As it gets warmer and lighter, we begin to see signs of spring. Today I saw my first new bike commuter. I’ll call her “Robin.”
There is a short connector trail that links the Custis Trail along I-66 with the Mount Vernon Trail along the Potomac River. The connector trail starts/ends at the Intersection of Doom. Along side the trail is a little used service road that goes basically nowhere. It is often confused with the connector trail.
As I reached the IoD traffic light on the connector trail, I spotted Robin coming from the Key Bridge toward the IoD. She looked confused and started to turn down the service road. We made eye contact and I shook my head “no.” Then I motioned with my head “this way.” (My hands were busy braking.) She immediately got the point and veered off the service road. As she rode past me she said, “Thanks. It’s my first bike commute.” Based on her gear – bike with rack and panniers – she was not an inexperienced rider; she was just new to commuting in DC. She would have figured out her mistake so I saved her all of 20 seconds. Nevertheless it felt good to help a fellow traveler.
So here’s a reminder to all #bikedc commuter. Spring is almost here and, with it, many Robins. It doesn’t take much to help them out. Maybe just a nod or a shake of the head. Give them directions or offer to lead the way. Invite them to one of the scads of bike commuter coffee get-togethers. Tell them about upcoming local events like the Vasa Ride.
Be Kind to Clueless Touroids
And while I am on the subject of being kind, we are just a few weeks away from the massive influx of tourists. Tourists in DC think they know where they are and what they are doing because they see DC on TV every night. The truth is most of them are clueless. Be kind to them. (Yes, I admit I lose my cool with five abreast cherry blossom tourists on the trails. I will try to be more patient this year.) Be especially kind to the ones from far away lands, particularly those who do not speak English. If you’ve ever been disoriented in a place far away, you know how frustrating and scary it can be. The people you help will long remember what you did for them.
Later in the morning I had to go to CVS for some things. I decided not to bother with a sweater or jacket since it’s only a block away and 45 degrees is tolerable in shirt sleeves. I was totally comfortable. I spotted a woman walking toward me in a cross walk. She had on a heavy winter coat, oversized sunglasses, and big ear muffs. I stifled a laugh and wondered if her last name was Shackleton. Then I realized she was a friend of a friend, the kind you know of but don’t actually know. Derp. I guess it’s not spring for everyone yet.
There was a chill in the air this morning. Since I was riding Big Nellie, I decided to wear tights. Cold air up your pants leg causes shrinkage and other discomforts.
It was a meditative ride. I find myself riding much faster now that I am not all layered up and now that I don’t pay a wind chill penalty for speed.
All was going well until a large young man passed me on a mountain bike.Judging by the effort he was putting into going 13 miles per hour and his clothing, I’d say he was new to bike commuting. Speaking of clothing, he wore shiny, baggy gym shorts. The kind that, unfortunately, slide down. After he passed I found myself right behind him, staring unavoidably at his bug fat hairy butt crack. BFHBC will ruin any ride. This went on for about a half mile because I was unable to pass him. I’ll take freezing cold weather over BFHBCs any day. I passed him on the small hill south of National Airport. He had to stop at the top, an elevation gain of no more than 20 feet. For the sake of the rest of the bike commuters, I hope he was adjusting his shorts.
On the way home I stopped at the bank (again) to deposit a check. So another errand hits the books.
Errand No. 9
Category: Personal Business (2nd use of this category)
Miles: -1/4 mile (the diversion reduces the length of my commute)
Observation: The day was so nice that even a BFHBC couldn’t ruin my ride to work. Aren’t you glad I didn’t take a picture? Rebecca, the Commissioner of the Office Bike Commuting Matrix, found one online.
On a more serious note: George Martin died. I have been a Beatle fan since I was a little kid. George Martin produced the soundtrack of my life, both directly through the Beatles recordings and indirectly through his influence on so many others. He was incredibly talented. In recent years as digital recordings became available, you could hear how he used tricks to cover mistakes and other unfortunate things in Beatle records. McCartney’s voice cracking on a high note in “If I Fell.” Covering the “me” with a McCartney bass note at the begining of “Come Together” when Lennon sings “Shoot me” repeatedly. His string arrangement on “Yesterday” made my mother, a fan of Robert Goulet and Dean Martin, recognize that the Beatles were making real music. RIP.
