Well at Least I Didn’t Get Run Over

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rainout

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

The game is rescheduled for June 8.

Biking to Home

The last time I was in Nationals Park, the crowd was silent. All that could be heard was the distant celebration of the Los Angeles Dodgers who had just eliminated the Nationals from the National League playoffs.

The sad feeling that comes with the last loss of the season soon gives way to the reality that the next baseball game will come, at the earliest, in April. In between there is cold and dark.

I have had enough of cold and dark.

So I rode my bike to the baseball game. The goofy new bike valet didn’t bother me. The fact that the gates were closed didn’t bother me.  They opened soon enough. I sat here:

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The sun came out. Abe won the presidents’ race.  A home run landed four seats away from me. Jose Lobaton played. He’s our back up catcher who spends most of his time on the bench looking through goggles made from solo cups. Lobe scored a run. Lobeee!

I got to see Michelle. It required supplemental oxygen to get to her seat. You can see her in this picture.

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Okay, I lied.

She brought her parents. And her boyfriend. He’s a Sherpa. I am not making this up. I forgot his name. It might be Tenzing. I could be wrong. Forgetting names is my superpower. Michelle writes an awesome blog. You should read it. Michelle is a banquet in a lumberjack shirt. Sadly, Michelle is not a relief pitcher. We could have used one today. The Nats lost 4-2.

But that’s not important. I saw a baseball game for the first time in six months. I drank a beer. Okay, three, but who’s counting? I sat in the sun and got sunburned. I saw Michelle. She’s worth the climb. I rode my bike.

I didn’t get hit by an SUV.

I was home. Again.

 

 

 

Closing Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I pulled into my yard at 2:30.

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

Only 171 days until opening day.

 

A Year Well Ridden

For a guy who spent three weeks on a bike-free vacation and the better part of the winter waiting for a thaw, I rode a whole bunch in 2015.

For the year I clocked 7,518.5 miles. Nearly two thirds of this total was from riding my bikes to work 162 times. Pro tip: if you want to boost your annual miles, get a job farther from home. The remaining 2,601 miles was on various weekend and bike touring excursions. The No Wrong Plan Bike Tour was about 370 miles including riding to the shuttle at the start and riding home on Bike to Work Day at the finish.

The tour made May my biggest mileage month at 951. September, usually a big month, was my lowest mileage month at only 296.5 miles. I spent nearly three weeks on vacation and didn’t touch a bike despite the fact that I could have laid claim to riding in Asia and Australia and New Zealand. Oh, well.

The Mule, my oldest bike, got the most use, 3,342 miles, including exactly half of my bike commutes. The least mileage went to my new bike, a Surly Cross Check, at 1,000 miles. Of course, I only had this bike for four and half months. None of these miles was from commuting.

I rode indoors on Big Nellie, my Tour Easy recumbent six times for the equivalent of 99 miles. Otherwise, Big Nellie fell into disuse. I rode it only 86 miles since August. Over the course of the year, I rode it to work 25 times. Its total mileage for the year was 1,289.

Little Nellie got much more use than I expected. It is a Bike Friday folding travel bike but I didn’t travel with it. Instead I just rode it a lot locally. I did 56 rides to work and 1,887.5 miles overall. Being able to stash it in the trunk of the car came in handy many, many times.

My longest ride of the year was exactly 100 miles from my house to Whites Ferry and back on Big Nellie. The second longest ride of the year was the 18 mile ride home from the Tour de Fat event. I find riding a bike after a beer or two not to be problematic. Riding a bike after drinking beer in the hot sun for five hours, is considerably more challenging. Next year I will volunteer so as to remain sane. (Of course, I say this every year and rarely get around to volunteering. Bows his head in shame…) Another rather long bike ride was my bike commute the day after returning from Thailand. I was jet lagged out of my mind. It was not a lot of fun.

Other than the tour, the rides I liked best usually involved baseball games at Nats Park. The Nationals’ bike valet service is just about the best thing going.  Every ballpark, major or minor league, should do this.  A couple of times I had the pleasure of riding with Katie Lee to the Capitol and watching her do a victory lap – riding around in circles, hands free, head back, with an ear-to-ear smile. Pure bike joy. And then there’s always the fun of a ride home after a night game. I love riding home in the dark on a warm summer night.

The last ride home on the bike tour on the C&O Canal was special. Ryan intercepted us on his way to Brunswick. Then Rudy gave us a full escort from Great Falls. Near Fletcher’s Boat House, Mary came out to escort us. Somewhere along the line Chris showed up. We rode to Glen’s near Dupont Circle for a celebration where we were joined by even more #bikedc friends. I was escorted on my ride home against the Bike to Work Day flow on the 15th Street cycletrack and down the Mount Vernon Trail  by Mount Vernon resident Ed. This day was in stark contrast to the last day of my other tours when I was greeted with a ho-hum from non-biking relatives. (This is why I made it a point to meet Linel in Belle Haven Park at the end of her C&O Canal tow this year.)

