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.

 

A Little Water Won’t Kill Ya

It rained last night. The passage to my backyard was a mud pit. It was drizzling as I, without a whole lot of thought, pulled Little Nellie out of the shed.

I wore rain gear fImage may contain: tree, plant, outdoor and natureor the ride to work. All was going well until I reached the Mount Vernon Trail. Normally, the river is to the right of the trail. Today, the trial was beneath the river. As I cleared the Dyke Marsh boardwalk, I hit about 40 yards of deep water. I’d guess it was 6 inches deep. The density of the water slowed me to a crawl and I pedaled through it getting my feet thoroughly soaked. I stopped to take a picture that doesn’t do it justice.

I hopped back on Little Nellie, pedaled 20 yards, and was deep in the soup again. Pedaling through this much water is hard work. I cleared that flood, had a 20-yard breather, then hit the next one. And the next one. And the next one. No lie. I was pedaling really hard as I hit the last one and the backwash from Little Nellie’s wee front wheel caused the water to splash up over my knees.

After another deep section north of Belle Haven Park,  I made it into Old Town without need for scuba gear.

Old Town, of course, is notorious for flooding and today it did not disappoint. Union Street (which includes the Mount Vernon Trail) Image may contain: one or more people, people sitting, motorcycle and outdoorwas closed at King. Little Nellie posed for a picture. I watched a pick up drive through the water but decided not to press my luck especially with a police car in the distance.

I turned up one alley and over another and found myself on King just to the left of the water in the picture.

Free and clear, right? Wrong. I managed to avoid submersion for a couple of miles before hitting deep water twice near Daingerfield Island. The force of my bike through the flood again kicked water up over my knees.

Dang.

I really should have chosen a bike with bigger diameter wheels. I hope Little Nellie’s hubs are not completely messed up.

In the afternoon Doppler radar was showing a really nasty storm approaching. I ran into the No. 2 person at my agency who was carrying his motorcycle helmet. Good luck! Our admin assistant and I both told my boss to hit the road on his cargo bike. He rides into DC and he probably made it unscathed.

I, on the other hand, was scathed. I made it about 9 miles in decent shape. The good news was the flooding had receded. The bad news was I was heading into dark, dark clouds with wind and rain and thunder and lightning.

Oh my.

I rode through Belle Haven Park aware that at any time a limb could fall from one of the giant old trees along the trail. It had happened before but not today. South of the park I had to deal with the fact that my glasses were covered with rain drops and condensation. I could barely see to make my way.

There was nothing to do but pedal, so I did. A bicyclist zipped past me. How he could see was beyond my ken. As I went through the slalom south of Dyke Marsh branches with wet leaves slapped me in the face.

Pedal. Pedal.

All the while, lightning was flashing across the sky.

I followed a curve in the trail up and to the right. Out from behind an overhanging branch came a bicyclists. A woman on what looked like a beach cruiser. She was riding in a frenzy without rain gear and nearly collided with me. I veered off to my right and she flew by.

Sections of the trail now had run off from the adjacent parkway. Some of these were fairly high speed and gave me cause for concern. Would they sweep my wheels out from under me?

Nope. It’s good to be lucky.

Once I left the trail the rain subsided. There was still some thunder and lightning but it was not all that intense.

I rode across the front lawn, around the muddy side of the house, and down the small grassy decline to the shed. After opening the shed and getting the bike inside I started to wipe everything down with an old t-shirt. Then

BOOM!

A clap of thunder erupted directly overhead. The walls and the floor of the shed shook. I felt the vibration in my torso.

Double dang.

A little water won’t kill ya, but the thunder’s a bitch.

Bike to Work Day in DC – Recap

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I woke up early. I was having leg cramps. Not good. The dinner concert we went to last night did not serve free water, so we drank beer. Dumb on all counts.

After walking around a bit and drinking a pint of watered down orange juice, my cramps subsided and I was off about 1/2 hour ahead of schedule on my last Bike to Work Day. (Please note the capitalization. I am still biking to work for another three months. Y’all can’t get rid of me that easily.)

Pit stop MV.JPGMy ride to work is about 15 miles. I decided to take the longImage may contain: sky, tree, ocean, plant, outdoor and nature way and stopped 1 1/2 miles from home at my first pit stop of the day. This one was located near the Mount Vernon Trail and was staffed by a couple of guys from my local bike shop, Spokes Etc.‘s Belle View location. At the pit stop, I ran into Nancy Duley who lives near me. We had a good chat. Having already eaten breakfast, I turned down the free muffins and bananas and other goodies and headed toward Alexandria. Along the way I stopped to take in the sun rising over the river. (Wanna know why I bike to work. The picture tells it all.)

In Old Town I stopped at my designated pit stop. (I had switched at the last minute to avoid the lonImage may contain: 1 person, outdoorg lines in Rosslyn. ) Good move. The lines were short. I picked up a t-shirt and a water bottle. Then I popped two donut holes in my mouth. They were from the aptly named Sugar Shack. Big Ed was also there and the two of us rode with massive sucrose buzzes to Crystal City.

Once I dismounted I came to realize the the relative humidity was somewhere north of New Orleans in August. Dang.

