Rain. Cold rain. On a Friday morning when most retirees stay in bed. I got up and hit the road a little after 6:30. The rain, blown by a northeast headwind, spit on my face. And I rode. I arrived at Friday Coffee Club (yes, we capitalize it) around 8. The crowd was predictably small, given the crummy weather: Ed, Ricky, Andrea, Jeff, and a player to be named later. (Sorry, I didn’t catch your name.) Ed and Andrea were discussing a 400 kilometer randoneuring event they are participating in tomorrow. (Ed is riding. Andrea is volunteering.) That’s 248 miles (plus 5 because the course designer is a sadist.) In one day or so. I can’t even.
Ed brought a lightly used Brooks Flyer saddle with fancy copper rivets. I bought it from him for my tour. It has lots of room for tension adjustments. My tush should be a happy camper.
After Andrea, Ricky, and the PTBNL left, Ultrarunnergirl made her first appearance of 2018. Yay! I haven’t seen my biking-hiking-baseball-flaming drinks buddy in a very long time. Hugs and smiles. She took the bus because she is nursing a messed up hip. We must get her well for future adventures.
After I left FCC, I rode to the gym and went all Hulk for 40 minutes. Next, I did 20 minutes of physical therapy at home. Then, I went to an acupuncturist down the street.
I had a hard time tuning my ears to my acupuncturist’s heavy Korean accent but with some forbearabce, we managed to get the gist of my problem understood. He examined my tongue and poked various parts of my body. Mostly this was painless, but a couple of pokes in my feet caused sharp pain. (A similar discomfort shortened a Thai massage a few years ago.)
As I lay on my back, He pinned me in my upper left arm and at various other points all over my body. After about 15 minutes, he flipped me over and repeated the process. Acupuncture is rather hocus pocus to me but I have had success with it in the past. I have to say that my arm does feel better this evening. I’ll wait a day or two before declaring the trip a success.
At the end of the appointment, he placed small stickers on spots on my hands. This mark points that I should prod and massage to help my shoulder heal.
When I got home I ordered two new maps from Adventure Cycling. Over coffee, Ed has made the road west out of Missoula sound like bicycle heaven. He said there is a 90 mile gradual downhill that follows a river through the mountains. I stumbled across a blog online that described the shortcut to the Cascades in less than glowing terms. I will use the maps to work out itineraries for both routes.
One of the maps contains a small surprise, a short cut to Missoula from the east. I’ll have to give that a closer look at that. (It probably involves a climb of horrific proportions.)
I think the only way to properly plan for this trip is to go with the flow and see how I feel when I get to Montana.
One of the benefits of retirement is you get to go to baseball games whenever you want. Today’s Nationals vs. Braves game started at 1 p.m. All during breakfast and my hour of physical therapy at home I checked the weather. I didn’t want to go and freeze my butt off.
I checked ticket prices. I found a seat in the front row of the left field grandstand about 20 feet to the fair side of the foul pole. For $10. I figured, if it gets too cold, I’m only out ten bucks so what the hell.
Little Nellie and I took our time during the 15+ miles to the game. As I passed the Tidal Basin, I could see that it was still peak bloom for the cherry blossoms. One tree in particular just gobsmacked me. So I took it’s picture.
My seat was perfect. My friend Katie Lee who is a baseball fanatic sent me a message asking if I had brought my glove. I laughed and said no.
I looked up and there was that foul pole. In the first inning, the second batter, a former National named Kurt Suzuki, hit a home run that hit the pole (the foul pole is in fair ground) about 20 feet above my head. BONG!
Maybe Katie was on to something.
The game was entertaining with some strange things that made it notable. The Braves tried to steal home plate late in the game and nearly got away with it. It was one of several plays in which the Nationals’ players seem to fall asleep mentally. On another a Braves batter managed to get a double because no Nationals fielder bothered to cover second base on a bloop hit. Derp. The Nationals had a runner on first base late in the game. The next batter hit the ball hard with a resounding WHACK and his bat shattered sending the top two thirds like a spear down the third baseline. The ball made it to the third baseman who threw out the batter to end the inning. If that bat had stayed intact I might have had another home run come my way.
