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.

 

 

I May Be Old…

With superb weather on tap for the three day weekend, I had been working on a plan to bike and hike like a maniac. After one day it is apparent that I failed to factor some basic truths in to my thinking.

1. I am old.

2. Eating a shit ton of Christmas cookies has added dead weight to my aging carcass.

3. I have not ridden a hard ride in months.

So the plan was to ride to Whites Ferry and back, an all day, 100-mile loop that is basically flat. But it was cold in the early morning so I decided to do a somewhat shorter ride.

I don’t know why 90 miles struck me as easy but that’s what my brain locked onto. I have never ridden the full 59-mile Vasa ride called the Vasaloppet. I always opt to ride the 31 mile, HalvVasan. When I add the 31 miler to the distance to and from the start in Georgetown, I get a nice metric century, 62 miles. I’ve done this ride during the official event in mid-March and at other times throughout the year. So today I decided to do the 59-miler plus the 31 miles to and from my house.

I began at 10:30. It was about 60 degrees. I went to put on my prescription sunglasses and the right lens fell out in my hand. So I rode Deets, my Surly Cross Check, to an optician on my way to the city. The optician had a waiting list. No thanks. I rode to Old Town where I found an optician who fixed my glasses without waiting. Thanks Voorthuis.

The ride to the start was flat and fast. The Mount Vernon Trail was not at all crowded. I felt pretty darn good. Of course, my apparent vigor was actually a tailwind pushing me along. You’d think after riding a bicycle for over 50 years I’d clue in. But NO!

The Swedish embassy is the starting point of the Vasa rides. They had a sign out front inviting people to come inside. Swedes are nice. I took a pass. I’ll be back in a month when I volunteer at the official ride.

I rode out of Georgetown on the Capital Crescent Trail and climbed up to MacArthur Boulevard without any difficulty. I was 20 miles into the ride and I was feeling my oats.

The ride to Great Falls Park along MacArthur has one hill but it otherwise flat. Deets and I were cruising along at 16 miles per hour. Life was good.

I stopped at a bathroom at the kayakers’ parking lot near Great Falls. After using the facilities I found out that the water fountains had been shut off. I would need to ration my water carefully. I rode up the big hill toward Falls Road. I ate a smushed banana as I went. The banana was soft but the riding was hard. I tossed the peel and fell into a rhythm. A road crew had blocked off one lane so I had to stop half way up the hill. With rested legs, the remainder of the climb was a piece of cake. I rode into Potomac Village still feeling strong.

When I do the HalvVasan, this is where I turn around. Today I rode onward into the hilly back roads of filthy rich Potomac Maryland. This is pretty heavenly biking. Windy roads, streams, farms (mostly now developed with megamansions). The road surfaces could use a little work though. I made it to Travilah Road where my cue sheet told me to turn around. I spotted a convenience store and bought a big bottle of water and a Clif bar. I filled my nearly empty water bottles and inhaled the Clif bar and headed back to Potomac Village.

Now I noticed the wind. It made the hills consequential. The bumps got bumpier. My odometer seemed to increase ever so slowly. On a climb, I shifted to my small chainring and the chain fell off. Arg. (This happened again 5 miles later. I need to adjust my lower limit screw.)

Once past Potomac Village I rode the smooth pavement through the Avenel development. New-ish roads make for happy cycling. After Avenel, I rode past Congressional Country Club and continued on for five miles until Bethesda.

In Bethesda I jumped onto the mostly unpaved Georgetown Branch Trail. Normally, this trail is icy and muddy at this time of year. Today it was dry and hard.

At the traffic light to cross Connecticut Avenue, a passerby admired my bike. He said he has one too and commutes 10 miles to work every day. We gave each other the secret Surly handshake and carried on our separate ways.

At Jones Mill Road, I was feeling pretty worn out. No worries, just 25 miles to go. I pulled a bagel out of my saddlebag. I had made it before leaving home. I am a genius.

Jones Mill led me to five miles of nearly carfree riding in Rock Creek Park. If your city does not have a big green gash down the middle of it with hiking trails, a bubbly creek, horse stables, and picnic areas, you need to move. Rock Creek Park is the best!

It is also a canyon. And after 5 windy, downhill miles, I turned away from the creek and headed up. Eventually climbing for one mile on Brandywine Street. I should point out that this climb is notorious. I was doubting its reputation until I came to realize that it never seemed to stop. I blame Michelle. She has been trying to kill me by designing events for WABA. As my knees were screaming for me to stop, she was eating biscuits and gravy and sipping coffee in a bookstore in Seattle. She was probably thinking, “He’s dead now for sure. Bwa ha ha.” (She’d make an awesome Bond villain.)

Wrong.

I made it to the top and after a few miles of traffic mayhem rode screaming down Arizona Avenue, gleefully tripping the speed camera as I rode.

At the base of the hill I rejoined the first five miles of the ride and made my way back to the embassy. When I reached Capital Crescent Trail, I saw to my left a fire truck heading outbound on Canal Road. Soon two ambulances were in hot pursuit. Then to my right I saw a fire rescue boat speeding up river. Something very bad must have happened.

Near Georgetown Waterfront Park, the car traffic was insane so I jumped onto the bike path. It too was insane with scores of sundrunk people wandering around at random. I went very slowly and managed somehow not to hit anyone.This madness continued well past the embassy. At one point I followed a 300 pound man on a bikeshare bike. People got out of his way and I benefited from his slipstream.

At the beach volleyball courts near the Lincoln Memorial (Abe was an awesome spiker, they tell me), I saw two women on bikes looking bewildered. “Are you lost?” “We’re trying to find the MLK Memorial.” “Follow me.”

