Bliss on Half Street

After riding to work and getting a decent weather report (for the first tie in a week) I decided to go to last night’s Nationals v. Padres baseball game. I scored some seats on the club level behind the Nats’ dugout and called Lily to work out logistics.

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I rode Little Nellie (passing some goslings along the way) about 4 miles to L’Enfant Plaza where I met Lily who had driven my car from home. I folded Little Nellie into the trunk, parked the car, and headed to the game on Metro. (I have yet to have a wretched experience on Metro despite all the bad news these past few years.) After five years of riding on beat up old trolley cars during college in Boston, I really appreciate the brand new subway cars on Metro. They are clean, well designed and quite.

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The weather was perfect. There was a pleasant breeze with temperatures in the high 60Fs. We ate dinner in the posh-ish Norfolk Southern Club. Pizza, french fries and beer. What can I say. We’re low rent.

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Nats ace no. 1 Mad Max Scherzer was on the mound throwing seeds to defenseless Padre batters. Other than a solo home run, they had no answer for him. He struck out 13. Our faves hit home runs. Trea Turner hit a laser over the center field fence to start the game. Later centerfielder Michael A. Taylor clubbed another even farther. Then came Bryce Harper. He hit a truly Ruthian clout to the upper deck in right field. Our seats were perfect for tracking it into the dark sky. It was one of the most bad ass home runs I’ve ever seen. (I can think of one in Montreal hit by Ken Henderson of the San Francisco Giants. And a bomb hit by Jim Ed Rice clear out of Fenway over the center field wall. That’s it.)

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As the game progressed, the crowd started chanting Max! Max! Max! It felt like the playoffs instead of a relatively meaningless May game. Scherzer lasted until the next to last out. When the acting manager walked out to the mount, he was roundly booed. Keep him in!! MAX! MAX! MAX! After hitting the next batter, it was clear that Max was gassed and a reliever was brought in. A screaming standing ovation greeted Max as he plodded to his dugout. He slowed and doffed his cap to the crowd.

The good guys won 5-1. Lily and I left through a crowd filled with smiles. As we passed the bike valet, I looked in to see if any of my #bikedc friends were there. I spotted Klarence and Lauren and hopped the barrier to say hello. After a brief chat and some massive hugs, I stopped to say hello to Poncho, whom I met at Friday Coffee Club a year or so ago. Nice guy.

So a great game with a #bikedc cherry on top. Not a bad way to spend a Friday night in May.

Well at Least I Didn’t Get Run Over

A few weeks ago I, and 3 co-workers, had tickets to see the Red Sox play the Nationals in an exhibition game at Nationals Park in DC. It was raining. I worked from home. I rode to the game. On the way I was hit by an SUV. A few minutes afterwards I learned the game had been cancelled. So I rode home.

Today we tried again. I rode to work in the rain. It rained all day. When I left the office, it was still raining. This game was a regular season game and it was likely to be played if at all possible. The forecast called for rain, 50F temperatures, and a wind from the east – directly at our seats which were exposed to the rain.

The bike valet at the ball park was empty when I got there. The two valets were channeling the Maytag repairman.

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I locked Little Nellie up and headed into the park. I drank a beer and looked down on the drenched playing field. Fewer things are as sad as a wet infield tarp under dreary skies.

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I made my way around the park, stopping for french fries. One advantage of being in an empty ball park is the fries are hot. Perfect. Next up was an Italian sausage (not half bad as these things go) and a second beer. I strolled around the ballpark chatting with the employees and emailing my co-workers. They had delayed their departure from the office. Then, in a fit of optimism, they drove to the game but didn’t leave the car. They stalked the ballpark like thieves casing a bank.

Fans started filling the concourses. Most of them seemed to have driven down from Baltimore. Apparent bus loads of kids included. I turned to one of the ushers and said, “It looks like we’re going to get this game in.” Then she said, “I don’t think so.” She pointed to the big screen overlooking center field.

Rainout

I rode home in the dark. It didn’t rain a drop.

The game is rescheduled for June 8.

Getting the Party Started

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

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

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

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

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

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Here are a few random observations about baseball in Baltimore:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The party continues later this week:

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

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

 

Planning 2017 – At Last

After two months of dithering, I have finally started to sketch out my battle plan for 2017. I have only a couple of solid commitments to deal with and the rest is flexible.

