More Trail Droppings: Dinosaurs, Religions, Social Media, and Other Matters of Little Import (Rated PG-13)

At times, bike commuting, despite what Flogini says, is not particularly meditative. It’s quite the opposite, like giving acorns to the squirrels in my brain. Thoughts just careen about up there. So I write them down and contemplate them. Here are a few.

  • Shannon writes a very insightful blog about parenting that I have been following for a few years.  The other day we got into a twitter conversation about dinosaurs. Little kids love dinosaurs. Chris M. chimed in that Pokemon serves a similar purpose. Kids have very hungry brains. They need to fill them with facts. Dinos. Pokemon. Sports statistics. It doesn’t matter if the facts are organized or not, kids just jam them in their brains anywhere they will fit.
  • Adults need more organization for their facts. Publishers figured this out long ago. If you can’t think of anything to write about, make a list. “Five ways to survive allergy season.” “Six ways to drive your man wild in bed.” And so on.
  • Religions figured all this stuff out long ago. My dino knowledge was displaced by the Baltimore Catechism. It’s a Q and A of Catholic dogma. I only remember the first two (Q: Who made me? A: God made me. Q: How did God make me? A: In his own image and likeness.) For what’s it’s worth, I was an altar boy. I learned the Mass in Latin. Let’s see, do we have room in your head for one more “Mea culpa?” Oh yes, over there behind the fusiform gyrus.
  • Religions are bonkers about lists. The ten commandments. The seven chakras. The five pillars. The nine jhanas. The eight beatitudes. The holy trinity. The twelve days of Christmas. The four noble truths. The twelve apostles.
  • All religions boil down to one good idea: be nice. This, however, is far too simple. Sermons would be way too short. We’d have our Sundays (or Saturdays or Fridays) back. We’d get into all sorts of trouble. Can’t have that. We need some lists! Maybe if we have some lists the kids won’t notice that we are being shitty to each other. Thank God.
  • I think John Lennon had it right. Religions fail when they divide. My religion is the only true religion. My people are more better than your people. Be nice? Hell, no. Let’s kill each other. Ugh.
  • I follow Dan Harris’s twitter feed. Dan Harris is a newsman who had a full out panic attack on live television. Eventually it led him to start practicing meditation. Now he’s made a side business out of promoting meditation for skeptics. The other day he tweeted about meditation for golfers. I replied. “It wouldn’t help me. My best club was a machete.” (He liked my quip, BTW.)
  • I have a mantra I use whenever I play a sport that I suck at. I learned it from Canadian hockey players at Boston University. During my freshman year, I lived on one of the hockey team floors in a dorm. (This was actually a reasonably pleasant experience except when they would take slap shots in the hallway.) My roommate was not a hockey player. He used the word “bullshit” as any part of speech. I always thought this was rather odd until I played ping pong with the hockey players. Whenever they screwed up (they were, to a man, outstanding ping pong players), they’d say “Fuck me!” It’s really kind of mindfully Catholic. They never said “Fuck you!” It allowed them to move on without lingering on their failure. “Fuck me” is my mantra. Mea fuckin’ maximum culpa.
  • There must be something to this. One of the ping pong playing hockey players was a Catholic who ended up being the captain of the Miracle on Ice US Olympic gold medal team at the Lake Placid Olympics. How do you say “Fuck me” in Russian?
  • Buddhists would make awesome golfers. You have to be able to put the previous shot behind you, forget about what might happen, and just focus on the situation you are in at present. Play it as it lays. See the ball. Hit the ball. Deal with the consequences later. The reason you never see Buddhists on the PGA tour is they spend hours every day sitting under a banyan tree meditating and doing yoga instead of hitting buckets of balls on the driving range. You will never see me on a golf course. I spent way too much time in the woods saying “Fuck me!”
  • Another reason why I can’t golf worth a damn is the fact that I have floaters in my eyes. I hit a golf ball. It goes up in the air. And it joins dozens of floaters in my field of vision. My golfing partners would see it clear as day. I’d just say “Fuck me.”
  • I’ve known my first Facebook friend (FFF) for ten years (pre-dating Facebook, in fact). FFF unfollowed me about three years ago. FFF stopped socializing with me 2 ½ years ago. Next I unfollowed FFF. Six months ago I thought “Well this is stupid” and I unfriended FFF. A few weeks later I thought “Well that was stupid” and we refriended, after which FFF stopped communicating with me altogether. I sent FFF a Christmas card that went unacknowledged. I have an acute case of social whiplash. So I was going to unfriend FFF again. Then…
  • The other day FFF started following me on Instagram. I…just…don’t…get…it. I feel like I’m watching a dysfunctional ping pong match. 
  • I have asthma. Not the “Hand that Rocks the Cradle” kind where you have violent gasping attacks. When I have an asthma attack it’s very subtle. I just feel off. Sometimes I start involuntarily breathing deeply. Or I cough for no reason. It’s my body telling me I am hungry for air. I inhale some albuterol and ten minutes later I am back to normal lung function.
  • I didn’t realize I had asthma until I went to my son’s 8th grade Christmas show and started quietly weeping at everything that happened. My lungs were low on fuel and it was affecting my mind. When I took my first puff of albuterol it was a revelation. I had forgotten what proper breathing was like. I felt like I had been given a third lung, which, in a way, I sorta had.
  • A similar thing happened to me with allergies. One spring while living in Providence I noticed I was sluggish and had a head ache. After I moved to DC, the headaches got really nasty. I have always been allergic to poison ivy. As an adult, I became allergic to planet earth.
  • Riding up the little hill to the stone bridge on the Mount Vernon Trail the other night, a cyclist pulled up along side me. He: I like your bike. Me: So do I. He: We have the same bike. And we did. His Surly Cross Check was pea-soup green and had silver fenders. Mine is black with black fenders. He flew by me. His Cross Check is more faster than mine. Maybe I can blame my asthma. Fuck me.
  • Finally, okay, let’s vote:

