Getting the Party Started

In my desire to get spring rolling, I booked a ton of activities for the next several weeks. This weekend was a bit of a warm up, in a manner of speaking.

The fun started on Saturday. Mrs. Rootchopper and I went into DC for the Science March. She made a sign. We stood around in the rain and checked out other people’s signs. The signs, and the people, were impossibly nerdy. The guy in front of us had a sign that showed that the cost of Trumps trips to his resort in Florida would pay for over 1,000 post-docs. Nerd after nerd came up and asked him what his assumptions were.  I am not making this up. In response he would turn his sign around and show them. He had the assumptions written on the back. I am not making this up either.

After an hour of waiting around we made it into the part of the national mall where the speakers were speaking, as speakers tend to do. There were several tens of thousands of people in front of us and an equally impressive amount of mud below us. I later learned that I knew seven people withing a couple hundred feet of our location. I didn’t see them though.Image may contain: 1 person, crowd, sky and outdoor

At 2 o’clock the march began. On time. (These nerds are pretty impressive.) The size of the crowd plugged Constitution Avenue up. It took us an hour to walk one city block. We bailed and hoofed it about a mile to our cars. My wife drove home. I drove to my office where I was picked up by a co-worker.

Off we went to Baltimore to watch the Orioles play the Red Sox. I went to college in Boston and lived within walking distance of Fenway Park during my sophomore year. I also drove a cab during two summers. Suffice it to say that Bostonians love their Sawx!

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Here are a few random observations about baseball in Baltimore:

  • The hot dogs outside Camden Yards are the best I have ever had. I only had one.
  • Camden Yards is a much nicer ballpark that Nationals Park because
    • The seats in the upper deck seem much closer to the field
    • The acoustics of the park trap the roar of the crowd. This place gets loud!
    • Prices of food and drink are much less than in DC
    • Brick > concrete
    • Having an old warehouse just beyond the outfield is way better than having a new parking garage beyond the outfield
    • The crowed yells “O!!!!” during the National Anthem. It’s truly obnoxious when they do this when the Orioles play in DC. In Baltimore, it fits.
  • There are a few things I don’t like about Camden Yards
    • It is next to a football stadium that lurks like a monument to civic waste
    • It is also next to a seriously poor neighborhood. Very depressing.
    • Of much lesser significance, there is no place other than your seat to eat your food.
    • Bike parking is outdoors and not protected

The game went pretty quickly once we got the rain delay out of the way. About a third of the crowd was rooting for the Red Sox. They went home disappointed as the Orioles won 4 – 2.

I had planned to participate in the car free event in Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park on Sunday morning. I didn’t get to sleep until after 1 a. m. Getting up at 5 to drive 80 miles then ride a very hilly 62 miles in 40 – 50F temperatures wasn’t my idea of a good time. So I slept an extra hour and went to brunch with Mrs. R/C and a friend from her hometown who was in town to participate in the march.

Brunch was fun. Afterwards we walked a mile back to the car through the Enid Haupt Garden at the Smithsonian Castle. This garden is one of my favorite places in DC. Sadly, it will soon be removed for a new museum building.

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The rest of Sunday was devoted to deep, deep meditation on the deck. Okay, I took a nap. Sue me.

This morning’s ride to work featured 50F degree temperatures, drizzle, and a steady headwind. Image may contain: bicycle, tree, outdoor and nature

I started late and was groggy to boot. My head hung down. Things just appear suddenly when your head hangs down. At one point I was awakened by the shortest running shorts I have seen in a long time. Fortunately, they were on a very fit young woman. They were rather pleasantly undersized. Sometimes you just have to appreciate the view. Woke me right up.

A half mile later, I spotted bright orange out of the corner of my eye. I looked up to see a large mallard standing on the trail. He had huge cartoon feet. He was utterly unfazed by my passing. I didn’t even get a quack out of him.

My final visual surprise came when I just happened to have my head up. Chris N. rode by and gave me his patented salute. I used to see him nearly every day but his commute changed. Now he’s back.

The ride home was gray and cool and drizzly. The wind had the decency to push me home.

