Five Buck Bikeabout

Yesterday’ weather was fantastic.  Good weather for goofing off is also good weather for getting stuff done around the house. Sorry to disappoint you, my friends, but I chose responsibility over slacking.

I mowed the lawn and painted the shed. Most of the painting had already been done by Mrs. Rootchopper during the week but I took on the tedious chore of painting the trim. Four plus hours of pure fun. Not. When I was done I reloaded the shed with all the stuff. It’s good to be back to normal, but my efforts were rewarded with lower back pains.

So I started the today with my usual noga (My wife says it’s yoga, I say it’s back exercises so let’s just call it noga, okay?). After that I languished on my deck reading the Sunday paper. Had I stuck around it would have been tea and buttered scones but I decided to go on a recon ride to DC. I am riding my ninth 50 States Ride in a month and need to find a parking spot near the start. (It’s not too late to sign up. You have to be a WABA member, or come as the guest of one. )

So off I rode to DC on the Mount Vernon Trail. It was busy, mostly with tourists on rental bikes. You can tell because they gape at all the stuff I see every day. On the Dyke Marsh bridge I caught up to a bike tourist. We had a ten second chat from which I learned that he is riding around the perimeter of the 48 contiguous states. He started in Minnesota and is riding counterclockwise. So he’s already been from midnight to three o’clock. The ride will take him 14 months. Go dude! (I found his journal when I got home over on Crazyguyonabike.com. The journal notes say that he also took a side trip to Hawaii and dropped down into Mexico for a few days.)

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After ten miles of weaving around the rent-a-bikers, I made it into DC and headed for Rock Creek Park. Along the way, I spotted a cricket match because this is DC and DC is eclectic as fuck.

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The weather was nearly as good as yesterday. The park side trail is being refurbished and looks great for most of the way from Georgetown to Military Road. At one point, people were gathering along the trail to look into the creek. Five bucks were making their way across the creek. The road crossing had all us bystanders holding our breath. I think they made it across without incident. (The picture shows only the southbound half of the road just after a merge to the left out of frame. The grassy median is wooded and wide. They had to make it across another two lanes of northbound traffic after that.)

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I made it to the new Klingle Valley trail which I had ridden downhill recently. Today, I slogged up the hill. I kept my breathing and effort constant and had no trouble making the climb. Of course, neither would you at 7 miles per hour.

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Once i reached the top, I check out some of the local streets for parking. As long as you are willing to ride a mile (or less) to the start of the ride, you’ll have no trouble finding a place for your metal fart barge (Colin made me say that.)

After the recon was over, I rode to Meridian Hill Park for no other reason than it’s one of my favorite places in DC. The water cascade was dry earlier this summer but it is now flowing in all its glory. The park is built into a hill. Looking down from the top (near the swordless statue of Joan of Arc) the cascade is pretty. Looking up from the base of the park, it is just WOW! And it sounds so soothing you could sit beside it all day canoodling with your canoodle-ee.

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Mon Dieu! Ou est mon epee?
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Cascade from the top of the park
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Cascade from the bottom of the park

I thought it would spoil the vibe if I started canoodling with myself so I made my way home down the 15 Street cycletrack. This was a mistake. It took a really long time. I could have been bombing down 16th Street instead. Riding in a cycletrack in DC feels like you’re in a video game. People, ubers, delivery vans, dogs, and other random stuff seem to appear. You’ll never score enough points if you don’t pay attention.

The ride home was a breeze. Literally. I took a side trip through Del Ray for a change of pace. After 40 miles, I didn’t feel the slightest bit tired. I’m ready for my tour, Mr. DeMille.

Some more pix of my ride are on my Flickr page.

Clinchmas Take II

Well, the baseball gods decided to test my patience. The Mets won and the Nationals lost in 12 innings last night. Thus, we are right where we were yesterday. The division title could be clinched tonight but only of the Mets lose and the Nationals win. If I had my act together, I’d drive to Pittsburgh (about five hours from here) and watch the game live. Alas, my act has been in pieces for a couple of decades.

I am planning on going to the game Monday night here in DC. There is a chance (if the Mets keep winning and the Nats keep losing) that the clinching will take place then. My real reason for going is that I am working from home on Tuesday. When I take in a night game, I don’t get to bed until 1 am. Thus I get about 5 hours of sleep which makes bike commuting (and work) a rather groggy affair. I’ll probably take in one or two more games before the regular season ends next weekend. Then it’s on to some other past time until April. I am not a big fan of winter so I need to get creative.

Maybe I need some winter. My whole body feels worn out. I am stiff in my back and legs. So today I am staying off the bike and doing chores like mowing the lawn and washing the deck. I have a big book that Mrs. Rootchopper gave me for my birthday in August. It’s not all hot and muggy outside so I think I’ll take my reading out on the patio. There may be beer involved.