The Nationals tied the game with a homer in the bottom of the ninth. Extra innings. For ten bucks. (I actually paid as much for a soda as I did for my seat. Normally I drink water but the water vendors who set up outside the park were not there today.)
The sun was in and out of the clouds all day. In the first inning I wore two layers topped with my hooded jacket. After the sun dropped below the stadium roof line, I put on a wool sweater and put my hood up.
Did I say something about another home run. Well, Kurt Suzuki hit another home run. It was coming right at me. Holy crap. My brain said “If I catch it with my bear hand the blood thinners will turn my hand into a black blob.” I turned to watch it come and went to stood up. At this point I realized that my now four layers of clothing had turned me into a hooded, immobile mass. A virtual Charlie Brown in the dead of winter. The man sitting in the row behind me three rows to my left “fielded” (more like shielded, I guess) the ball off his oversized scorebook. It bounced to the row behind him.
I thought again of Katie, who keeps score at every game she attends. She’d have made the catch if only to protect her scorebook. She would give a rats ass about my blood thinned hands. (JK, KL.)
There is a video summary of the game on Facebook. You can clearly see me dressed like the Unabomber in the front row.
In the 12th inning the Braves prevailed. Sad face.
I’d have ridden straight home, but the cherry blossoms called my soul. I did another lap of Hains Point. I saw two trees without blossoms. But the rest were just stunning. I just had to take another walk around the Tidal Basin. I was surprised to see that the sidewalk wasn’t very crowded.
After feeding my addiction one last time, I started the long slog home into a steady headwind.
I’m going to Friday night’s game. It will be in the 80s during the day. No more Unabomber outfits for me. And maybe I’ll bring a glove. Or a scorebook.
The Mount Vernon Trail, a facility of the National Park Service, is well known to cyclists, runners, and walkers in the DC area. It extends from Theodore Roosevelt Island in the north to George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate in the south. Beyond Mount Vernon, there are trails of a sort but they come and go for three miles along the two-lane Mount Vernon Memorial Highway to US 1 where new trails continue south down through Fort Belvoir. (The mega re-design of US 1 to the north of Fort Belvoir will include separated bike lanes. ) The Fairfax County Department of Transportation is planning to connect the existing trail segments along the MVMH to provide a continuous trail that connects Mount Vernon to US 1.
Last night I attended the first public meeting about this project. It was run by Chris Wells, the Fairfax County Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator with significant additional remarks by Dan Storck, the Mount Vernon District Supervisor.
The project is an admirable one, but it has significant shortcomings.
The Mount Vernon Trail itself stops at the southern end of a parking lot. To continue south cyclists have two options. They can walk the sidewalk in front of the entrance to Mount Vernon or ride (illegally) on the George Washington Memorial Highway for a few hundred yards. Neither of these shortcomings is addressed in this project.
The GW Parkway ends at Mount Vernon. To continue south, travelers use the MVMH. At this point a new-ish side path exists for about 1/2 mile to a traffic light at Old Mount Vernon Road. After the light, there is an old, narrow asphalt path that is in lousy shape with tree roots and debris. After a few hundred yards that path ends and path users need to cross the MVMH to get to another similarly decrepit path along the MVMH. This path has the added feature of a series of abrupt ups and downs. This path segment ends after about 1/4 mile at Southwood Drive. Local residents report that these three parts of the trail are virtually impossible to ride on a bike and in such poor condition that even running is problematic. Unfortunately, improvements to or realignment of these side paths are not included in the project scope.
The first of the proposed new segments would begin on the opposite side of the MVMH from this last bit of path. It would continue only a few hundred yards to another existing side path that extends from Peartree Landing (a neighborhood street) to the entrance to Grist Mill Park, which contains soccer fields, a large playground, and the area’s free mulch collection. This existing segment is wider and newer than the others describe above. Nevertheless, the local residents I talked with said this segment also has problems with tree roots.
