Rolling Lawnchairs – a DC Bentabout

Every Memorial Day motorcyclists descend on DC as part of an event called Rolling Thunder. If you live in DC, you can plan on traffic tie ups and long waits at restaurants and crowded taverns. DC residents have learned to go with the flow when these sorts of things happen. (Except parents who are trying to get to day care before the overtime charges hit. The words “road rage” do not do it justice.)

With the Washington Nationals out of town and a hike already under my belt this weekend, it was time for a long ride. I decided to do a bikeabout on Big Nellie, my Tour Easy recumbent.  A bikeabout has no destination. It’s just a meander during which I take a ton of pictures using my point and shoot camera.

I wanted to check out the renovations to the Rock Creek trail. So I headed to DC. The MVT was a zoo, as it always is on nice days on the weekend.  I took my time. Near the beltway I saw Grace as she was headed the opposite way. I don’t know if she recognized me. (She’s never seen me on a recumbent before.)

The tourists had yet to meet critical mass in Old Town Alexandria. I paid close attention to the road ahead and managed to miss a tall ship docked at the southern end of harbor. (Thanks to Emilia who took an Instagram picture and brought it to my attention.)

I stopped at Gravelley Point park near National Airport. Typically, this place is packed on the weekends. Not today. I breezed through.

When I got into DC I was shocked that there were no crowds to contend with. The same cannot be said for the Rock Creek Trail. “Hey, let’s go down to the trail and stand in the middle and talk. We’re important people, you know.”

Must not kill.

The trail was mostly its old self. In parts it was so narrow and worn out that it would accommodate one way traffic only. When I did encounter sections that had been renovated, I was very impressed. Wider. Smoother. Straighter. With new wooden fencing. I can’t wait until it’s done.

Once clear of the trail I had a chance to enjoy Beach Drive which, for much of its length, is closed to cars on weekends and holidays. As I bombed up toward Chevy Chase, I was passed by Mike, a.k.a. @rattlingfender. Mike hosts the official Rootchopper pit stop at the 50 States Ride. I swear I do not pay him for this.

I stopped at the Rock Creek trestle because I like to ride my bike above the tree tops.

Time to head home. I took the Georgetown Branch Trail to Bethesda Row. Normally, I stop for lunch but today I just wanted to get home so I turned on to the Capital Crescent Trail. It was packed. Every time I see it like this I think: if you think a bike trail is a bad thing for your neighborhood, you’re nuts.

I never really had the chance to get any speed going. Every time I got Big Nellie up to cruising speed I had to slow to a crawl because of congestion.

The ride back home featured a strange yellow orb in the sky. What’s up with that?

Also, Gravelley Point Park had filled up. I think they only allow clueless people to use the park on the weekends. One cyclist simply stopped cold in the middle of the trail. No reason.

After the park, the trail squeezes between the Parkway and a secondary runway at the airport. As I approached the squeeze point, a bush was being blown all over the place. The wind was the backwash from a jet about to take off. Being on a recumbent kept me beneath the worst of the blast.

The ride through Old Town was just insane. Cars and bikes and people going every which way. Nobody following any kind of traffic rules. I remarked to another cyclist “This is like being in a video game.” He agreed.

After Old Town, there was nothing but sunny skies and tailwinds. Not a bad way to end a 50-mile holiday jaunt.

For the complete story check out my Flickr album.

 

 

Killing My Legs for a Good Cause or Two

What a busy weekend.  Friday night I took Mrs. Rootchopper out for dinner to celebrate her retirement. It had been a long last week for her (she worked until 1 a.m. one night).

Climate March

On Saturday, I went to the Climate March alone. She and I had done the Science March (a small part of it, anyway) and the Women’s March.  She had also done a march in support of immigration. She needed a break from marching. I rode to Union Station in DC where I met up with folks from WABA. WABA’s Nelle escorted a bunch of cyclists to our rendezvous point. Then we all walked over to take our place in line for the march. Several of our group held up a banner that Nelle had made. (Her creativity and energy astound me.) The march was preceded by much speechifying, none of which we could hear. So for a couple of hours we stood in the ironically blazing sun. At 1 p.m. or thereabouts we started to march. To my surprise we moved along pretty well.

Image may contain: 1 person, tree, sky, hat, outdoor and nature
Joe, Nelle, and Nick holding the banner

We walked down Pennsylvania Avenue toward the White House.  At one point the marchers stopped and sat down and did some sort of woo woo chanting. The only chanting I would have done was to yell “Holy crap this pavement is hot!”  I opted to hang out in the shade with Carrie (see below).

The organizers had wanted to surround the White House. When we got to 15th Street we were told that we could not march to the front of the White House to our right. Instead we were shunted off toward the Washington Monument to our left. By this point we were all pretty wiped out from the heat. We decided to call it a day.

