An Iceberg Calved on My Head

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

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

Pedal, pedal.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, sky, cloud and outdoor

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

1235183797_038a5c2257_z

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

 

Pictures of the Year 2016

 

cropped-img_0149.jpg
Sunrise on the Mount Vernon Trail

When the sun and my work day cooperate, I stop and take in the sunset over the Potomac River. It rarely disappoints.

The Big Reveal
100,000 Miles

It took me 25 years but I managed to ride 100,000 miles since acquiring The Mule (bottom left) in 1991. In 2002 I bought Big Nellie, a Tour Easy recumbent (top left), and rode it exclusively for several years. In 2009 (or thereabouts) I bought my Bike Friday New World Tourist, a folding travel bike that I call Little Nellie (upper right). Last year I picked up Deets, a Surly Cross Check, that turns out to be a fantastic bike for commuting.

img_0283
Drink Up Cowboy (Colonoscopy Prep)

In October, amid a frenzy of bike event riding, I had a colonoscopy. It was my third. I am happy to report that there was no cancer detected. I’ll be back in 2019 for another. Drink up!

27127466460_c4196ab26e_m
Me in Front of Copenhagen Central Station Bike Racks

I went to Scandinavia with my wife and daughter. I didn’t ride a bike but I saw a few here and there. The cycling infrastructure is so much better than in the U.S. And the road users are all so well behaved. As my friend Finn Quinn once said: “The future is a foreign country.” We can only hope.

26552436583_5da8aef4b0_m
Beer Tent Volunteers at Tour de Fat

I volunteered at the Tour de Fat this year. I had fun despite not being completely recovered from my not so fun trip to the ER a week earlier. We were a well behaved bunch. The only beer we imbibed were the ones the organizers comped us for our efforts on their behalf.

26025108405_b7d0607a56_m
Friday Coffee Club

You may never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. You certainly won’t find it here because the building where this picture was taken is being renovated. Friday Coffee Club moved across town and, but for one appearance after Thanksgiving, I had to stop going. I miss these scoundrels.

25124970033_bdd5088f21_m
Michelle Smiles Even When She’s Freezing (Vasa Ride)

Speaking of scoundrels, for the last several years Michelle has been running bike events at the Washington Area Bicyclists Association (WABA). I am convinced that she is trying to kill me. It is widely rumored that she even controls the weather. I am so grateful for all the hard work Michelle (and the other folks at WABA and the volunteers) put in to make #bikedc better every year. (Michelle also has a serious interest in the Beats and Kerouac. Check out her blog.)

dscn5676
Amy at Great Pumpkin Ride

It was windy and coolish, but Amy was determined to do her first long event ride. This hill during the Great Pumpkin Ride near Warreton Virginia was mighty steep but Amy (with Jody behind her) managed it without apparent difficulty. The leaves on the road were produced by powerful winds that made the day quite a work out. The rest stop after this photo was at a Old Bust Head brewery.

wp-image-430941086jpg.jpeg
Sleeping Bear Dunes in Michigan

This picture doesn’t do justice to how steep these dunes are. And this is only about 1/2 of the height. The remaining elevation is obscured by the angle of my shot. Later that day the road I was on went up the dunes just to the south of this one. It made for some tough climbing into a persistent headwind. It was perhaps the physically hardest day of my 11-day solo bike tour. As hard as it was on my body, the tour was a feast of rolling meditation for my mind and soul.

img_20160707_125941.jpg
What Yoopers Eat (Bike Tour)

The people who live on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, the UP, are called Yoopers. They eat white fish and pasties (a kind of meat pie) and have their own candy bar. They (mostly) also talk like all the hockey players from Ontario that I roomed with during my freshman year at college. Eh?

27081573716_f8e80fc524_m
My Deck Buddy

I was hanging out on my deck one sunny day when I went to open my deck umbrella and found this critter. Cute.

26021255403_10305b1772_m - Copy
My Perch in Left Field

The left field grandstand was my perch for about 10 games at Nats Park this year. I became personal friends with Jason Werth. (That’s him in left field.) Okay, that’a s lie.Somewhere up there under the third light stanchion is Klarence keeping score. Hurry spring!

DSCN4804_1218
Darth Paul on the Five Boro Ride

That’s Paul on the left on FDR Drive on the east side of Manhattan. It is cold. It is raining. Paul is not smiling. He had so much fun. We stopped in Astoria, Queens, to stand around and freeze our asses off. Who knew that the Brooklyn Queens Expressway would be even more fun. I have now ridden my bike across the Verrazano Narrows and the Golden Gate. Woot!

IMG_0122
A Section of the AT

The Appalachian Trail is nice enough to come down to I-66 which made for a couple of convenient solo day hikes.

