Errand No. 1: The Incompetent Errandonneur

Category: Personal Care

Distance: 6 miles

Observations: If you tuck the camera away you’ll forget to take a picture of your bike at two bike shops which would have made this a three errand day. I am such a putz. My eye doctor is a bike commuter. This is my Cross Check parked across the street in Old Town Alexandria. Notice that although Alexandria is a bicycling friendly city, there were no bike racks of any sort on the other side of the street.

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Osprey and Eagle

I did another ride among the eagle nests today. My ride to Old Town took me past three nests. None had eagles near them. I rode through Old Town and back, mostly to make sure there was no ice on the trail. (There was a big icy section of the Mount Vernon Trail in the shadow of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge in Jones Point Park last night when I came home. It is all melted now.)

On the ride back south, I spotted what I thought was a bald eagle near the first nest at the Belle Haven Country Club. I took several shots before I realized that it was an osprey. Both birds have white heads but ospreys have white chest feathers and are thinner and smaller.

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I rode about a mile farther south and came upon the nest just past Tulane Drive. It had a bald eagle standing guard.

This is the nest that I saw two eagles at last week.  Unfortunately, this bald eagle was not a cooperative one. It kept its back to me the entire time I was watching it. Most of the time I see eagles around here they are facing the river. Today was the same. The nest is fairly large as you can see (most of it, at least) in the lower right picture.

I continued riding south to the nest at Morningside Lane. This nest, about a half mile from the Tulane nest, looks abandoned. It may have lost part of its structure as it seems asymmetric.

I rode on to the Fort Hunt nest a couple of miles farther south. This nest is across the GW Parkway from the river. It is massive. I have seen one of its residents perched in a tree right above the trail on a few occasions but today was not one of them.

So I went 1 for 4 with an error. Not bad for spring training.

 

 

 

 

A Proper, if Reluctant, Recovery

After totally botching a recovery ride yesterday, I decided to give it my all today. It being a national holiday, the last one for many weeks (a stretch of the calendar that I call The Long March as if it is comparable to Bataan), I slept in. Then I did what most old farts do, I ate a slow and methodical breakfast and read the dead tree edition of the newspaper. The good folks at the Washington Post had the decency to load up the sports page with baseball stories causing me to cry tears of joy in my Rice Chex.

Next came some web surfing. This is normally utterly unproductive, especially when accompanied by solitaire playing. Today was an exception. I learned (and saw with my own eyes) that the bald eagles at the National Arboretum have produced one egg. You can watch the entire process of egg sitting on the webcams that the U.S Department of Agriculture set up. This is a phenomenal time killer as not much happens for days. It is oddly addictive, however.

Interspersed with eagle watching and solitaire playing, I read some of Bill Bryson’s In a Sunburned Country. It is a funny travelogue about Australia, which I happened to have visited a couple of years ago.

At about 1 pm, I tired of my sloth and jumped aboard Deets for a ride to my local bike shop to have my front derailler looked at. It started throwing the chain to the inside a couple of days ago and I couldn’t get the appropriate adjustment screw to adjust.

Lucky for me there appears to me a time warp going on in DC. It feels like April. Flowers are coming up. Pollen is dusting cars windshields. The sun is warming bicyclists in shorts.

I expected there to be a long line at the bike shop and was delighted to see there was none at all. The mechanic on duty made quick work of the adjustment advising me to put the chain in the biggest gear before fiddling with the adjustment screw. I knew there had to be a trick. The adjustment was free (thanks Spokes Etc.) and I was on the road in no time.

I stopped at the scenic jersey barriers at the Belle Haven Marina for a photo op. Pay no attention to the ugly developments on the far side of the river.deets-at-marina

I rolled into Old Town and could see that the Presidents’ Day parade was still going on. I took the Wilkes Street tunnel from Union Street to check out the proceedings. The air in the tunnel was about 10 degrees warmer than on the street. It was also dark owing to the fact that I was wearing sunglasses.

A walker said hello and used my name. It was Bruce who I worked with until recently. He was dressed in white. Immediately behind him was a group of four or five people including his wife Paula – with whom I still work – dressed in her mandatory black. They looked a bit like Spy vs. Spy from Mad magazine.

