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

Eagletmania

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

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

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

Eaglet birth

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

http://www.dceaglecam.org/

 

No Time for Old Bike Commuters

Last night and for much of the day today we were hit with a late winter storm. It dropped an inch and a half of slushy wet snow and rained and sleeted and such. It was pretty, especially seeing as how we hadn’t really had a snowstorm this winter.

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This was the view out the front door early this morning. This closed some schools and government offices (not mine) and made for some bumper car action on local roads. I worked from home and, to my surprise, was somewhat productive.

I cleaned off the cars and shoveled the pavement clean with my long-neglected wovel. It was not much fun. I spread de-icer so I don’t pull a Buster Keaton in the morning.

Migrating birds have been gathering in the area for a week or two. I have a bird feeder outside my kitchen window (next to the weeping cherry tree in the photo above). I keep it topped off. Birds are going to be stressed to the max over the next couple of nights so we need to top off their bellies. The two bald eagles at the National Arboretum had a rough night but their eggs were well protected. The eggs and the nest beneath the birds are dry.

Arboretum eagles snowstorm

By the end of the day, my back yard was still covered with icy slushy mess.

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At least the screens in our new windows are in good shape.

The forecast calls for temperatures well below freezing overnight. This will turn the Mount Vernon Trail and some untreated side streets into a skating rink. No bike commute for me. We’ll see how things stand on Thursday.

The good news is that this will all be gone by this weekend’s Vasa ride. It will be windy and a little on the cool side but the ride should be fun. If you are in DC and ride a bike, you should do it. As Doctor Seuss said, “These things are fun and fun is good.”

Stay warm, y’all.

 

 

Eagles and Boomerangs

The day started with the trill of a red wing black bird in Dyke Marsh only 3 miles from home. Ten miles later on the Trollheim boardwalk beneath the Teddy Roosevelt Bridge I spotted a great blue heron only a few feet from the trail on the river’s edge.

The ride home I played pin ball with Canada geese. I didn’t hit any. The temperature was in the low 70s. I looked longingly at the trees across the river. A few cherry trees were in bloom but most were still waiting for a burst of warm weather. They’ have to wait a few more days. We all have our fingers crossed that a blast of cold air will not ruin this year’s peak blossom now scheduled for March 19.

On the way home I stopped to take a picture of Little Nellie in the twilight. Big Ed came rolling along. He just came back from Florida. He had the good taste not to have a deep brown tan. Otherwise I might have had to push him into the river. Earlier a schoolkid had tried to hit him with a boomerang as Ed rode past the Washington Monument. He missed (after Ed threatened him. Did I mention that Ed was big?) The rider behind Ed had to swerve into traffic an nearly got hit by Crocodile Dundee. Poor kid. He doesn’t know that Ed’s HD camera caught both attacks. The kid was wearing a school uniform and was standing next to a classmate who had a cast on his arm. Busted.

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Big Nellie at Dyke Marsh at Twilight

Ed and I parted ways. Ed rode up the big hill on Park Terrace while I stayed along the river to check out the eagle nests. As I approached the Tulane nest, I thought I saw a large mass next to the nest. It was twilight so I wasn’t sure. As I rolled under the nest I saw wings fan as an eagle descended into the nest from the left. Cool! On the right side of the nest, I saw the partner eagle standing guard. I think what I witnessed was the changing of the guard as the eagles incubate their egg(s).

Tomorrow promises a return to cold and wet weather. Little Nellie and I are taking Mrs. Rootchopper’s car to the dealer for some TLC, and a 3 1/2 mile bike commute.

Cheers.

