Winter Weather Wimp Gets Back into a Routine

I really am a wimp. It’s below freezing outside but there’s no ice on the roads so it’s safe to go riding. But I walk out the door and the blast of cold air pushes me down the stairs in to the basement where Big Nellie and Lincoln in the Bardo await.

I know I am a weenie because my bike commuting friends are out there slogging away to and from work. Although she doesn’t exactly slog, Mary the Coffeenuer is braving the cold and – for the most part – enjoying it. Her latest blog post pretty much is a call to arms, or pedals. So I resolve to get out of the basement as long as there is no ice on the ground. (It’s supposed to snow tomorrow night so this might be a pretty short lived resolution.)

An update on my recovery: I feel fine. I have my energy back. Mrs. Rootchopper says that my left calf looks bigger than my right. This is consistent with a deep vein thrombosis or big blood clot in my left calf. I have used a tape measure and I can’t find a difference. I also don’t feel any difference between the left and right calf.

I have ordered a mirror for my Cross Check just to decrease my chances of being run over by big metal things. And I have purchased a RoadID which is like a medic alert bracelet. It has my name and address, my wife’s contact numbers, my blood type and Xarelto, the blood thinning medication I am on. This is especially important in case I crash and hit my head and am knock out or concussed. Blows to the head can lead to runaway bleeding in the skull which can be fatal within a day or two. I want to make sure that EMTs and ER doctors know about my medication from the get go even if I can’t speak for myself.

Well, that was depressing.

My CT scan for tomorrow has been postponed because my insurance is flinching at having another one so soon after the last one. This is pretty routine.

Later this week I have a dental appointment. Hopefully I won’t need any crowns or fillings because I’d have to stop taking Xarelto for a couple of days and I really can’t do that right now.

I am getting back to the daily routine I was in before all this craziness took over my life.

  • Meditation for 20 -30 minutes – This is a hold over from self treatment of depression. I’m into my fourth year of sitting on a daily basis. Oddly, it’s also the last vestige of a friendship gone sour. Go figure.
  • Reading the newspaper over breakfast – I have been doing crosswords since college. Breakfast doesn’t seem right without a puzzle.
  • Reading – I am an obsessive reader. I can’t imagine living without books all around me. I am working down the pile of books I got for Christmas and as gifts for nearly dying. (I can’t die now, God.. I have four more books on my nightstand.) I should be coming up for air about May 1.
  • Riding – I am still searching for a good substitute for the best bike commute on the planet. And I have to get myself into some sort of decent riding shape because I fully intend to ride to Pacific waters this spring and summer.
  • Learning guitar – I am the least musical person on the planet. And I have small hands. So this is an uphill battle. Still, twiddling away at finger picking is strangely relaxing. And it’s a lot easier to learn these days because there are a bazillion instructional videos online.
  • Listening to music – This is something that has fallen by the wayside with all the bike riding that I’ve been doing over the years. I was browsing YouTube recently when I saw the name Brandi Carlile. I’ve heard her name many, many times over the years and never took the time to listen to her. Doh. She’s been making interesting music for 12 years and six (soon to be seven albums). So I am wearing out two of her CDs and I am about to buy all the others. This will tide me over until the next Neil Finn CD comes out later this year.
  • And doing at least one adult thing –  Today’s was driving my daughter’s car so its battery wouldn’t die. And doing a load of laundry. Hey, that’s two.

In addition to these daily activities I have a few other things I want to keep doing.

  • Socialize – I am trying to do at least one social thing a week so I don’t turn into a hermit. The weekend before last was brunch with folks from grad school. This past weekend was the wedding of the daughter of a former work colleague. It was at a mosque which made it especially unusual (for me at least) and interesting. This Thursday I am going to a #bikedc happy hour. I am not supposed to drink alcohol while on my medication but I think one drink in a two-week span won’t kill me. Then again, who the hell knows!
  • Advocacy – As a total introvert, I make a lousy advocate. Still, I hope to attend a meeting with National Park Service staff regarding the Mount Vernon Trail on Saturday.
  • Sportz – I don’t watch much sports but the NFL playoffs include the Patriots. I lived in Boston and Providence for 11 years during which time the Patriots were consistently mediocre. Their recent run of excellence has been fun to watch. I only watch during the playoffs. I don’t have time for the other 16 games.

