My Bike Commute Is Picture Perfect

One of my pet peeves is the fact that I recognize a good photo only after I have let the moment slip away. It’s like coming up with a good retort a day too late. Today on the way to work I had to stop to allow trail users to come through the narrow passage on the Mount Vernon Trail beneath the Memorial Bridge. For some reasons, I looked to my right and saw sunlight reflecting off the Potomac River. The Washington Monument was framed by the branches the tree to my immediate right along the river bank. Normally, I’d just turn back to the matter at hand and wait for the trail to clear. But today, I decided to pull out my phone and take a picture.

River and bridge

Yeah, my bike commute is that good.

Proud of my Bulldog

My daughter Lily graduated cum laude today from Butler University.  I am so proud of her. She completely maxed out her undergraduate experience.

Lily majored in Sociology and International Studies with a minor in Religious Studies. She was an RA for two years and served in student government. During senior year she interned at the prosecutor’s office in Indianapolis. She did a senior survey project on LGBT issues. And during spring breaks she did community service projects.

Her entire junior year was spent abroad, fall semester at MacQuarie University in Sydney, Australia and spring semester at Sodertorn University outside Stockholm, Sweden. During her four years, she visited over 20 other countries.

I recall hearing college counselors saying “College is what you make of it.”

And how.

Rainy Day on the Prairie

It’s cold. It’s wet. It’s windy. 

I am here in Indianapolis for my daughter’s college graduation. That’s tomorrow. For now I am hotel bound. We went to a movie theater last night with dinner service. Surprisingly the food wasn’t half bad. The movie was Guardians of the Galaxy 2. It was a CGI mashup of sarcasm, violence, and sci fi all set to a 70s soundtrack. Mindless entertainment for the mindless masses.

They have electric car share here. (Note the lovely weather.) My daughter says “nobody uses it.” Which is to say most people have their own cars. 
I notice that despite the fact that it is flat here nobody bikes here.  What’s up with that? They do have some pretty slick bike infrastructure here. There are some very cool separated bike lanes downtown and the Monon rail trail. 

We are trying to figure out what to do here today that doesn’t involve standing in the cold rain. We’ve done most of the indoor stuff on prior visits. 

Bury me not on the lone prairie.,,..

April in My Mirror

Well, I have released the hobgoblins of foolish cycling consistency. Instead of riding 660 miles as I did in January, February, and March, I upped my ramblings to 715 miles. 475 miles were covered going back and forth to work. What ever will I do when I retire!

I commuted 16 times, split evenly between Little Nellie, my Bike Friday, and Deets, my Cross Check.  I actually broke Big Nellie, my Tour Easy recumbent, out of her winter slumber for some romps around the neighborhood.  I keep thinking I should sell Big Nellie but then I have a great ride and I forget about doing such foolish things.

I did one bike event, Breaking the Cycle, on the last day of the month.

For the year I have racked up 61 bike commutes for 1,802 miles. My weekend and event rides added another 901 miles. So I am at 2,703 miles for the first four months of the year.

I also did two marches and two short hikes. No wonder my legs are tired. May promises to be a little less of a grind with many, many non-cycling events on my schedule.

 

Killing My Legs for a Good Cause or Two

What a busy weekend.  Friday night I took Mrs. Rootchopper out for dinner to celebrate her retirement. It had been a long last week for her (she worked until 1 a.m. one night).

Climate March

On Saturday, I went to the Climate March alone. She and I had done the Science March (a small part of it, anyway) and the Women’s March.  She had also done a march in support of immigration. She needed a break from marching. I rode to Union Station in DC where I met up with folks from WABA. WABA’s Nelle escorted a bunch of cyclists to our rendezvous point. Then we all walked over to take our place in line for the march. Several of our group held up a banner that Nelle had made. (Her creativity and energy astound me.) The march was preceded by much speechifying, none of which we could hear. So for a couple of hours we stood in the ironically blazing sun. At 1 p.m. or thereabouts we started to march. To my surprise we moved along pretty well.

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Joe, Nelle, and Nick holding the banner

We walked down Pennsylvania Avenue toward the White House.  At one point the marchers stopped and sat down and did some sort of woo woo chanting. The only chanting I would have done was to yell “Holy crap this pavement is hot!”  I opted to hang out in the shade with Carrie (see below).

