Late for Slacking

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.

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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.

Slacker!

 

 

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A Ride to New Places in My Own Backyard

  • 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.

Kryptolok

  • 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. Klingle Trail
  • 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.  Big Nellie at 41

Rooftop Turbines and Free Range Peaches

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.

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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.

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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.

From Arte Johnson to Tater Tots in 39 Miles

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

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.

Teddy Trail

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

Burp

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.

 

 

 

Milestone No. 2: Big Nellie Turns 40

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.

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Errands Numbers 4 and 5

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 w24965491973_afc39dff93_m.jpgas 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.

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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.

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Errandonnee Control Card Entry No. 4

Category: Work

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.

Big Nellie Turns 39 – Are You Kidding Me?

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 probl25053606189_f1fb32a525_m.jpgem 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.

 

Can We Have Winter Back?

The day began with a backpack and a driver’s license on my front lawn. Hmmm. Watson, the needle! I left them there and awaited developments. Twenty minutes later I noticed a police car parked across the street. Then a policeman came walking to the car. I went outside and pointed out the backpack and the license. A clue! Excitement. Somebody get me a meerschaum pipe!  The game’s afoot! It turns out someone had broken into some cars up the street and dropped the backpack as they left the area. Maybe they’d try to take some prints off the license. Maybe not.

But that’s not what this post is about..

When you ride through the winter you have to put up with annoying clothing layers and frozen toes. What you get in return is blissfully empty bike trails. Today was the first spring-like day of the year. All the people who spent their winters binge watching Downton Walking Dead were outside enjoying the weather. Many of them came to the bike trails. A few of them came with athletic fantasies.

After filing my taxes I hopped on Big Nellie and headed out for some blissfully warm riding. I made my way to the Mount Vernon Trail beginning about three miles south of the Beltway. I was surprised that it wasn’t busy at all. I rode through Belle Haven Park which is usually busy with people crossing the trail. No surprise there.

Not wanting to tempt fate, I rode over the Woodrow Wilson Bridge. On the far side I rode down the spiral trail. Spirals are a blast on a recumbent.

Then it was the long slog up Oxon Hill. Hills are not a blast on a

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Bikes on houses? Also, windy.

recumbent.You look like Fred Flintstone doing the pee pee dance, spinning your ass off and going nowhere.

 

Instead of riding back down to the river via Oxon Hill Farm, I took a series of access roads along side Indian Head Highway. I traded scenery for a more direct route. Then I turned off Oxon Hill Road and got lost.

I rode through one low-income housing project after another. So scenic. So damned hilly. At least the people were nice. Anacostia has a very high crime rate but on sunny spring days you’d never know it. Mostly you see people coming and going from church dressed in Sunday best. It helps to be on a recumbent. Little kids go “Wow” and adults get a (usually) silent laugh out of the sight of me.

I rode through Anacostia Park along the Anacostia River to Benning Road then crossed over into a maze of streets, few of which seem to go continuously east. I was headed for Bicycle Space’s K Street NW shop to buy a mirror for Big Nellie. I had $66 of gift card money left over from my birthday so I decided to ride 20 miles to use it up rather than simply buy the same mirror at my local bike store near my house.

I made my way up H Street hoping to spot the new trolley car. I didn’t see it but the rails made me wary of catching a wheel and crashing. Trolley cars are a pain if you are a cyclist. Actually, they are a pain if you are anything but a trolley car rider. I rode the trolley in Boston all the time. I loved it. In most places in Boston, the trolley is physically separated from the cars. Not on H Street.

I survived. I made it to Bicycle Space then made my way home. The Mall was packed with tourists. The streets were packed with wannabe tourists in cars looking for parking spaces. Maybe they could put a trolley along the Mall in a loop. Like they have in downtown Melbourne Australia. (The loop trolley in Melbourne is free too.) This would require taxes and coordination. Things American government doesn’t know how to do. Vote for me. I’ll put a wall around the Mall and make the tourist pay for it.

I made my way up 15th Street which had some traffic lights out of service. Joy. Not.

