Spring, Kindness, and Shackelton’s Great Grand Daughter

Robin Rides to Work

As it gets warmer and lighter, we begin to see signs of spring. Today I saw my first new bike commuter. I’ll call her “Robin.”

There is a short connector trail that links the Custis Trail along I-66 with the Mount Vernon Trail along the Potomac River. The connector trail starts/ends at the Intersection of Doom. Along side the trail is a little used service road that goes basically nowhere. It is often confused with the connector trail.

As I reached the IoD traffic light on the connector trail, I spotted Robin coming from the Key Bridge toward the IoD. She looked confused and started to turn down the service road. We made eye contact and I shook my head “no.”  Then I motioned with my head “this way.” (My hands were busy braking.) She immediately got the point and veered off the service road. As she rode past me she said, “Thanks. It’s my first bike commute.” Based on her gear – bike with rack and panniers – she was not an inexperienced rider; she was just new to commuting in DC. She would have figured out her mistake so I saved her all of 20 seconds. Nevertheless it felt good to help a fellow traveler.

So here’s a reminder to all #bikedc commuter. Spring is almost here and, with it, many Robins. It doesn’t take much to help them out. Maybe just a nod or a shake of the head. Give them directions or offer to lead the way. Invite them to one of the scads of bike commuter coffee get-togethers. Tell them about upcoming local events like the Vasa Ride.

Be Kind to Clueless Touroids

And while I am on the subject of being kind, we are just a few weeks away from the massive influx of tourists. Tourists in DC think they know where they are and what they are doing because they see DC on TV every night. The truth is most of them are clueless. Be kind to them. (Yes, I admit I lose my cool with five abreast cherry blossom tourists on the trails. I will try to be more patient this year.) Be especially kind to the ones from far away lands, particularly those who do not speak English. If you’ve ever been disoriented in a place far away, you know how frustrating and scary it can be. The people you help will long remember what you did for them.

Enduring Rosslyn

Later in the morning I had to go to CVS for some things. I decided not to bother with a sweater or jacket since it’s only a block away and 45 degrees is tolerable in shirt sleeves. I was totally comfortable. I spotted a woman walking toward me in a cross walk. She had on a heavy winter coat, oversized sunglasses, and big ear muffs. I stifled a laugh and wondered if her last name was Shackleton. Then I realized she was a friend of a friend, the kind you know of but don’t actually know. Derp. I guess it’s not spring for everyone yet.

 

From Arte Johnson to Tater Tots in 39 Miles

Those of you old enough to know who Arte Johnson is know that he made famous a couple of bits of schtick. One was a lecherous old man who mumbles and grunts at Ruth Buzzi’s old lady in a hairnet until she whacks him with her purse. The other was of a man on child’s tricycle riding until he falls over sideways.

I pulled Big Nellie, my Tour Easy recumbent, out for the first time in over two months. I planned on looking at colorful leaves and the upright seating position on this bike is just the thing I needed for maximum enjoyment. Sadly, peak foliage around her is at least a week away. (This is great news for those of us who will be riding the Great Pumpkin Ride in Warrenton VA next week, however.) Of course, if I wanted to see foliage, I should have gotten out of bed and driven to the Blue Ridge. But I slept in.

Big Nellie is my only bike with clipless pedals, the kind that attached to the bottom of your shoe. I anticipated that this might be a problem and I wasn’t disappointed. After dodging 4,397 runners, walkers, cyclists, and escaped convicts on the Mount Vernon Trail, I made my way down Union Street in Old Town Alexandria. I had made it half way through the tourist zone near King Street when I came upon a Mazda stopped in front of me at a stop sign. I rolled slowly up to it. It didn’t move. Nobody was in its way. It just didn’t move.

As I came up to its bumper I realized I was going to have to stop. I went to unclip and nothing happened. My left foot wouldn’t release. So I veered to the right of the car as I frantically twisted my foot to no avail. I lost my forward momentum and started falling to the left. I reached out to brace myself on the Mazda’s back left fender. Then it moved and I completed my Arte Johnson and landed on my side on the pavement.

My recumbent seat is only a couple of feet off the ground to begin with. Breaking my fall by contacting the Mazda made the normally uneventful fall even less so. Yet I was still lying on my side in the middle of the street with this ginormous bike attached to me.

A Latina pedestrian came over to help. She was saying something in frantic, accented English but I couldn’t understand her. During the fall, my left foot unclipped but my right foot stayed attached. As she was speaking, I was twisting my right foot and hoping it would release so I could get my body out of the street.

The driver and the passengers in popped out of the car in a panic. ARE YOU OKAY? No, I have a really bruised ego! An my foot is stuck!

