A Long, Long Way from Rotorua

On our trip around the world in 2015, we made a stop in Rotorua, a resort town on the north island of New Zealand. We used it as a jumping off point for various adventures. One evening we went to a local Maori site and had a fantastic cookout and watched a traditional Maori performance called kapa haka.

Rotorua is a geothermal area and the cookout was done in the ground over geothermal vents of some sort. Just wrap the food in aluminum foil, leave it on the vents, and voila dinner is served.

The performance was extremely entertaining. Dancing, weapons, intimidating faces with bug eyes and tongues displayed. Maoris are large humans. New Zealanders of all stripes admire their fierce competitiveness on the rugby pitch either for the national team called the All Blacks or as players on other countries’ teams all over the world. Before each All Blacks game the team performs a haka as a way to acknowledge their roots, fire themselves up, and freak out their opponents.

During the performance I spotted #bikedc man about town Joe Flood taking pictures. He’s a pretty darned good photographer .  Joe’s in the purple shirt in the center of the picture below.

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Today we saw Maoris perform a kapa haka in front of the Lincoln Memorial. Abe was impressed. I am pretty sure he was clapping along with the rest of us. There is obvious European influence in the songs (which were accompanied by acoustic guitarists and other musicians), the performance is unmistakably something else entirely.  My favorite singer songwriter, Neil Finn, is from New Zealand. He credits the Maori strum as the rhythmic underpinning of many of his songs, including the Crowded House hit “Don’t Dream It’s Over.” From time to time Maori music and singers appear on his records.

The performance ended just as a storm approached. I took this picture as we made our way back to the car. We didn’t make it. The clouds opened up. Summertime in DC.

Storm in DC

 

A few  more pictures are on my Flickr page.

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A Little Water Won’t Kill Ya

It rained last night. The passage to my backyard was a mud pit. It was drizzling as I, without a whole lot of thought, pulled Little Nellie out of the shed.

I wore rain gear fImage may contain: tree, plant, outdoor and natureor the ride to work. All was going well until I reached the Mount Vernon Trail. Normally, the river is to the right of the trail. Today, the trial was beneath the river. As I cleared the Dyke Marsh boardwalk, I hit about 40 yards of deep water. I’d guess it was 6 inches deep. The density of the water slowed me to a crawl and I pedaled through it getting my feet thoroughly soaked. I stopped to take a picture that doesn’t do it justice.

I hopped back on Little Nellie, pedaled 20 yards, and was deep in the soup again. Pedaling through this much water is hard work. I cleared that flood, had a 20-yard breather, then hit the next one. And the next one. And the next one. No lie. I was pedaling really hard as I hit the last one and the backwash from Little Nellie’s wee front wheel caused the water to splash up over my knees.

After another deep section north of Belle Haven Park,  I made it into Old Town without need for scuba gear.

Old Town, of course, is notorious for flooding and today it did not disappoint. Union Street (which includes the Mount Vernon Trail) Image may contain: one or more people, people sitting, motorcycle and outdoorwas closed at King. Little Nellie posed for a picture. I watched a pick up drive through the water but decided not to press my luck especially with a police car in the distance.

I turned up one alley and over another and found myself on King just to the left of the water in the picture.

Free and clear, right? Wrong. I managed to avoid submersion for a couple of miles before hitting deep water twice near Daingerfield Island. The force of my bike through the flood again kicked water up over my knees.

Dang.

I really should have chosen a bike with bigger diameter wheels. I hope Little Nellie’s hubs are not completely messed up.

In the afternoon Doppler radar was showing a really nasty storm approaching. I ran into the No. 2 person at my agency who was carrying his motorcycle helmet. Good luck! Our admin assistant and I both told my boss to hit the road on his cargo bike. He rides into DC and he probably made it unscathed.

I, on the other hand, was scathed. I made it about 9 miles in decent shape. The good news was the flooding had receded. The bad news was I was heading into dark, dark clouds with wind and rain and thunder and lightning.

Oh my.

I rode through Belle Haven Park aware that at any time a limb could fall from one of the giant old trees along the trail. It had happened before but not today. South of the park I had to deal with the fact that my glasses were covered with rain drops and condensation. I could barely see to make my way.

There was nothing to do but pedal, so I did. A bicyclist zipped past me. How he could see was beyond my ken. As I went through the slalom south of Dyke Marsh branches with wet leaves slapped me in the face.

Pedal. Pedal.

All the while, lightning was flashing across the sky.

I followed a curve in the trail up and to the right. Out from behind an overhanging branch came a bicyclists. A woman on what looked like a beach cruiser. She was riding in a frenzy without rain gear and nearly collided with me. I veered off to my right and she flew by.

Sections of the trail now had run off from the adjacent parkway. Some of these were fairly high speed and gave me cause for concern. Would they sweep my wheels out from under me?

Nope. It’s good to be lucky.

