Elizabeth and Brittany

Say It Ain’t So, Tin Lizzie

Today I was saddened to read Elizabeth’s blog post about the possibility of giving up bike commuting. Elizabeth lives and works in the busy Ballston to Rosslyn corridor of Arlington, Virginia. Many years ago Arlington planned this area out to be a place where you could do just fine without a car. As it turns out, Elizabeth could easily get to work by subway, bus, or bike. She’s been riding her bike on unprotected bike lanes and has had more than her share of close encounters with big metal things.

What’s doubly depressing about this is that Elizabeth mentioned my recent intimate get together with a red light running SUV as a factor in her thinking.  When I wrote that post it never occurred to me that it would put people off bike commuting. I should have put my event in context. I have had dozens of close encounters with motor vehicles over the years. Maybe I’ve been lucky, but in over 100,000 miles of riding, I’ve never been hit.  I have hit two cars. One right hooked me and I hit him in the back right fender. If I had been competent I would have missed him entirely. Another was parked and jumped out in front of me. (It was windy. I had my head down. It was really embarrassing.) I was doored a block from Elizabeth’s office a few months ago. I was going very slowly. The door hit my very full rear left pannier.  No harm, no foul. I gave the exiting passenger a dirty look.

Stuff happens. I could be in the hospital or a funeral parlor right now. But I’m not. I rode to work today – right past where I was hit. I did come close to a collision today though. A goose was hanging out in the center of the trail. An oncoming commuter scared it into my path. She laughed and so did I. I’m riding to work tomorrow.

If experienced commuters like Elizabeth quit, we are doing something seriously wrong as a community.

Snakes in the Trees

In completely unrelated news, I learned today that rat snakes grow up to six feet long and climb trees. They are known to inhabit Dyke Marsh where I take my sunrise photos for this blog. I can handle big black SUVs but I think if I had to deal with a six-foot black snake in a tree, I’d soil myself.  This picture was taken today, by the way.

Snakes
Photo from Friends of Dyke Marsh Facebook Page

The Bliss Comes Back

And now some good news. Blissful Britt came back to her blog today. I thought she was going to be gone for months. She lasted three weeks. Stamina is overrated.

And So Does Baseball

And speaking of bliss, baseball is back in DC. The Washington Nationals won their home opener, 4 -2. I couldn’t go, but Klarence did. She willed them to victory on my behalf. They’ve won the first game. The hope is they win the last one. Sometime in early November. Fingers crossed.

 

Hiking among the Bluebells

After mowing the lawn for the first time this year, I needed some fun. So I headed to Turkey Run Park to hike a section of the Potomac Heritage Trail and test out my new orthotics.

The hike began with a quarter mile downhill section. There were some switchbacks but also some steep stuff. Near the Potomac River, I made a right to head downstream (toward DC). The first half hour I was climbing over rocks and fallen trees. The trail was rocky and I was focused on not turning my ankle. Several sections involved crossing narrow streams. I was surprised how little water was in them. The river, on the other hand, was raging. The trail come right down to the edge and the rocks made it a challenge to keep my feet dry.

In the past I have been exceptionally careful on rocks but today I trusted my balance. I have recently added some yoga balancing asanas to my daily back exercises. (It took me two weeks to stand on one foot for an extended period. My balance sucks.) Between this practice and the new orthotics I surprised myself over and over again. I never slipped once or turned an ankle.

In fact, I felt spring in my legs. Even to the point of breaking into a run on flat sections a couple of times. (My back is not happy about this.)

The rocky section gives way to a mile of flat smooth trail, mostly through bluebells. Now we’re talking.

About an hour into the hike I came upon a neighborhood of mansions that came right down to the river near Little Falls dam. The trail turns away from the river and becomes a roller coaster. At one point it even runs along the edge of the GW Parkway. This kind of killed the woodsy vibe.

I hiked until I came to a sign that indicated that I was 6 miles from Theodore Roosevelt Island. I decided to turn around here. In the future, I’ll park a couple of miles closer to DC at Chain Bridge and hike out to this point to finish the trail.

When I came back to the Parkway again, I was passed by a bicyclist on the road. This is illegal and extremely dangerous. The speed limit is 55 and there is no shoulder. I held my breath as I watched this nincompoop ride up the highway with cars braking hard as they approached him from the rear.

