Winter Weather or Not

Nine years ago today, a 32-year-old bike commuting friend of mine posted these words on my Facebook page:

“I just could not feel my body in the cold. So I damaged it without noticing it!”

What a difference nine years makes! Today was almost summer-like in DC. I saw a roadside sign that indicated it was 78F degrees at 3:30.

Of course, I saw this sign while out on my bike.

I didn’t get started until just before midday. I had spent the morning eating diner food and going to the library with Mrs. Rootchopper.  With my belly and brain satisfied, I was off on my Cross Check for a jaunt up the Anacostia River.

I began my ride on the Mount Vernon Trail. I crossed the Potomac River on the Woodrow Wilson Bridge Trail. Once in Maryland, I made the long slog up to Oxon Hill Road. The climb goes right past a massive MGM casino. The ginormous electronic sign indicated that Cher was performing there this month. I don’t gamble and I don’t Cher so let’s just say the whole casino thing is lost on me. I think the complex looks like the Imperial Star Destroyer from Star Wars. I prefer Mos Eisley bars to casinos.

Having reached Oxon Hill Road I made my way to Oxon Hill Farm and proceeded to ride right back down the hill to the river. Somebody’s got some explaining to do.

The Oxon Cove Trail winds its way to a enclave of public buildings including a police training facility, a city bus maintenance yard, some Smithsonian greenhouses and a vocational training complex. After perusing all these fine public sector facilities, I rode right back up the hill to Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue.

MLK Jr. Ave is not exactly where it’s at. I think maybe it’s were it might have been at about 80 years ago. It’s actually kind of depressing. My ride north took me past the grounds of St. Elizabeth’s nervous hospital. The complex is being taken over by the Department of Homeland Security which probably says something snarky about DHS.

The ride through Congress Heights and Anacostia was interesting. Drivers in this part of DC use the freestyle method of motoring. Random u-turns, lane changes, horn honking are the rule. I waved a thank you to a driver for not cutting me off and he laid on his horn. De nada, dude.

Suffice it to say, my rather precarious medical condition made me apprehensive for this part of the ride. I was happy to see the Anacostia River Trail which runs rather appropriately along the Anacostia River. And so, like a Yogi Berra malapropism, I took it. North. The scenery was still the grays and browns of winter but the temperature told me it was late spring.

I rolled along the trail past the garbage consolidation facility (helps with the sinuses don’t you know), past the Aquatic Gardens (the flower show happens much later in the year), through assorted fields, both natural and athletic, and around a cement plant to Bladensburg. As I crossed over the Anacostia, I passed about five priests (or, more likely, seminarians as they all looked pretty young). We waved at each other. I said “Mea Culpa” three times for good measure. (I was a altar boy who had to learn the Latin Mass and the English Mass, a biographical fact that dates the crap out of me. )

I am kidding about the Mea Culpas, by the way.

Once across the river I consulted the Google for advice on how to ride home without retracing my steps. I rode up the river until the trail split into the Northeast and Northwest Branch Trails. I took the latter and spotted a cupcake shop, a landmark from the Cider Ride last November. I didn’t stop. (I know, what a fool.) But I did find a trail that would take me back toward DC.

After a few miles I bailed on the trail It would have taken me to Queens Chapel Road which I am familiar with. Basically, it’s a bicycle death trap. So I started riding neighborhood streets and following the sun. I found myself back in DC riding a straight street to the west. In these parts “straight” almost always translates into “hilly”. As I slogged up one long hill, I passed an old man doddering around his front yard. He looked at me and remarked, “Better you than me.”

I love it when I’m mocked.

Soon I was in familiar territory. Monroe Street leads to 8th Street which leads to the Metropolitan Branch Trail. How nice of someone to put a trail with very few cross streets right in the middle of a city. The trail took me back southward and after a wiggle and waggle I was on a cycletrack that took me right past the incomparably boring Bureau of Labor Statistics.

I rode past a scrum of photographers at a courthouse. They were waiting to take a picture of a Trump associate who was being charged with treason or money laundering or some such offense. (I can’t keep it all straight, to be honest.)

Soon thereafter I was riding along the National Mall pretending I was in the Olympic tourist dodge event. I was pretty proud that I didn’t hit a single one.