27906192426_f8ab97e3e5_m
Veronica Help Us Save a Duckling on the MVT

I found a duckling on the Mount Vernon Trail on the way to work one morning. Mr friend Linel stopped to help and we tried to figure out what do with it. Then Veronica showed up. She took the duckling to her office then to an animal rescue place. This is a decidedly better outcome that the two animal skeletons I saw last year. Just sayin’. Thanks, Veronica.

IMG_0031
Night in the ER

This is me getting a nebulizer treatment in the ER. A few hours earlier I couldn’t move without experiencing a knife-like pain in my upper right chest. (I blame yoga.) The doctors were pretty confident that it wasn’t a heart attack. I had a resting pulse of 46 and my blood pressure was normal. They did some tests and took some x-rays. Then they put this on me. I was recovered enough to do Bike to Work Day, volunteer at Tour de Fat, ride DC Bike Ride, and fly to Stockholm over the next nine days. Do not try this at home. Or anywhere else, for that matter.

Atypical Saturday

I went to Friday Coffee Club for the first time since March yesterday. Friday Coffee Club is a gathering a bike commuters in DC. Friday Coffee Club embodies why I love living in DC. It has so many interesting people from so many different walks of life. In it’s early days, a number of attendees were 20-s0mething women, some in grad school, some just getting started in the workaday world. Laura was one of them.

When I first met her, Laura was a working graphic artist. This led somehow to a job as a vice president at an Internet-based marketing firm. The grind ultimately left her ground down. Six months ago she threw in the towel on office life and made the rather brave jump to becoming a full-time artist.

Today she had some of her works on exhibit at Latela gallery in the Brookland Art Walk. Mrs. Rootchopper, our daughter, and I drove up to DC to check it out.

Laura – Infinitely more talented than your average Rootchopper

I haven’t seen Laura in many months but she, with her green highlighted hair, welcomed me with open arms. (Why didn’t I take a picture? I am a moron. The picture on the right is from her website.)

We talked about her work, how she has to balance her artistic muse with commercial concerns. Marketing. Websites. Balancing what formats sell with the cost of investing in materials and equipment. Being an artist is a lot more complicated than I realized.

Laura is obviously so talented. I don’t have the artist’s gene so I am in awe of anybody who can create like she can. More importantly, she seems pretty happy.

In addition to artworks she makes of her own choosing, Laura creates works on commission. Do you have a mute wall that needs to speak? Is a friend or family member getting married or moving into a new place? Check out Laura’s website for details.

 

Return to Friday Coffee Club

I haven’t been to Friday Coffee Club since it moved from Swings House of Caffeine near the White House to A Baked Joint on the eastern side of downtown last March. Depsite the fact that most #bikedc folks are out of town, Ted announced that he was going to Friday Coffee Club when ABJ opened at 9 am. Ricky soon through his helmet into the ring. I decided that if I woke up early enough, I’d enter the fray.

I woke up at 5:45.

Jeez.

I hopped on Big Nellie and headed to DC riding most of my commute route on my day off. It took me about 1:15 to get there. I was thankful that traffic was very light. This may have been because nearly every one in town appeared to be line up outside the new Museum of African American History on the mall.

I swooped and wiggled my way through downtown.

Ricky was already inside. Soon Ted and Jean (knitting a wool sock) showed up. Then Ed and Mary, Reba and Robert, Sam and Jeff, and Joe and Kathy. Not a bad crowd considering it was black Friday. It was a good mix of people and the conversation was just as lively as I remembered it. I am glad I went. And, in fact, I stayed for a good 2 hours before leaving and following Reba and Robert on a meander through downtown to get to the 14th Street Bridge. Traffic was Sunday-ish.

We made it to the Mount Vernon Trail and headed south while R&R headed north. The ride home was rote but the trail was empty. The betting was heavy and Stewball was there. No wait….my brain must be having an day off too.

And so I managed to get some exercise, see some old friends, and avoid the velociraptors.

Success.

 

 

Bittersweet Friday

Today was a bittersweet Friday.

I had a two-tailwind commute. That’s pretty sweet.

In the morning, I rode past the Tidal Basin with the cherry trees in peak bloom and there were hardly any tourists. (I think the forecast of rain that held off until later scared people away.) That’s pretty sweet.

In the evening, I rode through a tunnel of blossoms to Hains Point and back. That’s pretty sweet.

I arrived at Friday Coffee Club and it was packed. Everybody seemed to be in a good mood. That’s pretty sweet.

And it was my last one. That’s a bitter cup of joe.

Friday Coffee Club started a little over four years ago as a get together with five bike commuting friends: Ed, Mary, Brian, Lane, and Lisa. Soon, like me, others joined. Ages ranged from one to 62. (I’ll never tell.) It became a thing. I became fascinated with the almost bizarre diversity of the crowd. Journalists, writers, editors, economists, lawyers, IT professionals, college administrators, grad students, librarians, Congressional staffers, candidates for public office, chemists (okay, just one), world travelers, randonneurs, marathon runners, bike shop owners, musicians, engineers, and on and on. If you couldn’t find someone interesting to talk with, you were probably dead from the neck up.