On the hike back I was passed by several runners. I don’t know how you can run on such a rocky trail but they were cruising. The flat section with bluebonnets is running heaven.

The climb back up to the start was tough. My lungs were working overtime.

I think I did just the right length for my first hike in weeks. I’m looking forward to returning to Shenandoah National Park in the months ahead.

Some more pictures are posted on my Flickr page.

Errandonnee Finis!

After some finagling, I managed to complete the 2017 Errandonnee. I did rides in all nine categories:

 

  • Personal Care: 2
  • Personal Business (could also be Non-store errand): 1
  • You carried WHAT on your bike (or back): 1
  • Arts and Entertainment: 1
  • Non-Store Errand: 1
  • Social Call (includes restaurants, coffee, and other social activities): 1
  • Work or Volunteering: 2
  • Store (includes bike shop, running store, grocery store, etc. You know, a store.) 2
  • Wild Card (surprise me!): 1

 

I blew past the 30 mile requirement after my third errand (a 29 1/2 mile ride to work). Here are the links.

Errands 1 and 2

Errand 3

Errand 4

Errand 5

Errand 6

Errand 7

Errand 8

Errand 9

Errands 10 and 11

Errand 12

And most importantly, I survived.

 

 

 

Mr. Consistency – March by the Numbers

I rode 664.5 miles in March. This is 1/2 mile more than January and five miles more than February. I didn’t plan it that way. It just happened.

I rode to work 18 times. I shifted from The Mule to Little Nellie after 5 commutes because The Mule hit 43,000 miles. I rode 27.5 miles indoors on Big Nellie. After riding it outdoors for another 16.5 miles, I announced to Mrs. Rootchopper that I was selling it as it was bothering my peripheral neuropathy. She advised me to keep it for those times when my back is bothering me. So I will.

I rode Deets, my Surly Cross Check, only 83 miles this month. Pretty soon I will switch over to Deets full time as I did last summer.

I volunteered at the Vasa Ride and had a pretty good time despite freezing my ass off.

I didn’t do any rides over 37 miles. The weather generally sucked and all the commuting killed my legs.

I participated in the Errandonnee and lived to tell about it. Barely. I have yet to tally up my rides. I forgot to take pictures of two of my errands so I will throw myself at the mercy of the Errandonness. (Maybe I’ll bribe her with a coffee, too.)

So for the first three months of the year I’ve ridden 1,988 miles. A little less than half of that was on The Mule. I’ve ridden to work 45 times. It looks like I’ll make 100 before I retire.

 

Making Nelle’s Hit List (Errandonnee No.12)

It had already rained over an inch. Skies were gray, but the Washington Nationals had not yet canceled their exhibition game with the Boston Red Sox. Three co-workers and I had a block of tickets. They were driving from the office. I left the house at 1:15 on Little Nellie, my Bike Friday with wee wheels.

Speaking of Nelle, my friend Nelle, the Deputy Director of the Washington Area Bicyclists Association (of which I am a member), posted a note on social media the other day saying she knew over 20 people, mostly bicyclists, who had been hit by a motor vehicle. After a day or two her other friends spoke up and the number rose to 65.

An intermittent light rain was falling. I made it to the Mount Vernon Trail with little difficulty. Traffic was light on the GW Parkway which runs parallel to the trail. After nearly five miles, I came to the only place on the trail that has a traffic light for trail users. It is at the entrance to Porto Vecchio, an upscale condominium on the Potomac River. There is also a traffic signal to control traffic on the Parkway.

A decorative wall, perhaps eight feet tall, blocks the view of the trail from the condominium parking lot as the trail approaches the crossing. I could see that the trail light was amber (it never turns green) indicating that I had the right of way and that cross traffic had a red light. I looked across the Parkway. There were two cars waiting for a green light. I thought “They’ll trip the light.” I looked back at my light. Still amber. I was already going only about 10 miles per hour and started to make my way across the entrance to the condo.

What happened next took only two seconds.

A black SUV came flying out from behind the wall.

Oh no.

My hands were on the cross bar. I didn’t have time to reach the brakes.

