Fifty States with a Six Pack

For the last couple of days, I had nothing in my legs. I’d pedal and it felt like my legs were just lifeless. This is what happens when I ride 6 days in a row for 210 miles. So did I take the day off before the hilly, 62-mile 50-States Ride? Surely you jest.

For the uninitiated, the 50 States Ride is the main event for the Washington Area Bicyclists Association. It is held annually for at least the last 12 years (I did it in 2006 and it had been held before that). The route traverses the entire city as bicyclists ride on the streets named for the 50 States. After about 20 miles of warm up, the ride also appears to seek out every hill in town.

The day broke with clouds and a beautiful sunrise over the Lincoln Memorial as I drove to the start. I arrived at around 7 a.m. just in time to see Brian (@sharrowsdc a.k.a Gear Prudence) heading out alone. I begged him to stay and ride with me to no avail. Celebrities don’t ride with the little people.

IMG_0186

I took my disappointment to the start where I somehow managed to put together a fantastic team of riders:

  • Rachel (Don’t call me “Bob): Rachel and I met several years ago at Friday Coffee Club a few years ago. When she worked in a DC bike shop, she sold me my bike du jour, a Surly Cross Check. I have sung her praises before in this blog more than once. Despite our cycling connection, we had never ridden together.
  • Miss Emilia: Emilia was one of the five rookies that I rode with on the 2014 50-States Ride.  With her constant smile, deep voice, and Venezuelan accent, she lifted my spirits during the heat and rain and hills three years ago. As I noted recently, she is a much stronger rider now, pedaling slowly but powerfully.
  • Scuba Michael: Michael, another Friday Coffee Clubber, was one of the co-leaders of our 2015. Nothing bothers Michael, probably because he literally swims with sharks. Seriously. He’s a powerful rider who takes mercy on old dogs like me.
  • One-bag Kevin: Kevin moved to DC last fall. We met at Friday Coffee Club a few weeks ago. He rode the ride with one Ortlieb roll top pannier filled with an assortment of foods including a jar filled with mystery glop.
  • VIP Steve: Without Brian’s celebrity we needed to upgrade our group’s status. Steve payed the big bucks for VIP status. He wore the VIP 50 States cycling cap, which cost about $1 per state. Steve is a man with sartorial priorities and strong cycling legs.
IMG_0189
Lesly, a course marshal and the voice of #bikedc, with Rachel and Emilia at the start

We rolled away around 7: 50, closely following Kitty’s Club. Kitty (real name Grace) was marshaling the ride and had a bunch of friends in tow. Big groups move a bit more slowly than our six pack.  The temperature was in the high 50Fs with a gentle breeze. Ahhh.

The downtown section of the ride was changed this year but we were not fooled one bit. Wyoming, California, New Hampshire, Vermont, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, and New York were conquered without a fight. Once I we hit New Jersey, the next few states fell like dominos without more than a glance on the 12-page cue sheet. Louisiana, Delaware, Maryland, and Washington. A police road block put Virginia in jeopardy but we picked up the 600 block without a bit of trouble.

Once clear of downtown we cruised down to Hains Point on Ohio Drive. The breeze off the river was refreshing. We negotiated the construction zone at the Wharf project on Maine Avenue. A long stretch down M Street led us eventually to an alley that plopped us on the sidewalk across the Sousa Bridge on Pennsylvania Avenue across the Anacostia River. The sidewalk leads to a shaded sidepath down to the Anacostia Drive along the river. The shade obscured some truly nasty tree roots. Nobody crashed and good dental work kept our fillings intact.

IMG_0190
Emilia, Todo Sonrisas, in East Potomac Park before the Hills

My dead legs were already in evidence on the flat terrain. Now, after a rest stop break, we headed into the dreaded hills of Anacostia. These are overrated. There are many more and harder hills yet to come. Bwa ha ha. My dead legs didn’t much care. Dead is dead.

Before starting the climb, I took a wrong turn. Oops. We quickly corrected the mistake and headed up. A fortuitous red light on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard broke up the first long climb. No problem. We descended to Mississippi and enjoyed the flat cruise alongside parkland. All good things must come to a hill. Up Stanton Road we rode. Bye y’all. The five left me in their wake and I huffed and puffed all the way to Alabama. I rejoined the group at a red light and we proceeded to climb further to the eastern top of the city. This climb (and the many others to follow) were MUCH easier in the pleasant temperatures and low humidity of this early September day.