The party continues later this week:

  • Friday: a retirement
  • Saturday: ride to the Climate March and a Nationals baseball game
  • Sunday:  a 50+ mile bike event ride
  • Monday: a retirement dinner for a second retiree

After that I have a college graduation, two concerts, the Ride of Silence, a weeknight baseball game with folks from work, a Sunday baseball game with my daughter, and Bike to Work Day.

 

Errandonnee No. 3: Mulching to Work

I chose Little Nellie, my Bike Friday New World Tourist with little wheels, to ride to work. Everything was going along just fine until we hit the mulch pit of death near Teddy Roosevelt Island. Wee wheels won’t work here. So I dismounted. And took a picture.

Mulch

Category: Work

Miles: 29 1/2 (round trip). So I’ve already hit the Errandonnee limit.

Observation: Spring bike commuters are starting to appear. They were generally well behaved today. This evening will almost certainly bring out the Lance Mamilots, who ride like asshats only to demonstrate their frail male egos and small man parts.

 

Pre-peak Cherry Blossom Ride

Winter has returned. It was in the 30s with a northwest wind. A snowstorm looms in the days ahead. DC’s famous cherry blossoms are in jeopardy. So I went up to DC today to check out what was in bloom. Short answer: not much.

I parked at Gravelly Point Park near the airport across the river. This was a good idea because the highways heading into the city were jammed with traffic. The 1 1/2 mile ride was pleasant enough. Blue skies and puffy white clouds practically commanded me to look up. So I did. Here’s one from the back side of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial.

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There were only a handful of trees in anything close to peak bloom. And the wind picked up as I walked and rode among them. Even without peak bloom the blues skies and the trees and the monuments made for pretty views. Deets couldn’t resist striking a pose.

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Here are a few more over on my Flickr page.

 

April Chores before February Storms

For yet another day it was April in February. My mind turned to thoughts of spring. Well, old fart thoughts of spring.

I rode Deets to the Hardware store to pick up my sharpened lawn mower blade. While waiting for my blade, I read the local free newspaper. An injured bald eagle had been found on the farm next to my house. It had a full head of white feathers so it was probably mature. This is egg laying season. One injured eagle means another may be without a mate. Not good. (This eagle is not one of the eagles that nests at the Arboretum in DC. Those eagles probably forage for food along the Anacostia River some 10 to 15 miles from my house.)  I bought some stuff at the drug store nearby then rode home.

I pulled out The Mule to see what I could do about it’s screeching front brakes. Well, the short answer was not much given the fact that the brake pads were almost completely worn out. So I hopped back on Deets to ride four miles with a tailwind to the local bike store for some replacements. Alas, they were out of stock so I rode a couple more miles into Old Town where my not-so-local bike store had one pair of the kind of brake pads I prefer.

The ride home was into a strong headwind, a sign of an approaching storm front due to reach us in early afternoon. Along the way I passed a woman running. She stumbled as I passed and fell flat on her face. I stopped to see if she was okay (she was). Of course, my concern only made her feel embarrassed. Onward.

Pedal pedal.

Back at the ranch, I put the brake pads on with a surprisingly limited number of f-bombs. When I am working on a bike, I use a lot of lube and a lot of f-bombs. They just make things work better. I don’t know why.

Next, I drained the oil from the lawn mower and replaced the blade, the air filter, and the spark plug. When I went to put new oil in the engine, I found that the oil I had in my shed was last winter’s dirty oil that I had yet to dispose of. Derp.

Clouds loomed.

I jumped on The Mule and headed for the hardware store so I could get some oil and test the brakes.

Pedal pedal.

Raindrops fell. Then the sky cleared. I bought some oil and made it home warm and dry. The brakes worked and didn’t squeal.

The oil went into the mower. I put some gas in. And started it up. It went clank. Then it ran normally. I repeated this. It went clank each time I started it. Clanky sounds aren’t good but the thing worked. I will unclank it another day.