I was headed that way anyway. I led them to a spot between the FDR and MLK memorials and continued on my way. Because of one way streets I ended up swimming with big metal dolphins on Independence Avenue. Traffic was heavy so I took the lane. I wasn’t slowing anyone up but the driver of a Prius decided to swing around me to get to a red light faster. The Prius nearly hit a big white cargo van. Beeps were exchanged. I just rode on until the driver of the van started yelling at me. Then he said the magic words “Get on the sidewalk!”

You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.

I was tired. I was being a good cycling person. I looked at him through his open side window and told him,  “Fuck Off!” I pointed at my lane and told him, “I belong right here. Tough shit if you don’t know traffic laws. Shut your PIEHOLE.” (Thanks to my daughter’s grade school friend Camille for telling me to shut my piehole when she was 8. I’ve been wanting to use it for years.) So much for my zen-like bike trances.

After I thought about it for a few miles, I realized that Van Driver was blaming me for Prius Driver’s incompetence. It sucks that I reacted as I did but I was in need of an adrenaline boost and Van Driver provided it.

The boost was useful until I encountered the bike and pedestrian traffic on the Mount Vernon Trail at Gravelly Point Park. Hundreds of people and dozens of little kids were walking every which way, looking up to see planes land or looking across the inlet to the airport where planes were taking off. I slowed way down and carefully made my way through the mob. After coming out the other side, I was passed by a cyclist who said with a chuckle,”What a cluster fuck.” Indeed.

A similar cluster fuck occurred in Old Town Alexandria where pedestrians wandered off sidewalks as if the roads had been closed. (Not a bad idea, by the way.)  It was anarchy. It was also dark. Drivers and cyclists were uncharacteristically well behaved and patient.

I was grateful to get away from the madness, when two kids ran out from between parked cars at a park several blocks to the south. I shook my head at them.

The last six miles were cool. I had taken off my sweater after 40 miles and now I was missing the warmth. With only a few miles to go, I pedaled on. With sore knees and an aching back I crushed the last mile at about 18 miles per hour.

90 miles on a 70 degree day in February. I may be old, but I’m sore.

 

 

 

Bike 1, Quinoa 0

I slept in.

When I woke up it was a perfect summer day. The second in a row. There was just one thing to do.

I rode my bike.

You saw that coming, didn’t you.

After all, I could have spent my day doing something truly exciting like dry toasting some quinoa. (Or driving a funicular railcar. I actually know people who did these things today.)

But I rode my bike.

I chose the Cross Check for my adventure. The first ten miles were unremarkable which is remarkable for a Sunday on the Mount Vernon Trail. Normally, the MVT is a zoo on a nice weekend days but today it was less busy than a weekday evening. I rode it all the way to DC. Unmolested.

I made it to trail along the Potomac on the DC side before disaster almost struck. I was patiently following two tentative riders as they made their way through the narrow underpass of the TR Bridge. There was stream of bikes coming our way then a runner. Just as Tentative Rider number 1 came upon the runner a stream of Lance Mamilots came around the bling corner on the other end of the underpass. Two got past the runner but the third nearly hit her. The tentative riders somehow managed not to find themselves in a big pile up. As did I. The runner was rightfully pissed. I yelled something non-obscene at Lance.

Another mile went by. As I approached K Street, I was following a rider on a very Eurpoean-style city bike. She was riding very slowly and came to a stop a the turn off for K Street. Somehow she fell sideways into a small patch of grass. She was more embarrassed than hurt. So I turned onto K and headed toward the Capital Crescent Trail. The CCT was busy and a few impatient riders nearly caused head on collisions. I just moseyed along and kept a positive attitude. It was just too nice a day to get upset.

Approaching Bethesda, I was passed by another Lance. He was headed straight for an on-coming walker. Oncoming walker was an unassuming looking, thin woman, perhaps in her late 60s, with thinning brown hair. In a vaguely eastern European accident she shouted: “Get on the other side of the trail, ASSHOLE!”

I could not stop laughing. For miles.

In Bethesda Row, I stopped at Bethesda Bagels (I love places with creative names) and bought a bagel sandwich. I rode to the trestle over Rock Creek Park and ate half of it there, looking out from the treetops to the creek far below.

And to think I could have been dry toasting my quinoa.

Dang.

With my tank topped off, I headed  outbound on Beach Drive. I had some company, mostly on bikes. At Garret Park I turned around. I had a bit of a head wind and put my head down for a moment. When I looked up, I nearly rode into a fawn. There were two in the road. So cute.

Back to DC, staying in, mostly car free, Rock Creek Park. Lord, was it nice. Warm, breezy. The soothing sound of the creek rushing past only a few yards to the side of the road.

I climbed out of the park on Park Road and made my way to Columbia Heights. Normally this hill is difficult for me. Not today. I rode the bike lane straight up Irving Street, passing a long stream of cars waiting in line for the short light at the top of the hill. Sucks for them, I thought.

Soon I was sitting on a bench in the shade in Meridian Hill Park. The rest of my sandwich didn’t have a chance.

For some reason, riding down 16th Street on the way home has become a favorite of mine. There are so many interesting buildings and people. Unfortunately, it ends with a ride through the touroids near the White House. I managed to get behind a tour group on Segways clogging the 15th Street cycletrack.

Riding a bike behind Segways is only marginally more enjoyable than dry toasting quinoa.

I survived. Nobody killed me as I rode out of DC. The MVT was once again not half bad. The last ten miles were not the easiest. I have to remember to drink more water while I am riding during my tour next week.

I rode all winter, all through a cold, wet spring. Today’s beautiful 63 1/2 miles was payback.

Tonight, I’ll dry toast some quinoa.

Just kidding.

Too bad there aren’t any funiculars around.