 

BCBD – Bike Commute Brain Dump

  • On the way to work a bicycle commuter riding behind me in Old Town yelled “Excuse me!” I though that maybe I had dropped something. Instead he asked me if he could borrow my pump. He had tried to use a pump located outside a bike store a few blocks back but it did nothing but let air out of his tire. We completed the task in short order but this reminds me to remind new bike commuters that you have a list of requirements
    • A bike (duh) – you can use bikeshare or buy your own
    • A good lock – make you bike less easy to steal than the ones next to it. (This is kind of like the old joke: Q: How fast do you have to be to outrun a bear? A: Faster that the slowest person you are with.) Go with (at least) a beefy U lock like a Kryptonite (I have 2).
    • Tire repair stuff
      • a pair of tire levers (I prefer steel but you can find plastic ones at any bike shop)
      • a spare tube or two (patches are time consuming)
      • a pump (preferably one with a hose like the Topeak Road Morph – the hose will keep you from tearing off the valve while you are in pumping frenzy)
      • A $1 bill – fold it over, cover the hole in your tire (this is called a tire boot) and then replace the tube. This keeps the tire hole from chewing a new puncture in your tube
      • A multitool – to tighten loose parts and adjust ill fitting things
      • a saddle bag to put this stuff in
    • Lights – it’s a terrific idea to see where you are going. It’s even terrificker that drivers can see you.
    • Clothing – do not bike naked. The police will ruin your whole day. Also, don’t wear old lycra bike shorts. They become translucent. And always cover your butt crack.
  • Further along on my morning ride, I saw a woman on a CaBi (the local bikeshare tank) come to a stop. She peered into the trees along the river bank. As I approached she turned to me and with a huge smile on her face said “That was a bald eagle. It flew right past!” and she gestured its flight path.
  • There is a man who walks on the trail each morning. He carries a big stick and wears a dark jacket with a fur lined hood. He looks like an Ewok. He hasn’t said “Yub, yub” to me yet though.
  • The Mule is going into dry dock. It has gotten me through a winter (sort-of) of bike commutes. It deserves a rest. I will switch over to the Nellies for commuting over the rest of March.

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The Mule at Sunset

  • I have felt terrible on the bike and arthritic off of it for the last two weeks. It’s kind of interesting how this goes away when I don’t wear over-boots and rain pants. I think they slightly alter my pedaling mechanics much like long pants messed up my running gait back in the day.
  • I am volunteering at the Vasa ride in DC on Sunday March 19. You should ride it. It is a rain or shine event. Since it is likely that I will be standing around a lot, I expect a tsunami on the Potomac River. It will be caused by WABA’s new secret fracking operation on Hains Point. Would I lie about a thing like that?

  • There are two bike-related happy hours in Alexandria in the next two weeks. They are both on my way home from work. I’ll probably go to at least one. Sadly, unlike the Kardashians I don’t get appearance money. You can buy me a beer if you’d like. I ain’t too proud to beg.
  • I rode past some work being done on the trail. A backhoe had turned some dirt up. The smell of overturned dirt made me happy. Sorry if that’s too woo woo for you but it is what it is.
  • My boss rides his kids to school on a cargo bike. It’s a big bike. It’s so big it needs a masthead. Teddy says “Hi.”

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Sunday Eagle Bike Safari

It feels like February again but that didn’t stop me from a meander on my Cross Check. I rode into Old Town along the Mount Vernon Trail craning my neck at the bald eagle nests and trying not to ride off the trail into the river or into a tree. I managed to survive. None of the nests had any eagles visible nearby. When I turned south, I rode past Fort Hunt Park and I got lucky.

For those who know the trail, there are three nests between the stone bridge at Alexandria Avenue – where you cross over the GW Parkway and Old Town. Nest #1 is the Belle Haven nest. It is about 200 yards south of the Porto Vecchio condo building on the opposite side of the parkway from the trail and the river. It is the easiest nest to spot. It is also not occupied. Eagles frequently hang out in the tree. This happens most often at sunrise.

Nest #2 is the Tulane Nest. This one is located about 1/2 mile south of the Dyke Marsh boardwalk/bridge. It is after you pass the Tulane Drive exit. This nest is on the left after you cross two short bridges in quick succession. You’ll see a dirt patch on the ride side of the trail. Pull off and start looking into the trees on the river side of the trail. It’s massive.