 Is BlissfulBritt Ashley Judd’s long lost twin?

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

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

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

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

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

What happened next took only two seconds.

A black SUV came flying out from behind the wall.

Oh no.

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

It’s going to hit me.

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

My momentum was carrying me in front of the SUV.

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

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

It stopped.

Somehow.

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

And with some kind of calm I thought

“No.”

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

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

“I’m so sorry.” Over and over again.

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

“I’m so sorry.”

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

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

I turned around and rode home.

Number 66 on Nelle’s list.

Errandonnee Stuff:

Miles: 15.5

Category: Arts and Entertainment (seriously)

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

Ticket Edited

Errandonnee No. 4 – Humpday Headwinds

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So Little Nellie and I rode to work again. Big surprise, no?

We rode into a strong headwind the entire way. The winds got even worse north of the airport. Maybe it was the psychological effect of seeing white caps on the river. At least I won the battle of the TRUMP, the Teddy Roosevelt Uber Mulch Pit.

There is a pretty nice bike parking room in my office building. I park Little Nellie on the floor but soon the spring peepers will be here to steal my floor space. Little Nellie will go up on one of the 18 hanging racks we have.

My hard ride to work will be rewarded with a stop at the WABA happy hour tonight in Del Ray. One should never pass up a beer and a tailwind.

Category: Work

Miles: 29 1/2

Observation: Headwinds make you think about nothing but the task at hand. They may be physically exhausting but they bring on a sort of riding meditation: this is the present moment and the present moment sucks.

 

 

Rest Day Adulting

I know I am getting old when 4 consecutive bike commutes wear me out. I woke up sick this morning. Again. My autoimmune system better be banking sick days because I have been sick in one way or another since early December.

So I took the day off from riding. Conveniently it’s actually pretty cold outside. I know because I am inside writing this with my snuggie on. (I am not making this up.)

I woke up at 5:45. And promptly went back to sleep until 7:30. Then I started some laundry. Then I did my back exercises. (No, it’s not yoga. Okay, it involves balancing and shoulder stands and planks. But it’s not yoga.) Then I listened to a 15 minute guided meditation from the New York Times.This Dan Harris’s meditation for dummies cartoon pretty much sums it up. This is about as woo woo as I get.

Next up was showering and breakfast. Followed by swallowing the Saturday and (most of) Sunday Washington Post because I insist on getting the dead tree edition. It sucks to spill orange juice on your tablet. You can spill all you want on the paper version. After failing at both the Sudoku and crossword yesterday, I knocked off the Sudoku, and three crossword puzzles today. This was a good omen.

After helping put the groceries away, I replaced a flushing valve in a toilet. On the first try. It was a miracle. And I didn’t even flood the bathroom.