Nice Day for a Spring Ride

I waited for the temperature to rise. I didn’t want to ruin a good spring ride by freezing my toes off. At 11:00 I leaped into action. Sort of. I kept misplacing things. After 45 frustrating minutes I head out on the Cross Check for a bagel. In Bethesda. Over 25 miles from home.

The Cross Check still doesn’t feel right but rather than mess with the set up I decided to ride it a ways. After six miles I stopped and slid the saddle back. I was feeling cramped and too upright. Afterwards I felt more comfortable. I breezed through Old Town with its abundance of well dressed church goers. (My church has two wheels, by god.)

North of Old Town the Mount Vernon Trail started getting crowded. The crowds didn’t bother me but the impatient riders passing with bike oncoming did. Some of these were Lance Mamilstrongs. Others were new to riding on busy, narrow trails. Thankfully, I managed not to get hit. I crossed over to DC and rode Ohio Drive and its pathetically designed side paths up to Rock Creek Park. The side path in Rock Creek Park improves somewhat. After a couple of miles of mediocre, it becomes downright horrible. Tree roots, 90 degree turns, pinch points, blind, low descents under overpasses. People with dogs obstructing the entire path as they admired each others pooches. Must not kill.

 

I finally made it to Beach Drive which is closed to cars. It was apparently open to every grade school kid in a 100 miles radius today. They were swarming like gnats. It took a while to get clear of them. Once I did, I found myself cruising up the  gradual incline at 14 1/2 miles per hour. I wasn’t straining at all. The Cross Check was just getting it done.

I took the Georgetown Branch Trail to the Rock Creek Trestle. I love hanging out in the treetops over Rock Creek. A woman was sitting in the bumpout on the opposite side of the trail. She was speaking on her phone in a Spanish accent. Next to her was a copy of Nick Hornby’s latest book. I love Nick Hornby. I passed up the opportunity to strike up a conversation with her because my tummy was having a conversation with my head. FEED ME!

I backtracked on the GBT to Bethesda Row where I bought a drink and a bage19217984431_878c8b2188_m.jpgl. I sat and ate and watched the people stroll by. This street is really good for people watching. And dog watching too. A golden retriever with waves of flowing red hair was laid out on the sidewalk next to my bench. What a beautiful creature. (Full disclosure: I grew up with a golden retriever. They are the best dogs. Dumb as dirt but they will let you use them as a pillow when you watch TV. And they will defend you to the death.) I want to be a golden retriever in my next life.

After my snack, I headed over to Bradley Boulevard. I rode through Bethesda amid azaleas and dogwoods in bloom. The temperature was perfect for riding. The traffic was light. Yay spring!

Bradley to Kentsdale to Newbridge to Democracy to Falls. I was cruising among the megamansions of Potomac. I hear they have real housewives here.

A left  onto Falls took me through Potomac Village and all the way to Great Falls Park. Cars were parked illegally everywhere. I took a right to ride down to the C&O Canal on the access road. After a fun half mile glide, I came upon a half mile line of cars waiting to get parking in the parking lot.  I rode past the cars and made it to the admissions booth. I was waved in. It was National Parks Day. Admission was free. “Free” sounds like a good idea. Sometimes it’s not. I rode very slowly through the throngs for at least 15 minutes. It was like riding on the sidewalk in Manhattan. Nothing ruins nature quite like tens of thousands of well meaning people.

After the falls the crowds thinned a bit and I could get up to about 10 miles per hour. Carefully, I avoided spooking the strollers near Widewater, easily one of the best parts of the entire 185 mile long park.

I finally cleared the swarm and brought my bike up to a 13.6 mile per hour cruising speed. Why 13.6? I don’t know. I just locked into that speed.

I am happy to report that the Cross Check loves the towpath. I can see many gravel rides in the future. (North Central Rail Trail? Anybody? Bueller?)

I was on autopilot all the way back to Georgetown. I switched over the paved Capital Crescent Trail at Fletchers Boat House. It has way too many tree roots until you get to the last mile which has been recently paved. Zoom.

K Street under the Whitehurst Freeway was a parking lot. I think we need to just ban cars in certain places on Sundays. They are just too big and clumsy. We could pile them up and burn them. We could invite all kinds of latter day hippies, techies, and spiritual whack jobs. Maybe we could do this in the desert. Rosslyn on a Sunday would work. We could call it “Burning Car”.  Maybe we could get the drum circle from Meridian Hill Park to come and not keep a beat.

The ride home retraced my northbound journey. The trails were not as busy as before. Behind the power plant near Old Town, the MVT goes through some blind curves. As I approached I rode my brakes. Sure enough a rider came around the curve on my side of the path. I avoided a head on collision for sure. The rider seemed shocked that passing two pedestrians on a blind curve might not work out so well. I do hope she doesn’t drive a school bus for a living.

I rolled south on Union Street in Old Town. A police cruiser pulled out in front of me. I followed it to the intersection with Gibbon Street. This is where Alexandria police ticket cyclists for rolling through the stop sign. So I watched as patrol car 1414 rolled through the very same stop sign. It was the third such incident this week. The League of American Cyclists will soon designate Alexandria as a Bicycle Hypocritical City at the Silver level.

I rolled home with my lungs burning. The pollen and towpath dust had caught up to me and my asthma was really giving me a hard time.  I  made it home in a bit of discomfort with 69 miles on the odometer. This was easily my longest ride of the year.  But for the asthma attack I could have kept going. Let’s see if I wake up with any back issues tomorrow morning.

 

 

To the Trestle and Back

Today I had the day off for Veterans Day. I still kind of like the original name, Armistice Day, the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, and all that.  It’s a decent Paul Simon song too. No disrespect to Veterans, mind you. My father was an amused Veteran. He used to tell the story that medical school students were drafted and left in school. The army would take them out to a base on Long Island and march them around. My father said they were pathetic, skinny, pale, uncoordinated. Gomer Pyles but with brains. My father stayed in the reserves through the Korean War. All this was before my time.

