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.
It would hard to come up with a nicer day to ride a bike than today. So off I went aboard the Cross Check for Chevy Chase. Not the comedian but the neighborhood on the top side of DC.
Just before leaving I put a message on social media about my plans and Ricky responded. He said he’d meet me at the trestle.
Riding the Mount Vernon Trail on a nice weekend day is an exercise in patience. When I wasn’t dawdling behind some tourists I was going uncharacteristically fast, thanks to a day completely off the bike. My lower back/hip issue was still in evidence but it clearly wasn’t slowing me down.
I stopped just north of Old Town Alexandria when I saw a big snowy egret right next to the trail. I hope you like the picture because I nearly was run over by a half dozen cyclists while I took it.
I rode along the river on the Virginia side until the 14th Street bridge then switched to the DC side. I slalomed through the crowds all the way to Water Street in Georgetown. Water runs upstream to the Capital Crescent Trail and so I flowed. I wore my bell out passing trail users of all types of humanity.
The Capital Crescent connects to the Georgetown Branch Trail in downtown Bethesda. The GBT is scheduled to be shut down on Tuesday for 4 – 5 years as a light rail line is constructed along the right of way.
I rolled onto the trestle and Ricky was there talking with some other cyclists. I posed for pictures among the tree tops and high above the creek.
Then we rode off to Ryan’s house to take care of his cat. And drink some of his beer.
Ryan has a pretty terrific man cave. Basically it’s a bike mechanic shop. I want one.
After the beer, we rolled back to the GBT and went our separate ways. I headed down into Rock Creek Park and headed for home. Road work has a section of Beach Drive, the main drag through the park, closed. Ryan told me to take a right at the detour and a left onto Ross Dr. I missed the turn onto Ross and ended up climbing a big hill on Military Road. I knew I had screwed up but there was no easy way to fix what I done broke so I kept spinning. It was a long way up but the road back down was a breeze, literally and figuratively.
The rest of the ride was the usual cruise along the river. With puffy white clouds above. And a steady breeze from the south.
As I rode south of the airport I noticed some trees beginning to change to red and yellow.
I may not have the trestle to ride to but fall days offer plenty of terrific riding in the weeks ahead.
Thursday was a bikes and baseball game. Kristen and Sean invited me to a baseball game. It was an end-of-summer outing for their two school aged girls.
Of course, I rode.
The weather was wonderful. I was about three blocks from the ballpark when an impatient driver pulled out from behind a turning car and came within inches of me. All I could was yell. Fortunately, the passenger side window was opened and the driver heard me and stopped abruptly before hitting me. I turned toward the stadium. The car followed. The driver said, “Sorry.” All I could think of was: let’s change places so you can wet your pants when I swerve into you.
The game was a terrific one. I often see kids at games and they don’t pay attention and drive their parents crazy. As often as not, the family leaves early. Not these folks. The girls had fun with the game and scouted out some healthy food. I mean baseball and dumplings go together like tea and sugar, no?
I managed to ride home unscathed. The game started at 4 so I was riding home as the sun went down. I didn’t stop to put on lights. Just my wee blinkies front and rear. Just me, the river, and a trillion midges. Nothing makes for a lovely ride like riding through clouds of bugs having sex.
Today I rode to Friday Coffee Club. I left at 6:30 around sunrise. I miss the long hours of daylight already. And it was 58 degrees. Just on basic stubbornness I rode in shorts and shirtsleeves. Twas a tad chilly with a steady headwind off the river.
We had our coffee indoors and the conversation was free flowing. I stayed to the end, through three shifts of bike commuters. Another retirement luxury. The ride home featured a brisk tailwind. There’s nothing like a tailwind to make you feel like you’re in great biking shape.
When I got home, I did my usual back exercises, which are mostly yoga asanas. One of my poses is a side plank. Lying on my side on the floor, I extend my left arm and raise my upper body off the floor. Then I extend my right arm up and point it at the ceiling. Typically I teeter a bit as my stomach and back muscles engage, which is the whole point of the enterprise. This time, I wobbled a bit and my lower left back or, maybe my hip, went POP! Dang, it felt like a knife. I lowered myself to the floor and waited for the pain to subside. I have never felt anything quite like it. Hopefully, it is nothing serious. I’ll know when I wake up in the morning, I guess. My advice to you is don’t get old. Your body betrays you.
