Tour de Recho

The Tour de Fat is an event put on by New Belgium Brewing to raise money for local bike organizations. This year they moved the event to the late afternoon and from May to July. After last year’s chilly rain, we were treated to lines of violent thunderstorms this year.

I rode to the the event venue located next to Nationals Park. The skies were ominous. I have expected to see the Avengers fighting some big alien-ish beasties before going out for schwarma. As I reached the halfway (8-mile) point a strong headwind with gusts started buffeting me about. I passed a couple who were dressed in costumes, obviously heading to the event.

I did a 180 and rode up the ramp to the 14th Street Bridge. The wind pushed me hard and then the rains came. Turning onto the bridge the wind and rains were coming from my left. After 30 seconds I couldn’t see a thing. I slowed. On coming bikes had their lights on so I turned on my blinkies.

By the time I reached Maine Avenue, about 13 miles into my trek I was soaked to the bone. I stopped and put on a poncho,, for warmth. I checked the weather report on my phone. It basically said “YOU WILL DIE SOON!”

Gulp.

Pedal. Pedal.

The rain and wind abated. I made it to the venue a little after 3 pm. There were very few people. Some of the tents were not assembled. A bystander told me the event was canceled because of the weather. They had begun breaking the tents down.

Fug.

I rode back home by way of the Del Ray Music Festival in Alexandria. It rained for the first couple of miles but then the sun came out. The Festival was on but I didn’t see anyone I knew so I rode home. It was hot and muggy but there was no wind or rain.

I was pretty exhausted when I got home. Prior to riding to DC I mowed the lawn and did some chores outside. The combination of all three efforts left me dehydrated.

So I opened a New Belgium Fat Tire Ale.

I went on the WABA website and gave them a five-beer donation ($25).

Although the event was listed as rain or shine, the storms hitting DC today had very high winds and lightning. The event organizers did the right thing to cancel. It would have been chaos if tents started blowing over or a lightning strike occurred.

As I write this, a storm has been raging outside. I would have been riding home from the event in this. No thanks.

I do have some advice for New Belgium: move the event in DC back to May. The weather is generally better, there are more people in town, and you can line it up with other events as was done in 2016. Also, move it back into the daytime and involve cycling families. They are an integral part of the bicycling scene in DC.

 

 

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Amanda Buy the Bike Already – and Other Thoughts

  • Amanda works with me. She keeps talking about getting a bike. I just can’t seem to get her from talk to action. On the way home from work, I took a picture from the Dyke Marsh bridge on the Mount Vernon Trail.

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Amanda was really surprised. I keep telling her my bike commute rocks! I haven’t told her about having incoming jets fly right over my head as the land on the second runway at National Airport. Or the dozens of downy egrets in the river. Or the morning glories in bloom in the wetlands north of Old Town. Or the opera singer. Or…..

  • I have confession to make. I feel like a jerk. I am short changing some friends who are asking for donations connected to one charity bicycling event or another. A month ago I gave money to support Mike who is doing the Bike to the Beach ride. Proceeds go to autism support and research. Today, Emilia announced she is doing the ride too. I gave money when Katie said she was doing a Climate Ride. About two months later another Katie announced that she was doing another Climate Ride. Then Grace announced that she was doing a Climate Ride. How do you manage all these donations? You can’t budget for them. You feel bad if you give different amounts to each of your friends. Can you tell I was raised Catholic?
  • Watching one friend stress out over raising money made me decide to drop doing a charity ride this fall. It’s a good event for a good cause, cancer. I feel bad not doing it because so many people in my family have had cancer. (My father, my mother, a sister, a brother, my wife, three aunts, two uncles. Sorry kids, the gene pool’s a complete mess.) I want to focus on preparing for my tour to Key West and making sure I am ready to ride to the Pacific next summer. My aging body probably has only one shot at making it. Spending my summer stressing out over fundraising just didn’t float my boat.
  • There are two things to do if you are in DC this weekend.
    • You should go to the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens. The water lilies and lotuses are in bloom. I’ve never been there and the pictures I am seeing online are driving me nuts.
    • And then there is the Tour de Fat. It’s a party put on by New Belgium Brewing to raise money for local bike charities. There will be live music and cold beer. I volunteered to work in the beer tent again.
  • And finally a note about the #bikedc DL. Dave just got cleared to get back on a bike after breaking his leg doing an Arte Johnson. A day or two ago, Alex collided with a salmoning cyclist. (When you ride against the flow of traffic, you are salmoning.) She broke her jaw. So Dave and Alex, be patient. You’ll be back to (your abnormal version of) normal in no time. The Rootchopper Institute sends you its thoughts and prayers (because we are waaay to lazy and cheap to bring you a beer.)

