I found a wet parcel on my doorstep after a storm yesterday. Inside was a new Kryptonite U-lock. I had first bought a Kryptonite literally decades ago. There was a bit of a scandal when some YouTube dude showed you could break the lock with a Bic pen. So Kryptonite re-designed the lock and gave owners a new one. That happened about 8 or 9 years ago. The lock mechanism on my replacement lock started failing a few months ago, so I contacted Kryptonite and they sent me a new lock. For free. Awesome.
I decided to go on a long-ish ride to reach a milestone on Big Nellie. I stopped at Canal Park along the Mount Vernon Trail. My friend and fellow bike commuter Linel had taken a picture at this park a few days ago. I have been riding past it daily and never knew it was there only a short walk from the trail. (Bike riding is not allowed.) It is a wonderful place to go to contemplate your navel, read a book, or just hang out. (There are plenty of benches and very nicely maintained lawns.) There is also some odd public art.
I rode to Key Bridge (basically my commute) and then into Georgetown. Traffic was very light. Turning left on Wisconsin Avenue I rode up and up and up to Cathedral Heights. I turned downhill and found my way to the new Klingle Valley Trail, over 20 years in the making. It’s only 0.8 miles long but it is worth checking out. I only took one picture because by now anybody can search for it on Flickr and find dozens of better pictures. One you get past this barrier you descend down a curvy paved path into woods. Sweet.
I got home after 42 miles in increasing heat and humidity. Big Nellie reached another milestone, 41,000 miles. She will get a rest now. Well done.
It promised to be a splendid day. I was really tempted to go for a long ride but decided to do a few minor chores and run a couple of errands. One of the chores was to liberate Big Nellie, my Tour Easy recumbent from the basement where she had been parked all winter. Of course, we had to go for a spin so we rode to the hardware store where I bought some Hot Meats. These are hulled bird seeds mixed with cayenne pepper powder. Squirrels will take one bite, shake their heads, and go elsewhere. No mess. No squirrels. They come in 5, 10, and 25 pound bags. You don’t want to crash and have a bag of this stuff split open on you. While I was tempted to try to transport a 25 pound bag. I chickened out and went for the ten pound bags. It turns out that a 10 pound bag fits perfectly in my old roll top Ortleib pannier.
Miles: 2 1/2
Category: You Carried What on a Bike?
Observation: I have clipless pedals on only one bike, Big Nellie. The hope was that they would help with nerve problems in my feet. They don’t. And my concern over getting properly unclipped makes me tense. This nerve problem really reduces my use of Big Nellie, down to about 1,000 miles per year. Most of that is because I feel like a should ride it just because it takes up so much space.
Those of you old enough to know who Arte Johnson is know that he made famous a couple of bits of schtick. One was a lecherous old man who mumbles and grunts at Ruth Buzzi’s old lady in a hairnet until she whacks him with her purse. The other was of a man on child’s tricycle riding until he falls over sideways.
I pulled Big Nellie, my Tour Easy recumbent, out for the first time in over two months. I planned on looking at colorful leaves and the upright seating position on this bike is just the thing I needed for maximum enjoyment. Sadly, peak foliage around her is at least a week away. (This is great news for those of us who will be riding the Great Pumpkin Ride in Warrenton VA next week, however.) Of course, if I wanted to see foliage, I should have gotten out of bed and driven to the Blue Ridge. But I slept in.
Big Nellie is my only bike with clipless pedals, the kind that attached to the bottom of your shoe. I anticipated that this might be a problem and I wasn’t disappointed. After dodging 4,397 runners, walkers, cyclists, and escaped convicts on the Mount Vernon Trail, I made my way down Union Street in Old Town Alexandria. I had made it half way through the tourist zone near King Street when I came upon a Mazda stopped in front of me at a stop sign. I rolled slowly up to it. It didn’t move. Nobody was in its way. It just didn’t move.
As I came up to its bumper I realized I was going to have to stop. I went to unclip and nothing happened. My left foot wouldn’t release. So I veered to the right of the car as I frantically twisted my foot to no avail. I lost my forward momentum and started falling to the left. I reached out to brace myself on the Mazda’s back left fender. Then it moved and I completed my Arte Johnson and landed on my side on the pavement.
