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.

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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.

I Think I’m Going to Need a Bigger Boat

I was planning on driving to work today. The forecast as of last night called for 1 – 3 inches of snow today. When I went outside to get the paper this morning, I found that it was above freezing and that a very light rain was falling.

I checked the forecast. We might get a dusting. No big deal. Time to ride.

The first three miles went rather swimmingly. Literally speaking that is. The rain had stopped. I pulled over to take a picture of the lack of sunrise over Dyke Marsh. Then I was back on the bike happy to see that the long boardwalk was free of ice.

As I left the boardwalk I could see that the trail was underwater. Typically this means that there is an inch of water from the river covering the trail. Today wasn’t typical. Snow melt, rain upstream, and a high tide caused the river to flood. The next mile went swimmingly literally.

I pedaled into the water and soon realized that it was well over my pedals. Water was flowing into my GoreTex hiking boots. In case you were wondering, Potomac River water is mighty cold in February. My feet almost immediately started going numb. I slowed my pedaling only to realize that walking was not a viable option. The water kept getting deeper.

Pedal, pedal!

This went on for anout 100 yards with a short break during which my wool socks did their thing and my feet came to life again. Then it was back into the pool.

Holy crap. Or maybe holy carp.

After another minute of soaking my feet and my just lubed chain I emerged from the icy liquid. Still more water covered the trail but this time I decided to take the high road.

I rode through the grass next to the Parkway envying the drivers on the dry pavement to my left. The grass was long and very wet so each yard of progress was hard work. I finally cleared the flood and got back on the trail.

I have been riding the trail since 1984. To my eyes, the river is now much closer to the trail than when I first rode it. About 10 years ago, a section north of Slaters Lane was moved 30 yards away from the river because of chronic flooding. Today’s flood was much worse than those floods.

My feet seemed to warm up again. I had to take an alley to avoid the flooding at the foot of King Street. I could hear pumps working to clear the water from businesses along Union Street.

Near Washington Marina, another section of the trail was under deep water. This time I took the grass route. This grass was even taller than the grass I had ridden on earlier. The Mule was not amused but slogged on through.

By the time I reached the Memorial Bridge, the cold river water was making my feet numb again. I made my way up the hill to Rosslyn and dismounted in the office garage. I fell against a wall. I could not feel my feet or ankles.

During my lunch break I began furiously looking for insulated scuba gear for the ride home. Alas, there was none to be found. Fortunately I didn’t need it. The trail was mostly dry with some pockets of flood-related debris.

I did see a car almost run over a pedestrian in the Intersection of Doom. The car was blocking the crosswalk which leads to the curb cut to get onto the Mount Vernon Trail connector. I need to use the curb cut. I caught the driver’s eye and waved at her to back up since there was no one behind her. Instead of backing up she inched forward as if to make a right on red with me approaching from her left and an unseen pedestrian stepping in front of her on her right. She stopped short just before hitting the pedestrian. I yelled at her to move back as I passed. She looked utterly bewildered. Driving this car is so confusing.

The remaining 14 1/2 miles went fine. My insoles were still filled with water so there was much squishing.

The slight tailwind made up for that.

If you think I regretted my decision to ride to work today, you’d be wrong. Biking to work isn’t always just a commute, sometimes it’s an adventure.

 

It’s a Wonderful Cake

The day began with a bike commute into DC for Friday Coffee Club. Today we celebrated its fourth anniversary.  The founding members were three randonneurs Ed (a.k.a. Felkerino, Mr. Mary) and Mary (a.k.a. Coffeeneur, Gypsybug, Mrs. Ed), and Lane (currently in an undisclosed location), along with Brian (DBA Gear Prudence), and Lisa (with whom I’ve done many, many rides). I knew Ed and Mary through Flickr but Mary got me onto Twitter and from there to Friday Coffee Club sometime in late winter/early spring of 2012.

Swings House of Caffeine (at 17th and G Streets NW) is the scene of the crime. On Fridays the place is packed with bike commuters. The promise of cake made for a big turnout today. I had a cake biopsy as Ed was conserving the remnants of the once mighty cake for late arrivals. I suppose we can call this Felkerino’s birthday cake dichotomy.

