Errandonnee No. 4: Tater Tots and a Tailwind

After work today I diverted from my normal route along the river to attend a happy hour hosted by the Washington Area Bicyclists Association. WABA has happy hours on a rotating basis monthly throughout the DC area. Since this was Alexandria’s turn, I felt duty bound to have a brew.

The event began at 6 so I left the office a little late. A tailwind made the ride to the No. 9 Lounge on Mt. Vernon Avenue in the Del Ray neighborhood a, sorry, breeze. To my surprise I arrived early.

I sat down and talked with Ben Wokas, WABA’s membership coordinator and happy hour honcho. Then I went to order a beer. The first beer on the draft menu was called, I kid you not, Shower Beer. I

I ordered a burger and some tater tots. Tater tots are powerful bike commuter food, according to the Mount Vernon Bicycle Commuter Society. (Not a real society.)

Kathy (known in the Twitterverse as @arlingtonrider) came in and sat down. We used to talk almost weekly at Friday Coffee Club which I no longer attend due to time constraints. So it was terrific to touch base with her.

After a couple hours, Kathy and I headed out. We went our separate ways, she headed to north-ish and I headed south-ish. I still had a bit of a tailwind. The skies were clear and black overhead. At the horizon the black turned to a band of dark blue, edged by a thin strip of white.  Not a bad view at all. Car traffic was light so the ride home was stressfree and seemed effortless.

Category: Social Call

Miles: 1/2 (the incremental miles from my regular bike commute)

Observation: In my mind Shower Beer is synonymous with Alex Baca. We miss you Alex. Cheers.

Cold Rain and Hot Blooberry Soop

Today was the Vasa ride, the kickoff to the #bikedc event season. This event is staged by the Washington Area Bicyclists Association in collaboration with the House of Sweden, the Swedish Embassy.

Instead of riding – I’ve done the ride at least four times, and ridden the course(s) many more – I decided to volunteer. I was assigned to work on the early morning shift. When I awoke at 5:17 am (digital alarm clock) I could hear rain pelting the windows. Not good. The weather report called for cold rain or snow until about the time of the ride(s) – there are four Vasa rides to choose from – start.

I drove to DC. My advanced meteorological training told me it was yucky. I parked a block from the start and walked over to find WABA’s Nick Russo and Jon Gonzales hard at work in a cold, light rain. They had already set out several temporary bike racks. A few volunteers were gathering and soon we were putting up canopies and bike racks and sign in tables and such. We had the whole thing set up in minutes.

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Nick

The ride was sold out but there were many no shows. Traffic at the check in tables was slow but steady. I had the good fortune of working with Lesly Jones. I met Leslie years ago on a 50 States Ride. She is all positive energy. I have ridden parts of 3 or 4 50 States Rides with her. She is the only bicyclist I have ever met who uses echolocation to navigate. She talks nonstop, except when she is laughing. She is one very serious bicyclist. Last year she rode cross country. Lesly is a force.

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Lesly

From time to time the wind would pick up. We were standing in one place for long periods of time and our fingers and toes were going numb. Lesly stayed positive. Me not so much. Then my finger started bleeding. (I took off a chunk of skin yesterday while closing a padlock.) Lesly found me a bandage. The only person who didn’t seem to be all that cold was Nick who seemed to be wearing less clothing than the rest of us. Nick’s motto is “Don’t blame me, I’m from Massachusetts.” He is impervious to cold weather. I hate him. (Just kidding.)

Despite the weather the riders seemed to be in a good mood. You might say they were rolling with it. Many dropped from longer rides to shorter ones. One woman decided not to ride but came down to the start saying, “I came for the blueberry soup.”

A few of my friends cancelled because of the weather. Paul stayed home to eat quiche. Ryan decided to binge watch the Gilmore Girls. Still, I saw several more people I knew. Scuba enthusiast Michael B showed up in a wet suit. (I thought the aqualung was overkill, to be honest.) Some people were a tad grumpy, but I think most were simply wanting to get moving to warm up.

The standing around was making my legs feel like concrete posts. At about this time, the last of the riders hit the road. This final group was doing the 8 mile family ride. It was led by a dad riding a long cargo bike. He had one kid in the box in front and another on a trailer bike in the back. Riding in the rear of the group was a pedicab. Not to be outdone, one of the longer routes was ridden by a man in a velomobile.

