Rolling Lawnchairs – a DC Bentabout

Every Memorial Day motorcyclists descend on DC as part of an event called Rolling Thunder. If you live in DC, you can plan on traffic tie ups and long waits at restaurants and crowded taverns. DC residents have learned to go with the flow when these sorts of things happen. (Except parents who are trying to get to day care before the overtime charges hit. The words “road rage” do not do it justice.)

With the Washington Nationals out of town and a hike already under my belt this weekend, it was time for a long ride. I decided to do a bikeabout on Big Nellie, my Tour Easy recumbent.  A bikeabout has no destination. It’s just a meander during which I take a ton of pictures using my point and shoot camera.

I wanted to check out the renovations to the Rock Creek trail. So I headed to DC. The MVT was a zoo, as it always is on nice days on the weekend.  I took my time. Near the beltway I saw Grace as she was headed the opposite way. I don’t know if she recognized me. (She’s never seen me on a recumbent before.)

The tourists had yet to meet critical mass in Old Town Alexandria. I paid close attention to the road ahead and managed to miss a tall ship docked at the southern end of harbor. (Thanks to Emilia who took an Instagram picture and brought it to my attention.)

I stopped at Gravelley Point park near National Airport. Typically, this place is packed on the weekends. Not today. I breezed through.

When I got into DC I was shocked that there were no crowds to contend with. The same cannot be said for the Rock Creek Trail. “Hey, let’s go down to the trail and stand in the middle and talk. We’re important people, you know.”

Must not kill.

The trail was mostly its old self. In parts it was so narrow and worn out that it would accommodate one way traffic only. When I did encounter sections that had been renovated, I was very impressed. Wider. Smoother. Straighter. With new wooden fencing. I can’t wait until it’s done.

Once clear of the trail I had a chance to enjoy Beach Drive which, for much of its length, is closed to cars on weekends and holidays. As I bombed up toward Chevy Chase, I was passed by Mike, a.k.a. @rattlingfender. Mike hosts the official Rootchopper pit stop at the 50 States Ride. I swear I do not pay him for this.

I stopped at the Rock Creek trestle because I like to ride my bike above the tree tops.

Time to head home. I took the Georgetown Branch Trail to Bethesda Row. Normally, I stop for lunch but today I just wanted to get home so I turned on to the Capital Crescent Trail. It was packed. Every time I see it like this I think: if you think a bike trail is a bad thing for your neighborhood, you’re nuts.

I never really had the chance to get any speed going. Every time I got Big Nellie up to cruising speed I had to slow to a crawl because of congestion.

The ride back home featured a strange yellow orb in the sky. What’s up with that?

Also, Gravelley Point Park had filled up. I think they only allow clueless people to use the park on the weekends. One cyclist simply stopped cold in the middle of the trail. No reason.

After the park, the trail squeezes between the Parkway and a secondary runway at the airport. As I approached the squeeze point, a bush was being blown all over the place. The wind was the backwash from a jet about to take off. Being on a recumbent kept me beneath the worst of the blast.

The ride through Old Town was just insane. Cars and bikes and people going every which way. Nobody following any kind of traffic rules. I remarked to another cyclist “This is like being in a video game.” He agreed.

After Old Town, there was nothing but sunny skies and tailwinds. Not a bad way to end a 50-mile holiday jaunt.

For the complete story check out my Flickr album.

 

 

Errandonnee No. 8: Hot Seeds

It promised to be a splendid day. I was really tempted to go for a long ride but decided to do a few minor chores and run a couple of errands. One of the chores was to liberate Big Nellie, my Tour Easy recumbent from the basement where she had been parked all winter. Of course, we had to go for a spin so we rode to the hardware store where I bought some Hot Meats. These are hulled bird seeds mixed with cayenne pepper powder. Squirrels will take one bite, shake their heads, and go elsewhere. No mess. No squirrels. They come in 5, 10, and 25 pound bags. You don’t want to crash and have a bag of this stuff split open on you. While I was tempted to try to transport a 25 pound bag. I chickened out and went for the ten pound bags. It turns out that a 10 pound bag fits perfectly in my old roll top Ortleib pannier.

Miles: 2 1/2

Category:  You Carried What on a Bike?