Looking Up – YODO

  • A year ago I was riding my bike in northern Michigan. It was cool. Literally. Riding around DC in the summer is an exercise in adaptation. After 101 miles the other day, I feel adapted. Near death, but adapted. When I moved here in the mid 1980s I tried to maintain my New England running life. It was impossible in the summer. I’d lose a pound per mile in sweat and there were no water fountains around to get a drink from.
  • I often take pictures of the sky. So when life gets me down, all I need to do is look up. And well….

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I took this picture while sitting at Nationals Park.  It was so sunny that I couldn’t see the result on my phone. Then I got home and looked at it. Yeah, it was really this nice out.

  • A friend of mine recently posted a quote from Ray Bradbury on her Facebook page:

If we listened to our intellect we’d never have a love affair. We’d never have a friendship. We’d never go in business because we’d be cynical: “It’s gonna go wrong.” Or “She’s going to hurt me.” Or,”I’ve had a couple of bad love affairs, so therefore . . .” Well, that’s nonsense. You’re going to miss life. You’ve got to jump off the cliff all the time and build your wings on the way down.” 

Ray Bradbury, you are a putz. If we listened to our intellect, we’d never find ourselves in toxic relationships.  Only an idiot jumps into business without thinking things through. Taking risks is foolhardy unless you minimize them first. It’s obvious that Ray Bradury never went on a bike tour. If you don’t use your head, you will find yourself in the middle of nowhere with a failing tire. In the rain. With a head cold. Miserable. Been there. Done that. Thinking doesn’t make you a cynic; it just makes you prepared. (Bring a spare tire, dummy!) Go ahead and jump off that cliff, but you might want to be wearing a parachute, because the rocks will mess your ass up. Or you can follow Old Ray’s advice and, as they say in Minnesota, thin the herd.

Our disagreement on the Ray Bradbury quote probably explains why I haven’t seen or heard from this particular friend in nearly two years.  She’s a YOLO person. I’m a YODO person.

  • I signed up to dispense beer at the Tour de Fat in DC. It’s an event that celebrates bikes, beer, music, and such. And it raises money for local bike advocacy groups. Now if you think about it, you might not come. So forget what I said about Ray Bradbury and come on out. Even if you don’t drink beer and I haven’t seen or heard from you in two years.
  • I’ve lived in DC for over 30 years. For much of that time I could go out and not run into a single person I knew. It was very strange. It’s not that way anymore.  There were four people that I know who visited Great Falls Park on the C&O canal this weekend. I only saw one of them as I rode past on Saturday but the coincidence is kind of neat.
  • Also during that 30 years, I have never seen the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens when the water lillies are in bloom. That happens this month. I would love to go this weekend but I will be out of town. If you are in DC, you should go. And, best of all, you can bike there on the new Anacostia River Trail.

Planning 2017 – At Last

After two months of dithering, I have finally started to sketch out my battle plan for 2017. I have only a couple of solid commitments to deal with and the rest is flexible.

Solid Commitments

  • Volunteering – because every time I see Michelle (WABA’s event manager) I feel guilty.
    • Vasa Ride – I’ve done this ride several times during the event and on my own or with others during the summer and fall. It’s well worth doing and you should give it a go. I mean when was the last time you had warm blueberry soup?
    • Tour de Fat – I am a trained beer puller. I have two hours of Tour de Fat beer pulling expertise. It would be a shame to let my skills evaporate like beer suds.
  • Family Events
    • Holy cow, my daughter’s graduating from Butler University. Woot! (This one is not at all flexible.)
    • Family reunion – this is in the middle of July.