Beyond Grist Mill Park a new trail segment is planned that will cross the southern end of Old Mill Road until it reconnects with a little used, existing frontage road. After the frontage road, the new trail will begin again and cross Dogue Creek on a new steel and concrete bridge.
After Washington’s Grist Mill, the new trail segments will end. Those wishing to continue south on a trail will have to re-cross the MVMH to connect with a new existing trail that continues a couple of hundred yards to US 1.
The project plans include wayfaring signs, as well as improved crosswalks and bus stops.
The project team’s consultants were in attendance. Maps of the project were on easels for review. There were about 40 – 50 people in attendance. Considering the fact that this was a preliminary meeting, this was an impressive turnout. Attendees included people who live along the project corridor and others, like me, who use the corridor for cycling.
Concerns raised included:
The design of the Dogue Creek bridge. It will be steel and concrete which will hopefully lessen the crashes that are endemic to the Mount Vernon Trail’s wooden bridges.
Crossing the MVMH is dangerous now. Recently, a 15-year old runner was hit by two cars as she crossed the road. (She lived but is in for a long recovery.) Attendees asked for traffic signals of some sort and consideration of sight lines when positioning cross walks.
Local residents say that traffic has increased significantly since the military base re-alignment moved thousands of personnel to Fort Belvoir. The residents say that the 45 miles-per-hour speed limit is too high considering the highway traverses a residential area. This is clearly one of those places were Virginia DOT prioritizes moving commuters over residential users.
Local residents also decried the condition of the decrepit existing trail segments.
The crossing at Old Mill Road is a potential problem. Local residents cut through a neighborhood and a wooded perimeter area to access the park now to avoid this intersection.
Drainage is a problem now for one resident whose home abuts a new trail segment.
The trail right of way could be 20 to 30+ feet depending on the type of drainage used at the highway’s edge. One resident noted that his driveway is only 40 feet long.
Residents clearly would prefer to limit the trail to one side of the highway.
Trees will have to be removed to accommodate the new trail assuming it stays in its current alignment.
The next step is for the project team to do a detailed analysis of the corridor and produce a preliminary design for public comment. That process will take six to nine months.
As readers of this blog know, I do not much enjoy doing bike advocacy work, but I have to say that this meeting was actually fun. There was concern without anxiety on the parts of the attendees. I think they had plenty of time to have their say. Chris Wells and Dan Storck did a great job of listening and making thoughtful observations. Project team members and Dan Storck were taking notes. With projects like these the old saying “The devil’s in the details” holds.
As for me, I was encouraged to see that Chris has picked up where Adam Lind (currently cavorting in Santiago, Chile) left off as Bike/Ped coordinator. This was my first interaction with Dan Storck. My district supervisor is an avid cyclist. Obviously, he has to take into consideration all users and constituents but it is a great relief to know that he speaks my language.
As for me, I doubt I will use the new trail. I don’t use any of the existing trails segments. I am comfortable in the road, but I understand that others, most importantly the people in the adjacent neighborhoods, are not. I also doubt bicycle tourists, experienced recreational riders, and commuters will want to meander back and forth across the highway. However, the project clearly addresses many existing shortcomings for walkers and runners and less experienced cyclists.
Finally, I did get a chance to talk to Dan Storck about his annual Tour of Mount Vernon bike ride. When I first heard about it, I thought is was a dinky neighborhood ride. Wrong. It’s the real deal at 36 miles and he’s very excited that it’s catching on after only a couple of years. I didn’t ride it last year because I was already committed to WABA’s 4th Annual Cider Ride. Hopefully, this year WABA and Supervisor Storck can coordinate dates so I can do both.
