Rest? Moi?

After taking the first day of the month off, I managed to mash 204 miles in six days, ending with yesterday’s 63 miles of cold, hilly Vasanneuring. So I decided to take a rest day today.

By 11 a.m. I was going stir crazy so I jumped into the car and drove to Great Falls Park in Maryland for a recovery hike. As soon as I got out of the car, I could tell this was not going to be restful.

I took off up the canal towpath to the far end of the River Trail. This hike is about 2 miles round trip and totally flat. Just the thing for my tired knees and back. Along the way I did the runners calf stretch against a tree or two. This somehow loosens my back up.

Next I walked to the Olmstead Island Overlook located right in the middle of the river at the fall line. The Potomac was raging today in Mather Gorge. The sound of the rushing water was a tonic.

Once back to the canal, I decided to give a longer, hillier walk a go. I took off up the Gold Mine Spur Trail. I was intending to hike the Gold Mine Loop Trail but when I got to a fork in the road I Yogi-ed it.

My turn to the right took me back toward the canal. At one spot I had a nice high view of the gorge. I made my way back down to the canal via the Lock 19 spur trail. By the time I arrived at the car, I felt like the Tin Man in need of a joint lube.

I had walked over five miles. It was time to head home. Of course, this meant that I had to drive by the gym. Why not stop to lift some weights? So I did.

I feel all rested now.

Or not.

 

 

 

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Billy Goating at Winter’s End

The low 40F Degree temperatures and the cooling breeze and clouds did not exactly call to my bikey brain today. Off I drove (yes, I have a car) to the gym to push and pull on the machines. The machines won.

Then it was off to Great Falls National Park in Maryland. I pulled into the Carderock area that is located about 2 miles outside the Beltway. The access road passes beneath the C&O Canal and towpath. After parking and getting myself all arranged with layers and hat and Buff and backpack full of water bottles, I set off the Billy Goat C trail, clockwise toward the river. I was walking upriver and the breeze was in my face. It took about a half mile to warm up. My legs had bounce in them and I was cruising along, resisting the urge to break into a trot. Slow. Down.

There were no leaves on the trees, so the place looked rather stark. I had good views of the river and they didn’t disappoint. After about a mile, the path looped back to the towpath. I headed further upriver on the towpath.

The canal in some sections has water. I noticed some tall reeds near my side of the waterway. Inside the grass was a great blue heron shopping for lunch. A few hundred yards later I could hear the quacking of a duck. The duck was with about sever others, paddling about near the far side of the canal. I saw something move in the tall grass on the canal’s far bank. It was a fox, stalking the ducks. No worries. They kept themselves out of paw’s reach.

The sky was full of bird’s chirping. A massive flock of birds filled the trees beyond the canal. Suddenly, they became quiet and flew of in a cloud of winged mayhem. Seconds later they landed in some trees no more than a hundred yards from where they started. The racket began anew. Birdbrains.

I kept walking past the sign for the Billy Goat B trail. I was taking the canal to the western entrance so I could loop back along the river. Like the C trail and the towpath, the B trail was practically deserted. I was also fortunate that it was dry. The towpath, which is flat and has poor drainage, had some muddy sections.

Back along the river, wind at my back, I cruised along. My legs were still fresh but my decrepit lower back was not on board for the fun. Fortunately, I came upon some big rocks on the river’s edge. I sat down and pulled out a water bottle. The water was rushing over some rocks about 50 yards into the river. Once my breath calmed, I listened.

Is there anything more relaxing than the sound of rushing water?

I listened.

The cool breeze tried to distract me. It failed.

I listened.

After perhaps 15 minutes, I decided to get up before I fell asleep. If it had been 10 degrees warmer, I’d be curled up in a ball snoring.

It took a few minutes to get myself back into an ambulatory mood. Rock scrambles, none too difficult for an old dude with balance issues, persuaded me to get with the program.

I made it across a small stream. Most people would dance across on the rocks but my body seems to prefer stumbling.

Soon I was turning back to the towpath up two quick rises. With the wind at my back, I hiked the towpath beyond where I had parked my car to pick up the C trail. The trail took me back to the river and eventually, to the car.

My legs felt fine. My lower back was bitching up a storm. I didn’t care. My head felt great.

So my first hike, a six-miler, of the new year was over. A productive use to a cold and gray afternoon.

