Pre-peak Cherry Blossom Ride

Winter has returned. It was in the 30s with a northwest wind. A snowstorm looms in the days ahead. DC’s famous cherry blossoms are in jeopardy. So I went up to DC today to check out what was in bloom. Short answer: not much.

I parked at Gravelly Point Park near the airport across the river. This was a good idea because the highways heading into the city were jammed with traffic. The 1 1/2 mile ride was pleasant enough. Blue skies and puffy white clouds practically commanded me to look up. So I did. Here’s one from the back side of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial.

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There were only a handful of trees in anything close to peak bloom. And the wind picked up as I walked and rode among them. Even without peak bloom the blues skies and the trees and the monuments made for pretty views. Deets couldn’t resist striking a pose.

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Here are a few more over on my Flickr page.

 

Coming Out of Hibernation

For the last few weeks I have felt sore, tired, and sluggish. I put on my pants for work yesterday and discovered my winter noshing has gotten the best of my waist line. How depressing. Daylight savings time starts tomorrow so it’s time to stop feeling sorry for myself and kick it into gear.  Here’s how March is shaping up (with the  14 more bike commutes to boot):

  • Tuesday March 14
    • aerobic snow shoveling
    • eye doctor appointment
  • Thursday March 16: Alexandria bike/ped happy hour
  • Sunday March 19: volunteer at the Vasa Ride
  • Wednesday March 22: WABA happy hour in Alexandria
  • Friday March 31: Nationals vs. Red Sox exhibition game

So as a warm up, the last couple of days I did this:

  • Dropped Mrs. RC’s car off at dealer. Put Little Nellie in the trunk and biked to and from work. Six mile round trip bike commutes are like kissing your sister.
  • Registered for Car Free Day on Skyline Drive in late April.
  • Rode Deets to the barber shop for a haircut. All were cut. Will be wearing a hat for a few weeks.
  • Picked up some prescription eye drops which were free (I don’t understand but I’m not asking questions.)
  • Drove Little Nellie to Spokes Etc. to have its brake levers adjusted. (The left one was farther forward than the right causing my left shoulder to ache.) Had them install new bar tape. It’s more better now. Used my WABA member discount.
  • Made a donation to WAMU, one of our local public radio stations.
  • Booked my flight to Indianapolis for my daughter’s college graduation. ($5.60 – Southwest frequent flyer program ain’t half bad.)
  • Booked hotel for graduation. (Bad.)
  • Signed up for an April ride to help the homeless.

So April’s pump is primed. In addition to the events I just signed up for, April has two birthdays, a baseball game in Baltimore, the Climate March in DC, a possible road trip to see the Nationals play Philadelphia, and a possible Nats game against the Mets after the Climate March.

May promises to be busier still. Graduation (and a 12 hour drive home). A Le Vent du Nord concert. At least two bike events. A volunteering stint. Baseball. And maybe, just maybe, a hike if I can find the time. I need to pace myself. I wouldn’t want to end up in an ambulance again like I did last year.

Tomorrow I may go to up to DC to see the cherry blossoms. They not nearly at peak but the coming cold snap may ruin the show this year. Funny things happen at the cherry blossoms. Today, Brian proposed to Nicole. She apparently said “Yes.” Of course, this was posted to social media with pictures of the two of them smiling and a ring and blossoms. But these days one can never be too sure.

Heartfelt congratulations to two allegedly nice people.

 

 

Eagles and Boomerangs

The day started with the trill of a red wing black bird in Dyke Marsh only 3 miles from home. Ten miles later on the Trollheim boardwalk beneath the Teddy Roosevelt Bridge I spotted a great blue heron only a few feet from the trail on the river’s edge.

The ride home I played pin ball with Canada geese. I didn’t hit any. The temperature was in the low 70s. I looked longingly at the trees across the river. A few cherry trees were in bloom but most were still waiting for a burst of warm weather. They’ have to wait a few more days. We all have our fingers crossed that a blast of cold air will not ruin this year’s peak blossom now scheduled for March 19.