 

 

 

 

 

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Old Man Drunk on Apple Fritters

Rachel and Katie – Part Deux

As it turns out Katie and Rachel are the Lennon and McCartney of get-well gifters. It was Katie’s idea to get me the t-shirt that gave me a dose of chronological reality with a side of laughter. Rachel’s part of the gift came in the mail today.

A couple of years ago Rachel did an internship at the Hammer Museum in Haines, Alaska. Food in Haines is expensive unless you want to eat salmon three times a day. In sympathy and in recognition of our mutual love for really unhealthy junk pastry, I mailed her a couple of apple fritters by surprise. She returned fire with a handmade postcard that really knocked me out (despite my rather grumpy appearance in the photos in the link).

I opened the box and pulled out a bag of a half dozen apple fritters. I can assure you that I am allowed to eat these because my blood thinner has virtually no dietary restrictions. It will take some time (mostly to avoid massive weight gain and pancreatic malfunction), but I will set my Old Man determination to the task.

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Six Fritters – Each One the Size of a Saucer

Rachel and Katie kind of gave away the surprise by telling me to look out for a second package. I was half expecting salmon, to be honest. I am pretty sure my letter carrier was happy it wasn’t. (As am I.)

Thanks again you two.

But That’s Not All

When I went to pick up the fritter parcel at our front door, I found, not one, but two boxes. The second package was a complete surprise. It came from my sister-in-law Leah. My in-laws hail from southern West Virginia. I have heard so much oral history in the last three decades from them but it has lacked historical context. Leah’s gift fills the void; it is a book on Appalachian history called Ramp Hollow. (If you are from West Virginia, you know that the title is pretty much perfect.)

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Many thanks Leah. It sits on top of the formidable Rootchopper Tower of PE Recovery Reading on my nightstand. I can’t wait to read it.

A Note on My Health

It had snowed in the night. The light coating made for a pretty early morning. I am grateful that we didn’t get a significant accumulation.

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My Front Yard Early This Morning

I am in no condition to shovel or wovel, even. Mrs. Rootchopper reminded me that the doctors said no bicycling for three weeks. It is unclear whether that applies to geriatric basement riding on Big Nellie. So I will be a good boy and talk it over with my doctor next week. There is also the issue of doing exercises for my back. Most of these are yoga asanas. I seriously do not want to shuffle off this mortal coil while doing a shoulder stand. (I’d give money to see the face of a yoga-mad friend when she heard that I died of acute salamba sarvangasana.)

I have strength but no stamina. Each morning I get up feeling better than the day before but even minor exertion causes huffing and puffing.

I keep hitting the spirometer to increase my lung capacity. You suck on the tube and the blue thingie goes up the metered column. They should put a bell at the top. Not that I have gotten anywhere near the top, much less my supposed goal of 3,250 milliliters of air. Still, it probably warms the heat of many to say that I suck a little bit more every day. (Maybe I could write a book called Ten Percent Suckier.)

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My mental state remains upbeat, although as I get incrementally stronger I can sense some restlessness creeping in. It is already sufficiently annoying that Mrs. Rootchopper has asked me to back off on the caffeine.

I’d rather die.

Just kidding.

