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.


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.


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.


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.


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.)



An Unwelcome Sign of Spring and Errand No. 9

There was a chill in the air this morning. Since I was riding Big Nellie, I decided to wear tights. Cold air up your pants leg causes shrinkage and other discomforts.

It was a meditative ride. I find myself riding much faster now that I am not all layered up and now that I don’t pay a wind chill penalty for speed.

All was going well until a large young man passed me on a mountain bike.Judging by the effort he was putting into going 13 miles per hour and his clothing, I’d say he was new to bike commuting. Speaking of clothing, he wore shiny, baggy gym shorts. The kind that, unfortunately, slide down. After he passed I found myself right behind him, staring unavoidably at his bug fat hairy butt crack. BFHBC will ruin any ride. This went on for about a half mile because I was unable to pass him. I’ll take freezing cold weather over BFHBCs any day.  I passed him on the small hill south of National Airport. He had to stop at the top, an elevation gain of no more than 20 feet. For the sake of the rest of the bike commuters, I hope he was adjusting his shorts.

On the way home I stopped at the bank (again) to deposit a check. So another errand hits the books.

Errand No. 9

Category: Personal Business (2nd use of this category)25623508146_865f001688_m (1)

Miles: -1/4 mile  (the diversion reduces the length of my commute)

Observation: The day was so nice that even a BFHBC couldn’t ruin my ride to work. Aren’t you glad I didn’t take a picture? Rebecca, the Commissioner of the Office Bike Commuting Matrix, found one online.


On a more serious note: George Martin died. I have been a Beatle fan since I was a little kid. George Martin produced the soundtrack of my life, both directly through the Beatles recordings and indirectly through his influence on so many others. He was incredibly talented. In recent years as digital recordings became available, you could hear how he used tricks to cover mistakes and other unfortunate things in Beatle records. McCartney’s voice cracking on a high note in “If I Fell.” Covering the “me” with a McCartney bass note at the begining of “Come Together” when Lennon sings “Shoot me” repeatedly. His string arrangement on “Yesterday” made my mother, a fan of Robert Goulet and Dean Martin, recognize that the Beatles were making real music. RIP.




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.



Tonight I drive back to work to pick up some boxes. Boxes > Allison. We are having our wood floors refinished in a month so we have to move all of our stuff from the top two levels of our house.


Errandonnee Control Card Entry No. 4

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.

Signs of Spring

Winter must be vanquished. Thankfully, it appears the gods are doing their job quite well. You can tell spring is almost here because:

  • Spring training started (duh). And I am totally stoked for the regular baseball season to begin.
  • The crocuses and daffodils are emerging.
  • The forsythia is starting to bloom.
  • I have finished reading my winter stack o’books. Mrs. Rootchopper gets me a couple of books every Christmas. Plus I add a few. This keeps me from doing insane things like riding my bike on icy roads.
    • An historical novel set in the 2nd World War.
    • A biography of Stonewall Jackson
    • An account of the sinking of the Lusitania.
    • A memoir of a solo bike ride around the world.
    • A biography of Sam Cooke.
  • I have a big pile of unread magazines that stacked up because of all the books.
  • I can now ride to work much faster because I am not carrying a 600 page book.
  • The Mule has been treated to its post-winter TLC at the bike shop.
  • Big Nellie is on the streets. I don’t ride my recumbent in sub-freezing temperatures because its front wheel slides out on slippery surfaces.
  • The wovel is looking forlorn and forgotten.
  • Lance Mamilstrong is out on his bike with all his clones.
  • The lawn mower has been prepped.
  • The Errandonnee is underway.
  • The Vasa ride is only a week away. (You should sign up. When you finish you get some soop.)
  • Birds are making a serious amount of noise before sunrise.
  • I have to refill the bird feeder much more frequently.
  • My pants have done shrunk. (Need some long rides and hikes soon!)
  • My allergies have knocked me for a loop.
  • I want to feel sunlight on my face in a big way.
  • The weatherman says there will be three 70-degree days this week. (Tears of joy.)

Did I miss any?


The S Word

I am told that Monday was the end of meteorological winter. Who the hell came up with that idea?

It was damned cold here this morning. I was ready with my chemical toe warmers and layers and such. The ride to work was comfy although I had to switch from Big Nellie to Little Nellie. It was a footwear thing. Big Nellie has clipless pedals and my clipless shoes are not good for cold weather. So I put on my hiking boots and rode Little Nellie which has pedals and toe clips.

The only problem I had was when I fell into my trance approaching the Memorial Bridge. I hit a section of the trail covered intermittently with black ice. Eek!

I rode over some of it then swerved over to the grass for the rest.

Winds were light-ish today. You can now discern the buds on the trees. The willows have a light green tinge to their cascading branches. Soon we’ll get some leafy protection from the wind.

The ride home was a piece of cake. I noticed that Arlington County had sprayed brine on the trail connecting the Custis Trail to the Mount Vernon Trail. Arlington County rocks. Too bad the National Park Service doesn’t follow suit.

About a mile from the house, snow flurries started swirling about. Sorry to use the S word in meteorological spring. The flurries were pretty. We may get and inch or two overnight.

The slushy mess we will have gives me an excuse to work from from home tomorrow .I rode five days in a row this week for a total of over 155 miles.

I think my legs are ready for spring.




