Many years ago, I was riding my Tour Easy recumbent to Indiana. I had just had the rear wheel replaced in Frostburg, Maryland. After a half hour I crested the aptly named Big Savage Mountain. With about 35 pounds of gear, all over my back wheel, I began the descent from the crest. The bike had a full fairing, a Lexan windshield, that made it super fast on downhills. And within less than a minute I felt like I was riding a bullet. I looked down at my speedometer and saw 48 miles per hour. I was just getting started. I’d never ridden this fast on a recumbent before and all I could think of was: I hope nothing goes wrong or I am a dead man. So, in near panic I yelled:
I started riding the brakes to bring me down to a safe speed, all the while hoping the rims of the wheels didn’t overheat.
American sports fans my age well know that “Whoa Nellie” comes from sportscaster Keith Jackson. He was the voice of college football for decades. I don’t remember all that much about college football back in the day but I remember his announcing.
I named my recumbent Nellie after that crazy descent. (Today I call it Big Nellie because I named my Bike Friday folding travel bike Little Nellie after the kit helicopter in the James Bond movie “You Only Live Twice.”)
At the doctor’s office yesterday, I weighed 203 pounds, six pounds more than on the very same scale a month ago. Perhaps it is a coincidence but in the last six days I have downed six apple fritters, prescribed by the mental health professionals Rachel C. and Katie B. Suffice it to say, my pants are fitting a tad snuggly. My mood is good though.
As has been the case since I came home from the hospital, I felt a little better today physically. It snowed overnight. As much as I wanted to go out and shovel the inch of powder, Mrs. Rootchopper would have nothing of it and handled the chore with ease.
For most of the day I hung out reading and waiting for the mechanic to call about Mrs. Rootchopper’s car. The year and a half old battery died. Completely. It won’t even hold a charge. So the mechanics put in a new one. Then they checked the oil and found the dipstick dry. Oops. I hope this is not the beginning of old car syndrome, the affliction that kills both your car and your bank account.
While waiting for the mechanic to finish, I went into the basement and rode Big Nellie. It was my first ride or exercise of any sort since the embolism. I took it easy and noted a number of interesting things:
My megamileage base will serve me well. My legs were not the least bit stressed.
I felt a distinct cramping in my left calf. I never cramp so I am assuming that what I was feeling was the deep vein thrombosis, the source of the blood clots in my lungs. So there you are you little bugger.
About 25 minutes into the ride, I felt the familiar stabbing pain in my right lung. I backed off my pedaling, dropped to a lower gear, and the pain went away. (It’s a 3 out of 10 on the objective pain scale.)
I felt numbness in my calves. Since I have nerve issues in my legs whenever I ride my recumbent I thought nothing of it. The numbness went away once I stood up and walked around for a minute.
As I rode I read my book. Oddly, I read much faster when I am spinning my legs than when I am just sitting in a chair. I put the reading to a secondary use. I spent one page on each cog, going up and down the cassette in the middle ring. Then I shifted to the big ring and did the same. At no time was I out of breath but my heart rate was higher than normal for the effort I was putting out.
All told, I rode 52 minutes. I’d say the equivalent of about 8 1/2 miles at the pace I was going (about 10 miles per hour).
It’s not much, but it’s a start. Now that all the fritters are gone (oink) I can hope to gradually increase my time and intensity on the bike and drift ever so gently back below the Mendoza line.
I was being a good boy. Except for one holiday party, I had greatly curtailed my alcohol consumption since my bike tour. And I’ve stayed out of the junk food cabinet for two months. So I did the math: much less alcohol + no junk food + daily riding = pulmonary embolism.
Sooo, let’s reconsider. My recovery plan: more alcohol + junk food out the wazoo + daily sloth = bicycling fitness monster. What could go wrong?
In the hospital, my thinking was all about denial. I am going to get better in record time. No problem. My body, apparently, has other ideas. This is going to take a while. My body gets a little tiny bit stronger by the day. I am, however, a long, long way from being back to anything approaching normal.
Ever since the event rides I did in August and early September, I’ve been wondering if something was wrong with me. I went from a bad climber to a horrible climber this year. My 50 States team had to wait for me at the top of every hill. It was embarrassing. Whenever I started climbing, my speed dropped like a stone and I had no ability to get it back. Was I throwing clots into my lungs this summer? Was my strong heart kicking out unnoticed clots for weeks? Whatever the answer, I am betting that I have much more cardiopulmonary fitness than the average PE patient. My doctors were pretty funny remarking on it too. I look like the average man on the street until you measure my vital signs and take an EKG. (Better knock some wood, right?)
