Getting the Party Started

In my desire to get spring rolling, I booked a ton of activities for the next several weeks. This weekend was a bit of a warm up, in a manner of speaking.

The fun started on Saturday. Mrs. Rootchopper and I went into DC for the Science March. She made a sign. We stood around in the rain and checked out other people’s signs. The signs, and the people, were impossibly nerdy. The guy in front of us had a sign that showed that the cost of Trumps trips to his resort in Florida would pay for over 1,000 post-docs. Nerd after nerd came up and asked him what his assumptions were.  I am not making this up. In response he would turn his sign around and show them. He had the assumptions written on the back. I am not making this up either.

After an hour of waiting around we made it into the part of the national mall where the speakers were speaking, as speakers tend to do. There were several tens of thousands of people in front of us and an equally impressive amount of mud below us. I later learned that I knew seven people withing a couple hundred feet of our location. I didn’t see them though.Image may contain: 1 person, crowd, sky and outdoor

At 2 o’clock the march began. On time. (These nerds are pretty impressive.) The size of the crowd plugged Constitution Avenue up. It took us an hour to walk one city block. We bailed and hoofed it about a mile to our cars. My wife drove home. I drove to my office where I was picked up by a co-worker.

Off we went to Baltimore to watch the Orioles play the Red Sox. I went to college in Boston and lived within walking distance of Fenway Park during my sophomore year. I also drove a cab during two summers. Suffice it to say that Bostonians love their Sawx!

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Here are a few random observations about baseball in Baltimore:

  • The hot dogs outside Camden Yards are the best I have ever had. I only had one.
  • Camden Yards is a much nicer ballpark that Nationals Park because
    • The seats in the upper deck seem much closer to the field
    • The acoustics of the park trap the roar of the crowd. This place gets loud!
    • Prices of food and drink are much less than in DC
    • Brick > concrete
    • Having an old warehouse just beyond the outfield is way better than having a new parking garage beyond the outfield
    • The crowed yells “O!!!!” during the National Anthem. It’s truly obnoxious when they do this when the Orioles play in DC. In Baltimore, it fits.
  • There are a few things I don’t like about Camden Yards
    • It is next to a football stadium that lurks like a monument to civic waste
    • It is also next to a seriously poor neighborhood. Very depressing.
    • Of much lesser significance, there is no place other than your seat to eat your food.
    • Bike parking is outdoors and not protected

The game went pretty quickly once we got the rain delay out of the way. About a third of the crowd was rooting for the Red Sox. They went home disappointed as the Orioles won 4 – 2.

I had planned to participate in the car free event in Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park on Sunday morning. I didn’t get to sleep until after 1 a. m. Getting up at 5 to drive 80 miles then ride a very hilly 62 miles in 40 – 50F temperatures wasn’t my idea of a good time. So I slept an extra hour and went to brunch with Mrs. R/C and a friend from her hometown who was in town to participate in the march.

Brunch was fun. Afterwards we walked a mile back to the car through the Enid Haupt Garden at the Smithsonian Castle. This garden is one of my favorite places in DC. Sadly, it will soon be removed for a new museum building.

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The rest of Sunday was devoted to deep, deep meditation on the deck. Okay, I took a nap. Sue me.

This morning’s ride to work featured 50F degree temperatures, drizzle, and a steady headwind. Image may contain: bicycle, tree, outdoor and nature

I started late and was groggy to boot. My head hung down. Things just appear suddenly when your head hangs down. At one point I was awakened by the shortest running shorts I have seen in a long time. Fortunately, they were on a very fit young woman. They were rather pleasantly undersized. Sometimes you just have to appreciate the view. Woke me right up.

A half mile later, I spotted bright orange out of the corner of my eye. I looked up to see a large mallard standing on the trail. He had huge cartoon feet. He was utterly unfazed by my passing. I didn’t even get a quack out of him.