A cyclists with gray hair flowing out from under his helmet appeared. Her grabbed my right arm to pull me up. No. Please. I am fine. I just feel like a complete dweeb lying in the street with this chaise lounge attached to my right foot.

Finally, my right foot released and I stood up. Latina smiled. Gray hair bike rider looked relieved. Mazda people got back in car free from the fear that they had somehow contributed to the clumsiest cycling accident of the month. (As I write this four hours later, only my left knee feels any pain. Mostly from getting whacked by the bike’s top tube as I twisted my right leg to free it.)

Well, if any of the people who were there are reading this, thanks for your concern.

I continued riding up the trail of a million weekend warriors until I reached Teddy

Teddy

Roosevelt Island. I ride by TR Island every day on my way to work, but the last time I set foot on it was at least 20 years ago.

 

I locked the bike and went for a calming walk on its dirt trails. The island is an oasis of green in the Potomac River only a few hundred yards from the Sunday brunchers on the riverfront in Georgetown. It would be an incredibly relaxing place but the noise from airplanes flying into National Airport and the cars rumbling across the Teddy Roosevelt Bridge ruined the ambiance.

Teddy Trail

Before leaving I did an Interwebs search for pizza. I was hungry. There’s an Italian place right next to the Custis Trail about 2 miles away. It’s called The Italian Place. Damned clever if you ask me. So I rode up the long hill out to Rosslyn then up some more until the universe decided I had had enough. After a half mile down hill run, I came to the place. They should change its name to The Place with the Incredibly Long Line. I was took a number. 87. Then I heard them call “47!” I walked out.

I continued on the trail up/down/up/down/up/down etc. Until I came to a flat stretch. Lance Mamilot came riding past from the other direction. He blew a snot rocket to his right. Then just as I reached him he blew one to his left. What an asshole! I got a misty spray of his nasal excretions on my left leg. Ewwww!

At the W&OD Trail I headed back toward home. Nineteen miles down, only 17 miles to go. I decided to leave the trail at US 1 and work my way through the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria. I stopped at Del Ray Pizzeria. I was going to get t

Burp

hat pizza after all. Sadly, they don’t serve individual slices. This was almost as upsetting as the snot rocket and the Arte Johnson. I had a cheese steak instead.  It was humongous. I looked great but did not live up to its visual wonderfulness. It was probably a good cheese steak as cheese steaks go, but I am not much of a cheese steak person. Nick Hornby once remarked that there are well written books that are poorly read. Perhaps this was a good cheese steak that was poorly tasted.

In any case, the cheese steak came with tater tots. Tater tots cure everything. I’ll bet that if Arte Johnson ate tater tots, he’d have stayed upright.

 

 

 

And They’re Off

Today was the first bike commute of the year. Yay, me. I rode in after sunrise because I waited for my daughter to leave for the airport before starting out. I was rewarded with a big hug and a relentless headwind. The hug lasted 10 seconds, the headwind lasted 14 1/2 miles.

At lunchtime I went out with some co-workers which is something I rarely do. We went to a Thai restaurant. The last time ate Thai food was 1980. I kid you not. The 1980 Thai food was fire in my mouth. Today’s was much tamer. It was good but it didn’t stick to my ribs.

One the way to the Thai restaurant a co-worker pointed out a garage with a historical marker. It’s where Bob Woodward met “Deep Throat” during the Watergate scandal. This marker is within 100 yards of a marker commemorating the begining of the ARPA net, the precursor to the Internet. Who would have thought that lousy Rosslyn is the home of two incredibly important events in recent history?

IMG_0438

During the day a friend announced that she is going on a vacation for a couple of weeks. She doesn’t currently have a job.  Hmmmmm…….

When I left work there was still some daylight. Yesss!

Then I got to the Custis trail and it had been sprayed with de-icer.  Way to go Arlington County!! Of course, when I got to the Mount Vernon Trail it was untreated because it is under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service. Boo, NPS!!

The ride home was a breeze. Literally. The morning’s headwind was now at my back and the riding was effortless. Passing over Four Mile Run I noticed that Arlington County had treated the Four Mile Run Trail too. Yay, again.

Tomorrow we expect the first snow fall of the season. As luck would have it I have an appointment with my acupuncturist so I am driving to work. Barring a medical miracle it will be the last. The treatments are having no effect at all. Even my arm is starting to hurt again.

And Wednesday promises to be brutally cold. I am going to miss the fun of bike commuting because I need my car to get to an early evening event in McLean.

I plan to be back in the saddle (if the Mount Vernon Trail is clear) on Thursday.

The Haute Dog 100

Lisa is a busy person, multitalented and goal oriented. After riding 137.28 miles last month she decided it was time to ride a century, 100 miles in one day. Gradualism is not one of her strong points.

