Summer Solstice Bike Commute

I left home an hour early today, not because it is the summer solstice but because I needed to get home early. The weather could not have been better: warm with a touch of humidity. I didn’t see any of my regulars; I was traveling too early for that.

When I passed beneath the Woodrow Wilson Bridge I noticed that the sun was on the north side of the bridge. Big Nellie thought this was odd too. (I’ll bet you didn’t know that bikes have thoughts. They do. It’s some kind of two wheeled woo woo thing.) It made me think of the short days of winter. I hate winter. I should get a summer home in New Zealand or Australia or Argentina.

I often see Chris, Kathy, Dave, Shawn, or lawyer Mike during my bike commutes. Although they also bike commute along part of my route, I hardly ever see Paul, Emilia, or Flogini. I half expected to see one of them today, because of my early departure from home. No dice. Maybe they lie about bike commuting and carpool together. Maybe they see me coming and hide. I would if I were them.

I took a picture of a man fishing on his boat in the Potomac River with the Washington Monument in the background. Fishing must be an introverts delight. I’d probably get into it if I didn’t think fish and bait and unhooking a fish were gross. The picture was taken from the Humpback Bridge. I love that name. It was named after Ronald Humpback, the recently expired bridge superintendent for the Department of the Interior. Or not.

Image may contain: sky, outdoor, water and nature

You can see the Washington Monument and Jefferson Memorial. Also, you can just make out the Smithsonian Construction Crane exhibit. Would I lie about such a thing?

 

 

Fuzzy goslings, unfuzzy maps, and dead ducklings

Today was a recovery day. My legs and back were sore from yesterday’s 38 mile ride. I suppose I should be used to this. Event rides in cities are a lot harder than the mileage indicates. They are filled with starts and stops and short hills.

Goslings Take Over DC

So today I rode Big Nellie to work. It was warm in the morning then downright hot on the way home. About a mile from work at the Memorial Bridge the trail was covered in goslings.  They didn’t seem to care that I was there and neither did the attending adults.

They had the decency to get out of my way.

Just the Thing for a Mapaholic

When I got home, I jumped in the car to fetch Little Nellie from the bike shop. The folks at Spokes Etc. turned around a cable and housing replacement in 24 hours instead of the promised 48 hours. Well done. Now Little Nellie shifts freely again.

While I was waiting for the mechanic to ring me up, I noticed this on the counter.

IMG_0865

No, not the electric bike demo. The new Fairfax County Bike map! Back in the winter I went to the Fairfax County Transportation Department offices to help with this project. The planners had set up a roomful of long tables. The tables were covered with draft versions of the map. Area cyclists like me were asked to annotate the maps. Mostly we looked for errors and wrote comments about bikeability.

I should confess here that I am a total mapaholic. So this map makes me very excited. (I know. Get a life, dude.)

I haven’t had a chance to look at it in detail but my cursory examination says FDOT did a great job on this. Congratulations.

Dead Ducks

Finally, there is some bad news to report. I have been complaining all spring that there has been a dearth of ducklings this year. I was really jealous when I saw a friend’s Facebook pictures of ducklings in the reflecting pool at the Lincoln Memorial. Well, I am sorry to say that they are probably all dead. A parasite has taken up residence there and it kills ducklings. The pool is being drained this week.

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

Bliss on Half Street

After riding to work and getting a decent weather report (for the first tie in a week) I decided to go to last night’s Nationals v. Padres baseball game. I scored some seats on the club level behind the Nats’ dugout and called Lily to work out logistics.

Image may contain: bridge, outdoor, nature and water

I rode Little Nellie (passing some goslings along the way) about 4 miles to L’Enfant Plaza where I met Lily who had driven my car from home. I folded Little Nellie into the trunk, parked the car, and headed to the game on Metro. (I have yet to have a wretched experience on Metro despite all the bad news these past few years.) After five years of riding on beat up old trolley cars during college in Boston, I really appreciate the brand new subway cars on Metro. They are clean, well designed and quite.