I walked back to Union Station with Nick and Doug, two WABA employees. It was about 20 blocks. It was good that I had company because I would otherwise have paid attention to what a slog it was.

I recovered my bike from the bike valet, and rode home. My legs were toast. I had ridden about 135 miles during the work week. Adding the 33 miles of riding to and from the march, standing around on hot asphalt for hours, and walking several miles only made my dead legs deader.

Breaking the Cycle

So in the spirit of abject self abuse, I woke up early to do a 53 mile bike ride for charity. The event was called Breaking the Cycle and it was put on by The Dwelling Place, a nonprofit that “provides housing opportunities and support services in Montgomery County for families experiencing homelessness, helping them to achieve and maintain self-sufficiency.”

Breaking the Cycle was conceived in a typically Washington way. Carrie is on the Board of The Dwelling Place. She’s married to Greg who is the managing director of WABA. Like Garland and Rooney, they decided to put on a show. (I was a little upset that Carrie didn’t sing the Trolley Song.)

With dead legs and another unseasonably warm and muggy day, I decided to start as early as I could. I must have looked haggard because Carrie explained that there was a bail out option that would cut 13 miles off the ride. Good to know but being a cyclist of very little brain I had no intention of bailing.

The first 14 miles of the ride were in Rock Creek Park. We rode north until there was no more road then took a wooded trail further north to a lake. After that it was all suburban and country roads in Montgomery County, Maryland. I think the route was Greg’s idea. The cue sheet was five or six pages long. It rivaled the 50 States Ride for complexity. You pretty much could tell you were on the route because riders were pulled over to check their cue sheets every couple of miles.

The course was a little hilly but nothing that I couldn’t handle. It was shaped like a lollypop, a circle with a stick. The stick part was an out and back ride to Waredaca Brewery. It was early when we got there so there was no beer drinking to be done. After inhaling an apple and taking a picture for some riders, I reversed course. All went well until I discovered that one of the turns on the cue sheet was wrong. It said to go left when it meant right. So I added a mile to my endeavor. I didn’t see anyone else make this mistake. It was no big deal.

The final few miles were on a trail in Sligo Creek Park. I opted for the trail to stay in the shade but it would have been much faster to take the adjacent parkway.  In any case, I arrived back at the start in semi-decent condition. Organizers of this race really know how to treat the riders. Finishers were given a metal beer glass (or maybe cup) and a coupon for a free beer at Denizens Brewery which happened to be the start and finish. I had the red ale. Then another. (It was moist and delicious.) And some soft pretzels. (They were moist and delicious too.)

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While at the bar I talked a bit with the chairman of The Dwelling Place. His name is Bond. James Bond. Didn’t look a thing like Sean Connery though.

And so the weekend ended. I am taking tomorrow off the bike to attend a dinner after work. My dead legs will thank me.

So my thanks to Nelle, Doug, Dan, and Nick on Saturday and Carrie and Greg on Sunday for making this a fun and worthwhile cycling weekend. These things don’t happen without a lot of work and thought. Cheers to you all.

 

Bike 1, Quinoa 0

I slept in.

When I woke up it was a perfect summer day. The second in a row. There was just one thing to do.

I rode my bike.

You saw that coming, didn’t you.

After all, I could have spent my day doing something truly exciting like dry toasting some quinoa. (Or driving a funicular railcar. I actually know people who did these things today.)

But I rode my bike.

I chose the Cross Check for my adventure. The first ten miles were unremarkable which is remarkable for a Sunday on the Mount Vernon Trail. Normally, the MVT is a zoo on a nice weekend days but today it was less busy than a weekday evening. I rode it all the way to DC. Unmolested.

I made it to trail along the Potomac on the DC side before disaster almost struck. I was patiently following two tentative riders as they made their way through the narrow underpass of the TR Bridge. There was stream of bikes coming our way then a runner. Just as Tentative Rider number 1 came upon the runner a stream of Lance Mamilots came around the bling corner on the other end of the underpass. Two got past the runner but the third nearly hit her. The tentative riders somehow managed not to find themselves in a big pile up. As did I. The runner was rightfully pissed. I yelled something non-obscene at Lance.

Another mile went by. As I approached K Street, I was following a rider on a very Eurpoean-style city bike. She was riding very slowly and came to a stop a the turn off for K Street. Somehow she fell sideways into a small patch of grass. She was more embarrassed than hurt. So I turned onto K and headed toward the Capital Crescent Trail. The CCT was busy and a few impatient riders nearly caused head on collisions. I just moseyed along and kept a positive attitude. It was just too nice a day to get upset.

