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.

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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.

 

October by the Numbers

Thanks to the government shutdown, I did much less bike commuting than usual in October. I rode to work only 11 times for a total of 338 miles. I rode The Mule on one commute and Little and Big Nellie on five commutes each. I did 581 miles of non-commute riding, mostly meanders that involved a stop for coffee. In the process, I finished the Coffeeneuring Challenge. (I am  looking forward to this winter’s Eggnoggneuring event.) My longest ride was a 64 mile ride on Big Nellie. So for those of you who are additively challenged, I rode 919 miles during the month.

The biggest difference this month was that I rode Little Nellie, my Bike Friday New World Tourist, 266 miles, more than I have in several months. She came out of the bullpen when The Mule came down with an acute case of broken seat post binder bolt blues. Big Nellie carried me 443 miles. Before its seat post bolt snapped under the weight of its engine, The Mule took me 210 miles. And  I finally replaced the saddle on The Mule. It had a broken adjuster bolt and was sagging  like an ass hammock. I am sending it out for repair, which means that sometime in December I should have four Brooks leather saddles (three Flyers and a B67) for two bikes.  One can never have too many leather saddles.

I have ridden 6,296 miles so far this year, including 148 bike commutes.

I took today off. My bikes are tired.

September by the Numbers

Despite a trip out of town and lots of car-related disruptions, I did a pretty decent amount of riding  in September. For the most part, the weather cooperated. I rode 858 miles for the month. I did four metric centuries: the Southern Maryland Century, the 50 States Ride, the Backroads Century, and a ride to Dulles with the Randos.  With a few other rides on the weekends, my non-commuting riding totaled 309 miles. The other 549 miles came from 19 commutes, 16 on Big Nellie, my Tour Easy recumbent. I haven’t driven my car to work now in about 3 1/2 months.

The Tour Easy did the bulk of the lifting this month, 609 miles. The Mule, my 20-year-old Specialized Sequoia, racked up 213. Little Nellie, my Bike Friday New World Tourist, contributed but 36 miles.

During the 50 States Ride, probably around the time of the monsoon, I crossed the 5,000 mile mark for the year. I now stand at 5,299 miles with 138 bike commutes. 

Today, I was furloughed and didn’t ride to work. I spent the entire day running mostly car-related errands. I hope to get out on the bike tomorrow.

Let’s Ride Two: Fifty States and a Monsoon

Prelude

Last year, the 50 States Ride and the Backroads Century were scheduled for Saturday and Sunday on the same weekend. Being a biker of very little brain I signed up for both and survived to tell about them.

During the 65-mile 50 States Ride, Liza (@ramblingrider) dropped out in Tacoma Park thereby missing out of the joys of Alaska, Oregon, Utah, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Arizona, New Mexico, Idaho, and Connecticut Avenues. She swore she’d ride the whole thing this year, so I agreed to ride along with her. Unlike last year, Lisa did not sign up for Backroads this year. Kristen (@Bobbishaftoe), however, did and asked if I’d ride it with her. Not recalling the ride to be particularly difficult (and proving that I have long term memory issues) I agreed to join her for the metric (65 mile) version.

Fifty States in a Monsoon

After a rude 5:30 wake up, I drove to DC and parked my car about 1 mile uphill from the start of the ride in Adams Morgan. The course is hilly and the forecast called for rain so I was riding The Mule my best bike for both conditions. The forecast called for a long, soaking rain in the mid to late afternoon.  I rode down to the start and there were all kinds of people I knew:  First, I ran into Mike with whom I used to work. Then I talked with Ryan Sigworth (@ryansigworth) who was a volunteer at the check in desk. Ted (@MrTinDC) and Jean (@jerdling) took off early. We saw Kate (there’s always one Kate) (@girlonabikedc) sneak away into the pack of early departers, too. Jeff, who has ridden with me on a dozen rides over the years, stopped by to say hello. Kevin (@bicyclebug), Lisa, new dad Justin (@jantos), Dave (@darsal), Kirstin (@ultrarunnergirl) and Tom (@ultrarunnerhubz – okay, I made that up) gathered together and started en mess at the back of the crowd. As we pulled away, Felkerino (@dailyrandonneur) and MG (@gypsybug) appeared, disguised as husband and wife bike rider. As usual, they planned to skip a few states in favor of coffee shops.

The start of the course was very different this year. Instead of spiralling around the streets of downtown hitting one stop light after another we picked off a few states then headed east and then south to Capitol Hill. Somewhere along the way Felkerino, MG, Kirstin, and Tom headed off course for espresso. Near Union Station the rest of us missed the unsigned Delaware Avenue. Being dedicated to the task and anal retentives, we circled back for the entirety of Delaware’s magnificent 100 yards of pavement. What a thrill.

The course took us across Capitol Hill and down Independence Avenue where Justin and Dave stopped to help a rider whose rear rack had fallen off and was dragging behind his bike on the pavement. Next we cruised over to Hains Point, a favorite flat ride along the Potomac River. One year not long ago, the course passed by a massive construction project in what is now called Near Southeast DC. Seeing the beautiful Nationals Park at the same location was an indication of how DC is changing for the better. Riding past the Navy Yard a few blocks later was a reminder of another sort.

Once over the Anacostia River, we rode over a whole bunch of tree roots into Anacostia Park where we hit the aptly named Anacostia rest stop. Here we rejoined the espresso club and watched Kate ride away. I think she was on a mission from God.