One thing I like about the Errandonnee is I get credit for riding to work. So chalk up an easy one for Big Nellie and me. I started riding with temperatures in the 30s. I was comfy in my winter get up but by the time I got to work it was pretty warm in all those layers. Dressing is going to be a bit of challenge for the next few weeks. When I got to work somebody had locked a road bike to the floor bike rack. There are 18 hanging racks for wedgies (conventional bikes) and 2 spaces on the floor for unconventional bikes like my boss’s Yuba Mundo and Big Nellie. I was tempted to put a note on the bike explaining that he/she was commiting a bike room faux pas. Mais non.
My second errand of the day was to ride my bike to a happy hour with my co-workers. Admittedly this was a two block ride but we must show the Errandonnee flag whenever we can.
Tonight I drive back to work to pick up some boxes. Boxes > Allison. We are having our wood floors refinished in a month so we have to move all of our stuff from the top two levels of our house.
Errandonnee Control Card Entry No. 4
Distance: 29 miles round trip
Observation: Big Nellie used admirable restraint in not crushing the fool who took her parking space today.
Entry No. 5
Category: Social Call – Office Happy Hour
Distance: 1/2 mile (if that)
Observation: Riding through the Intersection of Doom after drinking two pints of ale is a sobering experience.
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.
The day began with a backpack and a driver’s license on my front lawn. Hmmm. Watson, the needle! I left them there and awaited developments. Twenty minutes later I noticed a police car parked across the street. Then a policeman came walking to the car. I went outside and pointed out the backpack and the license. A clue! Excitement. Somebody get me a meerschaum pipe! The game’s afoot! It turns out someone had broken into some cars up the street and dropped the backpack as they left the area. Maybe they’d try to take some prints off the license. Maybe not.
But that’s not what this post is about..
When you ride through the winter you have to put up with annoying clothing layers and frozen toes. What you get in return is blissfully empty bike trails. Today was the first spring-like day of the year. All the people who spent their winters binge watching Downton Walking Dead were outside enjoying the weather. Many of them came to the bike trails. A few of them came with athletic fantasies.
After filing my taxes I hopped on Big Nellie and headed out for some blissfully warm riding. I made my way to the Mount Vernon Trail beginning about three miles south of the Beltway. I was surprised that it wasn’t busy at all. I rode through Belle Haven Park which is usually busy with people crossing the trail. No surprise there.
Not wanting to tempt fate, I rode over the Woodrow Wilson Bridge. On the far side I rode down the spiral trail. Spirals are a blast on a recumbent.
Then it was the long slog up Oxon Hill. Hills are not a blast on a
recumbent.You look like Fred Flintstone doing the pee pee dance, spinning your ass off and going nowhere.
Instead of riding back down to the river via Oxon Hill Farm, I took a series of access roads along side Indian Head Highway. I traded scenery for a more direct route. Then I turned off Oxon Hill Road and got lost.
I rode through one low-income housing project after another. So scenic. So damned hilly. At least the people were nice. Anacostia has a very high crime rate but on sunny spring days you’d never know it. Mostly you see people coming and going from church dressed in Sunday best. It helps to be on a recumbent. Little kids go “Wow” and adults get a (usually) silent laugh out of the sight of me.
I rode through Anacostia Park along the Anacostia River to Benning Road then crossed over into a maze of streets, few of which seem to go continuously east. I was headed for Bicycle Space’s K Street NW shop to buy a mirror for Big Nellie. I had $66 of gift card money left over from my birthday so I decided to ride 20 miles to use it up rather than simply buy the same mirror at my local bike store near my house.
I made my way up H Street hoping to spot the new trolley car. I didn’t see it but the rails made me wary of catching a wheel and crashing. Trolley cars are a pain if you are a cyclist. Actually, they are a pain if you are anything but a trolley car rider. I rode the trolley in Boston all the time. I loved it. In most places in Boston, the trolley is physically separated from the cars. Not on H Street.