Bicycling Events

This is a much shorter list than usual but has two new (to me) rides.

  • Car-Free Skyline Drive – I just heard about this today. It’s a brutally hilly road but, well, no cars! Also, I totally suck at hill climbing.
  • Bike to Work Day – probably my last one. Not because I don’t like the ride but because I am retiring in August.
  • Tour dem Parks – A ride around Charm City (Baltimore) that has very good word-of-mouth reviews. Also I might get to meet Eleanor (who was a bun in the oven the last time I was in Baltimore) because I hear she is swell.
  • 50 States Ride (my 10th!) – Need I say more?

Baseball

So far, I have committed to an exhibition game against the Red Sox on March 31 and an Orioles v Red Sox game in April in Baltimore. I blocked out on my calendar all the weekends that the Nationals are at home. If you want to go to a game with me, I am tolerable company. I can provide references. Also, I will shamelessly accept any tickets you get comped or otherwise stuck with. Also, there are two road series against Philadelphia. I might drive up for a day game just for the hell of it. Wanna ride shotgun?

Hiking

When the Nats are not playing I have free weekends. So these are all potential hiking days. My white board list of hikes is pretty similar to last year because I failed miserably at hiking last year. Doh.

  • Potomac Heritage from Turkey Run to Chain Bridge and back
  • Thompson Hollow Loop
  • Buck Hollow/Mary’s Rock
  • Double Bear Rocks
  • Stairway to Heaven
  • Broad Hollow/Pine Hill Gap
  • Loudon Heights/Split Rock
  • Jones Run/Doyle River
  • Corbin Mountain
  • Fountainhead

Mostly these are in the mountains to the west. If you live in the DC area and don’t mind getting up at the crack of dawn, feel free to come with. As with biking, I may be old but I am slow.

I could also use these non-Nats weekends for bike trips. Maybe an out and back between Williamsburg and Richmond on the new-ish rail trail.

Foreign (?) Travel

My daughter is thinking about going overseas for grad school so this would be an excellent excuse for a trip. If she goes to school in the US, this will require a college move-in road trip. Also, my son may still be in Thailand next winter. I wouldn’t mind seeing the place when it’s not pouring rain.

Bike Tours

Since I am retiring in August, I am saving up my annual leave for a big check. Once I get the 50 States out of the way, I think I might ride somewhere warm. Key West sounds like a good destination. The rough plan is to take the Adventure Cycling Atlantic Coast Route about 1,500 miles to Key West, take a ferry to Tampa, ride across Florida to Miami and take Amtrak home. I figure this will take about a month to do. This would be the warm up for the big one in 2018 which will probably involve riding to the Pacific Northwest.

Also between my birthday and the 50 States Ride I may have time for a short tour. I have no idea what that might entail. Maybe a road trip to rail trails in Virginia. Or the Grand Canyon of the East.

 

 

 

 

Top Ten of 2016

As is so often the case, my top ten list goes to 11. Hey, it’s my blog and I make the rules.

Yooper for a Week
After 11 years I finally did another solo bike tour. I drove 13+ hours to Ludington Michigan. After a ferry ride across Lake Michigan, I rode The Mule fully loaded with gear into the north woods of Wisconsin. On July 4, I had breakfast in Freedom. After a few days I turned east and crossed the UP, the upper peninsula of Michigan. After the UP, I visited car-free Mackinac Island on a quiet Sunday morning. Other than a two-hour scary thunderstorm and three hilly days of headwinds near the end of the tour, the weather could not have been better. And I managed three ferry rides without getting sick. I rode 832 miles in 11 days. It was a wonderful combination of hard work and rolling meditation. I proved to myself that even at 60 years old I still got it. Okay, maybe not all of it but enough of it to get the job done. I can’t wait to do another.

