Cold Rain and Hot Blooberry Soop

Today was the Vasa ride, the kickoff to the #bikedc event season. This event is staged by the Washington Area Bicyclists Association in collaboration with the House of Sweden, the Swedish Embassy.

Instead of riding – I’ve done the ride at least four times, and ridden the course(s) many more – I decided to volunteer. I was assigned to work on the early morning shift. When I awoke at 5:17 am (digital alarm clock) I could hear rain pelting the windows. Not good. The weather report called for cold rain or snow until about the time of the ride(s) – there are four Vasa rides to choose from – start.

I drove to DC. My advanced meteorological training told me it was yucky. I parked a block from the start and walked over to find WABA’s Nick Russo and Jon Gonzales hard at work in a cold, light rain. They had already set out several temporary bike racks. A few volunteers were gathering and soon we were putting up canopies and bike racks and sign in tables and such. We had the whole thing set up in minutes.

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Nick

The ride was sold out but there were many no shows. Traffic at the check in tables was slow but steady. I had the good fortune of working with Lesly Jones. I met Leslie years ago on a 50 States Ride. She is all positive energy. I have ridden parts of 3 or 4 50 States Rides with her. She is the only bicyclist I have ever met who uses echolocation to navigate. She talks nonstop, except when she is laughing. She is one very serious bicyclist. Last year she rode cross country. Lesly is a force.

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Lesly

From time to time the wind would pick up. We were standing in one place for long periods of time and our fingers and toes were going numb. Lesly stayed positive. Me not so much. Then my finger started bleeding. (I took off a chunk of skin yesterday while closing a padlock.) Lesly found me a bandage. The only person who didn’t seem to be all that cold was Nick who seemed to be wearing less clothing than the rest of us. Nick’s motto is “Don’t blame me, I’m from Massachusetts.” He is impervious to cold weather. I hate him. (Just kidding.)

Despite the weather the riders seemed to be in a good mood. You might say they were rolling with it. Many dropped from longer rides to shorter ones. One woman decided not to ride but came down to the start saying, “I came for the blueberry soup.”

A few of my friends cancelled because of the weather. Paul stayed home to eat quiche. Ryan decided to binge watch the Gilmore Girls. Still, I saw several more people I knew. Scuba enthusiast Michael B showed up in a wet suit. (I thought the aqualung was overkill, to be honest.) Some people were a tad grumpy, but I think most were simply wanting to get moving to warm up.

The standing around was making my legs feel like concrete posts. At about this time, the last of the riders hit the road. This final group was doing the 8 mile family ride. It was led by a dad riding a long cargo bike. He had one kid in the box in front and another on a trailer bike in the back. Riding in the rear of the group was a pedicab. Not to be outdone, one of the longer routes was ridden by a man in a velomobile.

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Two kids – not a problem

After the riders were gone we made quick work of putting all the check-in stuff back in the rental truck. I went into the Swedish embassy to get some blooberry soop. It was hot and tasted awesome. I chatted with a few folks before my body decided it was time to go home and recover the sleep that I had lost.

Of course, it’s pretty nice outside.

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I May Be Old…

With superb weather on tap for the three day weekend, I had been working on a plan to bike and hike like a maniac. After one day it is apparent that I failed to factor some basic truths in to my thinking.

1. I am old.

2. Eating a shit ton of Christmas cookies has added dead weight to my aging carcass.

3. I have not ridden a hard ride in months.

So the plan was to ride to Whites Ferry and back, an all day, 100-mile loop that is basically flat. But it was cold in the early morning so I decided to do a somewhat shorter ride.

I don’t know why 90 miles struck me as easy but that’s what my brain locked onto. I have never ridden the full 59-mile Vasa ride called the Vasaloppet. I always opt to ride the 31 mile, HalvVasan. When I add the 31 miler to the distance to and from the start in Georgetown, I get a nice metric century, 62 miles. I’ve done this ride during the official event in mid-March and at other times throughout the year. So today I decided to do the 59-miler plus the 31 miles to and from my house.