On a completely unrelated note, somebody cut the sword off the statue of Joan of Arc in Meridian Hill Park. This park, also called Malcolm X Park, is a real jewel. I go there sometimes when I am riding in the city, just to relax, eat lunch, and watch the crazy quilt of humanity. The suburbs just don’t have parks with as much joie de vivre. Mostly they have noisy families and stinky grills. Doesn’t do much for me.

 

 

 

 

 

Bike 1, Quinoa 0

I slept in.

When I woke up it was a perfect summer day. The second in a row. There was just one thing to do.

I rode my bike.

You saw that coming, didn’t you.

After all, I could have spent my day doing something truly exciting like dry toasting some quinoa. (Or driving a funicular railcar. I actually know people who did these things today.)

But I rode my bike.

I chose the Cross Check for my adventure. The first ten miles were unremarkable which is remarkable for a Sunday on the Mount Vernon Trail. Normally, the MVT is a zoo on a nice weekend days but today it was less busy than a weekday evening. I rode it all the way to DC. Unmolested.

I made it to trail along the Potomac on the DC side before disaster almost struck. I was patiently following two tentative riders as they made their way through the narrow underpass of the TR Bridge. There was stream of bikes coming our way then a runner. Just as Tentative Rider number 1 came upon the runner a stream of Lance Mamilots came around the bling corner on the other end of the underpass. Two got past the runner but the third nearly hit her. The tentative riders somehow managed not to find themselves in a big pile up. As did I. The runner was rightfully pissed. I yelled something non-obscene at Lance.

Another mile went by. As I approached K Street, I was following a rider on a very Eurpoean-style city bike. She was riding very slowly and came to a stop a the turn off for K Street. Somehow she fell sideways into a small patch of grass. She was more embarrassed than hurt. So I turned onto K and headed toward the Capital Crescent Trail. The CCT was busy and a few impatient riders nearly caused head on collisions. I just moseyed along and kept a positive attitude. It was just too nice a day to get upset.

Approaching Bethesda, I was passed by another Lance. He was headed straight for an on-coming walker. Oncoming walker was an unassuming looking, thin woman, perhaps in her late 60s, with thinning brown hair. In a vaguely eastern European accident she shouted: “Get on the other side of the trail, ASSHOLE!”

I could not stop laughing. For miles.

In Bethesda Row, I stopped at Bethesda Bagels (I love places with creative names) and bought a bagel sandwich. I rode to the trestle over Rock Creek Park and ate half of it there, looking out from the treetops to the creek far below.

And to think I could have been dry toasting my quinoa.

Dang.

With my tank topped off, I headed  outbound on Beach Drive. I had some company, mostly on bikes. At Garret Park I turned around. I had a bit of a head wind and put my head down for a moment. When I looked up, I nearly rode into a fawn. There were two in the road. So cute.

Back to DC, staying in, mostly car free, Rock Creek Park. Lord, was it nice. Warm, breezy. The soothing sound of the creek rushing past only a few yards to the side of the road.

I climbed out of the park on Park Road and made my way to Columbia Heights. Normally this hill is difficult for me. Not today. I rode the bike lane straight up Irving Street, passing a long stream of cars waiting in line for the short light at the top of the hill. Sucks for them, I thought.

Soon I was sitting on a bench in the shade in Meridian Hill Park. The rest of my sandwich didn’t have a chance.

For some reason, riding down 16th Street on the way home has become a favorite of mine. There are so many interesting buildings and people. Unfortunately, it ends with a ride through the touroids near the White House. I managed to get behind a tour group on Segways clogging the 15th Street cycletrack.

Riding a bike behind Segways is only marginally more enjoyable than dry toasting quinoa.

I survived. Nobody killed me as I rode out of DC. The MVT was once again not half bad. The last ten miles were not the easiest. I have to remember to drink more water while I am riding during my tour next week.

I rode all winter, all through a cold, wet spring. Today’s beautiful 63 1/2 miles was payback.

Tonight, I’ll dry toast some quinoa.

Just kidding.

Too bad there aren’t any funiculars around.

Ten Random Thoughts from behind My Handlebars

4. I have friends who are so unreliable, I can rely on their unreliability.

2. Add another list to the bizarre people I have met: he was a paragon of government IT contracting who was once worth over $200 million. He had more charisma than anyone I’ve ever seen. When he walked into a room, all eyes turned to him. Since I last saw him ten years ago, he’s had a drug conviction, been accused of rape, and filed for bankruptcy. It appears he was a complete fraud.

8. According to a book I am reading, the sales tax on cars in Denmark is 180%. Oof.

5. I have a friend who professes to be “present”, that is to live in the present moment. Over five months ago she told me that we will get together “soon.” In mindfulness- speak that pretty much means “never.”  It’s a bit like Zeno’s dichotomy paradox. We’ll meet tomorrow, but when tomorrow comes, it’s today, so we’ll meet tomorrow, ad infinitum. What a clever way to tell someone to cheese off.