 

Pass the Cookies and Beer

  • I was being a good boy. Except for one holiday party, I had greatly curtailed my alcohol consumption since my bike tour. And I’ve stayed out of the junk food cabinet for two months. So I did the math: much less alcohol + no junk food + daily riding = pulmonary embolism.
  • Sooo, let’s reconsider. My recovery plan: more alcohol + junk food out the wazoo + daily sloth = bicycling fitness monster. What could go wrong?
  • In the hospital, my thinking was all about denial. I am going to get better in record time. No problem. My body, apparently, has other ideas. This is going to take a while. My body gets a little tiny bit stronger by the day. I am, however, a long, long way from being back to anything approaching normal.
  • Ever since the event rides I did in August and early September, I’ve been wondering if something was wrong with me. I went from a bad climber to a horrible climber this year. My 50 States team had to wait for me at the top of every hill. It was embarrassing. Whenever I started climbing, my speed dropped like a stone and I had no ability to get it back. Was I throwing clots into my lungs this summer? Was my strong heart kicking out unnoticed clots for weeks? Whatever the answer, I am betting that I have much more cardiopulmonary fitness than the average PE patient. My doctors were pretty funny remarking on it too. I look like the average man on the street until you measure my vital signs and take an EKG. (Better knock some wood, right?)
  • I’ve been reading, watching movies, watching sports, and hanging with my family. This has really lifted my spirits. If I stop and think about things, my brain goes into weepy mode. Thankfully, it’s nothing like true depression. A tear here and there actually kind of helps. Even having not meditated in several days, I am confident that I have the mental part of this sussed.  I need to be vigilant. Hearing words of support from friends and family and readers helps a ton. I am truly grateful.
  • Spiro, the spirometer, is not my friend. Spiro, you are dead meat. I am coming after you. I may be a wimp now but just you wait. I am going to kick your ass.
  • Since most of the clots and the pleural infarction are on my right side, I can sleep comfortably on my left side, which is how I prefer to sleep. If I turn over onto my left side, my breathing becomes shallow and labored.
  • My family gave me four books for Christmas. And cold weather cycling gear. I won’t make much use of the latter in the days ahead, but the books will come in handy. Once I get some strength back, I’ll be reading with Big Nellie.

    Big Nellie in the Basement
    Big Nellie, Locked and Loaded
  • Tomorrow we go for diner breakfast and the new Star Wars movie. Then I write some thank you cards. And we’ll see about some very light exercise too.

Watchin’ the Wheels

I’ve been retired almost four months now. I have been asked “How’s retirement?” dozens of times. In a way it’s a bit of a pointless question. If it sucked I’d be unretired.

Last night this exchange happened several times at a holiday party I attended. I gave a flippant response until I found Klarence.

As readers of this blog may recall, Klarence is a pseudonym for a friend of mine who “fixed” me two and a half years ago. After dealing with depression for months and months, I sat down with Klarence for a drink after work. (Klarence had no idea that I was troubled.) It led to a four hour, brutally honest, one-on-one encounter session. Along the way, Klarence made me laugh and nearly brought me to tears. When we parted, I felt like she had lifted an enormous burden from me. I don’t think she had intentions of doing this; she was just being her true self. I walked away flabbergasted by my good fortune. And forever grateful to her.

We met three years ago at the same holiday gathering. So I made it a point to look for her last night. I almost walked right past her until she called my name. (Ironically, it was also Klarence who told me about my malfunctioning fusiform gyrus, a part of the brain that deals with facial recognition.)

We hugged our usual fierce hug (because that’s what you do with somebody who saves you from months of absolute misery) and then she asked with a serious look on her face:

“How’s retirement?”

It hit my mind like a club. It staggered me. I was tongue tied.

I don’t even remember what I said in response.

From day one, Klarence has had an effect on me. Her bluntness and honesty somehow compel me to ponder her words.

And I pondered.

Suppose you asked a kid “How’s childhood?” He’d say “Okay, I guess.” In a sense, retirement is like childhood; it is what it is. It’s an endless stream of Saturdays. You can read the paper in the morning. You can sleep in. You can do what you want, when you want. You can wear your jammies all day long. All of this is pretty damned sweet.

