Riding to Eagles and Beatles

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The weather was perfect for a bike ride. Yay, April. So off I went on Little Nellie to DC. As I passed beneath the Morningside eagle nest I spotted a white head sticking up from the nest. I couldn’t tell if it was an eagle or an opportunistic osprey but it gave me an idea for a destination: the National Arboretum and its bald eagle nest.

I took the Woodrow Wilson Bridge across the Potomac River. The climb away from the river passes the enormous new MGM casino complex. It’s a whole lot of ugly, but you can eat at posh restaurants and see a show and throw away your hard earned dollars there. Go get ’em. I’ll pass.

At the top of the hill, I took a sidewalk (because MDOT hasn’t figured out how to accommodate bicyclist for beans in this area) to Oxon Hill Farm and descended back to the river. You see this climb and descent is required because MDOT couldn’t figure out how to add a trail along the river as there has been in Virginia for over 45 years.

The descent was a little scary because my left hand is messed up from getting jammed in flood debris on my hike yesterday. I think a small piece of wood may be lodged in my left middle finger. So braking is rather difficult.

I rode through Anacostia and made my way to Anacostia Park where there was a big festival. I ran into Nelle and Ursula from WABA. They were busy getting set up for the event.  At an adjacent booth I talked with Carlos (I think that’s his name) who used to work in my local bike shop. He immediately recognized Little Nellie and asked how many miles she had on her (17,500+). Carlos did good work.

After being social for a few minutes I went back into introverted rider bliss mode along the Anacostia River.  Puffy clouds and blue skies were reflected in its calm waters. I crossed over the river on the Benning Road overpass and took busy Benning northeast. Not a lot of fun but it got the job done. No way I would ride this street on a weekday. Two more busy, bike-hostile roads (17th Street and Blandensburg Road) and I was into the Arboretum. I walked by bike past a road block allowing only pedestrians to enter. Alas, further up the road a more restrictive sign appeared. No entry. Period. So I turned around.

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You can check out the bald eagle nest on dceaglecam.org.  There are two very cute eaglets in the nest right now. They seem to be thriving for all I know.

After my eagle fail,  I headed across town to the new REI store where a free beer event was to be held later in the day.  I arrived way too early so instead of drinking beer I went gawked at all the merchandise. It’s a outdoorsy wet dream. Kayaks and bikes and clothing, oh my.

The store is in the renovated Uline Arena, the site of the first Beatles concert in the US. (The place was called the Washington Sports Arena back in 1964.) The store gives a nod to this history (and other events that happened there) by putting replicas of concert posters on the concrete support posts in the store. The Beatles concert occurred a few days before their appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show that I watched in my jammies. (I found it utterly incomprehensible. I had three older brothers who, like every other kid in the country, became big fans. As, eventually, did I.)

After being overwhelmed with retail madness I headed home. The traffic on the streets and the trails was quite heavy. Tourists were stopping without warning on their bike share bikes. A couple of Lance Mamilots tried to impress the word with their speedy and agile bike riding on the narrow Mount Vernon Trail. The annoyances were minor.

I made it home to watch the end of the baseball game and to re-lube my chain. Yesterday I removed the clipless pedals from Big Nellie. Today I remove the matching cleats from my biking shoes. I am an old school toe clip dude. Sue me.

Postscript: the piece of wood in my finger popped out while doing dishes tonight. All in one piece. That’s never happened to me before. It looked like a dark brown rice kernel. Ewww

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

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. 6: Little Nellie Robs a Bank

On the way home, I diverted a bit to try out my new, no-fee, bank anywhere debit card. It didn’t work at this magic money machine. Boo. So I used my Suntrust Card. I have no idea who the dude in the picture is.

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Category: Personal Business

Miles: 1/2

Observation: I remember when ATMs were a new thing. Now I rarely use them. You gotta have some cash to go to the ballgame. And I am going next Friday. It had better not rain.

Errandonnee No. 4 – Humpday Headwinds

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

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

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

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

Category: Work

Miles: 29 1/2

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

 

 

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.

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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.

 

An August Month

I think I did a healthy amount of riding this month. My longest ride was a 50 miler on Deets, my Surly Cross Check. I rode to work 19 times, 10 on Deets, 5 on Little Nellie, my Bike Friday New World Tourist, and 4 on Big Nellie, my Tour Easy recumbent. I rode to four Nats games (and drove to three more with my kids). The Mule got the month off for good behavior. For the month, I racked up 684 miles, with 400 on long-neglected Deets. It turns out that my Cross Check may be my favorite commuting bike.

For the year I’ve ridden 5,239 miles. 3,367 of those miles came from riding to and from work. 832 came from my bike tour. I’ve ridden to work 115 times.

