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.

 

 

 

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A Nudge into the Calming Rain

This day had to come. Rain. All day. While working, I just resigned myself to getting wet as I rode to the office. (Trust me, biking to work around DC in the rain is infinitely preferable to driving.)

No office, no ride? No way.

Still I needed motivation. A bike commuting friend posted a picture from her ride to work on Instagram. It was of the tree-lined paved path along the reflecting pool in front of the Lincoln Memorial. For all the dreariness, it made me miss playing in the rain.I could see her in my mind’s eye, plodding along with little effort, enjoying every splash. I envied her.

On when the rain gear and out I went.  From inside the rain looked like it was falling hard, but once I was outside it somehow seemed less daunting, inviting even.

I took the Cross Check to see if the gears were working properly, (They were. Yay!)

Long ago, I identified routes around my neck of the suburbs that required very few left turns and no highway crossings. I took one today. The streets were virtually empty. I made my way to Fort Hunt Park which has a 1 1/4 mile circuit. I rode around and around and around paying no mind to speed or effort, just letting the rain wet my face as I listened to the sound of the water passing through my fenders. I must have done about 10 laps. If not for my odometer I’d never know.

I finished on some more suburban roads. Passing houses under construction, devoid of work crews on this soggy day.

That’s okay everyone. Stay inside. I like it out here alone.

A tip of the helmet to my friend for the photographic nudge.

Death March Tune Up

Back in my marathoning days I didn’t consider myself in shape enough for a 26-mile race until I had run 21 miles comfortably. The first time was usually brutal. But the second and third times were almost easy. Somehow the stress from that one brutal effort re-set my body for the task ahead. (In every marathon I ever ran an invisible bear jumped on my back at around mile 23. Preparation can only get you so far.)

With my bike tour less than three weeks off, I decided to push my body this weekend. Today’s ride was designed by my friend Colin. He rides in suburban and rural Montgomery County Maryland and examines GIS data on places to ride. He concocted today’s 48 mile ride that included secondary roads, neighborhood streets, gravel roads. single track (dirt paths that are only a foot or two wide) through grassy fields, and nasty, rocky, tree-rooted, hill single track in the woods.

After a stop at Dunkin Donuts for proper ride fuel, we headed out on suburban roads. Colin, Ian, Kevin, Austin and I were met there by Jeff. Traffic was light and the pavement was smooth. Not a problem. The roads became more rural. Colin pointed us to a grassy field. Off we went. The grass was so high I could barely see the single track that wound through it.

Whenever the single track went into woods, we’d be surrounded by green and covered in shade. But trees have roots (I ought to know) and paths have rocks. Never having done this sort of riding before I exhausted by grip and my forearm muscles trying to control my Cross Check. An additional problem was the fact that the second to easiest gear on my bike wasn’t working. It turns out this was the perfect gear for much of the riding we were doing. The lowest gear often caused my rear wheel to spin. The next available low gear was too hard to mash on the steep rises.

I persevered and thought I did a pretty decent job. Riding on single track is much more tiring than road riding. Even when you are gliding you are expending energy dodging bumps and negotiating dips and turns.

At one point we followed a trail along the side of a lake. It was truly beautiful. I thought I was doing great. I encountered a three tree roots in a row and didn’t have the momentum to get over them. I fell over sideways. The undergrowth and a well placed large tree limb cushioned my fall. Only my pride was hurt. A few minutes later Jeff fell.

Colin made an executive decision to re-route us, or perhaps I should say re-root us. As we bombed along the path seemed to get hillier and rockier and have more and more tree roots. I am pretty sure that much of this had to do with the fact that I was worn out. I spent an embarrassing amount of time walking because I simply couldn’t power my way up steep short climbs with a bumpy surface.

I was actually worried that my saddle might break. It kept making popping noises because I was not unweighting my butt when I went over the bumps.

The last few miles were on paved streets and this felt incredibly easy. We had to do a minor repair on Jeff’s gears which were partially disabled during his fall. Colin reached down and bent something and voila the gears worked again.