The weather isn’t so great around here in March so somebody came up with the idea of having indoor bike races in an underground parking garage in the Crystal City neighborhood of Arlington Virginia. I finally got around to checking this out tonight. There were three races. The first race is for novices. They ride whatever the want and go as fast or as slow as they want. One of the participants in this race wore what I wish I had wore at every Halloween party for the last 27 years.
You can’t see it very well but the man in white is wearing a t-shirt that says “Cutters” across the front. The shirt and helmet exactly match the Cutters team at the Little Indy 500 in Breaking Away. I didn’t check out his bike but I doubt it was a Roadmaster. Regardless, we are still a little disturbed by the developments in the middle east.
Note how the bicyclists race against the arrow indicating they are renegades who have no respect for authority.
I don’t know have any idea what the orange figure and X on the floor mean. You all should submit creative explanations in the comments section.
One of the other racers wore a donut costume, including sprinkles. He’s in pink, second from right in the front row at the start of the race below.
The next race was the women’s race. The intensity level went up a few notches. The final race was the men’s race. The intensity went up again, in large part because the speed went up. I saw two crashes in the men’s race. Both men got up and jumped back on their bikes. I left before it was over. I couldn’t get on an elevator because EMTs were transporting a woman who apparently crashed. (She was awake and alert. Probably a case of garage rash.)
While the racers did their thing, the onlookers enjoyed grilled cheese sandwiches, pie, and beverages. (I saw wine, beer, and cider. I would imaging that some non-alcoholic liquids were available as well.) It was noisy. There was an announcer, ventilation fans, music, and cheering. It was cold, thanks to the ventilation fans. But mostly it was a bit of zany fun on a chilly evening in early March.
The races in the garage beneath 201 12th Street. It’s at the northern most end of Crystal City. Check it out next Wednesday from 6 to 8 p.m.
Do you have things to do? Do you do them with your car? Why not do them with your bike instead? Need a little nudge? Participate in the 2018 Errandonnee, a friendly game to get you out on your bike in the first week (or so) of spring.
Basically you run 12 errands over a 12 day period. The errands need to be spread across some creative categories, including “You Carried What on Your Bike?” To make things interesting there are rules. Lots of rules. (They’re not that bad. Really. Except if your name is Brian and you are notoriously grumpy.)
If you’re a runner, you can play under the official Run Option.
So don’t be grump. Get rolling.
Special thanks to Mary for taking this crazy thing on again.
One of the things that riding a bicycle gives me is the happy delusion that I’m not nearly as old as the calendar says. The delusion is reinforced by the fact that the overwhelming majority of my friends from the DC cycling community and blogosphere are much younger than I am. There’s nothing like a pulmonary embolism to bring you back to reality. Last week I was 62 going on 42; this week I’m 62 going on 82.
This is really a slap in the ego. I could be getting down about it but not a day has passed that someone has not sent me well wishes. I’ve had reassuring phone calls, get well cards, emails, Facebook messages, Tweets, Instagram comments, texts, and comments on this blog. I can’t thank you all enough. Three years ago at this time I was mired in depression. Now, when I am faced with something that I can truly get depressed about, depression is nowhere to be found. (I keep on the look out for the bastard, though. Also, I have Klarence on the speed dial just in case.)
As most readers know, I came to know most of my BikeDC friends because Mary Gersema took a picture of me and Little Nellie at the start of the 2010 50 States Ride. A few months later, Mary invited me to come to a bike commuter get together called Friday Coffee Club. Not long after, I met Rachel Cannon and Katie Bolton over a cup of Joe and an apple fritter. Although my memory is a bit vague about Katie. I may have met her when she volunteered at a rest stop on a local event ride. These two volunteer a lot.
In any case, you will never meet two harder-working, bright, multitalented, funny people in your life. Over the years I’ve watched and listened as they navigated the terrible 20s, the part in our lives when we think we’ll never get a decent career going or establish a firm adult identity. It’s as disorienting as being stuck in the middle of a half million people as I was at the Women’s March last year. How do I get my bearings? How can I move forward, or sideways or make any progress at all? Why am I freaking out? (The answer that I heard at the march from a short, elderly Buddhist woman is simple: Breathe.)