I began at 10:30. It was about 60 degrees. I went to put on my prescription sunglasses and the right lens fell out in my hand. So I rode Deets, my Surly Cross Check, to an optician on my way to the city. The optician had a waiting list. No thanks. I rode to Old Town where I found an optician who fixed my glasses without waiting. Thanks Voorthuis.

The ride to the start was flat and fast. The Mount Vernon Trail was not at all crowded. I felt pretty darn good. Of course, my apparent vigor was actually a tailwind pushing me along. You’d think after riding a bicycle for over 50 years I’d clue in. But NO!

The Swedish embassy is the starting point of the Vasa rides. They had a sign out front inviting people to come inside. Swedes are nice. I took a pass. I’ll be back in a month when I volunteer at the official ride.

I rode out of Georgetown on the Capital Crescent Trail and climbed up to MacArthur Boulevard without any difficulty. I was 20 miles into the ride and I was feeling my oats.

The ride to Great Falls Park along MacArthur has one hill but it otherwise flat. Deets and I were cruising along at 16 miles per hour. Life was good.

I stopped at a bathroom at the kayakers’ parking lot near Great Falls. After using the facilities I found out that the water fountains had been shut off. I would need to ration my water carefully. I rode up the big hill toward Falls Road. I ate a smushed banana as I went. The banana was soft but the riding was hard. I tossed the peel and fell into a rhythm. A road crew had blocked off one lane so I had to stop half way up the hill. With rested legs, the remainder of the climb was a piece of cake. I rode into Potomac Village still feeling strong.

When I do the HalvVasan, this is where I turn around. Today I rode onward into the hilly back roads of filthy rich Potomac Maryland. This is pretty heavenly biking. Windy roads, streams, farms (mostly now developed with megamansions). The road surfaces could use a little work though. I made it to Travilah Road where my cue sheet told me to turn around. I spotted a convenience store and bought a big bottle of water and a Clif bar. I filled my nearly empty water bottles and inhaled the Clif bar and headed back to Potomac Village.

Now I noticed the wind. It made the hills consequential. The bumps got bumpier. My odometer seemed to increase ever so slowly. On a climb, I shifted to my small chainring and the chain fell off. Arg. (This happened again 5 miles later. I need to adjust my lower limit screw.)

Once past Potomac Village I rode the smooth pavement through the Avenel development. New-ish roads make for happy cycling. After Avenel, I rode past Congressional Country Club and continued on for five miles until Bethesda.

In Bethesda I jumped onto the mostly unpaved Georgetown Branch Trail. Normally, this trail is icy and muddy at this time of year. Today it was dry and hard.

At the traffic light to cross Connecticut Avenue, a passerby admired my bike. He said he has one too and commutes 10 miles to work every day. We gave each other the secret Surly handshake and carried on our separate ways.

At Jones Mill Road, I was feeling pretty worn out. No worries, just 25 miles to go. I pulled a bagel out of my saddlebag. I had made it before leaving home. I am a genius.

Jones Mill led me to five miles of nearly carfree riding in Rock Creek Park. If your city does not have a big green gash down the middle of it with hiking trails, a bubbly creek, horse stables, and picnic areas, you need to move. Rock Creek Park is the best!

It is also a canyon. And after 5 windy, downhill miles, I turned away from the creek and headed up. Eventually climbing for one mile on Brandywine Street. I should point out that this climb is notorious. I was doubting its reputation until I came to realize that it never seemed to stop. I blame Michelle. She has been trying to kill me by designing events for WABA. As my knees were screaming for me to stop, she was eating biscuits and gravy and sipping coffee in a bookstore in Seattle. She was probably thinking, “He’s dead now for sure. Bwa ha ha.” (She’d make an awesome Bond villain.)

Wrong.

I made it to the top and after a few miles of traffic mayhem rode screaming down Arizona Avenue, gleefully tripping the speed camera as I rode.

At the base of the hill I rejoined the first five miles of the ride and made my way back to the embassy. When I reached Capital Crescent Trail, I saw to my left a fire truck heading outbound on Canal Road. Soon two ambulances were in hot pursuit. Then to my right I saw a fire rescue boat speeding up river. Something very bad must have happened.