After the podium ceremony, I rode around the tidal basin and over the 14th Street Bridge to the Mount Vernon Trail. The 12-mile ride from the bridge to my house was interrupted by a stop at the gym, because nothing improves a 48 1/2 mile bike ride quite like lifting weights.

Fug.

I arrived home exhausted but still had some physical therapy exercises to do. I am doing these because my left shoulder is on the blink.

Despite trying really hard, I did not damage my body. I guess you need cold weather to do that.

 

 

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A Winter Retirement Day by the Book

My schedule for a winter retirement day is pretty simple. In no particular order: eat breakfast, read the paper, ride my bike (or go for a hike), do either physical therapy (a.k.a. yoga) or go to the gym to lift weights, read a book or magazine, meditate, and do one adult thing.

So today I began with a half mile walk to the hospital where I had a CT scan on my lungs and an echocardiogram. I’ll count these as one adult thing. After an administrative snafu I got signed in and escorted to the CT scan room. There I was passed under the machine once. Then I was injected with a dye and passed through again as the dye sent eerie warmth through my chest and head. (I really should do this stoned at least once.) Done. It only took five minutes.

The CT tech took me to ultrasound where I was given my echocardiogram. I was positioned on my left side allowing me to watch the screen as the exam took place. The tech told me my blood pressure which was well within the normal range (as usual). She also told me my resting heart rate was 45. This is the first time since my DVT/pulmonary embolism crisis that it has been below 65. To me this is great news because my pulse is normally in the 40s. As I watched I could see the line for my heart going boing…thud……..boing…thud and so on. At one point there was audio. My heart sounds pretty cool. DOO…duh…..DOO…duh. I am pretty sure that my former co-worker Kelly would confirm that this is the only part of my body that has good rhythm.

The tech cheated a bit and told me that  my heart looked and functioned normally during my December echocardiogram. She was not surprised that it still did. That’s one organ less to worry about as far as I am concerned.

I walked home in a cold wind and ate breakfast and read the paper. There was ample coverage of the Super Bowl which I thought was great even though my team lost. We can now move on to the winter Olympics and make a smooth seque into Spring Training. Yes, yes, yesyesyes.

After my repast, I headed back out into the cold wind for a bike ride. I had on my normal winter bike commuting stuff: skating cap, heavy-weight neck gaiter, base layer, holey sweater, rain pants, and neoprene overboots. I was comfortable within a mile.

I headed south past Mount Vernon and Fort Belvoir. I used the bike lane on US 1, a busy four-lane highway. I wanted to see how my mirror would work. It did fine. There were literally no surprises in that I saw every car, truck, and bus well before it was close to me. I turned north on Telegraph Road, the kind of totally inane roadway that Fairfax County is known for. Lanes come and go seemingly without rhyme or reason. Bike lanes also come and go. I came flying down a hill at 35 miles per hour in a bike lane. It was a good thing I came to a red light because 100 yards beyond the light, the bike lane disappeared.

I rode all the way to the Beltway, took a right to go east on Huntington Avenue, and headed south on Fort Hunt Road where I stopped after 25 miles to go to the gym. For some reason my left arm is unhappy. It shoots sharp pains whenever I lift a weight above my head or push one away from me. Even though I use very light weight on two machines that move in this manner, my arm still hurts. I’ll bring this up with my doctor during my physical later this week.

Finally, I rode 4 miles home into the cold wind. It was nearing 4 p.m. but the sun was still well above the horizon. We are now getting about the same amount of daylight as in early November. Works for me.

When I arrived home, I had a snack and a shower. Then I sat down to meditate. And the phone rang again and again. It was Verizon calling with an offer for its mindfulness long distance plan. (I made that up.)

All that’s left is some filing of medical stuff including beaucoup CDs and DVDs of my scans. Then I can read and eat dinner and call it a successful retirement day.

And one more thing. My wife told me about this really cool National Geographic travel package. It takes you all around the world to Machu Pichu and the Holy Land and Burma and Paris and everywhere in between. On a private jet. Just $99,000 per person.

Spit take.

 

A Bike Ride in America 2018

The weatherman called for temperatures in the high 50Fs so there was just one thing to do: go for a ride. I had originally planned on spending the day at the Women’s March in DC. Last year Mrs. Rootchopper and I went to the Women’s March. We stood unable to move for hours in a throng of at least a half million people. I hadn’t heard much about this year’s march. I had committed to a volunteer event that was cancelled by the government shutdown. Mrs. Rootchopper was committed to doing a volunteer event that wasn’t cancelled, so I decided that, rather than commit my whole day to the march, I’d ride up to the Lincoln Memorial and check things out instead.