Solid Commitments

  • Volunteering – because every time I see Michelle (WABA’s event manager) I feel guilty.
    • Vasa Ride – I’ve done this ride several times during the event and on my own or with others during the summer and fall. It’s well worth doing and you should give it a go. I mean when was the last time you had warm blueberry soup?
    • Tour de Fat – I am a trained beer puller. I have two hours of Tour de Fat beer pulling expertise. It would be a shame to let my skills evaporate like beer suds.
  • Family Events
    • Holy cow, my daughter’s graduating from Butler University. Woot! (This one is not at all flexible.)
    • Family reunion – this is in the middle of July.

Bicycling Events

This is a much shorter list than usual but has two new (to me) rides.

  • Car-Free Skyline Drive – I just heard about this today. It’s a brutally hilly road but, well, no cars! Also, I totally suck at hill climbing.
  • Bike to Work Day – probably my last one. Not because I don’t like the ride but because I am retiring in August.
  • Tour dem Parks – A ride around Charm City (Baltimore) that has very good word-of-mouth reviews. Also I might get to meet Eleanor (who was a bun in the oven the last time I was in Baltimore) because I hear she is swell.
  • 50 States Ride (my 10th!) – Need I say more?

Baseball

So far, I have committed to an exhibition game against the Red Sox on March 31 and an Orioles v Red Sox game in April in Baltimore. I blocked out on my calendar all the weekends that the Nationals are at home. If you want to go to a game with me, I am tolerable company. I can provide references. Also, I will shamelessly accept any tickets you get comped or otherwise stuck with. Also, there are two road series against Philadelphia. I might drive up for a day game just for the hell of it. Wanna ride shotgun?

Hiking

When the Nats are not playing I have free weekends. So these are all potential hiking days. My white board list of hikes is pretty similar to last year because I failed miserably at hiking last year. Doh.

  • Potomac Heritage from Turkey Run to Chain Bridge and back
  • Thompson Hollow Loop
  • Buck Hollow/Mary’s Rock
  • Double Bear Rocks
  • Stairway to Heaven
  • Broad Hollow/Pine Hill Gap
  • Loudon Heights/Split Rock
  • Jones Run/Doyle River
  • Corbin Mountain
  • Fountainhead

Mostly these are in the mountains to the west. If you live in the DC area and don’t mind getting up at the crack of dawn, feel free to come with. As with biking, I may be old but I am slow.

I could also use these non-Nats weekends for bike trips. Maybe an out and back between Williamsburg and Richmond on the new-ish rail trail.

Foreign (?) Travel

My daughter is thinking about going overseas for grad school so this would be an excellent excuse for a trip. If she goes to school in the US, this will require a college move-in road trip. Also, my son may still be in Thailand next winter. I wouldn’t mind seeing the place when it’s not pouring rain.

Bike Tours

Since I am retiring in August, I am saving up my annual leave for a big check. Once I get the 50 States out of the way, I think I might ride somewhere warm. Key West sounds like a good destination. The rough plan is to take the Adventure Cycling Atlantic Coast Route about 1,500 miles to Key West, take a ferry to Tampa, ride across Florida to Miami and take Amtrak home. I figure this will take about a month to do. This would be the warm up for the big one in 2018 which will probably involve riding to the Pacific Northwest.

Also between my birthday and the 50 States Ride I may have time for a short tour. I have no idea what that might entail. Maybe a road trip to rail trails in Virginia. Or the Grand Canyon of the East.

 

 

 

 

Pictures of the Year 2016

 

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Sunrise on the Mount Vernon Trail

When the sun and my work day cooperate, I stop and take in the sunset over the Potomac River. It rarely disappoints.

The Big Reveal
100,000 Miles

It took me 25 years but I managed to ride 100,000 miles since acquiring The Mule (bottom left) in 1991. In 2002 I bought Big Nellie, a Tour Easy recumbent (top left), and rode it exclusively for several years. In 2009 (or thereabouts) I bought my Bike Friday New World Tourist, a folding travel bike that I call Little Nellie (upper right). Last year I picked up Deets, a Surly Cross Check, that turns out to be a fantastic bike for commuting.

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Drink Up Cowboy (Colonoscopy Prep)

In October, amid a frenzy of bike event riding, I had a colonoscopy. It was my third. I am happy to report that there was no cancer detected. I’ll be back in 2019 for another. Drink up!

