How Do You say “Sandbagging” in Spanish

To recover from yesterday’s 55 mile meander I decided to do a 36 mile meander on Big Nellie. I mean why not meander while the meandering is good? Again, unbelievably, the weather was absolutely perfect for riding a bike.

Off I rode to do the Tour of Arlington, a loop around Arlington County Virginia entirely on bike trails.

I headed north on the Mount Vernon Trail. I stopped after a half mile to buy lemonade from a little boy and his mom. They were giving the proceeds to a  hurricane Harvey charity.

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Apparently the word got out that the trail is a nifty place to ride on a holiday with perfect weather because it was CROWDED!!!! Once I cleared Belle Haven Park I was enveloped with the scent of honeysuckle so I stopped to smell the flowers.

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I took my time and rode into Old Town Alexandria. The streets were CROWDED!!!! I made it through unscathed and approached the warehouses at the north end of Old Town. I spotted a woman riding up ahead and thought it might be Emilia. Sure enough it was. She didn’t recognize me apparently because I was on my unobtrusive long wheel base recumbent.

Once I said her name and waved she said “Hi John. Is that Nellie?” All was right once more. Big Nellie was flattered to be recognized. If a bike could blush, she would have.

I rode behind a friend of Emilia. They seemed intent on making good time. Emilia and I tried to talk but the one-behind-the-other thing didn’t work. I rushed ahead to get a decent photo of them but they flew by before I could get my phone ready. Then about 10 other bikes rolled by. Soon I was faced with the task of getting past all these people and dealing with heavy on-coming traffic. This is harder on Big Nellie for two reasons: (1) Big Nellie does not accelerate fast and (2) Big Nellie is low to the ground so I can’t see what is coming and what is coming can’t see me. I think I kind of pissed off some people but I managed to get around the crowd and caught up to Emilia and her friends. Her friends went north on the trail at the airport; I followed Emilia west on the Four Mile Run trail. Now when I tried to talk to her, Emilia was on her phone. Oh well.

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I sagged back a bit so as not to intrude on her conversation. That it was in Spanish meant that I had no idea what she was talking anyway, but I wanted to be polite. I kept pace and looked down. Emilia, riding a hybrid with wide tires and chatting on the phone, was cruising along effortlessly at 13 – 14 miles per hour.

I signed Emilia up for the 50 States Ride this year. Ever since she has been sending me messages that she is slow, that she is out of shape, and that I should be nice and wait for her during the ride. She repeated this today during our brief chat.  The reality will be rather different, I fear.

Last weekend Emilia and some friends rode to Harpers Ferry (and back) along the C&O Canal. The distance including the ride from her house to the start was about 65 miles each way. Nearly all of it on unpaved surfaces, some of it muddy. When I saw a picture of her in Harpers Ferry on Saturday I thought “Wow, they must have left early.” I thought this because Emilia looked like she had showered and changed clothes. I was wrong. She had just finished the ride. She looked completely relaxed and composed.

The same was true today. She just cruises along. No effort. Today she told me she no longer drinks alcohol or eats sugar. I’ve got a bad feeling about this.

Como se dice “sandbagging” en Espanol?

Anyway, when she got to the end of the Four Mile Run Trail she turned left to go home and I turned right to continue on the Washington and Old Dominion Trail.

After a few more miles I turned right onto the Custis Trail that heads back to the river. The trail has a series of rolling hills. Big Nellie started hill hopping, flying down one hill and up the next. This was why god invented bicycles. Fortunately, this trail was not at all crowded. Wheee!

Back at the river the trail was once again CROWDED!!!! I took my time and pedaled onward. I stopped at Gravelly Point to take some pictures.

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I arrived in Old Town to find it even more CROWDED than before. I think it had reached peak tourist. The intersection of King and Union was absolutely gridlocked with cars and walkers. I rolled to the front of a long line of cars waiting at the stop sign at King Street. A huge pick up truck was stuck in the middle of the intersection unable to move because of all the pedestrians. When a gap in the pedestrians opened up, I slowly rolled past the rear of the pickup, waited for a gap in the pedestrians crossing in the next cross walk and rolled free. Alexandria really needs to ban cars in Old Town on days like today. They serve no reasonable purpose.

A few blocks further on, I spotted  a massive line of people winding along the sidewalk from the left and turning down the sidewalk along Union Street. The line was 3 or 4 people wide. It turned out that all these people were there to see a tall ship that had docked this morning.