Approaching Bethesda, I was passed by another Lance. He was headed straight for an on-coming walker. Oncoming walker was an unassuming looking, thin woman, perhaps in her late 60s, with thinning brown hair. In a vaguely eastern European accident she shouted: “Get on the other side of the trail, ASSHOLE!”

I could not stop laughing. For miles.

In Bethesda Row, I stopped at Bethesda Bagels (I love places with creative names) and bought a bagel sandwich. I rode to the trestle over Rock Creek Park and ate half of it there, looking out from the treetops to the creek far below.

And to think I could have been dry toasting my quinoa.

Dang.

With my tank topped off, I headed  outbound on Beach Drive. I had some company, mostly on bikes. At Garret Park I turned around. I had a bit of a head wind and put my head down for a moment. When I looked up, I nearly rode into a fawn. There were two in the road. So cute.

Back to DC, staying in, mostly car free, Rock Creek Park. Lord, was it nice. Warm, breezy. The soothing sound of the creek rushing past only a few yards to the side of the road.

I climbed out of the park on Park Road and made my way to Columbia Heights. Normally this hill is difficult for me. Not today. I rode the bike lane straight up Irving Street, passing a long stream of cars waiting in line for the short light at the top of the hill. Sucks for them, I thought.

Soon I was sitting on a bench in the shade in Meridian Hill Park. The rest of my sandwich didn’t have a chance.

For some reason, riding down 16th Street on the way home has become a favorite of mine. There are so many interesting buildings and people. Unfortunately, it ends with a ride through the touroids near the White House. I managed to get behind a tour group on Segways clogging the 15th Street cycletrack.

Riding a bike behind Segways is only marginally more enjoyable than dry toasting quinoa.

I survived. Nobody killed me as I rode out of DC. The MVT was once again not half bad. The last ten miles were not the easiest. I have to remember to drink more water while I am riding during my tour next week.

I rode all winter, all through a cold, wet spring. Today’s beautiful 63 1/2 miles was payback.

Tonight, I’ll dry toast some quinoa.

Just kidding.

Too bad there aren’t any funiculars around.

A Year in the Woods

This was my second year of doing day hikes. Early in the year I made a list of hikes that I wanted to do on my white board at work. I modified the list, adding three hikes that friends of mine did during the year and taking off two hikes, Bull Run Mountain and Sky Meadows, because they are in an area that is infested with ticks. (One of my coworkers contracted Lyme disease at Sky Meadows.)

Hike List 2015

As you can see I cross off quite a few hikes.

To get the year off on the right foot, I went up to Great Falls Park in Maryland and did the Billy Goat B and C trails. I had done this last summer and enjoyed the route but not the heat. This is about a six mile hike, mostly flat.  It was a good way to start the year.

For the next several months I forgot about hiking. I don’t honestly know why. When I realized that I had missed some of the year’s best hiking weather I kicked it into gear on the first weekend in June and re-visited Rock Creek Park. This time I did the Valley and West Ridge trails in a counter clockwise direction. It’s a good hike, about 10 miles or so.

It was time to get away from the city. The next weekend I found a hike online that seemed to offer some solitude. It was an out and back hike on the section of the Appalachian Trail in Virginia known as Ashby Hollow. The trail was rocky and the the ups and downs lived up to the nickname Roller Coaster. I was amazed that through hikers did this section of the trail carrying big backpacks. I saw a couple too.  More power to you folks.

I was on a roll. A luck would have it Ultrarunnergirl was looking to go for a hike in the Shenandoah National Park. We headed out to White Oak Cannon. Here, she advised me to buy a year pass to the National Park system. Great idea. We hiked up the canyon, enjoying waterfalls all the way up.  At the top of the trail we took a fire road up to Skyline Drive. At her suggestion, we hiked up the steep trail to Little Hawksbill, the highest point in the park. Hiking down beat the crap out of my legs. To get back to the start we took the Cedar Run Trail. This was a pretty trail but it was also rocky and the rocks were slippery. Ultrunnergirl’s iPhone went for a swim. She went for a rock slide near the end of the hike. This was my first non-solo hike since college. It was also my first hike in Shenandoah National Park. If you live in the mid-Atlantic and do not take advantage of this park you are really missing out.

A couple of weeks later, I headed back to the park for a hike up Little Devil Stairs.  This was pretty challenging and involved crossing and re-crossing a stream. Well worth the early wake up on a day off from work.

I took the rest of July off.

I started August with a hike on the exotically names Potomac Heritage Trail. It was not the best hike but it was close to home. Then, in mid-August, on my 60th birthday, I did the most popular hike in these parts, Old Rag. It was quite challenging. I was a bit annoyed by the rock scramble. At one point I had to wedge myself into a gap between two boulders and hike vertically, with my back against one boulder and my feet on the other. Not my style at all. The view from the summit was pretty darn nice. If you want solitude, find another hike.