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Me in Front of Copenhagen Central Station Bike Racks

I went to Scandinavia with my wife and daughter. I didn’t ride a bike but I saw a few here and there. The cycling infrastructure is so much better than in the U.S. And the road users are all so well behaved. As my friend Finn Quinn once said: “The future is a foreign country.” We can only hope.

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Beer Tent Volunteers at Tour de Fat

I volunteered at the Tour de Fat this year. I had fun despite not being completely recovered from my not so fun trip to the ER a week earlier. We were a well behaved bunch. The only beer we imbibed were the ones the organizers comped us for our efforts on their behalf.

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Friday Coffee Club

You may never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. You certainly won’t find it here because the building where this picture was taken is being renovated. Friday Coffee Club moved across town and, but for one appearance after Thanksgiving, I had to stop going. I miss these scoundrels.

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Michelle Smiles Even When She’s Freezing (Vasa Ride)

Speaking of scoundrels, for the last several years Michelle has been running bike events at the Washington Area Bicyclists Association (WABA). I am convinced that she is trying to kill me. It is widely rumored that she even controls the weather. I am so grateful for all the hard work Michelle (and the other folks at WABA and the volunteers) put in to make #bikedc better every year. (Michelle also has a serious interest in the Beats and Kerouac. Check out her blog.)

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Amy at Great Pumpkin Ride

It was windy and coolish, but Amy was determined to do her first long event ride. This hill during the Great Pumpkin Ride near Warreton Virginia was mighty steep but Amy (with Jody behind her) managed it without apparent difficulty. The leaves on the road were produced by powerful winds that made the day quite a work out. The rest stop after this photo was at a Old Bust Head brewery.

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Sleeping Bear Dunes in Michigan

This picture doesn’t do justice to how steep these dunes are. And this is only about 1/2 of the height. The remaining elevation is obscured by the angle of my shot. Later that day the road I was on went up the dunes just to the south of this one. It made for some tough climbing into a persistent headwind. It was perhaps the physically hardest day of my 11-day solo bike tour. As hard as it was on my body, the tour was a feast of rolling meditation for my mind and soul.

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What Yoopers Eat (Bike Tour)

The people who live on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, the UP, are called Yoopers. They eat white fish and pasties (a kind of meat pie) and have their own candy bar. They (mostly) also talk like all the hockey players from Ontario that I roomed with during my freshman year at college. Eh?

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My Deck Buddy

I was hanging out on my deck one sunny day when I went to open my deck umbrella and found this critter. Cute.

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My Perch in Left Field

The left field grandstand was my perch for about 10 games at Nats Park this year. I became personal friends with Jason Werth. (That’s him in left field.) Okay, that’a s lie.Somewhere up there under the third light stanchion is Klarence keeping score. Hurry spring!

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Darth Paul on the Five Boro Ride

That’s Paul on the left on FDR Drive on the east side of Manhattan. It is cold. It is raining. Paul is not smiling. He had so much fun. We stopped in Astoria, Queens, to stand around and freeze our asses off. Who knew that the Brooklyn Queens Expressway would be even more fun. I have now ridden my bike across the Verrazano Narrows and the Golden Gate. Woot!

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A Section of the AT

The Appalachian Trail is nice enough to come down to I-66 which made for a couple of convenient solo day hikes.

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Veronica Help Us Save a Duckling on the MVT

I found a duckling on the Mount Vernon Trail on the way to work one morning. Mr friend Linel stopped to help and we tried to figure out what do with it. Then Veronica showed up. She took the duckling to her office then to an animal rescue place. This is a decidedly better outcome that the two animal skeletons I saw last year. Just sayin’. Thanks, Veronica.

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Night in the ER

This is me getting a nebulizer treatment in the ER. A few hours earlier I couldn’t move without experiencing a knife-like pain in my upper right chest. (I blame yoga.) The doctors were pretty confident that it wasn’t a heart attack. I had a resting pulse of 46 and my blood pressure was normal. They did some tests and took some x-rays. Then they put this on me. I was recovered enough to do Bike to Work Day, volunteer at Tour de Fat, ride DC Bike Ride, and fly to Stockholm over the next nine days. Do not try this at home. Or anywhere else, for that matter.

Closing Day

When I went to sleep Wednesday night, my intention was to spend Thursday at work then ride home and watch the Nationals play the Dodgers in the deciding game of their baseball playoff series. Having watched scores of games both at the ballpark and on television (not to mention listening to a few on the radio), I was totally psyched that this would be a ballgame for the ages.