Top Ten List for 2017

For a year that started out rather boring, 2017 did a fine job of recovering. In no particular order, here’s my top ten.

  1. Hey Bulldog – Daughter Lily grabbed her diploma with departmental honors from Butler University. The way she maxed out her college years put me to shame.
    • An entire junior year abroad split between Sydney, Australia and Stockholm, Sweden.
    • A double major and a minor, taking classes in the summer to make it all work.
    • An internship in the county DA’s office, working on student government, making community service trips out of spring breaks, and displaying infinite patience as an RA for two years.
    • Traveling to Russia, Finland, Norway, Denmark, Iceland, the UK (London and Scotland), France, Belgium, Germany, Czechia, Poland, Latvia, Greece, Turkey, Cyprus, Italy, Vatican City. Monaco, Spain, Thailand, New Zealand, and undoubtedly a few more.
    • She’s now in London for grad school. Her passport must have burn marks on it.
  2. Call Me Johnny Paycheck – Mrs. Rootchopper threw in the towel on the work-a-day world in the spring. She immediately adapted to the new normal. I waited until my August birthday to get a 10 percent bonus on my pension. We are both very happy with our decisions. If, however, you want to pay us big money to quilt or ride bikes, we’d be interested in your financial offer.
  3. I’ll Take 50 States, a Century, and Break Some Cider, Hon – I rode only five event rides this year.
    • I traveled to Charm City to do the Tour Dem Parks, Hon ride and visit with Mr. Hoppy 100, John Roche, and his daughter Eleanor. (I think she’s swell.)
    • Carrie Ross is on the board of a local charity that helps homeless people get back on their feet. She’s also married to Greg Billing, WABA’s Executive Director. In a page right out of Mickey Rooney/Judy Garland movies, they put on a bike ride for the charity. Sadly, there was no tap dancing. Anyway, I rode it. Pretty darn good for a first time event. Not to rest on their laurels, Carrie and Greg brought a baby boy into this world a few months later. Congrats Mom and Dad.
    • In the late summer, I rode the Reston Century. I failed to understand that hilly rides are a bad idea unless you have itty bitty gears. I believe I was lanterne rouge.
    • This explains why, a couple of weeks later, I nearly died climbing to Cathedral Heights during my ninth 50 States Ride. I was aided and abetted by a great posse of #bikedc’s finest including Stephen, Rachel C., Kevin W., and my 2014 50 States Ride buddies Michael and Emilia. Ellos eran muy buenos.
    • In November I did the Cider Ride for the fifth time. It was cool, literally. I missed a few turns, but used the Google to get back on course. For the second year in a row, I was stung by a bee at the second pit stop. It was all worth it because the after party, as usual, was a winner.
    • In December I rode around in circles for 44 miles with something like 600 other people in support of WABA’s Women and Bicycles program at the Hains Point 100. It was an impressive turn out considering the fact that most people have crazy schedules this time of year.
  4. Let Me Help You with That  – For the longest time, I have avoided volunteering. I’m such a jerk. This year I volunteered at WABA five times. I learned that stuffing envelopes in the office is more comfortable than standing around in the cold  at the start/finish of the Vasa Ride. Do the math: free beer + pizza > hot blooberry soup. I also tried my ineffectual, introverted hand at bike advocacy by attending three events.
  5. March! – I attended some rather large marches in DC. The Women’s March was really the yoogest. I could not see the edge of the crowd I was in. When I got home and saw pictures of the throng I was shocked. There were at least a three dozen people I knew there. I didn’t see any of them. My guess is the crowd was at least 500,000. The Science March seemed inane. We’ve stooped this low in this country that we have to march to support science? I hung with the folks at WABA for the Climate March. I went to the Immigration Ban protest and left before it became a march down Pennsylvania Avenue.
  6. Riding to the End of the Road – Without a job to constrain me, I took off on a solo, unsupported bike tour. With cool weather approaching I decided to avoid the chill and head straight south — into a hurricane zone. I called it the No Way So Hey Tour. After hundreds of miles of rural poverty, cotton and peanut farms, friends old and new, and gale force winds pelting me with sand and rain, I rode through the hurricane ravaged Florida Keys. What a great feeling to stand next to the storm-damaged Southernmost Point buoy in Key West. I followed it up by riding Alligator Alley through the Everglades across central Florida. Along the way, I took side trips to Charleston, the Okeefenokee Swamp, and Savannah.
  7. Making the Most of a Sad Situation – Through Facebook, I learned of the death of one of my grad school roommates. Jim Burgess, whom we called Chet, was, as Mrs. Rootchopper said, “The nicest guy in the world.” He died of colon cancer. I drove to Providence for the wake and funeral. Afterward I went for a bike ride along Narragansett Bay. On the way home I stopped to ride Little Nellie around the New Jersey Pine Barrens.
  8. Why Life Nearly Doesn’t Begin on Opening Day – At the end of March, I was riding in the rain to a Nationals exhibition game when an SUV came out from behind a wall and hit me. How in the world I managed to get out of it without a scratch is beyond me. About 100 yards later, I learned that the game was cancelled.
  9. Lazarus in an Expos Hat – After surviving the exhibition demolition derby season, I attended about a dozen games. I even went to Baltimore with some co-workers for a Saux game. It was so wikkid we did it again at Nationals Park. I drove to a few more Nats games with Lily who likes the pregame happy hour about as much as the game itself. I also did a game with @BobbieShaftoe and her family. March 29, 2018 can’t come quickly enough.
  10. Take a Walk – As usual, I didn’t do nearly as much hiking as I intended to.  I managed to finish the Potomac Heritage Trail. In a planning blunder, I did the Ashby Hollow hike again. The hike to Raven Rocks was probably the best though. I have a fear of heights so there’s nothing like a hike to a cliff to keep things interesting. And in the spirit of Nigel Tufnel,
  11. Full House – Last night we had a full house for the first time in two years.  Mrs. Rootchopper spent days making fudge and baking cookies in anticipation. Daughter Lily flew in from London and son Eamonn came around the world from Phuket, Thailand. My hope is they both remember to drive on the right. Image may contain: 4 people, people smiling, closeup and indoor