Our pre-final destination during the ride was a brew pub in Gaithersburg. We got there and saw the sign on the door that said it was closed for renovations. What a sad sight to see six grown men cry.

We recovered our composure and found a Tex Mex restaurant with a patio. My god the beer tasted good. And the salt and oil on the chips was heaven.

The last 2 1/2 miles back to the start were uneventful. When I got off my bike, I felt like I had ridden 80 miles.

I really envied the mountain bikers we encountered on the single track sections of this ride. As tired as I was, I was having a ton of fun, but their bikes with wide tires, wide handlebars and big gear ranges would have made it much more enjoyable still.

When I finished I looked at my Instagram feed. I saw a picture of my friend Emilia who had just ridden over 60 miles to Harpers Ferry WV along the C&O canal towpath. She was all cleaned up and wearing a sundress and smiling. I cracked up. I looked like I’d been dragged through the woods. Which I suppose I had been.

Tomorrow I will ride the Reston Century or as much of it as my body will tolerate.

I made a Flickr album of the ride.

 

A Ride in the Pine Barrens

Over 30 years ago John McPhee wrote about a place that was disappearing. The Pine Barrens are a vast area of southern New Jersey where, back in McPhee’s day,  not much happened. People lived without telephones or electricity. The Barrens were primitive, despite the fact that they are located about an hour east of Philadelphia and 90 minutes from New York City. McPhee wanted to see it before it became modern.

It’s still rather rustic in the Barrens but there are now two-lane highways criss-crossing the area. Vacation tourism was evident here and there. I saw jet skis on the waterways. I should go back and read McPhee to see what it was like back in the day.

I drove down from central New Jersey where I stayed the night. My day began with a visit to my maternal grandparents’ grave and their house, still standing. It was decorated tastefully and the porch was fixed up a bit, but it was still an old, old frame house. The side yard once had a garage and decrepit barn. Both are gone, replaced by a modern middle-class home. There is no arbor on the side of the house, no grape vines hanging from it. The big vegetable garden is gone too. My grandmother died when I was ten, during a summer that also took my paternal grandmother and godmother. My funeral suit got a lot of use that summer.  It was weird getting birthday presents at one of the wakes. I just wanted it to end and to go back to the routine of school. My grandfather lived for another 15 or so years. He died in his bed in the house.

The starting point of my ride was Batsto Village State Park. Batsto was once a thriving  a close knit community built around an iron furnace, mills, and such. People lived in orderly two-story, unpainted frame houses. The folks who lived here had to get along; there was nobody else around. The village is in the middle of hundreds of acres of sandy soil and trees, mostly pine trees.

On the drive to Batsto, I stopped for breakfast at a New Jersey diner. Diners are New Jersey. The food was starchy and hot and creamy and filling. The coffee gave me a jolt. After gorging, I drove on to Batsto passing a few miles from Lakehurst, the site of the Hindenberg disaster. My mom told me that when she was a little girl she waved at dirigible passengers as they passed overhead. She probably didn’t wave at the Hindenberg that night on account of a tragically violent thunderstorm.

The parking lot of the diner was filled with bicyclists getting ready for a ride. I overheard the diner owner saying he expected about ten of them to come in without a reservation disrupting his quiet Sunday morning. Oh the temerity.

As I drove I passed large groups of cyclists riding in and out of the dappled shade of the woods on either side of the road. Some miles further on, I passed cranberry bogs.

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After parking I began a 43 mile loop ride on Little Nellie through the Barrens. The roads were high speed but the traffic was light and the pavement smooth and free of debris. And flat. Pool table flat.

I rode past blueberry farms. Miles of them. Billions of sweet little blue berries. Kerplink, kerplank, kerplunk! 

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Trees rather scrawny, the result of the never ending sandy soil. The road frequently crossed streams and inlets.  Some of the smaller roads had wooden deck bridges.

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I spotted an osprey nest on a pole next to the road. Two ospreys were clearly visible making a racket. One flew off as I approached. It had a critter of some sort in its talons. The remaining bird stayed at the nest squawking. The flying osprey circled the nest as I rode by as if to say “Look at me!” My guess is the nest had young ‘uns in it.