Image may contain: 1 person, outdoor

The weather was perfect. There was a pleasant breeze with temperatures in the high 60Fs. We ate dinner in the posh-ish Norfolk Southern Club. Pizza, french fries and beer. What can I say. We’re low rent.

Image may contain: stadium, crowd, baseball, sky and outdoor

Nats ace no. 1 Mad Max Scherzer was on the mound throwing seeds to defenseless Padre batters. Other than a solo home run, they had no answer for him. He struck out 13. Our faves hit home runs. Trea Turner hit a laser over the center field fence to start the game. Later centerfielder Michael A. Taylor clubbed another even farther. Then came Bryce Harper. He hit a truly Ruthian clout to the upper deck in right field. Our seats were perfect for tracking it into the dark sky. It was one of the most bad ass home runs I’ve ever seen. (I can think of one in Montreal hit by Ken Henderson of the San Francisco Giants. And a bomb hit by Jim Ed Rice clear out of Fenway over the center field wall. That’s it.)

Image may contain: stadium

As the game progressed, the crowd started chanting Max! Max! Max! It felt like the playoffs instead of a relatively meaningless May game. Scherzer lasted until the next to last out. When the acting manager walked out to the mount, he was roundly booed. Keep him in!! MAX! MAX! MAX! After hitting the next batter, it was clear that Max was gassed and a reliever was brought in. A screaming standing ovation greeted Max as he plodded to his dugout. He slowed and doffed his cap to the crowd.

The good guys won 5-1. Lily and I left through a crowd filled with smiles. As we passed the bike valet, I looked in to see if any of my #bikedc friends were there. I spotted Klarence and Lauren and hopped the barrier to say hello. After a brief chat and some massive hugs, I stopped to say hello to Poncho, whom I met at Friday Coffee Club a year or so ago. Nice guy.

So a great game with a #bikedc cherry on top. Not a bad way to spend a Friday night in May.

Swim to Work Day

Last Friday’s Bike to Work Day was such a success that we decided to hold Swim to Work Day today. It was difficult to dress for the rain. The temperature was 58F when I left home. So I decide to go with a water proof jacket with a hood. My bare legs got somewhat cold but no worries they were sore as hell from yesterday’s hike.

I am proud to say I did not run over any ducks or geese on my way to the office, but I cannot vouch for any earthworms.

Also, I want to that VDOT for aiming the storm drains from I-395 directly onto the Mount Vernon Trail. Nothing makes a rainy day wetter than riding through the waterfall from the highway above.

This is what my office looked like. (My jacket and shirt were hanging up across the room.)

Image may contain: shoes and indoor

I didn’t bother with a shower. Seemed kind of redundant.

Quack.

 

Bike to Work Day in DC – Recap

Image may contain: 5 people, people smiling, people standing

 

I woke up early. I was having leg cramps. Not good. The dinner concert we went to last night did not serve free water, so we drank beer. Dumb on all counts.

After walking around a bit and drinking a pint of watered down orange juice, my cramps subsided and I was off about 1/2 hour ahead of schedule on my last Bike to Work Day. (Please note the capitalization. I am still biking to work for another three months. Y’all can’t get rid of me that easily.)

Pit stop MV.JPGMy ride to work is about 15 miles. I decided to take the longImage may contain: sky, tree, ocean, plant, outdoor and nature way and stopped 1 1/2 miles from home at my first pit stop of the day. This one was located near the Mount Vernon Trail and was staffed by a couple of guys from my local bike shop, Spokes Etc.‘s Belle View location. At the pit stop, I ran into Nancy Duley who lives near me. We had a good chat. Having already eaten breakfast, I turned down the free muffins and bananas and other goodies and headed toward Alexandria. Along the way I stopped to take in the sun rising over the river. (Wanna know why I bike to work. The picture tells it all.)

In Old Town I stopped at my designated pit stop. (I had switched at the last minute to avoid the lonImage may contain: 1 person, outdoorg lines in Rosslyn. ) Good move. The lines were short. I picked up a t-shirt and a water bottle. Then I popped two donut holes in my mouth. They were from the aptly named Sugar Shack. Big Ed was also there and the two of us rode with massive sucrose buzzes to Crystal City.