 

An Accidental Return to Ashby Hollow

The weather was perfect. I haven’t gone for a day hike in months so I grabbed a print out for Ashby Hollow – Mt. Weathers from a backpack I use for hiking and took off.

I had this weird feeling of deja vu. For good reason. This was my first solo hike on the Appalachian Trail a few years ago.

The drive up a dirt road to the start was an adventure. The road was all ruts and washboard. The car’s autotraction was going nuts. My wheels were spinning but I made it in one piece.

I immediately recognized the start. Oh well, no sense in going looking for another trail. Off I went down the rock trail.

I remember this hike as very difficult footing. And it was but not nearly as bad as others I have done since. The low humidity and comfortable temperatures combined with persistent shade to make this just a glorious day to be in the woods.

Once I warmed up, I could just truck along. Unfortunately I had to look mostly at the trail because of all the rocks and tree roots. While doing this it’s really hard to think about anything but the task at hand which ends up being kind of meditative.

This section of the AT is called the roller coaster. On weekends it’s crowded but today I only saw four hikers in three hours, two of them passed me withing 200 yards of the finish. This time of year there aren’t much in the way of flowers so I basked in the green. There were no vistas on this hike at this time of year. The foliage is just too dense. No worries.

Despite having hiked this before, I missed two turns. I haven’t seen a blaze in a while, have I? Nope. When you wander off, just return to the trail and begin again. Sounds like a Joseph Goldstein meditation video.

It took me about 3 hours to do the entire 6 1/2 miles.

The ride back took me past vineyards and horse farms and through tony Virginia towns like Upperville and Middleburg. With windows down and the sun shining through puffy clouds it was a lovely end to another day of slacking.

 

Tick, Tick, Tick

I feel like I am riding the last couple of days of a bike tour. The end is just down the road a bit. I want to savor the last bits of riding but the anticipation of completion is yanking at my monkey mind.

That’s what the last week of work before retirement is like. It would feel worse if not for the fact that DC is a sauna this week and I am mighty happy for the air conditioning in my office.