An Eventful Spring
Prior to my tour I warmed up my legs by riding some bike events. I kicked the year off with the Vasa Ride, co-sponsored by the Washington Area Bicyclists Association and the Swedish embassy. It was a bit of a disappointment because this is normally a social ride but I rode it alone and didn’t do much socializing at the embassy reception afterwards. Next came the Five Boro ride in New York City. The Five Boro Ride has always been on my to do list but conflicted with work, parenting responsibilities, and personal lethargy. I convinced Paul to join me (with Amy along for moral support). Paul and I rode the 40+ mile ride in a cold rain at the start of May. It wasn’t all that much fun, but touring Manhattan the day before in splendid weather with the wonderful guidance of my BU friend Susan made up for riding the Brooklyn Queens Expressway in a driving rain.

At the end of May, I rode the new DC Bike Ride. Not to be outdone by NYC, we had cold rain for that one too.

Scary Night
In May, I woke up in the middle of the night with severe chest pains. After a few hours of increasing pain, Mrs. RC called for an ambulance. The ride to the hospital ½ mile away took 20 minutes but I was well taken care of. What I feared was a heart attack turned out to be a respiratory infection. Fortunately, a nebulizer treatment in the ER and antibiotics fixed me up over the next week. An earworm of the Neil Finn song Anytime played for days. “I could go at anytime. There’s nothing safe about this life.” Words to live by.

At the end of the week, I dragged myself out of bed and rode my bike on Bike to Work Day. I was still under the weather but I now know I can ride to work with one lung tied behind my back.

Pulling Beers Like a Boss
I have been lax in volunteering at local bike events, basically forever. This year, with my respiratory problems more or less behind me, I volunteered at the Tour de Fat in DC. This is a fundraiser for bike advocacy groups (WABA being one of many) and I was determined to help out. It rained. It was cold-ish. I pulled beers nonstop for two hours. Instead of hanging around for the rest of the day, I went home and went to bed. (Every party has a pooper that’s why we invited you.) Next year I hope to be around to volunteer again. And to socialize afterward.

Call Me Lars
Our daughter finished up her year abroad with a semester in Sweden. A few days after Tour de Fat, Mrs. Rootchopper and I flew over and toured parts of Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and Iceland. It was an exhausting two weeks and fun to re-visit Copenhagen after over 15 years. Although I was in bicycle heaven for most of the trip, I didn’t ride at all. If you ask me what my favorite place was my answer would be “Yes.”

Ain’t Baseball Great
I went to 19 Nats games this year. The last time I went to this many games was when I lived in Boston. I rode my bike to about 15 games. How convenient of them to locate the ballpark 16 miles from home. As a bonus, it was great seeing so many friends at the bike valet before and after the games. The rest of the games involved driving the kids, including my niece Irene for one game. One exhausting game lasted 16 innings and the good guys won on a walk-off home run. I even managed to see two playoff games. Despite (or perhaps because of) the fact that the Nats lost their last game of the season, I can’t wait until April!

Fall Bike Frenzy
In the fall I did the Indian Head, Backroads, and Seagull Centuries (100 miles each), the 44-mile Great Pumpkin Ride (with Paul, Amy, and Jody), the 53-mile Cider Ride and, for the eighth time, the 62-mile 50 States Ride. I was already on fumes near the end of this madness, when an old friend asked me to ride with her to Harpers Ferry and back over two days. Given the fact that I had a colonoscopy (with the associated fasting and anesthesia) two days before we would have left, I declined. One ambulance ride a year is plenty.

Deets Provides a Surly Surge
A year ago I bought a new bike, a Surly Cross Check. Mostly, it hung on a hook in my shed, used only for the occasional weekend ride. This summer I started commuting on it. What a great commuter bike it is. I also did all my fall events on it. I named it Deets after the scout in the miniseries Lonesome Dove. Deets was said to be “cheerful in all weathers, never shirked a task, splendid behavior.” My Deets served me well until his back tire exploded on the way to work. Aye god, Woodrow.

