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

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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.

My Ride to the Star Destroyer

It was supposed to be a flat recovery ride. I got a bit carried away. Within a mile and a half I was riding up the hill on Sherwood Hall Lane. Then I rode up the grade on Fort Hunt Road, descended and rode another hill past the golf course to the Beltway.

Okay, I’ll be good. I’ll ride the new Alexandria bike trail all the way to Crystal City.

It was flat. So I continued on to the Pentagon.

It, too, was flat.

I worked my way over to the Mount Vernon Trail and the Humpback Bridge, mostly because the Humpback Bridge sounds cool.

Over the river on the 14th Street Bridge and up Maine Avenue past the incredibly big Wharf construction project. First phase set to open in 2017. Yes, it’s that big.

M Street took me to the 11th Street Bridge across the Anacostia. Whoever decided to put a bike path on this thing is a frickin’ genius. (Is “frickin'” even a word?)

Now the fun begins: the long slog up Martin Luther King Junior Boulevard. If this is junior, I don’t want to know about senior. I had multiple flashbacks to my seven 50 States Rides during which I admired the fit behinds of all the riders who can climb faster than me. Which is to say every entrant ever!

One thing I noticed during my climb, it matters what pants you wear. Pants that are tight around the hips make it harder to climb. Today I wore loose mountain bike shorts under baggy wind pants. Claudio Chiapucci I ain’t but the climbing was not so bad.

It goes up and up. Then it goes down conveniently stopping at South Capitol Street so that all that downhill momentum is lost. Then up some more for a while until I plunge down the steep hill to the Police Academy complex. Every time I see the sign for Police Academy I think of the dreadful movie. At least it had Bubba Smith in it.

Of course at the bottom of the hill there was a stop sign. I stopped. A police cruiser noticed and gave me a friendly toot on the horn. (Take note Alexandria Virginia Police!! You don’t have to treat cyclists like criminals.)

What goes down must go up. After a meander through the messed up Oxon Cove Park I confronted the beast. I don’t mean this apparent imperial star destroyer under construction. (It’s a trap!)

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Side note: Oxon Cove Park could be a local jewel. It has the misfortune of being located in a poor, out of the way section of Prince Georges County Maryland. The few people who live near it rarely use it. What a shame.

The beast was the long, ever steepening climb at Oxon Hill Farm. I HATE this hill. It starts with the indignity of a false flat. Then a true hill emerges in front of you. And emerges and emerges.

I made it to the top without calling for my mommy.

Across the Beltway on Oxon Hill Road and down the side path to the river. Up the spiral ramp (I love this spiral) to the deck and back across the Beltway. Somehow I now had legs and rode over the Wilson Bridge actually accelerating as I made the climb.

I headed home on the Mount Vernon Trail but after a few miles I bailed out to take on one more hill: Westgrove Boulevard, as suburban street that also steepens as it rises.

Mommy!!!

Okay, I made it. In pretty decent fettle. I made my way back home once again riding up the Sherwood Hall Lane hill. For the life of me I can’t figure out why riding up the steeper part going west is so easy. I just thrash it every time.

So 31 1/2 miles. On a rest day. When I couldn’t help myself. If it rains tomorrow, I spy a museum. (If I get out of bed.)

Blocked and Blockhead

The Blocked

After a late night of watching the rain fall down at Nationals Park, I awoke in a bit of a fog. Unfortunately the fog in my brain was accompanied by humidity outside. I rode off into the mugginess officeward.

There was considerable leaf and twig debris on the roads. Somehow this debris was concentrated along the right side where I normally ride. So I boldly moved toward the center of the lane. No drivers’ egos were harmed.

Near Belle Haven Park, a tree had fallen across the trail. According to fellow bike commuter Reba, the tree nearly nailed a passing runner. As a former marathon runner, I can attest that this can ruin your whole day.

Little Nellie was not amused.
Little Nellie was not amused.