The ride featured a helpful tailwind. I slalomed through the people on the Mount Vernon Trail and stopped after 11 miles to take a picture of a jet landing at National Airport.

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I rode into the city on the Memorial Bridge. There was quite a bit of foot traffic coming away from the city. Since the government had shutdown all the Smithsonian museums and public restrooms were closed. I suspect that many of these folks were not having a very good time.

As I arrived at the east-facing side of the Lincoln Memorial I could hear speeches and cheers. Then I saw it. Tens of thousands of people lining the reflecting pool. The crowd was significantly smaller than last year but much, much larger than I was expecting.

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If you look really closely you can see my friends Joe and Veronica and Justin. Okay, maybe not. They were there though. I am sure there were other people I knew too.

As I passed in front of the memorial (to the left in the photo) I saw counter protesters with anti-abortion signs. It seemed that every one of them had a smiling Women’s March participant standing right in front of them holding a sign or wearing a t-shirt with a pro-choice message. Many of these counter-counter protesters were carrying Planned Parenthood signs. Somehow despite their differences of opinion, they seemed to be showing mutual respect. Whadda ya know about that!

I made my way down Constitution Avenue, amazed at the throngs coming and going from the Mall. I took the road around the Ellipse, a park situated between the White House and the Washington Monument, so I could get to the pedestrian plaza on the opposite side of the White House. I decided to stop and take a picture of the White House on the near side. I had taken the Ellipse road counterclockwise. It is a one-way street going clockwise so I was expecting to pull off if I encountered any cars.

The White House grounds is bound by a tall black metal fence. The security perimeter is further extended near the Ellipse by a jersey barrier that cuts off half the roadway I was on. I was inching my way along the remaining traffic lane. I could have gone onto the sidewalk but it was packed with tourists taking photos of the White House. I stopped in the road and reached into my handlebar bag. I pulled out my phone when I heard a man say “MOVE ALONG.” There was no “sir” at the end of the command. This was clearly meant to intimidate me. I turned and saw a Secret Service man (If it’s secret why did he have the words SECRET SERVICE in big white letters on his shirt? Maybe he should get one that says OBVIOUS SERVICE. Just a thought.) He was perhaps in his late twenties. He had on body armor of some sort and was holding an automatic (or semiautomatic) weapon in his left hand. It was pointed at the ground.

My brain went to work. Do I look like an evil doer? A desperado? Do assassins kill with cell phones while holding a bicycle between their legs? Why the hell does he have a weapon that could wipe out me and everyone within 20 feet of me? Why does he have it out?

Then my mouth went to work. I put my phone away and looked Mr. Secret Service in the eye and said “This is America.” I left off “You fucking Nazi.” Call me Mr. Restraint.

I went on the sidewalk and took my picture. In retrospect I wish I had taken a picture of him. I have a bad feeling that I’ll be reading about him in the paper someday when he uses that weapon against a harmless tourist from Des Moines.

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After this pleasant encounter I made my way up the 15th Street cycletrack to the other side of the White House. Pennsylvania Avenue is closed to motor vehicles. Today it was occupied by a hundred or so people expressing their support for the Dreamers. There were plenty of police around. None of them seemed to think they needed to bark at people or hold an uzi in plain sight. This made me feel a little better.

I made my way back down the cycletrack to the Pennsylvania Avenue cycletrack At 4th Street I took a right to head toward the waterfront and the bustling new development called The Wharf. At a stop light I heard a voice coming from my left. A bike had just pulled up along side me. I turned and saw Rachel M. I know you! She hadn’t recognized me. She was just making idle chatter. So we rode side by side to M Street. She turned left to explore the Anacostia River Trail. I turned right for the Wharf.

When I got there, I stopped to check my phone. When I got off my bike my middle and upper back went into spasm. Since an apparent back spasm a month ago had been the rather unpleasant first symptom of pulmonary embolisms, I decided that it would be wise to head for home. Slowly.