A few weeks ago, before my shit hit the fan, I saw Rachel and Katie at the WABA holiday party. Indefatigable Rachel was volunteering. Katie was beaming, soon to be married and a homeowner.
I got a text the other day from Rachel. She said to keep an eye out for a package. Today it came. I half expected it to contain some fritters. That would have been funny. But the actual content was both funny and buoyed my spirits. The perfect gift. I will wear it with pride and gratitude.
Last week a cyclists from out of town took a bike ride through Old Town Alexandria. He was headed for the southern part of the Mount Vernon Trail. His ride ended in an ambulance. He is in a local hospital in critical condition.
When the Woodrow Wilson bridge was being replaced, I bitched up a storm about the detours and the design of the trails that went beneath it. Both reflected a complete lack of understanding of bicycling. I focused on bollards that were painted black. And I described treacherous detours that changed by the week. One week there was gravel. Then next asphalt that gave way under the weight of a bike. There were sharp 90 degree turns in the dark. And on and on.
The Washington Area Bicyclists Association and folks from the Alexandria Bike Pedestrian Advisory Committee gathered officials from a number of agencies who were responsible for various aspects of the project. These included Alexandria city, the National Park Service, VDOT, and DHS. They walked these officials through the project and pointed out safety concerns and discussed design changes. Many changes were made including painting the bollards bright yellow and putting reflective material on them.
The bollards are part of an extensive security perimeter that is designed to keep vehicle bombs from blowing up the bridge. The bridge carries I-95 and the Beltway across the Potomac River so this perimeter is obviously justified. (The old bridge had no such protection. ) Other features of the perimeter include huge boulders, stout fences, significantly, a movable gate across the southern end of South Royal Street.
The gate is a metal bar that spans the width of the street. When a driver wants access, he enters a code into a keypad at the gate. The metal bar then descends into a metal slot in the pavement. Both the top and bottom of the gate and the area along the slot are painted yellow. When the vehicle has crossed the gap, the metal bar rises to block further access.
That’s how it’s supposed to work. After they installed the gate, it was often out of commission. Crews worked on it on and off. Every so often I’d see the gate was open and I’d ride through it. The alternative is a 20-yard-long side path that has three bollards across it. Why got through a narrow path when you don’t have to?
The cyclist from out of town rode toward the bridge. He saw an open gate. He rode through it. Either the bar was sitting above the slot or it was rising as he reached it, perhaps visually obscured by the yellow paint of the bar and the slot. And potentially shaded by the bridge or two large trees to either side of the street.
He hit the bar and went flying. He broke two vertebrae in his neck. As of this morning, a week later, he was still in critical condition at a local hospital. His wife was following him. She also hit the bar and fell but her injuries were not as severe.
Note that there are no warnings to cyclists that the open gate is a road hazard. No paint on the road surface or signs direct cyclists to the side path. Long story short, you might want to use the side path.
For the last couple of days, I had nothing in my legs. I’d pedal and it felt like my legs were just lifeless. This is what happens when I ride 6 days in a row for 210 miles. So did I take the day off before the hilly, 62-mile 50-States Ride? Surely you jest.
For the uninitiated, the 50 States Ride is the main event for the Washington Area Bicyclists Association. It is held annually for at least the last 12 years (I did it in 2006 and it had been held before that). The route traverses the entire city as bicyclists ride on the streets named for the 50 States. After about 20 miles of warm up, the ride also appears to seek out every hill in town.
The day broke with clouds and a beautiful sunrise over the Lincoln Memorial as I drove to the start. I arrived at around 7 a.m. just in time to see Brian (@sharrowsdc a.k.a Gear Prudence) heading out alone. I begged him to stay and ride with me to no avail. Celebrities don’t ride with the little people.