I survived. I made it to Bicycle Space then made my way home. The Mall was packed with tourists. The streets were packed with wannabe tourists in cars looking for parking spaces. Maybe they could put a trolley along the Mall in a loop. Like they have in downtown Melbourne Australia. (The loop trolley in Melbourne is free too.) This would require taxes and coordination. Things American government doesn’t know how to do. Vote for me. I’ll put a wall around the Mall and make the tourist pay for it.
I made my way up 15th Street which had some traffic lights out of service. Joy. Not.
As I turned onto Maine Avenue near the Tidal Basin, a bicyclists heading the opposite way yelled “Hello.” I waved clumsily as I rode over some irregularities in the road. I learned later that it was Ted, a.k.a. Mr T in DC. He looks nothing like the Mr T from the Rocky movie. I suppose this is a good thing.
As I rode over the 14th Street Bridge it began. A woman was looking out over the river to the right. She was pulling a suitcase. She decided to carry on in the direction of Virginia and immediately headed for the left side of the trail directly into the path of a DC-bound cyclist.
I slowed allowing him to swerve around her. I told her as I rode past, walk on the right. I looked in my mirror. She was still on the left.
The Mount Vernon Trail was absolutely packed with people of all ages. Cyclists, walkers, kids, old people, prams, skateboards. Many folks were walking three abreast creating pinch points for everyone else. Good to see you are having a nice time folks. With uncharacteristic calm and patience (I am a former Boston cabbie so just don’t push me too far okay?) I made my way through the throngs. It was actually pretty nice but for one thing: the fair weather cyclists who decide that today is the day that they will instantaneously get in shape and become Lance Mamilstrong!! Yes, with their amazing cycling skill they’ll ride headlong into the mass of peaceful trail users.Everyone will get out of their way because they are…..Lance Mamilstrong, cyclist in tights!
For the record I didn’t put one pump into the spokes of one passing Lance Mamilstrong (like that mean Italian in Breaking Away. Everybody cheats. I just didn’t know). I didn’t swear. I just went with the flow. Slowly.
I made it home with a smile on my face. Even Lance Mamilstong couldn’t ruin such a fine day.
A few more days like today though and I’ll be praying for a return of cold weather.
I don’t know who to blame but the weather today looked springlike but felt like winter. The wind was blowing. It was about 20 degrees below normal. And I, of course, was in denial. I stupidly left the house underdressed for the cold and froze my ass off riding to Friday Coffee Club. I I did manage to see one bald eagle on the way but this bird had its back to me as it was taking in the early morning sun. He was probably thinking: “I will not look at a fool.”
Since the calendar says April 24, the Friday Coffee Club gang sat outside in the shade. I was tempted to pour my coffee over my head but I drank it instead. I endured the cold for about 45 minutes before jumping on my bike and riding into the teeth of a now-stronger wind as I made my way up G Street through George Washington University. This is no fun, thought I.
I thought things would improve once I cleared the wind tunnel formed by the buildings of Foggy Bottom. Wrong. It got worse. Much worse. The headwind turned into a side wind as I cross the Potomac on the too narrow side path on the Teddy Roosevelt bridge. The damned wind nearly knocked me over several times. Ayyy! I don’t know if the little wheels on Little Nellie were contributing to my wobbliness. (Yes, that’s a word because I just used it.)
My the time I reached the Virginia side of the river, the right side of my face was numb. Memo to God: this is April! Please hit the reset button. K? Thx.
Maybe God’s in denial. Maybe he or she is just stubborn.
Before we get into today’s events, an update on the migration patterns of the East Coast bicycle tourists. I had previously seen a single northbound bike tourist on the Mount Vernon Trail on two occasions in the last week or so. Friday night I spotted one man, Asian, about 30 years old give or take five years. (Suffice it to say, I stink at guessing people’s ages.) About a minute later, three more Asian men of about the same age rode by. It’s a sure sign of spring. They looked like they were having a blast.
Spring is really happening now. Dogwoods, lilacs, tulips, and redbuds all in bloom. Soon ducklings and gosslings will make their debuts and tortoises will lay their eggs along the edge of the trail.