After a couple of miles, my back loosened up. I rode down the trail, weaving in and out of the humanity. Feeling better I diverted away from the river to ride through the Del Ray neighborhood. Everyone was smiling. People were drinking coffee outside. It felt like April (except there was no baseball).

I arrived home without any lingering pain. It’s pretty pathetic when you consider it a good day when your body doesn’t reject you.

But it was a good day. I even managed to get a little tan on my face. In January.

Play ball. This is America after all.

 

 

(Out)side Effects

Following up on yesterday’s post, I bundled up and hit the road today. It was a little over 40 degrees in the direct sunlight and there was no ice on the roads and trails. It took me an unusually long time to get warm. Normally, when I dress properly, I warm up within a mile or two. Today it took about five miles. I did end up riding 32 1/2 miles, but I was cold for the last five miles too.

I wonder if this chill is a side effect of the blood thinning medication, Xarelto, that I am taking. I wouldn’t be surprised because I have had two other side effects in my first 3 1/2 weeks on the drug. I noticed within a day or two of taking the drug that I itched everywhere. This itchiness went away only to be replaced by sharp nerve pain in my feet. These stabbing pains would last only a few seconds. They came and went. Ultimately, they left for good. Around this time, my dosage was reduced by 50 percent.

And my nerve pain was replaced by another side effect.

The other night I was flossing between my two front teeth. The floss broke off. It took several tries to get a smooth, floss-free groove between my teeth. It was as if my teeth were pushed closer together. As it turns out my gums are inflamed and red. The interwebs list bloody gums as a side effect of Xarelto.

I hope this side effect goes away soon. I have a dentist appointment on Friday. Maybe I can learn more.

I am still being asked on a daily basis how I am doing. All is well. There is nothing for me to do but take my medicine and wait for the clots to be absorbed by my body. This will take at least two more months, or more likely five.

It is what it is.

 

Lifting a Fog

For several hours after yesterday’s tentative 20-mile ride I felt fantastic, the best I’ve felt since the roof caved in three weeks ago. Temperatures this morning were in the 60s. I know a sign from the bike gods when I see one. It was time to push things a bit further.

I rode from my house to the Lincoln Memorial and back. For most of the 30-mile ride, I was cruising on flat ground. I felt fine. My lungs and heart felt completely normal. Normal is awesome.

So was the fog. The warm air caused the ice on the Potomac River to create amazing spooky clouds. The southerly breeze pushed the fog up against bridges and buildings. I stopped at the Reflecting Pool in front of the Lincoln Memorial. I could only see a few feet in front of me.

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Mount Vernon Trail heading north out of Belle Haven Park
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The Reflecting Pool and Washington Monument

At the Virginia side of the Memorial Bridge, visibility was nearly zero. I could barely see past my front wheel. I stopped and the wind blew a gap in the fog bank.

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Heading toward Arlington Cemetery on the Memorial Bridge

The ride home was into a steady head wind. If anything would test my heart and lungs. this surely would. After about two miles, I settled into a steady, calm breathing pattern. Dang.

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Fishing in the fog under the Woodrow Wilson Bridge in Jones Point Park

At 26 1/2 miles I decided to try climbing a bill. The Park Terrace Drive hill is well known to local commuters. I can easily break 30 miles per hour riding down it. Riding up it I am lucky to maintain 5 miles per hour. So It was pretty gratifying to see 4.9 on my speedometer only for a moment as I reached the top. It took a few seconds longer than normal for my heart rate to come back down but, having not ridden a hill in over three weeks, I was pretty darned pleased with how it went.

Sitting at home an hour or so later, I feel even better than yesterday. You might say I feel as if a fog has lifted.

 

 

 

Cue the Gene Autry Music

It was 50 degrees out. The sun was (however briefly) shining. There was just one thing to do.

I went out and I rode my damned bike. And, after a few miles adjusting to three weeks off a conventional bike, I settled right in. I stayed on level–ish ground. My windpipe felt a little raw but my lungs didn’t max out and my heart stayed out of the red zone.

Tomorrow will be another warm day. I might try a few hills and, maybe even, go to the gym.

The only downside to the ride was a bit of lightheadedness. This has nothing to do with the ride; it’s a side effect of the medication that I am on. I need to be vigilant lest I glide off into a roadside ditch or take a dip in the Potomac.

When I walked in the house Mrs. Rootchopper was humming the song that was running through my head.

