A Letter to Linel

Dear Linel

Sorry to hear about the treadmill attacking you yesterday. I am sure your sore knee will be fine in a day or two and you will be back to riding your bike to work.

You didn’t miss much today.Image may contain: closeup This was the second day of Bike to Work Week. I broke out one of my vintage Bike to Work Day t-shirts. I have no idea what color this is. Coral? Salmon? Tomato soup?

The weather was bad. I had to wear arm and ear warmers for part of the ride to work. Until it warmed up, that is. Such a drag. On the way home, it was 80F. I had a cooling headwind off the river. Imagine that. It slowed me down a little. Ugh.

There were lots of people out and about. They looked like they were having fun. It made me long for the days when the trail was empty and I was bundled up against the cold. Introversion rocks, don’t you think?

You would have hated the strong sun. My arms are so tan. I hate tan. I might even get some more freckles by Friday. I hate freckles too.

There was an osprey flying over my head in the morning.  I mean what did he think he was doing? There were geese and ducks and puffy white clouds, too. Just north of Belle Haven Park there was a dude in a kayak with three fishing rods. Just sitting there soaking up the glistening morning sun.

You’d have hated it.

Try to stay away from hostile exercise equipment. Hope you get better soon.

Cheers

RC

Don’t Know Much about Pop Culture

Bike commuting and baseball have ruined me for pop culture. I have no idea what music is on the radio because I so rarely drive. When I do, I want something continuous – like a ballgame or NPR – because I don’t like having to change channels to avoid an annoying song. (One of the most annoying songs of my teenage days plays a prominent role in the new Guardians of the Galaxy movie. It’s all very tongue in cheek but it sucked then and it sucks worse with the passage of time.)

I have friends who “like” celebrities on social media. About a third of the time I catch myself thinking: I thought celebrity means fame. I’ve never heard of or seen this person before. Monica Bellucci? John Krasinski? Leah Dunham? Somehow life goes on without them.

The same thing goes for music. I know who Ed Sheeran and The Weeknd and Taylor Swift and Adele are but I can’t name any of their songs. Garth Brooks sold 100 million records but I would recognize not a single one. (Longtime readers know that I am a diehard Neil Finn fan, but his music is rarely on the radio.)

I am grateful for this. I know baseball. I know that when a fast runner is on first and a left handed batter is up, the runner should not steal. I know the three precepts of good pitching. I know that right field in Fenway Park is a bitch and why left handed pitchers are called southpaws and how this affects the shadows on the field late in the day. When I watch a game, the little things are way more interesting than the score.

I don’t know music because I spend hours everyday on a bike and I think riding (or running or hiking) with headphones is a crime against nature. If you are using these devices you are putting yourself and those around you at risk because you lack situational awareness. More importantly, as far as I am concerned, you miss the ENTIRE POINT of riding or walking or hiking.  It’s not about the bike and it’s not about the body. When you are climbing a hill or flying down one or going through a series of turns (point your inside knee toward the turn) or concentrating on pedaling without mashing the pedals , you can only focus on keeping the rubber side down, on keeping your respiration and heart rate from red lining. During the Ocean State Marathon in Newport Rhode Island, a high school track coach used to stand on the side of Ocean Drive with its rolling hills and wind off the water and repeat his mantra to struggling runners: Keep it smooth!

When you keep it smooth,  your breathing and heart rate calm. And you go on a sort of autopilot. Then the squirrels in your attic stop their chatter. You recognize random ideas and find that disparate ideas come together in interesting configurations and you gain insights. Some of my best ideas for work come to me during my bike commutes.

How people who drive to work get through the day without completely losing their minds is beyond me. Not only do they not get the benefit of the calming aspects of exercise but they expose themselves to tons of additional stress from traffic and the crap spewing out of the radio.

And they miss the sun shining through the trees or glistening off the river. They don’t hear the birds chattering. They don’t appreciate the smell of the steam coming off the asphalt after a rain or of the fresh mowed grass. They don’t see the goslings and duckings in spring. (Coming soon to my bike commute.)

They don’t see their friends riding past in the other direction (Chris, Shawn, Mike) or in yours (Kathy). Nor do they see the community of early morning trail users: Hoppy Runner, Golf Cart E-biker, Three-step Runner, Running Mom (now without the baby stroller because her son got too big), the Trash Walker, Cal, or the Overgrown Ewok.

I mean you don’t really think Katy Perry is more interesting than an overgrown Ewok, do you?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Bike Commute Is Picture Perfect

One of my pet peeves is the fact that I recognize a good photo only after I have let the moment slip away. It’s like coming up with a good retort a day too late. Today on the way to work I had to stop to allow trail users to come through the narrow passage on the Mount Vernon Trail beneath the Memorial Bridge. For some reasons, I looked to my right and saw sunlight reflecting off the Potomac River. The Washington Monument was framed by the branches the tree to my immediate right along the river bank. Normally, I’d just turn back to the matter at hand and wait for the trail to clear. But today, I decided to pull out my phone and take a picture.

River and bridge

Yeah, my bike commute is that good.

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.

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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.

 

A Change of Steed

Spring bike events are coming. I do events on my Cross Check which has spent most of the last 5 months in dry dock. Today marked its bike commuting debut for the 2017. With no offense to my other three bikes, the Cross Check, which I named Deets, is the best commuting bike I’ve ever ridden. It even negotiated the mulch detour at TR Island with no trouble at all. Also, it doesn’t hurt at all that I go 2 miles per hour faster on it.