Now back to today.
Anybody who knows me knows that I am a baseball fan. When Tony Conigliaro was beaned on my 12th birthday, I became a Red Sox fan living in Yankee country. It wasn’t easy. In 1973 I started college at Boston University. I became a Sawx addict. My sophomore year in a dorm about 1 block from the Citgo sign in Kenmore Square and 3 blocks from Fenway Park’s green monster. I drove a cab in Boston during the summer of 1975. I had to walk past the green monster every day to get to the cab company. During the summer many of the passengers wanted to talk about the Sawx. The Boston Globe had the best sports page EVER.
I learned that baseball is about the arc of the season not about each individual game. I went nuts during the fabled sixth game of the ’75 nWorld Series, and mourned at the feeble end of the seventh. In ’78, I learned Bucky Dent’s middle name. (It begins with F.) In ’86 I yelled at the TV “Where’s Stapleton?” wanting to see first-baseman Bill Buckner’s defensive replacement in the sixth game of the 1986 series against the Mets. My kids watched mesuffer as the Yankees won the 2003 playoffs on an Aaron Boone home run. And they watched daddy completely lose his mind going “Cowboy Up!” during their amazing come from behind stomping of the evil empire in 2004. And they won the Series to boot. Mercy. The next two pennants were fun but anticlimactic although I think 2013 was some sort of divine intervention after the sickening Boston Marathon bombing.
Now I have turned my attention to my new home.
The Nationals are loaded like Ron White on a bender. Their line up is the Death Star. They remind me of the 1978 Red Sox in that they have thunder in their bats Rooting for the Nats is meant to be. They were once the Montreal Expos. My father took us up to Montreal to see Willie Mays and the Giants play the Expos in Jarry Park. Willie didn’t play that day but I have a fond memory of sitting in the smallest major league park on a lovely August day. And besides the Expos gave Boston Pedro!
Tomorrow I go to my first Nats game of the season. I will try to refrain from yelling “LETS GO EXPOS!” during the game. I will bike the 14 miles to the stadium for the first time since that impossibly sad day last September.
Today I spent the day getting stuff out of the way for tomorrow’s fun. I picked up my holey sweaters at the dry cleaner. After a somber ceremony, they will be put in storage for next winter. Then I washed all my winter bike clothes. My jacket and vest were both disgustingly dirty. I had no hope they’d come clean but I will be damned if they don’t look like new. IMoving outdoors, I removed raised beds from our back yard. They had failed to produce more than a handful of veggies for several years. After an hour plus of digging dirt, I think it’s time for someone to invent a dirt version of the Wovel.
Next I mowed the lawn, learning in the process that it was mighty hot out for mid April. Dehydrated, I decamped to the family room and watched the second half of the Nats game. (They lost. We’ll get them tomorrow.)
After the game I took The Mule out for an easy spin to check the bald eagle nests along the Mount Vernon Trail. I saw one eagle in the massive nest at Fort Hunt Park. I didn’t see any other eagles at the four nests between the stone bridge and Tulane Drive, but I did run into Reba, fellow bike commuter and Friday Coffee Clubber. She was looking for the nests without much luck so I took her on a tour. It’s a good thing she was looking today because in about a week the leaves on the trees will make the nests very hard to find, even if you know where to look. We didn’t see much eagle action but at least Reba knows where they are.
Winter clothing is cleaned. Chores are done. Legs are refreshed.
This week was doing so well. I had two bike commutes to start the week. Then zipless monkey conversation on Wednesday. Thursday was cool but the riding was pleasant. Then came Friday. I had been absent from Friday Coffee Club for too long. Ice on the Mount Vernon Trail and a business trip kept me away.
It was 35 degrees and raining when I left the house. No.
Then the rain turned to ice pellets. No. Just no.
We are supposed to be seeing cherry blossoms right about now.
So the ice pellets turned to snowflakes. I went with it. Lemons and lemonade. Dalai Lama Palmer plays it as it lays.