A few of the turns on my map were unsigned. So naturally I missed a turn. Fortunately, I discovered my mistake at a point where a brand new road doubled back toward the route.

I didn’t bring enough water so I was starting to flag after only 30 miles. With temperatures in the low 80s, low-ish humidity, and light winds, I felt a bit like a wimp.

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Pedal, pedal.

Did I mention it was flat.

More sand. More trees. A canoe with a man and woman came toward the road as I crossed a creek. They were framed by overhanging trees. It looked perfect.

Unpaved pathways intersected with the roads. Some were hiking trails. Some were more like sandy roads.

A mile later a doe and her fawn stood on the side of the road. They regarded me with caution then started to meander away. How many deer must there be in this place?

About a mile from Batsto, I looked down a sandy road to my left. Two wild turkeys were walking along. They looked like they might be talking to each other. Of course, when I tried to get a picture they turned and walked away from me. Don’t you just hate antisocial turkeys?

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My ride ended back at the car. I don’t recall ever riding a bike at my grandparents’ house when I was little so this was my first-ever ride in the state of New Jersey. It’s my 18th state. (The others: New York, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, California, Maryland, Virginia, Hawaii, West Virginia, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Ohio, Indiana, North Carolina, Michigan, and Wisconsin. As well as the District of Columbia.)

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I placed a bunch of pictures on Flickr.

 

Rooftop Turbines and Free Range Peaches

What better way to celebrate a hot muggy July 1 Saturday then to do my winter neighborhood ride in reverse.

Big Nellie and I rode toward US 1 and took the lane at a traffic light. We turned left onto the 3 lane concrete mess and a driver a couple of cars back laid on her horn. As she rolled by she yelled “Get on the sidewalk!” through her open passenger window. Not having time to explain that her inadequacies are her own business I responded with a mindfully deliberate F bomb.

I could easily have caught up to her at the next traffic light but escalation is not my cup of Kona.

Within a minute I was off US 1 and riding flat, nearly car free side streets. At Fort Belvoir I turned left and headed for the Woodlawn neighborhoods on the north side of US 1. There are lots of new bike trails under construction along US 1 in this area so three cheers for my county for finally getting with the program. (Too bad US 1 is still a hideous monstrosity, though.)

A few years ago while riding Big Nellie when it had a fairing (a big Lexan windshield) a man in a Tesla rolled silently by. He stopped and waved me over. He said he was an engineer and wanted to inquire about the provenance of my bike. Ultimately he told me that he was working on a zero energy house near Mount Vernon. (It may have been a negative energy house, one that uses less energy than it produces, but my memory fails me.) I never asked him where his house was specifically but I think I found it today.

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Check out those two big wind turbines on the roof. I could see that the one on the left was moving but it was silent. This is a south facing exposure. The eaves cast shade on the windows to avoid heat gain in the house. There is no lawn, just rather elaborate and tasteful landscaping.

I meandered around at about 12 miles per hour. I was getting hotter and I was in no hurry to get anywhere. Near the Mount Vernon Country Club, I passed a house with a ready to market peach tree. You see they put bags over the produce on the tree so you don’t have to put the peaches in a bag later. Or something like that. There are a few peaches that are outside the bags. I think these may be free range peaches. Clearly I need to do more research.

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The remainder of my ride involved avoiding collisions with tourists on rental bikes on the Mount Vernon Trail. Not a bad way to spend a Saturday morning.

Rolling Lawnchairs – a DC Bentabout

Every Memorial Day motorcyclists descend on DC as part of an event called Rolling Thunder. If you live in DC, you can plan on traffic tie ups and long waits at restaurants and crowded taverns. DC residents have learned to go with the flow when these sorts of things happen. (Except parents who are trying to get to day care before the overtime charges hit. The words “road rage” do not do it justice.)

With the Washington Nationals out of town and a hike already under my belt this weekend, it was time for a long ride. I decided to do a bikeabout on Big Nellie, my Tour Easy recumbent.  A bikeabout has no destination. It’s just a meander during which I take a ton of pictures using my point and shoot camera.