Nest #3 is the Fishing Hole Nest. Heading south from the Tulane nest, the trail goes through a series of slight curves. At one point there are park benches along the river. This is what I call the fishing hole because I often see people fishing here. There are a couple of small islands a stone’s throw from the riverbank. You’ll see a nest in one of them. I think this is an osprey nest.

Nest #4 is the Morningside Nest. This one is located near the Morningside Lane exit of the parkway. As you head south from the fishing hole, you cross two bridges then start a slow climb. At the top of the climb and before the nest wooden bridge you will see a dirt patch off the right side of the trail. Pull off and look into the trees between the trail and the river. This nest is bigger that the fishing hole nest but smaller than the Tulane nest.

Nest #5 is the Fort Hunt Nest. This one is another massive one. Ride about 2 miles south of the Morningside Nest. The trail crosses the parkway at the stone bridge and cuts back under the parkway at Fort Hunt. You’ll climb a small hill and then cross a wooden bridge. Look in the trees above the trail. Twice I’ve seen bald eagles hanging out here. Today I saw this one.

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Another hundred yards south of the bridge you will notice that the right hand side of the trial becomes steep. Stop and look into the trees across the parkway. If you are lucky you’ll see a massive nest. That’s probably the home of our little friend.

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You can cheat and spot the nests and birds the way I do: look for the people with the gigantic lenses on their cameras. That’s how I found today’s eagle and nearly every nest.

Bonus nest: If you feel like getting way from the trail, ride Collingwood Road west for 1 1/2 miles. Collingwood turns hard to the right and becomes Parkers Lane. Continue about 1/4 mile down Parkers until you see the softball fields at the middle school. One of the light stanchions has a massive osprey nest in it. Also, you will have just ridden by a horse farm where an injured bald eagle was captured for rehabilitation last week.

If you wait a few months the trees will have leaves and the nests will be much harder to find. So get riding. If you are really lucky, you might even spot the elusive Rootchopper known to fly ever so slowly with his rubber side down.

Bicycle Listicle

  • Bald eagle sightings have increased hereabouts. Most mornings the Belle Haven nest about 5 miles from my house is overseen by a lone eagle. I’ve never figured out why.The nest is abandoned but for some reason eagles continue to hang out in the tree limbs above it.
  • Yesterday a bike commuter passed me north of the airport. As she did so, she pointed to the sky over the river and said, “Bald eagle!” When I looked I could see a bird about 100 yards away flying toward DC. The bird then banked to the left and I could see its white head. It continued its big turn and landed in a tree along the riverbank next to the trail. My eagle spotter pulled over to take a picture. I would have too but for my squeaky brakes. I didn’t want to scare the eagle. A minute later she came by me again, “That made my day!” Mine too.
  • This morning a bald eagle launched from the Belle Haven nest and flew RIGHT AT ME!!! Top of the food chain, ma! It veered off before tearing my head from my body. Otherwise, well, this blog would be kaput. As would I.
  • Just before the bald eagle attack, I spotted a brand new polyester throw on the trail near Belle Haven Park. I thought it might belong to Running Mom but decided to leave it in case it was someone else’s. A few minutes later here comes Running Mom pushing her son in a jogging stroller. She didn’t seemed to be the least bit upset so I assumed the blanket wasn’t hers. Glad I left it where I saw it. (It was hanging on a trailside sign this evening.)
  • I stopped for a sunrise picture and made it a selfie. I don’t do selfie’s very often, because I look pretty unremarkable and spoil the view. You can’t really see much of the sun. I suck at photography.  Also, I look like I’m 8 feet tall.

sunrise-selfie

  • The morning light was fantastic. I could have taken a dozen pictures. I stopped for this one of the Washington Monument reflected in the Potomac River. (The quality of this picture is proof that even a blind pig finds an acorn now and then.)  I was going to take a picture of the reflections and shadows of the multiple arches of the Memorial Bridge but decided to continue on to work instead. #bikedc friends Jacques and Mary had the same idea and shot the bridge from both sides of the river.