Having the day off, I decided to do one of my favorite rides, from my home in Mount Vernon Virginia to Bethesda, Maryland with a stop at Rock Creek Trestle. The temperature was in the mid-50s when I left with a strong northwest breeze, a headwind. You don’t get many windy days in the DC area when its warm so the breeze was a portent of many cold windy days to come.

I rode my Cross Check on the Mount Vernon Trail to Old Town Alexandria. The trail was covered in leaves and I was fearful of slipping and falling so I was extra careful. Once in Old Town I decided to leave the Mount Vernon Trail and head through most of Alexandria on a couple of newer bike trails. I picked the first trail up just off of West Street and rode it to the Braddock Road Metro station. There I zigzagged to get on the new trail that runs several miles, nearly all the way to Crystal City in Arlington. No lights. No stop signs. No obnoxious ticketing by Alexandria Police.

I rode through Crystal City and hit every traffic light on the green. This NEVER happens. My route took me on Boundary Channel Drive along side acres of Pentagon parking. Then I rode through Lady Bird Johnson Park, under the GW Parkway, up and over the Humpback Bridge, onto the 14th Street Bridge and across the Potomac River.

During this part of the ride the rear fender of the Cross Check became disengaged from its frame mount for what must have been the 20th time. I re-attached it and decided it was time for a permanent fix.

Once in the city, I rode the the K Street Bicycle Space store where a mechanic did what mechanics do and soon I had a fender that would not fall off. Knock wood. During the repair, I noticed that Paul, the mechanic most likely to play Doc Brown in Back to the Future IV, was working on an HP Velotechnik Street Machine. This is a recumbent to die for. The owner and I talked about the bike. He bought it from a Canadian for $1,500 Canadian. New this bike costs 2 – 3 times as much. The owner, who looked to be in my age cohort, rode it across the country. Dang! Bike envy!!!

Another customer came in to get her bike ready for Saturday’s Cider Ride. I didn’t have a chance to talk to her but maybe I’ll see her during the ride.

From Bicycle Space I headed up Sixth Street to check out the church whose congregation is upset by the possibility of having to share the street with a protected bike lane. Sixth Street is WIDE. I don’t see the problem here other than selfishness.

Beach Drive
Beach Drive in Rock Creek Park

I wended my way through town and up the protected 15th Street bike lane at Meridian Hill. This short hill is quite a bitch, I must say. I recovered by doing a slow lap in the park. On weekends the park is a hive of activity but today it was nearly deserted. I checked out the view of the water cascade and then headed through Adams Morgan to Rock Creek Park.

On weekends and holidays, Beach Drive, the main drag in the park, has limited car access. I rode north on the windy road, wind in my face, sun on my shoulders. It was a mighty fine ride. I made my way to the Georgetown Branch Trail and to the Rock Creek Trestle. The view from above the treetops is one of my favorites.

RC from Trestle
Rock Creek View from the Trestle
RCT and CC
The Cross Check Takes a Breather on the Trestle High above Rock Creek Park
GBT
Georgetown Branch Trail Heading West from the Trestle

After taking some pictures I headed west on the trail to Bethesda. I could tell that my body was not feeling it today. I still haven’t recovered from Sunday’s hike. I slogged on stopping only to refill my water bottles when I should have stopped to eat.

In Bethesda I picked up the mostly downhill Capital Crescent Trail and a tailwind. Ahhh.

Normally I be bombing along this trail at 20+ miles per hour but not today. I was suffering from insufficient junk food syndrome or IJFS. Don’t get this. Eat you donuts, people!!!

On the way home I rode past the Lincoln Memorial. I expected the place to be mobbed with Veterans checking out the nearby Vietnam, Korean, and WWII Memorials. There were plenty of people, many obviously veterans, milling about but I think whatever festivities there were had concluded hours earlier.

I made my way to the 14th Street Bridge and retraced my route to the south end of Old Town. Not wanting to ride the Mount Vernon Trail for the 400th time this year (a guess, but not too far off), I took Fort Hunt Road and Sherwood Hall Lane home. This is a pretty hilly route and I had nothing left in my legs so the going was slow.

Long story short:I managed to ride 55 1/2 miles on a sunny November Day. Not half bad.

No Wrong Plan: Day 6 – Brunswick to Home on the C&O Canal Towpath, the Capital Crescent Trail, and the Mount Vernon Trail

Ryan was keen on staying at the Brunswick campsite because he wanted to have breakfast at Beans in the Belfry, a coffee shop in Brunswick that is very popular with the #bikeDC crowd. We broke camp after another cold night and a squirt of chamois cream we headed back into town. It was 8 a.m. Beans in the Belfry doesn’t open until 9 on weekdays. Fail.

We found another place and had coffee, croissants,and chocolate cookies. The croissant and coffee were okay but the cookies were top notch. This being Friday, we were establishing the westernmost outpost of #bikedc’s Friday Coffee Club.

It was also Bike to Work Day. The weather could not have been better. Throughout the day we checked social media to see huge crowds participating in the eveDSCN3965_1086nts of the morning. This was in sharp contrast to the poor turnout last year which coincided with a monsoon.

As we pedalled toward DC we finally started seeing some deer. We only saw a couple on the GAP Trail but they were rather burly. Deer closer to DC are smaller but fast. We were very careful once we saw one deer because deer often run in clusters. Getting run over by a stupid deer would be a lousy end to a bike tour.

