Well, it felt like I was busy…

After breakfast, I made a to-do list for the day.

I rode 13 miles to the Lincoln Memorial. I was going to ride to the gym which is only four miles away but the weatherman said it would start raining about 1 pm and I wanted to get a warm dry ride in.

Of course, it didn’t rain. So I rode back to the gym. Because of new nerve problems in my legs, I decided to lay off the leg machines. Instead of doing two circuits on all the machines, I did three circuits on the upper body and core machines. This was probably not a good idea. For a start, my right foot went numb after I used the first machine (a shoulder raise gizmo).

I stuck with my plan. I arrived a little before 11 am. The people in the weight room were all business. There was no chatter, no sitting around. So I made it out of there by 1 pm without having to wait at all.

My upper body was a tad annoyed with me. I could hear my biceps saying “You are such an asshole” all the way home on Little Nellie.

Gym and bike ride done!

Next came lunch. Then a clock reset-a-thon. I have four bike computers, three different kinds. So I had to find out how to do the deed without obliterating other settings. After about 1/2 hour I succeeded. In the process, I saw that my computers have over 112,000 miles on them. Whoa.

Reset the bike computers. Done!

Next up were the clocks in the cars. Done!

Then I took a picture of a foundation wall crack in the back of the house and emailed it to a contractor who knows about such things. He emailed me back to tell me to keep and eye on the cracks. They are probably caused by the marine clay soil under the house drying out from the summer with very little rain. I am taking his advice because I can do nothing like a champ.

Deal with foundation cracks. Done!

Laundry was next. Done!

Bill paying. Done!

Check book balancing. Done!

I meditated for 30 minutes. Done!

The only things I haven’t done are shredding (our file cabinet is bursting at the seams) and read my Fredrik Backman book.

So what do you do when you retire? All the crap that you cram into the evenings.

Still, it didn’t feel like I accomplished much.

I’ll try again tomorrow.

 

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No Way So Hey – Day 17

The day began with a 1 1/2 mile ride to a diner where I stuffed myself with all the things. 

Belch.

Then I went back to the campground, packed up, and paid. I got a senior discount. Woot!

I hit the road late, 8:30, and I knew I would pay. The early morning hours have pleasant temperatures but some uncomfortable humidity. From about 10 to 2 the sky is cloudless and the heat wears on you. After that the sun is low enough to cast shadows across the road and the puffy white clouds lend a hand.

Today’s ride was more of the same. Farms and swamps. Run down shacks and beautiful country homes. I saw some peach orchards today. At one of my rest stops I asked the clerk for done bananas. We don’t have any. You should try our sliced peaches. Holy crap. I hoovered them. Just perfectly sweet and juicy. 


And I saw a cotton field that looked ready for picking.


Toward the end of the day I saw farms with livestock and chicken houses. I was also chased by a big mean dog who didn’t have the leg speed to keep up with The Mule. Instead of “Beware of the Dog” signs, some people put up “Bad Dog” signs. This made me think of putting up a sign that says, “Dog of Poor Moral Fiber”.

Hills have made a reappearance too. I don’t mind. Just drop to a lower gear and spin.

For the first three or four days your brain is all monkey mind. After that you just become kind of mesmerized by the sound of the chain, the turning of the pedals, the pumping of your knees. Your brain goes off on tangents then it locks back in on chain and pedals and knees. 

I’m getting closer to the Okeefenokee Swamp. The Saltilla River seems to be everywhere. I stopped to take a picture of the swamp trees with their wide bases.


I cruised into Nahunta Georgia just before 5 pm. I’m staying at the Knox Hotel which looks like something you’d see in Mayberry or Petticoat Junction. 

The hotel incurred some minor hurricane damage to its roof. The owner told me she took in many people displaced by Irma a few weeks ago. 

After 85 miles on breakfast, convenience store food and peaches, I’m ready for a shower and dinner. 

Total miles 1,242.5. 

Tomorrow the Okeefenokee Swamp and Florida. 

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.

 

Awareness, or Going from Soon to Nope

This morning I went out on my deck and made an obvious discovery. The suburbs are supposed to be quiet but they are not. It’s noisy out there. Somehow, in the grind of daily life, we tune it all out.

I was just sitting there feeling groggy from too many miles, too many midges consumed on the ride home from yesterday’s baseball game. I closed my eyes. And listened.