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Two kids – not a problem

After the riders were gone we made quick work of putting all the check-in stuff back in the rental truck. I went into the Swedish embassy to get some blooberry soop. It was hot and tasted awesome. I chatted with a few folks before my body decided it was time to go home and recover the sleep that I had lost.

Of course, it’s pretty nice outside.

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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.

 

 

 

 

Pictures of the Year 2016

 

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Sunrise on the Mount Vernon Trail

When the sun and my work day cooperate, I stop and take in the sunset over the Potomac River. It rarely disappoints.

The Big Reveal
100,000 Miles

It took me 25 years but I managed to ride 100,000 miles since acquiring The Mule (bottom left) in 1991. In 2002 I bought Big Nellie, a Tour Easy recumbent (top left), and rode it exclusively for several years. In 2009 (or thereabouts) I bought my Bike Friday New World Tourist, a folding travel bike that I call Little Nellie (upper right). Last year I picked up Deets, a Surly Cross Check, that turns out to be a fantastic bike for commuting.

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Drink Up Cowboy (Colonoscopy Prep)

In October, amid a frenzy of bike event riding, I had a colonoscopy. It was my third. I am happy to report that there was no cancer detected. I’ll be back in 2019 for another. Drink up!

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Me in Front of Copenhagen Central Station Bike Racks

I went to Scandinavia with my wife and daughter. I didn’t ride a bike but I saw a few here and there. The cycling infrastructure is so much better than in the U.S. And the road users are all so well behaved. As my friend Finn Quinn once said: “The future is a foreign country.” We can only hope.

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Beer Tent Volunteers at Tour de Fat

I volunteered at the Tour de Fat this year. I had fun despite not being completely recovered from my not so fun trip to the ER a week earlier. We were a well behaved bunch. The only beer we imbibed were the ones the organizers comped us for our efforts on their behalf.

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Friday Coffee Club

You may never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. You certainly won’t find it here because the building where this picture was taken is being renovated. Friday Coffee Club moved across town and, but for one appearance after Thanksgiving, I had to stop going. I miss these scoundrels.

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Michelle Smiles Even When She’s Freezing (Vasa Ride)

Speaking of scoundrels, for the last several years Michelle has been running bike events at the Washington Area Bicyclists Association (WABA). I am convinced that she is trying to kill me. It is widely rumored that she even controls the weather. I am so grateful for all the hard work Michelle (and the other folks at WABA and the volunteers) put in to make #bikedc better every year. (Michelle also has a serious interest in the Beats and Kerouac. Check out her blog.)

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Amy at Great Pumpkin Ride

It was windy and coolish, but Amy was determined to do her first long event ride. This hill during the Great Pumpkin Ride near Warreton Virginia was mighty steep but Amy (with Jody behind her) managed it without apparent difficulty. The leaves on the road were produced by powerful winds that made the day quite a work out. The rest stop after this photo was at a Old Bust Head brewery.

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Sleeping Bear Dunes in Michigan

This picture doesn’t do justice to how steep these dunes are. And this is only about 1/2 of the height. The remaining elevation is obscured by the angle of my shot. Later that day the road I was on went up the dunes just to the south of this one. It made for some tough climbing into a persistent headwind. It was perhaps the physically hardest day of my 11-day solo bike tour. As hard as it was on my body, the tour was a feast of rolling meditation for my mind and soul.

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What Yoopers Eat (Bike Tour)

The people who live on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, the UP, are called Yoopers. They eat white fish and pasties (a kind of meat pie) and have their own candy bar. They (mostly) also talk like all the hockey players from Ontario that I roomed with during my freshman year at college. Eh?

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My Deck Buddy

I was hanging out on my deck one sunny day when I went to open my deck umbrella and found this critter. Cute.

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My Perch in Left Field

The left field grandstand was my perch for about 10 games at Nats Park this year. I became personal friends with Jason Werth. (That’s him in left field.) Okay, that’a s lie.Somewhere up there under the third light stanchion is Klarence keeping score. Hurry spring!

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Darth Paul on the Five Boro Ride

That’s Paul on the left on FDR Drive on the east side of Manhattan. It is cold. It is raining. Paul is not smiling. He had so much fun. We stopped in Astoria, Queens, to stand around and freeze our asses off. Who knew that the Brooklyn Queens Expressway would be even more fun. I have now ridden my bike across the Verrazano Narrows and the Golden Gate. Woot!

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A Section of the AT

The Appalachian Trail is nice enough to come down to I-66 which made for a couple of convenient solo day hikes.