9.   Icelandair offers a free 7 day layover in Iceland to anyone flying their airline to Europe. They operate tours and hotels too. Why doesn’t any other airline do this? Okay, maybe it wouldn’t work so well for Yemeni Air, but…

6. I happen to be okay with gluten. (I tried a gluten free pastry a few weeks ago. It was dreadful. It was almost as bad as the neoprene vegan hot dog I ate last year.) This is why, after your umpteenth “gluten is bad” post appeared on on my Facebook page, I unfollowed you. Nothing personal. You are now one of the 20 percent of my Facebook friends that I have unfollowed. (For the record, I also block eight people.) Pass the pretzels.

3. Whenever I travel I experience a “prime directive” moment. That’s when you see something in conflict with your normal life that you have to restrain yourself from interfering. From as early as I can remember I have been told to look both ways when crossing the street. In Stockholm, parents with little kids just walk. They have absolute confidence that drivers and cyclists will follow the rules to the letter and stop for them. Every time I saw this happen, I felt like screaming “NO!!!”

7. I like the idea of the drum circle in Meridian Hill Park, but I can only take about ten minutes of it before I get a crashing headache.

10. I rode to work in the pouring rain today. It was actually pretty nice because both the air and the rain drops were warm. It was a bit like putting your bike on a trainer in the shower and riding for 75 minutes.

1. Ten years ago it was absurd to suggest that DC was a better place to live than Fairfax County. Not any more. Ten years from now I wonder if people will look at Fairfax County and wonder what went wrong.

 

 

 

 

There Is No I in This Nelle

There’s Big Nellie. There’s Little Nellie. Then there’s Nelle. No big. No little. All awesome.

Nelle tweeted that she was riding to Jones Point Park to check out the Washington Area Bicyclist Association’s bike class for adults. I’d was looking for an excuse to go for a short ride so I thought I check this out.

I rode to the Park. The bike class is held underneath the Woodrow Wilson Bridge. It’s a paved parking lot that nobody uses for parking. Seeing as how you can’t park there, you might just as well learn stuff there. There are sword fighting classes, intense fitness classes, little kids’ bike classes, and, now, bike classes for grown ups.

The bridge is about 5 – 5 1/2 miles from my house. When I was about 100 yards away, I realized that I had left my lock at home. I swung by the class to check it out. Nelle wasn’t there and the instructors were much to busy getting their students set up to ride, so I figured I’d go back home. I took a hilly route just for variety’s sake. The 10 1/2 round trip was uneventful. It would have been eventful but for the fact that I biked past my friend Lisa who was walking a dog near Belle Haven Park.

Once back at the class I found Nelle who was talking to WABA member named Dave. Dave supports the classes out of enlightened self interest.  He figures that the more people we get riding in Alexandria (the city abutting the park and Dave’s town of residence), the better biking will be for everyone in Alexandria, Dave included.

Jason also showed up. He’s a former WABA trail ranger who had ridden down from North Arlington. After talking a while, Nelle got the idea of riding back to DC by way of the Wilson Bridge. Jason and I decided to ride with her.

We crossed the bridge on the busy side path. On the Maryland side we enjoyed riding the corkscrew trail down to the river’s edge. We took a left up Harborside Avenue and began the long ride up to Oxon HIll Road. I had plenty of time to check out the new casino being built. It’s huge. I said the ride was up a long hill but Nelle didn’t seem to notice. She was nice enough to wait for Jason who was not far behind and me who was waaaaaay behind.

Apparently, this hill is Oxon Hill because the road at the top is called Oxon Hill Road. Recently MDOT completely redid Oxon Hill Road so I led a tour of the improvements. Prior to these changes Oxon Hill Road was a lousy place to ride a bike. No bike lanes, broken pavement, heavy traffic going too fast, etc. Now there are bike lanes, sometimes protected from other traffic by an island. Also there were three roundabouts which did a nifty job of calming traffic. I took Nelle and Jason to near the start of the Matthew Henson Trail. This paved trail goes through the woods and some fields. It doesn’t seem to connect to much but thought it would be good for Nelle to know where it was in case she encountered it at work somehow.

We took Fort Foote Road back about half way to where we started on Oxon Hill Road. It’s an uninspiring suburban street that has much less traffic that Oxon Hill Road. Nelle was interested in Fort Foote but I checked it out and there’s nothing much to see anymore.

Back on Oxon Hill Road we headed for Oxon Hill Farm. The bike connection to the farm requires some idiotic sidewalk riding but being idiots we found it easy to navigate. The route through the farm goes down a steep, bumpy, windy road. There are deer and wild turkey in the woods along the descent but not today. We hooked up with Oxon Hill Farm Trail and rode it along Oxon Cove. At the bridge over Oxon Creek we stopped so that Nelle could eat one of her anabolic steroid chews. She said it was a chewy candy snack. After seeing her fly up Harborview Avenue, I have my doubts.