On the way home I stopped to take a picture of Little Nellie in the twilight. Big Ed came rolling along. He just came back from Florida. He had the good taste not to have a deep brown tan. Otherwise I might have had to push him into the river. Earlier a schoolkid had tried to hit him with a boomerang as Ed rode past the Washington Monument. He missed (after Ed threatened him. Did I mention that Ed was big?) The rider behind Ed had to swerve into traffic an nearly got hit by Crocodile Dundee. Poor kid. He doesn’t know that Ed’s HD camera caught both attacks. The kid was wearing a school uniform and was standing next to a classmate who had a cast on his arm. Busted.

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Big Nellie at Dyke Marsh at Twilight

Ed and I parted ways. Ed rode up the big hill on Park Terrace while I stayed along the river to check out the eagle nests. As I approached the Tulane nest, I thought I saw a large mass next to the nest. It was twilight so I wasn’t sure. As I rolled under the nest I saw wings fan as an eagle descended into the nest from the left. Cool! On the right side of the nest, I saw the partner eagle standing guard. I think what I witnessed was the changing of the guard as the eagles incubate their egg(s).

Tomorrow promises a return to cold and wet weather. Little Nellie and I are taking Mrs. Rootchopper’s car to the dealer for some TLC, and a 3 1/2 mile bike commute.

Cheers.

 

BCBD – Bike Commute Brain Dump

  • On the way to work a bicycle commuter riding behind me in Old Town yelled “Excuse me!” I though that maybe I had dropped something. Instead he asked me if he could borrow my pump. He had tried to use a pump located outside a bike store a few blocks back but it did nothing but let air out of his tire. We completed the task in short order but this reminds me to remind new bike commuters that you have a list of requirements
    • A bike (duh) – you can use bikeshare or buy your own
    • A good lock – make you bike less easy to steal than the ones next to it. (This is kind of like the old joke: Q: How fast do you have to be to outrun a bear? A: Faster that the slowest person you are with.) Go with (at least) a beefy U lock like a Kryptonite (I have 2).
    • Tire repair stuff
      • a pair of tire levers (I prefer steel but you can find plastic ones at any bike shop)
      • a spare tube or two (patches are time consuming)
      • a pump (preferably one with a hose like the Topeak Road Morph – the hose will keep you from tearing off the valve while you are in pumping frenzy)
      • A $1 bill – fold it over, cover the hole in your tire (this is called a tire boot) and then replace the tube. This keeps the tire hole from chewing a new puncture in your tube
      • A multitool – to tighten loose parts and adjust ill fitting things
      • a saddle bag to put this stuff in
    • Lights – it’s a terrific idea to see where you are going. It’s even terrificker that drivers can see you.
    • Clothing – do not bike naked. The police will ruin your whole day. Also, don’t wear old lycra bike shorts. They become translucent. And always cover your butt crack.
  • Further along on my morning ride, I saw a woman on a CaBi (the local bikeshare tank) come to a stop. She peered into the trees along the river bank. As I approached she turned to me and with a huge smile on her face said “That was a bald eagle. It flew right past!” and she gestured its flight path.
  • There is a man who walks on the trail each morning. He carries a big stick and wears a dark jacket with a fur lined hood. He looks like an Ewok. He hasn’t said “Yub, yub” to me yet though.
  • The Mule is going into dry dock. It has gotten me through a winter (sort-of) of bike commutes. It deserves a rest. I will switch over to the Nellies for commuting over the rest of March.

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The Mule at Sunset

  • I have felt terrible on the bike and arthritic off of it for the last two weeks. It’s kind of interesting how this goes away when I don’t wear over-boots and rain pants. I think they slightly alter my pedaling mechanics much like long pants messed up my running gait back in the day.
  • I am volunteering at the Vasa ride in DC on Sunday March 19. You should ride it. It is a rain or shine event. Since it is likely that I will be standing around a lot, I expect a tsunami on the Potomac River. It will be caused by WABA’s new secret fracking operation on Hains Point. Would I lie about a thing like that?

  • There are two bike-related happy hours in Alexandria in the next two weeks. They are both on my way home from work. I’ll probably go to at least one. Sadly, unlike the Kardashians I don’t get appearance money. You can buy me a beer if you’d like. I ain’t too proud to beg.
  • I rode past some work being done on the trail. A backhoe had turned some dirt up. The smell of overturned dirt made me happy. Sorry if that’s too woo woo for you but it is what it is.
  • My boss rides his kids to school on a cargo bike. It’s a big bike. It’s so big it needs a masthead. Teddy says “Hi.”

