had caught up to me and my asthma was really giving me a hard time.  I  made it home in a bit of discomfort with 69 miles on the odometer. This was easily my longest ride of the year.  But for the asthma attack I could have kept going. Let’s see if I wake up with any back issues tomorrow morning.

 

 

Fritterman Triathlon

I had no plan for the day. It started as most Saturdays. I ran the deck on the crossword puzzles in the paper. I screwed up the Sudoku. I drank all the coffee. With the important business of the day behind me, I decided to do a triathlon.

No, not the Ironman or even the Tinman. I did the Fritterman. It’s the suburban version.

First, event is the Hollin Hall Errandonnee. I rode my bike to the drug store. Then got a haircut. Then picked up ten pounds of birdseed. Then I rode home, stopping along the way to chat with Nancy Duley (on her awesome 1993 Hollands bike) and her friend Stephanie (on her blue bike of a sort I can’t recall). We stood in the road on a sidestreet and gabbed for ten or 15 minutes. (I do hope the folks driving by in SUVs could see that adults in suburbia can indeed function on a Saturday morning without 3,000 pounds of steel.) Then I rode home. Total mileage: 2 1/2 miles.

Back at home I snarfed an apple and went out for round two: the lawn mowing event. I actually like mowing the lawn. Like running and hiking (see below) it has a meditative aspect to it. And I refuse to pay people to do something I learned how to do during the Kennedy administration. I finished this event in 45 minutes.

After the lawn mowing (I came in first), I headed indoors for some nuked left overs. I watched the last three innings of the Nats game on the tube. (The Nats lost. Boo.)

It was 3:30 with plenty of daylight remaining so I drove to Rock Creek Park and hiked ten miles. I hiked the Valley Trail toward Maryland and the Western Ridge Trail back to my start at Pierce Mill. It was hilly. It was muggy. It was my first hike of the year. My legs were hurting at 4 miles. Rather than make it an 8-mile hike, I pushed on. This was a pretty good decision until I missed a turn and hiked down a muddy hill and then back up. And I was doing fine until the last 200 yards back down to Rock Creek. It was pretty much straight down and my legs felt like lead. And I was still hanging in there until I stepped off a curb awkwardly about 100 feet from my car and my back seized.

I made it to the finish.

It is not true that you are given fritters at the end of the Fritterman Triathlon. That’s because I was alone and there were no fritters in sight.

When I got home I looked like Mike Myers’ Middle Aged Man. I may not be able to walk tomorrow.

So it goes.

Spring Training

We are training for spring. Today the temperature on my back deck reached 66 degrees. After weeks of freezing our asses off, the people of DC are all smiles. Except, perhaps, for the tourist I saw crashing on his Segway, but I am getting ahead of myself.

I started the day doing physical therapy for my foot. It was barely numb when I awoke but I decided to forgo yoga or my other exercises and just do what the PT people told me to do. Dang, it hurts. Raise this, lower that, keep your stomach and your butt cheeks tight. After about a half an hour our was done. My stomach muscles wanted to be traded to another body. And the lacrosse ball that is beating the knots out of my calves is seriously in danger of getting thrown out the window. Ouch.

After a morning of relaxation, I headed out the door on Big Nellie. I was bound for an everything bagel in Bethesda, about 24 miles away. It was 50 degrees outside. Yesss.

As I was waiting for cars at an intersection with Fort Hunt Road near my home, an SUV drove by and made friendly tooting sounds with its horn. I have no idea who it was but I waved at them

I made it to the Mount Vernon Trail which was not particularly crowded. In Old Town Alexandria I took South Washington Street. My physical therapist ran past. Small world.

The ride to the city was so peaceful I went on auto pilot. I stopped at Gravelly Point to watch a plane land overhead – easily one of my favorite free things to do.

Over the 14th Street Bridge I rode then up Ohio Drive to M Street to the Capital Crescent Trail. The long ride up to Bethesda took time. Recumbents simply don’t do uphills very well. And since I am not exactly a badass on two wheels let’s just say it took a while.

When I got to Bethesda Row I headed straight for Bethesda Bagels. Since it was well after noon there wasn’t a line. I picked up my everything bagel, toasted with veggie cream cheese and a sweet tea. I proceeded to inhale these comestibles with great vigor. Ah!