In September we took a long vacation in Australia, New Zealand and Thailand. We did a whole mess of walking including an easy short hike at  Kata Tjuta in the outback.

Kata Tjuta Walk

 

After returning home, I made my way back to Great Falls Park in Maryland for an easy hike along the River and Gold Mine Loop trails.  I’d done each of these before but separately.

The next week, I drove to Prince William Forest Park down near Quantico. The trails here are not very well marked so I was a bit confused as to where I was or where I was going. Nevertheless, I cobbled together a pretty successful loop hike.

My last hike (unless I get really motivated in December) combined two hikes near Harper’s Ferry. Maryland Heights and Weverton Cliff offer fantastic overlooks of the Potomac River, Harper’s Ferry and the Shenandoah River.  This was my longest hike by far. Probably about 3 miles longer than I was comfortable doing.

I am learning what I like and don’t like about hiking. I am not a big fan of rocks. I don’t like rock scrambles. Nor do I like rocky trails. I am not a big fan of fording streams either. I am afraid that I am going to turn an ankle, fall, or get soaked. Since most of my hikes are solo, any one of these would be bad news.

So that’s how I put my best foot forward this year. I hope next year that I do more hiking with friends. So if you live in DC and wanna go for a trek in the woods, I’m all ears.

Fritterman Triathlon

I had no plan for the day. It started as most Saturdays. I ran the deck on the crossword puzzles in the paper. I screwed up the Sudoku. I drank all the coffee. With the important business of the day behind me, I decided to do a triathlon.

No, not the Ironman or even the Tinman. I did the Fritterman. It’s the suburban version.

First, event is the Hollin Hall Errandonnee. I rode my bike to the drug store. Then got a haircut. Then picked up ten pounds of birdseed. Then I rode home, stopping along the way to chat with Nancy Duley (on her awesome 1993 Hollands bike) and her friend Stephanie (on her blue bike of a sort I can’t recall). We stood in the road on a sidestreet and gabbed for ten or 15 minutes. (I do hope the folks driving by in SUVs could see that adults in suburbia can indeed function on a Saturday morning without 3,000 pounds of steel.) Then I rode home. Total mileage: 2 1/2 miles.

Back at home I snarfed an apple and went out for round two: the lawn mowing event. I actually like mowing the lawn. Like running and hiking (see below) it has a meditative aspect to it. And I refuse to pay people to do something I learned how to do during the Kennedy administration. I finished this event in 45 minutes.

After the lawn mowing (I came in first), I headed indoors for some nuked left overs. I watched the last three innings of the Nats game on the tube. (The Nats lost. Boo.)

It was 3:30 with plenty of daylight remaining so I drove to Rock Creek Park and hiked ten miles. I hiked the Valley Trail toward Maryland and the Western Ridge Trail back to my start at Pierce Mill. It was hilly. It was muggy. It was my first hike of the year. My legs were hurting at 4 miles. Rather than make it an 8-mile hike, I pushed on. This was a pretty good decision until I missed a turn and hiked down a muddy hill and then back up. And I was doing fine until the last 200 yards back down to Rock Creek. It was pretty much straight down and my legs felt like lead. And I was still hanging in there until I stepped off a curb awkwardly about 100 feet from my car and my back seized.

I made it to the finish.

It is not true that you are given fritters at the end of the Fritterman Triathlon. That’s because I was alone and there were no fritters in sight.

When I got home I looked like Mike Myers’ Middle Aged Man. I may not be able to walk tomorrow.

So it goes.

Spring Training

We are training for spring. Today the temperature on my back deck reached 66 degrees. After weeks of freezing our asses off, the people of DC are all smiles. Except, perhaps, for the tourist I saw crashing on his Segway, but I am getting ahead of myself.

I started the day doing physical therapy for my foot. It was barely numb when I awoke but I decided to forgo yoga or my other exercises and just do what the PT people told me to do. Dang, it hurts. Raise this, lower that, keep your stomach and your butt cheeks tight. After about a half an hour our was done. My stomach muscles wanted to be traded to another body. And the lacrosse ball that is beating the knots out of my calves is seriously in danger of getting thrown out the window. Ouch.

After a morning of relaxation, I headed out the door on Big Nellie. I was bound for an everything bagel in Bethesda, about 24 miles away. It was 50 degrees outside. Yesss.

As I was waiting for cars at an intersection with Fort Hunt Road near my home, an SUV drove by and made friendly tooting sounds with its horn. I have no idea who it was but I waved at them

I made it to the Mount Vernon Trail which was not particularly crowded. In Old Town Alexandria I took South Washington Street. My physical therapist ran past. Small world.

The ride to the city was so peaceful I went on auto pilot. I stopped at Gravelly Point to watch a plane land overhead – easily one of my favorite free things to do.