I wanted to check out the renovations to the Rock Creek trail. So I headed to DC. The MVT was a zoo, as it always is on nice days on the weekend.  I took my time. Near the beltway I saw Grace as she was headed the opposite way. I don’t know if she recognized me. (She’s never seen me on a recumbent before.)

The tourists had yet to meet critical mass in Old Town Alexandria. I paid close attention to the road ahead and managed to miss a tall ship docked at the southern end of harbor. (Thanks to Emilia who took an Instagram picture and brought it to my attention.)

I stopped at Gravelley Point park near National Airport. Typically, this place is packed on the weekends. Not today. I breezed through.

When I got into DC I was shocked that there were no crowds to contend with. The same cannot be said for the Rock Creek Trail. “Hey, let’s go down to the trail and stand in the middle and talk. We’re important people, you know.”

Must not kill.

The trail was mostly its old self. In parts it was so narrow and worn out that it would accommodate one way traffic only. When I did encounter sections that had been renovated, I was very impressed. Wider. Smoother. Straighter. With new wooden fencing. I can’t wait until it’s done.

Once clear of the trail I had a chance to enjoy Beach Drive which, for much of its length, is closed to cars on weekends and holidays. As I bombed up toward Chevy Chase, I was passed by Mike, a.k.a. @rattlingfender. Mike hosts the official Rootchopper pit stop at the 50 States Ride. I swear I do not pay him for this.

I stopped at the Rock Creek trestle because I like to ride my bike above the tree tops.

Time to head home. I took the Georgetown Branch Trail to Bethesda Row. Normally, I stop for lunch but today I just wanted to get home so I turned on to the Capital Crescent Trail. It was packed. Every time I see it like this I think: if you think a bike trail is a bad thing for your neighborhood, you’re nuts.

I never really had the chance to get any speed going. Every time I got Big Nellie up to cruising speed I had to slow to a crawl because of congestion.

The ride back home featured a strange yellow orb in the sky. What’s up with that?

Also, Gravelley Point Park had filled up. I think they only allow clueless people to use the park on the weekends. One cyclist simply stopped cold in the middle of the trail. No reason.

After the park, the trail squeezes between the Parkway and a secondary runway at the airport. As I approached the squeeze point, a bush was being blown all over the place. The wind was the backwash from a jet about to take off. Being on a recumbent kept me beneath the worst of the blast.

The ride through Old Town was just insane. Cars and bikes and people going every which way. Nobody following any kind of traffic rules. I remarked to another cyclist “This is like being in a video game.” He agreed.

After Old Town, there was nothing but sunny skies and tailwinds. Not a bad way to end a 50-mile holiday jaunt.

For the complete story check out my Flickr album.

 

 

Cold Rain and Hot Blooberry Soop

Today was the Vasa ride, the kickoff to the #bikedc event season. This event is staged by the Washington Area Bicyclists Association in collaboration with the House of Sweden, the Swedish Embassy.

Instead of riding – I’ve done the ride at least four times, and ridden the course(s) many more – I decided to volunteer. I was assigned to work on the early morning shift. When I awoke at 5:17 am (digital alarm clock) I could hear rain pelting the windows. Not good. The weather report called for cold rain or snow until about the time of the ride(s) – there are four Vasa rides to choose from – start.

I drove to DC. My advanced meteorological training told me it was yucky. I parked a block from the start and walked over to find WABA’s Nick Russo and Jon Gonzales hard at work in a cold, light rain. They had already set out several temporary bike racks. A few volunteers were gathering and soon we were putting up canopies and bike racks and sign in tables and such. We had the whole thing set up in minutes.

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Nick

The ride was sold out but there were many no shows. Traffic at the check in tables was slow but steady. I had the good fortune of working with Lesly Jones. I met Leslie years ago on a 50 States Ride. She is all positive energy. I have ridden parts of 3 or 4 50 States Rides with her. She is the only bicyclist I have ever met who uses echolocation to navigate. She talks nonstop, except when she is laughing. She is one very serious bicyclist. Last year she rode cross country. Lesly is a force.