I took my disappointment to the start where I somehow managed to put together a fantastic team of riders:
Rachel (Don’t call me “Bob”‘): Rachel and I met several years ago at Friday Coffee Club. When she worked in a DC bike shop, she sold me my bike du jour, a Surly Cross Check. I have sung her praises before in this blog more than once. Despite our cycling connection, we had never ridden together.
Miss Emilia: Emilia was one of the five rookies that I rode with on the 2014 50-States Ride. With her constant smile, deep voice, and Venezuelan accent, she lifted my spirits during the heat and rain and hills three years ago. As I noted recently, she is a much stronger rider now, pedaling slowly but powerfully.
Scuba Michael: Michael, another Friday Coffee Clubber, was one of the co-leaders of our 2015. Nothing bothers Michael, probably because he literally swims with sharks. Seriously. He’s a powerful rider who takes mercy on old dogs like me.
One-bag Kevin: Kevin moved to DC last fall. We met at Friday Coffee Club a few weeks ago. He rode the ride with one Ortlieb roll top pannier filled with an assortment of foods including a jar filled with mystery glop.
VIP Steve: Without Brian’s celebrity we needed to upgrade our group’s status. Steve payed the big bucks for VIP status. He wore the VIP 50 States cycling cap, which cost about $1 per state. Steve is a man with sartorial priorities and strong cycling legs.
We rolled away around 7: 50, closely following Kitty’s Club. Kitty (real name Grace) was marshaling the ride and had a bunch of friends in tow. Big groups move a bit more slowly than our six pack. The temperature was in the high 50Fs with a gentle breeze. Ahhh.
The downtown section of the ride was changed this year but we were not fooled one bit. Wyoming, California, New Hampshire, Vermont, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, and New York were conquered without a fight. Once I we hit New Jersey, the next few states fell like dominos with little more than a glance on the 12-page cue sheet. Louisiana, Delaware, Maryland, and Washington. A police road block put Virginia in jeopardy but we picked up the 600 block without a bit of trouble.
Once clear of downtown we cruised down to Hains Point on Ohio Drive. The breeze off the river was refreshing. We negotiated the construction zone at the Wharf project on Maine Avenue. A long stretch down M Street led us eventually to an alley that plopped us on the sidewalk across the Sousa Bridge on Pennsylvania Avenue across the Anacostia River. The sidewalk leads to a shaded side path down to Anacostia Drive along the river. The shade obscured some truly nasty tree roots. Nobody crashed and good dental work kept our fillings intact.
My dead legs were already in evidence on the flat terrain. Now, after a rest stop break, we headed into the dreaded hills of Anacostia. These are overrated. There are many more and harder hills yet to come. Bwa ha ha. My dead legs didn’t much care. Dead is dead.
Before starting the climb, I took a wrong turn. Oops. We quickly corrected the mistake and headed up. A fortuitous red light on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard broke up the first long climb. No problem. We descended to Mississippi and enjoyed the flat cruise alongside parkland. All good things must come to a hill. Up Stanton Road we rode. Bye y’all. The five left me in their wake and I huffed and puffed all the way to Alabama. I rejoined the group at a red light and we proceeded to climb further to the eastern top of the city. This climb (and the many others to follow) were MUCH easier in the pleasant temperatures and low humidity of this early September day.
We rode down Pennsylvania to Texas, an ironically small side street. After doing a quick circuit through a residential neighborhood we made our way along peaceful, downhill Fort Davis Drive to Massachusetts. The descent back toward the Anacostia River is one of the highlights of the ride. The sensible members of our group rode cautiously. It was fun passing them. Yee haw!
The downhill ends at a dead stop at a traffic circle. Around the circle and along Minnesota Avenue which led to another traffic circle. And lots of traffic.