We rode down Pennsylvania to Texas, an ironically small side street. After doing a quick circuit through a residential neighborhood we made our way along peaceful, downhill Fort Davis Drive to Massachusetts. The descent back toward the Anacostia River is one of the high lights of the ride. The sensible members of our group rode cautiously. It was fun passing them. Yee haw!

The downhill ends at a dead stop at a traffic circle. Around the circle and along Minnesota Avenue which led to another traffic circle. And lots of traffic.

Soon we were back on Anacostia Drive along the river. The riders in front of us were making a wrong turn en masse onto the south side of Pennsylvania Avenue. Having made this mistake a couple of times, I yelled “No turn. Go Straight.” The clipped in riders started wobbling and falling. Temporary chaos. No fatalities. On to the turn to the north side of Pennsylvania which took us back across the river to Kentucky and South Carolina on the east side of Capitol Hill.  We missed the turn to the lunch stop (the turn wasn’t indicated on the cue sheet) but recovered after a little tour of tree lined streets and the lovely townhouses.

After a burrito and some other munching and libations, we headed off on North Carolina into Hill East. Tennessee led to Oklahoma. Sooner (sorry) we were headed back across NoMa to pick up Florida and West Virginia in the Trinidad neighborhood past Gallaudet University. At Mount Olivet Street, Michael peeled off for home. His shoulder gave us 36 good miles and we were left to fend for ourselves as a quintet.

Mt. Olivet goes UP. I was dropped again. I caught and passed the group on the 9th Street Bridge over the railroad yard into Brentwood. I led the group up another hill and over to Montana Avenue. We rolled downhill to South Dakota, with its heavy traffic. I hate this road. It just feels unsafe. We escaped intact and turned left onto Taylor Street. This led us to Michigan which is nearly as awful as South Dakota.

We crossed back over the railroad tracks. This time I took the sidewalk and the rest of the group took the road. Dropped again. Dead legs.

After a brief reprieve near Catholic University, we climbed up Hawaii Avenue to more ups near the Soldiers Home Cemetery. We rode downhill to Upshur. This is a slight change from prior years so we missed the ensuing turn onto Illinois Avenue. No worries, we back tracked into Grant Circle and picked up the route on Illinois headed northwest. To Kansas back toward the southwest. The turn on Iowa sent us northward to Arkansas and a northwest heading. A turn on Georgia took us north so that we could turn left and left again to Colorado headed northwest to Missouri to the southeast. And you wonder why people get lost!

After some side streets we headed back to the northwest on North Dakota. We nearly missed a turn at 3rd Avenue (my bad) but recovered again. Soon we were in the Tacoma Park neighborhood and arrived at the fourth pit stop at the home of Crazy Rando Mike and Lisa. (Lisa’s not crazy, just Mike.)

After a chat with our cheerful hosts, we headed north to Alaska. Works for me. Alaska head down to 16th Street then onto Sherill Drive into Rock Creek Park. If there were fewer cyclists and an open gate into the park this would an awesome descent. Even so, it was a blast. It led to the closed Bingham Road. We rode on a hilly, windy sidepath to another hilly, windy side path along Oregon Avenue. The terrain kept us from reading our cue sheet and we rode past our turn off the path. When we realized the mistake we walked through some weeds to Oregon and backtracked. Then it was up Beech on my legs which were starting to show signs of rigor mortis. Needless to say I got dropped again.

Utah, Nevada, and Nebraska were conquered without a fuss.

I rejoined the group and Emilia told me that she was having trouble getting her lowest gears to work. She was kicking my ass on the hills and spotting me three gears. She really is La Terminadora!

Up we rode on Fessenden Street. Actually up they rode as I was dropped again. Hello morgue, you have my legs.

After a brief rest stop we climbed Wisconsin to Tenleytown where we picked up Nebraska past American University, Rachel’s alma mater. Nebraska becomes Loughboro and descends. Arizona is a left hand turn at a stop sign. I confess I blew through the sign. In front of a DC patrol car. Oops. The police officer must have sensed my legger mortis and did not pursue me for arrest and incarceration. The other four in our group actually stopped. I feel so ashamed.