Once I dismounted I came to realize the the relative humidity was somewhere north of New Orleans in August. Dang.

The Crystal City pit stop was very well attended. I saw several people I knew including Kathy and Sam (that’s her on the left below). Once again I passed up the free food and coffee.  Hot coffee was not looking really appealing as the sweat poured off me.Image may contain: 4 people, people smiling, outdoor

I left Ed to his socializing and headed to Rosslyn. Rather than cut back over to the Mount Vernon Trail, which I assumed would be chock-a-block full of bike commuters, I rode the streets through Crystal City, past Long Bridge Park, and around the Pentagon. I picked up Route 110 with its highway traffic and rode its broad paved shoulder until I exited at Arlington Cemetery.

There was nobody on the path around Arlington Cemetery which made for swift passage to Rosslyn. The streets of Rosslyn were packed with cars but I managed to weave through them. I decide to check out the Rosslyn pit stop conveniently located in the Intersection of Doom which was made more better by construction on the nearby bike trail.

The Rosslyn pit stop was packed. There must have been over 100 bikes parked and many, many more in the hands of their owners meandering about. I was glad I switched stops, even though Rosslyn had the best swag of all four that I visited.

I ran into Lawyer Mike, who, like Big Ed, I know from Friday Coffee Club. But for passes on the trail during commutes, I hadn’t seen him in ages. So it was good to catch up.

Image may contain: 2 people, people standing and outdoor

I took off for work. When I got to the office I gathered up my co-workers who had ridden to work. There were five of us, but only four because one of my co-workers who is new to this bike to work thing, missed her pit stop. That’s them in the picture at the top of the blog.

The picture does not include our boss who rode his kids to school (as he does every day) and a former co-worker who works on another floor. So my office did itself proud today.

The interview I did yesterday ran on WAMU  (a local NPR station) today. I was included in the text but did not make the audio version. There’s good reason. Ian, yet another Friday Coffee Clubber, was the lead subject. He commutes almost twice as far as I do. I can’t even….

After work I rode to Adams Morgan in DC for a Bike to Work Day party hosted by WABA. They mentioned something about free beer and pizza and I was a goner. I arrived under threatening skies. As I went to lock my bike, rain fell. Cold rain. It cut through the humidity splendidly.

I met a half dozen people at the party. My fusiform gyrus was given a major work out. I still remember Rachel, Lisa, Grace, Eric, and, I think,…, well, I forgot the other guy. And I know I’ve met him before. Ack.

The highlight of the event was the ovation we gave Nelle Pierson, who had just finished her last day on the job with the Washington Area Bicyclists Association. Suffice it to say, there was an awful lot of love and admiration in the room.

I finished the evening with a ride home under threatening skies. Jeanne who was at the Crystal City pit stop and I rode back to Virginia together. Once on the south side of the Potomac, we found ourselves riding through clouds of flying bugs. Jeanne veered off north of Old Town. As I made my way through Belle Haven Park the clouds of bugs intensified. It was totally gross for about 1/2 mile. Then the swarms cleared and all that was left was the circle of light ahead of my bike. Four miles of riding in the night with a few flashes of heat lightning for good effect.

IMG_0734.JPG

Bike to work day. 14 hours from start to finish. My last one. Well played BikeDC. Well played.

Many, many thanks to all the volunteers and staff who worked on this event. Also, thanks to the sponsors for donating all the goodies.

 

 

A Letter to Linel

Dear Linel

Sorry to hear about the treadmill attacking you yesterday. I am sure your sore knee will be fine in a day or two and you will be back to riding your bike to work.

You didn’t miss much today.Image may contain: closeup This was the second day of Bike to Work Week. I broke out one of my vintage Bike to Work Day t-shirts. I have no idea what color this is. Coral? Salmon? Tomato soup?