I’ve been reading, watching movies, watching sports, and hanging with my family. This has really lifted my spirits. If I stop and think about things, my brain goes into weepy mode. Thankfully, it’s nothing like true depression. A tear here and there actually kind of helps. Even having not meditated in several days, I am confident that I have the mental part of this sussed. I need to be vigilant. Hearing words of support from friends and family and readers helps a ton. I am truly grateful.
Spiro, the spirometer, is not my friend. Spiro, you are dead meat. I am coming after you. I may be a wimp now but just you wait. I am going to kick your ass.
Since most of the clots and the pleural infarction are on my right side, I can sleep comfortably on my left side, which is how I prefer to sleep. If I turn over onto my left side, my breathing becomes shallow and labored.
My family gave me four books for Christmas. And cold weather cycling gear. I won’t make much use of the latter in the days ahead, but the books will come in handy. Once I get some strength back, I’ll be reading with Big Nellie.
Tomorrow we go for diner breakfast and the new Star Wars movie. Then I write some thank you cards. And we’ll see about some very light exercise too.
I woke up late for the rest of my life. That’s how it felt anyway. I looked at the alarm clock and it said 6:45. Nooooo!
I swear these thoughts actually entered my brain on my first “work” day of retired life. All of a sudden I felt like I needed to maximize every second of the day.
Then I took a deep breath. Actually about 15 minutes of them. And did my back exercise routine. And it was just another day. I read the newspaper over a cup of coffee and headed out on Big Nellie to get a certified letter being held at the post office.
Once the chore was over, I could do whatever I wanted. I could go home and continue repainting the shed or I could go for a bike ride. My back was achy from yesterday’s chores so it was not a difficult decision. Big Nellie won the day.
My neck of the woods has more elderly people than any other in the DC area. They toot their horns at bicyclists, don’t bother with turn signals, and change lanes at random. It was good training for riding in Florida.
I rode down flat streets aimlessly. At Ft. Belvoir I decided to check out the new bike lanes. There is a wide side path and an unprotected bike lane in the road. The speed limit varies between 35 and 50 miles per hour which begs the question, why did they bother putting the bike lane in?
I rode all the way to Lorton then came back on the unprotected bike lanes on Telegraph Road. Going downhill I did a waltz with a massive pickup truck. Its driver wanted to turn. Then he didn’t. Then he did. Into and out of the bike lane. I finally said fuggit, took the lane and past him going 30 miles per hour.
I rode into neighborhoods just to add miles. As I went, my legs adapted to Big Nellie.
After 30 miles (not coincidentally the length of my round trip bike commute), I arrived at home after noon. After lunch I sat on the deck and watched the partial eclipse. We here in DC were at about 80 percent of totality. So for those woo woo folks who think an eclipse is a time of oneness with the universe and all living things, I hate to break the news. We were at 80%ness. So even at its closest to a full eclipse, 20% of the universe and living things didn’t give a rats ass. It was more like woo wo.
My intent was to finish the shed painting project. Alas. as the eclipse just passed its peak, clouds rolling in. Rain drops started plopping. Doppler radar showed storms all around me. So I will paint another day.
So at 4 o’clock I threw in the towel on my first day at my new job.
I found a wet parcel on my doorstep after a storm yesterday. Inside was a new Kryptonite U-lock. I had first bought a Kryptonite literally decades ago. There was a bit of a scandal when some YouTube dude showed you could break the lock with a Bic pen. So Kryptonite re-designed the lock and gave owners a new one. That happened about 8 or 9 years ago. The lock mechanism on my replacement lock started failing a few months ago, so I contacted Kryptonite and they sent me a new lock. For free. Awesome.
I decided to go on a long-ish ride to reach a milestone on Big Nellie. I stopped at Canal Park along the Mount Vernon Trail. My friend and fellow bike commuter Linel had taken a picture at this park a few days ago. I have been riding past it daily and never knew it was there only a short walk from the trail. (Bike riding is not allowed.) It is a wonderful place to go to contemplate your navel, read a book, or just hang out. (There are plenty of benches and very nicely maintained lawns.) There is also some odd public art.
I rode to Key Bridge (basically my commute) and then into Georgetown. Traffic was very light. Turning left on Wisconsin Avenue I rode up and up and up to Cathedral Heights. I turned downhill and found my way to the new Klingle Valley Trail, over 20 years in the making. It’s only 0.8 miles long but it is worth checking out. I only took one picture because by now anybody can search for it on Flickr and find dozens of better pictures. One you get past this barrier you descend down a curvy paved path into woods. Sweet.
I got home after 42 miles in increasing heat and humidity. Big Nellie reached another milestone, 41,000 miles. She will get a rest now. Well done.
What better way to celebrate a hot muggy July 1 Saturday then to do my winter neighborhood ride in reverse.