Over the 14th Street Bridge I rode then up Ohio Drive to M Street to the Capital Crescent Trail. The long ride up to Bethesda took time. Recumbents simply don’t do uphills very well. And since I am not exactly a badass on two wheels let’s just say it took a while.

When I got to Bethesda Row I headed straight for Bethesda Bagels. Since it was well after noon there wasn’t a line. I picked up my everything bagel, toasted with veggie cream cheese and a sweet tea. I proceeded to inhale these comestibles with great vigor. Ah!

I rode the Georgetown Branch Trail over to the Rock Creek Trestle. The trail was somewhat muddy. Recumbents are the best mudders so it was a tense ride. I slipped this way and that several times. The view from the testle differs by time of year. The winter view is, of course, leafless but it’s always fun to be at treetop level with the world. IMG_20150208_142017

I reversed course then headed down into Rock Creek Park. All the climbing has its rewards and for most of the next 7 miles I was cruising downhill. The number of people on Beach Drive was impressive. Many families out riding bikes with their kids. I had to be careful not to hit any of them. They wobble and waver and dart out in front of you unexpectedly.

I got on the trail at Klingle Road. This was a mistake. The trail at this point is narrow and crowded and has numerous bumps from tree routes. Once I reached the zoo entrance, I took Harvard Street to climb into Adams Morgan. It’s a healthy climb, too. To recover from my exertion I took a very slow speed spin through Meridian Hill Park. There was a healthy number of people there, no one I knew though. I rode by the drum circle but there was only one man with drums so I decided to head back home.

I took 16th Street which is a nice straight downhill shot to the White House. Along the way I saw the indefatigible Ted a.k.a @MrTinDC.

I shifted over to the 15th Street cycletrack and got behind a long line of tourists on Segways. Normally, Big Nellie looks weird to people I pass but in a cluser of Segways, Big Nellie doesn’t get a passing glance. At the intersection with Pennsylvania Avenue, the Seqways stopped to regroup. One tourist’s Segway jolted to a stop throwing him to the ground with an audible SPLAT. Should’ve rented bikes.

I crossed back over the river and headed home on the Mount Vernon Trail. It was packed with people, most of whom were oblivious to the fact that some people were actually trying to make forward progress. At the south end of the airport I balied out, opting to cut through Del Ray.

I cut over to Old Town and rejoined the MVT at the southern end of Old Town. Mistake. This part of the trail was every bit as chaotic as what I had bailed out on.There was no point in getting upset about it. I slowed down and took in the madness that warm weather brings. And besides, by this point my legs were started to tell me that all that time off in January had taken its toll on my fitness.

I arrived home. Mrs. Rootchopper had opened the windows. The temperature was 66 degrees. (One degree off the record, so I am told.)

So I ended up riding 170 miles in seven days. Not half bad for winter. Tomorrow is a day off the bike as I am going to three doctors appointments.

We now return to our regularly scheduled winter.

Rock Creek Park on My Own Two Feet

My bikes were tired. I was sick. So I took yesterday off. Today was another story, And this is it.

I’ve lived in DC for 30 years, not including spending the summer here in 1980. And I have never hiked in Rock Creek Park. I’ve biked it. I’ve run it. I’ve even run a 10 mile race in it, but I’ve never taken to the wooded trails that run through the park like blood vessels.

Today, I rectified this in a big way. Starting from Pierce Mill I hiked the Western Ridge Trail to the Maryland line and then crossed the park and hike all the way back on the Valley Trail. I just checked a website that sad that the Valley Trail is 5.5 miles. That means I hoofed it over 11 miles. No wonder I’m tired.

Got Mud?
Got Mud?

For those of you unfamiliar with Rock Creek, it’s a wooded urban canyon that cleaves the Northwest quadrant of DC. I have stayed on the paved bike trail and roads of the park until today. The trails are mostly hard packed dirt. Hilly sections have timbers (and sometimes stairs) across the trails to make it easier to go up and down the sometimes steep hills. The Western Ridge Trail started out steep and a bit rocky but ended up being smooth for the most part. I was moving along pretty well when I spooked a deer (I hope it was a deer) in the bushes next to the trail. 

Up the Western Ridge
Up the Western Ridge

As the name implies, the Western Ridge Trail runs along the ridges on the western edge of the park. This means you have to hike up to the ridge. This was a decent work out. Once to the top the trail rolls up and down, ocassionally popping out on to a street here and there. At one point, in a wooded section, I was surprised to see three horses and their riders coming my way.

The Western Ridge Trail comes back down to the canyon floor at the Maryland/DC line. I cross Beach Drive, the road that runs through the park, and hit the Valley Trail. The Valley Trail was hit or miss. Sometimes it was an unpaved road, sometimes a dirt path through lush greenery. Sometimes it went straight up the side of the canyon. (Hey, where’s my stinking valley?).  It also had an annoying amount of tree routes to negotiate. 