DSCN4864_1274.JPGWe checked out some Canada geese goslings and a swimming snake in the creek then headed into the corner of SE DC. Here near the police academy we admired the creepy Guns to Ploughshares sculpture, made from guns that DC police had taken off the streets back in the days when DC was the murder capital of the US. Chris Roell who runs the weekly BicycleSpace ride in Anacostia appeared out of nowhere to tell us about the sculpture and Anacostia. He explained that the sculpture was once located in downtown DC. Just the thing for tourists, right. DC thought better of it and moved it to its current location. We thanked Chris and his riding partner Sara (I think. My fusiform gyrus is still messed up.) and headed on to Anacostia.

We climbed a steep hill to Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. I climbed it. Jason rode up it numbly. Nelle took it like it wasn’t there. (Sugar candies, my ass.)

Once on MLK we rode through depressingly down trodden neighborhoods. There was plenty of car and bus traffic and a bumpy road surface just to keep things interesting. At one point Nelle got impatient with a car that was blocking her way. She hopped off her bike, picked the car up, and tossed it aside. Sugar candies. (Okay, I made that up.)

We crossed over the 11th Street Bridge and stayed on 11th through Capitol Hill. Mass Ave to us to a little grocery store where we bought cookies. Jason bought a black and white. I bought a chocolate chip. Nelle bought a BALCO sugar cookie. (Would I lie?)

Nelle led us through Columbus Circle in front of Union Station. What an insane mess of traffic. Our reward was the 1st Street cycletrack, a protected two-way bike lane painted lime green. The cycletrack took us to the Metropolitan Branch Trail. Once on the MBT the BALCO cookie must have been metabolized and Nelle flew up the trail. She confessed earlier that she is worried that she might not be in good enough shape to do the four day Climate Ride from New York City to DC in September. Not gonna be a problem lady.

At R Street Nelle continued on the MBT while Jason and I headed across town on the R Street bike lane. At 15th I said goodbye to Jason and headed up the cycletrack to Meridian Hill Park. This involved another tough climb. I was rewarded with a park bench and a sammich I bought back at the cookie stop. The park was packed with people. Usually people are playing frisbee, using hula hoops, doing acroyoga, slacklining and such. Today people were sitting around chatting, reading or just catching some rays.

After eating I headed down 16th Street to the White House, then around the Treasury Building, passed the Washington Monument and the Jefferson Memorial and over the Potomac River on the 14th Street Bridge.

The weather was perfect but for a strong gusty wind and so much pollen that my eyes felt like they were filled with sand. Once across the river, the wind was at my back. I had a nice push for the last 12 miles home.

So my short ride turned out to be 59 hilly, windy miles. Thanks to Jason for the company. Thanks to Nelle, who despite many opportunities to do so, did not drop me. Proving there is no I in this Nelle.

Here are some more pix.

 

 

 

Navigating the Blossom Borg

Yesterday I rode my bike to the Adams Morgan neighborhood of DC.  I was going to a get together for my friend Ricky who was hit by  a car a couple of weeks ago. He was also celebrating his 50th birthday. Under the circumstances, he’s probably grateful to be 50 instead of pushing up the daisies.

My trip took me through Old Town Alexandria where I did some business at the UPS Store. Then I rode the inland route, the alternate to the Mount Vernon Trail, all the way to Lady Bird Johnson Park opposite the monuments in DC. There I crossed back over to the MVT. There were an unusual number of walkers on the Virginia side of the Potomac so I knew it would be crowded at the Tidal Basin directly across the river.

As I took the ramp to the 14th Street Bridge, I waved a family group of bicyclists to go before me. There were perhaps 15 people in the group. Their ages ranged from 10 to 50. They took their time and were very careful to avoid crashing into each other or into other trail users. Nicely done folks.

On the bridge I could get a closer view of the crowds around the Tidal Basin. It was insane. When I arrived at the Jefferson Memorial at the DC end of the bridge it was an absolute zoo. Suffice it to say, “On your left” doesn’t work with a busload of disoriented tourists from Japan.

After my bicycle escort veered off to park, I rode through the tourist hordes. I tried to use pavement but it was pointless so I rode on the grass and eventually found a clear path on the sidewalk that follows the approach to the bridge to the east of the Memorial.

The sidewalk curves back to merge with the cherry tree lined sidewalk that goes around the perimeter of the basin. It was a sea of humanity. Moving ever so slowly through a pinch point on a bridge over the inlet that connects the basin to Washington Channel. It must have looked like a swarm of ants from above.

You could almost hear the voice in their collective hive mind:

Must. See. Blossoms.

Must. See/ Blossoms.

Resistance is futile.

I crossed the street to get around the swarm. At 15th and Maine, I waited for  a red light. Pedestrians who were waiting to cross Maine were so thick they spilled from the sidewalk and blocked my way.

