The Mule Abides – Again

After ragging about the mechanical delays in getting The Mule back on the road, I thought it would be a good idea to take it for a ride and see if the darn thing works.

Yup.

I rode to Arlington by way of Alexandria’s Del Ray neighborhood. The weather was splendid. The Mule and I get along about as well as bike and rider possibly can. All the shifts were true. All the braking was bueno. (I had severely toed-in my brake pads. They were silent, but they were rather lame in the stopping department. Now I have stoppage.)

I even gave the granny gear a good work out by riding up South Walter Reed Drive, a steep hill that never, ever ends. I took a couple of big gulps of water before I started up the darned thing. Bad idea. Nearly saw that water again near the top. For the last 50 yards all I could think of was “Who’s idea was this?” It would have been wise to take a couple of hits of albuterol but clearly my brain function was not at optimal levels. Near the top I was hurting so bad that I didn’t even notice any pain in my ribs.

(Ribs update: the exterior bruise is gone but the area is still sore to the touch. At least I can roll over in bed without pain waking me up. I think I will begin doing my back and physical therapy exercises again tomorrow – oh, how I hate them. They are yoga-ish. Also, Monday I have a date with the weight machines at the gym.)

The rest of the ride felt a little off. I had moved the saddle forward just a touch because I noticed that I was riding on the nose of the saddle during my tour. I addition to stretching the leather on the saddle, I was compressing a nerve in my perimeum causing sharp stabbing pains after about 30 miles. This doesn’t float your boat when your riding 80 miles in a day, believe me.

Today I rode 32 miles and had no pains but now my lower right back isn’t happy. My working theory is that moving the saddle forward resulted in a slight up-tilt causing my back to bow a bit. So I adjusted the nose down one click on the saddle adjustment mechanism.

I did notice one thing that was off about the bike. The stem (the piece that connects the handlebars to the bike) is on crooked. I probably knocked it off line when The Mule and I took a tumble in La Belle, Florida. It’s pointing about 5-10 degrees left of center. This is easy to fix, except that I need to loosen the stem but and the stem bolt is rusty. Won’t budge. I sprayed it with some oil. Maybe it will free up.

Long story short, the bike is in pretty great shape. No additional work is needed. I might take Rando Mike up on his offer to install a generator hub/light system on The Mule. He’ll do the work. I pay for the parts. And buy the beer.

This could get expensive.

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Tropical Depressions Are Well Named

During my recent ramble to Key West, I spent nearly a week dealing with a tropical depression. This was a storm off the east coast of Florida that cranked rain and wind at me. The wind was coming from the east and northeast. It carried with it fine grains of sand. By the time I got to Key West, my 24-speed bike would not shift into the big ring, making it a 16-speed.

I managed to make it home without difficulty. At the first opportunity I took the bike to a local bike shop. They worked on it and told me it was ready. Not even close. It shifted into the big ring on the work stand but not on the road. And the shifters required real elbow grease to actuate.

So I gave it back to them. While I was there they made three different adjustments to the shifting. None worked. In fact, the last adjustment made the chain rub on the derailer when I shifted into the (lowest) granny gear. They told me they’d work on it some more.

(Side note: last night I reviewed my ride by going through the maps I used. The map segment from Florida was impregnated with tiny grains of sand. The pages of the maps were almost glued together.)

Having already paid for the repair, I am not surprised that they showed little urgency in getting to it. I called on Sunday. “It’s in the workstand.” I told them I’d call on Monday. It wasn’t ready. So I called today. It still wasn’t ready.

“I’m coming to get the bike.”

“We’ll play around with it some more.”

In the half hour it took me to drive there, they managed to get the darned thing working. They sprayed the shifters and cables with lube, essentially flushing out the sand that the depression had injected into the works.  It’s  not perfect but it’s greatly improved. Once winter does its thing, I’ll probably start fresh with new shifters and cables and housings.

I really can’t blame them for the difficulty. (Although I am less than thrilled that they called me and told me the bike was ready when it was not.) Local bike shops around here don’t have a lot of experience with bikes that have been sandblasted. I had similar experiences with this sort of thing on my 2003 and 2005 tours. They were both on the GAP Trail in Pennsylvania on rainy days. The limestone grit on the trail became a kind of cement when mixed with the rain water. My 2003 tour ended when I lost my brakes and my shifting. My 2005 tour was saved by Nate, a mechanic at Volpattti’s Bike Shop in Washington, Pa. (A bike mechanic at a trailside shop in West Newton wouldn’t even look at the bike.)

With my bike and my ribs (thankfully) nearly healed, I am back to normal. I am trying not to eat too much junk. I like the fact that my clothes grew while I was away. I’be neen doing some day rides.

Tonight I do some volunteering. I have a stack of books and magazines piled up for reading once the World Series is over. I bought a gym pass at our local rec center so I think some (very cautious) weight training lies ahead. And I am probably going to apply for an Irish passport soon. (Not for any high minded reason. I can. So I’m gonna. Any readers who complain about it will be hit over the head with Nana’s sheleighly.)