Observation: I have clipless pedals on only one bike, Big Nellie. The hope was that they would help with nerve problems in my feet. They don’t. And my concern over getting properly unclipped makes me tense. This nerve problem really reduces my use of Big Nellie, down to about 1,000 miles per year. Most of that is because I feel like a should ride it just because it takes up so much space.

From Arte Johnson to Tater Tots in 39 Miles

Those of you old enough to know who Arte Johnson is know that he made famous a couple of bits of schtick. One was a lecherous old man who mumbles and grunts at Ruth Buzzi’s old lady in a hairnet until she whacks him with her purse. The other was of a man on child’s tricycle riding until he falls over sideways.

I pulled Big Nellie, my Tour Easy recumbent, out for the first time in over two months. I planned on looking at colorful leaves and the upright seating position on this bike is just the thing I needed for maximum enjoyment. Sadly, peak foliage around her is at least a week away. (This is great news for those of us who will be riding the Great Pumpkin Ride in Warrenton VA next week, however.) Of course, if I wanted to see foliage, I should have gotten out of bed and driven to the Blue Ridge. But I slept in.

Big Nellie is my only bike with clipless pedals, the kind that attached to the bottom of your shoe. I anticipated that this might be a problem and I wasn’t disappointed. After dodging 4,397 runners, walkers, cyclists, and escaped convicts on the Mount Vernon Trail, I made my way down Union Street in Old Town Alexandria. I had made it half way through the tourist zone near King Street when I came upon a Mazda stopped in front of me at a stop sign. I rolled slowly up to it. It didn’t move. Nobody was in its way. It just didn’t move.

As I came up to its bumper I realized I was going to have to stop. I went to unclip and nothing happened. My left foot wouldn’t release. So I veered to the right of the car as I frantically twisted my foot to no avail. I lost my forward momentum and started falling to the left. I reached out to brace myself on the Mazda’s back left fender. Then it moved and I completed my Arte Johnson and landed on my side on the pavement.

My recumbent seat is only a couple of feet off the ground to begin with. Breaking my fall by contacting the Mazda made the normally uneventful fall even less so. Yet I was still lying on my side in the middle of the street with this ginormous bike attached to me.

A Latina pedestrian came over to help. She was saying something in frantic, accented English but I couldn’t understand her. During the fall, my left foot unclipped but my right foot stayed attached. As she was speaking, I was twisting my right foot and hoping it would release so I could get my body out of the street.

The driver and the passengers in popped out of the car in a panic. ARE YOU OKAY? No, I have a really bruised ego! An my foot is stuck!

A cyclists with gray hair flowing out from under his helmet appeared. Her grabbed my right arm to pull me up. No. Please. I am fine. I just feel like a complete dweeb lying in the street with this chaise lounge attached to my right foot.

Finally, my right foot released and I stood up. Latina smiled. Gray hair bike rider looked relieved. Mazda people got back in car free from the fear that they had somehow contributed to the clumsiest cycling accident of the month. (As I write this four hours later, only my left knee feels any pain. Mostly from getting whacked by the bike’s top tube as I twisted my right leg to free it.)

Well, if any of the people who were there are reading this, thanks for your concern.

I continued riding up the trail of a million weekend warriors until I reached Teddy

Teddy

Roosevelt Island. I ride by TR Island every day on my way to work, but the last time I set foot on it was at least 20 years ago.

 

I locked the bike and went for a calming walk on its dirt trails. The island is an oasis of green in the Potomac River only a few hundred yards from the Sunday brunchers on the riverfront in Georgetown. It would be an incredibly relaxing place but the noise from airplanes flying into National Airport and the cars rumbling across the Teddy Roosevelt Bridge ruined the ambiance.

Teddy Trail

Before leaving I did an Interwebs search for pizza. I was hungry. There’s an Italian place right next to the Custis Trail about 2 miles away. It’s called The Italian Place. Damned clever if you ask me. So I rode up the long hill out to Rosslyn then up some more until the universe decided I had had enough. After a half mile down hill run, I came to the place. They should change its name to The Place with the Incredibly Long Line. I was took a number. 87. Then I heard them call “47!” I walked out.

I continued on the trail up/down/up/down/up/down etc. Until I came to a flat stretch. Lance Mamilot came riding past from the other direction. He blew a snot rocket to his right. Then just as I reached him he blew one to his left. What an asshole! I got a misty spray of his nasal excretions on my left leg. Ewwww!