I cleared the mass of humanity and headed for home amid the breezes and the warm sun and the smell of the honeysuckle.

 

 

 

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Goodbye in the Sky

It would hard to come up with a nicer day to ride a bike than today. So off I went aboard the Cross Check for Chevy Chase. Not the comedian but the neighborhood on the top side of DC.

Just before leaving I put a message on social media about my plans and Ricky responded. He said he’d meet me at the trestle.

Riding the Mount Vernon Trail on a nice weekend day is an exercise in patience. When I wasn’t dawdling behind some tourists I was going uncharacteristically fast, thanks to a day completely off the bike. My lower back/hip issue was still in evidence but it clearly wasn’t slowing me down.

I stopped just north of Old Town Alexandria when I saw a big snowy egret right next to the trail. I hope you like the picture because I nearly was run over by a half dozen cyclists while I took it.

Snowy Egret

I rode along the river on the Virginia side until the 14th Street bridge then switched to the DC side. I slalomed through the crowds all the way to Water Street in Georgetown. Water runs upstream to the Capital Crescent Trail and so I flowed. I wore my bell out passing trail users of all types of humanity.

The Capital Crescent connects to the Georgetown Branch Trail in downtown Bethesda. The GBT is scheduled to be shut down on Tuesday for 4 – 5 years as a light rail line is constructed along the right of way.

I rolled onto the trestle and Ricky was there talking with some other cyclists. I posed for pictures among the tree tops and high above the creek.

Then we rode off to Ryan’s house to take care of his cat. And drink some of his beer.

Ryan has a pretty terrific man cave. Basically it’s a bike mechanic shop. I want one.

After the beer, we rolled back to the GBT and went our separate ways. I headed down into Rock Creek Park and headed for home.  Road work has a section of Beach Drive, the main drag through the park, closed. Ryan told me to take a right at the detour and a left onto Ross Dr. I missed the turn onto Ross and ended up climbing a big hill on Military Road. I knew I had screwed up but there was no easy way to fix what I done broke so I kept spinning. It was a long way up but the road back down was a breeze, literally and figuratively.

The rest of the ride was the usual cruise along the river. With puffy white clouds above. And a steady breeze from the south.

As I rode south of the airport I noticed some trees beginning to change to red and yellow.

I may not have the trestle to ride to but fall days offer plenty of terrific riding in the weeks ahead.

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.

Here Today, Gone Tomorrow

There are many massive old trees along the Mount Vernon Trail in Belle Haven Park south of Alexandria.  A few years ago a true behemoth started falling apart and was taken down. Over the weekend storms claimed another tree, much smaller but still a welcome producer of shade along the trail. This is what the tree looked like this morning.

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Ten hours later this is what remained.

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Sad face.

There were several other much smaller trees and limbs that had fallen across the trail. These were cleared before this morning’s rush hour.

The credit here goes to the National Park Service that maintains the trail and the nearby George Washington Memorial Parkway.

No good deed goes unpunished around here, however. If the Park Service can provide such excellent storm debris clean up, it can do other things that trail users have wanted for years. Here are a few:

  • Plowing and treating the trail after winter storms
  • Grinding down the bumps from tree roots
  • Repositioning stop signs so that they force cars to stop not trail users.
  • Finding an alternative bridge material to the wood that is currently used. Wood bridges become skating rinks and cause many bike crashes. I don’t know if she fell on a bridge but I saw a young cyclist tending to a very bloody wound below her elbow this morning.

Tonight on my ride home I was flagged down by Adam Schildge. He and his wife Amy are new homeowners down my way in the Fort Hunt neighborhood. They were signing people up for a new bike advocacy Facebook group called MVT South. If you are a user of the southern part of the Mount Vernon Trail (south of Old Town Alexandria) check it out.

Amanda Buy the Bike Already – and Other Thoughts

  • Amanda works with me. She keeps talking about getting a bike. I just can’t seem to get her from talk to action. On the way home from work, I took a picture from the Dyke Marsh bridge on the Mount Vernon Trail.

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Amanda was really surprised. I keep telling her my bike commute rocks! I haven’t told her about having incoming jets fly right over my head as the land on the second runway at National Airport. Or the dozens of downy egrets in the river. Or the morning glories in bloom in the wetlands north of Old Town. Or the opera singer. Or…..