And then there is the planning for next year’s tour. My current thinking is to ride to the Pacific Northwest. There are so many other places in the U.S. I’d like to ride. The Natchez Trace. Route 66. Skyline Drive and the Blue Ridge Parkway. The Katy Trail. The National Parks of Utah. Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks. Bar Harbor. If you connect these dots you get a 10,000 mile bike tour. Hmmm…..

And on a final note, the Southernmost Point buoy that was damaged by hurricane Irma is back in shape.

http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/community/florida-keys/article180509201.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Come On Baby Ride South

After much gnashing of teeth over the last several days, I was fully intending to switch my bike tour plan to do a big loop up north. DC-Pittsburgh-Erie-Niagara Falls-Burlington (or Albany)-DC. I even bought maps for the Pittsburgh to Erie section.

And I checked the weather. Let’s just say it’s a tad brisker up yonder. And I noticed that the track of Irma is toward Saint Louis. I figured I’d have a better chance of meeting up with Irma’s remnants by riding to Erie than if I followed my original plan. And with hurricane Jose marking time near the Bahamas, it looks like I will get good weather for a least a week if I head south. So south it will be.

I spent the day packing and checking out my bike. My newly installed rear tire had a hop in it. I deflated it and re-seated it. Hopefully that will take care of things. There is a possibility that the rim is messed up. If so, I will literally hear about it when the tire blows off the rim.

Once I re-seated the tire, I loaded up the beast. It’s a lot of stuff. Tent. Sleeping pad. Sleeping sack (a thin sleeping bag), sleeping bag liner, clothes, rain gear. Tools and tubes and a spare tire. Food (granola bars out the wazoo), chargers and batteries and other electronic junk), toiletries and other assorting stuff. Somehow I neglected to find a proper paper journal for recording memorable events. I’ll pick one up tomorrow en route.

That’s right. I leave tomorrow as originally planned. I have no idea how far south I will get. Maybe in 3 weeks the east coast of Florida will be ridable. Maybe not. What’s a bike tour without a little adventure? The worst that could happen is I get to a point like Jacksonville or St. Augustine and have to turn around.

So today I test road the fully loaded Mule. It rides better with a load than without. Don’t ask me how this happens. Also, I installed lower gearing on the beast over a decade ago. I hope they are up to the challenge of the hills over the first four days.

TheMuleLoaded

As is usually the case, I have butterflies in my stomach. They seem to go away after a day.

My tour will be called the No Way So Hey Tour. This is because when my son was a toddler that’s how he said No Way Jose.

 

 

 

BCBD – Bike Commute Brain Dump

  • On the way to work a bicycle commuter riding behind me in Old Town yelled “Excuse me!” I though that maybe I had dropped something. Instead he asked me if he could borrow my pump. He had tried to use a pump located outside a bike store a few blocks back but it did nothing but let air out of his tire. We completed the task in short order but this reminds me to remind new bike commuters that you have a list of requirements
    • A bike (duh) – you can use bikeshare or buy your own
    • A good lock – make you bike less easy to steal than the ones next to it. (This is kind of like the old joke: Q: How fast do you have to be to outrun a bear? A: Faster that the slowest person you are with.) Go with (at least) a beefy U lock like a Kryptonite (I have 2).
    • Tire repair stuff
      • a pair of tire levers (I prefer steel but you can find plastic ones at any bike shop)
      • a spare tube or two (patches are time consuming)
      • a pump (preferably one with a hose like the Topeak Road Morph – the hose will keep you from tearing off the valve while you are in pumping frenzy)
      • A $1 bill – fold it over, cover the hole in your tire (this is called a tire boot) and then replace the tube. This keeps the tire hole from chewing a new puncture in your tube
      • A multitool – to tighten loose parts and adjust ill fitting things
      • a saddle bag to put this stuff in
    • Lights – it’s a terrific idea to see where you are going. It’s even terrificker that drivers can see you.
    • Clothing – do not bike naked. The police will ruin your whole day. Also, don’t wear old lycra bike shorts. They become translucent. And always cover your butt crack.
  • Further along on my morning ride, I saw a woman on a CaBi (the local bikeshare tank) come to a stop. She peered into the trees along the river bank. As I approached she turned to me and with a huge smile on her face said “That was a bald eagle. It flew right past!” and she gestured its flight path.
  • There is a man who walks on the trail each morning. He carries a big stick and wears a dark jacket with a fur lined hood. He looks like an Ewok. He hasn’t said “Yub, yub” to me yet though.
  • The Mule is going into dry dock. It has gotten me through a winter (sort-of) of bike commutes. It deserves a rest. I will switch over to the Nellies for commuting over the rest of March.

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The Mule at Sunset

  • I have felt terrible on the bike and arthritic off of it for the last two weeks. It’s kind of interesting how this goes away when I don’t wear over-boots and rain pants. I think they slightly alter my pedaling mechanics much like long pants messed up my running gait back in the day.
  • I am volunteering at the Vasa ride in DC on Sunday March 19. You should ride it. It is a rain or shine event. Since it is likely that I will be standing around a lot, I expect a tsunami on the Potomac River. It will be caused by WABA’s new secret fracking operation on Hains Point. Would I lie about a thing like that?