Stubborn Denial

I don’t know who to blame but the weather today looked springlike but felt like winter. The wind was blowing. It was about 20 degrees below normal. And I, of course, was in denial. I stupidly left the house underdressed for the cold and froze my ass off riding to Friday Coffee Club. I I did manage to see one bald eagle on the way but this bird had its back to me as it was taking in the early morning sun. He was probably thinking: “I will not look at a fool.”

Since the calendar says April 24, the Friday Coffee Club gang sat outside in the shade. I was tempted to pour my coffee over my head but I drank it instead. I endured the cold for about 45 minutes before jumping on my bike and riding into the teeth of a now-stronger wind as I made my way up G Street through George Washington University. This is no fun, thought I.

I thought things would improve once I cleared the wind tunnel formed by the buildings of Foggy Bottom. Wrong. It got worse. Much worse. The headwind turned into a side wind as I cross the Potomac on the too narrow side path on the Teddy Roosevelt bridge. The damned wind nearly knocked me over several times. Ayyy!  I don’t know if the little wheels on Little Nellie were contributing to my wobbliness. (Yes, that’s a word because I just used it.)

My the time I reached the Virginia side of the river, the right side of my face was numb. Memo to God: this is April! Please hit the reset button. K? Thx.

Maybe God’s in denial. Maybe he or she is just stubborn.

Prepping for the Season Opener

Before we get into today’s events, an update on the migration patterns of the East Coast bicycle tourists. I had previously seen a single northbound bike tourist on the Mount Vernon Trail on two occasions in the last week or so. Friday night I spotted one man, Asian, about 30 years old give or take five years. (Suffice it to say, I stink at guessing people’s ages.)  About a minute later, three more Asian men of about the same age rode by. It’s a sure sign of spring. They looked like they were having a blast.

Spring is really happening now. Dogwoods, lilacs, tulips, and redbuds all in bloom. Soon ducklings and gosslings will make their debuts and tortoises will lay their eggs along the edge of the trail.

Now back to today.

Anybody who knows me knows that I am a baseball fan. When Tony Conigliaro was beaned on my 12th birthday, I became a Red Sox fan living in Yankee country. It wasn’t easy. In 1973 I started college at Boston University. I became a Sawx addict. My sophomore year in a dorm about 1 block from the Citgo sign in Kenmore Square and 3 blocks from Fenway Park’s green monster. I drove a cab in Boston during the summer of 1975. I had to walk past the green monster every day to get to the cab company. During the summer many of the passengers wanted to talk about the Sawx. The Boston Globe had the best sports page EVER.

I learned that baseball is about the arc of the season not about each individual game. I went nuts during the fabled sixth game of the ’75 nWorld Series, and mourned at the feeble end of the seventh. In ’78, I learned Bucky Dent’s middle name. (It begins with F.) In ’86 I yelled at the TV “Where’s Stapleton?” wanting to see first-baseman Bill Buckner’s defensive replacement in the sixth game of the 1986 series against the Mets. My kids watched mesuffer as the Yankees won the 2003 playoffs on an Aaron Boone home run.  And they watched daddy completely lose his mind going “Cowboy Up!” during their amazing come from behind stomping of the evil empire in 2004. And they won the Series to boot. Mercy. The next two pennants were fun but anticlimactic although I think 2013 was some sort of divine intervention after the sickening Boston Marathon bombing.

Now I have turned my attention to my new home.

The Nationals are loaded like Ron White on a bender. Their line up is the Death Star. They remind me of the 1978 Red Sox in that they have thunder in their bats Rooting for the Nats is meant to be. They were once the Montreal Expos. My father took us up to Montreal to see Willie Mays and the Giants play the Expos in Jarry Park. Willie didn’t play that day but I have a fond memory of sitting in the smallest major league park on a lovely August day. And besides the Expos gave Boston Pedro!

Tomorrow I go to my first Nats game of the season. I will try to refrain from yelling “LETS GO EXPOS!” during the game. I will bike the 14 miles to the stadium for the first time since that impossibly sad day last September.

Today I spent the day getting stuff out of the way for tomorrow’s fun. I picked up my holey sweaters at the dry cleaner. After a somber ceremony, they will be put in storage for next winter. Then I washed all my winter bike clothes. My jacket and vest were both disgustingly dirty. I had no hope they’d come clean but I will be damned if they don’t look like new. IMoving outdoors, I removed raised beds from our back yard. They had failed to produce more than a handful of veggies for several years. After an hour plus of digging dirt, I think it’s time for someone to invent a dirt version of the Wovel.

Next I mowed the lawn, learning in the process that it was mighty hot out for mid April. Dehydrated, I decamped to the family room and watched the second half of the Nats game. (They lost. We’ll get them tomorrow.)

After the game I took The Mule out for an easy spin to check the bald eagle nests along the Mount Vernon Trail. I saw one eagle in the massive nest at Fort Hunt Park. I didn’t see any other eagles at the four nests between the stone bridge and Tulane Drive, but I did run into Reba, fellow bike commuter and Friday Coffee Clubber. She was looking for the nests without much luck so I took her on a tour. It’s a good thing she was looking today because in about a week the leaves on the trees will make the nests very hard to find, even if you know where to look. We didn’t see much eagle action but at least Reba knows where they are.

Winter clothing is cleaned. Chores are done. Legs are refreshed.

Okay, Mule, take me out to the ballgame.