 

Feeling a bit chuffed, I decided to stop procrastinating about setting up a WiFi mesh network in my house. Our house isn’t big but the router is located in a corner of the family room and barely reaches the upper two floors. Following @darsal’s example I bought Google WiFi. The hardest part was finding hook up points for the nodes in my 1960s house. I had to empty a book case to get to an outlet for one node and pick a suboptimal place for a second node because the best spot was next to a wall activated switch. Then I had to connect the printer to the new network. It all took about an hour and works just as advertised. Ta Da.

Okay, so two things went very right today. I have decided to settle in with a book and some tea lest I tempt the fates.

I could point out that it’s been 22 days since my last embolism (a bit like going to lung confession), but it’s better to focus on the fact that spring training starts in 34 days.

 

Hains Point 100

Six or seven years ago, Megan Jones had an idea, a wonderfully goofy idea. She’d ride the 3.3 mile circuit in East Potomac Park 30 times in a day to raise awareness and money for the Washington Area Bicyclists Women and Bicycles program. She called her 100-mile event the Hains Point 100, because the circuit goes down to Hains point and because… do the math.

As someone who’s ridden WABA’s 50-State Ride nine times, I can attest to the magnetic draw of silly bike event gimmicks. Who the heck would want to ride around in circles for hours just to say they rode 100 miles? Who’d do it in the middle of December?

It turns out that LOTS of people would. Over 600 people signed up for today’s spin around the point. And from what I can tell, most of them showed up.

We had a blast. I rode with different people on each of my 13 loops. If you do the math, you’ll see that I didn’t ride 100 miles. Most people don’t. You don’t have to. You can ride 100 miles combined with your friends. Or 100 kilometers. Or 100 minutes. I rode 100 McEntees. According to the Hungarian Bureau of Standards, a McEntee is that unit that converts your miles to 100. This year each 0.44 miles I rode was 1 McEntee. If I had ridden further, it wouldn’t be Prudence.

The weather was about as good as one could hope for. Temperatures rose from freezing when I started at 9 a.m. into the high 40s when I quit at 1:30. Winds were calm. There was no precipitation.

For those of you who are quick on your little math feet, you’ll have figured out that it took 4 1/2 hours for me to ride 44 miles. And your probably saying to yourself, what a pathetically slow rider. Which is normally correct. But today I spent well over an hour in the pit area talking to friends. Adding in chatter time on the bike, I should get additional credit for talking 100 blue streaks.

Another aspect that I enjoyed was the fact that for the first time since my bike tour I felt strong on my bike. In the early going I was comfortably riding at 17 – 18 miles per hour which is unheard of for me. I even joined a massive group of about 20 riders for a while. We were clipping along at about 20 miles per hour. Whee! Pretty good for an old dude on a heavy bike.

On one of my laps I (sort of) rode alongside Kevin W. who had borrowed a Jump electric- assist dockless bike. These bikes are big and heavy but the motor more than makes up for that. Kevin would kick in the motor and instantly and smoothly accelerate away from me. Kevin was having a pretty good time showing me up. Again. (He took me to the cleaners at the 50 States Ride and two off-road rides earlier in the year.) My take on this little adventure is that these bikes are going places. I’d use one all the time if I were living in the city.

Another highlight was to see my friend Mike with his son who has developmental issues on a tandem. The two of them ride just about every weekend. Mike had expected to do one lap and then go home owing to his son’s low tolerance for long cold rides but the two of them were there for at least two hours. They are what love looks like.

Then there is the exuberance of youth. Rachel is about half my age.  She rode six and a half miles to today’s event with no gloves on. Suffice it to say, this was a reeeeeallly bad idea. (I spent the first 28 years of my life in the frozen north. Been there. Done that.) After riding some laps with me, she disappeared. I saw her a while later in the pit area. She had tears on her face and she was bending over, nauseated. Her fingers were nearly purple. Ugh. I gave her my mittens. She protested! She’d actually rather get frostbite than cause someone temporary discomfort. Raaychulll!!! She did reluctantlyeventually take the mittens. This is a good thing because I was about to smack her upside the head. Then Kevin came up with some spare gloves. Then we found a heater. It took a while and some chemical hand warmers but she got her hands thawed out. (Head hits table.)