  • There are two bike-related happy hours in Alexandria in the next two weeks. They are both on my way home from work. I’ll probably go to at least one. Sadly, unlike the Kardashians I don’t get appearance money. You can buy me a beer if you’d like. I ain’t too proud to beg.
  • I rode past some work being done on the trail. A backhoe had turned some dirt up. The smell of overturned dirt made me happy. Sorry if that’s too woo woo for you but it is what it is.
  • My boss rides his kids to school on a cargo bike. It’s a big bike. It’s so big it needs a masthead. Teddy says “Hi.”

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Warm = More

We’ve had an exceptionally warm start to the year. I have been able to ride outside a lot more than last year when biking was waylayed by a February snow storm. (My wovel sits unused this winter.)

In Februrary I rode The Mule, my Specialized Sequoia touring bike, to work 14 times for a total of 417 miles. My weekend ride was Deets, my Surly Cross Check. I rode 242 1/2 miles on weekends, 240  on the Cross Check and only 2 1/5 on The Mule. Little Nellie remains in dry dock and Big Nellie remains in the basement.  (Anyone want to buy a pre-owned long wheel base recumbent? Accepting offers in the Comments section below.)

So far this year I have commted by bike 27 times, 2 more than last year. My total miles stands at 1,323 1/2 (although 92 miles were on Big Nellie in the basement during an icy spell in January.) That’s 420 more miles than last year which had an extra day.

The Mule is eating up the pavement at 807 1/2 miles. Deets is way behind at 424 miles. In a couple of weeks, The Mule will hit a mileage milestone and be moved to the shed for some R&R. It has completed its winter service with nary a complaint.

Ironically, today I drove to work so I can attend the WABA annual meeting and awards event in the city. Riding home at 9 pm on a Tuesday no longer agrees with my old bones. I am already packed for tomorrow’s bike commute. March comes in like a  Mule around here.

 

 

Let There Be Light

The last time I commuted by bike was last Wednesday. Moving just 5 days along the calendar this time of year brings a sweet benefit: daylight. I noticed that I can now see the combination lock to access my bikes without a headlight in the morning. It’s still before sunrise but there is enough emerging light that I can make do.

I start my ride with “be seen” lights. A blinking front and two blinking rear lights allow drivers to see me (if they are looking, more on this below). I arrived at my sunrise spot today just a tad early. The Mule posed for a picture.

mule-before-sunrise

You may notice one peculiarity about The Mule. It’s pedals don’t match. I replaced the left pedal when it disintegrated on my bike tour last summer. I haven’t gotten around to replacing the right one.

After I put my phone away, the sun broke over the horizon. I appreciated it’s brightness all the more because of a string of dreary, gray days.

I wore a holey wool sweater under my wind breaker shell in the morning. The bright sun warmed things up considerably on the ride in.

I left work before sunset with March-like temperatures just below 60 degrees. The wool sweater was in the bottom of one of my panniers. I know this warmth was only for one day but did it ever feel good.

The ride homeward went off without a hitch until I had an all too close encounter in Old Town. I stopped at a stop sign. (No lie.) A big black SUV had its turn signal on and turned left across my path. I started pedaling. A red SUV was behind the black one. It did not have its turn signal on. It did not stop at its stop sign. Instead it started turning right at me! For a split second my brain didn’t process what was about to happen, then I yelled WHOA! WHOA! I veered to my right and looked left so that my helmet-mounted headlight would shine in the driver’s eyes. As far as I can tell the red SUV never slowed. The driver never saw me. He just missed taking me out.

After something like this happens, the adrenaline feeds the squirrels in my brain. The next couple of miles were rather un-trance-like. Once I cleared Old Town and its dance with death I fell back into a trance for about a mile. Then I noticed cars backed up heading in my direction on the GW Parkway to my right. This could mean only one thing: a big crash. Sure enough, at the sweeping turn near the fishing hole (really just a popular river bank fishing spot) I could see one small car all bashed in with no windshield. Friend of the blog Nancy who lives down my way said the accident also involved a motorcycle. Ugh. I didn’t stop to gawk because this was obviously a serious situation and the emergency responders didn’t need me getting in the way.

I put The Mule away. Inside my house I started walking down the stairs when my left leg gave way. I somehow managed to strain my  left iliotibial band, the thin muscle that runs from the outside of the hip to the outside of my knee. Lucky for me I bought some vitamin I today with an added sedative. Zzzzzz.

 

 

Latest Sunrise, No – Rise of the Ninjas, Yes

I thought today was the latest sunrise of the year but I got it wrong. We’ve reached the earliest sunset. Sunrises get later until the end of the year. Yeah well. Here’s the picture I took of The Mule at Dyke Marsh on the Mount Vernon Trail.

On the ride home, I nearly hit 5 ninjas – walkers and runners wearing absolutely no reflective or light colored clothing. In addition to it being too dark to see them, they are also backlit by car headlights.Good luck you clueless ninjas. I hope I don’t hurt myself when I clobber one of you.