Once I left the trail the rain subsided. There was still some thunder and lightning but it was not all that intense.

I rode across the front lawn, around the muddy side of the house, and down the small grassy decline to the shed. After opening the shed and getting the bike inside I started to wipe everything down with an old t-shirt. Then

BOOM!

A clap of thunder erupted directly overhead. The walls and the floor of the shed shook. I felt the vibration in my torso.

Double dang.

A little water won’t kill ya, but the thunder’s a bitch.

Well at Least It Didn’t Snow

It seems as if January 23 is Precipitation Day in the DMV. Last year we were pounded with snow. This year it rained. A lot. There were warnings of gale force winds. So I didn’t ride my bike to work.

Ha. Ha. Fooled you.

The Mule and I started out into a strong, gusting headwind and light rain. And that’s how it went for 15 miles. It was in the mid 40s so it wasn’t an entirely miserable experience. I wanted to take a picture of the sunrise at my usual spot in Dyke Marsh but the sun was taking the day off. Gloom. Gray. Ugh.

I kept my head down and plowed along into the wind as hit me from 1 o’clock. When I rode under the Wilson Bridge the structure seemed to cause the wind to intensify. I struggled to stay upright and forged ahead.

In Old Town, the scofflaw parker at 420 North Union Street was blocking the bike lane again. I rode a half mile before finding sufficient shelter to call it in to the authorities. When I tried to get underway again, the wind was blowing straight at me. It took serious effort to launch The Mule.

I kept my head down to keep my glasses dry. I could only see a few feet ahead. Not enough to avoid a big tree limb that had fallen across the trail. So The Mule and I rode over it. The Mule abides.

I made it to work late but in one piece. Later in the day I learned that a large tree had fallen across the trail near the 14th Street Bridge. That is always my biggest concern. As comedian Ron White says, “It’s not that the wind is blowing; it’s what the wind is blowing.” When the ground gets saturated from heavy rain, tree roots lose their hold and the wind does the rest.

The ride home began in daylight. Sort of. Gloom. Gray.

I made it to the trail and had a nice strong tailwind. Yay, storms!

The Mule and I cruised down river toward the downed tree. No tree’s gonna stop us! And we were right. The National Park Service had come out and cleared it away.

The rest of the ride was pretty effortless. The streets of Old Town along the river showed some signs of flooding but Union Street was passable. We passed.

South of the Beltway, we cruised along, at one point going through deep water where the river had overflowed its banks. Along another, drier section of the trail I had fallen into my bike trance when we were joined by a rather fearless bunny. Instead of darting off the trail as we approached, the bunny bounded down the trail ahead of us. After a full minute, the bunny banged a right and disappeared into wet scrub brush.

We get more of this fun tomorrow morning.

Only 69 days until opening day.

 

Allison, My Aim Is True (Sorry, couldn’t resist)

The weatherman said that the morning commute would be wet. Fortunately for me, the rain left the area around 6 a.m. I felt a sprinkle now and then but I didn’t mind them one bit. It was a pretty nice ride. The post rain sunlight, no longer a sunrise due to the lengthening days, looked pretty on the Potomac at Dyke Marsh. Little Nellie posed for a picture,

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The ride home was an entirely different matter. At four storms started showing up on radar. My office mates in Rosslyn sent my boss home because he picks up his kids by bike. I waited a while longer because the radar looked much worse than what I could see out the window which was light rain. By this time Allison, one of my co-workers, was in full freak out mode.

I hit the road at a bit after 4:30. There was only a sprinkle now and then. The cold raindrops were noticable in warm spring air on my body. The wind wasn’t too bad and I could see blue sky peaking through the clouds. The cars approaching on the GW Parkway did not have their headlights on. So I was pretty sure I was safe riding.

DSCN3706_837At the southern end of Old Town Alexandria things changed pretty quickly. I rode under the Wilson Bridge and could feel a blast of cold air. Not good. Heading south from the beltway on the Mount Vernon Trail I could see that the cars all had their headlights on. Looking down river a line of rain presented itself. And it was approaching fast. I stopped to take a picture and put on my rain jacket. These two things took maybe 30 seconds to do. By the time I had zipped up, I was in a downpour. I jumped on Little Nellie and headed into the maelstrom. The rain was so hard it hurt my skin. My shorts were soaked through and through within 15 seconds. Then the waves of wind gusts came, announced by the sheets of rain they sent directly into me. There was a distant rumble of thunder but otherwise I was unconcerned. I’ve ridden in much worse. Since I could see the gusts coming, I could brace for impact. As I made it to Belle Haven Park my concerned shifted from rain to falling tree limbs. Twice in prior years I have narrowly escaped getting clobbered by a huge falling limb.

By the time I cleared the park, the rain and gusts had stopped. Two minutes from start to finish. The rest of the ride home was actually nice.

Three hours later, all hell broke loose. Timing is everything. My aim is true.