I stopped to take in the parade. I couldn’t for the life of me get my phone to work properly to take a decent picture in the glare of the sun. I saw some bagpipers and what looked like Mummers driving itty bitty cars.

Having marched in parades for six years during my military school days I can only tolerate them in small doses. I hopped back on my steed for a slog along the perimeter of the parade and its crowds.

Once I found a street that would take me back home across  the parade route I took it. Slowly. The idea was to recover from the last two days. I took the hilly route home, mostly to test out the derailer. It worked fine.

After 17 miles, I dropped off my bike and drove to Huntley Meadows Park for a quite stroll in the woods. As I drove down the entrance road, I passed dozens of cars parked, an overflow from the normally empty parking lot. So much for solitude. Now I know what there was nobody at the bike shop.

So I bagged the idea of a walk in the woods and came home.

Sometimes recovery happens. Sometimes it is thrust upon me.

 

Deja Vu All Over Again

It’s only my fourth bike commute of the year and it’s already getting repetitive. Good thing I have only 7 months and 1 week to go.

Today was an especially good day because the sinus problems that I had yesterday were nearly cleared up. I used a nasal rinse gizmo (mine has a filter so I can use tap water) patterned after a neti pot twice last night and once this morning. And I took vitamin I to reduce swelling. Success.

So today my head didn’t hurt, the sun came up and it was beautiful. See for yourself.

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And just like last winter the untreated wooden bridges on the Mount Vernon Trail were icy menaces. I was warned by the hoppy runner who was turning around at the bump out where I took the sunrise picture. I was very careful to ride in a straight line and made the crossing of the Dyke Marsh bridge with my rubber side down.

North of Old Town I bypassed the bridges on the river side of the power plant, but decided to take a chance on the beaver bridge just north of Slaters Lane. A walker on the bridge heard me approach and waved me off. I dismounted and immediately realized that the bridge was very slippery. So slippery in fact that I could see two cyclists recovering from a crash. It took me few minutes to walk the football field long bridge. I saw several fresh gashes in the wood decking, most likely from pedals. I actually had to grab hold of the chain that acts as a railing along the side of the bridge because my feet were sliding out from under me. Several cyclists rode by. I didn’t hear any crashes. I don’t know how.

The concrete bridges near the airport were icy but passable. By the time I made it to the wooden Trollheim bride that passes beneath the TR Bridge into DC the ice on it had mostly melted. I rode across without incident.

It was 55  degrees when I started the ride home. It was downright pleasant so the squirrels in my head could run freely. Thoughts bounced around. Then the trance came. Big Ed blew by me without realizing it was me. He nearly took out a ninja runner in the process. I cracked up. So much for that trance.

I rode into Old Town and my old friend was back. The car illegally parked blocking the bike lane at 420 North Union Street was in its usual scofflaw position. I called the police and asked them to ticket it. Again. If this keeps up, I may ask for an accounting of the number of times police responded to my complaints, how often a ticket was issued, how many fines were collected, and such. What really gets me is the fact that nobody else on this block parks like this. They used to but stopped. It takes only one entitled millionaire to ruin a bike lane. Lest we forget, Alexandria is a certified Bicycle Friendly City.

Once I cleared Old Town and headed down the trail in the dark the trance came back. I honestly lost track of where I was on the trail. I must have ridden two miles before I had that how-did-I-get-here moment.

 

 

 

 

A Bicycle Werewolf in DC

Winter has its charms. Take today for instance. As I rode to work, the temperature rose to about 50 degrees. Winds were light. I had to unzip my jacket. It’s hard to complain about that. My normal solitude was interrupted by Ed, a Friday Coffee Clubber who lives near me. Ed has an interesting skill. He can carry on a conversation while riding without impeding bike trail traffic. I don’t quite know how he does it. It was a good talk that lasted for about 1/3rd of the ride to work before he veered off for his office in DC.

I arrived at work damp, from sweat. It’s January 4. How did that happen?