Soon we were back on Anacostia Drive along the river. The riders in front of us were making a wrong turn en masse onto the south side of Pennsylvania Avenue. Having made this mistake a couple of times, I yelled “No turn. Go Straight.” The clipped in riders started wobbling and falling. Temporary chaos. No fatalities. On to the turn to the north side of Pennsylvania which took us back across the river to Kentucky and South Carolina on the east side of Capitol Hill. We missed the turn to the lunch stop (the turn wasn’t indicated on the cue sheet) but recovered after a little tour of tree lined streets and lovely townhouses.
After a burrito and some other munching and libations, we headed off on North Carolina into Hill East. Tennessee led to Oklahoma. Sooner (sorry) we were headed back across NoMa to pick up Florida and West Virginia in the Trinidad neighborhood past Gallaudet University. At Mount Olivet Street, Michael peeled off for home. We were grateful that he gave us 36 good miles and we were left to fend for ourselves as a quintet.
Mt. Olivet goes UP. I was dropped again. I caught and passed the group on the 9th Street Bridge over the railroad yard into Brentwood. I led the group up another hill and over to Montana Avenue. We rolled downhill to South Dakota, with its heavy traffic. I hate this road. It just feels unsafe. We escaped intact when we turned left onto Taylor Street. This led us to Michigan which is nearly as awful as South Dakota.
We crossed back over the railroad tracks. This time I took the sidewalk and the rest of the group took the road. Dropped again. Dead legs.
After a brief reprieve near Catholic University, we climbed up Hawaii Avenue to more ups near the Soldiers Home Cemetery. We rode downhill to Upshur. This is a slight change from prior years so we missed the ensuing turn onto Illinois Avenue. No worries, we back tracked into Grant Circle and picked up the route on Illinois headed northwest. To Kansas back toward the southwest. The turn on Iowa sent us northward to Arkansas and a northwest heading. A turn on Georgia took us north so that we could turn left and left again to Colorado headed northwest to Missouri to the southeast. And you wonder why people get lost!
After some side streets we headed back to the northwest on North Dakota. We nearly missed a turn at 3rd Avenue (my bad) but recovered again. Soon we were in the Tacoma Park neighborhood and arrived at the fourth pit stop at the home of Crazy Rando Mike and Lisa. (Lisa’s not crazy, just Mike.)
After a chat with our cheerful hosts, we headed north to Alaska. Works for me. Alaska heads down to 16th Street then onto Sherill Drive into Rock Creek Park. If there were fewer cyclists and an open gate into the park this would an awesome descent. Even so, it was a blast. It led to the closed Bingham Road. We rode on a hilly, windy sidepath to another hilly, windy side path along Oregon Avenue. The terrain kept us from reading our cue sheet and we rode past our turn off the path. When we realized the mistake we walked through some weeds to Oregon and backtracked. Then it was up Beech on my legs which were starting to show signs of rigor mortis. Needless to say I got dropped again.
Utah, Nevada, and Nebraska were conquered without a fuss.
I rejoined the group and Emilia told me that she was having trouble getting her lowest gears to work. She was kicking my ass on the hills and spotting me three gears. She really is La Terminadora!
Up we rode on Fessenden Street. Actually up they rode as I was dropped again. Hello morgue, you have my legs.
After a brief rest stop we climbed Wisconsin to Tenleytown where we picked up Nebraska past American University, Rachel’s alma mater. Nebraska becomes Loughboro and descends. Arizona is a left hand turn at a stop sign. I confess I blew through the sign. In front of a DC patrol car. Oops. The police officer must have sensed my legger mortis and did not pursue me for arrest and incarceration. The other four in our group actually stopped. I feel so ashamed.
So, once they caught up to me (I waited), I missed the turn to go back up the hill on Ashby. I believe my legs had affected my brain. After a reprieve on 49th Street, we faced the climb up Garfield, the dreaded worstest hill on the entire ride. Some sicko added this beast to the course in 2014. Emilia, not knowing it was coming, was not amused. A detour put us instead on Dexter. My faint hope of topographical forbearance from Mr. Dexter was dashed as soon as I turned and looked UP. DANG!