My final task of the day was to polish my shoes. Do people still do this? I learned it from my father who wore the same shoes for 35 years. Good shoes last forever. I bought this pair over 20 years ago. Good shoes are kind of like bikes. Trust me. Someday you’re gonna need a quality shoe.

Having finished my chores, I sat down with a bagel and a newspaper to enjoy a sunny day on the deck. Ten minutes later the front came through.

It’s February now.

 

Bicycle Listicle

  • Bald eagle sightings have increased hereabouts. Most mornings the Belle Haven nest about 5 miles from my house is overseen by a lone eagle. I’ve never figured out why.The nest is abandoned but for some reason eagles continue to hang out in the tree limbs above it.
  • Yesterday a bike commuter passed me north of the airport. As she did so, she pointed to the sky over the river and said, “Bald eagle!” When I looked I could see a bird about 100 yards away flying toward DC. The bird then banked to the left and I could see its white head. It continued its big turn and landed in a tree along the riverbank next to the trail. My eagle spotter pulled over to take a picture. I would have too but for my squeaky brakes. I didn’t want to scare the eagle. A minute later she came by me again, “That made my day!” Mine too.
  • This morning a bald eagle launched from the Belle Haven nest and flew RIGHT AT ME!!! Top of the food chain, ma! It veered off before tearing my head from my body. Otherwise, well, this blog would be kaput. As would I.
  • Just before the bald eagle attack, I spotted a brand new polyester throw on the trail near Belle Haven Park. I thought it might belong to Running Mom but decided to leave it in case it was someone else’s. A few minutes later here comes Running Mom pushing her son in a jogging stroller. She didn’t seemed to be the least bit upset so I assumed the blanket wasn’t hers. Glad I left it where I saw it. (It was hanging on a trailside sign this evening.)
  • I stopped for a sunrise picture and made it a selfie. I don’t do selfie’s very often, because I look pretty unremarkable and spoil the view. You can’t really see much of the sun. I suck at photography.  Also, I look like I’m 8 feet tall.

sunrise-selfie

  • The morning light was fantastic. I could have taken a dozen pictures. I stopped for this one of the Washington Monument reflected in the Potomac River. (The quality of this picture is proof that even a blind pig finds an acorn now and then.)  I was going to take a picture of the reflections and shadows of the multiple arches of the Memorial Bridge but decided to continue on to work instead. #bikedc friends Jacques and Mary had the same idea and shot the bridge from both sides of the river.

double-pencil

  • Yesterday I didn’t get enough sleep and was riding in a mental fog. There is one bike traffic light on the Mount Vernon Trail for cars coming into and out of Porto Vecchio, an upscale condo on the river, just beyond the Belle Haven nest. I always stop for this light when it’s red and take extreme care when it is yellow (it is never green) to avoid being hit by turning cars. In my haze yesterday morning I rolled the red light. There were cars about to cross the trail. I am lucky I didn’t get hit. It’s the second time this month that I have escaped getting t-boned because I was in a trance. I really have to start paying more attention.
  • Today was supposed to be my co-worker Kelly’s first bike commute of the year. When I got to work her bike wasn’t in the bike parking room. Last night she laid all her bike clothes out. This morning she woke up, got dressed, went out and caught the bus. Only then did she realized that she had forgotten to ride her bike! Apparently Kelly’s early morning trance puts mine to shame.

 

A Proper, if Reluctant, Recovery

After totally botching a recovery ride yesterday, I decided to give it my all today. It being a national holiday, the last one for many weeks (a stretch of the calendar that I call The Long March as if it is comparable to Bataan), I slept in. Then I did what most old farts do, I ate a slow and methodical breakfast and read the dead tree edition of the newspaper. The good folks at the Washington Post had the decency to load up the sports page with baseball stories causing me to cry tears of joy in my Rice Chex.

Next came some web surfing. This is normally utterly unproductive, especially when accompanied by solitaire playing. Today was an exception. I learned (and saw with my own eyes) that the bald eagles at the National Arboretum have produced one egg. You can watch the entire process of egg sitting on the webcams that the U.S Department of Agriculture set up. This is a phenomenal time killer as not much happens for days. It is oddly addictive, however.