The organizers had wanted to surround the White House. When we got to 15th Street we were told that we could not march to the front of the White House to our right. Instead we were shunted off toward the Washington Monument to our left. By this point we were all pretty wiped out from the heat. We decided to call it a day.

I walked back to Union Station with Nick and Doug, two WABA employees. It was about 20 blocks. It was good that I had company because I would otherwise have paid attention to what a slog it was.

I recovered my bike from the bike valet, and rode home. My legs were toast. I had ridden about 135 miles during the work week. Adding the 33 miles of riding to and from the march, standing around on hot asphalt for hours, and walking several miles only made my dead legs deader.

Breaking the Cycle

So in the spirit of abject self abuse, I woke up early to do a 53 mile bike ride for charity. The event was called Breaking the Cycle and it was put on by The Dwelling Place, a nonprofit that “provides housing opportunities and support services in Montgomery County for families experiencing homelessness, helping them to achieve and maintain self-sufficiency.”

Breaking the Cycle was conceived in a typically Washington way. Carrie is on the Board of The Dwelling Place. She’s married to Greg who is the managing director of WABA. Like Garland and Rooney, they decided to put on a show. (I was a little upset that Carrie didn’t sing the Trolley Song.)

With dead legs and another unseasonably warm and muggy day, I decided to start as early as I could. I must have looked haggard because Carrie explained that there was a bail out option that would cut 13 miles off the ride. Good to know but being a cyclist of very little brain I had no intention of bailing.

The first 14 miles of the ride were in Rock Creek Park. We rode north until there was no more road then took a wooded trail further north to a lake. After that it was all suburban and country roads in Montgomery County, Maryland. I think the route was Greg’s idea. The cue sheet was five or six pages long. It rivaled the 50 States Ride for complexity. You pretty much could tell you were on the route because riders were pulled over to check their cue sheets every couple of miles.

The course was a little hilly but nothing that I couldn’t handle. It was shaped like a lollypop, a circle with a stick. The stick part was an out and back ride to Waredaca Brewery. It was early when we got there so there was no beer drinking to be done. After inhaling an apple and taking a picture for some riders, I reversed course. All went well until I discovered that one of the turns on the cue sheet was wrong. It said to go left when it meant right. So I added a mile to my endeavor. I didn’t see anyone else make this mistake. It was no big deal.

The final few miles were on a trail in Sligo Creek Park. I opted for the trail to stay in the shade but it would have been much faster to take the adjacent parkway.  In any case, I arrived back at the start in semi-decent condition. Organizers of this race really know how to treat the riders. Finishers were given a metal beer glass (or maybe cup) and a coupon for a free beer at Denizens Brewery which happened to be the start and finish. I had the red ale. Then another. (It was moist and delicious.) And some soft pretzels. (They were moist and delicious too.)

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While at the bar I talked a bit with the chairman of The Dwelling Place. His name is Bond. James Bond. Didn’t look a thing like Sean Connery though.

And so the weekend ended. I am taking tomorrow off the bike to attend a dinner after work. My dead legs will thank me.

So my thanks to Nelle, Doug, Dan, and Nick on Saturday and Carrie and Greg on Sunday for making this a fun and worthwhile cycling weekend. These things don’t happen without a lot of work and thought. Cheers to you all.

 

Busy and Big

Back when it was cold out and I was feeling ready to jump out of my skin I scheduled a ton of stuff for late April and May. Last weekend, I did the Science march in DC. It was nerdy as hell and kind of fun for a gloomy day in the rain. Tomorrow I am riding to DC to participate in the Climate march with the folks from WABA. I plan on getting to Union Station at 9:30 so if you are in the area look for a guy in a blue Bike to Work Day t-shirt with a black bag on his back and a floppy hat on his head.

On Sunday, I am going to do a bike ride in Silver Spring, Maryland. The ride raises money for The Dwelling Place, a nonprofit that helps the homeless in Montgomery County MD. The ride (at least the one I am doing) is a little over 52 miles and involves a mid-ride pit stop at a craft brewery. There is another craft brewery at the finish.