Big Nellie and I rode toward US 1 and took the lane at a traffic light. We turned left onto the 3 lane concrete mess and a driver a couple of cars back laid on her horn. As she rolled by she yelled “Get on the sidewalk!” through her open passenger window. Not having time to explain that her inadequacies are her own business I responded with a mindfully deliberate F bomb.
I could easily have caught up to her at the next traffic light but escalation is not my cup of Kona.
Within a minute I was off US 1 and riding flat, nearly car free side streets. At Fort Belvoir I turned left and headed for the Woodlawn neighborhoods on the north side of US 1. There are lots of new bike trails under construction along US 1 in this area so three cheers for my county for finally getting with the program. (Too bad US 1 is still a hideous monstrosity, though.)
A few years ago while riding Big Nellie when it had a fairing (a big Lexan windshield) a man in a Tesla rolled silently by. He stopped and waved me over. He said he was an engineer and wanted to inquire about the provenance of my bike. Ultimately he told me that he was working on a zero energy house near Mount Vernon. (It may have been a negative energy house, one that uses less energy than it produces, but my memory fails me.) I never asked him where his house was specifically but I think I found it today.
Check out those two big wind turbines on the roof. I could see that the one on the left was moving but it was silent. This is a south facing exposure. The eaves cast shade on the windows to avoid heat gain in the house. There is no lawn, just rather elaborate and tasteful landscaping.
I meandered around at about 12 miles per hour. I was getting hotter and I was in no hurry to get anywhere. Near the Mount Vernon Country Club, I passed a house with a ready to market peach tree. You see they put bags over the produce on the tree so you don’t have to put the peaches in a bag later. Or something like that. There are a few peaches that are outside the bags. I think these may be free range peaches. Clearly I need to do more research.
The remainder of my ride involved avoiding collisions with tourists on rental bikes on the Mount Vernon Trail. Not a bad way to spend a Saturday morning.
Those of you old enough to know who Arte Johnson is know that he made famous a couple of bits of schtick. One was a lecherous old man who mumbles and grunts at Ruth Buzzi’s old lady in a hairnet until she whacks him with her purse. The other was of a man on child’s tricycle riding until he falls over sideways.
I pulled Big Nellie, my Tour Easy recumbent, out for the first time in over two months. I planned on looking at colorful leaves and the upright seating position on this bike is just the thing I needed for maximum enjoyment. Sadly, peak foliage around her is at least a week away. (This is great news for those of us who will be riding the Great Pumpkin Ride in Warrenton VA next week, however.) Of course, if I wanted to see foliage, I should have gotten out of bed and driven to the Blue Ridge. But I slept in.
Big Nellie is my only bike with clipless pedals, the kind that attached to the bottom of your shoe. I anticipated that this might be a problem and I wasn’t disappointed. After dodging 4,397 runners, walkers, cyclists, and escaped convicts on the Mount Vernon Trail, I made my way down Union Street in Old Town Alexandria. I had made it half way through the tourist zone near King Street when I came upon a Mazda stopped in front of me at a stop sign. I rolled slowly up to it. It didn’t move. Nobody was in its way. It just didn’t move.
As I came up to its bumper I realized I was going to have to stop. I went to unclip and nothing happened. My left foot wouldn’t release. So I veered to the right of the car as I frantically twisted my foot to no avail. I lost my forward momentum and started falling to the left. I reached out to brace myself on the Mazda’s back left fender. Then it moved and I completed my Arte Johnson and landed on my side on the pavement.
My recumbent seat is only a couple of feet off the ground to begin with. Breaking my fall by contacting the Mazda made the normally uneventful fall even less so. Yet I was still lying on my side in the middle of the street with this ginormous bike attached to me.
A Latina pedestrian came over to help. She was saying something in frantic, accented English but I couldn’t understand her. During the fall, my left foot unclipped but my right foot stayed attached. As she was speaking, I was twisting my right foot and hoping it would release so I could get my body out of the street.
The driver and the passengers in popped out of the car in a panic. ARE YOU OKAY? No, I have a really bruised ego! An my foot is stuck!
A cyclists with gray hair flowing out from under his helmet appeared. Her grabbed my right arm to pull me up. No. Please. I am fine. I just feel like a complete dweeb lying in the street with this chaise lounge attached to my right foot.
Finally, my right foot released and I stood up. Latina smiled. Gray hair bike rider looked relieved. Mazda people got back in car free from the fear that they had somehow contributed to the clumsiest cycling accident of the month. (As I write this four hours later, only my left knee feels any pain. Mostly from getting whacked by the bike’s top tube as I twisted my right leg to free it.)
Well, if any of the people who were there are reading this, thanks for your concern.