After about 20 miles we stopped at Whites Ferry for some grub. All they had were snacks so we made do and got back to riding. After about an hour we met up with Ryan Heinz, a #bikedc and Friday Coffee Club friend, who was taking the work out of Bike to Work Day. We chatted for a long time. Ryan was headed for, you guessed it, Beans in the Belfry. Hope he had a good cup.

We were within 20 miles of DC and the scenery continued to be spectacular. At one point we spotted a great blue heron standing on the edge of the towpath. He was immense. As we approached he launched. Magnificent! From this point on the canal is filled with water. We saw dozens of goslings with their protective elders at their side. A duck swam across the canal with what looked like a day care center full of ducklings in pursuit. Turtles basked in the sun. It’s a critter’s life on the C&O Canal.

At Swain’s Lock we spotted Rudy Riet, another #bikedc and Friday Coffee Club friend. He had ridden out to escort us into town. The pace accelerated. Adrenaline kicked in. We cut over to the Capital Crescent Trail at Thompson’s Boat House and soon were met by Mary, The Coffeeneur! Another escort. We rolled the rest of the way on the paved CCT. At Georgetown Waterfront Park we stopped for pictures.

We made it!DSCN3979_1097

If we wanted to be anal about the whole thing we should have kept riding to the 0 milepost. Having screwed up the start in Pittsbrugh and having seen that the 0 milepost is nothing special we headed instead through Georgeton and the west end of DC to Glen’s, a market near Dupont Circle. Along the way Chris B. picked up our scent and joined the parade. Rudy led the way as we rode the streets of the city. At one intersection a driver did a right hook. Rudy was on to him and avoided being road kill. Welcome home.

Glen’s has outdoor seating, coffee, food, and cold draft beer. The perfect place for a celebration. Soon we were joined by a bunch of #bikeDC and Friday Coffee Club folks including Ed, Peter, Jacques, Brian and others.

After a couple of hours of socializing I headed home. Ed gave me an escort nearly all the way. We rode down the 15th Street cycletrack. It was incredibly crowded, mostly with people riding northbound. This was clear evidence that Bike to Work Day had been a smash.

Now that I was riding in more familiar roads and trails, The Mule felt like a bus. It was a damned good thing I had changed the brake pads on the beast or some tourists and bike commuters would have been vaporized.

I pushed the pace as hard as I could but my legs were nearly dead. South of Alexandria I stopped to show Ed some bald eagle nests. They are now almost completely obscured by tree leaves. Ken Schantz, a bike commuter stopped by to chat. He’s a bike commuter who’s daily ride is something like 70 miles roudn trip. (He uses buses to make the trip manageable.)

After Ken took off, Ed and I rolled to my neighborghood. Ed went west and I went into my backyard to dismount for the final time of the tour.

I was pooped. My final day was 73 1/2 miles.

Total mileage for the ride was about 364 miles.

I’ll take it.

Some pix of the trek are over on my Flickr page.

Spring Training

We are training for spring. Today the temperature on my back deck reached 66 degrees. After weeks of freezing our asses off, the people of DC are all smiles. Except, perhaps, for the tourist I saw crashing on his Segway, but I am getting ahead of myself.

I started the day doing physical therapy for my foot. It was barely numb when I awoke but I decided to forgo yoga or my other exercises and just do what the PT people told me to do. Dang, it hurts. Raise this, lower that, keep your stomach and your butt cheeks tight. After about a half an hour our was done. My stomach muscles wanted to be traded to another body. And the lacrosse ball that is beating the knots out of my calves is seriously in danger of getting thrown out the window. Ouch.

After a morning of relaxation, I headed out the door on Big Nellie. I was bound for an everything bagel in Bethesda, about 24 miles away. It was 50 degrees outside. Yesss.

As I was waiting for cars at an intersection with Fort Hunt Road near my home, an SUV drove by and made friendly tooting sounds with its horn. I have no idea who it was but I waved at them

I made it to the Mount Vernon Trail which was not particularly crowded. In Old Town Alexandria I took South Washington Street. My physical therapist ran past. Small world.

The ride to the city was so peaceful I went on auto pilot. I stopped at Gravelly Point to watch a plane land overhead – easily one of my favorite free things to do.

Over the 14th Street Bridge I rode then up Ohio Drive to M Street to the Capital Crescent Trail. The long ride up to Bethesda took time. Recumbents simply don’t do uphills very well. And since I am not exactly a badass on two wheels let’s just say it took a while.

When I got to Bethesda Row I headed straight for Bethesda Bagels. Since it was well after noon there wasn’t a line. I picked up my everything bagel, toasted with veggie cream cheese and a sweet tea. I proceeded to inhale these comestibles with great vigor. Ah!

I rode the Georgetown Branch Trail over to the Rock Creek Trestle. The trail was somewhat muddy. Recumbents are the best mudders so it was a tense ride. I slipped this way and that several times. The view from the testle differs by time of year. The winter view is, of course, leafless but it’s always fun to be at treetop level with the world. IMG_20150208_142017

I reversed course then headed down into Rock Creek Park. All the climbing has its rewards and for most of the next 7 miles I was cruising downhill. The number of people on Beach Drive was impressive. Many families out riding bikes with their kids. I had to be careful not to hit any of them. They wobble and waver and dart out in front of you unexpectedly.

I got on the trail at Klingle Road. This was a mistake. The trail at this point is narrow and crowded and has numerous bumps from tree routes. Once I reached the zoo entrance, I took Harvard Street to climb into Adams Morgan. It’s a healthy climb, too. To recover from my exertion I took a very slow speed spin through Meridian Hill Park. There was a healthy number of people there, no one I knew though. I rode by the drum circle but there was only one man with drums so I decided to head back home.

I took 16th Street which is a nice straight downhill shot to the White House. Along the way I saw the indefatigible Ted a.k.a @MrTinDC.