The Crystal City pit stop was very well attended. I saw several people I knew including Kathy and Sam (that’s her on the left below). Once again I passed up the free food and coffee.  Hot coffee was not looking really appealing as the sweat poured off me.Image may contain: 4 people, people smiling, outdoor

I left Ed to his socializing and headed to Rosslyn. Rather than cut back over to the Mount Vernon Trail, which I assumed would be chock-a-block full of bike commuters, I rode the streets through Crystal City, past Long Bridge Park, and around the Pentagon. I picked up Route 110 with its highway traffic and rode its broad paved shoulder until I exited at Arlington Cemetery.

There was nobody on the path around Arlington Cemetery which made for swift passage to Rosslyn. The streets of Rosslyn were packed with cars but I managed to weave through them. I decide to check out the Rosslyn pit stop conveniently located in the Intersection of Doom which was made more better by construction on the nearby bike trail.

The Rosslyn pit stop was packed. There must have been over 100 bikes parked and many, many more in the hands of their owners meandering about. I was glad I switched stops, even though Rosslyn had the best swag of all four that I visited.

I ran into Lawyer Mike, who, like Big Ed, I know from Friday Coffee Club. But for passes on the trail during commutes, I hadn’t seen him in ages. So it was good to catch up.

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I took off for work. When I got to the office I gathered up my co-workers who had ridden to work. There were five of us, but only four because one of my co-workers who is new to this bike to work thing, missed her pit stop. That’s them in the picture at the top of the blog.

The picture does not include our boss who rode his kids to school (as he does every day) and a former co-worker who works on another floor. So my office did itself proud today.

The interview I did yesterday ran on WAMU  (a local NPR station) today. I was included in the text but did not make the audio version. There’s good reason. Ian, yet another Friday Coffee Clubber, was the lead subject. He commutes almost twice as far as I do. I can’t even….

After work I rode to Adams Morgan in DC for a Bike to Work Day party hosted by WABA. They mentioned something about free beer and pizza and I was a goner. I arrived under threatening skies. As I went to lock my bike, rain fell. Cold rain. It cut through the humidity splendidly.

I met a half dozen people at the party. My fusiform gyrus was given a major work out. I still remember Rachel, Lisa, Grace, Eric, and, I think,…, well, I forgot the other guy. And I know I’ve met him before. Ack.

The highlight of the event was the ovation we gave Nelle Pierson, who had just finished her last day on the job with the Washington Area Bicyclists Association. Suffice it to say, there was an awful lot of love and admiration in the room.

I finished the evening with a ride home under threatening skies. Jeanne who was at the Crystal City pit stop and I rode back to Virginia together. Once on the south side of the Potomac, we found ourselves riding through clouds of flying bugs. Jeanne veered off north of Old Town. As I made my way through Belle Haven Park the clouds of bugs intensified. It was totally gross for about 1/2 mile. Then the swarms cleared and all that was left was the circle of light ahead of my bike. Four miles of riding in the night with a few flashes of heat lightning for good effect.

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Bike to work day. 14 hours from start to finish. My last one. Well played BikeDC. Well played.

Many, many thanks to all the volunteers and staff who worked on this event. Also, thanks to the sponsors for donating all the goodies.

 

 

Nobody Told Me It Was Fitness Friday

On the way to work this morning I was riding through Belle Haven Park when I spotted the strangest thing: a young man was walking toward me carrying a barbell across his shoulders. There were two huge circular weights on the bar, one on each side. He was followed by a small group of people and a woman taking a video. I could have stopped and taken a picture but I didn’t want to mess up the video. As a certified, retired altar boy, I gathered that this stunt had something to do with it being Good Friday.

In the evening as I made the turn onto Union Street in Old Town Alexandria, I spotted two women doing what appeared to be synchronized yoga moves on the loading platform of one of the Robinson Warehouses. This time I stopped. I asked them if they minded if I took their picture. “Do you want us to pose?” I laughed. “No, just go about what you were doing.” And they did.

 

Errandonnee No. 9: Feets Need Support

A few years ago I started doing day hikes. After an easy hike in the mountains, my whole body would ache. This seemed stupid considering I hardly would break a sweat. An acupuncturist who runs marathon recommended a kind of orthotic insole. I tried them and the work great. Until they lose their support. The ones I have in my hiking shoes don’t seem to help much at all anymore. And they take up way too much space in the shoe. So today, I rode Big Nellie into Old Town to visit Comfort Shoe. They have a machine that takes the measure of your feet and recommends a specific orthotic insert. I was wondering if it would change its recommendation, but it didn’t. So I asked the sales clerk whether they made thinner versions. And they do. I stupidly didn’t bring along my hiking shoes. So I’ll have to go back later to try the thinner orthotics out. I am hopeful that I will be hiking without pain soon.

Miles: 14

Category: Personal Care

Observation: After riding 9 1/2 miles, I felt fatigue so I went home. I sat on my deck and read. Then I fell asleep. In the sun. It felt wonderful. So maybe the 80 degree heat and 165 miles in 6 days caught up to me.

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Errands No. 1 and 2: The Incompetent Errandonneur

Errand No. 1

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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Postscript: I decided to re-enact my trip to one of the bike stores just to get a picture. So I went today (4/1) and posed Deets in front of Spokes Etc. at Belle Haven. This is my local bike store. They’ve done so many repairs on my bikes so I wanted to give them a shout out.  So now my trip to spokes on March 20  counts.

Errand No. 2

Miles: 4

Category: Store

Observation: I could have taken a picture any day in the last two weeks but today was the first day that I’ve ridden my Cross Check since the errand.

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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.