The light turned green and the swarm moved as one. As I rode up to Independence Avenue, the swarm moved on the sidewalks to either side of me. At Independence, the swarm swallowed a crosswalk. Two traffic control officers tried in vain to maintain order. The swarm would not be denied. It swallowed them. After half a light cycle, an opening appeared and I carefully slipped through. Now I only had to deal with the swarm of cars moving so slowly.

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The Touroid Borg at 15th and Independence. If you look closely, you can see one of the traffic cops. 

A turning tour bus blocked 15th at Pennsylvania allowing me to get onto the 15th Street cycletrack where I was joined by a woman riding alone. She seemed uneasy with riding in such conditions so she told me she was going to follow my lead. She had an accent, and, as it turns out, was German. Having lived on Capitol Hill for the last year, she discovered that riding a bike was the best way to get around town. Especially on days like today. Once we escaped the White House area the crowds dissipated and we made good time. She peeled off at P Street while I forged ahead.

I reached Meridian Hill Park and did a victory lap. The water cascade had not been turned on but otherwise it was a normal Saturday in the park. No swarm of tourists. Just local folk doing local folk park things.

I made it to the get together at a pool hall in AdMo. Ricky looked to be in great shape. He seems to be recovering nicely. He may even start going to work next week full time. It will be a lot longer before he can ride a bike again however.

The get together featured a bunch of BikeDC folks from Friday Coffee Club so it was a reunion one day after the finale.  I stayed way too long. Twilight was descending as I emerged on the street. The effects of the beer were made evident by the fact that The Mule seemed like a bucking bronco.

No guts, no glory.

(Do not try this at home. Really. Riding through traffic at twilight after drinking beer is just not a good idea. )

I rode back down to the swarm, touching cars here and there at stop lights to get my low speed balance in check. The swarm was smaller. Perhaps touroids calm down like hornets when the air cools.

The river crossing was almost normal. As was the ride down the trail to my house.

Today was the first day this spring that The Mule and I seemed to be in sync. After tweaking my handlebars and saddle, I finally found the sweet spot where pedaling seemed effortless. This gives me hope for the spring riding season and my tour planned for early July.

The day really zonked me. I fell asleep working a crossword puzzle at the kitchen table. When I awoke, I lied down on the couch in our family room. Then the spasms in my legs began. First, my left thigh, then my right calf, then my right thigh, then both  my thighs. On and on into the night.

Apparently beer is not the best electrolyte drink.

I drank some water and lemonade and hoped for the best. Then I slept like a log from a cherry tree.

 

 

To the Trestle and Back

Today I had the day off for Veterans Day. I still kind of like the original name, Armistice Day, the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, and all that.  It’s a decent Paul Simon song too. No disrespect to Veterans, mind you. My father was an amused Veteran. He used to tell the story that medical school students were drafted and left in school. The army would take them out to a base on Long Island and march them around. My father said they were pathetic, skinny, pale, uncoordinated. Gomer Pyles but with brains. My father stayed in the reserves through the Korean War. All this was before my time.

Having the day off, I decided to do one of my favorite rides, from my home in Mount Vernon Virginia to Bethesda, Maryland with a stop at Rock Creek Trestle. The temperature was in the mid-50s when I left with a strong northwest breeze, a headwind. You don’t get many windy days in the DC area when its warm so the breeze was a portent of many cold windy days to come.

I rode my Cross Check on the Mount Vernon Trail to Old Town Alexandria. The trail was covered in leaves and I was fearful of slipping and falling so I was extra careful. Once in Old Town I decided to leave the Mount Vernon Trail and head through most of Alexandria on a couple of newer bike trails. I picked the first trail up just off of West Street and rode it to the Braddock Road Metro station. There I zigzagged to get on the new trail that runs several miles, nearly all the way to Crystal City in Arlington. No lights. No stop signs. No obnoxious ticketing by Alexandria Police.

I rode through Crystal City and hit every traffic light on the green. This NEVER happens. My route took me on Boundary Channel Drive along side acres of Pentagon parking. Then I rode through Lady Bird Johnson Park, under the GW Parkway, up and over the Humpback Bridge, onto the 14th Street Bridge and across the Potomac River.

During this part of the ride the rear fender of the Cross Check became disengaged from its frame mount for what must have been the 20th time. I re-attached it and decided it was time for a permanent fix.

Once in the city, I rode the the K Street Bicycle Space store where a mechanic did what mechanics do and soon I had a fender that would not fall off. Knock wood. During the repair, I noticed that Paul, the mechanic most likely to play Doc Brown in Back to the Future IV, was working on an HP Velotechnik Street Machine. This is a recumbent to die for. The owner and I talked about the bike. He bought it from a Canadian for $1,500 Canadian. New this bike costs 2 – 3 times as much. The owner, who looked to be in my age cohort, rode it across the country. Dang! Bike envy!!!

Another customer came in to get her bike ready for Saturday’s Cider Ride. I didn’t have a chance to talk to her but maybe I’ll see her during the ride.