Up went Steve. Up went Kevin. Up went Rachel. Up – without her lowest gears no less – went Emilia. I wanted to cry. Not. Gonna. Walk. Dammit. And I didn’t.
Over the top to a series of rolling hills. New Mexico was conquered without a shot. Once we reached Idaho the cue sheet went away. We rode crested Cathedral Heights and cruised down to busy Connecticut Avenue. With Connecticut traffic stopped at a red light, we took the left lane and made it to the left hand turn onto Calvert Street. And the triumphant final half mile to the after party at Mellow Mushroom in Adams Morgan.
When we walked into the bar, I raised my hands and yelled “NINE!!!!” Then Emilia posed for a re-creation of her 2014 t-shirt photo,
Next, Rachel took a shot of the two of is together. Note how I have helmet hair and she doesn’t. Dos Sonrisas.
I can’t imagine doing this ride without my lowest gears. Emilia didn’t complain. She just found a way and buried me on every hill. Awesome.
After a big and well deserved un fuerte abrazo, Emilia hit the road and the remaining gang of four headed to the roof for pizza and drinks. Thanks for the pie, Rachel. How good to finally ride with you.
Once the party broke up, I drove up town to Petworth to see Alex Baca, my favorite bike ride stalker. We met because she spotted a SharrowsDC pin on my saddle bag on a bike ride in Baltimore several years ago. Brian sold the pins to raise money for WABA. She just celebrated a birthday and is still recovering from a nasty crash that resulted in a broken jaw. I am happy to report she looks great and seems in good spirits. And, to bring the day full circle, Brian and his wife Nikki (married all of three weeks) walked in. Brian, a solo rookie, finished the ride too.
Many, many thanks to:
the volunteers and staff of WABA, many of whom got up well before sunrise to run the pit stops, take our picture, and keep us safe
Laura Miller who was the WABA staffer in charge. Not a bad debut! You can handle the WABA weather machine any time you want
the course marshals, particularly Kitty who’s group we road with on and off throughout the day
In India, Eve teasing is what we call catcalling or public sexual harassment. We do not approve of Eve teasing here at the Rootchopper Institute. We do however get teased by the eve of big events and tonight is one of those.
Tomorrow is the 50 States Ride. It sold out a few hours ago. There is a new rule this year: if you don’t ride the whole thing you can go to the after party but you have to give your beer and pizza to bona fide finishers. (Me.)
I rode to Friday Coffee Club at dawn. The temperature was hovering just above WTF. (It was 51 degrees F when I hit the road.) Now that the sun has moved a bit further south, I can take a sunrise picture at Dyke Marsh. So I did.
Former co-worker Kelly saw this picture and thought I had gone back to work. No. Not gonna happen, Kelly.
Coffee Club was hopping. I signed up Kevin to join Team Rootchopper. Scuba Michael may also be joining us if his ear infection clears up. “Us” so far is Emilia and me. So if you’re coming and riding, we’ll be at the start around 7 am looking for other victims.
It warmed up for the ride home so the jacket came off. The weather has been glorious around here, such a start contrast to the news from the Caribbean. Hang in there Renee and John and Wendy. Based on today’s forecast (a Category 4 or 5 storm running right up the spine of the Florida peninsula), the bike tour to Key West isn’t going to happen. I still have fingers crossed but the Plan B (DC to Erie to Burlington VT or Albany to DC) tour is beginning to look like a real possibility. I have to be mindful that the point of this tour is to do my longest tour and see how my body reacts in preparation for a ride to the west coast next year.
This eve is also the eve of Clinchmas, the day the Washington Nationals clinch the National League East and a spot in the playoffs. The magic number is 4, so the clinch could happen tomorrow.
As soon as the Nats game is over, I’m going to sleep.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Being confronted with adversity in your life is inevitable. Just keep in mind that it does not have to defeat you. Adversity is often short lived. Giving up is what makes it permanent. As a certified fitness professional, this blog is my way of helping you feel capable of anything.