The biggest accomplishments came in the form of milestones. First, I hit 100 commutes at the start of the month. Then, Big Nellie hit 40,000 miles. Little Nellie got jealous and hit 17,000 miles. I capped it off on my birthday when my four bikes together crossed the 100,000 mile mark.

September holds two bike events and a bunch of baseball games. One of these days I might actually go on a hike. And somewhere in this mess of activity I might actually ride or hike with someone other than my own self.

Milestone No. 3: Little Nellie Hits 17

I rode to work and went to the baseball game last night. On the way home I managed to avoid running across (quite literally) a homeless person splayed across the access path to the Case Bridge trail.  Somewhere just shy of the Olympic drunk slalom that is Old Town on a Saturday night, Little Nellie’s odometer turned 17,000 miles.

The next milestone will be in a week to ten days. I’ve been working on it for 25 years. Stay tuned.

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Beer Truck Wake

Earlier this year I rode to work on a day with rain and coastal flooding. The Mount Vernon Trail was under several inches of water in spots. The flooding was so extensive that the only alternatives were to turn around or ride through. I rode through. The water came over the tops of my GoreTex boots and soaked my feet. My wool socks kept my feet warm enough but they started to go numb during the last mile on the ride to work.

It has been raining here for several days. As I rode across the Dyke Marsh bridge, where I often take sunrise pictures, I could see the river had risen to almost even with the bridge decking. On the north side of the bridge I could see water on both sides of the trail. Unlike earlier this year, I was riding Little Nellie, my Bike Friday with little wheels.

No guts, no glory. I rode on. I slowed down to keep my front wheel from kicking up the water but it was fruitless. The water was so deep that it soaked my feet. I couldn’t go around it either. The flooding extended well beyond the trail. There were occasional breaks in the water but the sloshing went on for about a quarter mile. Little Nellie is immersible. Who knew?

In Old Town the base of King Street was underwater. Normally when this happens, police block it off. I assumed the water wasn’t that deep. Wrong.

Ooogah! Ooogah! All dive!

A beer truck pulled out of an alley and entered the depths. Fortunately it was going slowly but its wake came up almost to Little Nellie’s axles.

After a few more feet of this, I dropped some ballast and surfaced.

By now my feet were soaking wet, but at least this day the water was not ice cold.

And to think I was going to telecommute today.

 

Three Errands in One Day

Thannk god for the Errandonnee. I don’t have to think of ideas for blog posts for 12 days.

Today’s first errand, such as it is, was another ride to and from work. I wasoperating on 5 1/2 hours sleep this morning and switched my fuel to Eggos for a pre-launch sugar spike. The temperature was in the high 40s so I ditched the winter gear and went with shorts. SHORTS!!! I froze for the first five miles but it was so worth it.

Digression: I neglected to mention that on my ride home last night I heard my first spring peepers of the year at the southern edge of Old Town Alexandria.

Anyway. SPRING!!!

I stopped to look at a sign from the National Park Service. They run many parks in the DC area. Local cyclecross enthusiasts have been using an area alongside the Mount Vernon Trail for training. You know, having fun. Can’t have that, says the grumpy Park Service.

 

On the way home, I stopped by the bank to use the magic money machine. (I once heard a father tell his toddler that he was using the magic money machine. The poor kid was probably seriously disappointed when he found out the truth.)

A bit further along I stopped at the bike shop to have my shifter serviced. Taylor the Mechanic tried but the replacement part didn’t work so I had to order a new set of shifters.

Three errands in one day, lying in the depths of your Errandonnation. (A free pint to the reader who has a bloody clue what that line was about.)

Errand No. 6

Category: Work (2nd use of this category)

Miles: 29 1/2

Observation: Actually made by #bikedc’s Shawn: The Park Service is always saying it has no money, so where does it find the funds to buy signs prohibiting enjoyment of their parks?

Errand No. 725506598392_d8a41c323c_m

Category: Personal Business (Bank)

Miles: -1/4 (I short cut from my route through Jones Point Park)

Observation: ATMs would be more fun if they really were magic. Maybe they’d emit a cloud of smoke like a magic trick when they dispensed cash.

 

Errand No. 825330101180_e98ec2d8d4_m

Category: Store (Bike Shop) 2nd use of this category.

Miles:  3/4 (A diversion from the MVT to Belle View Shopping Center via the US 1 connector trail.)

Observation: It was in the 70s today so I was shocked when there was no line at the service desk at the bike shop. Also, you have to love a bike shop that will do minor service on your bike while you wait. Spokes Etc. is terrific for this.