My final visual surprise came when I just happened to have my head up. Chris N. rode by and gave me his patented salute. I used to see him nearly every day but his commute changed. Now he’s back.

The ride home was gray and cool and drizzly. The wind had the decency to push me home.

The party continues later this week:

  • Friday: a retirement
  • Saturday: ride to the Climate March and a Nationals baseball game
  • Sunday:  a 50+ mile bike event ride
  • Monday: a retirement dinner for a second retiree

After that I have a college graduation, two concerts, the Ride of Silence, a weeknight baseball game with folks from work, a Sunday baseball game with my daughter, and Bike to Work Day.

 

Riding Tailwinds in the Seam

There were ominous clouds to my right looming over the Pentagon. There was another bank of ominous clouds to my left heading downriver toward Rosslyn and Georgetown. There was a pretty darn good chance that I was going to get caught in one nasty storm. So I rode home.

Duh

Somehow I timed my ride perfectly. The approaching storms provided me with an impossibly good tailwind. Even when the path turned west and then back to south I had a tailwind. It was as if the storms had decided to help me along.

A few big wet sprinkles hit me. The cold, springtime kind. Splat. Splat. Then they stopped. I chugged along at 20 miles per hour.

After riding across the stone bridge two miles from my house I heard, or rather felt, a BOOM. I could feel the vibration in my bones. The Pentagon storm had drifted south, right behind me. I learned later that both storms dropped hail. But not on me.

The weekend promises much less luck. I plan on going to the Science March in DC but have to leave early so that I can meet some co-workers and drive to Baltimore for a Red Sox game. (Go Saux!) It is supposed to rain most of tomorrow in DC but the forecast currently calls for a cool but dry evening in Charm City.

Sunday I had plans to ride on Skyline Drive, which will be Car Free for most of the day. Unfortunately, the weather is supposed to be in the 40s with intermittent rain. I’ll probably go to brunch with Mrs. Rootchopper instead.

A Change of Steed

Spring bike events are coming. I do events on my Cross Check which has spent most of the last 5 months in dry dock. Today marked its bike commuting debut for the 2017. With no offense to my other three bikes, the Cross Check, which I named Deets, is the best commuting bike I’ve ever ridden. It even negotiated the mulch detour at TR Island with no trouble at all. Also, it doesn’t hurt at all that I go 2 miles per hour faster on it.

So this morning Deets posed for a picture. In the usual place.

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I plan on riding it to work all week then taking it to Skyline Drive on Sunday. This plan is contingent on me waking up super early Sunday morning. This will be difficult because (a) I am lazy and (b) I am going to an Orioles/Red Sox game in Baltimore at Saturday night. I should get to bed around 1 am.

Let’s just say that scheduling is not my strong suit.

Biking to Home

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

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

I have had enough of cold and dark.

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

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

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

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Okay, I lied.

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

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

I didn’t get hit by an SUV.

I was home. Again.

 

 

 

Nobody Told Me It Was Fitness Friday

On the way to work this morning I was riding through Belle Haven Park when I spotted the strangest thing: a young man was walking toward me carrying a barbell across his shoulders. There were two huge circular weights on the bar, one on each side. He was followed by a small group of people and a woman taking a video. I could have stopped and taken a picture but I didn’t want to mess up the video. As a certified, retired altar boy, I gathered that this stunt had something to do with it being Good Friday.

In the evening as I made the turn onto Union Street in Old Town Alexandria, I spotted two women doing what appeared to be synchronized yoga moves on the loading platform of one of the Robinson Warehouses. This time I stopped. I asked them if they minded if I took their picture. “Do you want us to pose?” I laughed. “No, just go about what you were doing.” And they did.

 

Riding to Eagles and Beatles

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The weather was perfect for a bike ride. Yay, April. So off I went on Little Nellie to DC. As I passed beneath the Morningside eagle nest I spotted a white head sticking up from the nest. I couldn’t tell if it was an eagle or an opportunistic osprey but it gave me an idea for a destination: the National Arboretum and its bald eagle nest.