Near Georgetown Waterfront Park, the car traffic was insane so I jumped onto the bike path. It too was insane with scores of sundrunk people wandering around at random. I went very slowly and managed somehow not to hit anyone.This madness continued well past the embassy. At one point I followed a 300 pound man on a bikeshare bike. People got out of his way and I benefited from his slipstream.

At the beach volleyball courts near the Lincoln Memorial (Abe was an awesome spiker, they tell me), I saw two women on bikes looking bewildered. “Are you lost?” “We’re trying to find the MLK Memorial.” “Follow me.”

I was headed that way anyway. I led them to a spot between the FDR and MLK memorials and continued on my way. Because of one way streets I ended up swimming with big metal dolphins on Independence Avenue. Traffic was heavy so I took the lane. I wasn’t slowing anyone up but the driver of a Prius decided to swing around me to get to a red light faster. The Prius nearly hit a big white cargo van. Beeps were exchanged. I just rode on until the driver of the van started yelling at me. Then he said the magic words “Get on the sidewalk!”

You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.

I was tired. I was being a good cycling person. I looked at him through his open side window and told him,  “Fuck Off!” I pointed at my lane and told him, “I belong right here. Tough shit if you don’t know traffic laws. Shut your PIEHOLE.” (Thanks to my daughter’s grade school friend Camille for telling me to shut my piehole when she was 8. I’ve been wanting to use it for years.) So much for my zen-like bike trances.

After I thought about it for a few miles, I realized that Van Driver was blaming me for Prius Driver’s incompetence. It sucks that I reacted as I did but I was in need of an adrenaline boost and Van Driver provided it.

The boost was useful until I encountered the bike and pedestrian traffic on the Mount Vernon Trail at Gravelly Point Park. Hundreds of people and dozens of little kids were walking every which way, looking up to see planes land or looking across the inlet to the airport where planes were taking off. I slowed way down and carefully made my way through the mob. After coming out the other side, I was passed by a cyclist who said with a chuckle,”What a cluster fuck.” Indeed.

A similar cluster fuck occurred in Old Town Alexandria where pedestrians wandered off sidewalks as if the roads had been closed. (Not a bad idea, by the way.)  It was anarchy. It was also dark. Drivers and cyclists were uncharacteristically well behaved and patient.

I was grateful to get away from the madness, when two kids ran out from between parked cars at a park several blocks to the south. I shook my head at them.

The last six miles were cool. I had taken off my sweater after 40 miles and now I was missing the warmth. With only a few miles to go, I pedaled on. With sore knees and an aching back I crushed the last mile at about 18 miles per hour.

90 miles on a 70 degree day in February. I may be old, but I’m sore.

 

 

 

Friday Mind Dump

  • I changed my password to “Retire” at work. Then the system wouldn’t accept it. I had to change it to something else. I am not making this up.
  • A bike rider on the Mount Vernon Trail approached me from the rear and yelled “Walker up!” Seriously.
  • When I hit 60, my muscle strength noticably deteriorated. The remedy is to drink more wine. You won’t get any stronger, but you won’t care either.
  • I am doing my taxes this weekend. This is slightly more fun that having a colonoscopy.
  • I just failed at doing both the Sudoku and the Washington Post crossword. If my tax return says I get a $42,000 refund, I suspect I’ll be 3 for 3.
  • I am technically part of the investor class because I am old and have a retirement account. The fact that the stock market is up 10 percent since the election is both deeply disturbing and rewarding. I may have to boycott my retirement.
  • I am also fixing a toilet this weekend. This is the limit of my homeowner skills. Also, there will be cussing.
  • I need to put new siding on my shed. I did it before with my son. It’s not hard but the sheets of fake wood product are heavy. Does anybody want to help? I can offer pizza and beer. Contact me in April when the Nats are out of town.
  • Why in the world would you tell someone that you read their Facebook page when you haven’t commented or “liked” anything on it in over 2 years? If you’re going to tell a white lie, at least make it one that’s not so obviously verifiable.
  • I have under-volunteered my entire adult life. So I signed up to be a volunteer at the Vasa Ride in March. I also plan on signing up to volunteer for the Tour de Fat again. If you are in DC in mid-March and want to find out what warm blueberry soup tastes like you should ride the Vasa Ride. Here’s the link:

http://www.waba.org/events/rides/vasa-ride/

  • I actually saw the Vasa at the Vasa museum on my trip to Sweden a coudscn4954ple of years ago. The Vasa was an immense, ornate wooden warship that set said off the coast of Stockholm, Sweden. To show off it’s fire power, on its
    maiden voyage, all her guns were brought to one side of the ship. The weight of the guns caused the Vasa flop over and sink. The picture only shows the very upper part of the ship. The keel is a couple of floors below where I am standing.