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Lesly

From time to time the wind would pick up. We were standing in one place for long periods of time and our fingers and toes were going numb. Lesly stayed positive. Me not so much. Then my finger started bleeding. (I took off a chunk of skin yesterday while closing a padlock.) Lesly found me a bandage. The only person who didn’t seem to be all that cold was Nick who seemed to be wearing less clothing than the rest of us. Nick’s motto is “Don’t blame me, I’m from Massachusetts.” He is impervious to cold weather. I hate him. (Just kidding.)

Despite the weather the riders seemed to be in a good mood. You might say they were rolling with it. Many dropped from longer rides to shorter ones. One woman decided not to ride but came down to the start saying, “I came for the blueberry soup.”

A few of my friends cancelled because of the weather. Paul stayed home to eat quiche. Ryan decided to binge watch the Gilmore Girls. Still, I saw several more people I knew. Scuba enthusiast Michael B showed up in a wet suit. (I thought the aqualung was overkill, to be honest.) Some people were a tad grumpy, but I think most were simply wanting to get moving to warm up.

The standing around was making my legs feel like concrete posts. At about this time, the last of the riders hit the road. This final group was doing the 8 mile family ride. It was led by a dad riding a long cargo bike. He had one kid in the box in front and another on a trailer bike in the back. Riding in the rear of the group was a pedicab. Not to be outdone, one of the longer routes was ridden by a man in a velomobile.

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Two kids – not a problem

After the riders were gone we made quick work of putting all the check-in stuff back in the rental truck. I went into the Swedish embassy to get some blooberry soop. It was hot and tasted awesome. I chatted with a few folks before my body decided it was time to go home and recover the sleep that I had lost.

Of course, it’s pretty nice outside.

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A Proper, if Reluctant, Recovery

After totally botching a recovery ride yesterday, I decided to give it my all today. It being a national holiday, the last one for many weeks (a stretch of the calendar that I call The Long March as if it is comparable to Bataan), I slept in. Then I did what most old farts do, I ate a slow and methodical breakfast and read the dead tree edition of the newspaper. The good folks at the Washington Post had the decency to load up the sports page with baseball stories causing me to cry tears of joy in my Rice Chex.

Next came some web surfing. This is normally utterly unproductive, especially when accompanied by solitaire playing. Today was an exception. I learned (and saw with my own eyes) that the bald eagles at the National Arboretum have produced one egg. You can watch the entire process of egg sitting on the webcams that the U.S Department of Agriculture set up. This is a phenomenal time killer as not much happens for days. It is oddly addictive, however.

Interspersed with eagle watching and solitaire playing, I read some of Bill Bryson’s In a Sunburned Country. It is a funny travelogue about Australia, which I happened to have visited a couple of years ago.

At about 1 pm, I tired of my sloth and jumped aboard Deets for a ride to my local bike shop to have my front derailler looked at. It started throwing the chain to the inside a couple of days ago and I couldn’t get the appropriate adjustment screw to adjust.

Lucky for me there appears to me a time warp going on in DC. It feels like April. Flowers are coming up. Pollen is dusting cars windshields. The sun is warming bicyclists in shorts.

I expected there to be a long line at the bike shop and was delighted to see there was none at all. The mechanic on duty made quick work of the adjustment advising me to put the chain in the biggest gear before fiddling with the adjustment screw. I knew there had to be a trick. The adjustment was free (thanks Spokes Etc.) and I was on the road in no time.

I stopped at the scenic jersey barriers at the Belle Haven Marina for a photo op. Pay no attention to the ugly developments on the far side of the river.deets-at-marina

I rolled into Old Town and could see that the Presidents’ Day parade was still going on. I took the Wilkes Street tunnel from Union Street to check out the proceedings. The air in the tunnel was about 10 degrees warmer than on the street. It was also dark owing to the fact that I was wearing sunglasses.