Next up came filing a claim for reimbursement from my health care flexible spending account. It was my first foray of the day into the digital age.

After wasting time online, I loaded Turbo Tax and did the taxes. I was missing a form from my brokerage so I called its 800 number and set up an electronic account. Downloaded the form and finished my taxes. In the immortal words of Dave Stoller’s dad, REFUND!  (If you’ve never watched “Breaking Away” – the movie not the TV show – stop reading and go watch it. The script won the Academy Award for best original screenplay. And, it’s the best movie ever made about bicycling. Except it’s about so much more.)

Then I spent 20 minutes trying to figure out how to do my daughter’s Indiana tax return and gave up. I think they owe her $5. (Mike Pence, if the Indiana personal income tax forms are your idea of tax simplification, you’re in deep yogurt if you become 46.) It ain’t worth the time. Keep the change, Hoosiers.

Finally, I activated a debit card that gives me free ATM withdrawals at any ATM in the US. Just the thing for my next bike tour. (I’m considering riding to Key West in the fall. Stay tuned.)

The only thing I didn’t accomplish was to go buy some bird seed. I expect that the bird seed consumption rate should pick up in a couple of weeks. Another sign that this rather tame winter is coming to an end.

Only 11 days until pitchers and catchers report to Nationals’ spring training.

Die winter die.

 

 

 

 

 

A Bicycle Werewolf in DC

Winter has its charms. Take today for instance. As I rode to work, the temperature rose to about 50 degrees. Winds were light. I had to unzip my jacket. It’s hard to complain about that. My normal solitude was interrupted by Ed, a Friday Coffee Clubber who lives near me. Ed has an interesting skill. He can carry on a conversation while riding without impeding bike trail traffic. I don’t quite know how he does it. It was a good talk that lasted for about 1/3rd of the ride to work before he veered off for his office in DC.

I arrived at work damp, from sweat. It’s January 4. How did that happen?

The ride home was colder and windy. There was some lingering daylight that made me nearly joyous. Can you believe it?!!! Light!!! OMG!

Soon it was dark. The wind was at my back. Life was good. The car parked at 420 N. Union Street blocked part of the bike lane. So I finally said Enough and called the police. Let’s see what happens.

The church bells of Old Town were ringing their 6 pm song.

South of Old Town where the bike trail is free of metal fart barges, my brain veered off into a narrative about things that could happen. It was like a mental movie. There was violence and some strong negative emotions. My adrenaline spiked and I found myself speeding up. That’s when I returned my focus to the white circle formed by my headlight and the calming rhythm of my pedaling. The trail angled upward and my commuting trance, what Flogini calls my meditation, took over.

I arrived home and went inside to do my physical therapy exercises. Mrs. Rootchopper says women would call it yoga but men call it PT or back exercises. (She’s right. More than half of what I do I see on the morning yoga program on TV. Of course, the TV yoga people are elastic and I am kevlar cords.)

Tonight as I was doing a side plank, my foot cramped up. It was seriously painful and ugly. It was not a full moon but my foot looked like the Dr. Pepper guy’s hand  in American Werewolf in London.

Image result for american werewolf in london

My big toe was at 11 o’clock and my other toes were at 2 o’clock.

I finally got my foot to calm down. I re-did the plank on my left side then switched to my right side.

FOOT CRAMP!

I check to see if there was a full moon. There wasn’t. So I won’t be changing my name to Loup Garou.

The cramps subsided. I finished my plank then tried my bird dog exercise.

FOOT CRAMP!

I gave up.

I am pretty sure that the cramps are caused by a combination of cold weather and insufficient hydration.

But I am really not looking forward to the full moon next week.