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Winter’s End? – A Walk in Huntley Meadows Park

We are tantalizingly close to spring. The cherry trees in DC should be at peak bloom in less than two weeks. This weekend was cold. Cold for around these parts anyway.

I took a day of rest yestimg_7580erday. We watched basketball and lolled around the house. Today, we started filling out retirement forms. If two people with masters degrees can’t figure out the forms, something is amiss. We planned for this. We each have about ten questions for HR people. It will only take a few minutes to finish all this nonsense. Then I wait until my birthday and launch into the unknown. It’s one part scary and one part exciting.

To get my calm on before the paperwork, I went for a walk. Huntley Meadows Park is tucked away off US 1 in southeastern Fairfax County Virginia. It is little known and I hope it stays that way. (Don’t tell anyone, okay?)

It is what I as a child called “woods”. Not a forest just woods.img_7570 And there is a big swamp (they call it wetlands to make it palatable to neighbors). The swamp used to run dry from time to time, but nowadays the beavers have been allowed to dam it up and the water is high and wide. A boardwalk winds its way over the waters.

Huntley Meadows is different each time I go. This time of year the beavers were nowhere to be seen but there was a very loud hawk (or maybe a vulture) circling overhead, some mallards and coots and Canada geese floating about, and a great blue heron stalking his lunch. I startled a flock of grackles in the woods. They would launch in unison, fly 10 or 15 yards and land. Then I’d catch up to them and they’d repeat the process. I could hear the call of red wing blackbirds, one of the few bird calls I recognize from my days hanging out near Dead Man’s Pond in Albany. (If there was a dead man in it, he had decomposed. I never saw him.)

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The trail through the woods is well groomed, unpaved, and flat. I did a figure 8 which probably amounted to 2 miles total distance. It was just enough of a walk to wake me up and chill me out.

There are some more pictures over on my Flickr page. I used an old Canon EOS Rebel digital SLR. I was stunned at how much better the pictures are than the ones I take on my point and shoot camera and my phones. I will try to remember to bring this camera with me to events in the future.

Planning 2017 – At Last

After two months of dithering, I have finally started to sketch out my battle plan for 2017. I have only a couple of solid commitments to deal with and the rest is flexible.

Solid Commitments

  • Volunteering – because every time I see Michelle (WABA’s event manager) I feel guilty.
    • Vasa Ride – I’ve done this ride several times during the event and on my own or with others during the summer and fall. It’s well worth doing and you should give it a go. I mean when was the last time you had warm blueberry soup?
    • Tour de Fat – I am a trained beer puller. I have two hours of Tour de Fat beer pulling expertise. It would be a shame to let my skills evaporate like beer suds.
  • Family Events
    • Holy cow, my daughter’s graduating from Butler University. Woot! (This one is not at all flexible.)
    • Family reunion – this is in the middle of July.

Bicycling Events

This is a much shorter list than usual but has two new (to me) rides.

  • Car-Free Skyline Drive – I just heard about this today. It’s a brutally hilly road but, well, no cars! Also, I totally suck at hill climbing.
  • Bike to Work Day – probably my last one. Not because I don’t like the ride but because I am retiring in August.
  • Tour dem Parks – A ride around Charm City (Baltimore) that has very good word-of-mouth reviews. Also I might get to meet Eleanor (who was a bun in the oven the last time I was in Baltimore) because I hear she is swell.
  • 50 States Ride (my 10th!) – Need I say more?

Baseball

So far, I have committed to an exhibition game against the Red Sox on March 31 and an Orioles v Red Sox game in April in Baltimore. I blocked out on my calendar all the weekends that the Nationals are at home. If you want to go to a game with me, I am tolerable company. I can provide references. Also, I will shamelessly accept any tickets you get comped or otherwise stuck with. Also, there are two road series against Philadelphia. I might drive up for a day game just for the hell of it. Wanna ride shotgun?

Hiking

When the Nats are not playing I have free weekends. So these are all potential hiking days. My white board list of hikes is pretty similar to last year because I failed miserably at hiking last year. Doh.