Interspersed with eagle watching and solitaire playing, I read some of Bill Bryson’s In a Sunburned Country. It is a funny travelogue about Australia, which I happened to have visited a couple of years ago.

At about 1 pm, I tired of my sloth and jumped aboard Deets for a ride to my local bike shop to have my front derailler looked at. It started throwing the chain to the inside a couple of days ago and I couldn’t get the appropriate adjustment screw to adjust.

Lucky for me there appears to me a time warp going on in DC. It feels like April. Flowers are coming up. Pollen is dusting cars windshields. The sun is warming bicyclists in shorts.

I expected there to be a long line at the bike shop and was delighted to see there was none at all. The mechanic on duty made quick work of the adjustment advising me to put the chain in the biggest gear before fiddling with the adjustment screw. I knew there had to be a trick. The adjustment was free (thanks Spokes Etc.) and I was on the road in no time.

I stopped at the scenic jersey barriers at the Belle Haven Marina for a photo op. Pay no attention to the ugly developments on the far side of the river.deets-at-marina

I rolled into Old Town and could see that the Presidents’ Day parade was still going on. I took the Wilkes Street tunnel from Union Street to check out the proceedings. The air in the tunnel was about 10 degrees warmer than on the street. It was also dark owing to the fact that I was wearing sunglasses.

A walker said hello and used my name. It was Bruce who I worked with until recently. He was dressed in white. Immediately behind him was a group of four or five people including his wife Paula – with whom I still work – dressed in her mandatory black. They looked a bit like Spy vs. Spy from Mad magazine.

I stopped to take in the parade. I couldn’t for the life of me get my phone to work properly to take a decent picture in the glare of the sun. I saw some bagpipers and what looked like Mummers driving itty bitty cars.

Having marched in parades for six years during my military school days I can only tolerate them in small doses. I hopped back on my steed for a slog along the perimeter of the parade and its crowds.

Once I found a street that would take me back home across  the parade route I took it. Slowly. The idea was to recover from the last two days. I took the hilly route home, mostly to test out the derailer. It worked fine.

After 17 miles, I dropped off my bike and drove to Huntley Meadows Park for a quite stroll in the woods. As I drove down the entrance road, I passed dozens of cars parked, an overflow from the normally empty parking lot. So much for solitude. Now I know what there was nobody at the bike shop.

So I bagged the idea of a walk in the woods and came home.

Sometimes recovery happens. Sometimes it is thrust upon me.

 

The Fat Lady Isn’t Singing Yet

As the saying goes, the opera isn’t over until the fat lady sings. Folks, it’s mid-February. The fat lady of winter isn’t doing her number for many weeks. I know because it was in the 20s on the way to work this morning. The edge of the river had frozen.

river-ice

For the next week or so we’ll have some April weather. Don’t get complacent. The fat lady is warming up, so to speak, in the wings.

I am hoping on banking out some serious mileage in celebration of our temporary spring. What’s on your President’s Day weekend to do list?

Spring, Kindness, and Shackelton’s Great Grand Daughter

Robin Rides to Work

As it gets warmer and lighter, we begin to see signs of spring. Today I saw my first new bike commuter. I’ll call her “Robin.”

There is a short connector trail that links the Custis Trail along I-66 with the Mount Vernon Trail along the Potomac River. The connector trail starts/ends at the Intersection of Doom. Along side the trail is a little used service road that goes basically nowhere. It is often confused with the connector trail.

As I reached the IoD traffic light on the connector trail, I spotted Robin coming from the Key Bridge toward the IoD. She looked confused and started to turn down the service road. We made eye contact and I shook my head “no.”  Then I motioned with my head “this way.” (My hands were busy braking.) She immediately got the point and veered off the service road. As she rode past me she said, “Thanks. It’s my first bike commute.” Based on her gear – bike with rack and panniers – she was not an inexperienced rider; she was just new to commuting in DC. She would have figured out her mistake so I saved her all of 20 seconds. Nevertheless it felt good to help a fellow traveler.