I made my way around the tree on foot and proceeded northward-ish. Near the power plant, I came upon a tractor trailer which had fallen across the trail. I rode around it on the grass.

Little Nellie was even less amused
Little Nellie was even less amused

Near the Memorial Bridge, a gaggle of geese formed an occlusion of the trail. I rode through them undaunted. One goose mouth a goose obscenity at Little Nellie,  I am pretty sure this goose is a columnist for the Washington Post. He was probably upset that in years past geese were ticketed for using the trail.

Over the course of the day, it got muggier. Or as the French say, “I’ll fait icky.”

I rode home under ominous skies. Sprinkles turned to light rain. Distant rumbles turned to thunder booms. The tractor trailer was gone but the trail was blocked by a cyclist chatting with a surveyor and a pedestrian. I stopped for the pedestrian almost certainly ruining my credibility as a bike terrorist.

On Union Street in Old Town, the bike lane was blocked twice. The first blockage was by an SUV double parked in the bike lane.  Shortly thereafter the but end of a luxury car was parked so as to preserve the entrance to a townhouse’s garage. It’s butt end blocked the trail.

At King and Union a King Street Trolley (actually a bus) stopped mid-block obstructing my way up Union Street. I was begining to think this was Block the Bicyclists Day, sponsored no doubt by the Washington Post.

The last five miles home were under a steady rain. The distant thunder and lightning suddenly became directly over head. BOOM! CRACK!

Uh oh. Not good. The hairs on my calves (the lower part of my leg, not my baby cows) stood on end. Eek.

Pedal pedal.

Fortunately, that was the worst of it. I arrived home soaked having somehow not terrorized anybody.

The Blockhead

You may have noticed that I have been making oblique references to the Washington Post today. This is because Courtland Milloy, a Post columnist, wrote a column today that expressed his exasperation with having to share the city with cyclists. In addition to some veiled racist remarks, he said that the $500 fine for hitting a cyclist with your car was worth the expense.

Mr. Milloy’s column demonstrated an astounding combination of ignorance, intolerance, and race baiting, quite the trifecta. It also contained many factual errors. Here are some facts for Mr. Milloy to think about:

  • My wife was run over on a crystal clear day by a careless driver in a hurry. She was lucky. She got to spend three months in bed. It took her the better part of a year to get back to something resembling normal. The driver nearly killed her in another way, because the aftermath of the crash left her unable to have surgery for a malignant tumor for one year.
  • My friend Rachel volunteered to ride sweep during a cycling event last December. Her job was to make sure that the very last riders finished safely. She was run over by an inattentive driver near FedEx Field. She was injured but fortunately recovered rather quickly. She is still jittery about riding her bike in the city.
  • My friend Charmaine was run over by a pickup truck while riding to work on Michigan Avenue in Northeast DC. The crash broke her right arm and destroyed her bike. She missed weeks of work and endured months of painful physical therapy. (It was the second time she’d been hit by a car.)
  • I didn’t know Alice Swanson, but six years ago today, she was riding her bike in a bike lane near Dupont Circle when she was run over by a truck and killed.

I could go on with more examples all night.

In my entire life of riding about 100,000 miles I only know of one death by cyclist. This happened when a kid at my grade school lost control of his bike and struck an old lady walking home from church. As bad as we all felt for the victim, we felt equally bad for the kid who was going to have to live with this for the rest of his life.

I hope Mr. Milloy parks his car and his hate. If he rode his bike in the city he might see what I see.

  • Riding through Anacostia on a Sunday morning is a joy. The church goers, dressed in their Sunday best, wave and say hello, even though in Mr. Milloy’s mind I am an evil suburban white guy on a bike and they are black and there are no bike lanes on MLK Boulevard.
  • That riding through all eight wards of the city during six or seven Fifty States Rides has revealed a city that is finally rising from the ashes of the 1968 riots and the farce of a crack head mayor. The restored Union Market and Lincoln Theater, the hundreds of rehabilitated rowhouses, the new buildings springing up everywhere, the resurrection of near Southeast. You miss this driving in and out of the city with a death grip on the steering wheel.
  • And that during those same rides and many, many more in DC, dozens of people have waved, cheered me and my fellow riders on, and made sure we didn’t take a wrong turn. Over and over again.
  • That little kids see me go by on my funny looking recumbent or my equally odd folding bike and say, “COOOL!”