  • Potomac Heritage from Turkey Run to Chain Bridge and back
  • Thompson Hollow Loop
  • Buck Hollow/Mary’s Rock
  • Double Bear Rocks
  • Stairway to Heaven
  • Broad Hollow/Pine Hill Gap
  • Loudon Heights/Split Rock
  • Jones Run/Doyle River
  • Corbin Mountain
  • Fountainhead

Mostly these are in the mountains to the west. If you live in the DC area and don’t mind getting up at the crack of dawn, feel free to come with. As with biking, I may be old but I am slow.

I could also use these non-Nats weekends for bike trips. Maybe an out and back between Williamsburg and Richmond on the new-ish rail trail.

Foreign (?) Travel

My daughter is thinking about going overseas for grad school so this would be an excellent excuse for a trip. If she goes to school in the US, this will require a college move-in road trip. Also, my son may still be in Thailand next winter. I wouldn’t mind seeing the place when it’s not pouring rain.

Bike Tours

Since I am retiring in August, I am saving up my annual leave for a big check. Once I get the 50 States out of the way, I think I might ride somewhere warm. Key West sounds like a good destination. The rough plan is to take the Adventure Cycling Atlantic Coast Route about 1,500 miles to Key West, take a ferry to Tampa, ride across Florida to Miami and take Amtrak home. I figure this will take about a month to do. This would be the warm up for the big one in 2018 which will probably involve riding to the Pacific Northwest.

Also between my birthday and the 50 States Ride I may have time for a short tour. I have no idea what that might entail. Maybe a road trip to rail trails in Virginia. Or the Grand Canyon of the East.

 

 

 

 

Warm = More

We’ve had an exceptionally warm start to the year. I have been able to ride outside a lot more than last year when biking was waylayed by a February snow storm. (My wovel sits unused this winter.)

In Februrary I rode The Mule, my Specialized Sequoia touring bike, to work 14 times for a total of 417 miles. My weekend ride was Deets, my Surly Cross Check. I rode 242 1/2 miles on weekends, 240  on the Cross Check and only 2 1/5 on The Mule. Little Nellie remains in dry dock and Big Nellie remains in the basement.  (Anyone want to buy a pre-owned long wheel base recumbent? Accepting offers in the Comments section below.)

So far this year I have commted by bike 27 times, 2 more than last year. My total miles stands at 1,323 1/2 (although 92 miles were on Big Nellie in the basement during an icy spell in January.) That’s 420 more miles than last year which had an extra day.

The Mule is eating up the pavement at 807 1/2 miles. Deets is way behind at 424 miles. In a couple of weeks, The Mule will hit a mileage milestone and be moved to the shed for some R&R. It has completed its winter service with nary a complaint.

Ironically, today I drove to work so I can attend the WABA annual meeting and awards event in the city. Riding home at 9 pm on a Tuesday no longer agrees with my old bones. I am already packed for tomorrow’s bike commute. March comes in like a  Mule around here.

 

 

Sunday Eagle Bike Safari

It feels like February again but that didn’t stop me from a meander on my Cross Check. I rode into Old Town along the Mount Vernon Trail craning my neck at the bald eagle nests and trying not to ride off the trail into the river or into a tree. I managed to survive. None of the nests had any eagles visible nearby. When I turned south, I rode past Fort Hunt Park and I got lucky.

For those who know the trail, there are three nests between the stone bridge at Alexandria Avenue – where you cross over the GW Parkway and Old Town. Nest #1 is the Belle Haven nest. It is about 200 yards south of the Porto Vecchio condo building on the opposite side of the parkway from the trail and the river. It is the easiest nest to spot. It is also not occupied. Eagles frequently hang out in the tree. This happens most often at sunrise.

Nest #2 is the Tulane Nest. This one is located about 1/2 mile south of the Dyke Marsh boardwalk/bridge. It is after you pass the Tulane Drive exit. This nest is on the left after you cross two short bridges in quick succession. You’ll see a dirt patch on the ride side of the trail. Pull off and start looking into the trees on the river side of the trail. It’s massive.

Nest #3 is the Fishing Hole Nest. Heading south from the Tulane nest, the trail goes through a series of slight curves. At one point there are park benches along the river. This is what I call the fishing hole because I often see people fishing here. There are a couple of small islands a stone’s throw from the riverbank. You’ll see a nest in one of them. I think this is an osprey nest.