I heard about people visiting places like Afghanistan and McMurdo Station at the South Pole.  How often do you have coffee with someone who argued a case before the Supreme Court the day before?  It was at Friday Coffee Club I learned about how you deal with seasickness when scuba diving. (Don’t ask.) The last time I read Green Eggs and Ham was at Friday Coffee Club.

Maybe what has been even more interesting is how nice these people are.

Okay, everyone except Brian.

Just kidding.

M.E. Swings at 17th and G Streets Northwest has been the home of Friday Coffee Club since its inception. The Swings building is being renovated and Swings will close for 14 months. A new venue called A Baked Joint has been chosen. It’s on the far side of downtown which makes it too far from my office to attend.

Friday’s are going to be tough.

 

In the Swing with the Errandonnee

It was Friday. So I rode to Friday Coffee Club. It was warm so the clubbers were outside. The place was mobbed. At the end of the month, Swings House of Caffeine, the only home Friday Coffee Club has ever known, is closing for a year while the building is being renovated. The temporary interim site is a bit too far afield for me.  So my days of going to Friday Coffee Club are numbered.

Errand #1025397285380_7eca9b5bf2_m

Category: Social

Miles: 32

Observation: Friday Coffee Club has been such as success that I don’t know half the people who go these days. And it is so crowded that I often don’t get a chance to talk to the people I do know. What a complainer. I think I need a cup of coffee.

IWBTWD – Catchy, no?

Today was International Winter Bike to Work Day. I think it’s really for some sort of demented  bragging rights. Also for stupidly long hashtagging. Actually, it’s International Northern Hemisphere Winter Bike to Work Day because what’s the point of bragging about riding to work in Perth when it’s 80 degrees outside.

Yesterday was a telework day. The only bike related thing I did all day was to attend a 24966240255_e9de876daa_mWABA happy hour. This was 2 miles from my office which would have been easy to ride to had I not been teleworking. I drove instead because there isn’t a whole lot happy about riding a bike 17 miles in the freezing cold, having a beer, and riding the bike 17 miles in the freezing colder. Bike to happy hour is best done in the summer when you can have a beer outdoors while Colin Powell poses for a picture nearby.
24349241193_d3430eb2c2_m

This morning the thermometer read 22. I was prepared to wear tights under my bike shorts under my rain pants. The lack of wind convinced me to downgrade the tights to wicking briefs (that is underpants made of non-cotton farbic). In a mile I knew I had nailed my winter biking attire. I was perfectly comfortable all the way to Friday Coffee Club. Along the way I stopped to admire the heavenly smile of daybreak at Dyke Marsh.

I was intent on getting to Coffee Club with time enough to enjoy myself. I rode as fast as my three layers of clothing with hiking boots and 25 pounds of pannier stuff would allow. I focused on my pedaling and breathing which pretty much put me in the trance mode for several miles.

Along the way my front wheel acted up. Every time I hit my front brake, the brake would bite the rim once during each wheel revolution. I couldn’t find a bump in the rim but this was not a good development.

I made it by 8:05 and could take my time conversing. Felkerino managed to inadvertently flip a saucer into the air where it knocked over my water glass sending ice water onto my head gear. It was a stunt that would have made Rube Goldberg proud. My buff – which covers my face in winter – was wet but I managed to get everything else out of harm’s way. Need less to say, the two mile, buffless ride to the office was eye opening.

During the day I managed to dry my buff (now doesn’t that sound interesting?) so I was all set to ride home. The ride home featured a headwind which was a bit annoying. My brake problem was not annoying because it had disappeared. Also not annoying was the fact that I rode more than halfway home without turning my headlight on.

Hurry spring.

 

 

 

 

It’s a Wonderful Cake

The day began with a bike commute into DC for Friday Coffee Club. Today we celebrated its fourth anniversary.  The founding members were three randonneurs Ed (a.k.a. Felkerino, Mr. Mary) and Mary (a.k.a. Coffeeneur, Gypsybug, Mrs. Ed), and Lane (currently in an undisclosed location), along with Brian (DBA Gear Prudence), and Lisa (with whom I’ve done many, many rides). I knew Ed and Mary through Flickr but Mary got me onto Twitter and from there to Friday Coffee Club sometime in late winter/early spring of 2012.

Swings House of Caffeine (at 17th and G Streets NW) is the scene of the crime. On Fridays the place is packed with bike commuters. The promise of cake made for a big turnout today. I had a cake biopsy as Ed was conserving the remnants of the once mighty cake for late arrivals. I suppose we can call this Felkerino’s birthday cake dichotomy.