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Veronica Help Us Save a Duckling on the MVT

I found a duckling on the Mount Vernon Trail on the way to work one morning. Mr friend Linel stopped to help and we tried to figure out what do with it. Then Veronica showed up. She took the duckling to her office then to an animal rescue place. This is a decidedly better outcome that the two animal skeletons I saw last year. Just sayin’. Thanks, Veronica.

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Night in the ER

This is me getting a nebulizer treatment in the ER. A few hours earlier I couldn’t move without experiencing a knife-like pain in my upper right chest. (I blame yoga.) The doctors were pretty confident that it wasn’t a heart attack. I had a resting pulse of 46 and my blood pressure was normal. They did some tests and took some x-rays. Then they put this on me. I was recovered enough to do Bike to Work Day, volunteer at Tour de Fat, ride DC Bike Ride, and fly to Stockholm over the next nine days. Do not try this at home. Or anywhere else, for that matter.

Raising the 24 Percent

Nelle Pierson of WABA has asserted that only 24 percent of cyclists in DC are women. I challenged this a few years ago by keeping track of the percentage of women I see on my bike commute. Sure enough, Nelle was right.

Nelle started WABA’s Women and Bicycles program to move the 24 percent number up. Five years ago Megan Jones, a WABA Women and Bicycles member, decided to up the ante a bit. She invented the Hains Point 100.

Hains Point is what locals call East Potomac Park, a spur of land that juts into the Potomac River across from National Airport. The road down to the point and back forms a circuit of about three miles.

Megan decided to ride the Hains Point loop 33 times to increase awareness and raise funds for the Women and Bicycles program. With less than three weeks of notice, she staged the event, located sponsors, and sent out the word for people to come and ride. And, more importantly, to donate to the cause.

I did not go the first year because I thought the ride was restricted to women. It may have been, but apparently men find promotional gimmicks irresistible. Regardless, the field of riders is about as diverse as one can imagine.

A few people jump the gun and start at midnight. If you see them, discretely move to the opposite side of the street and divert your eyes.

Some people wear WABA cycling apparel. My WABA socks couldn’t compete with these WABA jerseys.

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Each year, Megan has made the event more bigger and more better, with more sponsors, more prizes, and more fun. The 100 mile challenge remains the core attraction, but most people come for the camaraderie of the #bikedc community. I rode 30 miles. And talked with a bunch of people and had a few cookies. After about three hours, I went home to attend to other commitments. It was still over 60 degrees when I left.

About 20 minutes later a cold front came through and dropped the temperature 25 degrees and blew away all the tents and such that formed the Hains Point 100 base camp. Some people saw a woman riding with the wind.

 

The Cider Ride: Fourth Time Is a Charm

Yesterday was the fourth annual Cider Ride, the last ride of the year for WABA, the Washington Area Bicyclist Association. The Cider Ride was the creation of Michelle Cleveland whose mission in life is to see me die of exhaustion, nasty weather, and other calamities while on a bike. I am happy to report that she failed again.

Michelle handed the reins for this ride over to Nick Russo. Every so often, a really good baseball team gets a new manager. Success is defined by not screwing a good thing up. Nick succeeded. This is partly because he went into the basement of WABA’s World Headquarters and disabled the WABA weather machine which is notorious for dialing up hurricanes, freezing rain, swamp heat, and tsunamis.

The first Cider Ride took us to the wilds of Prince Georges County, Maryland in early December. It was cold. The roads were bumpy and the drivers were somewhat impatient. One of them ran over a friend of mine. So it was decided to move the ride to Montgomery County, Maryland. This ride was colder than the previous ride plus it had wind and rain. Most people cut their rides short. I took the sag wagon. (Thanks Gina!)

Then somebody got the great idea to move the ride up a month to November and to make use of all the trails running through the Anacostia River watershed. Genius! Pretty fall foliage plus minimal car traffic made for a vastly improved experience. It also imported a tradition from WABA’s 50 States Ride: the impossibly complicated cue sheet. WABA’s  motto: “Getting lost is part of the fun!”

(Actual cue written by Michelle Cleveland: “Just after the little intersection but before the traffic light, take a right on the sidewalk. Avoid the light poles, loose concrete, and accumulated sand while you thread your way under the darkest overpass ever constructed until you take a right to take a left at a the Walker Road traffic light. May god have mercy on your soul.” Michelle’s motto: “I have nothing to offer but my own confusion.”)