As luck would have it, the forecast calls for rain tomorrow. So I will be a good boy and rest. Then on Sunday I have to say goodbye to an old friend; I am riding 25 miles to the Rock Creek Trestle. The trestle will be closed on Tuesday. Apparently for good. It was fun while it lasted.
On a final note, in 2014 I rode the 50 States in a group of ten people. Michael, a friend I met at Friday Coffee Club, led. He is doing a ride along the 185 mile length of the C&O Canal. It’s called WABA in the Wild. It raises money for WABA, the Washington Area Bicyclists Association. If you are feeling generous, you can help him reach his fundraising goal by going to his donations page.
The State of Maryland has broken ground on the Purple Line. This is a light rail project that arc across the top of DC connecting two spokes in the wheel of the Metro rail system. The right of way will include a paved trail which is great news for cyclists. Unfortunately, while it is being built the Georgetown Branch Trail, an unpaved trail that connects the Capital Crescent Trail in downtown Bethesda to downtown Silver Spring will be closed. That trail includes one of my favorite places in the DC area, the Rock Creek Trestle.
The trestle carries the trail at tree top level over Rock Creek Park. I go there to catch my breath, to eat lunch, to check out the fall foliage or simply to show off the view to friends. I’ve been there dozens of times. Unless plans change, September 4 is the last day to ride to my perch in the sky.
In a weird coincidence Pearls before Swine ran this strip yesterday.
So why is it a coincidence? Exactly ten years ago today, I had a similar conversation with a cyclist. (Somehow she has friends.)
Paul and I were riding the 50 States Ride in DC. For the uninitiated, this ride traverses the entire city so that participants can ride on streets named after the 50 States. It’s hard. It’s hilly and there are scores of stop signs and red lights. The route covers about 62 miles (depending on whether you get lost).
Nowadays the ride is held in September but back in 2007 it was held in August. August 24, 2007 was a hot and humid day in DC. Paul, his friend from Chicago Jane, and I were suffering. We had not yet hit a single hill and had ridden only about 15 miles. It was taking forever when one of us spotted an Asian woman a few hundred yards ahead. We decided to catch her.
Wimps that we are we only managed to catch her at the rest stop in Anacostia. There we met the not-Asian Florencia munching almonds from a bag. Paul pulled out his gorp and conversation ensued.
Soon we were riding up the hills of Anacostia. Paul and Jane decided on an early lunch at an air conditioned restaurant at the highest point in Anacostia. (Showing an astounding amount of common sense they quit the ride.) Florencia and I soldiered on, sort of. She rode ahead and I caught her at stop lights and stop signs.
After another ten miles or so, we stopped at a 7-11. Flor only bought water. I bought the entire snack aisle and gallons of sports drinks. When we came out Shane was lying on the grass in the shade next to our bikes. She did not look like a happy camper. Adam was standing nearby. He was not looking really please either.
We rode off, the four of us, into the hills of Northeast DC. It got hotter. And muggier. Time and again Flor pulled away, often with Adam in tow. (For some reason I thought they knew each other or were a couple, but it was just the way the group fell out.)
We descended into Rock Creek Park and stopped to rest under a big shade tree. Shane looked like she was dying. I thought she was getting heat exhaustion. Adam looked very unhappy.
Flor munched more almonds. (I managed to take the worst picture ever of her as she ate.) She was bullet proof. She didn’t even seem to be sweating.
Impatience got the best of her and Flor rode off alone. Adam, Shane and I continued for a few miles as a trio before Adam went home to eat some cold quiche.
Shane and I rolled on. We got to the rest area at American University. Shane went inside to get snacks. She came out with a handful of goodies. Only then did we realize that she had inadvertently stolen them from a seminar. Oops.
We continued on. I was aiding and abetting a snack thief’s getaway. The police didn’t pursue and we finished somewhere near Dupont Circle. Shane laid down on the sidewalk. Her problem wasn’t the heat, it was an ill-fitting bike.
She asked me to go to a bar nearby where survivors of the ride were celebrating. I took a pass to get home to daddy duties. At the bar Shane met Jeff (no relation to the guy in the comic strip, just another coincidence).
Jeff, Shane, and I did a ride in Baltimore a few weeks later.
For a while I was doing rides with these characters on a semi-regular basis but then life intervened. Sad face.
Happy anniversary to the Paul, Shane, Jeff, and Flor. It was epic, wasn’t it?
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.
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.
I gotta get pedaling. It’s catching up to my bikes!
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.