I didn’t get to talk to half the people there including a newcomer. I am getting worse and worse at greeting newcomers which is disappointing. When I first started to go, I fought my introversion and made it a point to introduce myself.  Probably doesn’t matter; I’d forget their name anyway.

Late last night I was invited to a happy hour that began at 4:30 on Capitol Hill. Too early for me. Around noon, I was invited to another happy hour at 5:30 in Northeast. (Can’t we spread all this socializing out a bit people?) I really wanted to go to this one to congratulate a friend, who I will call Clarence. Clarence recently passed an important professional exam. The idea of riding across town at rush hour, then hanging out in the city and then riding 15 miles home in the cold and dark was not appealing. I thought I could ride home, grab dinner, then drive into the city, but I left work late, totally screwing up the timing. So I made my apologies to Clarence. She told me to have a safe ride home.

(On the way home two things happened that were disturbing. First, I passed workers setting up a boom to contain oil that had been spilled somehow into the Potom24840585465_66664cdc2d_mac River It’s a mystery how the spill occurred but it is already affecting waterfowl. About eight miles later on a dark section of the trail I nearly took out a ninja. The man was walking toward me on the left side of the trail, my side. He appeared in the edges of my headlight’s circle of light. I went to pass on the left, he stepped left. I went right. He went right. I nearly stopped as he hopped off the trail. “Excuse me,” he said without a hint of sarcasm. I stifled a “What the fuck are your DOING?!!!” and continued on my way. Damned good thing I didn’t have anything to drink.)

I owe you one, Clarence. (Again.) Maybe a mulled wine, heavy on the cinnamon and light on the cloves.

So proud of you.

 

 

 

 

 

Well, at Least I’m Not in Sweden

Winter is messing with us again. The wind chill was in the single digits when I fetched the morning newspaper. (Younger readers: it’s a pile of paper in a bag. There are words on it. It tells you what happened yesterday. It has comics and puzzles too.)

Last night’s wait-and-see weather reports about a big snow storm later in the week have turned ominous. There is a high likelihood of a major snowstorm, followed by no toilet paper or milk, and death from boredom.

So I left the warmth of my home on this federal holiday (see note below) and headed out into the cold. I used some hand warmers in my boots and hopped on The Mule and hoped for the best.

I rode around my neck of the woods for 12 1/2 miles. I was totally comfortable. Wadda ya know about that! Here is what I wore:

  • Goretex hiking boots
  • Hand warmers in the boots under my feet
  • Smartwool socks
  • Old bike tights
  • Mountain bike shorts
  • Rain pants (to reflect the wind)
  • Cheapo base layer from Target
  • WABA t-shirt
  • Holey wool sweater
  • Marmot Precip rain jacket (wind again) with hood up
  • Thick neck gaiter
  • Wool winter cap
  • Mittens
  • Helmet

Of course, with all this on, I could barely move but I wasn’t in a hurry. I discovered I’ve been doing the hand warmer thing all wrong. You put them under your feet not on top of your feet. (They go between your socks and your shoes, never against your skin.) For more tips on hand warmers check this out.

I can handle the cold. I can handle the slow pace from wearing all this stuff. What drives me up the wall is the ten minutes it takes to put this stuff on, and the ten minutes to take it off.

Today was the first day I wore my trusty old holey sweater. Until now I was using my blue backup sweater. (I have two back up holey sweaters. I am holeyer than thou.) My old holey sweater is the perfect weight for winter around here.

I rode around the Fort Hunt neighborhood. I was surprised to see the Potomac River had no ice on it. It could be that the choppy waves kept the ice from forming. Or maybe it has a higher salt content down near Mount Vernon.

Underdressed kids were out on scooters and bikes. They didn’t seem the least bit cold. Kids are like that.

If it stays cold, we will all get used to it. That’s what I told my daughter who is spending the semester near Stockholm in Sweden.

I think Buddhists call this lying in the present moment.

Hurry spring.

 

 

A Beautiful Ending

One of the joys of riding my bike to work is seeing the sun rise over the Potomac River. This morning’s did not disappoint. It stopped me in my tracks on the Dyke Marsh boardwalk on the Mount Vernon Trail.

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Despite temperatures in the 20s and a headwind I made it to work very comfortably. We were released early for the holiday and the ride home in daylight was a treat.