Last year’s ride was mighty fine. I got lost. I had fun. And donuts. And pie. And I got a mug. This year’s ride was the same except that in the weeks before the ride, a new section of the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail opened up. So the route was revised adding 5 more miles of complexity and confusion. Brilliant!!!

With no rain, calmish winds, and temperatures holding in the 50s the ride was a pleasant meander. Riders stopped to adjust their clothing. The cool air was just that sort of in between temperature that gives autumn bike commuters fits. The discomfort was minor. The foliage was major! Peak!

We endured the blinding colors.

After riding the streets of Northeast DC we hopped on the older Anacostia trails and headed north along the river. In College Park we stopped at Proteus Bikes where hot cider and doughnuts awaited. Next, we passed through the low traffic roads of the Agricultural Research complex and the National Wildlife Federation facility near Beltsville Maryland.

We headed back south and toured Greenbelt Maryland, a planned community dating to the New Deal. At a rest stop in a Greenbelt park we inhaled pie and hot cocoa. Also, a yellowjacket stung my right middle finger. It swelled up so much it was useless against obnoxious drivers for the rest of the day. (Actually, it didn’t swell up and I abstained from using my BSL, bicyclist sign language, for the duration of the ride.)

Somewhere on the return through Riverdale Maryland I lost my cue sheet. This was Michelle’s fault because I blame her for everything. Actually, I had lost my cue sheet holder thingie and forgot to bring a binder clip. So I was pulling the cue sheet out of my vest pocket throughout the ride until I apparently missed when I went to put it back in. Derp.

I followed the slowest group that ever remained upright on bicycles to another rest stop at a bakery where I hooked up with another more faster group that I hoped was going my way. It was.

We made our way to the brand spanking new section of the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail. Bravo to WABA for adding this to the route. This trail rivals the Mount Vernon Trail and the W &OD Trail west of Leesburg for scenery. Fortunately the riders ahead of me knew where to get off the trail (Benning Road) so that we could make our way to the finish. I overheard one of them say “C Street” before they rode away. No worries. I decided to take C to the 1st Street cycletrack to the Metropolitan Branch Trail. Two riders who were unsure of the route gave me their cue sheet and it confirmed that my route exactly matched the official route.

And so we rode the last few miles together.

I arrived at the finish at the Dew Drop Inn rather exhausted. Here’s why:

  • Monday and Tuesday – 30 mile commutes
  • Wednesday – fast, as in no food, 30 mile commute
  • Thursday – colonoscopy
  • Friday – 30 mile commute
  • Saturday – 36 mile ride
  • Sunday – 26 mile ride
  • Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday – 30 mile commutes
  • Cider Ride.

Suffice it to say that my legs were dead throughout the ride. But I still had a good time. And I got to see several #bikedc friends during the ride and at the after party at the Dew Drop.

After four years, the Cider Ride has really hit its stride. It’s an excellent addition to the Vasa Ride in March and the 50 States Ride in September.

Many thanks to the the volunteers, the providers of snackage and cider and cocoa. Special thanks to Nick for his hard work. And to Michelle, the Ginsberg of cue sheets, who I kid relentlessly and admire intensely.

 

 

How the Grinch Stole Blinkiemas

About this time every year, various local groups hand out free bike lights. It’s like early Christmas for Trail Ninjas. I thought this would begin next week with the end of daylight savings time. I was pleasantly surprised to see people handing out lights at the intersection between the Crystal City connector trail and the Mount Vernon Trail last night. The giveaway was sponsored by the Crystal City Business Improvement District.

Last year at this site the CCBID bike light elves were rousted by the Grinches from National Park Service Police because they didn’t have a permit. This year, a Park Service person was helping to hand the lights out. You could practically hear Whos singing.

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Some time ago WABA started reaching out to the Park Service in the hopes of making it more bike friendly. Looks like it’s working. It probably wasn’t a coincidence that WABA’s Director Greg Billing and Deputy Director Nelle Pierson were on hand for the giveaway last night.

I believe that there are more light giveaways next week. There is one at the Intersection of Doom in Rosslyn on Monday night.

And WABA announced these giveaways last night.

If you already have bike lights, change the batteries this weekend.