So, once they caught up to me (I waited), I missed the turn to go back up the hill on Ashby. I believe my legs had affected my brain. After a reprieve on 49th Street, we faced the climb up Garfield, the dreaded worstest hill on the entire ride. Some sicko added this beast to the course in 2014. Emilia, not knowing it was coming, was not amused. A detour put us instead on Dexter.  My faint hope of topographical forbearance from Mr. Dexter was dashed as soon as I turned and looked UP. DANG!

Up went Steve. Up went Kevin. Up went Rachel. Up – without her lowest gears no less – went Emilia. I wanted to cry. Not. Gonna. Walk. Dammit. And I didn’t.

Over the top to a series of rolling hills. New Mexico was conquered without a shot. Once we reached Idaho the cue sheet went away. We rode crested Cathedral Heights and cruised down to busy Connecticut Avenue. With Connecticut traffic stopped at a red light, we took the left lane and made it to the left hand turn onto Calvert Street. And the triumphant final half mile to the after party at Mellow Mushroom in Adams Morgan.

When we walked into the bar, I raised my hands and yelled “NINE!!!!” Then Emilia posed for a recreation of her 2014 t-shirt photo,

IMG_0192
Missing gears. No problem! Way to go Emilia. Let’s do it again.

Next, Rachel took a shot of the two of is together. Note how I have helmet hair and she doesn’t. Dos Sonrisas.

IMG_0194

I can’t imagine doing this ride without my lowest gears. Emilia didn’t complain. She just found a way and buried me on every hill. Awesome.

After a big and well deserved un fuerte abrazo, Emilia hit the road and the remaining gang of four headed to the roof for pizza and drinks. Thanks for the pie, Rachel. How good to finally ride with you.

Once the party broke up, I drove up town to Petworth to see Alex Baca, my favorite bike ride stalker. We met because she spotted a SharrowsDC pin on my saddle bag on a bike ride in Baltimore. Brian sold the pins to raise money for WABA. She just celebrated a birthday and is still recovering from a nasty crash that resulted in a broken jaw. I am happy to report she looks great and seems in good spirits. And, to bring the day full circle, Brian and his wife Nikki (married all of three weeks) walked in. Brian, a solo rookie, finished the ride too.

Many, many thanks to:

  • the volunteers and staff of WABA, many of whom got up well before sunrise to run the pit stops, take our picture, and keep us safe
  • Laura Miller who was the WABA staffer in charge. Not a bad debut! You can handle the WABA weather machine any time you want
  • the course marshals, particularly Kitty who’s group we road with on and off throughout the day
  • the  folks at District Taco and Mellow Mushroom who fueled our two-wheeled foolishness
  • all the other sponsors including Signal Financial, the lead sponsor of the ride.
  • the people of DC, who once again supported us with smiles and shouts, all day. What a change from 2006 when drivers cussed me out!

And big, big thanks to my team six pack. You guys were so much fun to ride with.

 

Advertisements

Eve Teasing

In India, Eve teasing is what we call catcalling or public sexual harassment. We do not approve of Eve teasing here at the Rootchopper Institute. We do however get teased by the eve of big events and tonight is one of those.

Tomorrow is the 50 States Ride. It sold out a few hours ago. There is a new rule this year: if you don’t ride the whole thing you can go to the after party but you have to give your beer and pizza to bona fide finishers.  (Me.)

I rode to Friday Coffee Club at dawn. The temperature was hovering just above WTF. (It was 51 degrees F when I hit the road.) Now that the sun has moved a bit further south, I can take a sunrise picture at Dyke Marsh. So I did.

Image may contain: 1 person, riding a bicycle, standing, bicycle, sky and outdoor

Former co-worker Kelly saw this picture and thought I had gone back to work. No. Not gonna happen, Kelly.

Coffee Club was hopping. I signed up Kevin to join Team Rootchopper. Scuba Michael may also be joining us if his ear infection clears up. “Us” so far is Emilia and me. So if you’re coming and riding, we’ll be at the start around 7 am looking for other victims.

It warmed up for the ride home so the jacket came off. The weather has been glorious around here, such a start contrast to the news from the Caribbean. Hang in there Renee and John and Wendy. Based on today’s forecast (a Category 4 or 5 storm running right up the spine of the Florida peninsula), the bike tour to Key West isn’t going to happen. I still have fingers crossed but the Plan B (DC to Erie to Burlington VT or Albany to DC) tour is beginning to look like a real possibility. I have to be mindful that the point of this tour is to do my longest tour and see how my body reacts in preparation for a ride to the west coast next year.