Thankfully, the Valley Trail hung a right just at the end of this bridge
Thankfully, the Valley Trail hung a right just at the end of this bridge

I’m not complaining though.  It’s a damned nice way to spend a summer Sunday morning. Even a little rain didn’t spoil my day. That’s mostly because the tree canopy is so dense that the raindrops rarely made it through. 

I’m ready to get back on the bike now. 

There are a few more pix over on my Flickr page.

Frogs and Peeps in Rock Creek

A couple of weeks ago, I installed some Speedplay Frog pedals on Big Nellie, my Tour Easy recumbent. I like them a lot, mostly because they feel like they aren’t there. So I decided to try them on Little Nellie, my Bike Friday New World Tourist. I needed a short-ish, easy ride to test them out.

Kristen was looking for folks tor ride with. She was doing a ride to add some miles to her office’s National Bike Challenge team total.  She put out the call to meet at Pierce Mill in Rock Creek Park. Despite the fact that I have spent the last two Sunday’s in Rock Creek Park I decided to join the ride. Unlike the prior two weekends, I drove to the park instead of riding,

Rock Creek
Rock Creek

The original plan was to ride a big loop up the park to the Georgetown Branch Trail.  We’d take the GBT to the Capital Crescent Trail. The CCT would take us to the Georgetown riverfront. From there we’d ride on the dilapidated trail back up to the start. We eventually decided to ride up the park to Woodbine Road. Then we’d make our way on the streets of Chevy Chase, Maryland. Then we’d take the new-ish Bethesda Trolley Trail. As it turned out, the BTT led us to a coffee stop in North Bethesda. From there we took side paths and streets back down to Rock Creek Park at Garrett Park.

The weather was incrementally muggier than last Sunday but we were spinning at an easy pace. Our group consisted of Ted and Jean, Kristen, her co-worker Chris, Ryan, and me. Twas a loquacious posse. We chattered and pedalled up the windy road, shaded by the canopy of green. As we spun our way through Chevy Chase, I admired the tastefully modest million-dollar homes. Ryan pointed out one house that deviated from the modesty theme; it looked like a white castle (not the restaurant, an actual castle with towers and ramparts and a moat).

 

Shadows and Cycles
Shadows and Cycles

We wiggled and waggled until we found ourselves at Bethesda Row. Ryan led us to the Trolley Trail and we followed it through parks, down sidewalks, and between housing developments. I was thoroughly lost. We stopped as luck would have it about a block from White Flint Mall. We checked our phone maps and saw that instead of turning around and heading back to Bethesda we could ride around the mall and take a small park trail to Garrett Park. During our search for the trail, my compadres found a cafe. After some coffee and a bite to eat, we headed over to Garrett Park, a neighborhood that takes traffic calming concepts to the max. Over the railroad tracks and down another park trail and we were back in Rock Creek Park.

The gentle downhill made for a fun easy ride. Traffic was light. One deer, then another cross the street in front of us. Big animal, small brain. (I’m refering to the deer not myself.)

Windy, gently rollling Beach Drive took us all the way back to the start.

At the end of the ride, I drove Kristen home so she didn’t have to ride up the imposing hill on Tilden Street. I lifted her bike to place it in the rack on my car. Dang. It’s a Mule!!! I have been impressed with her ability to ride up hills but now I am doubly so.

The verdict on the Frogs is thumbs up. Way up. I climb much better with them and I never once came close to falling over from not clipping out.

Some pix from the ride are on my Flickr page.

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Sunday in the Park with Flor

Last Sunday I rode to Meridian HIll Park to hang out with my friend Florencia. Flor and I met on the Fifty States Ride on a day that was epically hot and humid. She rode like she had a tailwind the entire way. She was particularly strong on hills and I had absolutely no hope of keeping up with her.

These days, Flor spends much more time working than riding. So last Sunday she asked me to go for a not-too-hard ride to get her biking legs back. BIke ride? Moi?

We planned to meet up at noon. I decided that the least difficult route with the fewest hills and stop lights and cars would be a ride up Rock Creek Park as far as she felt comfortable. I knew from riding this route last week that it was about 15 miles from Garrett Park, Maryland to Flor’s neghborhood so I thought 30 flat-ish miles would be the maximum distance she would want to do.

The trip also allowed me to check out Big Nellie’s new headset. (This is the mechanism that connects the handlebars and stem to the fork. Without a functioning headset a bicycle can’t function. Long story short, the steering felt a little loose at first but I soon adapted to it and had no troubles with it. Thanks to Carl, the mechanic at Spokes Etc, in Belle View Shopping Center for the repair.)