 

Four Hundred States (and Counting)

Yesterday I rode the 62-mile  50 States Ride for the eighth time. If you asked me at the finish if I’d ride it again I’d say, “Hell no!” After a day of recovery (I rode 32 miles round trip to the Nats game and they won) I am already thinking about next year. I guess my fusiform gyrus isn’t the only broken part of my brain.

At the sign in, Chris M. helped check me in. I normally don’t recognize him, when he’s in bike clothing. But this day, he wasn’t. It was a good omen.

I needed one. It was 7:15 am and it was already oppressively humid. The heat was rising by the minute.

I said hello to Reba, Robert and Ed. I told Ed I was starting early. I knew how hard this day was going to be. 2007 was just like this. I was 9 years younger and it took everything I had to finish that ride. Part of what made 2007 so hard was trying to keep up with Flogini (erstwhile spiritual adviser to the Rootchopper Institute) whom I had met at the Anacostia rest stop about 15 miles into the ride. She is 21 years younger than me (remarkably still is) and in excellent shape then (and now, for that matter). Ultimately, she dropped me and two others in Rock Creek Park around mile 50. We simply couldn’t keep up.

I wanted to beat the heat and ride, to the extent possible, at my own pace. So Deets and I left at around 7:30 just before the WABA safety speech that I have heard many times before. I quickly met a couple who were going my pace. Wyoming, California. We made our way through downtown, missing one turn but not missing a state, just a piece of the 15th Street cycletrack. New Hampshire. Rhode Island, Vermont.

I led them through some tricky turns. As we turned onto Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House, and on coming cyclist nearly took me out. He had swung wide at high speed directly into my path. I yelled and her veered off.

New York, Indiana, New Jersey, Louisiana, unmarked but always important Delaware, Maryland, Washington.

We picked up a third rider in Southwest who yelled at me when I nearly rode past Virginia Avenue. Nice save, third rider.In East Potomac Park, the nonstop turns of the first 9 miles gave way to 3 miles of smooth sailing on Ohio Drive. Rather than push myself to keep pace with the three, I lagged behind.

At least there was a breeze off the river. Did I mention it was hot?

On Maine Avenue in Southwest as I rode by the massive waterfront construction site, a tractor pulling a gooseneck trailer blocked the entire road. It was trying to turn but there was not enough space. I turned around and improvised a route around the mess. (It’s part of the route I use to ride to baseball games.) Once again, no states missed.

I caught all but 1 traffic light on M Street but missed a turn onto unmarked K Street Southeast. I had made this same mistake in the past. The intersection is near some road construction and looks different every time I ride through there.

I turned around, got on K, and was soon across the Anacostia. At the rest stop I caught up to the couple I met in the first mile. I said hi to WABA  Jeff and his associate whose name escapes me, of course.

After the rest stops the hills begin. Up MLK Jr. Boulevard for about a mile. I passed a second couple who were struggling. At the second rest stop, they complemented me on my climbing skills. I almost choked on my burrito. I suck at climbing. I proved this very point about ten minutes later. We descended the back side of the hill and after a brief flats stretch on Mississippi Avenue we climbed right back up on Stanton Road. The fun continued on Alabama Avenue. Lordy. I made it to the top without a major coronary event.

The rest of the ride in Anacostia involves a short downhill to Texas (which isn’t big at all) and the climb back up to Fort Davis. From there the route goes about 1/2 mile down hill on Massachusetts Avenue. Weeee! It ended at a red light. Boooo! This is what makes the ride so hard. You rarely benefit from all that climbing because the downhill fun stops abruptly.

After a few more turns and Minnesota Avenue I crossed back over the Anacostia. The instructions are very specific so I didn’t follow them of course. But I corrected my sins (I said two Hail Marys like a good retired altar boy) and made my way into Capitol Hill on Kentucky Avenue. After South Carolina, I was ready for lunch.

Did I mention it was hot? Well, now it was waaaay hotter.

I think I made it in decent shape to the second rest stop at Eastern Market where lunch awaited. I ate a District Taco veggie burrito. It was delicious. It was also way too much to eat in one go when you are about to ride 32 miles of the 3 Hs – heat, humidity, and hills.

 

 

 

 

 

After brief hellos to WABA’s Greg and Michelle, I jumped back on the bike and rode with my belly distended by a Mexican gut bomb. North Carolina, Tennessee, Oklahoma.

Did I mention it was hot?

We buzzed around Northeast. I missed a turn and found myself backtracking on H Street, which has trolley tracks. I managed rather tensely not to get my wheel caught in them and got back on course.