I don’t like  riding my bike in DC during rush hours, but I’ll do it to get where I need to be. That doesn’t mean I am an inherently bad person or anti-car or racist.  It means that I am rational. I dislike driving in the city too. The difference is that in a car I have steel barrier between me and people like Mr. Milloy. On a bike, I am apparently a viable potential target for a pathetic man with a small mind.

Mr. Milloy should be ashamed of himself. As a 30-year subscriber to the Post, I have but one request. Stop running his columns. They are reckless, irresponsible, and hurtful. Find someone with a positive voice to fill the space.

 

The 16th Day of Furloughmas: Coffeeneur No. 7

I am starting to get the hang of this furlough thing. Stay in bed until 8:45, read the paper, eat breakfast, surf the net, then go riding. And so I did.

My legs are pretty tired, not so much from high mileage but from not being used to my new saddle. After yesterday’s ride, I lowered the saddle a touch for today’s escapade.

Running out of places to go, I decided to do yesterday’s ride in reverse, a loop into Maryland on the Woodrow Wilson bridge, then up to Oxon Hill Road (aptly named). I worked my way west to the very edge of DC and turn onto Livingston Road SE. Then it was up a big hill to Malcolm X Boulevard and eventually to Martin Luther King Junior Boulevard, the main drag of Anacostia. That’s what I intended, but I made a wrong turn. It didn’t matter because the hill and MLK are inevitable.  MLK led directly to the new 11th Street bridge trail over the Anacostia River. On the west side of the river, I picked up the Riverwalk Trail.  I understand that cycling is banned on this trail but I didn’t see the sign so I went with plausible deniability and rode.

I rode around Nationals Park and spotted the bicycle valet sign for future use. Working across near southeast and southwest on I Street which was being repaved. Not a lot of fun but it got the job done. After riding past the fish market, I made my way to the 14th Street bridge into Virginia. Then it was down the Mount Vernon Trail to Old Town where I stopped at Perks for a cuppa joe.  I had the house medium roast with a blueberry muffin. Both were satisfactory. The leather sofa was much appreciated.

Up to this point, my ass was hurting. I checked my saddle and saw that it was developing a depression where my right sit bone was but not a corresponding one on the left. The reason for the asymmetry was the fact that the tip of the saddle was pointing between 12 and 1 o’clock, the result of my adjustment. I re-adjusted the saddle and was more comfortable right away. This could have been the result of sitting on a big sofa in Perks for a half an hour.Image

The ride home was my usual 12 mile per hour autopilot affair. The leaves on the MVT were still very wet and this made for some tense riding for about a mile.

When I got home, I checked the news. It appears that the government shutdown is all but over. Since this is my last day of sloth, I decided to mow the lawn.

Cofffeeneuring Stats:

Ride: Number 7

Place: Perks on North Fairfax Street near Old Town Alexandria

Drink: House medium roast (with a blueberry muffin)

Observation: Saddles should always point to 12 o’clock. Leather sofas are already broken in.

Coffeenuering No. 5: The Undaunted Coffeeneur

Finally, a day without rain!  Yay. I hopped on Big Nellie and headed south for the village of Occoquan on the Occoquan River. I was looking forward to riding the 20+ miles there and settling in with a book and a cup o’joe.

The Mount Vernon Trail was a bad choice for the ride. It is covered in wet leaves. Big Nellie does not like slick surfaces because her weight distribution is skewed toward the rear, resulting in the front wheel skidding out and the engine (that would be me) hitting the ground. I managed to avoid crashing but it made for a slow and tense trip.