It’s going to hit me.

I turned my little front wheel. I just missed t-boning the SUV, but I could not avoid its front right fender. I hit it with my right thigh. My right hand somehow had come off the handlebar and stiff armed the top of the fender.

My momentum was carrying me in front of the SUV.

This is going to hurt. Big time. At the same second I thought of my wife’s description of the split second when she was hit by an SUV. And I thought of my friend’s friend who was hit by a bus.

I saw the grill of the SUV. I was falling in front of the SUV.

It stopped.

Somehow.

But I was still on my way down. My right arm, still extended, was pointing straight down. My eyes spotted the pavement.

And with some kind of calm I thought

“No.”

I consciously shifted the weight of my torso over the left front brake hood. The shift and the wonders of physics caused the bike to right itself. Then I pulled my right arm back up. And came to a controlled, upright stop.

I calmly looked over my left shoulder to verify that the SUV had run a red light. Then I turned around. The driver had opened her car door and was standing between it and the driver’s seat.

“I’m so sorry.” Over and over again.

“The light was red. You could have put me in an ambulance. What the hell is wrong with you? SLOW DOWN!” (Mostly this was not in anger. I simply wanted to get it into her head that this could have been a really, really bad crash.)

“I’m so sorry.”

And I rode off for a cold beer at the ballpark.

A couple of miles later I stopped to check my messages. The game had been cancelled.

I turned around and rode home.

Number 66 on Nelle’s list.

Errandonnee Stuff:

Miles: 15.5

Category: Arts and Entertainment (seriously)

Observations: I managed to get through the crash thanks to several things. First, the driver stopped. Second, I didn’t hit my brakes, but bounced off the car and stayed upright. Third, the little wheels on Little Nellie kept my front wheel from contacting the SUV.  Fourth, I managed to stay calm. You can say what you want about meditation but there is not doubt in my mind that it helped me stay focused and not panic. It was almost as if I was observing it as a bystander. Fifth: The amount of information your brain processes in a situation like this is flabbergasting. Sixth: I am one fucking lucky son of a bitch. Seventh: I need a beer.

Ticket Edited

Eagletmania

As anybody who knows me can tell you, I have this thing for large birds. I think great blue herons are elegantly Seussian. Ospreys seem to be all around me these days. And when I see a bald eagle I start to lose it. I didn’t see a bald eagle in the wild until I was in my 50s. Now I see them nearly every day on my ride to work. Unfortunately they seem to be abandoning more nests than they are occupying. The three nests that I ride past each day all seem to be abandoned or taken over by opportunistic ospreys.

So lately I have turned my attention to the eagle cam at the National Arboretum in DC. There are two cameras with sound above an active bald eagle nest. For the last month or so, a pair of eagles have been incubating two eggs. A couple of days ago, while I was riding to work, one of the eggs hatched. The eaglet is Chaplinesque in its wobbliness. It’s so wobbly its parents had trouble getting food into its mouth for the first day.

Today at work was pretty frustrating. Computer problems were driving me up a wall. I needed some therapy. So I called up the eaglecam and right there on the phone on my desk an eaglet broke through its egg. DANG!  Here’s a shot from the Instagram account.

Eaglet birth

You should check this out. Beware. It’s totally addictive.

http://www.dceaglecam.org/

 

You know you’re happy when…

I have a friend who always says “Be happy” when we part. You can try all you want to be happy riding to work in winter clothes but when March rolls around you realize that it’s futile. Then you get to ride in shirt sleeves and shorts and you see the cherry blossoms and your whole outlook does a 180. Today, I was a little underdressed and was starting to feel chilled. My mood was going south when I looked over and saw a tree stump smiling at me. I think it was telling me to be happy.

Face log

Some Mondays Ain’t Half Bad

I was zonked all day Sunday. No energy at all. I was a sloth. Today I woke up and jumped on Little Nellie for the ride to work. My legs had pop for the first time in weeks. Off we went into dense fog. We stopped at Dyke Marsh where I take my pictures of the sunset over the river. Today, not so much.

IMG_0509

There’s a river out there. I just know it.

The ride to work was terrific. The temperature was about 50 degrees and I was underdressed and the fog was condensing on everything I had on. Except for the fact that I couldn’t see through the condensation on my glasses I didn’t much care.