Hiking Light
Unlike last year, I didn’t get much hiking done this year. I did the Billy Goat B and C trails on New Years Day which is becoming something of a tradition. Realizing that I-66 cuts right across the Appalachian Trail, I hiked it north (Manassas Gap) and south (Trumbo Hollow) of the highway. I also headed out to Shenandoah National Park to hike the Hogback Mountain trail. In late November I hiked the Potomac Highlands Trail from Turkey Run Park to the American Legion Bridge and back. A surprisingly nice hike so close to DC. Just before the year ended I did a meandering hike in Great Falls Park in Maryland.

Living Small
We had our wood floors redone in the spring. We hired a couple of amazing movers to relocate all our belongings from the top two floors down to the family room and basement where we lived among the piles of stuff for two weeks. It was quite a project. The floors turned out great. I came to realize that most of the crap that I have accumulated over the course of 25+ years in a house, I can live without.

Going Long
Coincident with my 61st birthday, my four bikes gave me a big present. I’ve been keeping track of the mileage on my bikes for 25 years and with an empty nest surge in recent years I finally made it to 100,000 miles. I also set my one-year personal mileage record of 8,167 miles.

That’s it for 2016. No mas. Thanks for reading. I am taking 2017 one day at a time. Love this life. It’s the only one you get.

DC Tour de Fat – 2016

After yesterday’s long, but successful slog, I slept well. I woke up feeling nearly human. No hacking cough, no headache, clear lungs. If I ever see Alexander Fleming I am going to give that dude a bone crushing hug.

Today was the annual Tour de Fat in DC. This event is a bicycle themed party put on by New Belgium Brewing. All proceeds from beer sales go to local bike charities, like WABA. WABA’s event team runs the show, New Belgium handles the beer and eccentric performances. Last year’s event was a spectacular success. The crowd was huge and the sun shined down. This year nearly every forecast I saw called for rain, winds, and cold. All day. They lied.

I drove in the rain to L’Enfant Plaza and rode Little Nellie to Yards Park, the site of the event. When I got ther

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WABA People Getting Caffeinated

e I became aware that the 10 am family ride had been canceled for safety reasons. I parked my bike and went to a nearby coffee shop where I saw a bunch of WABA people (see photo on right), including Nelle (again? though curiously not in photo on right), hanging out. After about an hour, I trucked back to the venue where I was instructed in how to pull draft beer. (Kinda had this party down about 40 years ago, but I was rusty.)

The two beer tents, the specialty beer booth, and the beer bike vendors were all moved into one set of tents. At around noon people began to show up. As it turned out, my beer was most popular. It was

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Deputized Beer People

called Heavy Melon. I pulled beer after beer after beer. I kept seeing friends of mine but they couldn’t see me in the shadow of the tent. Also, I had my back to the customers about half the time. I only spotted one person I know, Chris, who ironically I rarely recognize while out on a bike.

After 2  1/2 hours of dishing suds, I ha
d a chance to enjoy the festivities. I ran into Brian. While we were talking, a friend of Katie L’s walked past. I yelled “Lyndsey” two times. She didn’t react at all. Okay, come to a party and be antisocial. Seconds later I remembered her name is Lauren.

Doh!

How ironic that it was Katie L. herself who told me to get my fusiform gyrus checked out. I gotta get on that.

Over the course of the event, I saw or had discussions with over a dozen friends: Kathy, Katie L. and her friend Mike, Lauren, Dave and Jean, Katie B. (whom I haven’t seen in ages) and her brother Michael and boyfriend John, Darren,  Jeff (but not Sam), Ricky (who is back on his bike after being hit by a car a couple of months ago), and a bunch of WABA people (Greg, Katie H., Nelle, Michelle, and Colin).

I had a great time but my energy level wasn’t really back up to full power yet so I left a little early. The ride back to L’Enfant was a tad grungy but uneventful.

Thanks so much to the hard work of the folks who put this on, to the volunteers, to the performers, and the people who showed up despite the forecast.

Very special thanks to Michelle Cleveland, WABA’s event director, who worked her tail off and stressed out mightily over the weather. You done good. Again. As always.

Bike to Work Day 2016

I did not feel very good when I woke up but I decided to ride to work anyway. It was Bike to Work Day, after all. Slowly.