Today, I erased all the scribblings on my office white board. The list of hikes I meant to do this year. (Intentions count, don’t they Ultrarunnergirl?) And the list of 17 states I have ridden a bike in. And the list of 31 countries that various members of the family Rootchopper have visited. (The family Rootchopper sounds a bit like we should be escaping the Nazis over the Alps. Given the recent news, it might not be a bad idea.) Down went the list of clever phrases I came across during my six years while at this job, such as

  • The future is a foreign country  – Finn Quinn
  • You are what you do, not what you say you will do – Carl Jung
  • Is this useful? – Joseph Goldstein
  • Simply begin again. – Also, Joseph Goldstein
  • Ride and shine – Me. A fortuitous typo of “Rise and shine,” the words my mother used to say to wake me up for school
  • Fusiform gyrus – the part of the brain for name/face recognition. By way of Katie Lee who says mine is broken. She’s right. I am pathetic.
  • Full hearts, clear mind, can’t lose – from Coach Taylor’s pre-game speeches in Friday Night Lights.
  • Culo y calzon – literally “ass and panties”. Spanish language idiom that (very) roughly means “thick as thieves.” Used with coy double meaning in one of Florencia Renedo’s blog posts.
  • Let it go. Move on. Fuck [’em] – Katie Lee who had to tell me this too many times before I finally listened to her. Still grateful.
  • Are you happy? What will make you happy? Do it with everything you’ve got. – Speaker after speaker quoting their departed friend Lorena Gimenez at her memorial celebration.

So tomorrow is closing time. Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.

Time to get to know the feeling of liberation and release.

 

Hiking Up and Down to Raven Rocks

Today I did another out and back hike on the Appalachian Trail. At my current pace I should have the entire AT hiked by 2047.

I started at just to the west of Snickersville Gap, where VA Route 7 crests the Blue Ridge. I lucked out and got the next to last parking space in the trailside lot.

This area of the AT is known as the roller coaster because it goes up and down and up and down and around. The hike started with up to the ridge. The entire hike is heavily wooded. And rocky. And tree rooty.

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The start is up. And Up. Then down to a run, which in Virginia is a creek. The water level wasn’t too high so I made it across with ease. A family came a hiking behind me. They were a chatty bunch. I resigned myself to the fact that solitude would be elusive.

Next I hiked up to the ridge Then down with rocky switchbacks. Then up. Then down to a creek. Then up then down. Then up until I saw sky.

Ultrarunnergirl told me a few years ago that seeing sky is good. It was. The trail emerged from the woods to a rocky area, the top of a cliff. This is Raven Rocks. Chatty family were sitting across the part of the cliff top that had the best views.

I resisted the urge to push them over the edge and hike a bit further. There was another pretty decent spot to enjoy the view. A sole hiker was just beginning to get underway. She said “It’s a pretty nice spot. You can have it.” And off she went down the trail.

I took in the view for a few minutes. It was very viewy. There was gIMG_0833reen. And a pleasant breeze. I got down on my stomach and looked over the edge. I couldn’t see the bottom. I saw a lot of tree tops. I thought of Flogini who used to climb cliffs even higher than this. I can’t even….

I turned to go down. And the chatty bunch asked me to take their picture at the top of the cliff. Okay folks, step back. Once more. Ayyyyy!

I was nice and took pictures of them from multiple vantage points. The gods will reward me someday.

Not today though. On the hike back to the car, I caught my right toe on a rock and started to fall. I put my arm around a small tree in the middle of the trail. My momentum swung me around the tree so hard that I came out of my left shoe. I swung completely around the tree and landed on my butt between two big sharp chunks of granite. The bark of the tree took some skin off my left arm. And somewhere in the spin I cut two fingers on my right hand. There was blood.

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Feeling like a complete spaz, I put my shoe back on and dusted off my pride and hiked onward. A group of 20 somethings came by with music playing. Bad country music. I resisted the urge to hoedown.

Along the way coming and going I encountered plenty of backpackers and some other families. This is apparently a pretty popular place for a day hike.

For good reason.

It lasted only about 4 hours, quite a bit less than I expected. On the way home, I bought a cherry pie at a place in Round Hill. It’s a bit of a cheat. People thought that the pies were made on site, but the Washington Post did an article about the place and exposed the pies as factory made by Sara Lee. They’re still damned good and a suitable replacement for a shower beer.

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There are a few more pictures in an album on my Flickr page.

Keys Gap to Buzzard Rocks Overlook on the Appalachian Trail

Last night I pondered my Sunday choices: bike ride, bike ride to a Nationals baseball game, or hike. I decided on a hike guessing that there might be some rain during the game.

Last weekend I hiked from Keys Gap to Loudon Heights, heading north on the Appalachian Trail. This weekend I headed south toward Buzzard Rocks overloook. which held the hope of a view of the Shenandoah Valley.

