Riding to Eagles and Beatles

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The weather was perfect for a bike ride. Yay, April. So off I went on Little Nellie to DC. As I passed beneath the Morningside eagle nest I spotted a white head sticking up from the nest. I couldn’t tell if it was an eagle or an opportunistic osprey but it gave me an idea for a destination: the National Arboretum and its bald eagle nest.

I took the Woodrow Wilson Bridge across the Potomac River. The climb away from the river passes the enormous new MGM casino complex. It’s a whole lot of ugly, but you can eat at posh restaurants and see a show and throw away your hard earned dollars there. Go get ’em. I’ll pass.

At the top of the hill, I took a sidewalk (because MDOT hasn’t figured out how to accommodate bicyclist for beans in this area) to Oxon Hill Farm and descended back to the river. You see this climb and descent is required because MDOT couldn’t figure out how to add a trail along the river as there has been in Virginia for over 45 years.

The descent was a little scary because my left hand is messed up from getting jammed in flood debris on my hike yesterday. I think a small piece of wood may be lodged in my left middle finger. So braking is rather difficult.

I rode through Anacostia and made my way to Anacostia Park where there was a big festival. I ran into Nelle and Ursula from WABA. They were busy getting set up for the event.  At an adjacent booth I talked with Carlos (I think that’s his name) who used to work in my local bike shop. He immediately recognized Little Nellie and asked how many miles she had on her (17,500+). Carlos did good work.

After being social for a few minutes I went back into introverted rider bliss mode along the Anacostia River.  Puffy clouds and blue skies were reflected in its calm waters. I crossed over the river on the Benning Road overpass and took busy Benning northeast. Not a lot of fun but it got the job done. No way I would ride this street on a weekday. Two more busy, bike-hostile roads (17th Street and Blandensburg Road) and I was into the Arboretum. I walked by bike past a road block allowing only pedestrians to enter. Alas, further up the road a more restrictive sign appeared. No entry. Period. So I turned around.

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You can check out the bald eagle nest on dceaglecam.org.  There are two very cute eaglets in the nest right now. They seem to be thriving for all I know.

After my eagle fail,  I headed across town to the new REI store where a free beer event was to be held later in the day.  I arrived way too early so instead of drinking beer I went gawked at all the merchandise. It’s a outdoorsy wet dream. Kayaks and bikes and clothing, oh my.

The store is in the renovated Uline Arena, the site of the first Beatles concert in the US. (The place was called the Washington Sports Arena back in 1964.) The store gives a nod to this history (and other events that happened there) by putting replicas of concert posters on the concrete support posts in the store. The Beatles concert occurred a few days before their appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show that I watched in my jammies. (I found it utterly incomprehensible. I had three older brothers who, like every other kid in the country, became big fans. As, eventually, did I.)

After being overwhelmed with retail madness I headed home. The traffic on the streets and the trails was quite heavy. Tourists were stopping without warning on their bike share bikes. A couple of Lance Mamilots tried to impress the word with their speedy and agile bike riding on the narrow Mount Vernon Trail. The annoyances were minor.

I made it home to watch the end of the baseball game and to re-lube my chain. Yesterday I removed the clipless pedals from Big Nellie. Today I remove the matching cleats from my biking shoes. I am an old school toe clip dude. Sue me.

Postscript: the piece of wood in my finger popped out while doing dishes tonight. All in one piece. That’s never happened to me before. It looked like a dark brown rice kernel. Ewww

The Cider Ride: Fourth Time Is a Charm

Yesterday was the fourth annual Cider Ride, the last ride of the year for WABA, the Washington Area Bicyclist Association. The Cider Ride was the creation of Michelle Cleveland whose mission in life is to see me die of exhaustion, nasty weather, and other calamities while on a bike. I am happy to report that she failed again.

Michelle handed the reins for this ride over to Nick Russo. Every so often, a really good baseball team gets a new manager. Success is defined by not screwing a good thing up. Nick succeeded. This is partly because he went into the basement of WABA’s World Headquarters and disabled the WABA weather machine which is notorious for dialing up hurricanes, freezing rain, swamp heat, and tsunamis.

The first Cider Ride took us to the wilds of Prince Georges County, Maryland in early December. It was cold. The roads were bumpy and the drivers were somewhat impatient. One of them ran over a friend of mine. So it was decided to move the ride to Montgomery County, Maryland. This ride was colder than the previous ride plus it had wind and rain. Most people cut their rides short. I took the sag wagon. (Thanks Gina!)