  • I have confession to make. I feel like a jerk. I am short changing some friends who are asking for donations connected to one charity bicycling event or another. A month ago I gave money to support Mike who is doing the Bike to the Beach ride. Proceeds go to autism support and research. Today, Emilia announced she is doing the ride too. I gave money when Katie said she was doing a Climate Ride. About two months later another Katie announced that she was doing another Climate Ride. Then Grace announced that she was doing a Climate Ride. How do you manage all these donations? You can’t budget for them. You feel bad if you give different amounts to each of your friends. Can you tell I was raised Catholic?
  • Watching one friend stress out over raising money made me decide to drop doing a charity ride this fall. It’s a good event for a good cause, cancer. I feel bad not doing it because so many people in my family have had cancer. (My father, my mother, a sister, a brother, my wife, three aunts, two uncles. Sorry kids, the gene pool’s a complete mess.) I want to focus on preparing for my tour to Key West and making sure I am ready to ride to the Pacific next summer. My aging body probably has only one shot at making it. Spending my summer stressing out over fundraising just didn’t float my boat.
  • There are two things to do if you are in DC this weekend.
    • You should go to the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens. The water lilies and lotuses are in bloom. I’ve never been there and the pictures I am seeing online are driving me nuts.
    • And then there is the Tour de Fat. It’s a party put on by New Belgium Brewing to raise money for local bike charities. There will be live music and cold beer. I volunteered to work in the beer tent again.
  • And finally a note about the #bikedc DL. Dave just got cleared to get back on a bike after breaking his leg doing an Arte Johnson. A day or two ago, Alex collided with a salmoning cyclist. (When you ride against the flow of traffic, you are salmoning.) She broke her jaw. So Dave and Alex, be patient. You’ll be back to (your abnormal version of) normal in no time. The Rootchopper Institute sends you its thoughts and prayers (because we are waaay to lazy and cheap to bring you a beer.)

A Ride to New Places in My Own Backyard

  • I found a wet parcel on my doorstep after a storm yesterday. Inside was a new Kryptonite U-lock. I had first bought a Kryptonite literally decades ago. There was a bit of a scandal when some YouTube dude showed you could break the lock with a Bic pen. So Kryptonite re-designed the lock and gave owners a new one. That happened about 8 or 9 years ago. The lock mechanism on my replacement lock started failing a few months ago, so I contacted Kryptonite and they sent me a new lock. For free. Awesome.

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  • I decided to go on a long-ish ride to reach a milestone on Big Nellie. I stopped at Canal Park along the Mount Vernon Trail. My friend and fellow bike commuter Linel had taken a picture at this park a few days ago. I have been riding past it daily and never knew it was there only a short walk from the trail. (Bike riding is not allowed.) It is a wonderful place to go to contemplate your navel, read a book, or just hang out. (There are plenty of benches and very nicely maintained lawns.) There is also some odd public art.
  • I rode to Key Bridge (basically my commute) and then into Georgetown. Traffic was very light. Turning left on Wisconsin Avenue I rode up and up and up to Cathedral Heights. I turned downhill and found my way to the new Klingle Valley Trail, over 20 years in the making. It’s only 0.8 miles long but it is worth checking out.  I only took one picture because by now anybody can search for it on Flickr and find dozens of better pictures. One you get past this barrier you descend down a curvy paved path into woods. Sweet. Klingle Trail
  • I got home after 42 miles in increasing heat and humidity. Big Nellie reached another milestone, 41,000 miles. She will get a rest now. Well done.  Big Nellie at 41

Rooftop Turbines and Free Range Peaches

What better way to celebrate a hot muggy July 1 Saturday then to do my winter neighborhood ride in reverse.

Big Nellie and I rode toward US 1 and took the lane at a traffic light. We turned left onto the 3 lane concrete mess and a driver a couple of cars back laid on her horn. As she rolled by she yelled “Get on the sidewalk!” through her open passenger window. Not having time to explain that her inadequacies are her own business I responded with a mindfully deliberate F bomb.

I could easily have caught up to her at the next traffic light but escalation is not my cup of Kona.

Within a minute I was off US 1 and riding flat, nearly car free side streets. At Fort Belvoir I turned left and headed for the Woodlawn neighborhoods on the north side of US 1. There are lots of new bike trails under construction along US 1 in this area so three cheers for my county for finally getting with the program. (Too bad US 1 is still a hideous monstrosity, though.)