I don’t recall how many times I rode to Friday Coffee Club, but it’s a thing and it’s fun.

I went to several bike events: WABA’s Vasa and Cider rides and holiday bash, the Great Pumpkin ride, the Tour de Fat, the kinetic sculpture race in Baltimore, the Cookie ride, and the #biketivismdc protest on Pennsylvania Avenue.

I hiked a bunch too. I honestly can’t say which trail was my favorite. They all have their distinct characteristics. I learned that I don’t much care for rock scrambles or crossing steams on slippery logs. In my running days I was a pretty darn good downhill runner. I am a pretty lousy downhill hiker.

I am not much of a massage fan but I had three massages this year. The last and only other time I had a massage was after a century in 1991. I liked the oil massage in Thailand the best. It was outdoors under a shelter in the rain. The next best was a Thai massage from a friend in McLean Virginia. This was relaxing and nothing like any of the other massages I’ve had. The reiki at the end was also pretty cool. The sports massage I had near my home was rather vigorous. I was sore for days afterward. I am still not much of a massage fan. I’m just not into pampering, I guess.

Enough with looking back already. It’s 2016. Let’s get on with it!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Long Game, Longer Season

When I choose my commuting bike of the day, I often consider whether I will be doing something in DC in the evening. This week is no exception because the Nats are playing seven home games in a row. If I am going to hang out in town, I pick either Little Nellie or The Mule. They both have toe clips and straps which allows me to wear walking shoes. Yesterday, I didn’t have any plans so I chose Big Nellie which has clipless pedals.

In the afternoon, I received a message from Ed to go to the Nats game that night. Clipless or not, I’m in!

I rode to Nats Park without incident until I got to First Street NE. There a driver moved into the bike lane without signalling as I was approaching. I yelled at him and he proceeded onward nearly running over a pedestrian in a cross walk. If his timing were a little better he could have killed two people in the space of 20 yards.

I parked at the Bike Valet and headed to my seat. It was Jason Werth Chia Pe20318775242_ed33e577a4_zt night. Werth has a massive amount of facial hair so this made some sense. This and the Presidents’ race featuring a Chia Abe (he won) pretty much convinces me that the Nats promo department puts peyote buttons on their Nats Dogs.  And, of course, nothing says family-friendly like celebrating the only player on the team who has been in jail during the past year.

I met Ed in section 305 and a ball game broke out. It was a slow contest, made slower by the Nationals creeping incompetence. The Arizonas (their DBACKS logo looks from a distance like WHACKS) tried to give the Nats the game in the early going but the hometown team would have none of it. The Nats’ starting pitcher gave up hits and walks like Chia Pets. After being allowed to bat to end an inning he gave up a hit to the first batter he faced and was removed from the game. 35,000 fans wondered why hit was not pinch hit for. Oh, well. What do we know? The Nats brought in another, more generous thrower who managed to turn a swinging bunt into a 2-run triple. A third pitcher balked in a run. It was like a clinic in how not to play major league baseball. For the first time in ten years of baseball in DC, the crowd booed. And booed. And booed. People in the stands were making all kinds of nasty remarks. The only real cheers came when the Nats, now down 11-2, threw in the towel and brought in their back up first baseman to pitch.  (A move somewhat akin pulling the goalie in a lost cause hokey game) He quickly retired two batters, giving him an ERA of 0.00.

The only thing worse than the game were the undercooked vegan hot dogs I ate. They tasted flavorless and had the texture of a boiled doggie chew toy. Ack. It makes me wonder if bowls of steamed veggies and rice would sell at the ball park. Seriously. It would be way better than most of the crap, veggie or not, that they sell.

The game ran four hours. We left our seats and headed for home with the few thousand other fans who value depression over a good night’s sleep.

Ed and I rode down the I Street bike lane. As a stop light turned green two motorbikes did right hooks in front of me, nearly hitting me. Only 14 long, dark miles to go.

Actually, the rest of the ride home was nice. I know because Ed must have said “This ride is nice” at least 20 times. The Gnats weren’t even out so we could ride home without an involuntary protein snack.

I arrived home just before 1 am. In bed after 2, I awoke at 6 and rode to work.

By 3 pm I was in very strong disagreement with Chico Escuela.

I am hoping that Friday night’s game has a lot less suck.

Making Withdrawals from the Karma Bank

It’s easy to go through life seeing the cloud in every silver lining. I am not an altogther pessimistic person but it never ceases to amaze me when random good things happen to me. Frankly, after last fall and winter, I think I may have been overdue for some good Karma. This week I am on a good Karma roll.