I shifted over to the 15th Street cycletrack and got behind a long line of tourists on Segways. Normally, Big Nellie looks weird to people I pass but in a cluser of Segways, Big Nellie doesn’t get a passing glance. At the intersection with Pennsylvania Avenue, the Seqways stopped to regroup. One tourist’s Segway jolted to a stop throwing him to the ground with an audible SPLAT. Should’ve rented bikes.

I crossed back over the river and headed home on the Mount Vernon Trail. It was packed with people, most of whom were oblivious to the fact that some people were actually trying to make forward progress. At the south end of the airport I balied out, opting to cut through Del Ray.

I cut over to Old Town and rejoined the MVT at the southern end of Old Town. Mistake. This part of the trail was every bit as chaotic as what I had bailed out on.There was no point in getting upset about it. I slowed down and took in the madness that warm weather brings. And besides, by this point my legs were started to tell me that all that time off in January had taken its toll on my fitness.

I arrived home. Mrs. Rootchopper had opened the windows. The temperature was 66 degrees. (One degree off the record, so I am told.)

So I ended up riding 170 miles in seven days. Not half bad for winter. Tomorrow is a day off the bike as I am going to three doctors appointments.

We now return to our regularly scheduled winter.

Wetting My Whistle – The 2014 Hoppy 100

The curse is on us. 

The Hoppy 100 is the invention of John Roche, craft beer enthusiast and bicycling masochist. It was his idea to combine a 100 mile ride with visits to local craft breweries. It worked out pretty well until the monsoon hit. The second Hoppy 100 was toned down a bit. Instead of 100 miles, John designed a route that was 100 kilometers. And instead of a monsoon, we had a steady drizzle. And a medical emergency involving blood. And a Pythonesque trip to a police station. So it was with a mixture of excitement and dread that I threw my helmet into the ring for the third Hoppy 100.

Now this year’s version was designed to be about 45 miles. In order to get it up over 100 kilometers, I decided to ride Little Nellie to the start at the Washington Monument. There I met Casey (@waterfroggie) wearing a bike jersey from a Belgian brewery. Casey had come from Annapolis via bike and Metro to participate. Obviously Casey was hardcore.  Kevin U. (@bicyclebug) showed up to ride his third Hoppy 100. Next came Avery and Kevin-the-Second, a thirsty couple from Arlington (I think).  Our starting group was rounded out by the arrival of Rachel “Don’t Call Me Bob” Cannon (@rachelcannon), Peter (@jopamora) and our main man, John Roche (@dirteng).

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All Smile on Hains Point

After introductions we were off in search of brunch. To warm up a bit, we took a ride down to Hains Point, a spit of land along the Potomac River opposite National Airport. It became immediately clear that this was a chatty bunch in no need of beer to loosen our tongues. We crossed over the river on the 14th Street bridge and took the Mount Vernon Trail to the Four Mile Run Trail south of the airport. About a mile later we came upon a barrier forbidding our passage. This was literally as sign that this Hoppy 100 would go just about as smoothly as the first two. Uh oh.

 

Being very familiar with the trails in these parts, I routed us without delay across Four Mile Run via the US 1 bridge to a parrallel trail. After re-crossing the Run about a mile later (and encountering a man dancing rather erratically to his own jam in the middle of the bridge) we reconnected with the Four Mile Run Trail and sped hungrily to Shirlington. In Shirlington, we encounted a street festival of sorts but the assorted crafters and dog people were no match for our hunger and thirst. We met up with Kathy (@arlingtonrider) who conveniently lives in Shirlington and reserved brunch accomodations at Busboys and Poets. We were joined by Bob “Don’t Call Me Rachel” Cannon (@Rcannon100) and his wife Elizabeth. 

We ate and talked and talked and ate. Rachel, just back from a summer interning at a museum in Alaska, told many tales about the resourceful and eccentric residents of Haines. She is still adjusting to life in the lower 48, particularly when it comes to prices of food. She could be the only person I have ever heard say, “Food is so inexpensive in DC!!!” (When we first moved to DC, whenever we drove out of town, my wife and I would buy groceries there because food is so costly here.)

Stuffed and caffeinated, we headed out on the Washington and Old Dominion Trail. A light drizzle began to fall but we were not deterred. We knew that in just a few miles we would be tasting a fine pint of beer. Ahh.

Elizabeth bid us godspeed and with Bob in the fold we left the W&OD and began our ride through North Arlington. We rode up. And up. And up. And up.  There were a few downs in between but the ups won out. The crew did itself proud on the hills with Peter easily taking the King of the Mountains. (I suck at hills. How much do I suck? Rachel hadn’t ridden a bike in three months and she whupped my ass.) At Glebe Road, the high point of our time in Arlington, Kathy turned around and headed back to Shirlington.

After another mile of spining  we found ourselves looking down at a narrow switchback that gave way to a scary steep side street that took us to Chain Bridge. All this hill is missing is the slalom poles and some snow. We were but one brake failure from certain death. Rachel’s front brake was not working so we all stood by and cheered as she plunged to her doom.

I just made that up so that her parents would freak out. (She’s fine. Really. Just some surface wounds and a mild concussion.)

We made it safely to the bridge and across the Potomac River. The skies were gray and depressing. 

We took the unpaved C&O Canal Towpath to the Capital Crescent Trail. The CCT was our route up to Bethesda. Normally, the CCT is thick with exercisers but not on this misty, gray day. After some confusion in Bethesda Row, we found the unpaved Georgetown Branch Trail. The rain had turned the GBT into a slippery mess, and Little Nellie’s wee tires were not very happy skidding this way and that. Helpfully, the rain intensified a bit. 

In Silver Spring Maryland we went through a maze of streets until we found Denizen’s Brewery. It was 2 o’clock. Denizen’s didn’t open until 3. Fail.