At the W&OD Trail I headed back toward home. Nineteen miles down, only 17 miles to go. I decided to leave the trail at US 1 and work my way through the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria. I stopped at Del Ray Pizzeria. I was going to get t

Burp

hat pizza after all. Sadly, they don’t serve individual slices. This was almost as upsetting as the snot rocket and the Arte Johnson. I had a cheese steak instead.  It was humongous. I looked great but did not live up to its visual wonderfulness. It was probably a good cheese steak as cheese steaks go, but I am not much of a cheese steak person. Nick Hornby once remarked that there are well written books that are poorly read. Perhaps this was a good cheese steak that was poorly tasted.

In any case, the cheese steak came with tater tots. Tater tots cure everything. I’ll bet that if Arte Johnson ate tater tots, he’d have stayed upright.

 

 

 

Milestone No. 2: Big Nellie Turns 40

Big Nellie is my Easy Racers Tour Easy recumbent. I bought her in 2001 or 2002 when I thought The Mule was on its last legs. (At the moment, The Mule is laughing in the shed with over 41,000 miles on its odometer.)

So today, with trumpets blaring as I rode between the scenic warehouses of Old Town Alexandria, Big Nellie turned 40,000 miles. She was quite impressed with herself. On to the next milestone later this week or early next week. Stay tuned.

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Errands Numbers 4 and 5

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 w24965491973_afc39dff93_m.jpgas 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.

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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.

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Errandonnee Control Card Entry No. 4

Category: Work

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.

Big Nellie Turns 39 – Are You Kidding Me?

A few days ago The Mule’s odometer tripped past 40,000 miles. Today, Big Nellie passed 39,000 miles. I bought Big Nellie, an Easy Racers Tour Easy recumbent, in the early 2000s. For several years I rode it exclusively, including three bike tours. Then a nerve probl25053606189_f1fb32a525_m.jpgem cropped up in my left foot. This was a Morton’s neuroma and felt like a nail going through my left foot. Once that was more or less under control, a different nerve problem cropped up in my right foot, it went numb when I rode Big Nellie. I do exercises to control this condition every other day.

Now that both problems seem to under control, I can ride Big Nellie again. Riding a recumbent may look geeky but it a blast. A passing MAMIL made a sarcastic remark to me tonight as I rode home. I didn’t say anything back. I feel sorry for him. He doesn’t know what he’s missing.

 

Triple Play for Punxatawney Phil

As every American knows, Punxatawney Phil is a groundhog who comes out of his hole on Groundhog Day (dang, isn’t that clever). If he sees his shadow, there will be six more weeks of winter. If not, liberation! Lord only knows how this myth got started.

At least Phil isn’t as politically dubious as Indian summer.

So today was the first, honest to god springlike day of the year. It took about six hours of daylight to get going in earnest, but temperatures eventually rose into the high 60s.

I started the day warming up for Errandonnee 2016. This was once called the Utilitaire, a name I prefer only to annoy the Goddess of Errands.  Whatever it’s called, it’s all about doing errands by bike. Today, I took my neglected recumbent, Big Nellie, out for some chores. Our first stop was the dry cleaners. I could use a dry cleaner in our office building but I like the people who run the shop near my house. You have to support nice people. Even if their shop is on US 1 in Fairfax County. Not to put to fine a point on it, US 1 is an abomination. It sucks in every conceivable way. And it’s even worse if you are on a bike. If you don’t support nice people, you get not nice people. Nice people are more better.

Next stop was the clothes donation bin. This was on the opposite side of US 1 so I got to play with cars. None of them hit me.

I crossed back over US 1 and made for the local hardware store. The clothes donation bin was 100 yards from a Home Depot. The hardware store is run by nice people (one of the owners rides a bike up and down the Mount Vernon Trail in the mornings). They sell all sorts of useful stuff. Until you buy a house you probably don’t shop at hardware stores. For homeowners, hardware stores are like a toy store. They are filled with all sorts of interesting stuff. Ours sells 25 pound bags of shelled bird seed covered with cayenne pepper. It’s expensive but the squirrels don’t like it and the birds do. I bought a bag and dropped it in my old pannier. The ride home was a bit lopsided but Big Nellie was up to the task.