So here’s a reminder to all #bikedc commuter. Spring is almost here and, with it, many Robins. It doesn’t take much to help them out. Maybe just a nod or a shake of the head. Give them directions or offer to lead the way. Invite them to one of the scads of bike commuter coffee get-togethers. Tell them about upcoming local events like the Vasa Ride.

Be Kind to Clueless Touroids

And while I am on the subject of being kind, we are just a few weeks away from the massive influx of tourists. Tourists in DC think they know where they are and what they are doing because they see DC on TV every night. The truth is most of them are clueless. Be kind to them. (Yes, I admit I lose my cool with five abreast cherry blossom tourists on the trails. I will try to be more patient this year.) Be especially kind to the ones from far away lands, particularly those who do not speak English. If you’ve ever been disoriented in a place far away, you know how frustrating and scary it can be. The people you help will long remember what you did for them.

Enduring Rosslyn

Later in the morning I had to go to CVS for some things. I decided not to bother with a sweater or jacket since it’s only a block away and 45 degrees is tolerable in shirt sleeves. I was totally comfortable. I spotted a woman walking toward me in a cross walk. She had on a heavy winter coat, oversized sunglasses, and big ear muffs. I stifled a laugh and wondered if her last name was Shackleton. Then I realized she was a friend of a friend, the kind you know of but don’t actually know. Derp. I guess it’s not spring for everyone yet.

 

If the Answer Is Blowing in the Wind…

…then what the heck is the question?

It was a mighty good thing I took it easy this weekend because this morning’s bike commute was epic. I rode 20 miles on Saturday and 30 miles yesterday. All relatively flat.

This morning I rode into a dead headwind. My first few miles have trees and houses so I was somewhat protected. I stopped for my morning sunrise picture which worked out okay. My bike didn’t blow over, but the sun was well up in the sky. The Mule cast long shadows.

long-shadows-2-13-2017

At the north end of Old Town Alexandria the road goes through two warehouses. They formed a wind tunnel. I could barely make headway. Heading northwest, time after time gusts would knock me down to single digit speeds or nearly blown me clean off the trail. Going even 10 miles per hour took serious effort.

As I made the turn into the wind at Gravelly Point, I passed a runner heading my way. He let out an f-bomb in frustration. It was around this time that the weather station at the airport recorded a 46 mile per hour gust. I believe it. I made it to the Humpback Bridge and stopped to take a picture of the white caps in the river and the monuments in the sunshine.

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The last two miles were extremely difficult, but I was very grateful that I didn’t have to cross the Potomac River. The crosswinds would have been brutal if I had to ride across the river. My friends who did so are badass. Or crazy. Or both.

In Rosslyn, the power was out so police were directing traffic through the Intersection of Doom. Traffic seemed to flow better than normal. Crossing an on-ramp to I-66 from Lynn Street I was hit with a blast of wind. I nearly fell over but managed to continue forward through the curb cut. The last 100 yards featured an intense tailwind. Too bad there were pedestrians in the way.

The high wind warning that had been posted since late last night was cancelled but I still had a pretty decent tailwind for the ride home.  And lots of daylight. I turned my headlight on low to be seen in Old Town. I didn’t bother turning it on high until I was less than two miles from home.

That’s a pretty good sign of spring. So is the fact that Nationals pitchers and catchers report to spring training tomorrow.

Satuerrandonee

I made a list. Not all of it was errands but there was stuff to be done.

After a long morning of newspaper reading, I headed out on Little Nellie for Spokes Etc., my local bike shop, in Belle Haven. I put an old Brooks B67 on the bike the other day as I shuffled saddles around while one was out for repair. The B67 is wide in the seat and has bouncy springs. So the ride to Spokes was different in a good way. In fact, I may just leave the B67 on the bike for when I ride the Five Boro ride in New York City.

I wore hiking boots so that I could comfortably hoof it home. The errandonnee does not including Hikonneuring but I am a rebel and their is a wild card classification for one errand. One the way home I stopped at a hardware store. I needed to buy five things. One of the things was a furnace filter. These are big panels of very lightweight material. I don’t think putting it on a bike would work well. I hoofed it home with the panel and some painter’s tape in hand. (The filter will be taped over the air return vent during our floor refinishing project next month.)