Of course, my earnings dropped by 70 percent but you can’t have everything – especially now! This aspect is a little unsettling, but I live a very modest life.

There is a sense that asking someone “How’s retirement?” is a bit like asking a Ph. D. student, “How’s the thesis?” Or a 21-year old, “So what are you going to do with your life?”

AYYYYYY!

It brings on a sort of performance anxiety. Especially for someone like me who has lived with imposter syndrome his whole life.

I have another friend who used to give me unease because she seemed to want to fill every second of every day mindfully accomplishing something that would bring her happiness and be somehow meaningful for humanity. I don’t socialize with her anymore. She was stressing me out.

So here’s an answer that maybe is a little more honest than the inarticulate response I gave to Klarence last night.

Retirement is being free of working on projects that suck your soul.

Retirement is not having to work to arbitrary deadlines that shift with the wind.

Retirement is not having to ride to work when it’s dark and rainy and 33 degrees with a 15 mile per hour headwind. (Yes, this happened a few times every year.)

Retirement is setting your own schedule. Answering to your own inner boss. Filling your day with things you find personally fulfilling and that are true to who you are like:

  • Riding my bike in the daylight.
  • Taking care of my aging carcass by lifting weights.
  • Taking care of my mental health by meditating for 20 or 30 (or, like today, 45) minutes and not feeling guilty.
  • Trying rather comically to learn a little guitar (and avoiding tennis elbow in the process).
  • Reading books without interruption. (Current book: The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins)
  • Spending two days in court to lend moral support to some friends – who introduced me to Klarence three years ago. (This is called paying it backward, I think.)
  • Volunteering and attending bicycling advocacy events.
  • Planning the next big thing. (How hard is it to ride to the Pacific anyways?)

Where does this all lead? Does it accomplish a big thing? Does it make my life worthwhile? Will I make a big ego-boosting mark on the world so my life will be one big selfie? Is it okay not to give a flying fuck?

For now, I am content and truly grateful to abide by the words of John Lennon:

I’m just sittin’ here watching the wheels go round and round. I really love to watch them roll.

And to say, once again, thank you, Klarence.

 

 

Top Ten of 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

A Slow Start

This month started as a downer. For the first two weeks I fought off the blues, a carryover from November and December. Everything just seemed to drag me down. My days seemed to lack light, both figuratively and literally. When the month started I was hell bent on getting my head squared away. Given the amount of days off the bike due to ice I was facing an uphill fight.

At least I wasn’t in the hospital like Little Nellie, my Bike Friday. Little Nellie was custom made to my specifications. Because the handlebars sit atop a very long stem, I upgraded to a Chris King headset. After 7 years, it died. So I shipped it back to the manufacturer and they agreed to repair it under warranty. I should have it back on Monday. I can’t wait to ride it again.

As for the rest of my stable, Big Nellie was used only once for commuting and only twice for weekend jaunts. Big Nellie is a long wheel base recumbent with about 70 percent of its weight on the rear wheel. This uneven weight distribution makes the front tire prone to slipping. I don’t ride it much during icy conditions.

The Mule did eight commutes and two weekend rides. All told I rode only 372.5 miles, about 90 miles less than last January. 275 miles were just getting to and from work. I rode on 13 of 31 days. I can’t remember when I rode fewer than half the days in a month.