It’s days like these that I so appreciate my commutes along the Potomac River. I am so lucky to have such a beautiful commute. My commute is my time alone. Sometimes my mind drifts. Other times I have a conversation with myself, often aloud to the amusement of commuters riding past. Call it meditation or therapy, I’d be lost without it.

I’m not one for making New Year’s resolutions. I’ll ride a lot doing my utmost to avoid big metal things.  Hopefully, I will hike a lot more. And, of course, root for the Nats. I do hope that my friends in the DC area join me on these adventures, as so many did in 2014. I intend to give 2015 everything I’ve got. You should too. Happy New Year and thanks for reading.

Sunrise – Dyke Marsh

The boardwalk over Dyke Marsh was slippery from rain and fallen leaves. Big Nellie, my Tour Easy recumbent, has a skewed weight distribution making it prone to having the front wheel slide out. When I saw the sunrise over the hills of Prince Georges County, Maryland I risked a crash and very slowly braked to a stop. Yeah, it was worth it.

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The Return of the Mule

It’s been hanging there in the shed for weeks and weeks. New chain, new cassette, new brake pads. 32,300 miles on the odometer. Waiting to make the long march to 33,000. Today it began.

I rolled the Mule out of the shed and headed to work on yet another unseasonably cold morning. It was 46 degrees when I left the house. Everything about the Mule felt unusual. The saddle, a Brooks Champion, seems to be more like a sling. I should probably replace it, but it fits my butt like the pocket of a outfielder’s glove fits a baseball. The brake hoods felt too far away. The brakes, despite new pads, are mushy. Despite all this, it seemed to take off with little effort on my part.

A mile from the house, in a quiet suburban neighborhood, the Mule and I were buzzed by a minivan. There was no reason for the driver to come so close (not that there ever is a legitimate one). There was no one else on the road, no parked cars either. Still the van came within a foot of my left side. I doubt the driver even saw me.

The Mule made its way down to the Mount Vernon Trail. The Potomac River was running high and spilled across the trail near Dyke Marsh. I picked my feet up and glided through like a little kid. Whee.

No goslings yet. Lots and lots of mallards and Canada geese, though. We’ll have mallards and ducklings soon enough. I didn’t see any raptors or egrets either. I suppose they move with the shallow water.

In Old Town, the base of King Street near the river was flooded. This must happen a dozen times per year. You’d think they’d build a levee or something.  I wonder if you could sit outside the Starbucks on the corner and fish. I’ll have a Grande Frankenfish and a Venti Americano.

Old Town Flooding

By the time I made it to work, I was feeling cramped on the Mule. My hands had gradually moved forward onto  the brake hoods as my back loosened up. My left knee was complaining. (This always happens when I go from one bike to another. My feet don’t like Big Nellie. My right knee and my back don’t like Little Nellie. My left knee doesn’t like the Mule.) The pain will subside after I ride the Mule for a few more days.

I made it through the Rosslyn Circle of Death without incident. I learned later in the day that another cyclists wasn’t so fortunate. How many medivacs does it take before something changes?

It was much warmer for the ride home but I had a strong, gusting headwind and incredible amounts of pollen to contend with. After the Memorial Bridge, I came upon a photoshoot of some sort. There were reflecting umbrellas on stands, one on each side of the trail. Some young women were holding on to bikes. One of the bikes looked like a little like a bikeshare bike. There was so much activity on the trail I don’t know how they were going to get any pictures taken. I didn’t stick around to find out. A minute later I saw Bob (Don’t Call Me Rachel) Cannon riding in a short line of cyclists. He was my only regular of the day.

Photo Shoot

The rest of the ride home was a slog. As soon as I’d get any speed at all, a gust of wind would take it away. There was no sign of flooding in Old Town but the river was still very high. The water came right up to the underside of the Dyke Marsh boardwalk. Once past that, I had some tree cover and the headwinds were lessened. It’s incredible how much some foliage does to slow the wind down. I stopped at the drug store to pick up a prescription and bought some eye drops to get the pollen out of my eyes.

I was planning on driving to work tomorrow so that I could attend my daughter’s lacrosse game. Over dinner she told me that the game is canceled. Many of the players on her team are sick, I would imagine from allergies. So I ride again tomorrow.