As I turned onto Maine Avenue near the Tidal Basin, a bicyclists heading the opposite way yelled “Hello.” I waved clumsily as I rode over some irregularities in the road. I learned later that it was Ted, a.k.a. Mr T in DC. He looks nothing like the Mr T from the Rocky movie. I suppose this is a good thing.

As I rode over the 14th Street Bridge it began. A woman was looking out over the river to the right. She was pulling a suitcase. She decided to carry on in the direction of Virginia and immediately headed for the left side of the trail directly into the path of a DC-bound cyclist.

I slowed allowing him to swerve around her. I told her as I rode past, walk on the right. I looked in my mirror. She was still on the left.

The Mount Vernon Trail was absolutely packed with people of all ages. Cyclists, walkers, kids, old people, prams, skateboards. Many folks were walking three abreast creating pinch points for everyone else. Good to see you are having a nice time folks. With uncharacteristic calm and patience (I am a former Boston cabbie so just don’t push me too far okay?) I made my way through the throngs. It was actually pretty nice but for one thing: the fair weather cyclists who decide that today is the day that they will instantaneously get in shape and become Lance Mamilstrong!! Yes, with their amazing cycling skill they’ll ride headlong into the mass of peaceful trail users.Everyone will get out of their way because they are…..Lance Mamilstrong, cyclist in tights!

Fuggum.

For the record I didn’t put one pump into the spokes of one passing Lance Mamilstrong (like that mean Italian in Breaking Away. Everybody cheats. I just didn’t know). I didn’t swear. I just went with the flow. Slowly.

I made it home with a smile on my face. Even Lance Mamilstong couldn’t ruin such a fine day.

A few more days like today though and I’ll be praying for a return of cold weather.

 

 

 

Triple Play for Punxatawney Phil

As every American knows, Punxatawney Phil is a groundhog who comes out of his hole on Groundhog Day (dang, isn’t that clever). If he sees his shadow, there will be six more weeks of winter. If not, liberation! Lord only knows how this myth got started.

At least Phil isn’t as politically dubious as Indian summer.

So today was the first, honest to god springlike day of the year. It took about six hours of daylight to get going in earnest, but temperatures eventually rose into the high 60s.

I started the day warming up for Errandonnee 2016. This was once called the Utilitaire, a name I prefer only to annoy the Goddess of Errands.  Whatever it’s called, it’s all about doing errands by bike. Today, I took my neglected recumbent, Big Nellie, out for some chores. Our first stop was the dry cleaners. I could use a dry cleaner in our office building but I like the people who run the shop near my house. You have to support nice people. Even if their shop is on US 1 in Fairfax County. Not to put to fine a point on it, US 1 is an abomination. It sucks in every conceivable way. And it’s even worse if you are on a bike. If you don’t support nice people, you get not nice people. Nice people are more better.

Next stop was the clothes donation bin. This was on the opposite side of US 1 so I got to play with cars. None of them hit me.

I crossed back over US 1 and made for the local hardware store. The clothes donation bin was 100 yards from a Home Depot. The hardware store is run by nice people (one of the owners rides a bike up and down the Mount Vernon Trail in the mornings). They sell all sorts of useful stuff. Until you buy a house you probably don’t shop at hardware stores. For homeowners, hardware stores are like a toy store. They are filled with all sorts of interesting stuff. Ours sells 25 pound bags of shelled bird seed covered with cayenne pepper. It’s expensive but the squirrels don’t like it and the birds do. I bought a bag and dropped it in my old pannier. The ride home was a bit lopsided but Big Nellie was up to the task.

With the Errandonnee practice run complete, I turned my attention to my bete noire: Not the Bryan Ferry record, squeaky brakes. According to Google, “squeeky brakes” is
“freins grinçants” en Francais. Why didn’t I learn this in 4 1/2 years of studying French?

First I worked on Big Nellie’s back brakes. This involves putting this huge bike in a bike workstand, adjusting the brakes, taking the bike out of the stand, going for a test ride and repeating. All the while dropping F bombs, because you really need three hands and I only have two. (If we survive climate change, humans will sprout a retractable third hand from their appendixes. And I bet  you thought it was a useless vestigial organ.)