A few years ago while riding Big Nellie when it had a fairing (a big Lexan windshield) a man in a Tesla rolled silently by. He stopped and waved me over. He said he was an engineer and wanted to inquire about the provenance of my bike. Ultimately he told me that he was working on a zero energy house near Mount Vernon. (It may have been a negative energy house, one that uses less energy than it produces, but my memory fails me.) I never asked him where his house was specifically but I think I found it today.

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Check out those two big wind turbines on the roof. I could see that the one on the left was moving but it was silent. This is a south facing exposure. The eaves cast shade on the windows to avoid heat gain in the house. There is no lawn, just rather elaborate and tasteful landscaping.

I meandered around at about 12 miles per hour. I was getting hotter and I was in no hurry to get anywhere. Near the Mount Vernon Country Club, I passed a house with a ready to market peach tree. You see they put bags over the produce on the tree so you don’t have to put the peaches in a bag later. Or something like that. There are a few peaches that are outside the bags. I think these may be free range peaches. Clearly I need to do more research.

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The remainder of my ride involved avoiding collisions with tourists on rental bikes on the Mount Vernon Trail. Not a bad way to spend a Saturday morning.

Opera, Deer, and the Bat Shit Crazy

  • Last night on the way home from work I stopped to listen to the opera busker at the Torpedo Factory in Old Town.
  • This morning on the way to work I was riding along the underside of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge when a doe and two fawns came jaunting across the trail about 50 yards ahead of me.
  • A few days ago my friend Emilia (who is not bat shit crazy) took an Instagram video as she rode across the boardwalk at Dyke Marsh on the Mount Vernon Trail three miles from my house. I found the video mesmerizing, watching it over and over. So much of nature’s beauty captured in ten seconds. The funny thing is: I ride that same boardwalk every day.
  • Didn’t I tell you I have the best commute ever!?
  • To (sort of) thank Emilia I sent her a notice about a casting call for people to appear as a model in promotional material for Bike Arlington. It pays $200 for a few hours of work. In order to apply you need to submit photos of yourself. I found several pictures of  Emilia from the 50 States Ride we did together. Like so many others before her, she had no idea how hard the ride was going to be. Heat! Rain! Hills! 62 miles! Her triumphant victory photo at the post-ride party was one of my favorite pictures of the year. No automatic alt text available.
  • It’s been a long time since I’ve seen an in-line skater on the Mount Vernon Trail. They were all the rage about a decade ago. I even tried them, and I can’t skate worth beans. I would go to Fort Hunt Park and skate around in circles. I learned how not to fall too often. What eventually led me to give it up was not the falling so much as the fact that I have very wide feet. My feet would be all blisters and blood after I went skating.
  • The other night I saw a skater on the trail. He was heading north from Belle Haven Park. The trail is canted toward the river his right, my left as I was heading south on my ride home from work. I saw him drift toward the edge of the trail. His left arm started carwheeling, then his right, then his left, then he was off the trail and falling. He landed on his tailbone on the edge of the asphalt. Ow. He was more embarrassed than hurt. I gave him a 5.6 for style, but had to deduct points for going off the trail.
  • Yesterday I came to the conclusion that one of my Facebook friends is bat shit crazy. I mentioned this on twitter without naming names. Ricky tried to claim the honor. I then upped the count to two bat shit crazy people. To be honest, Ricky is not even close to as crazy as the other.
  • A couple of friends have tried to help me with my bike tour planning. “When you get to Miami, you can take a train.” Um, if I’m going to take a train, why ride there in the first place?
  • Larry McMurtry once wrote
    • A woman’s love is like the morning dew; it’s just as apt to settle on a horse turd as it is on a rose.
    • I think it’s a sickness to grieve too much for those who never cared a fig for you. [Particularly if they are bat shit crazy.]
  • The father of a former co-worker died of pancreatic cancer the other day. He was diagnosed only a few weeks ago. She went home to see him before he died but dang. Then I learned on Tuesday that an old grad school roommate of mine died of cancer Monday night. We knew that he had been dealing with cancer based on the note in his Christmas card but we had no idea he was as sick as he was. Mrs. Rootchopper summed it up, “He was the nicest guy in the world.” Word. Amen.
  • On Monday I threw my back out getting my Bike Friday into the trunk of my daughter’s subcompact car. I was taking her car to a mechanic for an oil change. A few days later I read a tweet that mentioned a 50% off deal for a year’s $85 membership in Capital Bikeshare. For $42.50 a year I can save big money on physical therapy!
  • In 49 days I am retiring. I am still relatively young and want to do a few things before my body completely rebels against my mega mileage shenanigans. I am noticably slower this year than last. i also weigh 10 pounds more.
  • I have been riding Big Nellie, my recumbent, for about a month now. A couple of years ago this would have caused my right foot to go completely numb. I almost sold the bike but this spring I took off the clipless pedals I was using and put on old school platform pedals with PowerGrips (leather straps that cross the pedals on a diagonal). I have been wearing Teva sandals and riding to work. No pain. No numbness.
  • I really like biking in sandals. I am thinking about putting the same kinds of pedals on my CrossCheck, at least until fall.
  • I have stopped wearing a helmet. Life is too short not to feel the wind in your hair. If I haven’t hit my head in 55+ years of bike riding, I like my odds.
  • Even when people are  bat shit crazy, you can still miss them. A lot.