Vasanapping

Each spring the bike riding season in DC begins with the Vasa ride. This is an event put on by the Washington Area Bicyclists Association and the House of Sweden, a.k.a. the Swedish Embassy. There is a family ride of 16-ish miles, the Halvasa of 31-ish miles, and the 61-mile Vasa ride, known in Malmo as the Whole Lutfisk. Okay, I ma25124970033_bdd5088f21_my that up.

It was also the first day of Daylight Savings Time. So we lost an hour of sleep. Michelle is WABA’s event coordinator. She is known to carry a divining rod in her messenger bag. Of the time change, she said this:

“I only control the weather. I do not control time.”

That’s a relief. I think.

I drove to the ride because it was cold and dark and I had misplaced an hour overnight. I blasted the Chieftains because my peeps own this month, dammit. (Oddly, all Chieftains’ songs sound the same to me. Even dirges end up sounding like rowdy nights at the pub.)

At the start I talked with Michelle and Colin, WABA’s Jimmy Olsen, and with Michael from Friday Coffee Club. (Actually he’s one of three Michaels. Michael is the new Katie.) Michael was riding the short ride and I didn’t see anybody to ride with so I rode the 32-ish ride alone. I know the course by heart so there was no need for a cue sheet. Ride out K Street to the Capital Crescent Trail. Cross over the canal at the boathouse. Ride up the steep hill to MacArthur Boulevard. Ride MacArthur Boulevard until it tops out (literally) at Great Falls Park, bang a right on Falls Road. Ride until you see the WABA pit stop at Potomac Village. Drink from Ursula’s stash of Gatorade in the back of the truck. Look around for people to talk with. Seeing no one you know, retrace your path one half mile. Hang a looie into Avenel. See the big houses. See the pretty golf course. Bang a right on Persimmon Tree Road. See more houses. See a different golf course. Bang a left on MacArthur. Repeat the first 10 miles in reverse.

The route was a fitting place to try out the newly tweaked saddle height on the Cross Check. I think I am pretty close to dialing my set up in. My arms were a little sore but that could just be muscle atrophy from riding my recumbent so much. I did a 100 yard stretch on the canal towpath at the cross over point. Dang, if this bike isn’t awesome on gravel. Can’t wait to do the Whites Ferry century loop on this beast.

At the end of the25130723163_e981fa864b_m ride, I went into the embassy and had a cup of warm blueberry soup. It’s a thing. It tastes great after a cold ride. Did you know that the word “babe” is a direct translation from Swedish for Swedish Soup Lady? It’s true. I swear. I took a picture to prove it. Also, they said “Get well, Ricky!!!” because Ricky got clobbered by a car last week and they miss him.

I didn’t see anybody I knew so I left after one cup. Outside I ran into Tom and Kirstin. She’s Ultrarunnergirl . She and Hubs were doing an ultrasugarthon in Georgetown instead of riding the Vasa.

Greg, WABA Executive Director, appeared. He was all smiles after running a half marathon yesterday. You smile when the pain stops. It’s a running thing.

And so, I headed home. After a totally unhealthy lunch, I turned on the Nats spring training game. You know that hour of sleep that I lost? I found it. And a couple more.

Baseball cures the sleepy beast.

Tack to WABA, the Swedish embassy folks, and to all the volunteers.

 

Some Ride/Hike Ideas for 2016

About a year ago I was admonished by a friend for sounding wishy washy regarding my 2015 vacation plans. “Stop planning. All we have is today” was her way of saying don’t plan, DO!  Irony alert: in January 2014 she told me of her plans to obtain certification to teach in DC schools and to open a business. She followed through on none of it, eventually leaving town. Even so, she had a point.