This eve is also the eve of Clinchmas, the day the Washington Nationals clinch the National League East and a spot in the playoffs. The magic number is 4, so the clinch could happen tomorrow.

As soon as the Nats game is over, I’m going to sleep.

Volunteering for Ducks

It rained all day here in DC. I knew I was volunteering at WABA tonight so I didn’t bother to go out in the gloom and wet. At around 4 pm I headed to DC in rain jacket and pants. It was only about 62 degrees. i warmed up in a half mile. The ride was not half bad except for the 10 minute wait for a school bus to unload grade school kids in a downpour. I was okay with them taking their time but some of the kids went back on the bus to fetch things they had forgot. Must not kill.

I took the 15th Street cycletrack about 10 blocks north. The cycletrack is supposed to encourage bike commuters but I find it really unnerving especially when visibility is impaired by rain. I lived. End of story.

I arrived at WABA world headquarters. Volunteers were already at work at 6 pm. We were helping WABA staff get ready for Saturday’s 50 States Ride. (As of this writing the ride is not sold out but it probably will in the next day or two.)  I spent the first 90 minutes moving stuff out of storage to staging areas for the pit stops. Tables, banners, food, pens, zip ties, id labels for people staffing the stops, scissors, tape, binder clips, tents, a cooler, powdered sports drink, etc. When that had run its course, I helped put together the 12-page cue sheets. The 50 States Ride route is notoriously complicated. It’s part of the fun.

Image may contain: 3 people, people smiling, people sitting and indoor
Volunteers Hard at Work

If you are doing the ride, you’ll be stopping a lot. Don’t get frustrated. Go Just with it. Say hello to the people at the stop light or stop sign. The secret sauce of the 50 States Ride is that it is a social event that even introverts will love.

After a couple of hours, the evening’s activities came to a close. Cue sheets were still being run off the office printer. I suspect someone will be feeding it paper for another hour or so.

I rode home in the rain. It was dark. I was concerned about visibility so I wore a bright yellow belt that lit up from within.  I also had my Stella headlight blazing away. With raindrops on my glasses I couldn’t see very well but drivers would have to be blind not to see me. My wet glasses made it extremely hard to see when I was facing headlights. So I rode very slowly. The ride home took nearly 2 hours.

 

Ten Year Almond Anniversary

In a weird coincidence Pearls before Swine ran this strip yesterday.

So why is it a coincidence? Exactly ten years ago today, I had a similar conversation with a cyclist. (Somehow she has friends.)
Paul and I were riding the 50 States Ride in DC. For the uninitiated, this ride traverses the entire city so that participants can ride on streets named after the 50 States. It’s hard. It’s hilly and there are scores of stop signs and red lights. The route covers about 62 miles (depending on whether you get lost).
Nowadays the ride is held in September but back in 2007 it was held in August. August 24, 2007 was a hot and humid day in DC. Paul, his friend from Chicago Jane, and I were suffering. We had not yet hit a single hill and had ridden only about 15 miles. It was taking forever when one of us spotted an Asian woman a few hundred yards ahead. We decided to catch her.
Wimps that we are we only managed to catch her at the rest stop in Anacostia. There we met the not-Asian Florencia munching almonds from a bag. Paul pulled out his gorp and conversation ensued.
1236042608_392208b701_z
Soon we were riding up the hills of Anacostia. Paul and Jane decided on an early lunch at an air conditioned restaurant at the highest point in Anacostia. (Showing an astounding amount of common sense they quit the ride.)  Florencia and I soldiered on, sort of. She rode ahead and I caught her at stop lights and stop signs.
After another ten miles or so, we stopped at a 7-11. Flor only bought water. I bought the entire snack aisle and gallons of sports drinks. When we came out Shane was lying on the grass in the shade next to our bikes. She did not look like a happy camper. Adam was standing nearby. He was not looking really please either.
We rode off, the four of us, into the hills of Northeast DC. It got hotter. And muggier. Time and again Flor pulled away, often with Adam in tow. (For some reason I thought they knew each other or were a couple, but it was just the way the group fell out.)
We descended into Rock Creek Park and stopped to rest under a big shade tree. Shane looked like she was dying. I thought she was getting heat exhaustion. Adam looked very unhappy.
1235183797_038a5c2257_z (1)
Flor munched more almonds. (I managed to take the worst picture ever of her as she ate.) She was bullet proof. She didn’t even seem to be sweating.
1235181959_65251ce675_z
Impatience got the best of her and Flor rode off alone. Adam, Shane and I continued for a few miles as a trio before Adam went home to eat some cold quiche.
Shane and I rolled on. We got to the rest area at American University. Shane went inside to get snacks. She came out with a handful of goodies. Only then did we realize that she had inadvertently stolen them from a seminar. Oops.
We continued on. I was aiding and abetting a snack thief’s getaway. The police didn’t pursue and we finished somewhere near Dupont Circle. Shane laid down on the sidewalk. Her problem wasn’t the heat, it was an ill-fitting bike.
She asked me to go to a bar nearby where survivors of the ride were celebrating. I took a pass to get home to daddy duties. At the bar Shane met Jeff (no relation to the guy in the comic strip, just another coincidence).
Jeff, Shane, and I did a ride in Baltimore a few weeks later.
1700693630_95c8289391_z
For a while I was doing rides with these characters on a semi-regular basis but then life intervened. Sad face.
Happy anniversary to the Paul, Shane, Jeff, and Flor. It was epic, wasn’t it?