So this morning Deets posed for a picture. In the usual place.

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I plan on riding it to work all week then taking it to Skyline Drive on Sunday. This plan is contingent on me waking up super early Sunday morning. This will be difficult because (a) I am lazy and (b) I am going to an Orioles/Red Sox game in Baltimore at Saturday night. I should get to bed around 1 am.

Let’s just say that scheduling is not my strong suit.

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

You know you’re happy when…

I have a friend who always says “Be happy” when we part. You can try all you want to be happy riding to work in winter clothes but when March rolls around you realize that it’s futile. Then you get to ride in shirt sleeves and shorts and you see the cherry blossoms and your whole outlook does a 180. Today, I was a little underdressed and was starting to feel chilled. My mood was going south when I looked over and saw a tree stump smiling at me. I think it was telling me to be happy.

Face log

Some Mondays Ain’t Half Bad

I was zonked all day Sunday. No energy at all. I was a sloth. Today I woke up and jumped on Little Nellie for the ride to work. My legs had pop for the first time in weeks. Off we went into dense fog. We stopped at Dyke Marsh where I take my pictures of the sunset over the river. Today, not so much.

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There’s a river out there. I just know it.

The ride to work was terrific. The temperature was about 50 degrees and I was underdressed and the fog was condensing on everything I had on. Except for the fact that I couldn’t see through the condensation on my glasses I didn’t much care.

Opposite the Washington Monument I looked east to see what my kids called The Pencil. Um, it wasn’t there. Mostly nothing was.

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I swear the fog had gotten even denser.

I heard some noise out on the river. Voices. Loud voices. Then from the left I saw them. The crew teams were out practicing. The eights. Coaches were on small motor boats shouting instructions. Coxswains were yelling whatever it is they yell. One after another they emerged then plunged back into the pea soup. It reminded me of the dense fog off Newport RI where I once taught. All that was missing was the ominous outline of The Breakers and the lonesome fog horn in the distance.

On the way home I passed an old friend just before I hit the TRUMP (Teddy Roosevelt Uber Mulch Pit). We disengaged a couple of years ago. There have been some awkward failed attempts to reboot. As she rolled past she scowled. Was it at me? No matter. Life goes on.

And so did I. I crossed over the river to take in the famous cherry blossoms which reached peak bloom on Saturday. I had already tried twice to take in the show but both times only a few blooms could be seen. I had few hopes for today but was pleasantly surprised by how many blossoms survived the cold snap last week. In years past the blooms were just other worldly. This year they were merely excellent. No complaints from this blossom lover. I walked Little Nellie around the Tidal Basin. Everyone, including me, was smiling.

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After a 3-mile spin down to Hains Point and back to view more cherry trees, I headed for home. The 10 -15 mile per hour headwind didn’t phase me in the least. The air was warm and the trail was mostly empty.

As Monday’s go, this one could not be beat.

Errandonnee No. 3: Mulching to Work

I chose Little Nellie, my Bike Friday New World Tourist with little wheels, to ride to work. Everything was going along just fine until we hit the mulch pit of death near Teddy Roosevelt Island. Wee wheels won’t work here. So I dismounted. And took a picture.

Mulch

Category: Work

Miles: 29 1/2 (round trip). So I’ve already hit the Errandonnee limit.

Observation: Spring bike commuters are starting to appear. They were generally well behaved today. This evening will almost certainly bring out the Lance Mamilots, who ride like asshats only to demonstrate their frail male egos and small man parts.

 

First Day of Spring: This Bird Doesn’t Get the Worm

I took the day off to go to the doctors office. The weather looked great but there was still a chill in the air, especially considering this is the first day of spring.

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I rode to the eye doctor’s office, picking up my first errand of the 2017 errandonnee in the process. I was expecting to be dilated which would have ruined my ability to read for the next several hours. Instead, the doctor checked my personal field. My right eye didn’t fare well. A closer examination of my eye revealed protein deposits on the membrane behind my lens. My lens is artificial having been replaced during cataract surgery. I had notice some difficulty seeing in low light and was planning on getting new glasses. Now the glasses will wait until I get the membrane cleared. This will be done with a simple laser procedure. It takes about three minutes. Still, to my mind it counts as eye surgery. It will be my 7th surgery and my 3rd of this type.

After the doctor’s visit, I rode to DC to check out the cherry blossoms. Basically, there were none. The cold temperatures knocked the trees for a loop. I rode to Hains Point and then up to the Tidal Basin. So disappointing. Next I  stopped to help some visitors from Minnesota. I took their picture under the non-blossoming trees with the Jefferson Memorial in the background. They have come to DC five times to see the blossoms and haven’t seen a peak bloom yet.

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I biked and walked around the Tidal Basin then headed for Virginia. I wanted to check out the sale of winter gear at the Spokes Etc. store on Quaker Lane in Alexandria. I rode the Mount Vernon Trail to the Four Mile Run Trail to Shirlington. This was about 6 or 7 miles without a traffic light and only two stop signs. Not bad. Once in Shirlington I backtracked and rode up the long hill to the Quaker Lane shop. They were all out of the jacket I wanted so I headed for home along the King Street bike lanes. The city did a pretty nice job with this. On the way home, I swung by the Belle View Spokes Etc. shop where I had tried on a jacket a few days ago. The jacket had been sold so he who hesitates doesn’t get the worm. Or something like that.

Some more pix from my excursion are on my Flickr page.