Once home, I spent a few minutes tweaking the saddle heights on my Cross Check. I am pretty sure it was ever-s0-slightly too high. After a very small adjustment I rode it around the block. Zoom. We are good to go for tomorrow’s Vasa ride!

I then rode The Mule for a few hundred yards. I think the bike mechanic raised the seat to use the seat point as a clamping point. When he lowered the seat, he didn’t lower it enough. In his defense, we are talking about a difference of a few millimeters. I dropped the saddle a bit and, sure enough, it was much more comfortable.

Mrs. Rootchopper goes grocery shopping after her 7:30 pilates class on Saturday morning. Today she left behind some salted caramel fudge cookies and some ground coffee beans. The cookies are crack. Coffee is, well, COFFEE!!! She called the Safeway store and talked to Cynthia, the employee who found the bag. Off I went to retreat the lost goods.

When I got to the store there was no Cynthia to be found. An employee asked for the receipt. It was from a different Safeway store, right next to the bike shop. Argh! You mean I have to bike 3 miles to get my coffee? Yay!

Off I went on The Mule. The newly adjusted wheels were pinging up a storm. Hopefully the spokes will settle in and the noise will stop soon.

At the Safeway store, I met up with Cynthia. She helped me find the items that she had re-stocked several hours earlier. She was cheerful and helpful. Safeway should give her all the raises.

I headed back home the way I came, on busy Fort Hunt Road, a two lane road mostly with no paved shoulder. At one point I was cruising along at 17 miles per hour. A long line of cars was coming toward me. A long line of cars was stuck behind me. I kept plugging away when a silver minivan revved up and passed withing three inches of my left hand. How its mirror missed me I’ll never know.

I like to think that I can be a mindful kind of guy. Having just had my life pass in front of me, I considered the situation. I was, as the saying goes, in the moment. I usually try to reserve my sign language skills for near death experiences. I sat up. I raised my right hand and I gave the van driver a mighty middle finger and a loud “FUCK YOOOOOUUUU!”

My attention went back to the bike riding. The rest of the following traffic gave me ample room as they passed. I hoped to catch up to the silver minivan at the next traffic light but it turned away. I wanted to express my gratitude to the driver for giving me reason to practice my sign language skills. And perhaps smash the passenger side mirror to bits.

Another day.

I rode back to the hardware store for more not so hard wares. I bought some grass seed, because there are big patches of dirt in my lawn, and some bird seed, because there are big flocks of bird on my lawn. (They’ll probably eat my grass seed, now that I think about it.)

I had planned to buy a 25 pound bag of seed but they didn’t have any that size. It’s a good thing. 25 pounds of seed would make for a very lopsided load on a bike.

As it turned out the two bags of seed made for some interesting handling. I made it nearly home and had adjusted so well to the weight that I took a right turn fast and my bike nearly fell over. Oops.

I made it home. Errands done. I think I have two wild card errands today. The Bike/hike errand and the retrieval of the lost cookies and coffee. The seedy hardware store run qualifies as a you carried what on your bike.

Errand #11

Category: Wild Card: The Bike/hike errand

Miles: 4 by bike/ 4 1/2 on foot.

Observation: It would have been much more efficient to do this one by car. It would not have been nearly as much fun. And we all know what the Cat in the Hat said: “These things are fun and fun is good.”

Errand #12

Category: Wild Card: Rescuing the lost foods

Miles: 8

Observation: Never assume you know where to go. According to my driver ed teacher: “When you assume, you make an ass out of you and me.” Truth be told, he was doing the ass thing just fine without my help.

 

Errand #13

Category: You carried what on your bike?

Miles: 1/2

Observation:  I spend at least $200 each year on birdseed. It’s worth every cent to be able to see the seasonal birds coming and going. Buying birdseed is like buying a bag a spring. If you don’t have a bird feeder, get one! If you put cayenne pepper on your seed, the squirrels will leave it along. (I buy my seeds already peppered.)