Monday I used Little Nellie, my folding travel bike, to take Mrs. Rootchopper’s car to the dealer for an inspection. As it turned out, the dealer did a warranty repair on the airbags while the car was there, saving me a future trip.

On the way to pick up the car, it rained while the sun was out. Sometimes rain is cold and makes you miserable, but this rain was warm and felt wonderful on a hot day. The sunlight shining on the rain drops made it look like I was riding through tinsel.

Yesterday, during a meeting at work, Ryan messaged me with an invite to go to the evening Nats game. (Ryan was given two tickets as a thank you for donating blood at Nats Park back in May. Good on you, Ryan.) I rode Big Nellie, my long wheelbase recumbent, to the park from my office in Rosslyn. I was thinking about riding down to Hains Point to kill some time and keep me from arriving early. On Ohio Drive near the Jefferson Memorial, I hit a small pothole. All of a sudden my rear shifter stopped working. I got off the bike and saw that my shifter cable had broken at the derailer. Sad face.

I tried to fix it, but the end of the cable was all frayed and nasty. I decided to skip Hains Point. I considered riding to one of the bike shops on Capitol Hill, but rejected the idea, afraid it would take too much time and make both me and Ryan late for the game. So I rode directly to the ballpark. I had three gears so I was confident that I could get home. It wouldn’t be much fun though.

At the ballpark I tweeted that my cable had broken. Lo and behold the folks at CityBikes on Capitol Hill saw my tweet and offered to bring me a cable and install it after the game. Are you kidding me? How nice is that? I told them that the cable was a tandem cable (Big Nellie is long) and they went searching for one. And found it. Are you kidding me? Nice.

Having arrived early, I talk a bit to Delonte and Raymond, the super friendly bike valet guys, then hung out on the sidewalk near the entrance to the valet to look for Ryan. Who should come swooping in but Katie Lee on Arrow, her Surly CrossCheck. I know she goes to a lot of Nats games but I figured she’d skip this one having probably gone to the previous night’s game pitched by Jordan Zimmermann, her fave. We had a chance to say hello and I met her friend Eric.

Ryan showed up soon after and we went into the park. His seats were in centerfield directly under the giant scoreboard TV. Looking up at the replays was surreal. Baseball players are 20 feet high!

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There were not many replays worth watching. The Nats were 2-hit by Reds’ ace Johnny Cueto, who did his best imitation of El Tiante in his prime. The Nats looked like the ’62 Mets.

During the game Katie Bolton tweeted that she was in the stands directly below Katie Lee. I could spot the L but not the B. #bikedc Katies are remarkably numerous.

After the game, Saul Leiken from CityBikes met me at the bike valet and installed the cable. Now I had all the gears necessary to ride home in the dark. Thanks Saul.

The ride home was a bit sketchy since my red blinky light had two dead batteries in it. I was paranoid riding among the cars. I got to the Mount Vernon Trail and only had to worry about being rear ended by a ninja bike rider on speed. Fortunately, Tony, who happened also to be at the game, showed up and escorted me to the far end of National Airport. What a great bonus to have a chat with him.

The rest of the ride was smooth sailing. Just me, the night breeze, and a million fireflies.

I feel my Karma bank might be empty.

A Day at Church

As every baseball fan knows, baseball is a religion. What better way to spend a Sunday than to go to church with a true believer? And so I did.

I hopped on The Mule just before 10 am and started toward DC. I bypassed the Mount Vernon Trail for the hillier Fort Hunt Road. I needed to swing by Spokes Etc. in Belle View to get some information about a broken piece of plastic on my brake lever.

Karl looked my brake lever over and said that the piece of plastic was cosmetic and not something to worry about but the fact that my handlebar was bent was another issue altogether. I’d thought that my brake lever was out of alignment but it turns out that the section of handlebar to which it is attached was toed in. The broken piece of plastic and the bend in the handlebar both probably are the result of a crash a few weeks ago, Winter ice, the gift that keeps on giving.

I decided that the handlebar issue is something that I can deal with another day and headed out for DC, this time on the MVT. It was surprisingly uncrowded. I had expected to be dodging all kinds of people but the cooler temperatures must have scared people off. (Also, this being Sunday morning, many folks are in an actual church.)

When I arrived at Gravelley Point I stopped to take in some serious Wiffle Ball. They had a fabric fence for home runs to be hit over. Better still there was a rectangular backstop on a short post that acted as a home plate umpire. Pitches that hit this strile zone backstop were deemed stikes. Cool idea.

Wiffle Ball warm up for the real thing

After watching a few planes take off, I rolled onward toward DC. I checked out the national mall and hung a left on 7th Street. Soon I rolled up to BicycleSpace. I wanted to talk to Rachel “Don’t Call Me Bob” Cannon about a friend who is looking to buy a bike to start commuting on. Ted (a.k.a. @MrTinDC) was hanging out with some folks about to do one of BicycleSpace’s many social
rides. Ted told me that Rachel had just left to go to a concert, carrying her viola on her bike. I wish I had seen it.