A walker said hello and used my name. It was Bruce who I worked with until recently. He was dressed in white. Immediately behind him was a group of four or five people including his wife Paula – with whom I still work – dressed in her mandatory black. They looked a bit like Spy vs. Spy from Mad magazine.

I stopped to take in the parade. I couldn’t for the life of me get my phone to work properly to take a decent picture in the glare of the sun. I saw some bagpipers and what looked like Mummers driving itty bitty cars.

Having marched in parades for six years during my military school days I can only tolerate them in small doses. I hopped back on my steed for a slog along the perimeter of the parade and its crowds.

Once I found a street that would take me back home across  the parade route I took it. Slowly. The idea was to recover from the last two days. I took the hilly route home, mostly to test out the derailer. It worked fine.

After 17 miles, I dropped off my bike and drove to Huntley Meadows Park for a quite stroll in the woods. As I drove down the entrance road, I passed dozens of cars parked, an overflow from the normally empty parking lot. So much for solitude. Now I know what there was nobody at the bike shop.

So I bagged the idea of a walk in the woods and came home.

Sometimes recovery happens. Sometimes it is thrust upon me.

 

I May Be Old…

With superb weather on tap for the three day weekend, I had been working on a plan to bike and hike like a maniac. After one day it is apparent that I failed to factor some basic truths in to my thinking.

1. I am old.

2. Eating a shit ton of Christmas cookies has added dead weight to my aging carcass.

3. I have not ridden a hard ride in months.

So the plan was to ride to Whites Ferry and back, an all day, 100-mile loop that is basically flat. But it was cold in the early morning so I decided to do a somewhat shorter ride.

I don’t know why 90 miles struck me as easy but that’s what my brain locked onto. I have never ridden the full 59-mile Vasa ride called the Vasaloppet. I always opt to ride the 31 mile, HalvVasan. When I add the 31 miler to the distance to and from the start in Georgetown, I get a nice metric century, 62 miles. I’ve done this ride during the official event in mid-March and at other times throughout the year. So today I decided to do the 59-miler plus the 31 miles to and from my house.

I began at 10:30. It was about 60 degrees. I went to put on my prescription sunglasses and the right lens fell out in my hand. So I rode Deets, my Surly Cross Check, to an optician on my way to the city. The optician had a waiting list. No thanks. I rode to Old Town where I found an optician who fixed my glasses without waiting. Thanks Voorthuis.

The ride to the start was flat and fast. The Mount Vernon Trail was not at all crowded. I felt pretty darn good. Of course, my apparent vigor was actually a tailwind pushing me along. You’d think after riding a bicycle for over 50 years I’d clue in. But NO!

The Swedish embassy is the starting point of the Vasa rides. They had a sign out front inviting people to come inside. Swedes are nice. I took a pass. I’ll be back in a month when I volunteer at the official ride.

I rode out of Georgetown on the Capital Crescent Trail and climbed up to MacArthur Boulevard without any difficulty. I was 20 miles into the ride and I was feeling my oats.

The ride to Great Falls Park along MacArthur has one hill but it otherwise flat. Deets and I were cruising along at 16 miles per hour. Life was good.

I stopped at a bathroom at the kayakers’ parking lot near Great Falls. After using the facilities I found out that the water fountains had been shut off. I would need to ration my water carefully. I rode up the big hill toward Falls Road. I ate a smushed banana as I went. The banana was soft but the riding was hard. I tossed the peel and fell into a rhythm. A road crew had blocked off one lane so I had to stop half way up the hill. With rested legs, the remainder of the climb was a piece of cake. I rode into Potomac Village still feeling strong.

When I do the HalvVasan, this is where I turn around. Today I rode onward into the hilly back roads of filthy rich Potomac Maryland. This is pretty heavenly biking. Windy roads, streams, farms (mostly now developed with megamansions). The road surfaces could use a little work though. I made it to Travilah Road where my cue sheet told me to turn around. I spotted a convenience store and bought a big bottle of water and a Clif bar. I filled my nearly empty water bottles and inhaled the Clif bar and headed back to Potomac Village.

