Dueling Odometers

Friday began with what is becoming a rejuvenated tradition for me: Friday Coffee Club. The ride into the city on my Cross Check was run of the mill. I was in a good mood and the ride only made it better.

About 1 mile from A Baked Joint, the interim location of the FCC, I happened to run into Andrea. Andrea and I chatted for a bit about how hard it is to get to ABJ. The streets are one way or closed off from construction or the traffic lights are numerous and interminable. Basically, it’s DC. Deal.

Andrea, however, has figured out some tricks. New York Avenue is a main drag that runs on a diagonal to the grid of lettered and numbered streets. Intersections often result in small triangles with traffic lights going every which way. When you get to a red light at one of these the trick is to take a right then a quick left, essentially going the long way around the triangle, then a right to continue on the diagonal. Not only does this save time at the first red light but it allows you to catch a few more green lights along the way.

Andrea’s real genius came when she took me down K Street. A left on 7th Street is illegal so Andrea does a Copenhagen left. She rides to the far side of the intersection and pivots her bike. And from there ABJ is but a short hop away. Watch me screw it up next week.

We had our coffee outside. We told tales of our bike touring adventures. Andrea advised me to get a silk sleeping bag liner. Genius again! Then PLINK! A sheared off screw fell on the table from above where some construction was happening. Fortunately we survived a few more insults from on high before moving on.

On the ride to work I fell in behind Lawyer Mike and Pancho. Until I met him at FCC, I’d never met a Pancho before. I can’t get over what a cool name it is. Right up there with Augustus.

The ride to work went surprisingly fast. I had figured out a few tricks of my own last week. It involves getting through the worst of the badly timed lights on the M Street cycletrack. Several of these lights last a minute so hitting them all is pretty frustrating.

In the evening I rode to Mount Pleasant, a neighborhood in the north central part of DC. The ride there was remarkably pleasant. especially given the fact that I rode through two insanely congested traffic circles. At my destination, I met a bunch of co-workers present and past for happy hour. This turned into dinner. It was a pretty darned nice evening. Unfortunately, when I got out of the restaurant a little after 10 pm, it started to rain cats and dogs. I put on my rain jacket, hopped on the Cross Check and carefully rode toward Virginia down 11th Street. I could barely see and was sure that the drivers and other street users could barely see me. I took my time.  I stopped to put on my headlight and made my way to the Pennsylvania Avenue cycletrack. Then it was on to 15th Street and past the Washington Monument. The rain started to abate.

I have no idea how long it took me to ride the 16 miles home. Once it stopped raining it was actually pretty nice. The trail was empty. It was just me and the breeze and the sound of thousands of frogs croaking and peeping in the night.

I arrived a home just after midnight.  I stayed up another couple of hours before falling asleep in an easy chair. Then I staggered to bed only to be awoken at 6 am with cramps in my feet and calves. Perhaps I should drink less wine and more water on these outings. Ya think?

During yesterday’s festivities the Cross Check managed to cross over a mileage threshold.

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In the evening, my wife, daughter, and I went out to get some dinner. Just before arriving back home, the car odometer hit a milestone of its own and easily won the odometer competition.

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I gotta get pedaling. It’s catching up to my bikes!

 

Stood Up by a Katie, No Problem

Last night Katie Bolton. (a member of the raucous band of BikeDC Katies including Katies Harris, Lee, and Fignewton – don’t ask) asked if Rachel (Don’t Call Me Bob) Cannon and I were going to Friday Coffee Club. I don’t normally go to FCC these days because it is hard to get to and hard to get to work from. I am, however, three weeks from retirement so, in terms of arriving at work at a specific time, I am all out of fucks to give. And I am a complete sucker for Katies on two wheels.  And off I rode.

The weather forecast called for ark-worthy rain but there was no precipitation when I left home at 6:15. The ride was pleasant until I got lost within a quarter mile of A Baked Joint, the interim home of FCC. I have ridden every street in the area dozens of times but I can’t help but end up going the wrong way or, as I did today, overshooting the city block I was looking for.

When I finally arrived, there were several folks I knew there. Yay!