Opposite the Washington Monument I looked east to see what my kids called The Pencil. Um, it wasn’t there. Mostly nothing was.

IMG_0510

I swear the fog had gotten even denser.

I heard some noise out on the river. Voices. Loud voices. Then from the left I saw them. The crew teams were out practicing. The eights. Coaches were on small motor boats shouting instructions. Coxswains were yelling whatever it is they yell. One after another they emerged then plunged back into the pea soup. It reminded me of the dense fog off Newport RI where I once taught. All that was missing was the ominous outline of The Breakers and the lonesome fog horn in the distance.

On the way home I passed an old friend just before I hit the TRUMP (Teddy Roosevelt Uber Mulch Pit). We disengaged a couple of years ago. There have been some awkward failed attempts to reboot. As she rolled past she scowled. Was it at me? No matter. Life goes on.

And so did I. I crossed over the river to take in the famous cherry blossoms which reached peak bloom on Saturday. I had already tried twice to take in the show but both times only a few blooms could be seen. I had few hopes for today but was pleasantly surprised by how many blossoms survived the cold snap last week. In years past the blooms were just other worldly. This year they were merely excellent. No complaints from this blossom lover. I walked Little Nellie around the Tidal Basin. Everyone, including me, was smiling.

IMG_0516

After a 3-mile spin down to Hains Point and back to view more cherry trees, I headed for home. The 10 -15 mile per hour headwind didn’t phase me in the least. The air was warm and the trail was mostly empty.

As Monday’s go, this one could not be beat.

Errandonnees No. 10 and 11 – Blossoms and Mouthwash

Hey, I run out of clever titles sometimes. Shoot me.

My first errand of the day was for a near peak viewing of the fabled DC cherry blossoms. I had already made two attempts to have the blossoms soothe my soul but was disappointed by the lackluster bloomage. Yesterday, I was in Old Town Alexandria and parked under a cherry tree in full bloom. Then I saw this beauty in Rosslyn near work.

IMG_0512

So I had to go back to the Tidal Basin for another look. Today was a different story. Far more of the trees were in bloom than I expected. It was quite a show. Little Nellie stopped for a photo with some blossoms and the Jefferson Memorial.

IMG_0517

After this I rode to Hains Point for more blossom goodness.

Errand No. 10

Category: Wild Card

Miles; 6

Observation: I was in a good mood when I left work. On the way to the Tidal Basin I passed a friend who had a scowl on her face. We were once close but haven’t talked in over a year. I wondered if the scowl was meant for me. What a drag. Then I spent a half hour among the blossoms. Good mood restored.

My second errand of the day was a top at the drug store for some mouthwash. Pretty lame but it’s only 1/8th of a mile off route from my ride home. That is unless you forget to take a picture and have to double back.

IMG_0520

Errand No. 11

Category: A store.

Miles: 1/2

Observation: This is Rite Aid’s busiest pharmacy because so many old people live in my neighborhood. We get a discount because we buy more drugs than most junkies. Asthma and glaucoma do have their upside after all.

Where Do You Come From?

Yesterday, I was notified that I had my first reader from Guatamala. I am pretty sure this is Katie (had to be a Katie) Fignewton (not her real name) who I met on the first Cider Ride a few years ago. Katie is working in the Peace Corps. Go Katie.

Seeing my first post from Guatamala prompted me to check my blog diagnostics (there are only a few) for views by country. Since I migrated over from Blogspot in late 2012, this blog has had over 58,000 views from 97 countries. Not surprisingly, over 92 percent were from the US.

Blog Countries

 

 

 

The rest as it turns out are largely from English speaking countries. Many of the rest may be from regular readers who are traveling including my kids who have spent a good deal of the last two years overseas. Still, nobody I know has been to Brazil enough to explain the fact that it ranks 5th in foreign country views. Likewise for number 10, the Philippines.

I can’t tell who these readers are but I can deduce from my friends’ travel patterns that my blog is cheap entertainment for those down times in hotels and at airport layovers. I can also sometimes tell who doesn’t read the blog based on travel patterns.

So wherever you are, thanks for reading.