I took the Woodrow Wilson Bridge across the Potomac River. The climb away from the river passes the enormous new MGM casino complex. It’s a whole lot of ugly, but you can eat at posh restaurants and see a show and throw away your hard earned dollars there. Go get ’em. I’ll pass.

At the top of the hill, I took a sidewalk (because MDOT hasn’t figured out how to accommodate bicyclist for beans in this area) to Oxon Hill Farm and descended back to the river. You see this climb and descent is required because MDOT couldn’t figure out how to add a trail along the river as there has been in Virginia for over 45 years.

The descent was a little scary because my left hand is messed up from getting jammed in flood debris on my hike yesterday. I think a small piece of wood may be lodged in my left middle finger. So braking is rather difficult.

I rode through Anacostia and made my way to Anacostia Park where there was a big festival. I ran into Nelle and Ursula from WABA. They were busy getting set up for the event.  At an adjacent booth I talked with Carlos (I think that’s his name) who used to work in my local bike shop. He immediately recognized Little Nellie and asked how many miles she had on her (17,500+). Carlos did good work.

After being social for a few minutes I went back into introverted rider bliss mode along the Anacostia River.  Puffy clouds and blue skies were reflected in its calm waters. I crossed over the river on the Benning Road overpass and took busy Benning northeast. Not a lot of fun but it got the job done. No way I would ride this street on a weekday. Two more busy, bike-hostile roads (17th Street and Blandensburg Road) and I was into the Arboretum. I walked by bike past a road block allowing only pedestrians to enter. Alas, further up the road a more restrictive sign appeared. No entry. Period. So I turned around.

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You can check out the bald eagle nest on dceaglecam.org.  There are two very cute eaglets in the nest right now. They seem to be thriving for all I know.

After my eagle fail,  I headed across town to the new REI store where a free beer event was to be held later in the day.  I arrived way too early so instead of drinking beer I went gawked at all the merchandise. It’s a outdoorsy wet dream. Kayaks and bikes and clothing, oh my.

The store is in the renovated Uline Arena, the site of the first Beatles concert in the US. (The place was called the Washington Sports Arena back in 1964.) The store gives a nod to this history (and other events that happened there) by putting replicas of concert posters on the concrete support posts in the store. The Beatles concert occurred a few days before their appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show that I watched in my jammies. (I found it utterly incomprehensible. I had three older brothers who, like every other kid in the country, became big fans. As, eventually, did I.)

After being overwhelmed with retail madness I headed home. The traffic on the streets and the trails was quite heavy. Tourists were stopping without warning on their bike share bikes. A couple of Lance Mamilots tried to impress the word with their speedy and agile bike riding on the narrow Mount Vernon Trail. The annoyances were minor.

I made it home to watch the end of the baseball game and to re-lube my chain. Yesterday I removed the clipless pedals from Big Nellie. Today I remove the matching cleats from my biking shoes. I am an old school toe clip dude. Sue me.

Postscript: the piece of wood in my finger popped out while doing dishes tonight. All in one piece. That’s never happened to me before. It looked like a dark brown rice kernel. Ewww

Elizabeth and Brittany

Say It Ain’t So, Tin Lizzie

Today I was saddened to read Elizabeth’s blog post about the possibility of giving up bike commuting. Elizabeth lives and works in the busy Ballston to Rosslyn corridor of Arlington, Virginia. Many years ago Arlington planned this area out to be a place where you could do just fine without a car. As it turns out, Elizabeth could easily get to work by subway, bus, or bike. She’s been riding her bike on unprotected bike lanes and has had more than her share of close encounters with big metal things.