Now I noticed the wind. It made the hills consequential. The bumps got bumpier. My odometer seemed to increase ever so slowly. On a climb, I shifted to my small chainring and the chain fell off. Arg. (This happened again 5 miles later. I need to adjust my lower limit screw.)

Once past Potomac Village I rode the smooth pavement through the Avenel development. New-ish roads make for happy cycling. After Avenel, I rode past Congressional Country Club and continued on for five miles until Bethesda.

In Bethesda I jumped onto the mostly unpaved Georgetown Branch Trail. Normally, this trail is icy and muddy at this time of year. Today it was dry and hard.

At the traffic light to cross Connecticut Avenue, a passerby admired my bike. He said he has one too and commutes 10 miles to work every day. We gave each other the secret Surly handshake and carried on our separate ways.

At Jones Mill Road, I was feeling pretty worn out. No worries, just 25 miles to go. I pulled a bagel out of my saddlebag. I had made it before leaving home. I am a genius.

Jones Mill led me to five miles of nearly carfree riding in Rock Creek Park. If your city does not have a big green gash down the middle of it with hiking trails, a bubbly creek, horse stables, and picnic areas, you need to move. Rock Creek Park is the best!

It is also a canyon. And after 5 windy, downhill miles, I turned away from the creek and headed up. Eventually climbing for one mile on Brandywine Street. I should point out that this climb is notorious. I was doubting its reputation until I came to realize that it never seemed to stop. I blame Michelle. She has been trying to kill me by designing events for WABA. As my knees were screaming for me to stop, she was eating biscuits and gravy and sipping coffee in a bookstore in Seattle. She was probably thinking, “He’s dead now for sure. Bwa ha ha.” (She’d make an awesome Bond villain.)

Wrong.

I made it to the top and after a few miles of traffic mayhem rode screaming down Arizona Avenue, gleefully tripping the speed camera as I rode.

At the base of the hill I rejoined the first five miles of the ride and made my way back to the embassy. When I reached Capital Crescent Trail, I saw to my left a fire truck heading outbound on Canal Road. Soon two ambulances were in hot pursuit. Then to my right I saw a fire rescue boat speeding up river. Something very bad must have happened.

Near Georgetown Waterfront Park, the car traffic was insane so I jumped onto the bike path. It too was insane with scores of sundrunk people wandering around at random. I went very slowly and managed somehow not to hit anyone.This madness continued well past the embassy. At one point I followed a 300 pound man on a bikeshare bike. People got out of his way and I benefited from his slipstream.

At the beach volleyball courts near the Lincoln Memorial (Abe was an awesome spiker, they tell me), I saw two women on bikes looking bewildered. “Are you lost?” “We’re trying to find the MLK Memorial.” “Follow me.”

I was headed that way anyway. I led them to a spot between the FDR and MLK memorials and continued on my way. Because of one way streets I ended up swimming with big metal dolphins on Independence Avenue. Traffic was heavy so I took the lane. I wasn’t slowing anyone up but the driver of a Prius decided to swing around me to get to a red light faster. The Prius nearly hit a big white cargo van. Beeps were exchanged. I just rode on until the driver of the van started yelling at me. Then he said the magic words “Get on the sidewalk!”

You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.

I was tired. I was being a good cycling person. I looked at him through his open side window and told him,  “Fuck Off!” I pointed at my lane and told him, “I belong right here. Tough shit if you don’t know traffic laws. Shut your PIEHOLE.” (Thanks to my daughter’s grade school friend Camille for telling me to shut my piehole when she was 8. I’ve been wanting to use it for years.) So much for my zen-like bike trances.

After I thought about it for a few miles, I realized that Van Driver was blaming me for Prius Driver’s incompetence. It sucks that I reacted as I did but I was in need of an adrenaline boost and Van Driver provided it.

The boost was useful until I encountered the bike and pedestrian traffic on the Mount Vernon Trail at Gravelly Point Park. Hundreds of people and dozens of little kids were walking every which way, looking up to see planes land or looking across the inlet to the airport where planes were taking off. I slowed way down and carefully made my way through the mob. After coming out the other side, I was passed by a cyclist who said with a chuckle,”What a cluster fuck.” Indeed.