Lisa recruited some #bikedc friends, Ryan, Justin, Ted, and me) to ride from DC to Purcelville on the W&OD Trail. Once in Purcelville our plan was to have liunch at Haute Dogs and Fries.

The ride was set for Saturday July 5 at 7 a.m. We would be at the intersection of the Custis and W&OD trauls in North Arlington. Since this is 15 or 16 miles from my house this meant getting up at 5 a.m. Fortunately, we all agreed that 8 a.m. was as early as anyone could tolerate so 8 a.m. it was.

After waking up and daundling I left the house ten minutes late. I chose to ride Big Nellie. my Tour Easy recumbent, to save my back. I rode as fast as I could to the start stoppoing every 15 minutes to adjust my front fender. The fender stay was rubbing against the side of the ture making an annoying buzzing sound. (On the fourth try I realized that the screw holding the stay was loose. One tunr with a screw driver and peace and tranquility returned.

I arrived at the starting point to see Ted and Ryan. Ted was actually shivering. It was in the 60s. I opted for a long sleeve shirt but Ted was wearing a sleeveless shirt and paying for his miscalculation. Justin showed up. Also sleeveless. What did they thing it was July or something?

Lisa rolled in about 8:40. We decided not to kill her.

Off we went on the ever so gradual uphill ride to Purcelville. As we got underway, we spread out. I found that Big Nellie was in the mood to roll so I was going faster than my usual 12 mile per hour trance speed.

In Vienna we stopped for coffee and pastries. My bagel was filled with EPO, Once we got underway, Justin and I were rolling along in the high teens. A MAMIL in a Discover jersey rode by somehat agressively. Justin and I were letting him pull us all the way to Reston where we waiting for the Ryan, Ted and Lisa.

We kept rolling along in one configuration or another, stopping in Herndon and Lessburg. Then we made the final push for Purcelville. The W&OD gets slightly steeper for its final 10 miles. The leafy canopy shading the trail offer a welcome break from the bright sunshine. The uphill grade, however, is a bit of a morale buster. As Ted, Ryan, and Justin sped away, I hung back wondering what happened to Lisa.

She had Fourth of July legs. She was pedaling away but the bike gods were denying her speed.

She made it to the end of the trail with a smile on her face which is pretty much the point of the exercise.

A passerby took my camera and had us pose for a series of photos under the Purcelville sign at the restored train station.

Lisa and the Boys
Lisa and the Boys

Then we rolled through town to Haute Dogs where we made short work of an array of hot dogs. I had the Fenway Dog because it is made exactly the way I make a hot dog at home. I also drank mass quantities of Coke which topped off my sugar and caffeine stores.

Nom Nom Nom
Nom Nom Nom

After a brief visit to a nifty bike and coffee shop we headed back to the trail. Justin, Ted, and Ryan led the way. Lisa decided to save her legs and glided (glid? glud?) as much as the grade and tailwind would allow. I stayed with her and,at one point, actually rode two miles without pedaling. I could have done more but for some congestion on the trail.

We met up with the three amigos at Leesburg. Ted, Ryan, and Justin all had to speed away to family obligations so Lisa and I rode the long trail back to North Arlington. We stopped for drinks, bannas, and ice cream along the way. (We also passed two breweries who had signs on the trail. I’ll have to come back for a taste some other time.)

Lisa took the Custis trail into town and I headed down the rest of the W&OD to the Mount Vernon Trail. I rolled into the driveway after 111 miles. I decided not to have a shower beer so as not to be a bad influence on my impressionable children: one of whom made mojitos for our guests on the Fourth, the other was drinking beer while watching the Red Sox/Orioles game from atop the green monster in Fenway Park. (If a parent sets an example and nobody sees, does the tree make a noise?)

Thanks to Lisa for setting this up. Her account of the festivities is here. My pix are here.

Driving Little Nellie

Yesterday, while doing day two of yoga, I felt my back pop. It felt like one of my vertebrae went back into place. It felt pretty good. After my back surgery and eight weeks of misery many years ago, I was lying on the floor and each one of my vertebrae clicked into place. It had never happened before and hasn’t happened since. It was a totally surreal and relaxing moment. So having just one pop was a nice reminder. 

Today was yoga day number three. My flexibility is still pretty sad. During one exercise my neck started making crunchy noises as I turned my head. A little oil, please Dorothy.

Instead of riding to work, I put Little Nellie, my Bike Friday, in the trunk of our 2004 Accord and drove it to a dealer in North Arlington for some TLC. I was a bit worried about lifting the bike and getting it in and out of the trunk but my back tolerated it just fine. The second test was riding the 3+ miles to my office on the Custis Trail. Bike Friday’s are tough on the back. My back didn’t mind at all. In fact, it felt pretty darn good.