I suck at advance planning. Somehow I managed to do a bike tour, a non-bike trip around the world, nearly a dozen day hikes, half a dozen bicycling events, and take in a bunch of Nationals games. So with that in mind I began thinking about things to do in 2016.

I anticipate one non-biking vacation (to Sweden and thereabouts) to visit my daughter.  (A return to Thailand in the dry season would be nice but I can’t face the 18 hours of flying right now. Maybe 2017.) That will leave plenty of vacation time. So here are some ideas I am tossing around in my head.

Hiking: there are still many, many hikes to do in the Shenandoah National Park. Also, I have barely scratched the surface of hiking in nearby Maryland and Pennsylvania along the Appalachian Trail. One possibility is to gear up and do some overnights. I have never done this and it would be an interesting extension of my day hikes (not to mention save on driving home after a day’s worth of hiking).

Biking Events: WABA swears that it’s going to offer a century ride this year.  If it works into my schedule, I’ll definitely do it. Then there are the usual events: Vasa, Cider, 50 States, Backroads, and Great Pumpkin. I’ve done all of these several times, but the Backroads course was moved to West Virginia this year. I was in Australia and missed it. I can’t wait to do the new version. Two more that I keep threatening to do are RAGBRAI and the Five Boro Ride in New York City. Both of them are cattle drives. Both offer logistical challenges. Some of what follows are a lot easier to do.

Bike Trails: There are all kinds of cool trails around here that I haven’t ridden. Here’s a list of Virginia trails:

  • The Virginia Capital Trail goes between Williamsburg and Richmond. This could be a fun 2-day deal or a long single day ride.
  • High Bridge State Park down near Farmville and Appomattox looks really cool with a long, high bridge.
  • The Virginia Creeper Trail is a bit of a drive from DC. It’s only 34 miles but could be a beast of an out and back ride.
  • The New River Trail is a 57-mile trail that looks really promising with 30 trestles and bridges and two tunnels. This is a two-day ride with camping I think.

In Pennsylvania the Pine Creek Rail Trail runs 63 miles through the Grand Canyon of the East. Looks like a good overnight camping round trip to me.

Bike Tours: Right now I have eight possibilities on my list. All in the Eastern U.S.

  • Skyline Drive and Blue Ridge Parkway: This is a monster tour, 578 miles from Front Royal, Virginia to Cherokee, North Carolina. How the hell I’d get back is anybody’s guess. It’s also super hilly so I figure I’d be lucky to average 45 miles per day, 13  days of riding. This could be beyond my physical abilities. (Never stopped me before.)
  • The Natchez Trace: This 444 mile road is truck free. Tack on another 90 miles or so and the route would go from Nashville to New Orleans. Logistics on this one is a bit pricey (two bike flights). Bike Friday to the rescue?
  • Figure 8 in Vermont, New Hampshire, and New York: Adventure Cycling has two routes that form a figure 8. One loops around Lake Champlain, the other does a lap of the Adirondack Park. This one would be logistically pretty easy as I have family in the Albany area where the Adirondack route begins. The total distance exceeds 700 miles. The riding in Vermont and upstate New York is incredibly nice. Also weather up yonder is pretty much perfect for cycling in June – August.
  • La Route Verte: There are over 5,000 kilometers of marked bike routes in Quebec. The possibilities are endless. Then there is the interesting prospect of conversing in my horrid, mostly forgotten high school French. The idea of cycling to Quebec City, which I have never seen, or around Montreal is pretty intriguing. Getting there is a bit of a haul, but c’est la vie.
  • A New Kind of Rail Trail – North: Amtrak now has roll on bike service on the East Coast. Theoretically (relying on Amtrak is always an iffy proposition) I could take my bike on a trail and ride to Brunswick Maine, then ride up to Acadia National Park and ride all or part way home.
  • A New Kind of Rail Trail – South: Alternatively, I could take the train to Florida, ride to Key West, ferry to Tampa and ride across the state to Amtrak in Miami. Or just ride home.
  • Around Lake Michigan: This one starts in Monroeville, Indiana, one of the most bike touring friendly small towns in the US. It heads north through lower Michigan into the Upper Peninsula. Then across to Wisconsin and returns by crossing Lake Michigan on a ferry.  It’s 1,100 miles. Logistics would be simplified by using my in-laws house in north central IN as an alternative starting point.