So, during the morning, I bought a ticket. I headed to the ballpark on Deets and prepared for a long night. The game started just after 8 pm, an hour after the normal starting time, to accommodate a national television broadcast. This meant that the game would probably not be over in time for fans to take the subway home. The subway system steadfastly refused to extend its hours. So fans had to improvise. The hashtag #natsride and account @natsride sprung up over the last few days to facilitate carpooling. Many others chose to bike to the game, like me.

Prior to the game I ate dinner after which I ran into Kevin from the bike tour. Later in the evening, he offered to get me some World Series tickets which was incredibly thoughtful. We were sitting in opposite sides of the ballpark so we parted ways. Soon after reaching my seat in the left field grandstand, Klarence and Lauren walked down the aisle to my left. They had come to try and get a ball during batting practice. Klarence and I had a long talk, probably our last one for quite a while as our social paths rarely cross anymore. Hugs happened. Then they went off to keep score in their perch in the seats high above the Nats on deck circle.

Normally, when I go to a baseball game alone, my introversion melts away and I strike up a mini-friendship with the folks sitting nearby. It’s a very conversational vibe. Last night was different. Fans were on their feet for most of the game, cheering and waving red towels. The atmosphere was more like a football or hockey game.

The Nationals’ ace was on the mound. The Dodgers eventually got to him and some relievers for four runs. The crowd stilled. Then the Nats scored a run. Woot! Then a Nats pinch hitter hit a two run homer. Pandemonium!

Since this a win or else situation, the managers used every trick in the book and played nearly everyone they had. At 11:30 the scoreboard announced that the last train was leaving the nearby subway station in a few minutes. The crowd booed! Loudly! (Good luck getting support for fare increases, Metro.)  The game dragged on. Finally, in the bottom of the ninth inning, the Nationals sent up the best hitter in baseball to face the best left handed pitcher in a generation. Our man popped up. Down to their last pinch hitter, the Nationals sent a rookie to the plate. It would have been so cool if he got a hit. Alas, he struck out lamely and the Dodgers won. After over 4 1/2 hours, the longest 9-inning post season game in baseball history.

What a strange feeling it is to go from sensing a euphoric victory to suffering a buzz killing defeat. The crowd went silent. In the distance, you could hear the Dodgers celebrating on the infield. Fans, wiped out from emotion and the late hour, began their long slog home at 12:30 in the morning.

The bike valet was stuffed with bikes. Some were locked to the top of a ten foot high chain link fence that contains the bike racks. Many were simply leaning against other bikes. I was lucky to get out in a reasonable amount of time. After greeting Kevin again, I thought of waiting to say goodbye to my other friends at the game but it was already close to 1 am so I rode off into the dark.

Most of the crowd stayed until the final out. The traffic outside the ballpark was insane. Traffic signals were ignored. Traffic control officers seemed to be completely overwhelmed. Riding a bike under these conditions is like being a running back going off tackle. You just look for the gaps and ride to daylight. Or in this case, headlight.

The ride home along the Mount Vernon Trail featured a steady tailwind. I was groggy but I have ridden this trail so many times that I was nearly confirming that I can ride home in my sleep. Another cyclist followed me all the way to Old Town, about nine miles from the ballpark.

Then I was on my own. The only sign of life I saw was two lights next to the trail. A fox? Raccoon? Opossum?

I pulled into my yard at 2:30.

What better way to soothe the disappointment of a season ending loss than to ride 16 miles under the stars in a crisp autumn breeze.

Only 171 days until opening day.

 