My back did stiffen slightly during the afternoon but loosened up when I walked around a bit. The ride back to the dealer featured a nasty headwind and the big hill out of Rosslyn on the Custis but my back was okay.

When I got home, I pulled Little Nellie out of the trunk of the car. The chain got all discombobulated from folding the bike. I wrestled with the bike to free the chain from where it had gotten hung up between the chainrings and a folding joint. This all should have hurt my back but I didn’t even get a twinge. 

My back finally went on protest after dinner. Sitting in the hard chairs in the kitchen seem to really aggravate my lower spine. A little walking around loosened things up again.

I seem to be getting better at last. The question is the yoga helping or would I have gotten better anyway. 

Tomorrow is yet another test: a full 29+ mile commute in the cold. 

No guts, no glory.

Coffeeneuring Number 2: Metric Coffee Ride

Something odd is happening. For the last two months, despite riding Big Nellie, my Tour Easy recumbent, almost every day, I haven’t been able to get the bike moving satisfactorily. Every ride has been a frustrating struggle. Yesterday that changed. Riding my recumbent was effortless. After 51 miles I wanted to ride a lot more.

So, today I did. And the riding was even better. With temps in the high 80s, you cannot complain about the weather. It took me a while to get started though. I spent the first half hour of my ride doing maintenance on The Mule, my 20-year-old Specialized Sequoia. I put a 700×35 tire on the front to match the width of my new back tire. Then I took it for a quick test ride. The Mule likes wider tires. No doubt about it. My test ride did surface a problem: really squeaky rear brakes. So I fiddled with them for a few minutes.

Once General Bike Hospital was over with, Big Nellie and I hit the road. We cruised through some neighborhood streets before hooking up with the Mount Vernon Trail near the stone bridge. I had a noticeable tailwind so I knew that the easy of riding was not all my doing.

In about an hour, I pulled into Saint Elmo’s Coffee Pub in Del Ray for my second Coffeeneuring stop. The coffee was much better than yesterday’s and the blueberry and banana muffin was moist and tasty. I brought a book with me so I could linger over my brew.

I was still hungry so I dropped into the Dairy Godmother, an ice cream store two doors down from St. Elmo’s. I had one of their root beer floats. Ahhhh. Perfection!

Root beer floats should be allowed in the Coffeeneuring Challenge. Root beer is brewed, right?
Root beer floats should be allowed in the Coffeeneuring Challenge. Root beer is brewed, right?

Now that my diet had been shot to hell, I hit the road in earnest. In about two miles I was heading west on the Four Mile Run trail heading for the W&OD trail. I took that to the Custis trail and headed back toward DC along I 66. Just I was getting my kicks, I turned off the trail and worked my way through hilly North Arlington. My destination was Glebe Road which drops like a ski slope down to the Potomac River. Big Nellie loves street luge. Weeee!!!!

Once down the hill I headed northwest on the C&O Canal towpath. Big Nellie’s long wheel base does a wonderful job of absorbing the bumps which are pretty much continuous. I was bombing along at 15 miles per hour passing mountain bikers who must have been wondering how such a strange bike could handle the rough trail.

At Great Falls Park I turned off the trail and rode up a long, long hill. Unlike my experience at the Backroads Century the hills didn’t much bother me. At the top of the hill I mashed on the pedals. I could hear the rear tire digging into the pavement. Down the other side we went. I love doing downhills on my bent. It would have been epic had a car with a kayak on its roof not pulled out in front of me from a parking lot at the bottom of the luge run.

The ride back along MacArthur Boulevard was into the wind, but I didn’t much notice. I was cruising along at 15 miles per hour – about three miles per hour above my commuting speed – with very little effort. I turned off MacArthur and rode Reservoir Road and some alphabet streets across Georgetown.  The streets were rather quiet so I rode down 17th Street straight to the Tidal Basin. I caught a bunch of lights and zipped across the Kutz Bridge, normally a nail biter of ride.

I was across the 14th Street bridge in no time and headed into the wind on the MVT going 17 miles per hour. The sun was setting and it seemed to be doing so rather quickly. I was wearing sunglasses so I knew I’d have to stop soon to switch to my regular glasses. I was having such a blast riding that I didn’t stop until Old Town Alexandria 3 1/2 miles later. There I put my light on my helmet and activated my red blinky lights.

The helmet light did a fine job of illuminating all the bike riders without lights heading my way on the dark section of the MVT south of Old Town. The light also helped give me some early warning about the clouds of gnats hanging intermittently over the trail.

I arrived home in the dark after 64 miles. Unlike yesterday, I actually felt somewhat tired. I definitely could have ridden more though.

I really think it’s unfair for my cycling fitness to peak just as the cold weather comes around. If the furlough continues, maybe I should just ride to Cuba. I’ll bet Raul could use a cycling economist. He might even find me essential.