Peter and Casey headed for their respective homes. The rest of us decided to ride on and, leading the way without a clue, I took a wrong turn. We stopped to regroup and the skies opened up. We huddled under an awning and comiserated, with the emphasis on miserated. We decided to ride a few blocks to the Fire Station restaurant and seek refuge from the deluge. 

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Note Rachel and Avery Are Freezing. We Were Wet and Sitting under a Ceiling Fan

The service was slow but they had beer. Yay. And hot soup. YAY! We ate and talked and checked the radar on our smartphones and talked etc. After 3, we decided to backtrack to Denizen’s where we found Peter hanging out with his wife and kids. They were on their way to get ice cream because nothing slays a gray, drizzly summer day like ice cream

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In Which We Learn that It’s Not Open

Except beer. The folks at  Denizen’s were exceptionally nice and so was their beer. We huddled in a non-air conditioned corner drying our outsides out and wetting our insides. I should point out that we only had a couple of drinks at each bar so we weren’t getting drunk. Except for Rachel who was useless after her 8th pint. (I totally made that up. Sorry Mr. and Mrs. Cannon.)

After an hour of hanging out, the rain turned into a light drizzle. Avery and Kevin-the-Second headed off to the Metro. Bob reversed course to head back to his home in North Arlington. John, Rachel, Kevin, and I headed back into DC. We decided to skip the last two breweries since the evening was nearly uponus. We took the Metropolitan Branch Trail. For about half it’s distance, the MBT is just some signs on streets. During this bit, Kevin U. veered off for home. Near Catholic University the MBT becomes and honest-to-Jesus bike trail. (Was the Pope in on this?)  It is gradually downhill, the rain had stopped, and we had a tailwind. Bike joy was had.

Rachel turned off to head for a dinner date with friends. John and I rode to the end of the trial and parted company. 

From there, I headed home. Once across the Potomac I was treated to an empty Mount Vernon Trail and a persistent tailwind. I arrived home just before nightfall with 70 miles on the odometer.

Many thanks to John Roche for designing the route and recruiting such a fine crew. 

Here are some more pix from the ride. 

A Sunday Ride with The Impermanent Resident

Did you know peripatetic is a noun? If you look it up, you’ll see a picture of my friend Florencia right next to it in the dictionary. Would I lie to you? 

Flor and I have been doing rides together since we met on the 50 States ride in 2007. It doesn’t seem possible that seven years have passed since we met. We were going to do it again this year, but she has a conflict. Boo. Her friend Emilia is riding for the first time and is a little worried that she won’t be able to handle the 50 States course. So Flor thought it would be a good idea to get us together for a little shakedown ride.

Florencia at the Watergate
Florencia at the Watergate

It was a nice Sunday morning so I decided to bypass the Mount Vernon Trail and ride Fort Hunt Road to the streets of Old Town and Potomac Yards in Alexandria, Crystal City in Arlington, and (according to the sign on the side of the road) the Pentagon reservation. (Apparently the Pentagon was one of the little known tribes of the pre-colonial days.) I met up with Flor at the Jefferson Memorial. Emilia was a no show. Sad face. Flor later told me that the two of them are doing a 120-mile two-day ride in the weeks ahead. I do believe Emilia will drop me after about 10 states.

Flor and I soldiered on. We rode the Halfvasa route from DC to Potomac Village and back. We managed to survive the onslaught of tourists on bikes and idiots looking for parking spaces on K Street in Georgetown. The Capital Crescent Trail had little traffic allowing us to settle into a nice groove. At Fletcher’s Boat House we cut over to Resevoir Road managing to avoid several toddlers who seemed determined to die by under our front wheels. 

The ride up reservoir was long and slow. For me. Flor didn’t seem to be working with the same gravitational field. We rendevoused at the top and proceeded side by side out MacArthur Boulevard chatting all the way. The hill near the reservoir made us work a bit but we cruised over the top and enjoyed the breezy downhill on the back side. 

Flor Is a Way Better Photographer than I
Flor Is a Way Better Photographer than I

MacArthur has no shoulders making it hard to ride side by side so we took to the side path and chattered away. Yoga, rolfing, vegetarian food, being a proud big sister, DC condo values, riding motorbikes in Thailand, and Montessori education. She has a lot going on. She also gave me an update on our pal Richard who rode the 50 States with us in 2011. It’s good to hear that he’s still the kind of person who never has a down day.

Along the way, Flor yelled, “DEER!” There, dead ahead. was a young deer grazing in the grass next to the road. As we approached the deer bolted, thankfully away from us, and joined two others in the roadside shadows. 

We reached the dreaded hill at the end of MacArthur and slowly, ever so slowly, made our way up. The chatter stopped. The work was honest. We made respectable time. After a brief stop to discuss our route, we headed down Falls Road to Potomac Village. 

We chilled in the shade, enjoying iced drinks and continued the conversation. Once we were talked out, we headed back to DC via the Avenel neighborhood of massive houses. “They’re just boxes holding stuff. Once you get enough stuff, it owns you.” Life according to Flor.

We made our way back to MacArthur. Since Flor lives in the city uphill from the river and the memorials, I thought it would make sense to cut through Georgetown instead of heading downhill to the river. And so we did. 

Once we crossed Rock Creek Park, Flor took over navigation. She knew the best route to her place. Just before we got there she asked if I wanted to go to Meridian Hill Park and hang out. And so we did. 

We sat in the sun and talked with Jeff, a friend of Flor whom I met at a happy hour last winter. We talked and listend to the drum circle drummers until the sun wore us down. Flor and I headed to our respective homes. She got the better of the deal by about 15 miles. Or maybe not. Riding down 16th Street to the White House followed by ten miles along the Potomac River is a mighty fine way to go.