At about 7 miles, I was supposed to turn into Fort Belvoir. Traversing the fort is necessary because US Route 1 through the fort is a high speed four lane road with no shoulders. When I made the turn, I was greeted by a big electric signs advising that the entrance was closed. Bummer.

Closed? But, but.....
Closed? But, but…..

I decided to ride across Route 1 and head back north on neighborhood side streets. It is a boring, flat ride and you can get lost easily. I’ve done it a million times though so no worries.  Once back in my neck of the woods, I headed north on Fort Hunt Road, thereby avoiding the MVT’s leaves. I took a side trip to Spokes to cash in a coupon for a free tube. And who said ad mail was junk?

In the store I chanced upon an old friend Jeff who was buying pedals for his bike. Jeff’s son has a habit of appropriating bike parts from Jeff’s bike for his own bike. What are kids for, right? Jeff and I traded furlough stories for a good half and hour before heading our separate ways. I went north on Fort Hunt Road to find some coffee. I ended up at Misha’s Coffeehouse at King and Patrick (US 1) Streets in Old Town. The Route 66 blend seemed appropriate since I was getting my kicks. I also bought a macaroon-type food thingy. The coffee was tasty, but the macaroon left me wanting more eats.

Misha's Coffee and Macaroon Thingy
Misha’s Coffee and Macaroon Thingy

I rode Patrick Street north through Old Town. I then turned off onto Potomac Avenue, a new road that runs parallel to US 1 and that seems to avoided detection by 99 percent of drivers. Several miles later I stopped at the Pentagon 911 Memorial, to use the rest room. It is a moving memorial that you should check out if you haven’t. There is ample bike parking at the entrance.

A mile further on I rode in front of the Lincoln Memorial where I was surprised to see tourists all over the place. I guess the Park Service has given up on the silly barriers it was putting up all over town.

Defiant Citizens Storm Lincoln Memorial
Defiant Citizens Storm Lincoln Memorial

I rode Constitution Avenue the length of the Mall and up Capitol Hill. Then I hopped over to East Capitol Street and rode that due east to RFK Stadium. The signage for bike routes around RFK leaves a lot to be desired but I managed to find Oklahoma Avenue which led me to the Anacostia River Trail system.  I crossed the river and rode the trail to the streets of Anacostia, because you can never climb Martin Luther Kind Jr. Boulevard enough times. I improvised, using part of the 50 States Route, and wended my way to Valley Drive which dropped me one block from the DC-Maryland line. I took a left and was soon riding merrily through strip mall bound traffic on Indian Head Highway. I moved to an access road to avoid the loving embrace of a steady stream of SUVs and ground up a long hill. Soon I was enjoying street luge on the streets descending to National Harbor.

I crossed the Potomac on the fab Woodrow Wilson Bridge trail and headed up the MVT for home. I arrived without any lead induced mishaps and congratulated myself for snatching a 48 mile ride from the clutches of the nonexistent biking infrastructure of southeastern Fairfax County.

How I Found Jesus and Lost a Crown

You could not ask for a nice day to ride a bike. Warm, breezy, sunny and dry is an awesome combination. It’s a little bit of Vermont in DC. It was the perfect day to try out my new prescription sunglasses. I pulled Little Nellie, my Bike Friday New World Tourist, out of mothballs and headed out for parts to be determined.

We headed up the Mount Vernon Trail. Traffic on the trail on nice summer weekend days is usually pretty heavy but it was tolerable today. I decided not to press my luck and left the trail to cross the Potomac River on the Woodrow Wilson Bridge trail. The bridge trail was very crowded but everybody was polite and considerate so I made good time. On the connecting trail in Maryland I passed an interesting tandem bike, a Hase, I think. The stoker sits in front on a recumbent seat. The captain steers from behind the stoker on a conventional bike saddle with conventional handlebars. The riders seemed to be having a blast.