What’s doubly depressing about this is that Elizabeth mentioned my recent intimate get together with a red light running SUV as a factor in her thinking.  When I wrote that post it never occurred to me that it would put people off bike commuting. I should have put my event in context. I have had dozens of close encounters with motor vehicles over the years. Maybe I’ve been lucky, but in over 100,000 miles of riding, I’ve never been hit.  I have hit two cars. One right hooked me and I hit him in the back right fender. If I had been competent I would have missed him entirely. Another was parked and jumped out in front of me. (It was windy. I had my head down. It was really embarrassing.) I was doored a block from Elizabeth’s office a few months ago. I was going very slowly. The door hit my very full rear left pannier.  No harm, no foul. I gave the exiting passenger a dirty look.

Stuff happens. I could be in the hospital or a funeral parlor right now. But I’m not. I rode to work today – right past where I was hit. I did come close to a collision today though. A goose was hanging out in the center of the trail. An oncoming commuter scared it into my path. She laughed and so did I. I’m riding to work tomorrow.

If experienced commuters like Elizabeth quit, we are doing something seriously wrong as a community.

Snakes in the Trees

In completely unrelated news, I learned today that rat snakes grow up to six feet long and climb trees. They are known to inhabit Dyke Marsh where I take my sunrise photos for this blog. I can handle big black SUVs but I think if I had to deal with a six-foot black snake in a tree, I’d soil myself.  This picture was taken today, by the way.

Snakes
Photo from Friends of Dyke Marsh Facebook Page

The Bliss Comes Back

And now some good news. Blissful Britt came back to her blog today. I thought she was going to be gone for months. She lasted three weeks. Stamina is overrated.

And So Does Baseball

And speaking of bliss, baseball is back in DC. The Washington Nationals won their home opener, 4 -2. I couldn’t go, but Klarence did. She willed them to victory on my behalf. They’ve won the first game. The hope is they win the last one. Sometime in early November. Fingers crossed.

 

Making Nelle’s Hit List (Errandonnee No.12)

It had already rained over an inch. Skies were gray, but the Washington Nationals had not yet canceled their exhibition game with the Boston Red Sox. Three co-workers and I had a block of tickets. They were driving from the office. I left the house at 1:15 on Little Nellie, my Bike Friday with wee wheels.

Speaking of Nelle, my friend Nelle, the Deputy Director of the Washington Area Bicyclists Association (of which I am a member), posted a note on social media the other day saying she knew over 20 people, mostly bicyclists, who had been hit by a motor vehicle. After a day or two her other friends spoke up and the number rose to 65.

An intermittent light rain was falling. I made it to the Mount Vernon Trail with little difficulty. Traffic was light on the GW Parkway which runs parallel to the trail. After nearly five miles, I came to the only place on the trail that has a traffic light for trail users. It is at the entrance to Porto Vecchio, an upscale condominium on the Potomac River. There is also a traffic signal to control traffic on the Parkway.

A decorative wall, perhaps eight feet tall, blocks the view of the trail from the condominium parking lot as the trail approaches the crossing. I could see that the trail light was amber (it never turns green) indicating that I had the right of way and that cross traffic had a red light. I looked across the Parkway. There were two cars waiting for a green light. I thought “They’ll trip the light.” I looked back at my light. Still amber. I was already going only about 10 miles per hour and started to make my way across the entrance to the condo.

What happened next took only two seconds.

A black SUV came flying out from behind the wall.

Oh no.

My hands were on the cross bar. I didn’t have time to reach the brakes.

It’s going to hit me.

I turned my little front wheel. I just missed t-boning the SUV, but I could not avoid its front right fender. I hit it with my right thigh. My right hand somehow had come off the handlebar and stiff armed the top of the fender.

My momentum was carrying me in front of the SUV.

This is going to hurt. Big time. At the same second I thought of my wife’s description of the split second when she was hit by an SUV. And I thought of my friend’s friend who was hit by a bus.

I saw the grill of the SUV. I was falling in front of the SUV.

It stopped.

Somehow.

But I was still on my way down. My right arm, still extended, was pointing straight down. My eyes spotted the pavement.

And with some kind of calm I thought

“No.”