After a stop to buy sunscreen I rode north on the Mount Vernon Trail. As I expected on a perfect weather Sunday, the trail was packed, With some patience I made it into the city without hitting anyone or cussing anyone out. I took the 15th Street cycletrack north past Meridian Hill Park and found Flor’s place after only one wrong turn. Along the way I was twice quizzed about my bike by passers by.

“Is it more comfortable?”

“Did you make it?”

“Does it help your back?”

“Can I buy one online?”

(Answers: Yes, No. Yes. Yes.)

After a brief wait, Flor appeared. She seemed like she was lacking her usual spark. You would be too if you worked on your feet yesterday from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m.  We decided to ride to the Rock Creek trestle and re-asses my route plans depending on how Flor felt.

Flor led us through a traffic mess at the Zoo. Then we rode on the pitiful Rock Creek trail until we passed Pierce Mill. We then picked up Beach Drive which was closed to car traffic intermittently for the next several miles. The water washed over rocks in the creek. The breeze made a rustling sound in the green, green canopy of leaves above us. Through the canopy above we could see a beautiful blue, blue sky with puffy clouds floating this way and that. Flor and I pedaled the curving road at 12 to 14 miles per hour chatting the whole way through the park. I defy you to find better biking conditions than this.

We stopped at the trestle for a couple of pictures. Flor gave the green light for some more miles and we headed north to Garrett Park. Once in Maryland the traffic restrictions no longer apply. We dealt with quite a bit more cars than I did last week. Flor rides in the city everyday so she didn’t care.

Flor on the Trestle
Flor on the Trestle

I mentioned a nice little restaurant in Garrett Park in case Flor wanted to stop for a bite to eat but she seemed uninterested. Once we reached Garrett Park Road we turned around and headed back south. I had misplaced my camera prior to the ride. Normally, I take shots of the people I ride with while I am riding. I decided to try taking pictures on the fly with my new iPhone instead. It was impossible to tell if I actually had Flor in the frame so I took a four. They all came out fine. Credit to the subject.

Flor Miraculously  Managed to Stay in Frame.
Flor Miraculously Managed to Stay in Frame.

A deer appeared at the side of the road. Another one five miles farther along. We talked on and off. During the “on” we discussed everything under the sun (computer dating, job searching, living near the zoo, Rolfing, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness) except cycling. During the “off” we were lost in the stupefying beauty of the park.

We climbed Park Road to get back to Flor’s place. Flor’s legs were pretty tired but she looked pretty happy. I think the ride did her good. I hope she can walk tomorrow.

My ride home involved bombing down 18th Street. It was a bit like a Giant Slalom event. Cars, buses, pedestrians, cyclists all seem to appear out of nowhere. I switched over to 16th Street which ends at Lafayette Park across from the White House. Tourists milled about. I rode straight through a bunch of participants in the Post Hunt, an annual scavenger hunt put on by the Washington Post. I am pretty sure the answer to one of the hunt’s questions was not “Old dude on a recumbent.”

I took the cycle track on 15th Street. It was video game. Pedestrians popped off the sidewalk into my path over and over. Two Mennonite women stood in the track. One spotted me and shoved the other one to the sidewalk. Clearly, she will get bonus points on the day of reckoning when she goes to that great cycletrack in the sky. At Constitution Avenue, an airport shuttle van nearly took me out as its driver rushed to make a left turn across my path. Lucky for the driver I left my bicycle death ray at home.

The Mount Vernon Trail was still packed. It didn’t slow me down. My legs were pretty tired. I hadn’t eated anything in seven hours and I could feel a bonk coming on.

Never let ’em see you bonk.

I didn’t.

Thanks to Flor for another excellent ride. (We’ve never had a bad one.) We have to do some more this summer. 50 States will be here before you know it. (Then she can once again leave me in the dust on Kansas Avenue.)

A few more pix are here.

 

To the Park the Long Way

The idea was to go to Meridian Hill Park to hang out with my friend Florencia. Trouble was that we were meeting at 3 and I had a day to kill.

I decided to go for a bike ride. I’ll bet you saw that coming, didn’t you?

I took off aboard Big Nellie, my Tour Easy recumbent, heading north along the Mount Vernon Trail toward the city. The weather was perfect: warm, low humidity, a refreshing breeze, a puffy cloud interrupting the blue, blue sky. The trail was somewhat crowded but I made a reasonable pace. Now and then I came to a crawl waiting for a cluster of weekenders to step aside. Just north of Old Town Alexandria a car did a u-turn across the trail. (For some reason cars do this a lot when any point in the road would suffice.) At this point in the trail there are railroad tracks on the right. As I came to a near stop for the car, a cyclists came up behind me and passed me, crossing over the left rail in the process. The cyclists was a MAMIL, middle aged man in lycra. Actually, since he was clearly in his sixties, he probably qualified as an OMIL (the “O” being for “old”) but OMIL doesn’t quite roll of the tonque.