 

Stressing My Way to Work

  • Yesterday I drove to work for the first time in weeks. I honestly don’t know why anyone would want to use driving a car as a way to get to work. (I understand that many people have no viable option in the short term.) I was STRESSED OUT!!!!
  • On the way in, the waiting and merging and sudden stopping were an assault on my central nervous system. I played relaxing music (Mark Knopfler and Chet Atkins) and this helped some but not nearly enough. They should have meditation rooms in the parking garages around here. Seriously. So you can come down before you go into the office and start throwing coffee cups around.
  • The ride home had its joys too. Driving in the dark is no fun at all. And the 15 minute back up on I-395 felt like it would never ever end. No wonder this country has a depression and anxiety epidemic. I seriously thought about opening a bottle of wine when I got home. Instead I started my evening with 20 minutes of breathing meditation. I followed this up with my daily physical therapy. Instead of rushing through the exercises (most of which are based on yoga asanas) as I too often do, I slowed them way down. I took care paying attention to each stretch, making sure the muscles relaxed. I monitored my breathing. The whole wind down took about 45 minutes.
  • One thing I notice when I do breathing meditation is that I can get my heart and respiratory rates very low. My doctors are constantly freaked when they take my pulse. The last couple of times it was checked it was 44. “Do you exercise?” A couple of years ago my resting pulse was around 60. That’s considered on the low side for most people.  My low pulse is also a little odd when you consider I drink three cups of coffee every day.
  • This morning I jumped on The Mule with fresh legs (and a disturbingly bigger belly from last week’s Mexican food binge). The cold air felt so refreshing. And riding past the stalled traffic back up on the GW Parkway made me feel liberated. I truly felt sorry for all those people grinding their teeth and white knucking their steering wheels.
  • Of course, I also had the opportunity to stop and admire the early morning sun over the Potomac River. Most drivers don’t get to see this. Sucks for them.

  • If you look closely you can see that my pedals don’t match. This is a hold over from my bike tour this summer when my left pedal disintegrated. What you can’t see is that the chain is stretched beyond hope. So I am getting a new chain and cassette this weekend.
  • I mentioned the cold. As you can see from the picture, the bridges on the Mount Vernon Trail are decked with wood. They frost over. Shaded areas are icy. As I was approaching the beaver bridge (between Old Town and National Airport), an approaching jogger yelled a warning to me, “The bridge is really slippery.” It was slippery on the left hand side (where she had run) but not along the right edge. The left side was still in the shade. Just a couple of degrees makes all the difference. There were fresh gashes in the wood from where bicyclists’ pedals had made a mark during falls.
  • In a few days a cold front comes through with honest to god wintery weather. The battle begins. The holey sweater awaits. The mittens are ready. The chemical foot warmers are beside my shoes. My hair (what little there is) will stand on end as the head coverings draw all the oil out of it. My skin will dry up where the base layers and Buff and wool socks contact it.

 

It’s a Dystopia Out There

Tough week, n’est ce pas?

I spent most of it in Silicon Valley and San Francisco without a bike. My business trip included looking at flexible shared office space, a two-day meeting with futurists, a look see at driverless vehicles, and a demo of virtual reality.

The futurist meeting was pretty interesting because we were developing a sort of cultural business forecast when we were set upon by a yooge black swan. We were all thankful that we had lots of work to do on Wednesday.

On the way to dinner we found ourselves behind a driverless Google car. It looked pretty normal. It even cussed out a pedestrian in the crosswalk. (This was very advanced technology.)

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Google Driverless Car

We also browsed in a shop with the latest toys made from tech equipment including a bike helmet with head and taillights, brake lights, and turn signals. The was clearly meant for use in an urban environment. I like the concept but I ride on unlit trails so I need a heck of a lot more forward looking candlepower.

I also saw a device that looked a bit like a narrow black visor.  It wraps around your head and sends signals to your brain to improve your meditation experience. Or so they say. Seems to me a mantra or a candle is cheaper but what do I know? If you need this product, you have issues. Just sayin.’

I think the technology behind these sorts of things is fascinating, but I walked out of the shop thinking, “Why does anybody think they need this stuff?” If the economy depended on my spending habits, unemployment would be 75%.

The virtual reality demo would probably get a gamer all worked up. I tried it out and was impressed that it didn’t make me hurl. One of my colleagues was doing the demo with someone in the next room over. Their virtual hands touched. She says she faintly felt the touch on her actual hand. It turns out that virtual reality is useful for helping amputees cope with their situation. Brains are so cool.

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Virtual Reality Demo

Even our rental car had odd tech on it. The engine would shut off at traffic lights then restart when the gas pedal was depressed. This drove us all nuts. I wonder how many starter motors this car will go through?

Wherever we walked we could see people typing away on laptops in offices, shared spaces, coffee shops. It seemed all rather dystopian to me. California is a foreign country.