The weather report was for temperatures in the 60Fs. And no rain. Well, there was rain but it mostly happened before I started making for a muddy track. There was a bit of rain in the middle of the hike but the tree canopy protected me.

I tried to avoid the mud but it was pointless. So I let the little boy in me out and I made my peace with the slop.

The trail here is much less rocky than the trail just to the north. Without the mud you could cover this trail lickety split.

There was quite a lot of traffic during my first 2 1/2 miles. Boy scouts. Groups of adults. They all looked like they had camped overnight. They didn’t seem strained by their packs so I assumed (correctly) that the terrain would be forgiving.

The only steep section had rock steps, easy to negotiate. And it was rather striking to look at.

Along the way I was treated to my favorite: ferns. I tried to plant ferns in my side yard. They all died within weeks. Ferns are best left to the woods.

As the trail rose to the ridge, I walked into the clouds. This was great for atmospherics but the ruined the view from the overlook.  I did get one picture where you can vaguely make out the Shenandoah Valley.

The hike was 7.7 miles and that’s a comfortable distance for me. I didn’t feel all banged up like last weekend.

I was surprised to learn that it was raining heavily in DC. Sometimes you guess right. The Nats game started 90 minutes late.  Works for me.

There are some more pix on my Flickr page.

 

Hiking to Loudon Heights

It was finally, finally time to get out of the city and into the woods. I’d been biking and baseballing and graduating and concerting for weeks and my brain needed a long solo hike in the woods.

Harpers Ferry, West Virginia sits at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers. Alas, the Shenandoah gives it up and from here to the Chesapeake Bay the river is known as the Potomac. Just southeast of Harpers Ferry the Potomac passes through mountains. On the northern side of the river there are two overlooks. I hiked 19 miles in one day to check them out. Today I explored the overlook on the southern side of the river on a ridge known as Loudon Heights. I got the idea for this hike from a fellow blogger who did a shorter, steeper version of this hike in January 2016. Her hike began in Harpers Ferry, crossed the Shenandoah and climbed up to the ridge about 1 1/2 miles from the overlook.

It was my intent to do this same hike but then I found another hike that was longer and more gradual. This hike begins at Keys Pass 5 1/2 miles to the south of the overlook. It follows the Appalachian Trail for about 4 miles along the ridge line then switches to the Loudon Heights Trail to get to the overlook.

The skies were overcast. Temperatures were in high 50Fs when I set out. There was so much green. The path was somewhat muddy. Then it became rocky. Then smooth. Then rockier. Then smooth. Then ludicrously rocky. Then not so much. Did I mention that it was rocky.

The AT is rocky. How anybody with a full pack gets through the Virginia portion of the trail without breaking an ankle is beyond me. I am a tenderfoot. Literally. I hate rocky trails. I came to a kind of truce with this one out of necessity. There are so many rocks that you have to look down nearly the entire time you are hiking. You lose track of time. I couldn’t believe that 90 minutes had passed since the start. Focusing on the rocks is meditative, annoyingly so. It had a rather interesting benefit for me. I noticed that my tenderfootedness was caused by me tensing my feet up as I walked among the rocks. Walking on them instead and focusing on keeping my feet relaxed made for much easier walking. I didn’t exactly end the hike with happy feet but I managed to enjoy what would otherwise have been a miserable experience.

Since I was spending so much time looking down, I had to consciously stop and take in the scenery. Most of the hike is through a forest on a ridge line. And I looked up at the through the canopy to the clouds above. Ahh.

Being at the top of things also meant that many old trees succumbed to winds. The trail is obstructed by a few dozen downed giants. They are easy enough to get past though.

For the first 3 1/2 miles I didn’t see or hear a single person. Not one. For the next 2 miles I did encounter a few people here and there but, thankfully, none of them were loud.

Getting to the overlook actually involves hiking down from the ridge. When I got there I had it all to myself for about 3 minutes. I was all set to just park my butt on a rock for a half hour. Then another hiker showed up. Yeah, well….

After taking some pictures of Harpers Ferry (the view of town is much better from Maryland Heights, by the way) I started back. Good thing I left. More and more people were heading my way. I group of young men came by. The last of them was actually talking business. I resisted the urge to dope slap him.

When I got back on the AT, I started encountering serious backpackers heading north. These dudes were in tip top hiking shape. A solo hiker and I stopped to chat. He was a large human, 6 foot 4 or so and easily 250 pounds. He was hiking 20 miles or so today on his way to Harpers Ferry.  His pack looked hefty. He was all smiles. Nice guy.