Then somebody got the great idea to move the ride up a month to November and to make use of all the trails running through the Anacostia River watershed. Genius! Pretty fall foliage plus minimal car traffic made for a vastly improved experience. It also imported a tradition from WABA’s 50 States Ride: the impossibly complicated cue sheet. WABA’s  motto: “Getting lost is part of the fun!”

(Actual cue written by Michelle Cleveland: “Just after the little intersection but before the traffic light, take a right on the sidewalk. Avoid the light poles, loose concrete, and accumulated sand while you thread your way under the darkest overpass ever constructed until you take a right to take a left at a the Walker Road traffic light. May god have mercy on your soul.” Michelle’s motto: “I have nothing to offer but my own confusion.”)

Last year’s ride was mighty fine. I got lost. I had fun. And donuts. And pie. And I got a mug. This year’s ride was the same except that in the weeks before the ride, a new section of the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail opened up. So the route was revised adding 5 more miles of complexity and confusion. Brilliant!!!

With no rain, calmish winds, and temperatures holding in the 50s the ride was a pleasant meander. Riders stopped to adjust their clothing. The cool air was just that sort of in between temperature that gives autumn bike commuters fits. The discomfort was minor. The foliage was major! Peak!

We endured the blinding colors.

After riding the streets of Northeast DC we hopped on the older Anacostia trails and headed north along the river. In College Park we stopped at Proteus Bikes where hot cider and doughnuts awaited. Next, we passed through the low traffic roads of the Agricultural Research complex and the National Wildlife Federation facility near Beltsville Maryland.

We headed back south and toured Greenbelt Maryland, a planned community dating to the New Deal. At a rest stop in a Greenbelt park we inhaled pie and hot cocoa. Also, a yellowjacket stung my right middle finger. It swelled up so much it was useless against obnoxious drivers for the rest of the day. (Actually, it didn’t swell up and I abstained from using my BSL, bicyclist sign language, for the duration of the ride.)

Somewhere on the return through Riverdale Maryland I lost my cue sheet. This was Michelle’s fault because I blame her for everything. Actually, I had lost my cue sheet holder thingie and forgot to bring a binder clip. So I was pulling the cue sheet out of my vest pocket throughout the ride until I apparently missed when I went to put it back in. Derp.

I followed the slowest group that ever remained upright on bicycles to another rest stop at a bakery where I hooked up with another more faster group that I hoped was going my way. It was.

We made our way to the brand spanking new section of the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail. Bravo to WABA for adding this to the route. This trail rivals the Mount Vernon Trail and the W &OD Trail west of Leesburg for scenery. Fortunately the riders ahead of me knew where to get off the trail (Benning Road) so that we could make our way to the finish. I overheard one of them say “C Street” before they rode away. No worries. I decided to take C to the 1st Street cycletrack to the Metropolitan Branch Trail. Two riders who were unsure of the route gave me their cue sheet and it confirmed that my route exactly matched the official route.

And so we rode the last few miles together.

I arrived at the finish at the Dew Drop Inn rather exhausted. Here’s why:

  • Monday and Tuesday – 30 mile commutes
  • Wednesday – fast, as in no food, 30 mile commute
  • Thursday – colonoscopy
  • Friday – 30 mile commute
  • Saturday – 36 mile ride
  • Sunday – 26 mile ride
  • Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday – 30 mile commutes
  • Cider Ride.

Suffice it to say that my legs were dead throughout the ride. But I still had a good time. And I got to see several #bikedc friends during the ride and at the after party at the Dew Drop.

After four years, the Cider Ride has really hit its stride. It’s an excellent addition to the Vasa Ride in March and the 50 States Ride in September.

Many thanks to the the volunteers, the providers of snackage and cider and cocoa. Special thanks to Nick for his hard work. And to Michelle, the Ginsberg of cue sheets, who I kid relentlessly and admire intensely.

 

 

Anacostia Bikeabout

The weather here is so perfect that I could not pass up a nice easy ride. Well, it ended up being 65 miles. It was so worth it.

After taking in some smallish hills near home Deets and I picked up the Mount Vernon Trail near Belle Haven Park. In a few minutes we were on our way across the Potomac River on the Woodrow Wilson Bridge trail. Once in Maryland we started the long slog up Oxon Hill. The new casino is nearly finished. It still reminds me of a galactic cruiser in Star Wars.

At the top of Oxon Hill we turned east to head into the Anacostia neighborhood of DC. We needed to use the sidewalk because MDOT no longer allows left hand turns into Oxon Farm Park. The sidewalk was closed as part of the casino project. So we just rode behind the traffic cones against traffic. Just wait until a bunch of up-all-night frustrated gambler start driving around this monstrosity.

The ride down the big bumpy hill through the farm was fun. I did it one handed because I was trying to take interesting pictures. I did not succeed. But I didn’t crash so there’s that.