An Iceberg Calved on My Head

It’s soooo hot and muggy here in DC. Some people really like this. I do too but there’s a limit to everything. Today we passed my limit.

The morning was actually not half bad. The temperature was about 80 degrees and it was very humid. This is not a problem on a bike ride of only 75 minutes such as my commute. There was no need to loosen up. The heat and humidity did it for me. I settled right into my trance.

Pedal, pedal.

I cruised past the halfway point, around the Slater’s Lane apartments on the river. The trail turns away from the river and joins a spur that goes to the opposite side of the apartments. A woman was standing on the grassy island where the trails join. I paid her no mind and cruised past. I looked left to make sure the coast was clear and spotted something familiar. A white pannier with black leafy accents. The pannier had two large loop handles protruding from the top of the bag. I turned off the trail and headed back. Those panniers are unique and the belong to my friend Kirstin who was standing next to her Long Haul Trucker.  How I missed her on my first pass I’ll never know. She has RED hair. (I used to but the last of it left sometime in the Carter administration.)

As soon as she saw me she yelled: “Rootchopper!”

Kirstin rode all the way down from DC, about ten miles, to accompany her friend Yolanda on her ride to work in DC. Yes, she’s that nice.

Digression on #bikedc Connections: I met Mary at the 2010 50 States Ride. Mary is one of the co-founders of Friday Coffee Club. She occasionally runs with Kirstin and told her about Friday Coffee Club, which is where Kirstin and I met.  Kirstin’s husband Tom works out with Ed who is the father of Lolly who used to work for the Washington Area Bicyclists Association (WABA). I volunteered to recruit new WABA members one evening. Lolly came to help, subbing for Alex. I met Alex in Baltimore on a bike ride. Alex saw a SharrowsDC logo pin on my saddle bag and asked if I was from DC. I bought the pin from Brian (who is @sharrowsdc on the interwebs) who sold them to raise money for WABA. Brian is one of the co-founders of Friday Coffee Club.

So, back to our tale. Kirstin and Yolanda and I rode five miles or so to the 14th Street Bridge where they peeled off to cross the river while I carried on to my office in Rosslyn across from Georgetown. It was fun riding with them, a great change of pace for me. I have to admit that it was a bit frustrating too. Kirstin can chat a blue streak and the trail is too narrow to ride side by side. So we’ll just have to do another ride together.  Maybe I won’t get lost this time.

The ride home was a whole ‘nother ballgame. Damn was it hot. And muggy. I did fine for about 3 or 4 miles but for some reason my lungs started to ache. Not when I was breathing though. I was not having fun. I plugged along with the pain coming and going and eventually staying. In Old Town I pulled over and took two hits from my albuterol inhaler. I was hoping this would help as it did when I made a rather painful 3 a.m. trip to the ER in May 2016. It didn’t.

I crawled through Old Town. I noticed that sipping from my bottle seemed to help. I made it to Belle Haven Park, about 4 1/2 miles from home. I stopped for some fresh, cool water. And it worked! The pain subsided.