I stuck my tongue out as I rode. Time for my inner boy to come out. (I dialed it back though. In my grammar school days, I used to ride my bike down the street and jump off to see how far the bike would go before it wobbled to the ground. (Quite a long way if you are wondering.) Misery turned to play.
I arrived at coffee club with cold wet feet. I broke my SEC (Stop eating crap) rule and had a fritter. Comfort food.
Mary, Queen Errandonnista, was giving out patches. I didn’t take one but she held one up and took my picture for the historical record. Lis did take one and, true to my pathetic photography skills, I took a blurry picture.
I rode with Brian down G Street after coffee. My waterproof gloves were full of cold rain water. It was a squishy ride to work.
The ride home was better. This time of year I often bring some extra cycling gear. Yesterday I brought an extra pair of gloves. Good thing to as my morning gloves were still soaking wet.
The ride home was filled with duck quacks. In just a matter of days, the duck (mostly mallards) population has exploded. Duck weather isn’t all that good for cycling.
It is now Saturday morning. 37 degrees outside. The first full day of spring. I’m just sittin’ here doin’ time. I’d rather be riding. And seeing cherry blossoms on the trees.
Having survived a couple of atypically stressful days of bike commuting, I was looking forward to doing some errands by bike today. Mother nature was not on board.
Shortly after waking, I did my 45 minute yoga routine (doctor’s orders) and 15 minutes of less than fruitful meditation. Yoga and meditation are supposed to go hand in hand but I spend so much effort concentrating on my form and my breathing while doing yoga that I have nothing left for the sedentary portion of the program.
I am getting a bit better at balancing which is not saying a whole lot. My routine ends with one pose that involves sitting on your lower legs and leaning back. This is supposed to lead to the reclining warrior pose. The reclining warrior involves leaning all the way back until your head and shoulders rest on the floor. Very relaxing. That is of course if you don’t have bicycle quads and bad knees. I am lucky if I can get to a 45 degree angle before my knees start chanting, “Fuck yoga, Fuck you.” Be one with your cartilage is my mantra.
Suffice it to say, I do only as much as I can. The can’t poses all involved stressing the quads or doing a headstand. It still amazes me that at one time in my life I could actually do a free standing head stand. It is also true that at one time in my life I drank heavily. Coincidence? I think not.
Having endured my weekly self abuse session, I decided that the howling wind and 23 degree temperature was not bike friendly. I drove to Huntley Meadows Park for a walk in the woods. Please don’t tell anyone but Huntley Meadows is an oasis of calm in a sea of suburban ick. A trail through the park makes something of a figure eight. About 1/3 of the trail is a boardwalk out into a wetland.
As a kid I spent many a summer day on Dead Man’s Pond in Albany. Big sections of tree trunks made for awesome rafts that we would pole across the scum-covered water. To my nine year old eyes, Dead Man’s was enormous. In reality, it was probably smaller than an acre in size. Not true of the wetlands at Huntley Meadows.
The recent decision to allow beavers to do their thing has greatly expanded the wetlands. Only a few years ago, the swamp would drain completely during parts of the year. Now the waters go well into what was once woodland. Beaver lodges are all over the place. I think the most interesting thing about the wetlands is that it never looks the same from visit to visit. Today it was iced over. A couple of times my weight on the boardwalk put stress on the ice and it made a surreal creaking sound. The wind kept my time on the boardwalk to a minimum. Thankfully, only a few other people were in the park. Once I made it back into the woods all I could hear was the sound of the wind, the groaning the trees, and the occasional chirp of a chickadee.
I did two laps through the park, warming as I went. On my final circuit a couple with three young boys stopped and pointed into the woods. A small deer was about 100 yards away munching something on the ground.
I drove home and figured the animal portion of the day was over. As I pulled into the driveway, I spotted six robins bounding on my front lawn. An hour later, Mrs. Rootchopper, camera in hand, woke me from a brief nap. A fox was hanging out in the backyard. It’s the first fox sighting we’ve had since last spring.
Being confronted with adversity in your life is inevitable. Just keep in mind that it does not have to defeat you. Adversity is often short lived. Giving up is what makes it permanent. As a certified fitness professional, this blog is my way of helping you feel capable of anything.