Once through the flat section of the park we rode up Blue Plains Drive, a road that gets steeper as you go. Not fun.

At the top of the hill we took a left on MLK Jr. Boulevard and rode it through the eastern edge of Anacostia. This is the lowest income area of DC. It also has the most violent crime. On Sunday mornings it is also the church going-est neighborhood.

At Good Hope Road we turned into Anacostia Park where we headed up the Anacostia River. This river was long regarded as little more than a sewer but nowadays it’s a gem. More and more people are coming to the Anacostia for its quiet beauty. After riding about a mile we came to the new (as in not yet officially open) extension of the Anacostia River Trail north of Benning Road.

It was clear from the get go that this new section of trail was really well designed. It is not meant as high speed trail. Rather than cut a straight path, it winds through the parkland on the east side of the Anacostia River. Some of the bridges have concrete decking instead of the slippery wooden decking used on the MVT. There are traffic calming design elements to keep Lance Mamilot and his friends from riding aggressively.

One section of the trail is on a sidestreet. I was shocked at all the new housing in this little Northeast DC enclave. The street riding soon gives way to a cycletrack! Woot!DSCN5627.JPG

Wayfaring signs make it easy to navigate the trail. Except for when the stop where the trial ends as it intersects the old Anacostia Trail system in Bladensburg MD.

We rode the Northeast Branch Trail up to Lake Artemesia. Just before I turned to get to the lake, I stopped for a deer. It just stood there only a few feet away. I think I could have petted it. Then it decided that I was a danger and turned and ran.

Deets and I ended up riding the old trail all the way until I saw an Ikea sign. This is somewhere at the northern edge of College Park. I checked my Google maps for a way to ride to Silver Spring but it seemed hopeless. We were going to go to Meridian Hill Park to see the disarmed Joan of Arc statue. (Somebody cut off her sword at the hilt.) Not seeing an obvious route, we turned around and rode back to DC. On the way back, I switched over to the western side of the river and rode the trail all the way to Nats Park. After cheating death on Maine Avenue I worked my way to the 14th Street Bridge over the Potomac and rode the MVT home.

Despite not actually being officially open yet, the Anacostia Trail had some serious traffic on it. Not much less than the MVT. When word gets out, it’s going to get a ton of use.

It’s only shortcomings are a distinct lack of water fountains and no obvious places to eat. All in good time I suppose.

I’ll let the pictures do the talking over on my Flickr page.

Recovery Ride – The Pretzelneur

I woke up all sore from yesterday’s shenanagans so I decided to take advantage of the fine weather and my perpetually empty social calendar.

So I made my way to the Mount Vernon Trail and let gravity and a tailwind push me to Alexandria. The trail was pretty busy so any thought of riding it north to DC was pretty much out of the question. This left option B which is to ride over the Wilson Bridge. This route to DC is pretty interesting. First, you have the bridge’s view of DC. Then you ride down a spiral toward National Harbor. Then you ride a long way up Oxon Hill followed by riding a long way back down to Oxon Cove. The route goes up again to MLK Jr. Boulevard which rolls through Anacostia.

At Good Hope Road, I picked up the Anacostia River Tral and watched the crew shells glide by as I headed north.

I stopped to see where the Pretzel House is in DC. I thought Google said 15th and D NE so I headed that way. I knew things didn’t look right as I rolled around the one way streets. No pretzels. Hmmm. I re-checked my phone and it said SE!

So I rode the mile or so to the correct location and had myself some fine pretzels and an iced tea.

After my munch, I headed to Eastern Market to people watch. There were people. I watched them. Nobody I knew.

So I rolled down Constitution Avenue and went to the Enid Haupt Garden at the Smithsonian. I used to work up the street from this place. It is expertly maintained. I took a bench and just chilled for 20 minutes. It’s just the perfect place to sit and reflect.

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With a  refreshed mind, I headed to Hains Point for a 3-mile lap. I think the last time I rode there was cherry blosson season. It was nice not to have to compete for road space with buses.

I rode across the 14th Street Bridge and made my way toward the Pentagon. I followed streets through Crystal City and Potomac Yards. A new bike trail has been built in Potomac Yards. I followed it to the Braddock Road Metro station. It’s a nice addition to Alexandria’s bicycle infrastructure.

I rode West Street through the edge of Old Town. A car from Arkansas and I played leap frog. The driver was unfamiliar with the 3-feet rule and kept passing me within a foot of my left hand. If I were left handed I would have keyed him.

I finished my recovery ride by grinding up three hills, two on Fort Hunt Road and a third on Sherwood Hall Lane. I arrived home with 44 miles on my odometer.