My recumbent seat is only a couple of feet off the ground to begin with. Breaking my fall by contacting the Mazda made the normally uneventful fall even less so. Yet I was still lying on my side in the middle of the street with this ginormous bike attached to me.
A Latina pedestrian came over to help. She was saying something in frantic, accented English but I couldn’t understand her. During the fall, my left foot unclipped but my right foot stayed attached. As she was speaking, I was twisting my right foot and hoping it would release so I could get my body out of the street.
The driver and the passengers in popped out of the car in a panic. ARE YOU OKAY? No, I have a really bruised ego! An my foot is stuck!
A cyclists with gray hair flowing out from under his helmet appeared. Her grabbed my right arm to pull me up. No. Please. I am fine. I just feel like a complete dweeb lying in the street with this chaise lounge attached to my right foot.
Finally, my right foot released and I stood up. Latina smiled. Gray hair bike rider looked relieved. Mazda people got back in car free from the fear that they had somehow contributed to the clumsiest cycling accident of the month. (As I write this four hours later, only my left knee feels any pain. Mostly from getting whacked by the bike’s top tube as I twisted my right leg to free it.)
Well, if any of the people who were there are reading this, thanks for your concern.
I continued riding up the trail of a million weekend warriors until I reached Teddy
Roosevelt Island. I ride by TR Island every day on my way to work, but the last time I set foot on it was at least 20 years ago.
I locked the bike and went for a calming walk on its dirt trails. The island is an oasis of green in the Potomac River only a few hundred yards from the Sunday brunchers on the riverfront in Georgetown. It would be an incredibly relaxing place but the noise from airplanes flying into National Airport and the cars rumbling across the Teddy Roosevelt Bridge ruined the ambiance.
Before leaving I did an Interwebs search for pizza. I was hungry. There’s an Italian place right next to the Custis Trail about 2 miles away. It’s called The Italian Place. Damned clever if you ask me. So I rode up the long hill out to Rosslyn then up some more until the universe decided I had had enough. After a half mile down hill run, I came to the place. They should change its name to The Place with the Incredibly Long Line. I was took a number. 87. Then I heard them call “47!” I walked out.
I continued on the trail up/down/up/down/up/down etc. Until I came to a flat stretch. Lance Mamilot came riding past from the other direction. He blew a snot rocket to his right. Then just as I reached him he blew one to his left. What an asshole! I got a misty spray of his nasal excretions on my left leg. Ewwww!
At the W&OD Trail I headed back toward home. Nineteen miles down, only 17 miles to go. I decided to leave the trail at US 1 and work my way through the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria. I stopped at Del Ray Pizzeria. I was going to get t
hat pizza after all. Sadly, they don’t serve individual slices. This was almost as upsetting as the snot rocket and the Arte Johnson. I had a cheese steak instead. It was humongous. I looked great but did not live up to its visual wonderfulness. It was probably a good cheese steak as cheese steaks go, but I am not much of a cheese steak person. Nick Hornby once remarked that there are well written books that are poorly read. Perhaps this was a good cheese steak that was poorly tasted.
In any case, the cheese steak came with tater tots. Tater tots cure everything. I’ll bet that if Arte Johnson ate tater tots, he’d have stayed upright.
I think I did a healthy amount of riding this month. My longest ride was a 50 miler on Deets, my Surly Cross Check. I rode to work 19 times, 10 on Deets, 5 on Little Nellie, my Bike Friday New World Tourist, and 4 on Big Nellie, my Tour Easy recumbent. I rode to four Nats games (and drove to three more with my kids). The Mule got the month off for good behavior. For the month, I racked up 684 miles, with 400 on long-neglected Deets. It turns out that my Cross Check may be my favorite commuting bike.
For the year I’ve ridden 5,239 miles. 3,367 of those miles came from riding to and from work. 832 came from my bike tour. I’ve ridden to work 115 times.
The biggest accomplishments came in the form of milestones. First, I hit 100 commutes at the start of the month. Then, Big Nellie hit 40,000 miles. Little Nellie got jealous and hit 17,000 miles. I capped it off on my birthday when my four bikes together crossed the 100,000 mile mark.
September holds two bike events and a bunch of baseball games. One of these days I might actually go on a hike. And somewhere in this mess of activity I might actually ride or hike with someone other than my own self.
Big Nellie is my Easy Racers Tour Easy recumbent. I bought her in 2001 or 2002 when I thought The Mule was on its last legs. (At the moment, The Mule is laughing in the shed with over 41,000 miles on its odometer.)