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  • Yesterday I didn’t get enough sleep and was riding in a mental fog. There is one bike traffic light on the Mount Vernon Trail for cars coming into and out of Porto Vecchio, an upscale condo on the river, just beyond the Belle Haven nest. I always stop for this light when it’s red and take extreme care when it is yellow (it is never green) to avoid being hit by turning cars. In my haze yesterday morning I rolled the red light. There were cars about to cross the trail. I am lucky I didn’t get hit. It’s the second time this month that I have escaped getting t-boned because I was in a trance. I really have to start paying more attention.
  • Today was supposed to be my co-worker Kelly’s first bike commute of the year. When I got to work her bike wasn’t in the bike parking room. Last night she laid all her bike clothes out. This morning she woke up, got dressed, went out and caught the bus. Only then did she realized that she had forgotten to ride her bike! Apparently Kelly’s early morning trance puts mine to shame.

 

Recovery Bikeabout

I woke up sore and hungry. I immediately took care of the latter. Mrs. Rootchopper prepared a breakfast casserole that tasted like a plate of Denny’s comfort food all smashed up together. Add a heap of salt – because it’s how I roll – and you have the first course. Then I ate a bunch of strawberries. Then some mixed nuts. And a bagel. And OJ and coffee. Feed me Seymour! (1)

Mrs. Rootchopper came downstairs and opened all the windows. It was early May outside. Qu’est ce que le fuck?

With aches like Aunt Blabby (“All over my body”) I hit the road bound for the National Arboretum and its nesting pair of bald eagles. My first stop though was the local hardware store where I took a lawn mower blade to be sharpened. It was my preparation for the Errandonnee 2017. If you are a bicyclists anywhere in the world, you should do this. I will post the link when the Errand Queen starts the clock.

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The ride up to DC wasn’t too bad, except for a very slow line of traffic north of Old Town. I am told that patience is a virtue as rewarding as a new love in spring. (2) So I calmly took my time. I was into DC without too much of a delay and rode along the National Mall which was teeming with tourists. There were three lines, each several people wide, lining up to get into the Air and Space Museum. Up Capitol Hill and out Maryland Avenue to Bladensburg Avenue, which must be a cycling death trap at rush hour. This area of DC is scruffy but development is springing up. At this pace, in another 50 years all the old crappy parts of DC will be gone.

As I rolled by the Arboretum I looked into the tree tops for a nest. I had no luck and my luck worsened when I turned into the grounds of the Arboretum and encountered the pedestrians only sign. With over 100 miles on my legs in the last 26 hours there was no way I was going to go hiking in search of the next. (I had already passed three or four nests on my way to DC.)

I rode around the interior perimeter of the Arboretum. The place was crawling with people.  I wondered where the hell all these people are the other 364 days of the year.

I took a spin through Trinidad on my way home. This neighborhood was notorious for drug-related violence only a few years ago. It sits on the edge of Gallaudet University, the nation’s (and maybe the world’s) most prestigious college for the deaf. I rode by Klarence’s house.For some stupid reason I don’t have Klarence’s phone number. Klarence responds to DMs and emails with an idiosyncratic two-week lag so there was no way to contact her ahead of time. So I continued on through NoMa, across Capitol Hill. I rode down the hill up Independence Avenue. This was where the main body of the Women’s March had formed. With the road laid out before me, I could only think “WOW”. The march filled this entire avenue and every street near it. I could see where we were standing and there must have been 50,000 people between us and the main gathering.

I passed the opposite side of the Air and Space Museum. Tourists were milling about. I overhead one tell another, “It’s free.” I wonder how much longer that will last.

After dodging dozens of cabs and Ubers, I made it back across the river. I had a nice tailwind for my ride home. Too bad I couldn’t take advantage of it. The Mount Vernon Trail was packed with people from the 14th Street Bridge to beyond National Airport and again into Old Town. I gave up on Union Street after I saw cars back up for two blocks.

The ride home was pleasant. I made it a point to check out each bald eagle nest but I didn’t see any of my feathered friends.

Once at home, I fiddled with my front derailler, made a snack, put some laundry in, and settled on the deck in my shirt sleeves with a cold beer.

41 miles and I am pronounce myself recovered.