On the plus side:

  • I didn’t crash once.
  • I managed to get in two hikes and one long walk around my neck of the woods without back, knee, or foot discomfort. This is a huge step forward (no pun intended) for me physically. I can’t wait to take on some day hikes in the mountains nearby once the weather improves.
  • Toward the end of the month I moved my saddle up about a centimeter and the constant aching and spasms in my lower back went away overnight. 
  • My right foot started going numb in November. After three visits to an acupunturist, I decided to get an EMG test by a neurologist. She confirmed that my back isn’t causing the numbness and has sent me for physical therapy. (Yesterday, my right foot felt almost normal for the first time in weeks. I don’t care why. I hope it stays that way.)
  • On doctor’s orders, I did yoga at least once a week. Alone. You will never see me in a yoga class. Been there, done that. Just ain’t gonna happen. Alone or in a class I am confident that yoga is not and never will be my jam, jelly, or other sandwich spread. I suppose if I were stretchier I’d like it more, but 35+ years of running and cycling has turned my hamstrings into steel cables. And my quadriceps are boulders.
  • To get my head screwed back on straight, I started taking big doses of vitamin D-3 (a blood test confirmed that I was severely deficient) at breakfast and started practicing meditation daily. It’s possible that my mental state would have cleared up anyway. It’s also possible that either the vitamins or the meditation are having a strong placebo effect. Whatever the case, something is working really, really well. I even managed to go through one of my most stressful workweeks in years with a smile on my face. 

So I finish the month with low mileage and a much improved body and mind. Not a bad start to the new year.

Re-cycle Ride

The weather was too nice to do something prudent like rest my back. I needed an excuse to go somewhere that was easy. I had three dead batteries from my old Nite Rider lights so I decided to take them to a place in Alexandria’s Del Ray neighborhood that recycles them.

Before leaving home I did yoga session number two. All the same stuff as yesterday with three additional exercises added. Yesterday’s back bends looked not unlike the Washington Monument. Not exactly limber. Today was better. The three new exercises included one that I do every morning. The other two made me feel like the Tin Man. It’s going to take a few days to get things working right. Even so, my back felt pretty wonderful and I felt like I was 2 inches taller. Funny how standing straight up can do that for you.

The idea was to do a flat ride which means the Mount Vernon Trail to and from home. I figured the trail would be a zoo on a nice weekend day so I headed up Fort Hunt Road. On a whim I decided to ride over to Telegraph Road and cross into Alexandria there. This added two or three short hills to the ride. Until I got to Del Ray and found out the store doesn’t exist anymore.

Plan B was to ride to the Bradlee Shopping Center in the western part of Alexandria. I rode up King Street, up being the operative word here. Traffic was light but King Street is not much fun to bike on. The area around the shopping center is traffic hell and no place to be on a bike. 

As you have probably already figured out I survived. 

My back behaved the entire way until I dismounted. Ouch.  

I rode back through Park Fairfax, a development of apartments and town homes built over 50 years ago. I love this neighborhood but every single inch of curb space was taken up by cars. People had fewer cars back then. 

I had more strength in my legs and back today but after 20 miles I was sucking wind. Fighting your body is exhausting. I took the Mount Vernon Trail home to avoid any unnecessary hills. 

My dismount at home was most unpleasant. I was no longer standing straight but after a few minutes of rest and a hot shower I came back to vertical. 

Tomorrow I’ll only ride about 6 or 7 miles. I have to take one of our cars to the dealer which is only 3 1/2 miles from the office. Little Nellie will get the call. We’ll see if her normally back-unfriendly ride does any damage to my back.

You might think that all these posts about my bad back was getting me down. Pshaw, I say. This evening my friend Charmaine and I made arrangements to go to North Carolina for 3 days of riding near the coast during the first weekend of April. 

Spring, bring it ON!!!!

 

 

Powerless

For a week in December, last week was pretty hardcore. It started with a gentle 12-mile ride on Sunday. Then five days of bike commuting and a side trip to Friday Coffee Club added 152 miles. On Saturday, I rode the inaugural Cider Ride. I parked for free in East Potomac Park and rode 2 1/2 miles to and from the start. My total mileage for the day was 65. So my seven-day total was 229 miles, every bit of it on Little Nellie, my Bike Friday New World Tourist.