The ride home was colder and windy. There was some lingering daylight that made me nearly joyous. Can you believe it?!!! Light!!! OMG!

Soon it was dark. The wind was at my back. Life was good. The car parked at 420 N. Union Street blocked part of the bike lane. So I finally said Enough and called the police. Let’s see what happens.

The church bells of Old Town were ringing their 6 pm song.

South of Old Town where the bike trail is free of metal fart barges, my brain veered off into a narrative about things that could happen. It was like a mental movie. There was violence and some strong negative emotions. My adrenaline spiked and I found myself speeding up. That’s when I returned my focus to the white circle formed by my headlight and the calming rhythm of my pedaling. The trail angled upward and my commuting trance, what Flogini calls my meditation, took over.

I arrived home and went inside to do my physical therapy exercises. Mrs. Rootchopper says women would call it yoga but men call it PT or back exercises. (She’s right. More than half of what I do I see on the morning yoga program on TV. Of course, the TV yoga people are elastic and I am kevlar cords.)

Tonight as I was doing a side plank, my foot cramped up. It was seriously painful and ugly. It was not a full moon but my foot looked like the Dr. Pepper guy’s hand  in American Werewolf in London.

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My big toe was at 11 o’clock and my other toes were at 2 o’clock.

I finally got my foot to calm down. I re-did the plank on my left side then switched to my right side.

FOOT CRAMP!

I check to see if there was a full moon. There wasn’t. So I won’t be changing my name to Loup Garou.

The cramps subsided. I finished my plank then tried my bird dog exercise.

FOOT CRAMP!

I gave up.

I am pretty sure that the cramps are caused by a combination of cold weather and insufficient hydration.

But I am really not looking forward to the full moon next week.

 

First Bike Quack of the Year

There was rain. Persistent. Light. Rain. And a headwind. And it was only 46 degrees outside. I have a cold. I rode to work. I am an idjit.

The rain soon overwhelmed my Goretex hiking boots. So much for their waterproofiness. Somewhere along the line I tore a hole near the inseam of my rain pants. My mittens were sopping wet. So were my socks.

Are we having fun yet?

It took about 20 extra minutes to get to work in this slop. I just could not make any speed at all. I had fresh legs too having taken yesterday off.

Just before my office I nearly collided with a bike commuter. It was my fault. I was tired and wet and wasn’t looking up and he/she was RIGHT THERE. Sorry. My bad.

So 2017 starts with a discouraging, soggy bike commute.

 

My office was festooned with wet gear. It was as if some alien being had decided to put out decorations for the post-holidays.

Fortunately my stuff was mostly dry-ish when I left for home. There was still a lingering mist. It stopped after about 20 minutes. And I had a tailwind. And it was still 46 degrees outside. So the ride home was not at all unpleasant.

Until I came upon a Comcast service vehicle parked in the middle of the Mount Vernon Trail in Old Town Alexandria. After I nearly crashed getting around it, I found myself confronted with three cars aimed in different directions in the next cross walk. They were likely driven by parents picking up their kids at the crew facility down by the river. But they decided to park, u-turn, and such in the crosswalk where the Mount Vernon Trail passes through.

A couple blocks late at 426 N. Union the car with Maryland plates was parked perpendicular to the curb obstructing the bike lane. Again.

Alexandria is a bicycle friendly city. Really. The League of American Bicyclists seems to think so. Apparently you fill out a form or two and say “We like bikes” and the LAB gives you some sort of award. Sure glad I am a member. Not.

Do I sound cranky?

Quack.

42, 4001, 2017, Bike!

It’s a new year. Normally I start the new year with an easy hike, but I did one the other day so I decided to take my Cross Check for a spin. I rode the Tour of Arlington, which is a loop around Arlington County entirely on paved trails. Instead of riding from Rosslyn to Alexandria directly, I took the Key Bridge into Georgetown. Riding down M Street and then around Washington Circle is always a bit nerve wracking. Good thing Washington Circle has an ER just in case.