There were so many other people there: Ryan and Ursulla and Leslie and Colin and Inez and Greg and Carrie (and their new baby) and Katie B. and Nelle and Jeff and Sam and Rachel II and Viola and Ed (thanks for the cupcake) and Kitty and Mary and Ted and Katie Bee and Chris N. and Laura and Adam and Michael and Mark and Jeanne and Finn and at least a half dozen others whose names and faces are lost in the voids of my brain.

I found out later the McEntees were there. Taking their measure of things.

Long story short: I had a blast.

I didn’t take any pictures but there were cameras everywhere. In a day or two there will be literally hundreds of still photos and videos posted to the interwebs.

Work? No, Thanks. I’m Busy.

I received a job offer yesterday. I think I’ll pass. I am busy being retired. My typical day goes something like this:

  • Read newspaper over breakfast. Defeat Sudoku and the crossword.
  • Play on social media sites.
  • Do one productive thing such as go to the doctor, get the car inspected, get my haircut, mow the lawn, volunteer, etc.
  • Go for a bike ride.
  • Go to gym (three days a week) or do physical therapy (basically, a short yoga session).
  • Meditate for 20 – 30 minutes.
  • Practice guitar. (I just started. By the time I am 110 years old I’ll be able to play The House of the Rising Sun.)
  • Read. (My family bans me from buying books in the weeks leading up to Christmas, Father’s Day, and my birthday. So I raided my daughter’s bookshelf.) I am currently reading Water for Elephants.
  • Listen to a Podcast once or twice a week. I follow 10 Percent Happier.
  • Write an insipid blog. (You are reading it.)
  • Write in my journal. (You are not reading it.)
  • Watch something on TV or Netflix. Or listen to music.

Weighty Things

My plan was to get up early to go to the gym and life weights. The Astros and the Dodgers had other things in mind. Game 5 of the World Series was supposed to be a tidy pitchers’ duel. Instead it was a slug fest. Houston won 13 – 12 in 10 long innings. I pretty sure there were at least four standing 8 counts. You could almost hear the players saying, “Yeah, Well…TAKE THAT!” as they exchanged home runs. Big fun.

Long story short, I woke up a tad later than planned. As it turned out, this was not entirely a bad thing because temperatures dropped about 20 degrees from yesterday. And it was windy. Fall has arrived and, boy, does it feel great.

I managed to make the four-mile ride to the gym into eight miles. I let the breeze push me down the Mount Vernon Trail before turning back. Then I had to face it. The dreaded weight room. I know, I know. Weight bearing exercise is good for you. It especially good for people like me who do little more than non-weight-bearing exercise and who have ripened a bit.

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The Chamber of Pain

I did one circuit through the machines, mostly to figure out how to set them up. It was pretty funny that one some machines I wasn’t sure which way to face, toward or away from the machine. And there was one work station without any weights at all that had no instructions. I had no idea what the heck to do with that.

After my first go round, I did another circuit. I made sure to use less weight than I might normally and to move the weight very slowly. I hope I don’t ache tomorrow. Even with low weight, I had the same result I usually have from weight lifting: I felt like throwing up when I was done.

The good news is my ribs didn’t hurt. The bad news is my left tricep is messed up. It wasn’t the weights. My father had rotator cuff problems beginning at about my age. Thanks Dad.

After the weights, I went for what I planned to be a 22-mile ride. One thing led to another and I found myself riding The Mule all over the place: across the Potomac on the Woodrow Wilson Bridge, up Oxon Hill past the casino, back down to the river at Oxon Hill Farm, back up the hill to Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. I took MLK to Howard Road. Then I got on the Anacostia River Trail. I rode a few miles north then crossed the river and came south all the way to the soccer stadium being built at Buzzards Point.

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Swift Progress on the Soccer Pitch

Then I made my way to The Wharf where I rested in a swing and took in the sights on a perfect fall day.

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Swings on a Pier

The ride home on the Mount Vernon Trail was a breeze.

When I arrived a package greeted me.

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The package also included a book (Britt Maire Was Here by Fredrik Backman) and another CD, Little Fictions by Elbow (I am going to their DC concert on Saturday).

 

How Do You say “Sandbagging” in Spanish

To recover from yesterday’s 55 mile meander I decided to do a 36 mile meander on Big Nellie. I mean why not meander while the meandering is good? Again, unbelievably, the weather was absolutely perfect for riding a bike.