I consciously shifted the weight of my torso over the left front brake hood. The shift and the wonders of physics caused the bike to right itself. Then I pulled my right arm back up. And came to a controlled, upright stop.

I calmly looked over my left shoulder to verify that the SUV had run a red light. Then I turned around. The driver had opened her car door and was standing between it and the driver’s seat.

“I’m so sorry.” Over and over again.

“The light was red. You could have put me in an ambulance. What the hell is wrong with you? SLOW DOWN!” (Mostly this was not in anger. I simply wanted to get it into her head that this could have been a really, really bad crash.)

“I’m so sorry.”

And I rode off for a cold beer at the ballpark.

A couple of miles later I stopped to check my messages. The game had been cancelled.

I turned around and rode home.

Number 66 on Nelle’s list.

Errandonnee Stuff:

Miles: 15.5

Category: Arts and Entertainment (seriously)

Observations: I managed to get through the crash thanks to several things. First, the driver stopped. Second, I didn’t hit my brakes, but bounced off the car and stayed upright. Third, the little wheels on Little Nellie kept my front wheel from contacting the SUV.  Fourth, I managed to stay calm. You can say what you want about meditation but there is not doubt in my mind that it helped me stay focused and not panic. It was almost as if I was observing it as a bystander. Fifth: The amount of information your brain processes in a situation like this is flabbergasting. Sixth: I am one fucking lucky son of a bitch. Seventh: I need a beer.

Ticket Edited

You know you’re happy when…

I have a friend who always says “Be happy” when we part. You can try all you want to be happy riding to work in winter clothes but when March rolls around you realize that it’s futile. Then you get to ride in shirt sleeves and shorts and you see the cherry blossoms and your whole outlook does a 180. Today, I was a little underdressed and was starting to feel chilled. My mood was going south when I looked over and saw a tree stump smiling at me. I think it was telling me to be happy.

Face log

Some Mondays Ain’t Half Bad

I was zonked all day Sunday. No energy at all. I was a sloth. Today I woke up and jumped on Little Nellie for the ride to work. My legs had pop for the first time in weeks. Off we went into dense fog. We stopped at Dyke Marsh where I take my pictures of the sunset over the river. Today, not so much.

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There’s a river out there. I just know it.

The ride to work was terrific. The temperature was about 50 degrees and I was underdressed and the fog was condensing on everything I had on. Except for the fact that I couldn’t see through the condensation on my glasses I didn’t much care.

Opposite the Washington Monument I looked east to see what my kids called The Pencil. Um, it wasn’t there. Mostly nothing was.

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I swear the fog had gotten even denser.

I heard some noise out on the river. Voices. Loud voices. Then from the left I saw them. The crew teams were out practicing. The eights. Coaches were on small motor boats shouting instructions. Coxswains were yelling whatever it is they yell. One after another they emerged then plunged back into the pea soup. It reminded me of the dense fog off Newport RI where I once taught. All that was missing was the ominous outline of The Breakers and the lonesome fog horn in the distance.

On the way home I passed an old friend just before I hit the TRUMP (Teddy Roosevelt Uber Mulch Pit). We disengaged a couple of years ago. There have been some awkward failed attempts to reboot. As she rolled past she scowled. Was it at me? No matter. Life goes on.

And so did I. I crossed over the river to take in the famous cherry blossoms which reached peak bloom on Saturday. I had already tried twice to take in the show but both times only a few blooms could be seen. I had few hopes for today but was pleasantly surprised by how many blossoms survived the cold snap last week. In years past the blooms were just other worldly. This year they were merely excellent. No complaints from this blossom lover. I walked Little Nellie around the Tidal Basin. Everyone, including me, was smiling.

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After a 3-mile spin down to Hains Point and back to view more cherry trees, I headed for home. The 10 -15 mile per hour headwind didn’t phase me in the least. The air was warm and the trail was mostly empty.

As Monday’s go, this one could not be beat.