Between meetings on Wednesday and Thursday I read Tweets of despair from my DC-based friends. More than 90% of DC voters backed Clinton. Their tweets were the “OOF” from a punch in the existential gut.

Here’s my take on the election: Certain things don’t need to be written in the rulebook. When a baseball player comes to the plate, it is assumed he is not going to assault the plate umpire with his bat. There is no rule covering this.

For elections, you should be able to assume that candidates will not be human pond scum. Apparently, not. I lived through Nixon. I saw George Wallace’s mean spirited speeches. This is worse. I don’t care how disenfranchised people feel, using the ballot box to validate hatred is unacceptable. Pandora’s box of bigotry has been opened. I hope we figure out how to close it and burn it to ashes. Quickly.

I got back home at 11:30 last night. Today, I took Deets in for a new chain and cassette. The old one had nearly over 3,500 miles on it. Then I took Big Nellie out for a nice, meditative spin. I was focused on not getting killed. Breath in live, breath out die. So relaxing!

I managed to avoid about ten cars being driven randomly on Union Street in Old Town. (Look Martha! There’s a parking space!!!) Fortunately the only police officer around was busy lecturing a bicyclist so he missed all the death defying fun.

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In San Francisco Parking Signs Are Helpful

My ride took me to the Lincoln Memorial. All was calm. Then I rode a tailwind home by way of the vast and empty Pentagon North parking lot, Crystal City, Potomac Yards and Old Town.

TGIF – BOOM! or The Tao of Bike Commuting

Every bike ride this month was on Deets, my Surly Cross Check. It has been a terrific machine. Then today happened.

I was riding to work this morning. The Mount Vernon Trail was flooded near Dyke Marsh so I took my feet off the pedals and glided through the waters like a little kid. Wheee!

I rode down Union Street and saw more flooding at the intersection with King Street. Wheee!

isn’t it great how bike commuting can make you a carefree kid again. 

Just past the Washington Marina at Daingerfield Island:

BOOOM!!!!!

My back tire blew out. This is, I think, my first flat tire of 2016. When I took the wheel off I could see that I was not going anywhere on my back tire.My exploding tube had blasted the rubber from the tire off the wire bead that holds the tire to the rim.  I could have put in a new tube but the odds of having another blow out were very high.

So I started walking. I got to National Airport and walked to the bike parking area. As it turns out the area is open-air which is not good on a rainy day. Worse still, one of the bikes (the yellow one)  locked there had had its rear wheel removed. There was no way I was going to leave Deets there.

It was too early to put my bike on Metro (they allow bikes at 10 am, after the morning rush). So I resigned myself to walking to Rosslyn, 5 miles away. After a mile, I came upon the parking lot at Gravelly Point . There were several taxi cabs parked there including a minivan.

FWAAAA!

The driver agreed to take me. As I was putting my bike in the taxi I discovered that I did not have my wallet with me. I had test driven Mrs. Rootchopper’s car last night and left my wallet in my pants that were hanging on my bedpost at home. I could borrow the cab fare from a co-worker but the rest of the day would be a total hassle without my wallet. So I had the cabbie drive me home. This cost me $36. Oof.

People who know me well will be surprised to learn that at no point during all this did I lose my temper. I just laughed it off. I guess meditation is worth something after all.

Some people I know believe that the universe has a plan for each of us. We may think we are in control but it is an illusion. We control nothing. So you just go with the flow that the universe has created for you.

Or you can look at things another way. A former colleague of mine says: Life is a shit sandwich and everyday we take a bite.

Today I took two bites. 

Afterword: I went to District Taco for lunch today.  I always order a veggie burrito bowl and eat inside the restaurant. It normally takes 5 minutes to get your food. Today, I waited 25 minutes for my order  Finally, I gave up and tracked down the manager. My food was ready. It was packaged to-go. They had tried to find me in the scrum of take-out customers and gave up.

As shit sandwiches go, it tasted pretty good, despite the wait.
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Indian Head 100 – Okay 98.5

 

After beating my body up yesterday, I got up before dawn in crisp 58 degree air to ride the Indian Head (a.k.a. Southern Maryland) 100.  Indian Head is a town that time has passed by. It would be nice if this ride did something for the town’s economy but, from what I could tell, the town has no economy. I should look up why this place is called Indian Head but I am too lazy. Regardless it’s a better name than Dead Strip Mall Village.