I continued riding up the trail of a million weekend warriors until I reached Teddy
Roosevelt Island. I ride by TR Island every day on my way to work, but the last time I set foot on it was at least 20 years ago.
I locked the bike and went for a calming walk on its dirt trails. The island is an oasis of green in the Potomac River only a few hundred yards from the Sunday brunchers on the riverfront in Georgetown. It would be an incredibly relaxing place but the noise from airplanes flying into National Airport and the cars rumbling across the Teddy Roosevelt Bridge ruined the ambiance.
Before leaving I did an Interwebs search for pizza. I was hungry. There’s an Italian place right next to the Custis Trail about 2 miles away. It’s called The Italian Place. Damned clever if you ask me. So I rode up the long hill out to Rosslyn then up some more until the universe decided I had had enough. After a half mile down hill run, I came to the place. They should change its name to The Place with the Incredibly Long Line. I was took a number. 87. Then I heard them call “47!” I walked out.
I continued on the trail up/down/up/down/up/down etc. Until I came to a flat stretch. Lance Mamilot came riding past from the other direction. He blew a snot rocket to his right. Then just as I reached him he blew one to his left. What an asshole! I got a misty spray of his nasal excretions on my left leg. Ewwww!
At the W&OD Trail I headed back toward home. Nineteen miles down, only 17 miles to go. I decided to leave the trail at US 1 and work my way through the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria. I stopped at Del Ray Pizzeria. I was going to get t
hat pizza after all. Sadly, they don’t serve individual slices. This was almost as upsetting as the snot rocket and the Arte Johnson. I had a cheese steak instead. It was humongous. I looked great but did not live up to its visual wonderfulness. It was probably a good cheese steak as cheese steaks go, but I am not much of a cheese steak person. Nick Hornby once remarked that there are well written books that are poorly read. Perhaps this was a good cheese steak that was poorly tasted.
In any case, the cheese steak came with tater tots. Tater tots cure everything. I’ll bet that if Arte Johnson ate tater tots, he’d have stayed upright.
Big Nellie is my Easy Racers Tour Easy recumbent. I bought her in 2001 or 2002 when I thought The Mule was on its last legs. (At the moment, The Mule is laughing in the shed with over 41,000 miles on its odometer.)
So today, with trumpets blaring as I rode between the scenic warehouses of Old Town Alexandria, Big Nellie turned 40,000 miles. She was quite impressed with herself. On to the next milestone later this week or early next week. Stay tuned.
One thing I like about the Errandonnee is I get credit for riding to work. So chalk up an easy one for Big Nellie and me. I started riding with temperatures in the 30s. I was comfy in my winter get up but by the time I got to work it was pretty warm in all those layers. Dressing is going to be a bit of challenge for the next few weeks. When I got to work somebody had locked a road bike to the floor bike rack. There are 18 hanging racks for wedgies (conventional bikes) and 2 spaces on the floor for unconventional bikes like my boss’s Yuba Mundo and Big Nellie. I was tempted to put a note on the bike explaining that he/she was commiting a bike room faux pas. Mais non.
My second errand of the day was to ride my bike to a happy hour with my co-workers. Admittedly this was a two block ride but we must show the Errandonnee flag whenever we can.
Tonight I drive back to work to pick up some boxes. Boxes > Allison. We are having our wood floors refinished in a month so we have to move all of our stuff from the top two levels of our house.
Errandonnee Control Card Entry No. 4
Distance: 29 miles round trip
Observation: Big Nellie used admirable restraint in not crushing the fool who took her parking space today.
Entry No. 5
Category: Social Call – Office Happy Hour
Distance: 1/2 mile (if that)
Observation: Riding through the Intersection of Doom after drinking two pints of ale is a sobering experience.
A few days ago The Mule’s odometer tripped past 40,000 miles. Today, Big Nellie passed 39,000 miles. I bought Big Nellie, an Easy Racers Tour Easy recumbent, in the early 2000s. For several years I rode it exclusively, including three bike tours. Then a nerve problem cropped up in my left foot. This was a Morton’s neuroma and felt like a nail going through my left foot. Once that was more or less under control, a different nerve problem cropped up in my right foot, it went numb when I rode Big Nellie. I do exercises to control this condition every other day.
Now that both problems seem to under control, I can ride Big Nellie again. Riding a recumbent may look geeky but it a blast. A passing MAMIL made a sarcastic remark to me tonight as I rode home. I didn’t say anything back. I feel sorry for him. He doesn’t know what he’s missing.
Being confronted with adversity in your life is inevitable. Just keep in mind that it does not have to defeat you. Adversity is often short lived. Giving up is what makes it permanent. As a certified fitness professional, this blog is my way of helping you feel capable of anything.