With the Errandonnee practice run complete, I turned my attention to my bete noire: Not the Bryan Ferry record, squeaky brakes. According to Google, “squeeky brakes” is
“freins grinçants” en Francais. Why didn’t I learn this in 4 1/2 years of studying French?

First I worked on Big Nellie’s back brakes. This involves putting this huge bike in a bike workstand, adjusting the brakes, taking the bike out of the stand, going for a test ride and repeating. All the while dropping F bombs, because you really need three hands and I only have two. (If we survive climate change, humans will sprout a retractable third hand from their appendixes. And I bet  you thought it was a useless vestigial organ.)

It took me only two tries and about 20 F bombs but I silenced the squeal.

Next I put The Mule in the stand and went at it. The brakes on Big Nellie are V-brakes. The brakes on The Mule are cantilevers. The adjustment is the same but you need an additional tool (a wrench) to work on cantilevers. This ups the f-bomb count substantially. Fortunately, The Mule isn’t as ungainly as Big Nellie so it’s easier to get into the stand. After about 15 minutes I had silenced the truly irritating screech from both front and rear brakes.

After a quick lunch, I hopped on Big Nellie for a reward ride. I rode over to the Mount Vernon Trail which was busy with families. Many of them had free range toddlers. If you want to identify suboptimal parents, just go to the busiest trail in the mid Atlantic on a warm, sunny day and look for the ones with free range toddlers. As a reformed suboptimal parent, I sympathize and ride especially carefully around these people. There are also the our-kid-got-a-bike-for-Christmas-let’s-go-get-them-killed parents. I know its a “bike path” but it’s got MAMILs and teenagers on it and your kid can’t ride in a straight line yet. DON’T BRING THEM TO A TRAIL!!! Sorry. Life’s not fair. (You can trust Scar on this.)

After a ride across the Woodrow Wilson Bridge sidepath which was filled with British sympathizers (they all seemed to walk on the left today), I rode down into Jones Point Park. Here I saw several optimal parents. They were teaching their kids to ride their bikes off the trail in the big paved area under the bridge. If you have a kid who’s learning to ride a bike TAKE THEM TO JONES POINT PARK. It even has nice bathrooms. And a rudder from a World War I ship.

I rode through Old Town to Four Mile Run, then came back through Del Ray. People were out and about. Cabin fever was being cured. Smiles abounded.

I took the Park Terrace hill on the way home. Riding hills on a recumbent is not big fun, but I needed a challenge. The grind put me in a trance and somehow I found myself riding over the crest of the hill.

So there you have it. Errands, Bike maintenance. Lazy ride.

A triple play on a sunny day.

Thanks Phil. See you in about three weeks.

 

Cold Monday, Big Rides

Winter came back. I thought we had this thing licked. Apparently not.

I chose to ride Big Nellie to work. I haven’t ridden the Big one to work in many months. I left early. It was dark. And cold. No worries. I just pedaled my ass off until I warmed up.

I was pleased that the wooden bridges had no frost on them. The whole way to DC.

On the asphalt north of the Memorial Bridge black ice coated the trail in a few spots. No guts, no glory. I rode straight across the ice. Each section was maybe 10 feet long.

At work I parked Big Nellie next to my boss’s Yuba Mundo. That was a lot of bikeage.

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Having ridden to work early I was looking forward to riding home in the daylight. Alas, work ran long and I left after dark. I’ll get even with the daylight gods soon. In about a month or two. Just wait.

It was about 10 degrees warmer for the ride home. No black ice. Just a shocking number of bike commuters. Go #bikedc!!!!

 

Recumbents and Vultures and Toros

January 2 is a pretty big disappointment. The day after the New Year is so pathetic sounding. Christmas gets Boxing Day. Thanksgiving gets Black Friday. Even Halloween gets All Saints Day. (Okay, July 5 doesn’t really cause goosebumps but it’s summer time and nobody much cares about goosebumps. Unless you are in Tierra del Fuego. If you are in Tierra del Fuego, you deserve whatever you get.)

Bored and wanting just to get out of the house, I took a spin on my long neglected recumbent, Big Nellie. I had no where to go and wasn’t in a hurry to get there. I decided to ride up toward National Airport and see how the new 50 yard stretch of the Mount Vernon Trail was sizing up.