I don’t often talk about family in this space, but today is different. Tonight, I am taking Mrs. Rootchopper out to dinner to celebrate her retirement today after over 30 years in Uncle Sam’s salt mines. Mrs. Rootchopper has an insane work ethic; she worked late into the night on Sunday and again last night. (I was asleep when she came home after 11 p.m.) She also worked her butt off over the last couple of weeks making a baby quilt for one of her staffers who is on the nest. I may have to sedate her. For a few weeks. Or months.

 

 

 

WABA Socks Wednesday

Are you a fashionisto like me? Then you own at least one pair of WABA (Washington Area Bicyclists Association) socks. If you wear them on Wednesday, Brian over at Tales from the Sharrows, @sharrowsdc, and Gear Prudence (he has multiple personalities, don’t you know) has pledged to donate his life savings and his fiancee’s Metro SmartCard to WABA.

So today, I proudly wore my new-ish WABA socks.

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Don’t they go great with my orange and black bike shoes? This look is all the rage in Paris. (Among the blind.)

The actual deal goes like this: if 100 people participate in on one Wednesday and tag @sharrowsdc using the hashtag with a pic, Brian will give $100.

So do the following:

  • Buy some WABA socks
  • Wear them on Wednesday
  • Post a picture on social media with the #wabasockswednesday hashtag and @sharrowsdc in the message
  • Ride your bike

I think it would be cool if we could get people all over the world to do this. Perth. Cape Town. Malmo. Buenos Aires. Hanoi. In no time at all Brian would be homeless. Also, we would all find out that waba means something truly vulgar in Urdu.

 

Ear Bud Coffee Ninja Tuesday

Yesterday on the Mount Vernon Trail was Butt Cheek Monday. My thanks, once again, to the designers of skin tight running shorts for women. Today was Ear Bud Coffee Ninja Tuesday.

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I was plodding along going up a slight rise in the trail. The base of the rise is where I was nearly shuffled off my mortal coil by the driver of an SUV a couple of weeks ago.  As I made my way past the bus stop, a man came off a staircase to my right and walked directly in front of me. He was in ear bud heaven and his left hand held a cup of joe at about the level of my head. If I had hit him it would have been a literal hot mess.

I froze, proving that meditation can get you only so far in bike crash world. I swerved left and came to a stop avoiding making a four-ten split of some more folks waiting for the bus doors to open. (Why the heck do all these people have to stand when the bus is just sitting there with its doors shut?)

I said something exclamatory that did not include the letter f, shook my head, and rode away. Ear bud coffee ninja didn’t say a word.

I have ridden past this bus stop thousands of times. This is the first time I nearly crashed into someone. Maybe all my past caution has given me a big balance in the karma bank.

Today was cool with rain and wind. By Saturday, it will be 90F degrees. Bring it on. I am torn between riding 16 miles to the Climate March or riding 16 miles to the Nationals baseball game. (They are both in DC, about a mile apart.) Everybody knows that saving the planet is roughly as important as winning the NL East.

 

Getting the Party Started

In my desire to get spring rolling, I booked a ton of activities for the next several weeks. This weekend was a bit of a warm up, in a manner of speaking.

The fun started on Saturday. Mrs. Rootchopper and I went into DC for the Science March. She made a sign. We stood around in the rain and checked out other people’s signs. The signs, and the people, were impossibly nerdy. The guy in front of us had a sign that showed that the cost of Trumps trips to his resort in Florida would pay for over 1,000 post-docs. Nerd after nerd came up and asked him what his assumptions were.  I am not making this up. In response he would turn his sign around and show them. He had the assumptions written on the back. I am not making this up either.

After an hour of waiting around we made it into the part of the national mall where the speakers were speaking, as speakers tend to do. There were several tens of thousands of people in front of us and an equally impressive amount of mud below us. I later learned that I knew seven people withing a couple hundred feet of our location. I didn’t see them though.Image may contain: 1 person, crowd, sky and outdoor

At 2 o’clock the march began. On time. (These nerds are pretty impressive.) The size of the crowd plugged Constitution Avenue up. It took us an hour to walk one city block. We bailed and hoofed it about a mile to our cars. My wife drove home. I drove to my office where I was picked up by a co-worker.

Off we went to Baltimore to watch the Orioles play the Red Sox. I went to college in Boston and lived within walking distance of Fenway Park during my sophomore year. I also drove a cab during two summers. Suffice it to say that Bostonians love their Sawx!