Jeff, Jacques, Ricky, and Leslie were already getting their caffeine fix on. I ordered a mocha and it was delish.

FCC Three
In which Ricky (r) takes a selfie with Jeff (center) and me at Friday Coffee Club

I joined the group and we soon added Scuba Michael and Mr. T. It was like an old Friday Coffee Club reunion without the young women. So naturally the newly married Megan and her newly married husband Nate.  We chatted about their honeymoon in France which they Instagrammed the bejesus out of.

Holy crap, the young ‘uns from Friday Coffee Club are getting hitched!

Now that I think of it, there are several second generation FCCers who were born in the years since Mary, Ed, Brian, Lane, and Lisa started this shindig.

And then Ed walked in. And walked out. He sat with a cycling friend (who’s name escapes me) outside in the muggy morning air. Ed just came back from a tour in the Rockies. He must be craving humidity. DC rarely disappoints.

Alas, the only disappointment was that Katie and Rachel didn’t come. Sad face.

At work my telecommuting co-worker Kelly sent me an email “You didn’t ride to work today, did you?” Kelly was nearly swept away by a flash flood during one of her first bike commutes. She freaks out over weather. I try to remain calm but all day my phone erupted in flash flood warnings.

The rains did arrive in late morning. There were very much ark-worthy. I rode home in a deluge that lasted for about half the ride. Streams and runoff crossing the Mount Vernon Trail were filled with very fast running water. Eek! There were big puddles on the trail. Eek eek! The geese were really happy. Honk! I rode right past. Splash! Ding!

There was no thunder or lightning. There was no wind. So I just basically got wet. No big deal. At the half way point (roughly 7 1/2 miles) at the power plant north of Old Town Alexandria, the rain stopped. There was intermittent light rain for the rest of the commute. I though maybe I should jump in a creek and get a selfie of me hanging on to a bridge for dear life. It would have made Kelly happy.

When I arrived home, I learned that Lawyer Mike had successfully ridden his 100 mile charity ride. As of this writing, I have not heard from my friend Emilia who did the 70 mile version of the ride. Emilia started two or three hours later than Mike and rides quite a bit slower. I do hope she is okay.

Tour de Recho

The Tour de Fat is an event put on by New Belgium Brewing to raise money for local bike organizations. This year they moved the event to the late afternoon and from May to July. After last year’s chilly rain, we were treated to lines of violent thunderstorms this year.

I rode to the the event venue located next to Nationals Park. The skies were ominous. I have expected to see the Avengers fighting some big alien-ish beasties before going out for schwarma. As I reached the halfway (8-mile) point a strong headwind with gusts started buffeting me about. I passed a couple who were dressed in costumes, obviously heading to the event.

I did a 180 and rode up the ramp to the 14th Street Bridge. The wind pushed me hard and then the rains came. Turning onto the bridge the wind and rains were coming from my left. After 30 seconds I couldn’t see a thing. I slowed. On coming bikes had their lights on so I turned on my blinkies.

By the time I reached Maine Avenue, about 13 miles into my trek I was soaked to the bone. I stopped and put on a poncho,, for warmth. I checked the weather report on my phone. It basically said “YOU WILL DIE SOON!”

Gulp.

Pedal. Pedal.

The rain and wind abated. I made it to the venue a little after 3 pm. There were very few people. Some of the tents were not assembled. A bystander told me the event was canceled because of the weather. They had begun breaking the tents down.

Fug.

I rode back home by way of the Del Ray Music Festival in Alexandria. It rained for the first couple of miles but then the sun came out. The Festival was on but I didn’t see anyone I knew so I rode home. It was hot and muggy but there was no wind or rain.

I was pretty exhausted when I got home. Prior to riding to DC I mowed the lawn and did some chores outside. The combination of all three efforts left me dehydrated.

So I opened a New Belgium Fat Tire Ale.

I went on the WABA website and gave them a five-beer donation ($25).

Although the event was listed as rain or shine, the storms hitting DC today had very high winds and lightning. The event organizers did the right thing to cancel. It would have been chaos if tents started blowing over or a lightning strike occurred.