I didn’t get to talk to half the people there including a newcomer. I am getting worse and worse at greeting newcomers which is disappointing. When I first started to go, I fought my introversion and made it a point to introduce myself.  Probably doesn’t matter; I’d forget their name anyway.

Late last night I was invited to a happy hour that began at 4:30 on Capitol Hill. Too early for me. Around noon, I was invited to another happy hour at 5:30 in Northeast. (Can’t we spread all this socializing out a bit people?) I really wanted to go to this one to congratulate a friend, who I will call Clarence. Clarence recently passed an important professional exam. The idea of riding across town at rush hour, then hanging out in the city and then riding 15 miles home in the cold and dark was not appealing. I thought I could ride home, grab dinner, then drive into the city, but I left work late, totally screwing up the timing. So I made my apologies to Clarence. She told me to have a safe ride home.

(On the way home two things happened that were disturbing. First, I passed workers setting up a boom to contain oil that had been spilled somehow into the Potom24840585465_66664cdc2d_mac River It’s a mystery how the spill occurred but it is already affecting waterfowl. About eight miles later on a dark section of the trail I nearly took out a ninja. The man was walking toward me on the left side of the trail, my side. He appeared in the edges of my headlight’s circle of light. I went to pass on the left, he stepped left. I went right. He went right. I nearly stopped as he hopped off the trail. “Excuse me,” he said without a hint of sarcasm. I stifled a “What the fuck are your DOING?!!!” and continued on my way. Damned good thing I didn’t have anything to drink.)

I owe you one, Clarence. (Again.) Maybe a mulled wine, heavy on the cinnamon and light on the cloves.

So proud of you.

 

 

 

 

 

Beautiful Ride – Ugly Reality

The day began with crisp fall air. I was ready for it as I pit on my vest, arm warmers, and head band. Dressed perfectly, I headed north on the Mount Vernon Trail bound for DC and Friday Coffee Club. The ride in went so smoothly that as I rode onto the 14th Street Bridge over the Potomac River I had that strange how-did-I-get-here sensation. A tailwind and fresh legs (I drove to work yesterday) probably helped.

Coffee Club was crowded. It was good to see some faces that I haven’t seen in over a month. This definitely eased my recent feeling of social ennui.

I rode to work on the narrow side path on the Teddy Roosevelt Bridge. I stop for DC-bound cyclists because there just isn’t enough room to pass on the fly. One of them asked me if the bridge was one-way. He was new to DC and he couldn’t believe the trail was so narrow. I assured him it wasn’t. Welcome to the land of improving bicycling infrastructure.

I left work and head for home, once again assisted by a trail wind. It was a similar vibe to the morning. No discernible effort involved. I barely broke a sweat. My delight in this wonderful autumn commute came to an end. I stopped to take a picture of this sign posted next to the trail north of Old Town Alexandria just after the Slaters Lane turn off.

21608175353_450b7c6fd4_z

It’s a sad reality to the women of this area that enjoying area trails comes with this risk.

Not 100 feet after starting up again I was passed by an on-coming woman running. She had earbuds in her ears.

Every safety expert I know warns against doing this. I know it sucks and it’s unfair but you are responsible for your own safety. Whether you are trying to avoid a potential human assailant or a garbage truck you need to hear what’s going on around you.

Speech over.

The rest of the ride was thankfully peaceful. For me at least.

Be careful out there.

Stubborn Denial

I don’t know who to blame but the weather today looked springlike but felt like winter. The wind was blowing. It was about 20 degrees below normal. And I, of course, was in denial. I stupidly left the house underdressed for the cold and froze my ass off riding to Friday Coffee Club. I I did manage to see one bald eagle on the way but this bird had its back to me as it was taking in the early morning sun. He was probably thinking: “I will not look at a fool.”

Since the calendar says April 24, the Friday Coffee Club gang sat outside in the shade. I was tempted to pour my coffee over my head but I drank it instead. I endured the cold for about 45 minutes before jumping on my bike and riding into the teeth of a now-stronger wind as I made my way up G Street through George Washington University. This is no fun, thought I.

I thought things would improve once I cleared the wind tunnel formed by the buildings of Foggy Bottom. Wrong. It got worse. Much worse. The headwind turned into a side wind as I cross the Potomac on the too narrow side path on the Teddy Roosevelt bridge. The damned wind nearly knocked me over several times. Ayyy!  I don’t know if the little wheels on Little Nellie were contributing to my wobbliness. (Yes, that’s a word because I just used it.)

My the time I reached the Virginia side of the river, the right side of my face was numb. Memo to God: this is April! Please hit the reset button. K? Thx.

Maybe God’s in denial. Maybe he or she is just stubborn.