In Belle Haven Park, three vultures circled in the sky above. Were they expecting me to die? (No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to RIDE.)

As for the trail repair at the airport, it’s wider than before. Straighter than before. And bumpier than before. I guess they haven’t de-bumped it yet. Can’t wait. I was getting sick of the detour through the mulch.

I didn’t see anyone I knew and my feet were starting to get cold (it was in the mid-40s) so I rode home on the new Potomac Yard bike trail. This trail is nice and wide but it merges with a sidewalk at haphazard intervals. An old man in a sweatsuit doddered across the trail/sidewalk directly in front of me. Good thing I have the reflexes of a 60-year old so I could avoid him. (You politely use terms like “old man” and “dodder” when you ride a recumbent. It says so in the user’s manual.)

About two miles from home, as I approached the stone bridge, I heard an ominous, horrifying noise from behind a wooden fence. It was a lawn mower. Are you effing kidding me? I was feeling very mindful and peaceful and stuff so I let the fool do his yard work in peace.

So there you have it. My exciting first ride of the year. You should take a nap now. That’s what I’m going to do.

Long Game, Longer Season

When I choose my commuting bike of the day, I often consider whether I will be doing something in DC in the evening. This week is no exception because the Nats are playing seven home games in a row. If I am going to hang out in town, I pick either Little Nellie or The Mule. They both have toe clips and straps which allows me to wear walking shoes. Yesterday, I didn’t have any plans so I chose Big Nellie which has clipless pedals.

In the afternoon, I received a message from Ed to go to the Nats game that night. Clipless or not, I’m in!

I rode to Nats Park without incident until I got to First Street NE. There a driver moved into the bike lane without signalling as I was approaching. I yelled at him and he proceeded onward nearly running over a pedestrian in a cross walk. If his timing were a little better he could have killed two people in the space of 20 yards.

I parked at the Bike Valet and headed to my seat. It was Jason Werth Chia Pe20318775242_ed33e577a4_zt night. Werth has a massive amount of facial hair so this made some sense. This and the Presidents’ race featuring a Chia Abe (he won) pretty much convinces me that the Nats promo department puts peyote buttons on their Nats Dogs.  And, of course, nothing says family-friendly like celebrating the only player on the team who has been in jail during the past year.

I met Ed in section 305 and a ball game broke out. It was a slow contest, made slower by the Nationals creeping incompetence. The Arizonas (their DBACKS logo looks from a distance like WHACKS) tried to give the Nats the game in the early going but the hometown team would have none of it. The Nats’ starting pitcher gave up hits and walks like Chia Pets. After being allowed to bat to end an inning he gave up a hit to the first batter he faced and was removed from the game. 35,000 fans wondered why hit was not pinch hit for. Oh, well. What do we know? The Nats brought in another, more generous thrower who managed to turn a swinging bunt into a 2-run triple. A third pitcher balked in a run. It was like a clinic in how not to play major league baseball. For the first time in ten years of baseball in DC, the crowd booed. And booed. And booed. People in the stands were making all kinds of nasty remarks. The only real cheers came when the Nats, now down 11-2, threw in the towel and brought in their back up first baseman to pitch.  (A move somewhat akin pulling the goalie in a lost cause hokey game) He quickly retired two batters, giving him an ERA of 0.00.

The only thing worse than the game were the undercooked vegan hot dogs I ate. They tasted flavorless and had the texture of a boiled doggie chew toy. Ack. It makes me wonder if bowls of steamed veggies and rice would sell at the ball park. Seriously. It would be way better than most of the crap, veggie or not, that they sell.

The game ran four hours. We left our seats and headed for home with the few thousand other fans who value depression over a good night’s sleep.

Ed and I rode down the I Street bike lane. As a stop light turned green two motorbikes did right hooks in front of me, nearly hitting me. Only 14 long, dark miles to go.

Actually, the rest of the ride home was nice. I know because Ed must have said “This ride is nice” at least 20 times. The Gnats weren’t even out so we could ride home without an involuntary protein snack.

I arrived home just before 1 am. In bed after 2, I awoke at 6 and rode to work.

By 3 pm I was in very strong disagreement with Chico Escuela.

I am hoping that Friday night’s game has a lot less suck.