I rode the Georgetown Branch Trail over to the Rock Creek Trestle. The trail was somewhat muddy. Recumbents are the best mudders so it was a tense ride. I slipped this way and that several times. The view from the testle differs by time of year. The winter view is, of course, leafless but it’s always fun to be at treetop level with the world. IMG_20150208_142017

I reversed course then headed down into Rock Creek Park. All the climbing has its rewards and for most of the next 7 miles I was cruising downhill. The number of people on Beach Drive was impressive. Many families out riding bikes with their kids. I had to be careful not to hit any of them. They wobble and waver and dart out in front of you unexpectedly.

I got on the trail at Klingle Road. This was a mistake. The trail at this point is narrow and crowded and has numerous bumps from tree routes. Once I reached the zoo entrance, I took Harvard Street to climb into Adams Morgan. It’s a healthy climb, too. To recover from my exertion I took a very slow speed spin through Meridian Hill Park. There was a healthy number of people there, no one I knew though. I rode by the drum circle but there was only one man with drums so I decided to head back home.

I took 16th Street which is a nice straight downhill shot to the White House. Along the way I saw the indefatigible Ted a.k.a @MrTinDC.

I shifted over to the 15th Street cycletrack and got behind a long line of tourists on Segways. Normally, Big Nellie looks weird to people I pass but in a cluser of Segways, Big Nellie doesn’t get a passing glance. At the intersection with Pennsylvania Avenue, the Seqways stopped to regroup. One tourist’s Segway jolted to a stop throwing him to the ground with an audible SPLAT. Should’ve rented bikes.

I crossed back over the river and headed home on the Mount Vernon Trail. It was packed with people, most of whom were oblivious to the fact that some people were actually trying to make forward progress. At the south end of the airport I balied out, opting to cut through Del Ray.

I cut over to Old Town and rejoined the MVT at the southern end of Old Town. Mistake. This part of the trail was every bit as chaotic as what I had bailed out on.There was no point in getting upset about it. I slowed down and took in the madness that warm weather brings. And besides, by this point my legs were started to tell me that all that time off in January had taken its toll on my fitness.

I arrived home. Mrs. Rootchopper had opened the windows. The temperature was 66 degrees. (One degree off the record, so I am told.)

So I ended up riding 170 miles in seven days. Not half bad for winter. Tomorrow is a day off the bike as I am going to three doctors appointments.

We now return to our regularly scheduled winter.

Rock Creek Park on My Own Two Feet

My bikes were tired. I was sick. So I took yesterday off. Today was another story, And this is it.

I’ve lived in DC for 30 years, not including spending the summer here in 1980. And I have never hiked in Rock Creek Park. I’ve biked it. I’ve run it. I’ve even run a 10 mile race in it, but I’ve never taken to the wooded trails that run through the park like blood vessels.

Today, I rectified this in a big way. Starting from Pierce Mill I hiked the Western Ridge Trail to the Maryland line and then crossed the park and hike all the way back on the Valley Trail. I just checked a website that sad that the Valley Trail is 5.5 miles. That means I hoofed it over 11 miles. No wonder I’m tired.

Got Mud?
Got Mud?

For those of you unfamiliar with Rock Creek, it’s a wooded urban canyon that cleaves the Northwest quadrant of DC. I have stayed on the paved bike trail and roads of the park until today. The trails are mostly hard packed dirt. Hilly sections have timbers (and sometimes stairs) across the trails to make it easier to go up and down the sometimes steep hills. The Western Ridge Trail started out steep and a bit rocky but ended up being smooth for the most part. I was moving along pretty well when I spooked a deer (I hope it was a deer) in the bushes next to the trail. 

Up the Western Ridge
Up the Western Ridge

As the name implies, the Western Ridge Trail runs along the ridges on the western edge of the park. This means you have to hike up to the ridge. This was a decent work out. Once to the top the trail rolls up and down, ocassionally popping out on to a street here and there. At one point, in a wooded section, I was surprised to see three horses and their riders coming my way.

The Western Ridge Trail comes back down to the canyon floor at the Maryland/DC line. I cross Beach Drive, the road that runs through the park, and hit the Valley Trail. The Valley Trail was hit or miss. Sometimes it was an unpaved road, sometimes a dirt path through lush greenery. Sometimes it went straight up the side of the canyon. (Hey, where’s my stinking valley?).  It also had an annoying amount of tree routes to negotiate. 

Thankfully, the Valley Trail hung a right just at the end of this bridge
Thankfully, the Valley Trail hung a right just at the end of this bridge

I’m not complaining though.  It’s a damned nice way to spend a summer Sunday morning. Even a little rain didn’t spoil my day. That’s mostly because the tree canopy is so dense that the raindrops rarely made it through. 

I’m ready to get back on the bike now. 

There are a few more pix over on my Flickr page.