I took a brief detour to check out the progress at 17th and G Streets. This is where Friday Coffee Club used to convene before somebody decided to renovate the building. I wanted to see if the outdoor seating area was still intact. It was. The sign outside said the project will end on 5/12/2017. This is a Friday so I am marking my calendar for a return to Friday Coffee Club. img_20170101_133511

Next I rode across White House Plaza, the section of Pennsylvania Avenue that goes past the front of the White House. The review stand for the Inaugural Parade was nearing completion. There are police and guards all over the place. And fences. I found the whole thing depressing to be honest. I haven’t been this depressed about a president since Nixon. img_20170101_134208

From there it was down the 15th Street Cycletrack, dodging the tourists from back home who didn’t get that a cycle track was for bicycles not for standing and wondering where Ford’s Theater is.

For giggles and kicks I rode a lap around Hains Point. I was getting pretty tired because breakfast was about five hours earlier and I didn’t bring any health Christmas cookies with me (except those stored in the rolls of fat around my waist). On the way toward the point, Grace pulled up alongside me. We follow each other on Twitter. She slowed down to chat with me for a lap before I veered off for home.

The ride down the Mount Vernon Trail was automatic. Just south of the airport I stopped to celebrate reaching 4,000 miles on my Cross Check. As soon as the winter is over, I am riding this bike nonstop. 20170101_143037

At the north end of Old Town Alexandria, a sign was posted next to the trail. A small dog had bolted from its owners during the New Years Eve fireworks display. The dog looked distressingly like that of a friend of mine. I kept my eyes peeled for the dog for the next mile. No luck. On the south end of Old Town a notice was posted. It said that a bicyclist had been bitten by a dog while riding on the trail just south of the Beltway. The dog was on a leash! The Notice was a BOLO. (My daughter and I were binge watching NCIS this week. They say BOLO all the time on that show. Just don’t call me Jethro.) Police are looking for the dog and its owner. It’s the first time I’ve heard of a bite and run.img_20170101_145312

I slogged the final six miles home. Nobody’s dog bit me.

The best part is I can now truthfully say that I have ridden 42 miles everyday in 2017. At least until tomorrow night.

I hope you had a great start to the new year.

 

 

 

Old Town Bike Stroll

After 150 miles of cold bike commuting, I was going to take the day off. I lazed around the house until I couldn’t stand my boredom. Then I remembered that the Washington Area Bicyclists Association was doing some sore of work at Jones Point Park, about 5 1/2 miles from my house. I decided to go there and lend a hand.

I rode Deets, my Surly Cross Check. It was the first time in two or three weeks. Without loaded panniers, I cruised along at 3 miles per hour faster than The Mule. I felt like I was flying.

There was some ice on the edges of the river. Yes, it’s really winter now. Temperatures were just a bit above freezing. I pedaled along with little effort. When I arrived at Jones Point Park, there was nobody there. I checked social media and learned that WABA had plenty of help and made fast work of their project.

So I decided to cruise through Old Town looking for stocking stuffers for the ladies of the house. I spotted a vintage fire engine in front of a fire house. When I went to take a picture I saw that Santa and an elf were posing with kids.

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After that I made my way to the farmers’ market at City Hall. The vendors were packing up for the day. I noticed a  harpist bundled against the cold. From the looks of her donations box, it had not been a particularly fruitful morning. I tried to engage her in conversation but she had on her cloak of introversion. I left her a dollar and rode off.

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I made it to the new outpost of the Italian Store on East Wythe Street. Word of m
outh says that this place makes awesome sandwiches. I had to walk down the street and up the next to find something to lock my bike. Then I walked back to the store. Inside I found that there was no seating, only chairs on the patio. Not wanting to freeze I decided to come back in the spring when I can get a sandwich to eat outside.

I made my way back towards home. Old Town was not at all crowded. I took the Wilkes Street tunnel for the first time in over a year. Something about it is inviting.

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I had about 6 1/2 miles to go. With 4 miles left my toes started to ache from the chill. Instead of focusing on my toes, I thought about how I could modify my toe clips with some neoprene toe warmers. Maybe I can use zip ties to attach a toe warmer to the cage. Hmm…..