Dang did I need some rest. Little Nellie’s 20-inch wheels can really beat me up. Thankfully, the weather gods gave us a nasty bit of wintry weather in the form of an ice storm on Sunday. All was going as planned. I was getting plenty of rest. Reading. Drinking tea. And feeling rather chipper. After a long day of idling, I went to bed. During the night, big chunks of ice landing on the deck and patio beneath our bedroom window kept waking Mrs. Rootchopper and me up. One of these landed around 2:55 a.m. We tried to spot its remnants outside but we couldn’t see them from the window and there was no way we were going out in the storm to check things out. So we went back to bed. Then at 3:00, BAM, an explosion, followed by quiet and dark.

Apparently an electrical transformer blew. It knocked out the power on our side of the street, and nowhere else nearby. We’d been through this before when the derecho hit in the summer of 2012. That time, our power was out for ten days. The temperature in our living room rose to 94 very muggy degrees. This time would difference.

We called the outage in to Dominion Electric Power, went back to bed, and hoped for the best. By morning, the temperature in the house was 63 and falling. I had planned to work from home on Monday. With ice on the roads and trails, I decided not to put my faith in Dominion or any of my bikes, hopped in the car, and headed for the office. If you think I’m riding 30 miles round trip on ice to arrive home to a freezing house, you’ve got another thing coming.

After a day of working with fingers crossed, I drove home and found my house to be DARK.

It was 55 inside. Mrs. Rootchopper showed up and we went to dinner. A big burrito and margarita later were back in the cold house. Rather than sit there and shiver, we went to the movies. We saw Philomena, which struck this Irish American, erstwhile altar boy, and long lapsed Catholic as all too close to the bone for a variety of reasons. In any event, it was a relief to see a movie without CGI monsters and superheroes.

We arrived home at 11:30. DARK and COLD. We pulled out the sleeping bags, put on our warmest sleeping duds and went to bed.

It was 51 when we woke up.

I drove to work again. During the day, an Associated Press reporter (oddly, from Pittsburgh) contacted me to ask about the outage. I told him my tale. Maybe I’ll be in the papers again. (This interview thing is getting kind of surreal.)

I spent the day refreshing the outage information from the Dominion website. Fewer than two percent of houses in Fairfax County where I live were without power. The number dropped to one percent over the day, then increased!  At 3 o’clock some 36 hours after the outage began the blue dot on the map near my house disappeared. I called home and my voice mail had a message from Dominion. It didn’t say my power was restored, it said something to the effect that if I was still having problems to call them.

I drove home to investigate and saw the porch light on. Yay. The temperature inside was 63 and rising.

While I appreciate the efforts of the people who got our power restored, I fail to understand why our spot on the electrical grid seems to be particularly prone to outages. You’d think Dominion would identify weak spots in its distribution network and fix them. You’d apparently think wrong.

I’m working from home tomorrow. I expect that ice will keep me off the bike (outdoors, at least) for another couple of days before riding to work and Coffee Club on Friday. It looks like this will be, at most, a 32 mile week.

I suppose I needed the rest.

Sixty Miles for Some Cider

Today was the inaugural Cider Ride put on by the Washington Area Bicyclists Association (WABA). In the tradition of the Vasa ride held in early March, this ride was all about riding in the cold in order to partake of a warm, sweet beverage. Despite the fact that December in DC is not exactly or even remotely warm, the event sold out. There were three rides named after apples. I rode on the Honeycrisp ride which was 60 miles long. Another ride was 47 miles. The third ride was 15 miles. (They didn’t get any cider on the 15-miler. They were first in line for quiche though.)

The ride departed from Canal Park in Near Southeast DC. This park which also has a tavern, site of the after-party and an outdoor ice rink, is on M Street near Nationals Park and the Navy Yard.  We headed out for a farm somewhere near Bowie MD to the east northeast of the start at 8:30. There was a fair contingent of people from Friday Coffee Club including new-ish Dad Justin, Ryan, and Ed and Mary on their scary big tandem (which does not yet appear to have a name. Dave, a veteran of this year’s version of the Hoppy 100, was working the registration desk. Nelle from WABA was also there working. (One of the ironic things about working for WABA is that you rarely get to do the rides!)