It took me only two tries and about 20 F bombs but I silenced the squeal.

Next I put The Mule in the stand and went at it. The brakes on Big Nellie are V-brakes. The brakes on The Mule are cantilevers. The adjustment is the same but you need an additional tool (a wrench) to work on cantilevers. This ups the f-bomb count substantially. Fortunately, The Mule isn’t as ungainly as Big Nellie so it’s easier to get into the stand. After about 15 minutes I had silenced the truly irritating screech from both front and rear brakes.

After a quick lunch, I hopped on Big Nellie for a reward ride. I rode over to the Mount Vernon Trail which was busy with families. Many of them had free range toddlers. If you want to identify suboptimal parents, just go to the busiest trail in the mid Atlantic on a warm, sunny day and look for the ones with free range toddlers. As a reformed suboptimal parent, I sympathize and ride especially carefully around these people. There are also the our-kid-got-a-bike-for-Christmas-let’s-go-get-them-killed parents. I know its a “bike path” but it’s got MAMILs and teenagers on it and your kid can’t ride in a straight line yet. DON’T BRING THEM TO A TRAIL!!! Sorry. Life’s not fair. (You can trust Scar on this.)

After a ride across the Woodrow Wilson Bridge sidepath which was filled with British sympathizers (they all seemed to walk on the left today), I rode down into Jones Point Park. Here I saw several optimal parents. They were teaching their kids to ride their bikes off the trail in the big paved area under the bridge. If you have a kid who’s learning to ride a bike TAKE THEM TO JONES POINT PARK. It even has nice bathrooms. And a rudder from a World War I ship.

I rode through Old Town to Four Mile Run, then came back through Del Ray. People were out and about. Cabin fever was being cured. Smiles abounded.

I took the Park Terrace hill on the way home. Riding hills on a recumbent is not big fun, but I needed a challenge. The grind put me in a trance and somehow I found myself riding over the crest of the hill.

So there you have it. Errands, Bike maintenance. Lazy ride.

A triple play on a sunny day.

Thanks Phil. See you in about three weeks.

 

Recumbents and Vultures and Toros

January 2 is a pretty big disappointment. The day after the New Year is so pathetic sounding. Christmas gets Boxing Day. Thanksgiving gets Black Friday. Even Halloween gets All Saints Day. (Okay, July 5 doesn’t really cause goosebumps but it’s summer time and nobody much cares about goosebumps. Unless you are in Tierra del Fuego. If you are in Tierra del Fuego, you deserve whatever you get.)

Bored and wanting just to get out of the house, I took a spin on my long neglected recumbent, Big Nellie. I had no where to go and wasn’t in a hurry to get there. I decided to ride up toward National Airport and see how the new 50 yard stretch of the Mount Vernon Trail was sizing up.

In Belle Haven Park, three vultures circled in the sky above. Were they expecting me to die? (No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to RIDE.)

As for the trail repair at the airport, it’s wider than before. Straighter than before. And bumpier than before. I guess they haven’t de-bumped it yet. Can’t wait. I was getting sick of the detour through the mulch.

I didn’t see anyone I knew and my feet were starting to get cold (it was in the mid-40s) so I rode home on the new Potomac Yard bike trail. This trail is nice and wide but it merges with a sidewalk at haphazard intervals. An old man in a sweatsuit doddered across the trail/sidewalk directly in front of me. Good thing I have the reflexes of a 60-year old so I could avoid him. (You politely use terms like “old man” and “dodder” when you ride a recumbent. It says so in the user’s manual.)

About two miles from home, as I approached the stone bridge, I heard an ominous, horrifying noise from behind a wooden fence. It was a lawn mower. Are you effing kidding me? I was feeling very mindful and peaceful and stuff so I let the fool do his yard work in peace.

So there you have it. My exciting first ride of the year. You should take a nap now. That’s what I’m going to do.