From Bicycle Space I headed up Sixth Street to check out the church whose congregation is upset by the possibility of having to share the street with a protected bike lane. Sixth Street is WIDE. I don’t see the problem here other than selfishness.

Beach Drive
Beach Drive in Rock Creek Park

I wended my way through town and up the protected 15th Street bike lane at Meridian Hill. This short hill is quite a bitch, I must say. I recovered by doing a slow lap in the park. On weekends the park is a hive of activity but today it was nearly deserted. I checked out the view of the water cascade and then headed through Adams Morgan to Rock Creek Park.

On weekends and holidays, Beach Drive, the main drag in the park, has limited car access. I rode north on the windy road, wind in my face, sun on my shoulders. It was a mighty fine ride. I made my way to the Georgetown Branch Trail and to the Rock Creek Trestle. The view from above the treetops is one of my favorites.

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Rock Creek View from the Trestle
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The Cross Check Takes a Breather on the Trestle High above Rock Creek Park
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Georgetown Branch Trail Heading West from the Trestle

After taking some pictures I headed west on the trail to Bethesda. I could tell that my body was not feeling it today. I still haven’t recovered from Sunday’s hike. I slogged on stopping only to refill my water bottles when I should have stopped to eat.

In Bethesda I picked up the mostly downhill Capital Crescent Trail and a tailwind. Ahhh.

Normally I be bombing along this trail at 20+ miles per hour but not today. I was suffering from insufficient junk food syndrome or IJFS. Don’t get this. Eat you donuts, people!!!

On the way home I rode past the Lincoln Memorial. I expected the place to be mobbed with Veterans checking out the nearby Vietnam, Korean, and WWII Memorials. There were plenty of people, many obviously veterans, milling about but I think whatever festivities there were had concluded hours earlier.

I made my way to the 14th Street Bridge and retraced my route to the south end of Old Town. Not wanting to ride the Mount Vernon Trail for the 400th time this year (a guess, but not too far off), I took Fort Hunt Road and Sherwood Hall Lane home. This is a pretty hilly route and I had nothing left in my legs so the going was slow.

Long story short:I managed to ride 55 1/2 miles on a sunny November Day. Not half bad.

Any Excuse for a Ride

I am going hiking tomorrow and have three medical appointments on Wednesday so I figured I might as well take today (Monday) off and get a five day weekend out of the deal.

The shifting on my new Cross Check was sloppy. It was starting to annoy me even though this is expected as the chain stretches. I could have fiddled with the little dial adjuster thingie for a few minutes and fixed it myself, I suppose. That would be rational. That would not be me.

I bought my Cross Check at Bicycle Space in DC. As part of the purchase, they will tweak your bike’s gears and brakes for a year after purchase for free. Good deal. So I hopped on my bike and headed into town along the nearly empty Mount Vernon Trail.

It was a nice ride except for the inferno part. Dang was it hot!

The ride went smoothly. It’s fun to ride a brand new bike over familiar terrain. I was taking it easy and still going significantly faster than when I ride my other bikes. This Cross Check is an animal.

As I suspected from riding with Katie Lee and her Cross Check, this bike shines in traffic. It is so much more agile than my other bikes and it’s wide-ish tires eat up the bumps in the road.

The good mechanic at Bicycle Space on K Street tweaked my gears and showed me a peculiarity of my shifter. We traded names and, true to form, I forgot his within about three blocks. He was a very nice guy. So, thanks Nice Guy.

I decided to meander around town for a bit. My friend Emilia teaches at Mundo Verde, a bi-lingual (Spanish and English) charter school with a focus on sustainability. I decided to go check it out. I should have taken a picture. It was muy bueno. My boss and a co-worker send their kids there. They tell me that the teachers are muy bueno too.

As I rode by, some people were sitting on the lawn in front of the building. It looked like some teachers were getting organized for the coming school year. This must be an exciting time of year to be a teacher.

I circled back and headed west across town on O Street which is a pretty quiet route to take considering it’s only a few blocks from downtown. At 11th Street I turned north. This was another quite street. I guess everyone must be working. What’s up with that?

I took a left on Euclid and rode over to Meridian Hill Park, which was featured on page 1 of the Washington Post today. The park is in two big tiers. The top tier is an open rectangular field with shaded areas along the longer sides. This is where the drum circle is and where circus of slack lining, hula hooping, acroyoga-ing folks hang out on the weekend. From the edge of the top tier, you can look down on the cascading water feature of the low tier. Whoever designed this was a genius. It is just stunning. A public sector thing done amazingly right.

After chilling in the park, I headed down 16th Street. A driver from Virginia nearly sideswiped me about a block before he made a left hand turn from the right lane. Some people simply should not be allowed to drive.

I slalomed through the tourists near the White House with aplomb. Actually, it was with a bike but I don’t get to use the word aplomb often.