So today, with trumpets blaring as I rode between the scenic warehouses of Old Town Alexandria, Big Nellie turned 40,000 miles. She was quite impressed with herself. On to the next milestone later this week or early next week. Stay tuned.
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 was 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
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.
A few days ago The Mule’s odometer tripped past 40,000 miles. Today, Big Nellie passed 39,000 miles. I bought Big Nellie, an Easy Racers Tour Easy recumbent, in the early 2000s. For several years I rode it exclusively, including three bike tours. Then a nerve problem cropped up in my left foot. This was a Morton’s neuroma and felt like a nail going through my left foot. Once that was more or less under control, a different nerve problem cropped up in my right foot, it went numb when I rode Big Nellie. I do exercises to control this condition every other day.
Now that both problems seem to under control, I can ride Big Nellie again. Riding a recumbent may look geeky but it a blast. A passing MAMIL made a sarcastic remark to me tonight as I rode home. I didn’t say anything back. I feel sorry for him. He doesn’t know what he’s missing.
As every American knows, Punxatawney Phil is a groundhog who comes out of his hole on Groundhog Day (dang, isn’t that clever). If he sees his shadow, there will be six more weeks of winter. If not, liberation! Lord only knows how this myth got started.
At least Phil isn’t as politically dubious as Indian summer.
So today was the first, honest to god springlike day of the year. It took about six hours of daylight to get going in earnest, but temperatures eventually rose into the high 60s.
I started the day warming up for Errandonnee 2016. This was once called the Utilitaire, a name I prefer only to annoy the Goddess of Errands. Whatever it’s called, it’s all about doing errands by bike. Today, I took my neglected recumbent, Big Nellie, out for some chores. Our first stop was the dry cleaners. I could use a dry cleaner in our office building but I like the people who run the shop near my house. You have to support nice people. Even if their shop is on US 1 in Fairfax County. Not to put to fine a point on it, US 1 is an abomination. It sucks in every conceivable way. And it’s even worse if you are on a bike. If you don’t support nice people, you get not nice people. Nice people are more better.
Next stop was the clothes donation bin. This was on the opposite side of US 1 so I got to play with cars. None of them hit me.
I crossed back over US 1 and made for the local hardware store. The clothes donation bin was 100 yards from a Home Depot. The hardware store is run by nice people (one of the owners rides a bike up and down the Mount Vernon Trail in the mornings). They sell all sorts of useful stuff. Until you buy a house you probably don’t shop at hardware stores. For homeowners, hardware stores are like a toy store. They are filled with all sorts of interesting stuff. Ours sells 25 pound bags of shelled bird seed covered with cayenne pepper. It’s expensive but the squirrels don’t like it and the birds do. I bought a bag and dropped it in my old pannier. The ride home was a bit lopsided but Big Nellie was up to the task.
With the Errandonnee practice run complete, I turned my attention to my bete noire: Not the Bryan Ferry record, squeaky brakes. According to Google, “squeeky brakes” is
“freins grinçants” en Francais. Why didn’t I learn this in 4 1/2 years of studying French?
First I worked on Big Nellie’s back brakes. This involves putting this huge bike in a bike workstand, adjusting the brakes, taking the bike out of the stand, going for a test ride and repeating. All the while dropping F bombs, because you really need three hands and I only have two. (If we survive climate change, humans will sprout a retractable third hand from their appendixes. And I bet you thought it was a useless vestigial organ.)
It took me only two tries and about 20 F bombs but I silenced the squeal.
Next I put The Mule in the stand and went at it. The brakes on Big Nellie are V-brakes. The brakes on The Mule are cantilevers. The adjustment is the same but you need an additional tool (a wrench) to work on cantilevers. This ups the f-bomb count substantially. Fortunately, The Mule isn’t as ungainly as Big Nellie so it’s easier to get into the stand. After about 15 minutes I had silenced the truly irritating screech from both front and rear brakes.