I have no idea what the heck was going on with my lungs but I felt good enough to pull over and take a picture at Dyke Marsh. As you can see, I was no longer dying.

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, sky, cloud and outdoor

I actually have a friend who prefers this kind of weather. She is insane. We met during the 50 States Ride on an oppressively hot and muggy day just like this. She appeared to be thriving. The other riders in our group not so much.

1235183797_038a5c2257_z

Suffice it to say, we were abandoned to our wretched fate. (The woman in the photo and I actually finished. The dude lasted another few miles before bailing out when we got near his home.)

 

Opera, Deer, and the Bat Shit Crazy

  • Last night on the way home from work I stopped to listen to the opera busker at the Torpedo Factory in Old Town.
  • This morning on the way to work I was riding along the underside of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge when a doe and two fawns came jaunting across the trail about 50 yards ahead of me.
  • A few days ago my friend Emilia (who is not bat shit crazy) took an Instagram video as she rode across the boardwalk at Dyke Marsh on the Mount Vernon Trail three miles from my house. I found the video mesmerizing, watching it over and over. So much of nature’s beauty captured in ten seconds. The funny thing is: I ride that same boardwalk every day.
  • Didn’t I tell you I have the best commute ever!?
  • To (sort of) thank Emilia I sent her a notice about a casting call for people to appear as a model in promotional material for Bike Arlington. It pays $200 for a few hours of work. In order to apply you need to submit photos of yourself. I found several pictures of  Emilia from the 50 States Ride we did together. Like so many others before her, she had no idea how hard the ride was going to be. Heat! Rain! Hills! 62 miles! Her triumphant victory photo at the post-ride party was one of my favorite pictures of the year. No automatic alt text available.
  • It’s been a long time since I’ve seen an in-line skater on the Mount Vernon Trail. They were all the rage about a decade ago. I even tried them, and I can’t skate worth beans. I would go to Fort Hunt Park and skate around in circles. I learned how not to fall too often. What eventually led me to give it up was not the falling so much as the fact that I have very wide feet. My feet would be all blisters and blood after I went skating.
  • The other night I saw a skater on the trail. He was heading north from Belle Haven Park. The trail is canted toward the river his right, my left as I was heading south on my ride home from work. I saw him drift toward the edge of the trail. His left arm started carwheeling, then his right, then his left, then he was off the trail and falling. He landed on his tailbone on the edge of the asphalt. Ow. He was more embarrassed than hurt. I gave him a 5.6 for style, but had to deduct points for going off the trail.
  • Yesterday I came to the conclusion that one of my Facebook friends is bat shit crazy. I mentioned this on twitter without naming names. Ricky tried to claim the honor. I then upped the count to two bat shit crazy people. To be honest, Ricky is not even close to as crazy as the other.
  • A couple of friends have tried to help me with my bike tour planning. “When you get to Miami, you can take a train.” Um, if I’m going to take a train, why ride there in the first place?
  • Larry McMurtry once wrote
    • A woman’s love is like the morning dew; it’s just as apt to settle on a horse turd as it is on a rose.
    • I think it’s a sickness to grieve too much for those who never cared a fig for you. [Particularly if they are bat shit crazy.]
  • The father of a former co-worker died of pancreatic cancer the other day. He was diagnosed only a few weeks ago. She went home to see him before he died but dang. Then I learned on Tuesday that an old grad school roommate of mine died of cancer Monday night. We knew that he had been dealing with cancer based on the note in his Christmas card but we had no idea he was as sick as he was. Mrs. Rootchopper summed it up, “He was the nicest guy in the world.” Word. Amen.
  • On Monday I threw my back out getting my Bike Friday into the trunk of my daughter’s subcompact car. I was taking her car to a mechanic for an oil change. A few days later I read a tweet that mentioned a 50% off deal for a year’s $85 membership in Capital Bikeshare. For $42.50 a year I can save big money on physical therapy!
  • In 49 days I am retiring. I am still relatively young and want to do a few things before my body completely rebels against my mega mileage shenanigans. I am noticably slower this year than last. i also weigh 10 pounds more.
  • I have been riding Big Nellie, my recumbent, for about a month now. A couple of years ago this would have caused my right foot to go completely numb. I almost sold the bike but this spring I took off the clipless pedals I was using and put on old school platform pedals with PowerGrips (leather straps that cross the pedals on a diagonal). I have been wearing Teva sandals and riding to work. No pain. No numbness.
  • I really like biking in sandals. I am thinking about putting the same kinds of pedals on my CrossCheck, at least until fall.
  • I have stopped wearing a helmet. Life is too short not to feel the wind in your hair. If I haven’t hit my head in 55+ years of bike riding, I like my odds.
  • Even when people are  bat shit crazy, you can still miss them. A lot.