In the increasingly likely (yet still somewhat improbable) possibility that I retire there is this:

  • The Trans Am/Western Express/Northern Tier Cross Country Ride: There remains a faint possibility that I might retire this year. If so, adios, amigos! I don’t know which route I’d take but the possibilities are numerous. The Trans Am is the classic route from Yorktown to the Oregon coast through Yellowstone. The Western Express shortens the Trans Am by taking a b-line across Utah and Nevada for California. The Northern Tier goes close to the US-Canada border.

Once I find out when the WABA Century and the Sweden trip will happen, I’ll pick two of the tours and as many events and hikes as my aging bones can handle.

 

 

 

Blueberry Soop – 24 and There’s So Much More

Today was the Vasa ride, the first #bikedc event of the year. The Vasa ride is put on by WABA in collaboration with the Swedish embassy. Then idea is to mimic the Vasaloppet, an annual  cross country skiing event in Sweden. (I tried telemark style biking but have since reverted to conventional nordic style.)

Last night I traded tweets with fellow Mount Vernon bike commuter Linel. We hadn’t met in real life so it was decided that I would give her a ride to the start. I picked her up in the sea of condos in Belle Haven/View just south of Old Town. The Mule was already on my bike rack. It takes considerable effort to get it there as The Mule is actually a corruption of Molnir, Thor’s hammer, which only Thor can lift. I picked up Linel’s bike, a Trek Madone, and couldn’t believe how light it was. It was like hefting a can of beer, without the beer.

Not wanting to search endlessly in Georgetown for a parking space, I parked in Rosslyn and we rode Key Bridge into Georgetown. About 1 block from the start we rode by no fewer than ten empty parking spaces. Doh!

The starting area had an abundance of #bikedc people I knew. Gina and Michelle from WABA were working the registration area. Liz was volunteering there as well. Chris M. and Rachel “Don’t Call Me Bob” Cannon were marshalls. Ed and Mary (she less than 24 hours removed from running a marathon) and Dave and Jean were hanging out with their Co-Motion tandems. Up rolled Shawn, Brian, Jonathan, Lisa, Ryan, Will, John Roche (all the way from Baltimore), and Matilde.

Some of these folks rolled out on the 59-mile course, the rest of us headed out on the 31 mile ride. We cruised along without incident and learned that Linel’s Madone is equipped with an anti gravity device as she cruised up the hill on Reservoir Road. A few minutes later winter took a bite out of the fun as Matilde lost her phone when her bike’s impact with a pothole sent it flying.

We climbed up the small hill at the reservoir. I took off on the backside and fell in with a group of people riding in a pace line. Wee, no headwind for me. Chris B. flew by, heading back toward DC.

I continued on rather pleased with myself until we reached the hill at Great Falls Park. Here I demonstrated my craptastic hill climbing abilities. Bicyclists after bicyclist passed me and my bruised ego. The first thing to go is your legs. The second thing to go is your pride.

I rolled into the rest stop in Potomac Village and rested. Foods were eaten. Bathrooms were broken. Rest was achieved.

Back we went toward the start. As I turned left into Avenel I was pushed by a strong tailwind gust. Rather than waste the energy, I down shifted and started pedaling hard. The Mule and I went all 02134. (Obscure PBS reference.)

Peter pulled along beside me. He had been meandering around the route and decided to head back to DC. As we chatted he told me how he, too, had lost his phone. We rode side by side down Persimmon Tree Road to MacArthur Boulevard. Tailwinds made for easy work.

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Sea of Bikes at the Finish

 

At the finish we made our way inside the Swedish embassy to partake of the blueberry soup. It was hot but not as sweet as I recalled from previous years. At the embassy we met up with Lis. This was the first time I’ve seen her in the wild. Normally, I see her at Friday Coffee Club. I also met up with Randy from the Alexandria Bike Ped Advisory Committee.

A few minutes later KL came up to me and introduced herself. I drew a blank until she explained we met at the WABA holiday party last December. She introduced her friend Magen.