The last three miles were a bit of a slog. I really need to learn to ease into these things; 11 miles was a bit much. I stopped to stretch my hamstrings from time to time. The last half mile was mercifully light on rocks and was nearly flat. I needed that.

Unlike most hikes I’ve done, I had very good cell service on this one so I instagrammed my ass off. I posted all the pictures on my Flickr page.

Finishing What I Started

The Potomac Heritage Trail is the closest hiking trail of any decent length near my house. It’s about a 20-30 minute drive. I lucked out. The parking area at Chain Bridge was full but a pickup pulled out and I pulled in.

The goal of the day was to hike the trail upriver to the point where I turned around last weekend. The good news is that this section of the trail involves very little rocky stuff. The bad news is the turn around point was about 1 mile less distant that I thought.

The first half mile or so follows Pimmit Run. In Virginia creeks and streams are called runs. (There are no hits or errors.) Perhaps the most well known run in Virginia is Bull Run.

At a half mile I needed to cross the run and, after studying the rocks in the stream, I made it across without getting wet.

The next section climbs up to Fort Marcy. It wasn’t a particularly difficult climb.

After crossing the parking lot, the trail winds through some more woods within sight of the GW Parkway.  The cars wizzing by really messed with the vibe. Near the end of the hike, I crossed the Chain Bridge Road exit ramps. Not exactly a zen experience.

To my surprise the turnaround point was only a couple hundred yards beyond the exit.

On the way back the hills seemed easier. I tuned out the cars and made it a point to focus my attention on the smooth track, a little beetle and the blue sky above.

It seemed liked someone had moved the rocks around in Pimmit Run. I could not figure out how I made it across. So I worked my way downstream looking for a better option. I stopped three times and found myself in mid-stream with no chance of leaping to a far rock to finish the crossing.  The banks of the creek were piled high with flood debris. I put my foot on top of it and my foot went in like it was a snow drift. A few minutes later I started to sink in again and reached out with my left hand making contact with the debris. I ended up with several splinters and cuts. There was blood. Just enough to make a mess of my pants when I wiped my hand on them.

After 15 minutes I found a spot with a downed tree sticking across the creek at a height of four feet. I jumped from one rock to another grabbing the tree. Thankfully it took the weight of my left side without breaking (which would have caused me to fall into the creek.)

I made it across and found myself back at the car in short order.

My next hike will likely take me out to Shenandoah National Park.

Top Ten of 2016

As is so often the case, my top ten list goes to 11. Hey, it’s my blog and I make the rules.

Yooper for a Week
After 11 years I finally did another solo bike tour. I drove 13+ hours to Ludington Michigan. After a ferry ride across Lake Michigan, I rode The Mule fully loaded with gear into the north woods of Wisconsin. On July 4, I had breakfast in Freedom. After a few days I turned east and crossed the UP, the upper peninsula of Michigan. After the UP, I visited car-free Mackinac Island on a quiet Sunday morning. Other than a two-hour scary thunderstorm and three hilly days of headwinds near the end of the tour, the weather could not have been better. And I managed three ferry rides without getting sick. I rode 832 miles in 11 days. It was a wonderful combination of hard work and rolling meditation. I proved to myself that even at 60 years old I still got it. Okay, maybe not all of it but enough of it to get the job done. I can’t wait to do another.

An Eventful Spring
Prior to my tour I warmed up my legs by riding some bike events. I kicked the year off with the Vasa Ride, co-sponsored by the Washington Area Bicyclists Association and the Swedish embassy. It was a bit of a disappointment because this is normally a social ride but I rode it alone and didn’t do much socializing at the embassy reception afterwards. Next came the Five Boro ride in New York City. The Five Boro Ride has always been on my to do list but conflicted with work, parenting responsibilities, and personal lethargy. I convinced Paul to join me (with Amy along for moral support). Paul and I rode the 40+ mile ride in a cold rain at the start of May. It wasn’t all that much fun, but touring Manhattan the day before in splendid weather with the wonderful guidance of my BU friend Susan made up for riding the Brooklyn Queens Expressway in a driving rain.

At the end of May, I rode the new DC Bike Ride. Not to be outdone by NYC, we had cold rain for that one too.