Crows. Cardinals. Assorted other birds. The general hum of the traffic on US 1 about a mile away. (Sounds a bit like a kitchen exhaust fan set on low.) The leaves rustling in the wind. The occasional jet plane over head.

Listen more closely.

A voice in the distance singing what sounds like a very spacy tune. The clacking sound of squirrels. The rumble of a truck on the nearby side street. The more I listen, the closer I pay attention, the more birds I hear. There are layers of them that I tune out. The coo of a dove. A horsefly buzzing by.

I found out later that meditators call this choiceless awareness. Of course, you can play the game with just one sense or all your senses, but that seems rather overwhelming. Hell, I can close my eyes and see all kinds of interesting things on the inner side of my eye lids. Floaters. Blood vessels. A glow from the light through the skin. A dead spot where my retina was reattached. The retina itself. More floaters. (Floaters are like bird songs. The more you pay attention to them the more you detect.)

This passive noticing is good fun. You can easily piss all over the fun part if you sit there with your eyes open and notice that the world is a rather grungy place. The deck needs washing. The lawn is too tall. There are spots of mildew on the siding. This chair has gross dirt all over it. I’ll keep my eyes closed, thank you.

A few months ago I noticed what I think is the opposite of choiceless awareness. It has to do with flipping your visual processing on its head. We see that we are passing through various environments. The shrubs on the side of the trail. Grass. The river, The tree limbs hanging down. There’s too much of it and we tune most of it out. This explains what going somewhere new can be overwhelming. We don’t know what is important for our task at hand and what is useless visual clutter. Which of those road signs matter? What landmarks are important? And so on.

So one night I stumbled into focusing my attention on a limb overhanging the trail as I rode toward it. Instead of me riding toward it past it, my mind flipped this on its head. Instead of me passing through the landscape, the landscape was passing by me. The limb took on an eerie fake 3-D quality with everything around it out of focus.

From time to time, I play with this inverted awareness on my bike commutes. Just another way to go into a bike trance.

This awareness game does not work at all with faces or names. At least not for me. I can’t detect Chris M. at all, but I have regular sightings of dopplegangers for Bob (Don’t Call Me Rachel) Cannon and Flogini. They are both distinctive looking but my brain just gets them visually mixed up with other people. I can’t even…

The other day I saw a woman on the trail riding toward me. I was on my recumbent. She smiled (this happens a lot when you’re on a bent) as she rode past and I nodded. There were familiar laugh lines on her face. And shoulder length dark brown hair fell from beneath her helmet. She was fit and riding an upright bike. Flogini? I haven’t seen her in over a year. Was it her? I texted her. He one syllable answer: “Nope.” Loquacious, no? We’ve gone from “soon” to “nope”. Maybe that’s the problem.

Oh well, things are always looking up.

Image may contain: cloud, sky, grass, outdoor and nature

Ear Bud Coffee Ninja Tuesday

Yesterday on the Mount Vernon Trail was Butt Cheek Monday. My thanks, once again, to the designers of skin tight running shorts for women. Today was Ear Bud Coffee Ninja Tuesday.

Image may contain: bicycle, outdoor and nature

I was plodding along going up a slight rise in the trail. The base of the rise is where I was nearly shuffled off my mortal coil by the driver of an SUV a couple of weeks ago.  As I made my way past the bus stop, a man came off a staircase to my right and walked directly in front of me. He was in ear bud heaven and his left hand held a cup of joe at about the level of my head. If I had hit him it would have been a literal hot mess.

I froze, proving that meditation can get you only so far in bike crash world. I swerved left and came to a stop avoiding making a four-ten split of some more folks waiting for the bus doors to open. (Why the heck do all these people have to stand when the bus is just sitting there with its doors shut?)

I said something exclamatory that did not include the letter f, shook my head, and rode away. Ear bud coffee ninja didn’t say a word.

I have ridden past this bus stop thousands of times. This is the first time I nearly crashed into someone. Maybe all my past caution has given me a big balance in the karma bank.

Today was cool with rain and wind. By Saturday, it will be 90F degrees. Bring it on. I am torn between riding 16 miles to the Climate March or riding 16 miles to the Nationals baseball game. (They are both in DC, about a mile apart.) Everybody knows that saving the planet is roughly as important as winning the NL East.

 

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

IMG_0480

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.