So much for recovering. I think my ride to work tomorrow will be my recovery from my recovery ride.

Busy Weekend

Friday began with a splendid bike commute aboard Big Nellie. My back is feeling better but it is still not quite free of the two-month long stiffness. As usual, I stopped at Friday Coffee Club in DC for some bike commuter chat. It was great to see that everyone was sitting outside!! And Jacques brought Hugo (and Elmo the Muppet). I had quite a good time goofing around with Hugo who likes to giggle at goofy grown ups. 

After a day of IT headaches at work, I rode home along the river with temperatures in the 70s. Did it really snow a few weeks back?

For dinner I took Mrs. Rootchopper out to Legal Seafoods in Crystal City. I had high expectations since I have been hearing about this restaurant since my days at BU, but we were both underwhelmed. The food was fine. The service was pretty good. The ambiance was meh. At home we celebrated with dyslexic chocolate fudge birthday cake. Daughter Lily phoned in a fine rendition of “Happy Birthday” from Indianapolis. We will return the favor in a couple of days.  Son Eamonn called Mom earlier for his rendition of the song.

Saturday was a near perfect day for bike riding but, having knocked off something like 137 miles in the previous four days I instead devoted the day to lawn work. First, I drove to Sears to get a new mower. The old mower had wobbly wheels and a leveling mechanism held together with zip ties. It gave me 10 years or so of use so no complaints. I had to use up the gas in its tank so I mowed the back lawn with it. It sounded like it was straining to cut even the shortest grass. Then I put together the new mower and fired it up. Yowsa!  It had noticeably more power. I could actually hear the blade zipping around inside. 

With the yard work done, we set out to see my favorite performer, Neil Finn, at the Lincoln Theater in DC. For the uniformed, Neil Finn is a singer/songwriter/guitarist/pianist from New Zealand. He’s been the force behind Split Enz, Crowded House, three solo albums, two albums with his brother Tim, and two ensemble productions with the likes of Johnny Marr, Eddie Vedder, KT Tunstall, and members of Wilco and Radiohead. His most well known song is “Don’t Dream It’s Over” but he has written scores of songs, many every bit as good. His show at the Lincoln lasted nearly three hours and exceeded my already high expectations. I am pretty sure that he could put on another show, every bit as good, with songs that he did not perform last night. I once saw Sting play Constitution Hall when he was in his early 50s. Perfect voice. Perfect band. Perfect perfromance. Same thing last night with Neil Finn. So here goes my all time favorite performances:

Neil Finn last night, Sting, Elbow at Club 930 last year, Orchestra Baobab at the Birchmere, Raffi (yes, that Raffi) at GWU, Johnny Clegg and Savuka at Georgetown, Andy Narell at Blues Alley, Los Lobos and Buddy Guy at Wolf Trap, the National Dance Company of Senegal, John Mayer with Michael Franti and Spearhead at Verizon Center.

Today was another perfect weather day. I had a date with Big Nellie. We began by checking out the Morningside bald eagle nest on the Mount Vernon Trail. There was one eagle in the nest and another apparently out and about. I do believe there will be little ones in the days ahead.

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Zoom in to see the bald eagle in the nest

I took the Woodrow Wilson Bridge over to Maryland and spun up the long hill to Oxon Hill Road. My intention was to take a left and head to DC but I took the Frostian road less traveled to the right and ended up doing a 15 mile loop through suburban Prince Georges County. It’s not a pretty place to ride but the roads were not very crowded. After the loop I did another couple of loops nearer to DC. Suffice it to say that signage is not PG’s strong suit. 

I eventually made my way to the Anacostia River Trail for some flat spinning along the river. I crossed over the river on the Benning Road bridge. I worked my way to Florida Avenue which heads rather laboriously through Northeast DC and ultimately to the Lincoln Theater. Since Neil Finn was long gone, I stopped for some food and water at a 7-11. Sadly it lived down to my expectations. 

I rode over to Meridian Hill Park which was packed with people enjoying the weather and listening to the drum circle. After dining al fresco on my Turkey and cheese sammich and three oatmeal raisin cookies, I headed back home. I spent 20 minutes getting through the amazing throngs of cars and pedestrians near the Tidal Basin where the cherry blossoms were now past peak. 

The ride home into a stiff headwind kept me honest. During the ride I pondered a set list of Neil Finn songs that he did not perform last night. I’d pay good money to hear him sing them.

Funny thing is with the perfect weather this weekend his last song last night was called “Weather with You” which includes the line: Julius Caesar and the Roman Empire couldn’t conquer the blue skies.”

Indeed