@mrtindc at @bicyclespace

Ted and I decided to ride in the general direction of Nationals Park. He veered off near HUD and I headed to the ballpark.

At the ballpark I gave my bike to the bike valet folks.

Bike valet at #nats park is the bomb

If you are thinking of driving to a Nationals game, be prepared to pay through the nose for parking. One lot near the stadium charges $40. The bike valet is free (tips for the staff are voluntary but encouraged.) I did a short walk to people walk then headed into the stadium. There is something about taking in the green of a ballfield that calms the soul. I sipped a beer and just took it all in from beyond the centerfield seats. Ahhh.

Having had my soul calmed, I headed to my seat. Katie (@flyinghovertrout) had bought the seats and invited me to join her. Our seats were actually cushioned folding chairs on the third level directly behing the Nats dugout. Good view + happy buttocks = good seats.

Katie is a serious Nats fan: “Today is Sunday and this is church.”17017154188_40ff42c3af_zShe has a thing for Jordan Zimmermann who pitched yesterday. There is no truth to the rumor that JZ has gotten a restraining order. Yet.

Katie keeps score in a pristine scorebook. I mean it is a thing of beauty. The scorebook I kept for my highschool team was pathetic by comparison.She’s an actual artist. Mama, don’t let your babies grow up to be economists.

The game was a by the numbers Nats win over Philadelphia.

Afterward we went to the bike valet. Katie goes to so many games that the bike valet staff know her by name and she them. One day last year they admired her red Nats socks so, at the end of the year, she bought them some. (In contrast, I don’t buy socks for myself, let alone ballpark staff.)

We rode up to the Capitol to do what Katie called her victory lap. As I said before, she doesn’t actually ride through the urban landscape, she flows through it. Around this barrier, onto the sidewalk, around this car, and that pedestrian. Fluid.

We parted on the east side of the Capitol and I headed home under increasingly cloudy skies. I took my time and cruised downed the MV, still surprisingly empty for such a nice day. 34 miles and a few sprinkles later the day was done.

Thanks for taking me to church Katie.

Amen.

From Dawn to Midnight – Another Day in #Bikedc

Friday means only one thing: Friday Coffee Club. Unfortunately, late September means DARK.  I left before 7 am with my Light and Motion Stella light strapped to my helmet. This is my fourth season using the Stella. It seems to work just as well as when I bought it too. Light and Motion makes good stuff.

Since I was going to the night game at Nationals Park, I rode The Mule which has conventional pedals. This way I didn’t have to wear shoes with cleats. It was my first commute on The Mule in at least three months. It felt totally weird soon I was dialed in.

The ride in was uneventful. Your usual beautiful spin along the Potomac River. Over the river on the 14th Street Bridge, through the tourists at the Washington Monument, up the 15th Street cycletrack, and across the Pennsylvania Avenue plaza in front of the White House.

Ellizabeth at the near head of the table presides over Friday Coffee Club
Ellizabeth at the near head of the table presides over Friday Coffee Club

The tables outside Swings were packed with #bikeDc folks, including to my delight Elizabeth who rode the 50 States Ride with me this year. It’s always great to see new people at Friday Coffee Club.

Ellizabeth at the near head of the table presides over Friday Coffee Club

Ed, Mary, and I had made a date to attend the night game at Nationals Park. I paid Ed for my ticket and rode off to work resplendent in my Anthony Rendon Number 6 Nats shirt.

At 5 I was out of work like a rocket. This would likely be my last game of the year. I rode along the river to the 14th Street bridge, through East Potomac Park, over the Case Bridge to L’Enfant Promenade, then wound my way to I street and its smooth pavement and clearly marked bike lanes. Signs directed me straight to the bike valet at the ballpark. What a great idea.

Bike Valet - No Car, No Worries
Bike Valet – No Car, No Worries

I ate what passed for dinner and took my seat. Ed and Mary arrived a bit late. They were delayed because they needed to get their gear ready to drive to the Seagull Century on the Eastern Shore of Maryland before dawn on Saturday.

The game was a romp for the visiting team but we had a good time hanging out and talking baseball and bikes. At about 11, game over (Marlins 15, Nats 7) I hopped on The Mule for the ride home. The air was dry and calm with temperatures in the mid 60s. Once I cleared the area near the ballpark, the roads were all but empty. I calmly rode the 18 or 19 miles home. Best bike commute ever!

Mary, Ed, and Mr. Selfie
Mary, Ed, and Mr. Selfie

I walked in the house at 12:38, 18 hours after I left.