Random Sunday

  • I rode to the Nationals game after work Friday night. It was suffocatingly hot. The Nats lost to the lowly Braves. I went alone. I had a great time.
  • An usher ejected  a fan for heckling the Braves left fielder. The fan got his money’s worth. He certainly gave me a few laughs. Well played, dude.
  • An Atlanta player hit a home run that landed about four seats away from me in the row behind mine. It bounced off a fan and the rebound went to a guy in my row about six seats away.
  • A mom brought three kids to the game. They were sitting in the row in front of me. She went to the concession stand. When she came back and found out that a home run landed two seats behind her she couldn’t believe her bad luck. The kids thought it was pretty funny though.
  • I had the seat at the end of the row. Home run guy and his buddies wore me out with their pee runs. Never buy seat 1 or seat 20.
  • Another home run landed in the seats a section to my left. The fan caught it on the fly. Barehanded.
  • I almost caught a t-shirt during the t-shirt toss promotion but another fan got two hands on it just as it was about to hit my hand. She paid for the shirt: her chest hit the railing in the middle of the aisle. Ow.
  • The ride home was aided by post-game fireworks. Less car traffic means better biking. Boom!
  • The ride through Old Town Alexandria at 11:30 pm was scary. The sidewalks were full of loud, drunken idiots. I assumed that drivers were similarly inebriated. I was extremely careful and am thankful that I made it through in one piece. Of course, the Alexandria police (who spend their time ticketing early morning bike commuters) were nowhere to be found.
  • I have decided to call the Cross Check Deets. After Joshua Deets, the scout for the Lonesome Dove cattle drive. He is described by Capt Augustus McCrae as “Cheerful in all weathers. Never shirked a task. Splendid behavior.” I hope my Deets is as noble.
  • After a year of light riding, I will be using Deets for commuting starting tomorrow. The rack has bigger tubes than the racks on my other three bikes so I had to adjust the hardware on my panniers. I test rode the bike with panniers for the first time. My heels had plenty of clearance so tomorrow’s commute should be sweet.
  • This morning I went for a short ride down to Woodlawn by way of Mount Vernon on Deets. Every time I stopped the oppressive heat and humidity sucked the sweat out of every pore in my skin. It was gross. There will be better days for weekend excursions. Maybe a hike next weekend. It’s been too long.

My Ride in the Twilight Zone

After riding to the Nationals game on Saturday in the rain, I couldn’t pass up riding to the Sunday game when the forecast called for perfect baseball weather. So I hopped on the Cross Check at around 11 and headed to DC.

The ride in was just a little on the chilly side but the skies were blue and the trees had leaves. Spring rocks.

As I approached Jones Point Park, I noticed a cyclists standing next to a loaded bike. Seriously loaded. It was a cargo bike with six panniers, a handlebar bag, and a solar panel on the rear rack. The cyclist was looking at a map and seemed confused. I stopped and helped him by leading him through the streets of Old Town Alexandria. When we got to the Washington Sailing Marina between Old Town and National Airport we stopped to talk. Charles star26344076450_983dc79897_mted this ride in the Pacific Northwest. He rode down the west coast, hung a louie at San Diego and another at Saint Augustine. His tour had taken him over 5,000 miles so far. He spent last year riding coast to coast across the northern part of the US. He was planning on taking a break in DC. To buy a boat. And store it at the marina. Or some such thing. I couldn’t follow the logistics, probably because I couldn’t understand how he could afford to spend his life on a bike. And buy a boat.

I left Charles to his nautical aspirations and rode into DC. I absolutely love riding to the ballpark because I get to ride by the parking lots that get progressively more expensive as I get nearer to the park. The bike valet – really just a secure bike parking facility under the watchful eyes of two attendants – is inside the ballpark itself. It is free (except for the tip which you give to the attendants at check out).

I took my seat out in the stands beyond left field with the warm sun shining down on me. I had forgotten to bring sunscreen but I figured I would be okay for a couple of hours. I ate a sandwich that I brought instead of the expensive junk food at the park. Then I settled in for a nice game against a weak opponent, the Minnesota Twins.

As usually happens the people that I sat among became friends for the day. There was a mom and her ten-ish year old daughter in front of me. Daughter had a small baseball glove. (“You’re going to save me if a baseball comes our way, right?”) There were two dudes to my right manspreading and drinking beers. (I moved over a seat and got into the slouchy vibe.

The guy to my right scoffed at the Nats leadoff hitter, Matt den Dekker. “He can field but the Mets got rid of him because he can’t hit.” I retorted “He’s got some power for a little guy.” And so den Dekker homered to make me look like a baseball genius. Later, he made several brilliant catches in the outfield so my bro was also vindicated.

Our section had plenty of Minnesota fans. So there was good natured teasing going on throughout the game. Our fearless pitcher Stephen Strasburg pitched for seven innings after over 100 pitches he becomes mortal, but the bullpen was tired so the manager left him in. In a flash he gave up a three-run home run which landed about ten seats to my right. Down 4-1 it looked like the game was lost. People started to leave.

It was 4-3 in the bottom of the ninth. More people started to leave.