We launched anew into the hills of Anacostia. Pedal, pedal. Huff and puff. Last year I rode most of the ride with Laurie, a loquacious course marshall. It was nice to fall in with her once again as  we rode into the wind up the first hill up Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.  We were rewarded with a tailwind and much funny chatter from Laurie and her entourage as we climbed up Stanton Road and Alabama Avenue. In short order we picked off Texas and were zooming down Massachusetts Avenue at great speed. Most of the riders were trying to stay in the narrow bike lane but I said PSHAW (which is my wont) and got in the main right lane and let ‘er rip. Big fun.

Soon we were back across the Anacostia River and at the mid-ride lunch stop at Eastern Market where Kate was waiting with her gorgeous bike Kermit.  I snarfed a chicken burrito and chatted with Kate and Alex (@alexbaca) who was communicating her ass off for the Washington Area Bicyclists Association.

After lunch we did another loop on east Capitol Hill then headed north where abundant hills awaited us. Pedal, pedal, huff, and puff. Damn this city is hilly. Riding up Hawaii wasn’t exactly Haleakala but it sure felt like it.

The ride took us into a bunch of spirals to pick off Colorado, Iowa, and other states of hilly repute. We then reached the third rest stop at the home of Mike (@rattlingfender) and the other Lisa (Eaker), to whom he claims to be married. Mike shouted my arrival (ROOTCHOPPER!!!) causing me great embarrassment and ego inflation. The awesome Rachel (@rachelcannon) from WABA was staffing the rest stop. We made tentative plans to do a ride in October.

We, now rejoined by the espresso crowd, spent way too much time hanging out and were rewarded with the first raindrops of the day shortly after heading out. Along Alaska Avenue the rain began to fall. We entered Rock Creek Park and stopped to don rain gear causing the rain to stop for about 15 minutes.

Along Rock Creek, the espresso gang peeled off for the after party (SLACKERS! This will go on their Permanent records – a little randonneuring pun there).  Kevin zoomed on ahead of us and Lisa and I rode as a duo as the skies opened. Nothing like a monsoon, hills, and traffic for a fun day out on the bike.

We passed Kevin at the last rest stop enjoying some rest in the rain. We were now focussed on getting out of this rain. Down we rode to Arizona Avenue with cars all about. I am hereby recommending that we kick Arizona out of the union. At the base of a long hill, we turned onto a side street and started the steep, bumpy assault on Mount AU. Curse you, gravity.

Rejoined by Kevin, we rode a few more hills in the rain and the traffic. Kevin and I took the sidewalk to avoid a road closure. Lisa decided to be a good citizen cyclist and took a detour. Not knowing what happened to her, Kevin and I waited in the rain next to a police station for 10 or 15 minutes before concluding that Lisa was not dead.

Ten soggy minutes later we were done, and celebrating at Mellow Mushroom, site of the post ride party. There were Rachel, Kate, Felkerino, MG, Dave, and many other soggy cyclists. We had ourselves some pizza and hoisted (can you say “hoist” when it’s a plastic cup?) us some beer, still crazy after all these years.

After the party I went to get on the Mule and it’s rear tire was flat. I pumped it up the best I could and rode a mile uphill to the car, hearing the squish of my flattening rear tire all the way.

Despite the rain and hills and the flat tire,  I  had a great time. I’ve done this ride six times over the last decade. It’s always a great social experience. If it wasn’t for this ride, I wouldn’t know most of the #bikedc people I know. I wouldn’t have seen first hand how all areas of the city have blossomed. The people of DC, especially in Anacostia, never fail to cheer you on and make sure you stay on course. If you haven’t done this ride, DO IT.

Lastly, a tip of my skivvy 22-year old rain hat in thanks to Ryan, Alex, Mike and Lisa, Rachel, and all the other volunteers who made this ride happen. You are awesome.

My pictures are here. Lisa’s blog is over there. Kirstin’s is down yonder. And MG’s blog post is up this way.

March Right Outta Here

March is over. FINALLY!

It wasn’t a very productive month for cycling, mostly for family-related reasons. Also, I wimped out when I thought that the Mount Vernon Trail would be too slippery for safe riding.

I rode 434 miles, 312 on Big Nellie, my Tour Easy recumbent. The remaining 122 were on Little Nellie, my Bike Friday New World Tourist. I have yet to ride The Mule this year.  The Mule is tanned, rested and ready.

I only did 15 rides this month. Ten were commutes (8 on Big Nellie and 2 on Little Nellie). The remaining rides ranged from a short 2 ½ mile trip to the hardware store and a 56 ½ mile to the bagel store (in Bethesda).  We could really use a decent bagel store in Mount Vernon. Of course, even with a bagel store, we wouldn’t have a railroad trestle above an urban canyon to hang out on while we ate, but you can’t have everything.

The big highlight of the month was the Vasa ride on Saint Patrick’s Day. (Did you know that Saint Patrick drove all the snakes out of Stockholm?) I did most of that ride with Lisa, who has become a regular ride partner these days.

Big Nellie reached a milestone late in the month, hitting 32,000 miles on the odometer. Little Nellie will probably never catch her two siblings who are slugging it out to reach 33,000 miles this year.  I expect to hit 10,000 miles on Little Nellie later this spring so that’s not half bad.

My mileage for the year is 1515, or 505 miles per month. April will be another month of intermittent commuting. I have a bunch of lacrosse games to attend and a school musical. (My daughter is a busy second-semester senior in high school.)

The highlight of April will almost certainly come this week when the cherry blossoms finally bloom. And there is no better way to see them than on a bike.