As I write this, a storm has been raging outside. I would have been riding home from the event in this. No thanks.

I do have some advice for New Belgium: move the event in DC back to May. The weather is generally better, there are more people in town, and you can line it up with other events as was done in 2016. Also, move it back into the daytime and involve cycling families. They are an integral part of the bicycling scene in DC.

 

 

Amanda Buy the Bike Already – and Other Thoughts

  • Amanda works with me. She keeps talking about getting a bike. I just can’t seem to get her from talk to action. On the way home from work, I took a picture from the Dyke Marsh bridge on the Mount Vernon Trail.

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Amanda was really surprised. I keep telling her my bike commute rocks! I haven’t told her about having incoming jets fly right over my head as the land on the second runway at National Airport. Or the dozens of downy egrets in the river. Or the morning glories in bloom in the wetlands north of Old Town. Or the opera singer. Or…..

  • I have confession to make. I feel like a jerk. I am short changing some friends who are asking for donations connected to one charity bicycling event or another. A month ago I gave money to support Mike who is doing the Bike to the Beach ride. Proceeds go to autism support and research. Today, Emilia announced she is doing the ride too. I gave money when Katie said she was doing a Climate Ride. About two months later another Katie announced that she was doing another Climate Ride. Then Grace announced that she was doing a Climate Ride. How do you manage all these donations? You can’t budget for them. You feel bad if you give different amounts to each of your friends. Can you tell I was raised Catholic?
  • Watching one friend stress out over raising money made me decide to drop doing a charity ride this fall. It’s a good event for a good cause, cancer. I feel bad not doing it because so many people in my family have had cancer. (My father, my mother, a sister, a brother, my wife, three aunts, two uncles. Sorry kids, the gene pool’s a complete mess.) I want to focus on preparing for my tour to Key West and making sure I am ready to ride to the Pacific next summer. My aging body probably has only one shot at making it. Spending my summer stressing out over fundraising just didn’t float my boat.
  • There are two things to do if you are in DC this weekend.
    • You should go to the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens. The water lilies and lotuses are in bloom. I’ve never been there and the pictures I am seeing online are driving me nuts.
    • And then there is the Tour de Fat. It’s a party put on by New Belgium Brewing to raise money for local bike charities. There will be live music and cold beer. I volunteered to work in the beer tent again.
  • And finally a note about the #bikedc DL. Dave just got cleared to get back on a bike after breaking his leg doing an Arte Johnson. A day or two ago, Alex collided with a salmoning cyclist. (When you ride against the flow of traffic, you are salmoning.) She broke her jaw. So Dave and Alex, be patient. You’ll be back to (your abnormal version of) normal in no time. The Rootchopper Institute sends you its thoughts and prayers (because we are waaay to lazy and cheap to bring you a beer.)

An Iceberg Calved on My Head

It’s soooo hot and muggy here in DC. Some people really like this. I do too but there’s a limit to everything. Today we passed my limit.

The morning was actually not half bad. The temperature was about 80 degrees and it was very humid. This is not a problem on a bike ride of only 75 minutes such as my commute. There was no need to loosen up. The heat and humidity did it for me. I settled right into my trance.

Pedal, pedal.

I cruised past the halfway point, around the Slater’s Lane apartments on the river. The trail turns away from the river and joins a spur that goes to the opposite side of the apartments. A woman was standing on the grassy island where the trails join. I paid her no mind and cruised past. I looked left to make sure the coast was clear and spotted something familiar. A white pannier with black leafy accents. The pannier had two large loop handles protruding from the top of the bag. I turned off the trail and headed back. Those panniers are unique and the belong to my friend Kirstin who was standing next to her Long Haul Trucker.  How I missed her on my first pass I’ll never know. She has RED hair. (I used to but the last of it left sometime in the Carter administration.)

As soon as she saw me she yelled: “Rootchopper!”

Kirstin rode all the way down from DC, about ten miles, to accompany her friend Yolanda on her ride to work in DC. Yes, she’s that nice.