Acro20651892132_b05724fba0_zss the river and down the MVT rode I. Instead of mindlessly riding straight home, I made my way over to Del Ray where I had had a root beer float at the Dairy Godmother ice cream shop. It was gone within minutes. Darn tasty.

Back on the bike, the heat of the day was starting to wear on me. I rode to Old Town to buy a postcard for the August Post Card Challenge.

On the way home I decided to chow down on some tater tots so I headed to Del Ray Pizzeria‘s Belle Haven location. (I could have simply gone to the Del Ray location. It’s only three shops down from the Dairy Godmother.)  The tater tots were ho20669470851_a12618b5b3_zrs categorie. The pilsner and the koltch were not too shabby either.

The ride ended with a slog up a big hill on Fort Hunt Road and a long glide toward home.

By the time I arrived my lower back was feeling sore. Too many miles and hills on a new bike will do that to you. Good thing one of my Wednesday medical appointments is a massage.

Spring Training

We are training for spring. Today the temperature on my back deck reached 66 degrees. After weeks of freezing our asses off, the people of DC are all smiles. Except, perhaps, for the tourist I saw crashing on his Segway, but I am getting ahead of myself.

I started the day doing physical therapy for my foot. It was barely numb when I awoke but I decided to forgo yoga or my other exercises and just do what the PT people told me to do. Dang, it hurts. Raise this, lower that, keep your stomach and your butt cheeks tight. After about a half an hour our was done. My stomach muscles wanted to be traded to another body. And the lacrosse ball that is beating the knots out of my calves is seriously in danger of getting thrown out the window. Ouch.

After a morning of relaxation, I headed out the door on Big Nellie. I was bound for an everything bagel in Bethesda, about 24 miles away. It was 50 degrees outside. Yesss.

As I was waiting for cars at an intersection with Fort Hunt Road near my home, an SUV drove by and made friendly tooting sounds with its horn. I have no idea who it was but I waved at them

I made it to the Mount Vernon Trail which was not particularly crowded. In Old Town Alexandria I took South Washington Street. My physical therapist ran past. Small world.

The ride to the city was so peaceful I went on auto pilot. I stopped at Gravelly Point to watch a plane land overhead – easily one of my favorite free things to do.

Over the 14th Street Bridge I rode then up Ohio Drive to M Street to the Capital Crescent Trail. The long ride up to Bethesda took time. Recumbents simply don’t do uphills very well. And since I am not exactly a badass on two wheels let’s just say it took a while.

When I got to Bethesda Row I headed straight for Bethesda Bagels. Since it was well after noon there wasn’t a line. I picked up my everything bagel, toasted with veggie cream cheese and a sweet tea. I proceeded to inhale these comestibles with great vigor. Ah!

I rode the Georgetown Branch Trail over to the Rock Creek Trestle. The trail was somewhat muddy. Recumbents are the best mudders so it was a tense ride. I slipped this way and that several times. The view from the testle differs by time of year. The winter view is, of course, leafless but it’s always fun to be at treetop level with the world. IMG_20150208_142017

I reversed course then headed down into Rock Creek Park. All the climbing has its rewards and for most of the next 7 miles I was cruising downhill. The number of people on Beach Drive was impressive. Many families out riding bikes with their kids. I had to be careful not to hit any of them. They wobble and waver and dart out in front of you unexpectedly.

I got on the trail at Klingle Road. This was a mistake. The trail at this point is narrow and crowded and has numerous bumps from tree routes. Once I reached the zoo entrance, I took Harvard Street to climb into Adams Morgan. It’s a healthy climb, too. To recover from my exertion I took a very slow speed spin through Meridian Hill Park. There was a healthy number of people there, no one I knew though. I rode by the drum circle but there was only one man with drums so I decided to head back home.

I took 16th Street which is a nice straight downhill shot to the White House. Along the way I saw the indefatigible Ted a.k.a @MrTinDC.

I shifted over to the 15th Street cycletrack and got behind a long line of tourists on Segways. Normally, Big Nellie looks weird to people I pass but in a cluser of Segways, Big Nellie doesn’t get a passing glance. At the intersection with Pennsylvania Avenue, the Seqways stopped to regroup. One tourist’s Segway jolted to a stop throwing him to the ground with an audible SPLAT. Should’ve rented bikes.

I crossed back over the river and headed home on the Mount Vernon Trail. It was packed with people, most of whom were oblivious to the fact that some people were actually trying to make forward progress. At the south end of the airport I balied out, opting to cut through Del Ray.

I cut over to Old Town and rejoined the MVT at the southern end of Old Town. Mistake. This part of the trail was every bit as chaotic as what I had bailed out on.There was no point in getting upset about it. I slowed down and took in the madness that warm weather brings. And besides, by this point my legs were started to tell me that all that time off in January had taken its toll on my fitness.

I arrived home. Mrs. Rootchopper had opened the windows. The temperature was 66 degrees. (One degree off the record, so I am told.)

So I ended up riding 170 miles in seven days. Not half bad for winter. Tomorrow is a day off the bike as I am going to three doctors appointments.