Off I rode to do the Tour of Arlington, a loop around Arlington County Virginia entirely on bike trails.

I headed north on the Mount Vernon Trail. I stopped after a half mile to buy lemonade from a little boy and his mom. They were giving the proceeds to a  hurricane Harvey charity.

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Apparently the word got out that the trail is a nifty place to ride on a holiday with perfect weather because it was CROWDED!!!! Once I cleared Belle Haven Park I was enveloped with the scent of honeysuckle so I stopped to smell the flowers.

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I took my time and rode into Old Town Alexandria. The streets were CROWDED!!!! I made it through unscathed and approached the warehouses at the north end of Old Town. I spotted a woman riding up ahead and thought it might be Emilia. Sure enough it was. She didn’t recognize me apparently because I was on my unobtrusive long wheel base recumbent.

Once I said her name and waved she said “Hi John. Is that Nellie?” All was right once more. Big Nellie was flattered to be recognized. If a bike could blush, she would have.

I rode behind a friend of Emilia. They seemed intent on making good time. Emilia and I tried to talk but the one-behind-the-other thing didn’t work. I rushed ahead to get a decent photo of them but they flew by before I could get my phone ready. Then about 10 other bikes rolled by. Soon I was faced with the task of getting past all these people and dealing with heavy on-coming traffic. This is harder on Big Nellie for two reasons: (1) Big Nellie does not accelerate fast and (2) Big Nellie is low to the ground so I can’t see what is coming and what is coming can’t see me. I think I kind of pissed off some people but I managed to get around the crowd and caught up to Emilia and her friends. Her friends went north on the trail at the airport; I followed Emilia west on the Four Mile Run trail. Now when I tried to talk to her, Emilia was on her phone. Oh well.

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I sagged back a bit so as not to intrude on her conversation. That it was in Spanish meant that I had no idea what she was talking anyway, but I wanted to be polite. I kept pace and looked down. Emilia, riding a hybrid with wide tires and chatting on the phone, was cruising along effortlessly at 13 – 14 miles per hour.

I signed Emilia up for the 50 States Ride this year. Ever since she has been sending me messages that she is slow, that she is out of shape, and that I should be nice and wait for her during the ride. She repeated this today during our brief chat.  The reality will be rather different, I fear.

Last weekend Emilia and some friends rode to Harpers Ferry (and back) along the C&O Canal. The distance including the ride from her house to the start was about 65 miles each way. Nearly all of it on unpaved surfaces, some of it muddy. When I saw a picture of her in Harpers Ferry on Saturday I thought “Wow, they must have left early.” I thought this because Emilia looked like she had showered and changed clothes. I was wrong. She had just finished the ride. She looked completely relaxed and composed.

The same was true today. She just cruises along. No effort. Today she told me she no longer drinks alcohol or eats sugar. I’ve got a bad feeling about this.

Como se dice “sandbagging” en Espanol?

Anyway, when she got to the end of the Four Mile Run Trail she turned left to go home and I turned right to continue on the Washington and Old Dominion Trail.

After a few more miles I turned right onto the Custis Trail that heads back to the river. The trail has a series of rolling hills. Big Nellie started hill hopping, flying down one hill and up the next. This was why god invented bicycles. Fortunately, this trail was not at all crowded. Wheee!

Back at the river the trail was once again CROWDED!!!! I took my time and pedaled onward. I stopped at Gravelly Point to take some pictures.

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I arrived in Old Town to find it even more CROWDED than before. I think it had reached peak tourist. The intersection of King and Union was absolutely gridlocked with cars and walkers. I rolled to the front of a long line of cars waiting at the stop sign at King Street. A huge pick up truck was stuck in the middle of the intersection unable to move because of all the pedestrians. When a gap in the pedestrians opened up, I slowly rolled past the rear of the pickup, waited for a gap in the pedestrians crossing in the next cross walk and rolled free. Alexandria really needs to ban cars in Old Town on days like today. They serve no reasonable purpose.

A few blocks further on, I spotted  a massive line of people winding along the sidewalk from the left and turning down the sidewalk along Union Street. The line was 3 or 4 people wide. It turned out that all these people were there to see a tall ship that had docked this morning.

I cleared the mass of humanity and headed for home amid the breezes and the warm sun and the smell of the honeysuckle.