I pedaled up the half mile hill to Oxon Hill Road which is being completely rebuilt to the south. Not wanting to ride through the construction site, I turned north. The intersection at Oxon Hill Farm has been redesigned to deny a left hand turn. I couldn’t figure out how to get to the farm any other way so I turned left anyway. Take that MDOT.

I rode back down the long hill in Oxon Hill Park to Oxon Hill Cove. The trail through this parkland, owned by the National Park Service, is a mess and really needs to be torn up and repaved. (I will refrain from bitching about Congress and how it seems hell bent on turning our public infrastructure into East Germany 1978.)

One mile and a big climb later I was on the streets of Anacostia. As usual, Sunday in Anacostia means church and church goers dressed in Sunday best. I took Martin Luther King Junior Boulevard (is that the longest street name in DC?) down and up and down through the neighborhood. Instead of taking the 11th Street bridge over the Anacostia River to Capitol Hill, I turned instead into Anacostia River Park. I headed north, up river, exploring side roads here and there.  A nifty new bridge takes the park trail north toward Benning Road. Coming toward me on the bridge was a chatty pack of women on bikes. Nellie from the Washington Area Bicyclists Association was at the head of the group. I recognized one of the riders as a regular Mount Vernon Trail bike commuter. She has a blinky light that swivels on the top of her helmet and a very serious bike commuting demeanor.

Since none of the women said “What a man!” as I passed on continued onward. I spent a few minutes trying to find the entrance to the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens but only succeeded in finding the solid waste disposal facility for DC. Fail.

I crossed the Benning Road bridge and took the Anacostia Trail downriver on the west side of the river. Next I meandered through Capitol Hill where I took a break at Eastern Market. After some food and drink, I headed to the Capitol (because it’s there) and then up the Metropolitan Branch Trail. A left put me on the contraflow bike lane on R Street. (Contras make good bike lanes.)

My wanderings took me through a street fair of sorts complete with a farmers market and bike repair, because you need some peaches with your new brake pads.  Up U Street where all the people who can’t get to the beach were eating brunch. I turned up 15th Street and headed into Meridian Hill Park. The park is usually filled with people doing acroyoga, slack lining, and hula hooping, and a very entertaining drum circle. Sadly the only activity was a bunch of people having picnics and an ultimate Frisbee game.

Up 15th Street to 16th I rode. Traffic got a bit heavy so I started to zig zag to the east and the north. I managed somehow to ride past the Tacoma Park  home of Mike, the world’s most loquacious randonneur. (He and his wife Lisa hosted a rest stop on the 50 States Ride last year.)

I pushed onward into the confusion of downtown Silver Spring. If there’s a silver spring anywhere about it’s probably paved over or built on. I spotted a sign for a bike trail that eventually led me to the Georgetown Branch Trail which meant it was time to head for home. After spending a few minutes enjoying the view and chatting with people on the Rock Creek Trestle, I headed toward Bethesda Row for a bit of iced tea. After refilling my water bottles, I hopped on the crowded Capital Crescent Trail and headed for Georgetown and the Potomac River waterfront. The trail is downhill the entire way and the downhill combined with the tailwind to make this a perfect ride.

The river north of Key Bridge was choked with kayaks and canoes and powerboats and other floating things. DC sure likes its water. All this activity made the going kind of slow on K Street which runs by the packed Georgetown Waterfront Park. I pedaled along and was soon at the beach volleyball courts near the Lincoln Memorial. A couple of Park Police officers cruised at 5 miles per hour on the trail making sure that none of the scantily clad volleyballers were drinking or evil doing. As he drove the driver of the cruiser sucked at a Slurpee. (Um, can we move along guys? Please.)

With the help of my tailwind, I rode down Ohio Drive past several softball games (I saw two batters hit frozen ropes in the process.) As I rode across the Potomac on the 14th Street bridge my tailwind became a cross wind strong enough to lean in to.