After a quick lunch, I hopped on Big Nellie for a reward ride. I rode over to the Mount Vernon Trail which was busy with families. Many of them had free range toddlers. If you want to identify suboptimal parents, just go to the busiest trail in the mid Atlantic on a warm, sunny day and look for the ones with free range toddlers. As a reformed suboptimal parent, I sympathize and ride especially carefully around these people. There are also the our-kid-got-a-bike-for-Christmas-let’s-go-get-them-killed parents. I know its a “bike path” but it’s got MAMILs and teenagers on it and your kid can’t ride in a straight line yet. DON’T BRING THEM TO A TRAIL!!! Sorry. Life’s not fair. (You can trust Scar on this.)
After a ride across the Woodrow Wilson Bridge sidepath which was filled with British sympathizers (they all seemed to walk on the left today), I rode down into Jones Point Park. Here I saw several optimal parents. They were teaching their kids to ride their bikes off the trail in the big paved area under the bridge. If you have a kid who’s learning to ride a bike TAKE THEM TO JONES POINT PARK. It even has nice bathrooms. And a rudder from a World War I ship.
I rode through Old Town to Four Mile Run, then came back through Del Ray. People were out and about. Cabin fever was being cured. Smiles abounded.
I took the Park Terrace hill on the way home. Riding hills on a recumbent is not big fun, but I needed a challenge. The grind put me in a trance and somehow I found myself riding over the crest of the hill.
So there you have it. Errands, Bike maintenance. Lazy ride.
Winter came back. I thought we had this thing licked. Apparently not.
I chose to ride Big Nellie to work. I haven’t ridden the Big one to work in many months. I left early. It was dark. And cold. No worries. I just pedaled my ass off until I warmed up.
I was pleased that the wooden bridges had no frost on them. The whole way to DC.
On the asphalt north of the Memorial Bridge black ice coated the trail in a few spots. No guts, no glory. I rode straight across the ice. Each section was maybe 10 feet long.
At work I parked Big Nellie next to my boss’s Yuba Mundo. That was a lot of bikeage.
Having ridden to work early I was looking forward to riding home in the daylight. Alas, work ran long and I left after dark. I’ll get even with the daylight gods soon. In about a month or two. Just wait.
It was about 10 degrees warmer for the ride home. No black ice. Just a shocking number of bike commuters. Go #bikedc!!!!
It was 50 degrees at 7 am. On January 10. Go figure.
I decided to take Big Nellie for a spin. I got side tracked by bike maintenance. It’s hard to do bike maintenance when it is cold outside. So I cleaned and lubed the chains on three of my four bikes. It’s a bit like getting your teeth cleaned at the dentists. The chains are all shiny now.
Big Nellie was very patient. Off we rode to the Mount Vernon Trail. By this time it was about 60 degrees and windy. There were serious waves on the river. I spotted a guy in a wet suit leaning against his car to my left. To my right was his sailboard. Dude, it’s January.
As I approached Fort Hunt Park I spotted a man with a fully loaded bicycle at the water fountain along the trail. (It’s January 10 and they haven’t turned off the water yet? Go figure.)
Ivan is from China. His English is perfect so we had a pretty extensive conversation. He’s been riding across the US for the last 12 months. He started in Washington State then rode through Oregon, Idaho, Utah,….,the Katy Trail in Missouri. I’d have remembered all the places he has ridden but I was thinking about how much cold weather this dude has been riding in. Dang. He said he did 30 – 35 miles on short days and 60 – 65 on long days. I suppose he’s had lots of practice. He’s staying with a friend in Arlington, selling his bike, going to Boston then back home to China. If you want a fully equipped Chinese touring bike, keep you eyes open. The model is, I kid you not, “World Traveler.” After trying out the seat of Big Nellie, Ivan headed off toward DC. Nice guy.
I did a lap around Fort Hunt Park. There were all kinds of bicyclists and a tadpole trike rider doing laps. I peeled off and headed for Old Town. I made it back to the MVT and, sure enough, passed Ivan who was getting a MAMIL escort.
I rode up Union Street to make sure that Ivan wasn’t going to get harassed by the Alexandria police. They were not having a bicycle stop sign stake out so I kept rolling to the north.
At Four Mile Run I headed over to Arlandria and from there back toward home.
The wind was in my face but it didn’t much matter. When I got back to the MVT, I was passed by a faired recumbent with a body sock. It looked something like this. It went by me like I was standing still.
Being confronted with adversity in your life is inevitable. Just keep in mind that it does not have to defeat you. Adversity is often short lived. Giving up is what makes it permanent. As a certified fitness professional, this blog is my way of helping you feel capable of anything.