A similar cluster fuck occurred in Old Town Alexandria where pedestrians wandered off sidewalks as if the roads had been closed. (Not a bad idea, by the way.)  It was anarchy. It was also dark. Drivers and cyclists were uncharacteristically well behaved and patient.

I was grateful to get away from the madness, when two kids ran out from between parked cars at a park several blocks to the south. I shook my head at them.

The last six miles were cool. I had taken off my sweater after 40 miles and now I was missing the warmth. With only a few miles to go, I pedaled on. With sore knees and an aching back I crushed the last mile at about 18 miles per hour.

90 miles on a 70 degree day in February. I may be old, but I’m sore.

 

 

 

Bike Me Out to the Protest

Where should I ride today? is a question I ask myself often on the weekends. After riding 150 miles during my workday commutes, I tend to sleep in on Saturdays and Sundays. When I awaken, it’s too late to drive somewhere far for a pleasant ride in the country.

During baseball season, if the schedule permits, I ride to Nationals Park. It’s about 16 flat miles including the first 12 miles of my bike commute. I get to use the bike valet and relax in the sun with a cold beverage and a snack or two. Blissful. (To borrow a word from one of my favorite bloggers.)

Alas, opening day is still more than two months away. For years cynics said that Washington DC could not support a baseball team because it’s favorite sport was politics. In that spirit, I decided to ride to today’s somewhat spontaneous protest of the administrations ban on immigrants from certain predominantly Muslim countries.

After riding to the cellphone store for a tweak to my phone, Deets and I headed for the White House. With temperatures in the mid-40s and sidewinds, the normal weekend mob on the Mount Vernon Trail took the day off. In fact, other than Sunday brunchers in Old Town, I was mostly riding alone. Until I got to within a few blocks of the White House, that is. I was in the 15th Street cycletrack stopped at a red light. There were scores of people coming toward me from Freedom Plaza on Pennsylvania Avenue. As I progressed up 15th, I could see crowds of people coming toward me on each side street I crossed.

I took a left into the car-free plaza that runs in front of the White House on Pennsylvania Avenue from 15th Street to 17th Street. I could see what looked like a very loud, very large crowd. It was too dense to walk my bike through but it was only about 10,000 people. It looked like a lot more because the people were hemmed in by the temporary fencing protecting the inauguration viewing stand that had yet to be dismantled.

I took a couple of pictures and doubled back to 15th. I duck walked Deets to H Street and then back toward Lafayette Park across the plaza from the White House. Hundreds of people were streaming toward me from all directions. Then I heard a familiar voice call my name. It was Ted, a #bikedc and #fridaycoffeeclub friend. He was standing at the curb trying to get a hold of Jean, his S.O., who was somewhere in the now rapidly growing crowd. We talked for about 15 minutes. He introduced me to his friend Hector who is a photojournalist.

After a brief chat we went our separate ways. I waded into Lafayette Park. It was now on the back side of the protest crowd. The crowd was on the eastern end of the White House plaza having been denied access to the space on the western end (nearest the Oval Office and the president’s residence.) From my vantage point it didn’t seem like the protest was going to further develop so I made my way west through a steady stream of people arriving. As I mounted my bike, I said hi to Joe, another photographer (and author), who was walking toward the festivities with camera in hand.

For a change of pace, I rode home via the Mall and the Memorial Bridge. I took the inland route past the vast Pentagon parking lost which were being treated with brine in advance of tonight’s inclement weather.

The ride home was peaceful. I through in a few hills just to goose my heart rate. When I got home, I checked my phone. I was shocked at how many people I knew were in the crowd only a few yards from me in Lafayette Park. And I was doubly shocked to see how large the crowd grew. I left the White House and marched to the Trump Hotel and then on to the Capitol.

So the weekend ended. Tomorrow I work from home so that I can let the plumber in. It’s just a coincidence there may be unpleasant conditions for bike commuting.

I wonder if there will be a protest next weekend. It would be nice if there weren’t one but my sense is that this is the new normal. What bizarre times.