The Mount Vernon Trail was as crowded as I suspected but the trail users were generally well behaved (an abnormality on a nice summer day, to be sure). As I cleared Gravelly Point Park I went to take a drink from my water bottle. As I pulled on the valve with my teeth something clicked in my mouth.  It was a porcelain veneer crown on one of my front teeth. Bummer. Luckily I didn’t swallow it. Hopefully my dentist can glue it back on. (It was put in about 20 years ago so I’ve got nothing to complain about.)

In Old Town I decided not to deal with Union Street which is usually teeming with touroids on days like today. I rode down Royal Street where, in front of Saint Mary’s Catholic church, a couple was setting up a series of long tables with carvings of various Christian people and scenes. I found Jesus on South Royal Street.

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Not wanting to take a couple of mulchy detours on the MVT, I took the Park Terrace Drive hill instead. I rode up the hill in the saddle at 8 miles per hour, twice as fast as on my recumbent.

I pulled into my driveway with 62.9 miles on my odometer, a metric century (100 kilometers).

 

Paul to the Rescue Again

I took a day off yesterday after a  hilly 57-mile ride on Thursday and a 109-mile ride on Friday, both in hot and humid conditions. What I should have done was gone for a short, easy ride, but I mowed the lawn in oppressively swampy weather and took a chill pill for the rest of the day. As a result of this semi-off day, my legs felt tight and sore. Walking down stairs was a little difficult, not unlike the day after running a marathon. (Been there, done that, had to walk downstairs backwards back in the day.)

My plan for today was to go for a nice easy spin on Big Nellie and see where the bent gods took me. As I made my way into Old Town Alexandria, my legs loosened up considerably. I decided to hit a few bike shops to see if they could fix a problem with one of my pedals. On my recumbent I wear sandals and use PowerGrips. These are straps that go across the pedal diagonally. Normally I use toe clips (I am not a fan of clipless pedals) but nerve problems in my left foot led me to try PowerGrips in search of relief. They work reasonably well except that the strap on my right pedal is at a steep angle, and rubs against my toes. The one on my left pedal fits properly, only touching the outside of my pinkie toe. The reason for the discrepancy is that the pedals attached to a metal plate. The left plate looks like an old bottle opener, flat with a bend at the end. The right plate as a second bend in the middle causing it to extend out too far from the pedal.

I stopped at Wheel Nuts in north Old Town but they were closed. Seven miles down. I decided to try the Velocity bicycle co-op in Del Ray a few miles away. They had all kinds of junk parts (just what I thought I needed) but no plates for PowerGrips.

Twenty years ago, The Mule, my Specialized Sequoia, had a recurring problem: it’s headset (the part that the handlebars attach to) kept coming loose. NOBODY could fix it. After giving many mechanics a crack at the problem, I took the bike to Papillion Bicycles on Columbia Pike in Arlington. Bailey, the owner, couldn’t figure it out but he said try Paul at City Bikes. I called Paul and before I could finish my description of the problem he knew what was wrong. And he did. It needed a ten-cent washer that he happened to have among his two bazillion bike parts.

Paul is now the head mechanic at Bicycle Space in DC, so I decided to let him have a go at the pedal problem. Several miles later, Dr. Paul examined the patieDSCN2387nt. “You don’t need a new part. It looks like you bent this one in an accident.” Paul is also psychic. I did indeed crash the bike a year ago and came down on the right side!

He took the right pedal off, walked into a back room with a hammer in his hand and  began the operation. I was a little troubled by the hammer and the fact that he did not sterilize his hands before surgery. After a minute, he came back out, hammer in hand, took a look at the left pedal, and went back to the OR. A few whacks later  he came out and the pedal was exactly right. Dang,

 

With a smile on my face, I headed for home. Not wanting to go back the way I came, I decided to ride back via Anacostia. I picked rode east to 11th Street Northeast and took a right. I rode over the Anacostia River on the wicked awesome new 11th Street Bridge (such a clever name, no?). In Anacostia, 11th Street becomes Martin Luther King Junior Boulevard. The MLK (very L.A. sounding, don’t you think) is an interesting ride. There are signs of gentrification with new restaurants, cafes, condos and such. And there are the depressing signs of DC’s poorest neighborhoods with housing projects, job training places, and people handing out on the street corners. Along the way, I glanced at an electric sign outside a church. 104 degrees!!!