Off we went to the east, over the new 11 Street bridge into Anacostia where we took the first left and started climbing away from the Anacostia River. The Coffeeneurs were in a pack until gravity grabbed Little Nellie and me. Bye, everybody. I was fell in with a back of young women who were kind enough to suppress their snickers at the sight of a big guy on a clown bike. After about a mile we were on roads that I’ve never ridden on before. We were soon in Prince Georges County MD. Inside the beltway PG County is not exactly Shangrila, but it does have paved roads which were useful for this sort of ride.

We rode by the federal complex in Suitland MD. I pity the weather service and Census workers that work in that place. It looks like a maximum security prison.

On we rode, turning this way and that. I became separated from the ladies and fell in with a couple of ride marshals (volunteers who help the riders fix flats, find their way, etc.). My ride marshals soon missed a turn. I think we all thought someone else was paying attention to the directions. We got sorted out and back on course. The course itself had lots of rolling hills which kept us honest. Not having a map with me, I was utterly lost.

We crossed over the beltway and suddenly some of the roads started to look familiar. I think I rode on these on the way to Annapolis about ten years ago. We popped into subdivisions then back out onto mostly two-lane roads. Then we crossed the busy Crane Highway (US 301) and, as if by a snap of the fingers, we were are two-lane country roads. We passed fallow farmers’ fields, creeks, woods, and the occasional misplaced McMansion  and soon found ourselves at the rest stop at the halfway point. Here I enjoyed some warm cider, some junky snacks (tasted great), and a brief conversation with Megan from WABA. I think the last time I saw her at an event like this was at the halfway rest stop at the Vasa ride in March. Megan is from Florida so cold is not her thing but she had four layers on today. As for me, the only part of my body that was cold was my toes. Before leaving, I slipped some toe warmers into my shoes. Ahhh.

We took a mostly different route back. It seemed to have few turns so the navigation was a lot easier. One road was a rutted mess. My back, already beaten up by the morning’s ride not to mention 150 miles of bike commuting this week was really unhappy. I survived. Somehow I was now in a group with three course marshals. How nice of WABA to provide such personal service. After a while a couple of the marshals peeled off to assist other rides and Chris one of the marshals that had been with me for the last 40 miles and I soldiered on. We made pretty respectable time too. Chris knows how to ride in traffic so we really didn’t have to worry about each other.

Somewhere around 45 miles we saw a lone rider about 1/4 mile ahead of us. We caught up to Katie, an American University student, and rode the rest of the way in. The return route included a ride-by of FedEx field (what a monstrosity!) and an unexpected climb up Southern Avenue on DC’s border. When we got to the top, we were treated with a long downhill back toward the Anacostia on Massachusetts Avenue. This downhill is part of the 50 States Ride so I knew it was coming but Katie and Chris didn’t. I’m sure they had a gas flying down the hill.

We made our way back over the 11th Street bridge and went to the after party at the Park Tavern in Canal Park. Pizza and hot spiked cider. Perfecto.

For a brand new ride, I thought this one went pretty well. It’s always fun to explore new territory on a bike, even if it is right next store. The downsides to the ride were few. It was cold and a bit windy but not nearly as cold as the Vasa ride or most of my winter commutes. A few drivers came very close to Chris and me. I think these close passes were intentional. PG County probably doesn’t see this many cyclists in one day very often. A couple of the roads could have used some re-paving some time ago, like maybe, 1974. These nasty parts were only about a mile in total length.

My thanks to Chris for riding most of the ride with me. And with Katie who lifted our spirits for the last ten miles. And special thanks to all the WABA people and volunteers who helped out.

I only took a few pix. They’re on my Flickr page. And some from others are on the WABA Flickr page, too.