Digression on #bikedc Connections: I met Mary at the 2010 50 States Ride. Mary is one of the co-founders of Friday Coffee Club. She occasionally runs with Kirstin and told her about Friday Coffee Club, which is where Kirstin and I met.  Kirstin’s husband Tom works out with Ed who is the father of Lolly who used to work for the Washington Area Bicyclists Association (WABA). I volunteered to recruit new WABA members one evening. Lolly came to help, subbing for Alex. I met Alex in Baltimore on a bike ride. Alex saw a SharrowsDC logo pin on my saddle bag and asked if I was from DC. I bought the pin from Brian (who is @sharrowsdc on the interwebs) who sold them to raise money for WABA. Brian is one of the co-founders of Friday Coffee Club.

So, back to our tale. Kirstin and Yolanda and I rode five miles or so to the 14th Street Bridge where they peeled off to cross the river while I carried on to my office in Rosslyn across from Georgetown. It was fun riding with them, a great change of pace for me. I have to admit that it was a bit frustrating too. Kirstin can chat a blue streak and the trail is too narrow to ride side by side. So we’ll just have to do another ride together.  Maybe I won’t get lost this time.

The ride home was a whole ‘nother ballgame. Damn was it hot. And muggy. I did fine for about 3 or 4 miles but for some reason my lungs started to ache. Not when I was breathing though. I was not having fun. I plugged along with the pain coming and going and eventually staying. In Old Town I pulled over and took two hits from my albuterol inhaler. I was hoping this would help as it did when I made a rather painful 3 a.m. trip to the ER in May 2016. It didn’t.

I crawled through Old Town. I noticed that sipping from my bottle seemed to help. I made it to Belle Haven Park, about 4 1/2 miles from home. I stopped for some fresh, cool water. And it worked! The pain subsided.

I have no idea what the heck was going on with my lungs but I felt good enough to pull over and take a picture at Dyke Marsh. As you can see, I was no longer dying.

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I actually have a friend who prefers this kind of weather. She is insane. We met during the 50 States Ride on an oppressively hot and muggy day just like this. She appeared to be thriving. The other riders in our group not so much.

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Suffice it to say, we were abandoned to our wretched fate. (The woman in the photo and I actually finished. The dude lasted another few miles before bailing out when we got near his home.)

 

A Ride to New Places in My Own Backyard

  • I found a wet parcel on my doorstep after a storm yesterday. Inside was a new Kryptonite U-lock. I had first bought a Kryptonite literally decades ago. There was a bit of a scandal when some YouTube dude showed you could break the lock with a Bic pen. So Kryptonite re-designed the lock and gave owners a new one. That happened about 8 or 9 years ago. The lock mechanism on my replacement lock started failing a few months ago, so I contacted Kryptonite and they sent me a new lock. For free. Awesome.

Kryptolok

  • I decided to go on a long-ish ride to reach a milestone on Big Nellie. I stopped at Canal Park along the Mount Vernon Trail. My friend and fellow bike commuter Linel had taken a picture at this park a few days ago. I have been riding past it daily and never knew it was there only a short walk from the trail. (Bike riding is not allowed.) It is a wonderful place to go to contemplate your navel, read a book, or just hang out. (There are plenty of benches and very nicely maintained lawns.) There is also some odd public art.
  • I rode to Key Bridge (basically my commute) and then into Georgetown. Traffic was very light. Turning left on Wisconsin Avenue I rode up and up and up to Cathedral Heights. I turned downhill and found my way to the new Klingle Valley Trail, over 20 years in the making. It’s only 0.8 miles long but it is worth checking out.  I only took one picture because by now anybody can search for it on Flickr and find dozens of better pictures. One you get past this barrier you descend down a curvy paved path into woods. Sweet. Klingle Trail
  • I got home after 42 miles in increasing heat and humidity. Big Nellie reached another milestone, 41,000 miles. She will get a rest now. Well done.  Big Nellie at 41