I poked along, coughing fits one mile, calm breathing the next. I rolled into the Alexandria Pir Stop at City Hall Plaza in Old Town. I saw Reba, Ed #1, and Kathy chatting and took their picture. Jonathan was reading off raffle winners. And Reba won something, something

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Ed, Reba, and Kathy
Monaco. Holy cow! Then we heard him repeat the prize:  one night at the Hotel Monaco in Old Town. So Reba’s dreams of being a Bond girl went up in smoke. Truth be told, it’s a pretty darn nice prize.

Onward to Rosslyn. I was a bit surprised that the bike commuter traffic was so normal. Then at the north end of Old Town, I convoy of women on bikes, suspiciously without panniers or backpacks made a turn across my path. I followed them. In the course of a short conversation with one of the riders, I learned it was a tour group of ten women, aged 50 and above, who started riding in St. Augustine, Florida. They were taking a couple of rest days to see the DC sights before continuing on: destination Bar Harbor, Maine. They were traveling with a company called Women Tours.

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Bike Train to Maine
Soon they left me behind and I continued northward. On one of the flyover bridges at National Airport an on coming cyclists caught my eye. Short blazing red hair and distinctive panniers with a pattern on them and pronounced handles sticking straight up. It was Ultrarunnergirl, who never seems to come to Virginia on her bike. I started waving like and idiot and she went to give me a high five but, me having absolutely no cool, didn’t even make a decent attempt.

Fail.

On I rode to Rosslyn as the volume of bike commuters picked up (i.e. blew by me). Two Lance Mamilots came roaring down the trail swerving among the bike commuters, many of whom may have been first timers. My only words to the Lances is that you are self absorb asses and it’s riders like you that put off people who want to ride to work safely.

I somehow made it up the Rosslyn hill into the Rosslyn pit stop. There I ran I

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Nelle
nto WABA‘s Nelle (she’s the awesome Deputy Director) and ever jovial Dana who gave me my BTWD shirt. I won a water bottle then grabbed another from a couple of other tables. One was from Bruce Deming who specializes in personal injury cases involving bicyclists. I talked about two cases involving contributory negligence, one that allowed the victim to make a claim, the other (a fatality) that left the victim’s survivors with nothing but memories.

I had three cups of Java Shack coffee, the first coffee I had had since Sunday. They made me feel euphoric. I rode the sidewalk to the office and in my hyper attentive state avoided being hit by a red light runner at 19th and Lynn. I yelled at him to no avail.

The bike room at work had 2 bikes when I arrived. Lame. Two co-workers came in a few minutes later, but didn’t sign up for Bike to Work Day. Seriously. If free and convenient is not enough, I don’t know what is.

At 11 am the coffee wore off and I powered down like the robot on Lost in Space. Thud. Another cup had little effect. Lunch revived me somewhat and, after work, I headed to NE DC to pick up my packet for Sunday’s DC Bike Ride. I met Ed #1 again. He gets around. Then Nelle, again. We’ve run into each other four times in the last two weeks. People are starting to talk. (“Nelle, who is that creepy old dude?” People can be mean.)

I ran into Charmaine who I haven’t seen since our North Carolina bike adventure two years ago. We sat and chatted for over a half hour allowing me to recover from the 18 or so miles I had already ridden.

I also briefly ran into Ed #2, and Ted and Jean, who are Friday Coffee Clubbers.

I had a token for a free beer but nobody wanted it, even a stranger I approached. All my beer drinking #bikedc friends were probably at BTWD happy hours.

I left at 6:30 headed for home, deliberately going so slow I was annoying myself. I made it home after 8 pm through dozens of clouds of midges. I was covered with the darn things.

Tomorrow I get up and work the East Beer booth at the Tour de Fat event. Unfortunately the weather forecast calls for rain. I will do my best to present a cheery face. Instead of riding to the event, I’ll be driving to my wife’s office a mile away and ride from there.

Super big thanks to all the people who got up early and worked on behalf of #bikedc. You done good. Special thanks to Nelle who put in a monster day, working two events.