Our manager, Dusty Baker, had decided to rest the 2015 MVP, a fellow by the name of Bryce Harper, for the day. Baker actually told Harper before the game that he would only use him in a situation that would make him look like a hero. So Harper comes up to pinch hit and powers the second pitch he sees into the stand beyond center field. Tie game! The crowd goes nuts!

And so we went into extra innings. After four innings the Nationals have a comical race among six “presidents” who are men with giant heads. They run around the wa.rning track to a finish line tape near the Nats dugout. It is utterly stupid and funny as hell. Our game was running so long that they ran a second presidents race.

We were getting slap happy in the stands. The game dragged on. 10, 11, 12 innings.

The Nationals ran out of position players. They used a pitcher to pinch hit. He got a single. No lie.

Fans starting joking about being held hostage. All I could think of were the lyrics to “Band on the Run”:

If we ever get out of here

Thought of giving it all away

To registered charity

All I need is a pint a day

If we ever get out of here

If we ever get out of here

I moved down to the front row overlooking the left fielders. I yelled down to Werth, “Hey, Jason. Want some coffee?”

In the middle of the 14th inning we had a second seventh inning stretch. I kid you not.

The Twins left fielder, Eddie Rosario, had littered the grass with pieces of yellow paper. The Nats left fielder, Jason Werth, picked them up and

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My View of Werth

 

methodically arranged them in a neat row. A guy sitting behind me joked that Werth was trying to get enough paper to spell out SOS on the grass.  Another guy said, “Hey, we are literally trash talking.”

The Twins went ahead by a run in the top of the 15th. All hope was lost. Rosario made a mess of Werth’s paper pile. The fans in left field started yelling “Pick it up Eddie.” Rosario laughed. I yelled at him: “It’s karma, Eddie. You’ll pay for this.”

The Nationals got a man on first base. The Twins ignored him and he advanced to second. The next batter up was Oliver Perez, a pitcher who hadn’t batted since 2010. The Twins unbelievably brought in another reliever to face him.

All was lost. Until Perez dropped a bunt that the catcher fielded. Perez was out by a mile, except that the catcher threw the ball about six feet over the first baseman’s head. Tie game.

Karma, Eddie. Karma.

We moved to the 16th. Werth came out and repaired his pile of paper. The Twins didn’t score. The Nationals came to bat and their right fielder, Chris Heisey, launched a home run over the Twins bullpen. The place went completely nuts. Delirium.

Dusty Baker later called it a twilight zone game.

By this point, nearly six hours after the game started a chill was in the air. I was an odd combination of warm and cold. Six hours of sun on had given me a sunburn on the right side of my body. I wore a jacket to keep the left side of my body warm.

The by now thin crowd left with ear to ear grins. At the bike valet I ran into a friend I hadn’t seen since December. We celebrated our mini reunion and the exhausting victory with a huge hug.

And then I was off. As I crossed the Potomac into Virginia I stopped to admire an amazing sunset skyscape. Even with swarms of gnats (how appropriate) along the way, the ride home in the cool spring evening was perfect.

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Lemons and Cold, Wet Lemonade

“We’re definitely going to the Nationals game on Saturday and maybe on Sunday. Are you going? We could meet for a drink afterward.”

My friend sent me this invitation on Friday evening. I had already been thinking of going to a game this weekend and I have seen my friend only once since August. (How the hell did that happen? Life.)

So, thinking that “definitely going” and “we could meet…afterward” meant that they had already bought tickets, I bought a ticket of my own. Shortly after making my purchase my friend, who is on a tight budget, sent me a message:

“The upper gallery seats are sold out. We’ll have to stand in line for the $5 game day tickets tomorrow morning.”

What the hell happened to “definitely going?”

Given that the weather forecast called for morning rain followed by near perfect weather for the early afternoon game, it seemed that there was a good chance that my friend would not get tickets in the morning.  I decided to go with the flow and went to bed.

In the morning, the predicted rain was falling. My friend messaged me:

“We don’t feel like standing in the rain to get tickets so we aren’t going to the game.”

Definitely going, going, gone.

I was disappointed and more than a little upset. I felt like a dog who has been teased with food only to have it taken away. Rather than do my usual thing of sending back an angry repsonse, I turned off my phone, put on my rain gear, and hopped on my Cross Check for the 15 1/2 mile ride to the ballpark.

Did I mention rain gear? Yes, the forecast I saw last night said the rain would be over by 10 am. It was clear from a glance at the radar in the morning that the rain would be with us through noon at least.