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Here are a few random observations about baseball in Baltimore:

  • The hot dogs outside Camden Yards are the best I have ever had. I only had one.
  • Camden Yards is a much nicer ballpark that Nationals Park because
    • The seats in the upper deck seem much closer to the field
    • The acoustics of the park trap the roar of the crowd. This place gets loud!
    • Prices of food and drink are much less than in DC
    • Brick > concrete
    • Having an old warehouse just beyond the outfield is way better than having a new parking garage beyond the outfield
    • The crowed yells “O!!!!” during the National Anthem. It’s truly obnoxious when they do this when the Orioles play in DC. In Baltimore, it fits.
  • There are a few things I don’t like about Camden Yards
    • It is next to a football stadium that lurks like a monument to civic waste
    • It is also next to a seriously poor neighborhood. Very depressing.
    • Of much lesser significance, there is no place other than your seat to eat your food.
    • Bike parking is outdoors and not protected

The game went pretty quickly once we got the rain delay out of the way. About a third of the crowd was rooting for the Red Sox. They went home disappointed as the Orioles won 4 – 2.

I had planned to participate in the car free event in Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park on Sunday morning. I didn’t get to sleep until after 1 a. m. Getting up at 5 to drive 80 miles then ride a very hilly 62 miles in 40 – 50F temperatures wasn’t my idea of a good time. So I slept an extra hour and went to brunch with Mrs. R/C and a friend from her hometown who was in town to participate in the march.

Brunch was fun. Afterwards we walked a mile back to the car through the Enid Haupt Garden at the Smithsonian Castle. This garden is one of my favorite places in DC. Sadly, it will soon be removed for a new museum building.

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The rest of Sunday was devoted to deep, deep meditation on the deck. Okay, I took a nap. Sue me.

This morning’s ride to work featured 50F degree temperatures, drizzle, and a steady headwind. Image may contain: bicycle, tree, outdoor and nature

I started late and was groggy to boot. My head hung down. Things just appear suddenly when your head hangs down. At one point I was awakened by the shortest running shorts I have seen in a long time. Fortunately, they were on a very fit young woman. They were rather pleasantly undersized. Sometimes you just have to appreciate the view. Woke me right up.

A half mile later, I spotted bright orange out of the corner of my eye. I looked up to see a large mallard standing on the trail. He had huge cartoon feet. He was utterly unfazed by my passing. I didn’t even get a quack out of him.

My final visual surprise came when I just happened to have my head up. Chris N. rode by and gave me his patented salute. I used to see him nearly every day but his commute changed. Now he’s back.

The ride home was gray and cool and drizzly. The wind had the decency to push me home.

The party continues later this week:

  • Friday: a retirement
  • Saturday: ride to the Climate March and a Nationals baseball game
  • Sunday:  a 50+ mile bike event ride
  • Monday: a retirement dinner for a second retiree

After that I have a college graduation, two concerts, the Ride of Silence, a weeknight baseball game with folks from work, a Sunday baseball game with my daughter, and Bike to Work Day.

 

Riding Tailwinds in the Seam

There were ominous clouds to my right looming over the Pentagon. There was another bank of ominous clouds to my left heading downriver toward Rosslyn and Georgetown. There was a pretty darn good chance that I was going to get caught in one nasty storm. So I rode home.

Duh

Somehow I timed my ride perfectly. The approaching storms provided me with an impossibly good tailwind. Even when the path turned west and then back to south I had a tailwind. It was as if the storms had decided to help me along.

A few big wet sprinkles hit me. The cold, springtime kind. Splat. Splat. Then they stopped. I chugged along at 20 miles per hour.

After riding across the stone bridge two miles from my house I heard, or rather felt, a BOOM. I could feel the vibration in my bones. The Pentagon storm had drifted south, right behind me. I learned later that both storms dropped hail. But not on me.

The weekend promises much less luck. I plan on going to the Science March in DC but have to leave early so that I can meet some co-workers and drive to Baltimore for a Red Sox game. (Go Saux!) It is supposed to rain most of tomorrow in DC but the forecast currently calls for a cool but dry evening in Charm City.

Sunday I had plans to ride on Skyline Drive, which will be Car Free for most of the day. Unfortunately, the weather is supposed to be in the 40s with intermittent rain. I’ll probably go to brunch with Mrs. Rootchopper instead.