Nest #4 is the Morningside Nest. This one is located near the Morningside Lane exit of the parkway. As you head south from the fishing hole, you cross two bridges then start a slow climb. At the top of the climb and before the nest wooden bridge you will see a dirt patch off the right side of the trail. Pull off and look into the trees between the trail and the river. This nest is bigger that the fishing hole nest but smaller than the Tulane nest.

Nest #5 is the Fort Hunt Nest. This one is another massive one. Ride about 2 miles south of the Morningside Nest. The trail crosses the parkway at the stone bridge and cuts back under the parkway at Fort Hunt. You’ll climb a small hill and then cross a wooden bridge. Look in the trees above the trail. Twice I’ve seen bald eagles hanging out here. Today I saw this one.

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Another hundred yards south of the bridge you will notice that the right hand side of the trial becomes steep. Stop and look into the trees across the parkway. If you are lucky you’ll see a massive nest. That’s probably the home of our little friend.

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You can cheat and spot the nests and birds the way I do: look for the people with the gigantic lenses on their cameras. That’s how I found today’s eagle and nearly every nest.

Bonus nest: If you feel like getting way from the trail, ride Collingwood Road west for 1 1/2 miles. Collingwood turns hard to the right and becomes Parkers Lane. Continue about 1/4 mile down Parkers until you see the softball fields at the middle school. One of the light stanchions has a massive osprey nest in it. Also, you will have just ridden by a horse farm where an injured bald eagle was captured for rehabilitation last week.

If you wait a few months the trees will have leaves and the nests will be much harder to find. So get riding. If you are really lucky, you might even spot the elusive Rootchopper known to fly ever so slowly with his rubber side down.

April Chores before February Storms

For yet another day it was April in February. My mind turned to thoughts of spring. Well, old fart thoughts of spring.

I rode Deets to the Hardware store to pick up my sharpened lawn mower blade. While waiting for my blade, I read the local free newspaper. An injured bald eagle had been found on the farm next to my house. It had a full head of white feathers so it was probably mature. This is egg laying season. One injured eagle means another may be without a mate. Not good. (This eagle is not one of the eagles that nests at the Arboretum in DC. Those eagles probably forage for food along the Anacostia River some 10 to 15 miles from my house.)  I bought some stuff at the drug store nearby then rode home.

I pulled out The Mule to see what I could do about it’s screeching front brakes. Well, the short answer was not much given the fact that the brake pads were almost completely worn out. So I hopped back on Deets to ride four miles with a tailwind to the local bike store for some replacements. Alas, they were out of stock so I rode a couple more miles into Old Town where my not-so-local bike store had one pair of the kind of brake pads I prefer.

The ride home was into a strong headwind, a sign of an approaching storm front due to reach us in early afternoon. Along the way I passed a woman running. She stumbled as I passed and fell flat on her face. I stopped to see if she was okay (she was). Of course, my concern only made her feel embarrassed. Onward.

Pedal pedal.

Back at the ranch, I put the brake pads on with a surprisingly limited number of f-bombs. When I am working on a bike, I use a lot of lube and a lot of f-bombs. They just make things work better. I don’t know why.

Next, I drained the oil from the lawn mower and replaced the blade, the air filter, and the spark plug. When I went to put new oil in the engine, I found that the oil I had in my shed was last winter’s dirty oil that I had yet to dispose of. Derp.

Clouds loomed.

I jumped on The Mule and headed for the hardware store so I could get some oil and test the brakes.

Pedal pedal.

Raindrops fell. Then the sky cleared. I bought some oil and made it home warm and dry. The brakes worked and didn’t squeal.

The oil went into the mower. I put some gas in. And started it up. It went clank. Then it ran normally. I repeated this. It went clank each time I started it. Clanky sounds aren’t good but the thing worked. I will unclank it another day.

My final task of the day was to polish my shoes. Do people still do this? I learned it from my father who wore the same shoes for 35 years. Good shoes last forever. I bought this pair over 20 years ago. Good shoes are kind of like bikes. Trust me. Someday you’re gonna need a quality shoe.

Having finished my chores, I sat down with a bagel and a newspaper to enjoy a sunny day on the deck. Ten minutes later the front came through.

It’s February now.