The ride to DC along the Mount Vernon Trail was cold, wet, and solitary. Perfect for reflection and dissipating my harsh feelings toward how things had transpired.(No matter how hard I tried to deny it, I find it hard to dispel the notion that, for some reason, my social life has gone to hell since last summer. Life.)

When I arrived at the ball park it was still drizzling out. I parked my bike and headed into the park. By pure dumb luck my seats were covered by the third tier of the stadium. As the rain fitfully ended, the wind picked up. Straight into my face. I ate some food and drank some water and hoped for kindness from the weather gods. They were apparently busy with something else. I really needed some hot coffee but settle on a craft lager from the stand next to my seat. It tasted bitter and a bit nasty but it took my mind off my clammy discomfort.

Going to a baseball game alone is a roll of the social dice. You could sit next to nice people or drunken jackasses. (My father took us to a game at the old Yankee Stadium back in the post-Mantle era. The place was a wreck. To our right a spectator walked down the aisle, took a big swig of his beer and spit it in the face of a man seated on the aisle. A nasty, comically drunken brawl broke out. We thought it was far more entertaining than the game. My dad was not of the same opinion.)

To my right was a father and son. Dad was a total baseball nerd who yelled things at the players despite the futility of sitting so far from the field. His son, who was at least 21 judging by the beer he had, was ignorant of the rules or the strategy of the game. To my left a family sat. They were rather on the larger side of human. They appeared to have purchase one of every item in the food court. The teenage girl to my immediate left sat shivering in gym shorts. Her parents later bought her an official Washington Nationals unislipper (you put both feet in it to stay warm). What will they think of next. In front of me were three season ticket holders who seemed like quite pleasant adults. It was an interesting slice of humanity and I considered myself lucky to be seated where I was.

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Except for the wind. The Nationals sprung out to a 2-0 lead. Their pitcher, Tanner Roark, was having a stellar day. He struck out 15 Twins in 7 innings without giving up a run. The Twins looked absolutely hapless at the plate. The Nats threatened but never crossed the plate again. They didn’t need to. They won 2-0. I even got to boo Jonathan Papelbon, our social-pond-scum closer.

The winds died down after a few innings but the sun and the warmth didn’t materialize until the game was nearly over. I walked out of the ballpark and the sun hit me. It was ten degrees warmer in the sunlight. Dang.

I hopped on my bike and celebrated with a tail-wind assisted ride home. The only downside to the ride was the traffic mind field of Old Town Alexandria. Cars and bike and pedestrians (but, to be honest, mostly cars) were moving about at random. I actually feared for my safety and was glad to be through the half-mile stretch unscathed.

When I got home I reflected on the game, the social mess that precipitated it, and the bike ride. I was glad I didn’t respond to my friend’s message. I would have Papelboned our friendship for sure.

With sunny skies forecasted for Sunday, I decided to buy a ticket to today’s game. I’ll be sitting near left field. In the sun. Maybe I’ll even drink a lemonade.

 

Opening Day Is a Tailwind

Spring is a time of optimism. Stuff is growing and blooming. The sun is high in the sky. My skin is tanned. (Okay, we’ll leave out the part about the nagging, pollen-induced cough.) With warm air coming in, I often get a tailwind for the ride to work.

I am such a sucker for a tailwind. I’ve been riding a bike for over 50 years and I still let a tailwind convince me that I am in great biking shape. What an idjit!

Opening day is a tailwind. The home team looks utterly invincible. Look at all that talent. NOBODY can beat my team.

Then they start playing and you realize that the other team can hit and pitch and field too. Soon reality creeps in. There are all sorts of unpleasant things that can happen. You are reading the words of a man whose 12th birthday coincided with the beaning of Tony Conigliaro. Ugh. It’s hard to stay in the moment when you have that hideous picture of 22 year old Tony C.’s face with a massive bruise in the form of  a baseball over his left eye.

But all is well. The Nats won. It took 10 innings but they got it done.

Opening day isn’t really about baseball. It is about optimism. It’s just going to be a great summer. I KNOW it. As I watched today’s Nats game I was giddy with the feeling that every day will be warm. There will be hikes and bike rides and summer days in the ballpark and vacations with friends and family. Life is a tailwind, baby.

The forecast for tomorrow morning calls for temperatures near freezing and a strong headwind.

Who’s in chahge of the weathah around heah? Bucky Fuckin’ Dent?