After a few minutes of souping, we gathered together 11 people and headed to Pizzeria Paradiso in Georgetown where KL and Magen were already seated. (Who says bicycle events don’t do something for local businesses?)

After some fine pizza and beer, we parted ways. Linel and I rode across Key Bridge and were soon on our way homeward.

All in all, the Vasa ride provided a pretty darn good start to the #bikedc event year. I think it’s incredible that I, a pretty serious introvert, can go to a bike event in DC and see 23 people I know and meet another. Many thanks to all the volunteers who helped out. Thanks also to the WABA employees who gave up their Sunday to make this happen. Humongous thanks to Michelle Cleveland, WABA’s event coordinator. She was working on four hours of sleep and somehow managed to keep smiling throughout the day.

For some more pix of the day, check out my Flickr album.

A Sunday Ride with The Impermanent Resident

Did you know peripatetic is a noun? If you look it up, you’ll see a picture of my friend Florencia right next to it in the dictionary. Would I lie to you? 

Flor and I have been doing rides together since we met on the 50 States ride in 2007. It doesn’t seem possible that seven years have passed since we met. We were going to do it again this year, but she has a conflict. Boo. Her friend Emilia is riding for the first time and is a little worried that she won’t be able to handle the 50 States course. So Flor thought it would be a good idea to get us together for a little shakedown ride.

Florencia at the Watergate
Florencia at the Watergate

It was a nice Sunday morning so I decided to bypass the Mount Vernon Trail and ride Fort Hunt Road to the streets of Old Town and Potomac Yards in Alexandria, Crystal City in Arlington, and (according to the sign on the side of the road) the Pentagon reservation. (Apparently the Pentagon was one of the little known tribes of the pre-colonial days.) I met up with Flor at the Jefferson Memorial. Emilia was a no show. Sad face. Flor later told me that the two of them are doing a 120-mile two-day ride in the weeks ahead. I do believe Emilia will drop me after about 10 states.

Flor and I soldiered on. We rode the Halfvasa route from DC to Potomac Village and back. We managed to survive the onslaught of tourists on bikes and idiots looking for parking spaces on K Street in Georgetown. The Capital Crescent Trail had little traffic allowing us to settle into a nice groove. At Fletcher’s Boat House we cut over to Resevoir Road managing to avoid several toddlers who seemed determined to die by under our front wheels. 

The ride up reservoir was long and slow. For me. Flor didn’t seem to be working with the same gravitational field. We rendevoused at the top and proceeded side by side out MacArthur Boulevard chatting all the way. The hill near the reservoir made us work a bit but we cruised over the top and enjoyed the breezy downhill on the back side. 

Flor Is a Way Better Photographer than I
Flor Is a Way Better Photographer than I

MacArthur has no shoulders making it hard to ride side by side so we took to the side path and chattered away. Yoga, rolfing, vegetarian food, being a proud big sister, DC condo values, riding motorbikes in Thailand, and Montessori education. She has a lot going on. She also gave me an update on our pal Richard who rode the 50 States with us in 2011. It’s good to hear that he’s still the kind of person who never has a down day.

Along the way, Flor yelled, “DEER!” There, dead ahead. was a young deer grazing in the grass next to the road. As we approached the deer bolted, thankfully away from us, and joined two others in the roadside shadows. 

We reached the dreaded hill at the end of MacArthur and slowly, ever so slowly, made our way up. The chatter stopped. The work was honest. We made respectable time. After a brief stop to discuss our route, we headed down Falls Road to Potomac Village. 

We chilled in the shade, enjoying iced drinks and continued the conversation. Once we were talked out, we headed back to DC via the Avenel neighborhood of massive houses. “They’re just boxes holding stuff. Once you get enough stuff, it owns you.” Life according to Flor.

We made our way back to MacArthur. Since Flor lives in the city uphill from the river and the memorials, I thought it would make sense to cut through Georgetown instead of heading downhill to the river. And so we did. 

Once we crossed Rock Creek Park, Flor took over navigation. She knew the best route to her place. Just before we got there she asked if I wanted to go to Meridian Hill Park and hang out. And so we did. 