 

 

Coffee is Dangerous

I was riding home as usual on the Mount Vernon Trail. In Old Town Alexandria the trail merges with a bike lane on Union Street. At 426 North Union I left the bike lane to avoid the rear of a car parked perpedicular to the curb. Then I came to a full stop at two stop signs. Then I approached the busy interesection with King Street.

I came to a full stop at the stop sign as two pedestrians slowly crossed the street in the crosswalk in front of me. Take. Your. Time. People.

Then I crossed King. Just beyond the next crosswalk a car was parked illegally blocking the right lane. My lane. It had its flashers on (making it clear to anyone who might care that he was parking illegally) and its white back up lights were illuminated. I approached with extreme care not knowing what the driver was going to do. Cars were legally parked at the curb in front of the Starbucks across from the illegal car. Two cars were coming toward me. Their headlights were shining directly in my eyes. Because of the illegally parked car I had only a few feet of roadway to use.

As I passed the illegal car, I turned to look at the driver. The headlight on my helmet lit up his face and hands as he played with the cellphone in his hand. Typical.

I turned my head forward and there was a pedestrian. Mid block. Dressed in dark clothing. About one foot in front of my front tire. She was holding a Starbucks cup. She shrieked and quickstepped. I have no idea how I did not hit her.

 

Starbucks addicts do this sort of thing routinely at King and Union. Mrs. Rootchopper told me last night that about a mile away Starbucks addicts  dash across the street in mid block during rush hour to get their caffeine fix at a Starbucks on North Washington Street, a major commuting route for cars and buses.

 

 

Doing All the Things

What a beautiful Saturday. I could have gone for a hike but I had things to do. Eight things to be exact.

Thing 1

I rode my bike to the government center down the street and I voted. I could vote early because I will be out of town on election day. The only down side to voting early is that other voters don’t get to see me bike to the polls. Oh well, at least I got a new sticker.

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I bike and I vote

Thing 2

Next up, I rode to the drug store to score some drugs. Okay, it was asthma medicine which isn’t all that exciting until I don’t have it when I need it.

Thing 3

I rode the Mount Vernon Trail to the farmer’s market it Old Town Alexandria. The place was packed. There were apples. LOTS of apples. I didn’t buy any. I was just people watching. There were people. LOTS of people. I didn’t know any.

Thing 4

Next up was a Thai massage. After all the biking I’ve been doing, it was time to cash in the gift card that Mrs. Rootchopper gave me on my birthday in August. It was for a one-hour session including a foot bath. I’d never had a foot bath like this before. The therapist kneaded my feet. I laughed through the whole thing except when it hurt. I have tender puppies. So it hurt quite a lot. When it was over, it felt pretty awesome. If you are a runner, you should have a soaking foot massage.

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Thai massage place in Old Town

Then the message happened. Dang are my muscles tight. After 20 minutes, I asked to extend my message for an extra 30 minutes. This was going to take some time. My massage therapist was Dau. She did a great job. Some of it hurt but I told her to keep working on the sore parts anyway. It differed from the other Thai massage I had last year. For one thing, I was on a massage table instead of on a cushion on the floor. This gave Dau a different angle on manipulating my body. Another difference is that, although my legs were tight, I did not have numbness in my right leg. Last time the therapist had to limit the work on my thighs.

When it was over I walked out feeling totally relaxed. My thighs were so relaxed. I had no idea how tight they were. And my back felt like new.

I am not a massage kind of guy. I usually feel like I have better things to do with my time. This was different. It was definitely worth the time and money.

Thing 5

Mrs. Rootchopper does the grocery shopping after her Saturday morning Pilates class. I forgot to tell her that we needed coffee and raisins. So I swung by the grocery store to get some. They fit nicely in my Carradice saddle bag.

Thing 6

After I got home, I mowed the lawn. During summer our back lawn grows much faster than the front. In autumn, the front grows faster. Either way, it’s much easier to mow the lawn when it’s not 95 degrees outside.

Thing 7

I read the paper. Two hours later I woke up. This is primo napping weather. Resistance is futile.

Thing 8

I bought tickets for my daughter to fly home for Thanksgiving. Free. Boy am I glad Southwest flies into National Airport.