Some pictures of my bikeabout can be found on my Flickr page.

If you are wondering what the parenthetic numbers are, they indicate obscure pop culture references from the more than 30 years ago. Anybody want to guess where they are from?

Have a fun Presidents’ Day.

 

 

Eagles Fly, Turtles Lay

As regular readers of this blog already know, I am gaga for bald eagles and snapping turtles. Last night on the way home, I spotted my first turrle. It was off in the grass between the trail and the river about a mile from my office. Since I was away during the first seven days of June I probably missed the trutles laying eggs along the trail this year. I am still hopeful though.

There are (at least) two active bald eagle nests on my commute route. One is located near the Morningside Drive exit of the George Washington Memorial Highway which runs right next to the Mount Vernon Trail. The other is near the Tulane Drive exit. (For locals, these are between 2 and 3 miles south of the beltway.)  They are both very hard to see now that the trees have their full set of leaves.

The trail passes through Dyke Marsh Preseve. The Friends of Dyke Marsh often look for wildlife activity. This week they saw the eaglets being taught to fly. This probably takes place along the river’s edge, away from the trail, but I am going to give it a close look on the way home.

The Friends have a Facebook page (doesn’t everyone?). Here’s a link for those of the nature nuts who read this blog.

 

 

 

Sunday Sight Seeing on the Mount Vernon Trail

On Sunday, two friends from my grad school days came over for brunch. Matt is not athletic. Mike is. Mike was going stir crazy staying with Matt so we agreed that I would take Mike for a bike ride after brunch. Fortunately, Mike is exactly my size so The Mule fit him. I rode my Cross Check.

Mike has a yard sale bike at home in Providence that he rides religiously once or twice a year. So I set a gentle pace. We did a tour of the Mount Vernon Trail bald eagle nests. Along the way Mike told me about how he recently used CitiBikes to ride around New York City. He said he would never have ridden a bike except for the fact that there are separate dedicated bike lanes. He felt totally safe. Mike should be the poster boy for urban bike infrastructure.

We made it to the Belle Haven nest but saw no eagles. As we rode further Mike told me about the  East Bay Bike Trail in Rhode Island. He loves it. I ran this once when it was a railroad line back in 1980 or 1981. It really sounds fantastic but Mike was annoyed that it wasn’t wide enough. Soon we entered Jones Point Park Mike was shocked to see a separate walking lane. (I didn’t have the heart to tell him that most walkers ignore it.)

Under the giant bridge and into Old Town. Then we took the Wilkes Street tunnel and Royal Street back to the Mount Vernon Trail. Continuing south we stopped at the Tulane nest. I could barely make it out with binoculars amid the dense foliage. Mike never saw it. Onward to the osprey (or maybe bald eagle nest) at the fishing hole. No birds, nice view.

Our next stop was the Morningside Nest which I couldn’t find at all amid the leaves. My bald eagle nest tour was becoming a bust.

We continued down the trail to Fort Hunt Park, stopping to admire Fort Washington on the opposite side of the Potomac River. We did a lap in the park then headed for Mount Vernon. About a half mile from the park  I pulled over for one more bald eagle nest. I just could not find it. As I was giving up, I looked up and there it was, right out in the open. Easily the biggest nest of all. Mike saw it too. And just as he focused on it, an eagle flew down and into it. The nest, or actually the outside structure of the nest, is so big that the bird just vanished. I could occasionally spot the bird’s head bopping up and down, probably feeding an eaglet. As we were watching the nest, a second bald eagle flew in circles overhead. Woot!

We started talking with a couple who were walking their dog. Just as we were about to leave they spotted a bizarre looking naval vessel making good time on the river heading toward DC. It had a sort of dazzle camouflage on its sides. Very cool.

I took Mike up to Mount Vernon. He did not much a
ppreciate the last hill. After a brief rest, we continued  beyond the estate for a photo op before heading back home.IMG_0023.JPG

23 1/2 miles, 1 strange boat, 2 bald eagles.Not bad for a lazy Sunday.

After he left things got at tad more interesting, but that’s a tale for another post….