Scary Night
In May, I woke up in the middle of the night with severe chest pains. After a few hours of increasing pain, Mrs. RC called for an ambulance. The ride to the hospital ½ mile away took 20 minutes but I was well taken care of. What I feared was a heart attack turned out to be a respiratory infection. Fortunately, a nebulizer treatment in the ER and antibiotics fixed me up over the next week. An earworm of the Neil Finn song Anytime played for days. “I could go at anytime. There’s nothing safe about this life.” Words to live by.

At the end of the week, I dragged myself out of bed and rode my bike on Bike to Work Day. I was still under the weather but I now know I can ride to work with one lung tied behind my back.

Pulling Beers Like a Boss
I have been lax in volunteering at local bike events, basically forever. This year, with my respiratory problems more or less behind me, I volunteered at the Tour de Fat in DC. This is a fundraiser for bike advocacy groups (WABA being one of many) and I was determined to help out. It rained. It was cold-ish. I pulled beers nonstop for two hours. Instead of hanging around for the rest of the day, I went home and went to bed. (Every party has a pooper that’s why we invited you.) Next year I hope to be around to volunteer again. And to socialize afterward.

Call Me Lars
Our daughter finished up her year abroad with a semester in Sweden. A few days after Tour de Fat, Mrs. Rootchopper and I flew over and toured parts of Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and Iceland. It was an exhausting two weeks and fun to re-visit Copenhagen after over 15 years. Although I was in bicycle heaven for most of the trip, I didn’t ride at all. If you ask me what my favorite place was my answer would be “Yes.”

Ain’t Baseball Great
I went to 19 Nats games this year. The last time I went to this many games was when I lived in Boston. I rode my bike to about 15 games. How convenient of them to locate the ballpark 16 miles from home. As a bonus, it was great seeing so many friends at the bike valet before and after the games. The rest of the games involved driving the kids, including my niece Irene for one game. One exhausting game lasted 16 innings and the good guys won on a walk-off home run. I even managed to see two playoff games. Despite (or perhaps because of) the fact that the Nats lost their last game of the season, I can’t wait until April!

Fall Bike Frenzy
In the fall I did the Indian Head, Backroads, and Seagull Centuries (100 miles each), the 44-mile Great Pumpkin Ride (with Paul, Amy, and Jody), the 53-mile Cider Ride and, for the eighth time, the 62-mile 50 States Ride. I was already on fumes near the end of this madness, when an old friend asked me to ride with her to Harpers Ferry and back over two days. Given the fact that I had a colonoscopy (with the associated fasting and anesthesia) two days before we would have left, I declined. One ambulance ride a year is plenty.

Deets Provides a Surly Surge
A year ago I bought a new bike, a Surly Cross Check. Mostly, it hung on a hook in my shed, used only for the occasional weekend ride. This summer I started commuting on it. What a great commuter bike it is. I also did all my fall events on it. I named it Deets after the scout in the miniseries Lonesome Dove. Deets was said to be “cheerful in all weathers, never shirked a task, splendid behavior.” My Deets served me well until his back tire exploded on the way to work. Aye god, Woodrow.

Hiking Light
Unlike last year, I didn’t get much hiking done this year. I did the Billy Goat B and C trails on New Years Day which is becoming something of a tradition. Realizing that I-66 cuts right across the Appalachian Trail, I hiked it north (Manassas Gap) and south (Trumbo Hollow) of the highway. I also headed out to Shenandoah National Park to hike the Hogback Mountain trail. In late November I hiked the Potomac Highlands Trail from Turkey Run Park to the American Legion Bridge and back. A surprisingly nice hike so close to DC. Just before the year ended I did a meandering hike in Great Falls Park in Maryland.

Living Small
We had our wood floors redone in the spring. We hired a couple of amazing movers to relocate all our belongings from the top two floors down to the family room and basement where we lived among the piles of stuff for two weeks. It was quite a project. The floors turned out great. I came to realize that most of the crap that I have accumulated over the course of 25+ years in a house, I can live without.

Going Long
Coincident with my 61st birthday, my four bikes gave me a big present. I’ve been keeping track of the mileage on my bikes for 25 years and with an empty nest surge in recent years I finally made it to 100,000 miles. I also set my one-year personal mileage record of 8,167 miles.

That’s it for 2016. No mas. Thanks for reading. I am taking 2017 one day at a time. Love this life. It’s the only one you get.