As the car left he began to cross back in front of me. I glanced to the left, saw his skinny front tire, and thought “He’s goin’ down in three, two, one…” BAM!  His tire caught along the rail and down he went directly in front of me. He didn’t roll or skid he just stick the landing on his shoulder, hip and knee.

MOAN. “Entirely my fault. My fault.” Must have been a RABIL (retired altar boy in lycra).

I came to a stop a couple of inches from his sad repose. Two sets of walkers came along. One guy said, “Don’t move, mate.” AMT! Aussie Medical Technician.

We waited for the OMIL to get himself together and watched as he sheepishly called the wife for transport home.

I rode on weaving in and out of the trail peeps. I stopped at Gravelley Park to use a green room and watch a plane take off then headed into the city on the 14th Street Bridge. I expected that the city streets would be congested with the Rolling Thunder Memorial Day event so I stayed along the river. Ohio Drive and Rock Creek and Potomac Parkway were both barricaded so I could ride in the street all the way to Georgetown.

After a brief dance with the cars underneath the Whitehurst Freeway I picked up the Capital Crescent Trail and headed to Bethesda. The trail was crowded as expected. Dodging the walkers, bladers, runners, and cyclists took my mind off the fact that the steering on Big Nellie was messed up. One second it felt like the front wheel was going to leave me behind, the next it felt like the wheel was tracking in a rut. I gave it a good looking over in Bethesda but I could see nothing wrong.

After eating a slice of pizza at Bethesda Bagels (their pizza is as good as their bagels and that’s saying something) I took the Georgetown Branch Trail to City Bikes in Chevy Chase.  There a mechanic (Travis, I think. I am awful with names) took Big Nellie for spin. He said the steering felt fine to him.

On I rode reaching the trestle over Rock Creek Park. I love the view from the treetops here.

Big Nellie on the Trestle

Since I had about two hours to kill at this point, I headed north on Beach Drive in Rock Creek Park. I hadn’t ridden this road in ages and it is a beautiful place to roll. I took a wrong turn but went with the flow and ended up climbing out of the park into Kensington MD. Once there I checked my map app and found my way back to Beach Drive. I took it north all the way to Garrett Park MD. There was method in my route. I figured that if my steering failed she could come and get me at our friends’ Rulon and Heather’s place in Garrett Park.

My steering didn’t fail so I did a uey and headed back toward DC.

Since I was now going slightly downhill my pace picked up. The sketchy steering made this a tense ride but I made it without problem. I stopped to refill my water bottles and headed out of the park up the gradual hill to the Mount Pleasant neighborhood. I kept pace with a woman on a road bike and thought that the new Speedplay Frog pedals made climbing infinitely easier.

Once I was our of the park I proceeded to get lost. I think this may be my greatest cycling skill.

I knew that all I needed to do was find 16th Street and I could find Meridian Hill Park so I focused on that task. In short order I was at the park. An old man was playing chess. Groups of people where picnicing on the grass. Bench sitters were people watching. Frisbees were being tossed. Dogs were being watched. A woman in a bridal gown carried yellow flowers as her soon to be husband stood along side in his suit.  The drum circle beat out a cacophonous rhythm.

Not a Bad Place for Wedding Pictures

I was a half hour early so I hung out alone and relaxed. After a while I spotted a woman wearing what looked like dark pink-ish tight pants. Flor? No way. I’ve never seen her in colors. So I hung out some more.

A little after three, I duck walked my bike around the park and soon pink tights lady stood up and waved. It was Flor after all. She promptly jumped aboard Big Nellie. Flor is small and Nellie is big so her ride lasted only a few yards. I think Flor secretly wants a recumbent. It would probably just fit in her efficiency condo. (Not.)

Flor on Big Nellie

More friends arrived. Food came out. Conversation ensued. Sun shine. Breezes blew. The slack liners did their thing a few feet away. Flor’s rock climbing friend Jonna showed up with a surprise. She was on the nest as they used to say in the moving picture shows. I guessed she was six months along but she is due in three weeks. Go girl!

We hung out for three hours and then it was time to hit the road so that I’d get home before night fall.

The ride down 16th Street was surprisingly devoid of motorcycle traffic. That didn’t make it any less interesting because Big Nellie’s steering was turning my downhill glide into an adventure.

I made it home without incident, 64 miles for the day. Along the way, Big Nellie’s odometer turned 36,000 miles. Maybe the steering is dying of old age.

So I declare the day a success. Perfect weather. Windy roads in Rock Creek Park. Friends and breezes in the park.

Now it’s time to take Big Nellie to the bike doctor for exploratory surgery.

Pix of the day are here.