We now return to our regularly scheduled winter.

2014 in Pictures

This was a truly eventful year. I don’t normally talk much about my family here but today I will make a few exceptions.

Icy Sunrise over Dyke Marsh - 1/9/2014

January: I have been a year-round bike commuter for several years now. Ice and snow are usually deal killers for me. This day in January was an exception. The frozen Potomac River at Dyke Marsh was beautiful. Even in the dead of winter, my bike commute is the best part of my work day.

Woveling

February: For most of the winter and spring, I was dealing with severe back pain. The weather gods did not cooperate by hitting DC with several snow storms. I decided to fight back; I bought a Wovel. Damned if it doesn’t make snow shoveling enjoyable. And it didn’t bother my back one bit.

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March: I finally decided to take care of recurring, painful cyst on my middle finger. It made for fun pictures.

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April: In 2006 I met Charmaine on the 50-States Ride in Anacostia. We’ve done dozens of rides since. She got the idea to go to coastal North Carolina for a three-day bike riding event. We pitched tents on the banks of the Neuse River. Sunrise was something special.

Eamonn BS

May: My son graduated from Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, New York.  After a summer job, he took off on the Great American Road Trip, which included a three-day hike to the base of the Grand Canyon. I am one proud and jealous papa.

SharrowsDC: The Ogremeister

June: I was getting ready to start the 2010 50-States Ride  when Mary came up and took my picture with Little Nellie. Sometime later, she, her husband Ed, Brian, and Lane launched Friday Coffee Club at M.E. Swings coffee house in DC. It has become a thing and has many imitators. I have been going nearly every week and have met so many great people. Here’s Brian, pre-coffee. You can tell by the fog.

She's Like a Rainbow

July: I really got into following the Washington Nationals. I love how the long season traces a story arc, something I first came to appreciate in 1975 when I was living in Boston. (Go Sawx!) I took my son and daughter to a Nats game and it rained like crazy for hours. The game was called but we got to see this amazing rainbow.

Thankfully, the Valley Trail hung a right just at the end of this bridge
Thankfully, the Valley Trail hung a right just at the end of this bridge

August: I started doing day hikes this year. I was a little too ambitious at first nearly killing myself by hiking the Billy Goat A Trail in Great Falls Park on a sweltering day. I’m still getting used to the slower vibe. There’s so much to see, like this bizzarre series of tree roots from an 11-mile hike in Rock Creek Park.

Emilia Shows Off Her Trophy
Emilia Shows Off Her Trophy

September: Early in the year, my friend Florencia returned from over a year and a half abroad. We made plans to do the 50-States Ride in September. She had to cancel but not before sending Emilia my way. Emilia blew me away with her enthusiasm. 65 hilly and rainy miles later she proudly held up her prize.

Flor Tending to Sundance

October: Florencia and I spent many great days together this year, making up for the time she was away. In October, we took a golden retriever named Sundance to Sugarloaf Mountain in Maryland for a nearly four-hour hike among the changing leaves. Sundance had us worried as he wouldn’t drink any water all day. Here, back at the car, Flor watches with relief as Sundance finally drinks some water. Thanks for coming, Sundance. Thanks for coming back, Florencia.

Hawk on a Wire 2

November: We always seem to have some interesting wildlife near our home. In the spring we watched kit foxes play in our back yard. At the end of November this hawk stood guard over our neighbor’s house.

Accupuncture leg

December: Sometime in late November my right foot started to go numb. I suppose this is what I get for years of beating the bejesus out of my feet. I went to a neurologist who creeped me out something fierce. Then on the advice of Kirstin, with whom I cycled beaucoup miles this year, I went to see a sports acupuncturist. As of this writing I don’t know if the treatment worked but it was certainly an interesting experience.

In Memoriam

Brother Mike and Me

My younger brother Mike passed away in October. His death was not unexpected. I defy you to find a cuter baby or toddler, than he. When picture books gave way to word books, it was clear that Mike was dyslexic. Before the alcohol did its insidious work, Mike was a talented special ed teacher in upstate New York, turning his struggle with learning into a a gift for his kids.

Lore and Flor

I learned of the tragic death of Lorena Gimenez, one of Flor’s dearest friends, in September. I had seen her just a few weeks before at Flor’s birthday picnic in Meridian Hill Park where this picture was taken.  They were celebrating 15 years of friendship. Flor, as one of four “soul sisters”,  gave a brief eulogy at Lore’s memorial service. It made me laugh and moved me to tears. About a month later, we learned that American University will award Lorena a Bachelor’s degree in International Development next May. Well done, AU. Congratulations, Lorena.

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Speaker after speaker at the memorial told of how Lorena comforted them in times of crisis and gave them some simple advice. Her advice invariably  boiled down to three sentences that I subsequently put on my white board at work. She died on the eve of her 42nd birthday. She was wise beyond her years.