After the first hill, the MLK descends to cross busy South Capitol Street. Here the road surface becomes a washboard. At 25 miles per hour, it’s downright hairy. (DC needs to up its game with some serious roadwork on the MLK.) Once you get up a good head of steam, you are greeted by a red light at the bottom of the next hill. Argh!

From a dead stop, I climbed the next hill, slowly. At Blue Plains Drive I banged a right and headed down a steep hill, breaking the speed limit in front of the DC Police Academy in the process. I am a brazen scofflaw.

After a couple of left turns, I was on the Oxon Cove Trail. Park maintenance has gone by the wayside this year. Tufts of grass four or five inches tall protrude from all the cracks in the pavement. Grass on either side of the trail is two feet tall.

The trail and the park were completely empty. As I rode next to the cove, I spotted the remnants of an large bird of prey, either an eagle or a hawk. There were some big feathers and some bones but not much else; it had been picked clean.

The trail enters the grounds of Oxon Hill Farm DSCN2389where it turns away from the water and climbs, gradually at first, but steeper and steeper all the way to the top. I think this is the toughest hill in the area. On the way up I saw what looked like the hoof and lower leg from a young deer. Yikes!  A little further on, I spotted a beautiful feather, from a hawk or eagle. I stopped and put it in the flag slot on my Arkel seat back bag.

 

The steepest part of the hill remained so I yelled “Get ’em up, Scout” and started to ride. (I didn’t actually say that, but I am pissed that Johnny Depp has screwed with Tonto. Tarzan is Johnny Weissmuller. Avery Brooks is Hawk. Jay Silverheels is Tonto. That’s it. Don’t mess with my childhood icons. Okay, the new Star Trek actors are infinitely better than the old ones, but that’s an anomaly.)

After the monster climb, I got to ride down the crazy fun downhill toward National Harbor, then up the corkscrew hill to the bike path bridge over the beltway. (This corkscrew design is brilliant.)

Next I rode over the Woodrow Wilson Bridge (a good place to watch the fireworks in Old Town next Saturday night, by the way) and onto the Mount Vernon Trail. Then, for reasons that escape me, I rode up another nasty hill on Westgrove Boulevard. After a stop for a Gary’s Lunchbox sammich at Sherwood Hall Gourmet, I rode home.

What started as an easy spin evolved into a 37-mile hill fest. So much for my plan. At least, I got my pedal fixed. Thanks to Paul and Bicycle Space. It was worth the effort.

 

Of Foxes and Bagels

We’d heard the sound before, a growliing, barking, bleating sound. We could never figure out what it was.  This morning before sunrise we heard it again. We had already lost an hour of sleep to the shift to daylight savings time so Mrs. Rootchopper and I were not amused. We sprang from the bed to see what was the matter (with appologies to Clement Moore).  In the dim pre-dawn light my wife spotted the culprit, a fox on the lawn beneath our bedroom window.

Well, now that I was awake, I stayed awake. I did the usual Sunday morning things and bided my time until the temperature was well into the 40s. Then I jumped on BIg Nellie and headed out.

I took the Mount Vernon Tral heading towards DC. I expected it to be crowded but I was surprised to see it was not. The worst of the crowding usually occurs between Old Town Alexandria and DC so on the north side of Old Town I changed course, picking up the parallel route through the old rail yard (now a massive mixed use development), Crystal City and the edge of the Pentagon parking lots.

I entered DC on the Memorial Bridge and rode carefully through the hoards of tourists visiting Abe. A school kids’ band played the national anthem as I rode past.  My travels took me north into Rock Creek Park. The trail in Rock Creek Park is crappy on just about every level you can think of. At Pierce Mill I left the trail and rode on Beach Drive which is closed to vehocular traffic on the weekends. The ride north is gradually uphill but i didn’t care because even with no leaves on the trees, Rock Creek Park is a thing of beauty.