 

Summer Solstice Bike Commute

I left home an hour early today, not because it is the summer solstice but because I needed to get home early. The weather could not have been better: warm with a touch of humidity. I didn’t see any of my regulars; I was traveling too early for that.

When I passed beneath the Woodrow Wilson Bridge I noticed that the sun was on the north side of the bridge. Big Nellie thought this was odd too. (I’ll bet you didn’t know that bikes have thoughts. They do. It’s some kind of two wheeled woo woo thing.) It made me think of the short days of winter. I hate winter. I should get a summer home in New Zealand or Australia or Argentina.

I often see Chris, Kathy, Dave, Shawn, or lawyer Mike during my bike commutes. Although they also bike commute along part of my route, I hardly ever see Paul, Emilia, or Flogini. I half expected to see one of them today, because of my early departure from home. No dice. Maybe they lie about bike commuting and carpool together. Maybe they see me coming and hide. I would if I were them.

I took a picture of a man fishing on his boat in the Potomac River with the Washington Monument in the background. Fishing must be an introverts delight. I’d probably get into it if I didn’t think fish and bait and unhooking a fish were gross. The picture was taken from the Humpback Bridge. I love that name. It was named after Ronald Humpback, the recently expired bridge superintendent for the Department of the Interior. Or not.

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You can see the Washington Monument and Jefferson Memorial. Also, you can just make out the Smithsonian Construction Crane exhibit. Would I lie about such a thing?

 

 

Fuzzy goslings, unfuzzy maps, and dead ducklings

Today was a recovery day. My legs and back were sore from yesterday’s 38 mile ride. I suppose I should be used to this. Event rides in cities are a lot harder than the mileage indicates. They are filled with starts and stops and short hills.

Goslings Take Over DC

So today I rode Big Nellie to work. It was warm in the morning then downright hot on the way home. About a mile from work at the Memorial Bridge the trail was covered in goslings.  They didn’t seem to care that I was there and neither did the attending adults.

They had the decency to get out of my way.

Just the Thing for a Mapaholic

When I got home, I jumped in the car to fetch Little Nellie from the bike shop. The folks at Spokes Etc. turned around a cable and housing replacement in 24 hours instead of the promised 48 hours. Well done. Now Little Nellie shifts freely again.

While I was waiting for the mechanic to ring me up, I noticed this on the counter.

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No, not the electric bike demo. The new Fairfax County Bike map! Back in the winter I went to the Fairfax County Transportation Department offices to help with this project. The planners had set up a roomful of long tables. The tables were covered with draft versions of the map. Area cyclists like me were asked to annotate the maps. Mostly we looked for errors and wrote comments about bikeability.

I should confess here that I am a total mapaholic. So this map makes me very excited. (I know. Get a life, dude.)

I haven’t had a chance to look at it in detail but my cursory examination says FDOT did a great job on this. Congratulations.

Dead Ducks

Finally, there is some bad news to report. I have been complaining all spring that there has been a dearth of ducklings this year. I was really jealous when I saw a friend’s Facebook pictures of ducklings in the reflecting pool at the Lincoln Memorial. Well, I am sorry to say that they are probably all dead. A parasite has taken up residence there and it kills ducklings. The pool is being drained this week.