Flor and I took some pix.

 

 

To the Park the Long Way

The idea was to go to Meridian Hill Park to hang out with my friend Florencia. Trouble was that we were meeting at 3 and I had a day to kill.

I decided to go for a bike ride. I’ll bet you saw that coming, didn’t you?

I took off aboard Big Nellie, my Tour Easy recumbent, heading north along the Mount Vernon Trail toward the city. The weather was perfect: warm, low humidity, a refreshing breeze, a puffy cloud interrupting the blue, blue sky. The trail was somewhat crowded but I made a reasonable pace. Now and then I came to a crawl waiting for a cluster of weekenders to step aside. Just north of Old Town Alexandria a car did a u-turn across the trail. (For some reason cars do this a lot when any point in the road would suffice.) At this point in the trail there are railroad tracks on the right. As I came to a near stop for the car, a cyclists came up behind me and passed me, crossing over the left rail in the process. The cyclists was a MAMIL, middle aged man in lycra. Actually, since he was clearly in his sixties, he probably qualified as an OMIL (the “O” being for “old”) but OMIL doesn’t quite roll of the tonque.

As the car left he began to cross back in front of me. I glanced to the left, saw his skinny front tire, and thought “He’s goin’ down in three, two, one…” BAM!  His tire caught along the rail and down he went directly in front of me. He didn’t roll or skid he just stick the landing on his shoulder, hip and knee.

MOAN. “Entirely my fault. My fault.” Must have been a RABIL (retired altar boy in lycra).

I came to a stop a couple of inches from his sad repose. Two sets of walkers came along. One guy said, “Don’t move, mate.” AMT! Aussie Medical Technician.

We waited for the OMIL to get himself together and watched as he sheepishly called the wife for transport home.

I rode on weaving in and out of the trail peeps. I stopped at Gravelley Park to use a green room and watch a plane take off then headed into the city on the 14th Street Bridge. I expected that the city streets would be congested with the Rolling Thunder Memorial Day event so I stayed along the river. Ohio Drive and Rock Creek and Potomac Parkway were both barricaded so I could ride in the street all the way to Georgetown.

After a brief dance with the cars underneath the Whitehurst Freeway I picked up the Capital Crescent Trail and headed to Bethesda. The trail was crowded as expected. Dodging the walkers, bladers, runners, and cyclists took my mind off the fact that the steering on Big Nellie was messed up. One second it felt like the front wheel was going to leave me behind, the next it felt like the wheel was tracking in a rut. I gave it a good looking over in Bethesda but I could see nothing wrong.

After eating a slice of pizza at Bethesda Bagels (their pizza is as good as their bagels and that’s saying something) I took the Georgetown Branch Trail to City Bikes in Chevy Chase.  There a mechanic (Travis, I think. I am awful with names) took Big Nellie for spin. He said the steering felt fine to him.

On I rode reaching the trestle over Rock Creek Park. I love the view from the treetops here.

Big Nellie on the Trestle

Since I had about two hours to kill at this point, I headed north on Beach Drive in Rock Creek Park. I hadn’t ridden this road in ages and it is a beautiful place to roll. I took a wrong turn but went with the flow and ended up climbing out of the park into Kensington MD. Once there I checked my map app and found my way back to Beach Drive. I took it north all the way to Garrett Park MD. There was method in my route. I figured that if my steering failed she could come and get me at our friends’ Rulon and Heather’s place in Garrett Park.

My steering didn’t fail so I did a uey and headed back toward DC.

Since I was now going slightly downhill my pace picked up. The sketchy steering made this a tense ride but I made it without problem. I stopped to refill my water bottles and headed out of the park up the gradual hill to the Mount Pleasant neighborhood. I kept pace with a woman on a road bike and thought that the new Speedplay Frog pedals made climbing infinitely easier.

Once I was our of the park I proceeded to get lost. I think this may be my greatest cycling skill.

I knew that all I needed to do was find 16th Street and I could find Meridian Hill Park so I focused on that task. In short order I was at the park. An old man was playing chess. Groups of people where picnicing on the grass. Bench sitters were people watching. Frisbees were being tossed. Dogs were being watched. A woman in a bridal gown carried yellow flowers as her soon to be husband stood along side in his suit.  The drum circle beat out a cacophonous rhythm.

Not a Bad Place for Wedding Pictures

I was a half hour early so I hung out alone and relaxed. After a while I spotted a woman wearing what looked like dark pink-ish tight pants. Flor? No way. I’ve never seen her in colors. So I hung out some more.

A little after three, I duck walked my bike around the park and soon pink tights lady stood up and waved. It was Flor after all. She promptly jumped aboard Big Nellie. Flor is small and Nellie is big so her ride lasted only a few yards. I think Flor secretly wants a recumbent. It would probably just fit in her efficiency condo. (Not.)

Flor on Big Nellie

More friends arrived. Food came out. Conversation ensued. Sun shine. Breezes blew. The slack liners did their thing a few feet away. Flor’s rock climbing friend Jonna showed up with a surprise. She was on the nest as they used to say in the moving picture shows. I guessed she was six months along but she is due in three weeks. Go girl!

We hung out for three hours and then it was time to hit the road so that I’d get home before night fall.

The ride down 16th Street was surprisingly devoid of motorcycle traffic. That didn’t make it any less interesting because Big Nellie’s steering was turning my downhill glide into an adventure.

I made it home without incident, 64 miles for the day. Along the way, Big Nellie’s odometer turned 36,000 miles. Maybe the steering is dying of old age.

So I declare the day a success. Perfect weather. Windy roads in Rock Creek Park. Friends and breezes in the park.

Now it’s time to take Big Nellie to the bike doctor for exploratory surgery.

Pix of the day are here.