 

I started a little after 7 am which is appalling given the fact that this is a holiday (Labor Day). I didn’t see anyone I knew. Most people I know had the good common sense to be asleep. I wore a vest and arm warmers for the first 18 miles. The cold air also made my asthma kick in so at the first rest stop I took a couple hits of albuterol. I ain’t messing with lung problems anymore this year, thank you very much.

I was riding Deets, my Surly Cross Check. After the first year of fiddling with the set up, I have this bike dialed in perfectly. I was zipping along at 14 miles per hour. (For me with knobby tires, this is zipping.)

Indian Head.JPG

For the entire ride I kept my cellphone stashed. No tweets. One picture with a camera. Just me paying attention to my body. I tried to keep my respiratory rate stable. Except for a few nasty hills, I succeeded. I also focused on keeping my pedaling efficient. Don’t mash, spin with even pressure on the pedals all the way around. It occurred to me that paying close attention to my breathing and to specific parts of my body mechanics is rolling meditation. Every so often I had to double check to make sure I hadn’t missed a turn.

One thing that kept me from getting too zoned out was the fact that my bashed up left knee, arm, and shoulder were aching on and off. It’s going to take a few days to get them back to normal. One thing that didn’t hurt at all was my back. This never happens. Deets is definitely dialed in.

The first 40 miles were low effort. At one point we rode on a road with fresh pavement and rolling hills. Zoom down one, tucking for maximum speed at minimum effort, then take the next uphill with only a few pedal rotations. I love hill hopping. I thought of @BobbiShafoe who  hill hopped the Backroads metric century we did a few years ago.

There are several abrupt climbs on this ride. At one point we were making our way up a hill when the road turned to the left. Just before the turn someone had painter the word “HILL” on the road. We made the turn and there was steepage. About a dozen cyclists had dismounted and were walking. Not. Gonna. Happen. I dropped into my lowest gear and went at it. Pedaling to the rest stop at the top was sweet. This old man on a cross bike with knobby tires and no granny gear felt like feeding quiche to all the walkers. That would be mean. Anyway I didn’t have any quiche so I grabbed a snack and pedaled on.

This section of Charles County Maryland has some truly beautiful country roads. I do have two complaints. Some of the prettiest roads, country lanes almost, are paved with chip seal. It’s cheaper than asphalt but it’s much less smooth. The other complaint is the depressing rural poverty. We were 35 miles from DC and I saw people living in dilapidated mobile homes with portapotties in the yard. Many of the single family houses lacked paint. It’s like an economic black hole.

My measured breathing and pedaling paid off during the second 50 miles. I did lose a little speed but that may be attributed to the temperatures rising into the high 80s. Riders were cramping up all over the place. I drank energy drink at rest stops and lots of water.  I knew that near the 90 mile mark was Rose Hill. This one nearly did me in the first time I rode it a decade ago. I was shocked that I rode up it today with no problem, even without a granny gear. Go Deets.

The  last ten miles were a breeze.  At mile 93-ish we turned onto the Indian Head Rail Trail. In past, shorter Indian Head rides, I have found this to be frustrating. It’s a false flat. It looks flat but gradually rises. When you are tired and hot and want the ride to end, a false flat can really mess with your head. It didn’t bother me at all today. In fact, I was surprised to see the end of the trail.

I rolled into the finish at 98.5 miles. I would suspect that my odometer was off but I overheard some other riders saying the same thing. We call it 100, okay?

So it’s on to three bike commutes, a night baseball game (or two?), and Saturday’s 50 States Ride. Can’t wait.

 

 

 

 

 

UP Bike Trip: What Hit Me?

It has been a few days since I finished my bike trip. The short version is I rode 833 miles in 11 days on my 25-year old Specialized Sequoia touring bike. I camped out five nights and moteled five nights. Here are a few random thoughts now that I have had time to reflect:

  • I often talk about what my friend Flogini calls my meditation, that is, when I zone out on my bike commutes. The middle part of this bike trip, roughly from Days 2 through 7, was a rolling meditation retreat. I felt none of the stress of daily life. I didn’t think about work, friends, not-so-friends, family, or any obligations. I only thought about my legs spinning, my lungs breathing, and where The Mule and I were on the Adventure Cycling map segment of the moment. I sang songs, sometimes out loud. I gazed at the lake or the trees or the ferns or the lichens or the critters. I felt at peace. I wish I could bottle the feeling.