Opera, Deer, and the Bat Shit Crazy

  • Last night on the way home from work I stopped to listen to the opera busker at the Torpedo Factory in Old Town.
  • This morning on the way to work I was riding along the underside of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge when a doe and two fawns came jaunting across the trail about 50 yards ahead of me.
  • A few days ago my friend Emilia (who is not bat shit crazy) took an Instagram video as she rode across the boardwalk at Dyke Marsh on the Mount Vernon Trail three miles from my house. I found the video mesmerizing, watching it over and over. So much of nature’s beauty captured in ten seconds. The funny thing is: I ride that same boardwalk every day.
  • Didn’t I tell you I have the best commute ever!?
  • To (sort of) thank Emilia I sent her a notice about a casting call for people to appear as a model in promotional material for Bike Arlington. It pays $200 for a few hours of work. In order to apply you need to submit photos of yourself. I found several pictures of  Emilia from the 50 States Ride we did together. Like so many others before her, she had no idea how hard the ride was going to be. Heat! Rain! Hills! 62 miles! Her triumphant victory photo at the post-ride party was one of my favorite pictures of the year. No automatic alt text available.
  • It’s been a long time since I’ve seen an in-line skater on the Mount Vernon Trail. They were all the rage about a decade ago. I even tried them, and I can’t skate worth beans. I would go to Fort Hunt Park and skate around in circles. I learned how not to fall too often. What eventually led me to give it up was not the falling so much as the fact that I have very wide feet. My feet would be all blisters and blood after I went skating.
  • The other night I saw a skater on the trail. He was heading north from Belle Haven Park. The trail is canted toward the river his right, my left as I was heading south on my ride home from work. I saw him drift toward the edge of the trail. His left arm started carwheeling, then his right, then his left, then he was off the trail and falling. He landed on his tailbone on the edge of the asphalt. Ow. He was more embarrassed than hurt. I gave him a 5.6 for style, but had to deduct points for going off the trail.
  • Yesterday I came to the conclusion that one of my Facebook friends is bat shit crazy. I mentioned this on twitter without naming names. Ricky tried to claim the honor. I then upped the count to two bat shit crazy people. To be honest, Ricky is not even close to as crazy as the other.
  • A couple of friends have tried to help me with my bike tour planning. “When you get to Miami, you can take a train.” Um, if I’m going to take a train, why ride there in the first place?
  • Larry McMurtry once wrote
    • A woman’s love is like the morning dew; it’s just as apt to settle on a horse turd as it is on a rose.
    • I think it’s a sickness to grieve too much for those who never cared a fig for you. [Particularly if they are bat shit crazy.]
  • The father of a former co-worker died of pancreatic cancer the other day. He was diagnosed only a few weeks ago. She went home to see him before he died but dang. Then I learned on Tuesday that an old grad school roommate of mine died of cancer Monday night. We knew that he had been dealing with cancer based on the note in his Christmas card but we had no idea he was as sick as he was. Mrs. Rootchopper summed it up, “He was the nicest guy in the world.” Word. Amen.
  • On Monday I threw my back out getting my Bike Friday into the trunk of my daughter’s subcompact car. I was taking her car to a mechanic for an oil change. A few days later I read a tweet that mentioned a 50% off deal for a year’s $85 membership in Capital Bikeshare. For $42.50 a year I can save big money on physical therapy!
  • In 49 days I am retiring. I am still relatively young and want to do a few things before my body completely rebels against my mega mileage shenanigans. I am noticably slower this year than last. i also weigh 10 pounds more.
  • I have been riding Big Nellie, my recumbent, for about a month now. A couple of years ago this would have caused my right foot to go completely numb. I almost sold the bike but this spring I took off the clipless pedals I was using and put on old school platform pedals with PowerGrips (leather straps that cross the pedals on a diagonal). I have been wearing Teva sandals and riding to work. No pain. No numbness.
  • I really like biking in sandals. I am thinking about putting the same kinds of pedals on my CrossCheck, at least until fall.
  • I have stopped wearing a helmet. Life is too short not to feel the wind in your hair. If I haven’t hit my head in 55+ years of bike riding, I like my odds.
  • Even when people are  bat shit crazy, you can still miss them. A lot.

 

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.

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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.

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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.