 

Only 400 States – What a Slacker

My favorite bike event is the 50 States Ride here in DC. I’ve written about it many times. It’s hilly. It’s hot, except when it rains like a monsoon. It’s long. It has an impossibly complicated cue sheet. And I have met dozens of people doing it.

For some reason I have had it in my head that this September would be my 10th time riding it. Nope. Only number 9. Bless me father for I have sinned.

I did the ride in 2006, 2007, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2016. I skipped 2008 and 2009 to attend my son’s high school football games. 2010 was so hard that I never wanted to do it again before being coerced by a friend who I met on the 2007 ride. By 2014, I had once again decided to retire but the same friend convinced me to do it again. In 2015 I was in Australia visiting my globe trotting kids. Last year was a solo effort.

So this year will be number 9. I am delaying my bike tour just so I can ride it. Registration isn’t yet open. I highly recommend doing this ride at least once, especially if you are new to DC.

Not to get ahead of myself, but if all goes according to plan, I’ll do the 2018 50 States Ride as a victory lap after a cross country bike tour.

Stay tuned.  xxx

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

Top Ten of 2016

As is so often the case, my top ten list goes to 11. Hey, it’s my blog and I make the rules.

Yooper for a Week
After 11 years I finally did another solo bike tour. I drove 13+ hours to Ludington Michigan. After a ferry ride across Lake Michigan, I rode The Mule fully loaded with gear into the north woods of Wisconsin. On July 4, I had breakfast in Freedom. After a few days I turned east and crossed the UP, the upper peninsula of Michigan. After the UP, I visited car-free Mackinac Island on a quiet Sunday morning. Other than a two-hour scary thunderstorm and three hilly days of headwinds near the end of the tour, the weather could not have been better. And I managed three ferry rides without getting sick. I rode 832 miles in 11 days. It was a wonderful combination of hard work and rolling meditation. I proved to myself that even at 60 years old I still got it. Okay, maybe not all of it but enough of it to get the job done. I can’t wait to do another.

An Eventful Spring
Prior to my tour I warmed up my legs by riding some bike events. I kicked the year off with the Vasa Ride, co-sponsored by the Washington Area Bicyclists Association and the Swedish embassy. It was a bit of a disappointment because this is normally a social ride but I rode it alone and didn’t do much socializing at the embassy reception afterwards. Next came the Five Boro ride in New York City. The Five Boro Ride has always been on my to do list but conflicted with work, parenting responsibilities, and personal lethargy. I convinced Paul to join me (with Amy along for moral support). Paul and I rode the 40+ mile ride in a cold rain at the start of May. It wasn’t all that much fun, but touring Manhattan the day before in splendid weather with the wonderful guidance of my BU friend Susan made up for riding the Brooklyn Queens Expressway in a driving rain.

At the end of May, I rode the new DC Bike Ride. Not to be outdone by NYC, we had cold rain for that one too.

Scary Night
In May, I woke up in the middle of the night with severe chest pains. After a few hours of increasing pain, Mrs. RC called for an ambulance. The ride to the hospital ½ mile away took 20 minutes but I was well taken care of. What I feared was a heart attack turned out to be a respiratory infection. Fortunately, a nebulizer treatment in the ER and antibiotics fixed me up over the next week. An earworm of the Neil Finn song Anytime played for days. “I could go at anytime. There’s nothing safe about this life.” Words to live by.

At the end of the week, I dragged myself out of bed and rode my bike on Bike to Work Day. I was still under the weather but I now know I can ride to work with one lung tied behind my back.

Pulling Beers Like a Boss
I have been lax in volunteering at local bike events, basically forever. This year, with my respiratory problems more or less behind me, I volunteered at the Tour de Fat in DC. This is a fundraiser for bike advocacy groups (WABA being one of many) and I was determined to help out. It rained. It was cold-ish. I pulled beers nonstop for two hours. Instead of hanging around for the rest of the day, I went home and went to bed. (Every party has a pooper that’s why we invited you.) Next year I hope to be around to volunteer again. And to socialize afterward.