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  • Speaking of breathing, I have mild persistent asthma that, when left unattended, can bloom into some serious breathing problems. The air in the north woods of Wisconsin and on the UP of Michigan was incredibly clean. I had no asthma symptoms at all for most of the trip.
  • I entered this ride with worries about whether my 60-year old body could take the stress of so many miles (and three ferry rides) in so few days on a conventional (non-recumbent) bike. I even padded my schedule with a 12th day to be sure. Unlike tours in my younger years, I didn’t become noticeably stronger during this tour. This may be because the last three days were the hilliest and had the most consistent headwinds. I am now confident that I can ride 60-mile days on end, which is to say, as far as my bike will take me.
  • Last year I told Mike, a.k.a Rattlingfender on Twitter, that I needed a new touring bike because mine was 24-years old. He scoffed and said that the fact that I am still riding The Mule means that it is a reliable machine. Mike was right. Even after 25 years and over 41,000 miles, The Mule abides.
  •  I had relatively few physical problems.
    • My left tricep started hurting after about a week. This is because I am right handed. I would take pictures or eat with my right hand leaving my left hand to steer The Mule. The stress took a toll on my upper arm.
    • My bottom was not happy at all. Despite my trusty Brooks Champion saddle with its cushioning springs, the flesh where my inner right leg met my pelvic area was super sore most of the last week. It’s a guy thing. It has to do with how my personal parts interact with the nose of the saddle. I had to consciously twist my seating position to the right on the last three days. I don’t quite know how to fix this in the future but I will need to figure it out. It’s a bit like a swimmer needing to learn to breath from both sides.
    • I can’t sleep worth a damn in a tent. Sleep is incredibly important when you are riding so many miles.
  • It took me a full day to stop thinking about my speed once I turned south into the headwinds on the lower peninsula. When touring on Big Nellie, I used to cover the speedometer with my map. Unless you are adhering to a strict schedule (which I do not recommend), forget about speed and miles. Just ride with the flow of the day. A good example was Day 9 when I ate dinner in Traverse City. After dinner I had renewed energy and the weather was absolutely perfect for riding, so I reeled off another 18 miles.
  • As much as I hate sleeping in a tent, I love the flexibility that having camping gear along for the ride affords me. Without camping gear, I probably would not have added the 18 after-dinner miles, but I knew there was a campground a mile beyond Suttons Bay so I went for it.
  • Trail angels are the best.
    • The folks in the bar in Wrightsville, Wisconsin who served me three ice cold beers in frosted mugs. For $1 each.
    • The  man at the gas station in Freedom who pointed me to Rico’s diner where I had mass quantities of food for breakfast on the Fourth of July.
    • The retired truck driver and his friend who helped me out at the campground in Tilleda Falls, Wisconsin. And the other camper who gave me a huge bag of shrink wrapped trail mix.
    • The Little Pine Motel owner in Hiles, Wisconsin who handed me a bottle of ice cold water, then a can of ice cold beer when I checked in.
    • The westbound tourist who told me about the campground at Lake Pentoga, Michigan.
    • The three bike shop people who fixed my rear hub at Mr. Bike  in Escanaba, Michigan while I waited.
    • The two gas station clerks who practically pulled me out of the pouring rain in Manistique, Michigan.
    • The pizza shop workers and customers who gave me so much encouragement in Naubinway, Michigan.
    • Toby, the man who explained the Bliss Festival to me, over lunch at a gas station picnic table near Bliss, Michigan.
    • The folks at the Bahnhof Sport Shop in Petosky who stayed open on a Sunday evening and replaced my broken pedal.
    • The campground manager at the Wild Cherry Resort near Suttons Bay, Michigan who also stayed open to get me situated in a campsite.
    • Holly and Kristen who gave me much info about the biking and moteling in and around Arcadia, Michigan.
  • I am still flabbergasted by the size of food portions in Northern Wisconsin. Cheeseheads can pack it away!
  • Accents were a pleasant surprise. I went from “Da Beahs” to “Fargo” to “Hosers” in the course of the first week. Eh.
  • I had read an account of a bike tourists who rode across the UP on US 2. He really felt uncomfortable with the logging trucks blowing by him. Now that I have ridden to work twice since returning and I’ll take logging trucks over the drivers of DC any day.