We sat in the sun and talked with Jeff, a friend of Flor whom I met at a happy hour last winter. We talked and listend to the drum circle drummers until the sun wore us down. Flor and I headed to our respective homes. She got the better of the deal by about 15 miles. Or maybe not. Riding down 16th Street to the White House followed by ten miles along the Potomac River is a mighty fine way to go.

Flor and I took some pix.

 

 

Springtime in Sweden

Today was the first event of my 2013 riding calendar. Each year the Washington Area Bicycling Association and the Swedish Embassy get together to hold the Vasa ride.  In Sweden, them crazy Swedes hold a really long cross country skiing event called the Vasaloppet. Thousands of Swedes, nearly crippled by cabin fever, go skiing for hours and hours. Somehow, like chocolate and peanut butter, WABA and the HofS decided to merge the Vasaloppet concept with bicycling and, voila (sorry, don’t know any Swedish), a ride was born.

The Vasa event is held in March, because Swedes don’t give a damn about cold weather. This helps keep the number of participants in the Vasa ride down. Still we had several hundred folks doing one of the 3 rides. There’s the full Vasa of 59 miles. Then there’s the Halv Vasa of 31 miles, and finally there’s the Kort Vasa of 16 miles. (Swedes ain’t so hot at fractions apparently, but we at the Rootchopper Institute of Anal Retentive Arithmetic are a forgiving lot.)

At the end of the ride, the HofS gives riders hot blueberry soup. It’s actually pretty tasty, buy I wouldn’t want to drink it every day.

The infamous Friday Coffee Club came out in great numbers, a few even brought along their significant others. You can tell it’s true love when your partner will ride 30 or 60 miles in the cold for a cup of blue soup and your company.

Temperatures were around 40 degrees and winds were light. At 8 a.m. a gaggle of FCCers took off with the Full Vasa riders. Our group included Mary and Ed on their amazing Co-Motion tandem, Ryan, Aaron, Will, Shawn, and Lisa. Leslie, another FCCer, was riding as a ride marshall. Thanks for volunteering, Leslie.

Lisa is now the official riding buddy of this blog. We’ve done five or six rides together in the past year and she hasn’t cussed me out once yet. (She shows remarkable restraint.)  The last official riding buddy of this blog was run over by a pick up truck, so, Lisa, watch your back. Although I didn’t see them during the ride, Shawn and Will were also in the Full Vasa pack as we headed out.

The ride went out the Capital Crescent Trail, crossed over to MacArthur Boulevard and headed to Potomac Maryland. At Potomac Village we stopped to chat with Megan and Katie, two WABA people who were giving out drinks and maintaining good cheer despite standing in the cold all morning.

At this point, Lisa and I made the executive decision to turn around while the rest of the group forged on. Their plan was to do a 3 Kort Vasa, the full ride less a portion in Rock Creek Park.  Lisa and I had fun riding back despite feeling a  bit chilly.

Back at the HofS, we met up with Dave, another FCCer who had ridden the Kort ride with Jean, his wife. Jean did the ride despite disintegrating riding slacks, a recent purchase gone sadly wrong. I am sure she will get her money back.

While at the HofC we met up with Rachel and Kate, FCC regulars, and their partner in cycling crime, Katie Ann. Other FCCers we met up with at the HofS included Crystal, John and Kate, and Justin and his wife, whose name escapes me. (This has been a problem of late. I mixed up Kevin with Ben, another FCCer, at the start. I may have to up my coffee consumption.)

The Rootchopper Institute would like to thank the House of Sweden and WABA for putting on this event. I’d list all the names of the WABA peeps who got up super early to pull this shindig off, buy I’d miss a few names (see previous paragraph). Special thanks go to Alex, who managed to take pix with an SLR, tweet on her phone, and use a megaphone in the same morning.  Her stirring pre-ride safety speech was beyond compare. And also to Megan who was standing in the cold at the Potomac Village rest stop with Katie despite having run a half marathon yesterday and getting only 3 hours of sleep.

As usual, the only thing that could have made this a better ride was warm sunshine and more FCCers. These folks are a joy to ride with.

Mary, Ed, Lisa, and I took pictures. You can check them out here, here, here, and here. WABA’s pix are here.