Call Me Lars
Our daughter finished up her year abroad with a semester in Sweden. A few days after Tour de Fat, Mrs. Rootchopper and I flew over and toured parts of Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and Iceland. It was an exhausting two weeks and fun to re-visit Copenhagen after over 15 years. Although I was in bicycle heaven for most of the trip, I didn’t ride at all. If you ask me what my favorite place was my answer would be “Yes.”

Ain’t Baseball Great
I went to 19 Nats games this year. The last time I went to this many games was when I lived in Boston. I rode my bike to about 15 games. How convenient of them to locate the ballpark 16 miles from home. As a bonus, it was great seeing so many friends at the bike valet before and after the games. The rest of the games involved driving the kids, including my niece Irene for one game. One exhausting game lasted 16 innings and the good guys won on a walk-off home run. I even managed to see two playoff games. Despite (or perhaps because of) the fact that the Nats lost their last game of the season, I can’t wait until April!

Fall Bike Frenzy
In the fall I did the Indian Head, Backroads, and Seagull Centuries (100 miles each), the 44-mile Great Pumpkin Ride (with Paul, Amy, and Jody), the 53-mile Cider Ride and, for the eighth time, the 62-mile 50 States Ride. I was already on fumes near the end of this madness, when an old friend asked me to ride with her to Harpers Ferry and back over two days. Given the fact that I had a colonoscopy (with the associated fasting and anesthesia) two days before we would have left, I declined. One ambulance ride a year is plenty.

Deets Provides a Surly Surge
A year ago I bought a new bike, a Surly Cross Check. Mostly, it hung on a hook in my shed, used only for the occasional weekend ride. This summer I started commuting on it. What a great commuter bike it is. I also did all my fall events on it. I named it Deets after the scout in the miniseries Lonesome Dove. Deets was said to be “cheerful in all weathers, never shirked a task, splendid behavior.” My Deets served me well until his back tire exploded on the way to work. Aye god, Woodrow.

Hiking Light
Unlike last year, I didn’t get much hiking done this year. I did the Billy Goat B and C trails on New Years Day which is becoming something of a tradition. Realizing that I-66 cuts right across the Appalachian Trail, I hiked it north (Manassas Gap) and south (Trumbo Hollow) of the highway. I also headed out to Shenandoah National Park to hike the Hogback Mountain trail. In late November I hiked the Potomac Highlands Trail from Turkey Run Park to the American Legion Bridge and back. A surprisingly nice hike so close to DC. Just before the year ended I did a meandering hike in Great Falls Park in Maryland.

Living Small
We had our wood floors redone in the spring. We hired a couple of amazing movers to relocate all our belongings from the top two floors down to the family room and basement where we lived among the piles of stuff for two weeks. It was quite a project. The floors turned out great. I came to realize that most of the crap that I have accumulated over the course of 25+ years in a house, I can live without.

Going Long
Coincident with my 61st birthday, my four bikes gave me a big present. I’ve been keeping track of the mileage on my bikes for 25 years and with an empty nest surge in recent years I finally made it to 100,000 miles. I also set my one-year personal mileage record of 8,167 miles.

That’s it for 2016. No mas. Thanks for reading. I am taking 2017 one day at a time. Love this life. It’s the only one you get.

Sun Does a Huey

This morning at 5:44 the sun did a huey. I caught it in action. Sort of. It wasn’t moving particularly fast. It was obviously further downriver, south, that it was a month ago. I know colder days lie ahead. I know, somewhat counter intuitively, later sunrises do too. (Something about the tilt of the earth, the sun greed of the Maoris, and voodoo. Trust me, I know science.) Looking on the bright (pun intended) side, opening day is 103 days away.

solstice

So The Mule posed for a picture with the sun just a couple of hours after it changed course.

Facebook sent me the perfect reminder of the winter solstice: a picture of two friends hanging out at a rest stop during my second 50 States Ride in August 2007. Huh? They look pretty good in the picture but the heat soon did Paul in. Flor, who seemed immune to the elements, rode like she had wings. It was one of the hardest bike rides I can remember. It got hotter and more humid as the ride progressed. A rider I met afterward cooled off by jumping in Rock Creek.

paul-and-flor

It was good that I looked at the picture before I left for work. It took the edge off a cold December morning.