The weather was bad. I had to wear arm and ear warmers for part of the ride to work. Until it warmed up, that is. Such a drag. On the way home, it was 80F. I had a cooling headwind off the river. Imagine that. It slowed me down a little. Ugh.

There were lots of people out and about. They looked like they were having fun. It made me long for the days when the trail was empty and I was bundled up against the cold. Introversion rocks, don’t you think?

You would have hated the strong sun. My arms are so tan. I hate tan. I might even get some more freckles by Friday. I hate freckles too.

There was an osprey flying over my head in the morning.  I mean what did he think he was doing? There were geese and ducks and puffy white clouds, too. Just north of Belle Haven Park there was a dude in a kayak with three fishing rods. Just sitting there soaking up the glistening morning sun.

You’d have hated it.

Try to stay away from hostile exercise equipment. Hope you get better soon.

Cheers

RC

Don’t Know Much about Pop Culture

Bike commuting and baseball have ruined me for pop culture. I have no idea what music is on the radio because I so rarely drive. When I do, I want something continuous – like a ballgame or NPR – because I don’t like having to change channels to avoid an annoying song. (One of the most annoying songs of my teenage days plays a prominent role in the new Guardians of the Galaxy movie. It’s all very tongue in cheek but it sucked then and it sucks worse with the passage of time.)

I have friends who “like” celebrities on social media. About a third of the time I catch myself thinking: I thought celebrity means fame. I’ve never heard of or seen this person before. Monica Bellucci? John Krasinski? Leah Dunham? Somehow life goes on without them.

The same thing goes for music. I know who Ed Sheeran and The Weeknd and Taylor Swift and Adele are but I can’t name any of their songs. Garth Brooks sold 100 million records but I would recognize not a single one. (Longtime readers know that I am a diehard Neil Finn fan, but his music is rarely on the radio.)

I am grateful for this. I know baseball. I know that when a fast runner is on first and a left handed batter is up, the runner should not steal. I know the three precepts of good pitching. I know that right field in Fenway Park is a bitch and why left handed pitchers are called southpaws and how this affects the shadows on the field late in the day. When I watch a game, the little things are way more interesting than the score.

I don’t know music because I spend hours everyday on a bike and I think riding (or running or hiking) with headphones is a crime against nature. If you are using these devices you are putting yourself and those around you at risk because you lack situational awareness. More importantly, as far as I am concerned, you miss the ENTIRE POINT of riding or walking or hiking.  It’s not about the bike and it’s not about the body. When you are climbing a hill or flying down one or going through a series of turns (point your inside knee toward the turn) or concentrating on pedaling without mashing the pedals , you can only focus on keeping the rubber side down, on keeping your respiration and heart rate from red lining. During the Ocean State Marathon in Newport Rhode Island, a high school track coach used to stand on the side of Ocean Drive with its rolling hills and wind off the water and repeat his mantra to struggling runners: Keep it smooth!

When you keep it smooth,  your breathing and heart rate calm. And you go on a sort of autopilot. Then the squirrels in your attic stop their chatter. You recognize random ideas and find that disparate ideas come together in interesting configurations and you gain insights. Some of my best ideas for work come to me during my bike commutes.

How people who drive to work get through the day without completely losing their minds is beyond me. Not only do they not get the benefit of the calming aspects of exercise but they expose themselves to tons of additional stress from traffic and the crap spewing out of the radio.

And they miss the sun shining through the trees or glistening off the river. They don’t hear the birds chattering. They don’t appreciate the smell of the steam coming off the asphalt after a rain or of the fresh mowed grass. They don’t see the goslings and duckings in spring. (Coming soon to my bike commute.)

They don’t see their friends riding past in the other direction (Chris, Shawn, Mike) or in yours (Kathy). Nor do they see the community of early morning trail users: Hoppy Runner, Golf Cart E-biker, Three-step Runner, Running Mom (now without the baby stroller because her son got too big), the Trash Walker, Cal, or the Overgrown Ewok.

I mean you don’t really think Katy Perry is more interesting than an overgrown Ewok, do you?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Image may contain: one or more people

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.

Image may contain: stadium and outdoor

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.