As usual, I made my way to the Georgetown Branch Trail that crosses the park on an old railroad trestle. I love it up there above the tree tops with the creek and the miniature runners and bicyclists on the rail far below.

Big Nellie on Rock Creek Trestle

After a brief respite, Big Nellie decided I was hungry so we rode the Georgetown Branch Trail to Bethesda Row.  The trail is unpaved. Usually, this time of year it’s an icy and muddy mess but today it was in excellent shape.

I parked Big Nellie next to an amazing cargo bike. The frame said Bicycle Maximus on it. I bought an everything bagel with veggie cream cheese and a coffee and chilled on a bench and watched the Bethesdans do their Bethesdings.

Big Bikes at Bethesda Bagels

Refreshed, refueled and caffeinated, we took off down the Capital Crescent Trail. The first two miles were a slalom course around walkers, dogs, cyclists, runners, one fish, two fish=, red fish, blue fish.

The best way to ride a long wheel base recumbent is down a long, smooth, gradual hill. As luck would have it, that’s exactly what the Capital Crescent Trail has to offer. We cruised at high-ish speeds making sure not to freak the other trail users out. (All day today, i saw little kids stare with open mouths at Big Nellie. “Awwwwesommme.” )

Instead of heading back on the Mount Vernon Trail I took Water Stereet to K Street and rode straight across downtown DC. I picked up Mass Ave and took that past Union Station into Capitol Hill. I took a right and picked up the bike lane on 11th Street and rode that straight to the Anacostia River. The 11th STreet Bridge is being reconfigured. The renovation gives 11th Street a river crossing separated from freeway traffic. Even with a mess of construction it was a pretty sweet crossing. The bridge drops 11th Street directlu onlt Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

MLK brings a series of long uphill slogs. Even thoughg it is hilly and bum[y and goes through some of the poorest areas of DC, MLK is riot of activity on Sundays. At South Capitol Street I took a left and headed toward the Wilson Bridge. South Capitol becomes Indian Head Highway in Maryland. A new access road has been built that makes for a more direct route to the bridge.  After yet another long climb I came to the top of a hilland turned right for a high speed descent on near virgin pavement.

The trail to the bridge and across the river was busy but we had no troubles weaving among the folks out enjoying the warm sunny day.

In Virginia I headed into the throngs on the Mount Vernon Trail through Belle Haven Park. Two junior high aged kids were taking up the entire trail while going so slow i had to ride my brakes. Suddenly, they both stopped in the middle of the trail. I barked something at them. “Sorry.”

The next mile was slow going. Mom, Dad, and daughter were out on their bikes for what was probably the first time. For the second time in a mile, dead stop in the middle of the trail. I can count on one hand the number of times this has happened to me in the last year but today it happened twice in a quarter of a mile. Argh.

A few hundred yards later a litle girl on what had to be her Christmas bike all pink and tassled veered directly into my path. All I could think of was what happens when she meets Mom, Dad, and daughter or the two middle schoolers. It won’t be pretty. (Digression: if you have a kid who is still learning to ride a bike, DON”T TAKE THEM ON A BUSY BIKE TRAIL.  They can’t handle it. They endanger themselves and others. I know the trail is there for everyone’s use but you don’t take a new driver on the beltway at rush hour. They don’t want to ride point to point anyway. They want to ride in circles and off the pavement into the grass and such.  Take them to a parking lot like the one underneath the Wilson Bridge.)

The kids I could handle but my asthma kicked in around this time. I think the tree pollen triggered it. I was only four miles from home so I didn’t bother with my inhaler.

I rolled into home after 56 1/2 miles of smooth sailing. My windpipe was a mess and my left knee was pretty unhappy but the rest of me was all smiles. I finished my longest ride of the year on a fabulous early spring day. And there’s still plenty of light left.