On busy Florida Avenue a school bus passed within inches of my left arm. At the next stop light I motioned to the driver to give me three feet. He opened his door and said, “Did I hit you?” I said “No” and he shrugged as if to say “What’s your problem?” I only wish my heat fried brain had retorted “If I shot at you with gun and missed you by three or four inches, would you think that was okay too?” I shudder to think that someone is entrusting their loved one to this jerk.

A few miles later I passed Klarence’s house as I made my way up West Virginia Avenue I didn’t drop by. Klarence probably has air conditioning and I doubt I’d ever leave if I went inside. Also, I wouldn’t want Klarence to see me cry.

The climb up Mt. Olivet Street was hard, but I knew it was coming. At the top I turned onto 9th Street to head into Brentwood. A MetroBus beeped at me twice as I began my turn so that he could right hook me without killing me. Don’t you just love polite drivers?

The climb through Brentwood is deceptively hard. I wasn’t deceived though because…

Did you know it was HOT!!!???

Montana led to South Dakota which is normally a cycling hell hole but had no car traffic today. Drivers were probably home because..

It was HOT!!!!

After Michigan I was cruising by Catholic University. Hawaii and its long bumpy hill came next. Normally I stop at the 7-11 at the start of Hawaii but I had plenty of water and didn’t want to fall asleep in its air conditioned splendor. I did not factor in ice. My water bottles were hot. Drinking from them was no fun. I drank anyway.

At the top of Hawaii a stag appeared from the woods on my right. It had an impressive rack. I made some noises so that he wouldn’t jump into me. Death by deer is nothing to joke about.

Back into Northwest we went. I started pouring water over my head. Illinois gave way to Kansas which we took the opposite way than 2007. This was good because Flogini climbed the sucker effortlessly leaving us in severe pain trying to keep up. (The sight of her floating up the hill still pisses me off. How dare she be young and fit. Try it when you are old and fat, honey.)

Northeast is hilly but manageable. I rationed my water as Arkansas, Georgia, Colorado, Missouri and North Dakota went by. The route is so meandering that after 8 times I still have no clue how to get around this section of the city.

My head was pounding. I was out of water. Thankfully I was only a mile or so from Mike and Lisa’s house, the Tacoma rest stop. Normally they have a sign or something welcoming me. This year they had something better. They had ice. YES! They had water. YES! They had WABA’s Adventure Katie. WOW! They had healthy foods. MEH! They had a sprinkler. AWESOME!!!! I picked it up and inverted it over my head. BLISS!!! After discussing Lisa’s serious baseball addiction (the woman need professional help – takes one to know one), I rode off for the last 15 miles.

Alaska led to a fun ride in the shade into Rock Creek Park.On Beach Driver, two riders were stopped trying to figure out whether to turn at an intersection. Follow me! I knew it well. Here, with riding partner Shane lying on the ground in pain, Flogini abandoned us in 2007. Also near here, a 2007 rider later told us she jumped in Rock Creek to cool off. It was that hot.

After Oregon took us northward we headed back south through Chevy Chase DC. Utah and Nevada led us to an abrupt, bumpy painful climb on 36th Street. This was added in 2014 just to piss me off. It succeeded. It’s a gift that keeps on giving too.

Did I mention it was HOT!!!!

Time for some coffee, no? The last rest stop was at a coffee shop. Okay, they had water and healthy food and salt. WABA’s Ursula thinks of everything! And she gives high fives like a maniac. And sometimes looks like she’s coming down a ski jump for no apparent reason.

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I did mention that it was HOT, didn’t I?

After topping off my water bottles, I did away with Wisconsin and rode on Nebraska past American University.Then down the long hill on Arizona so that at 58 miles we could climb all the way back up.

Did I mention it was really, really HOT!!!

The climb back up was brutal. Deets does not have super low granny gears so it was just a battle of wills with my lungs and knees on one side and topography on the other. Lungs and knees won but it was a close contest. After New Mexico, the hills continued until we crested Cathedral Heights, so named because it’s up high. How clever!

The last bit was a downhill roll past The Maret School – Go Frogs! – and onto Connecticut Avenue. Once again the traffic was light perhaps because it was HOT!

I was gifted a green turn arrow and blasted left across the Calvert Street Bridge back to the finish and after party at Mellow Mushroom in Adams Morgan.

When I walked in Bicycle Space‘s Phil Koopman greeted me and handed me a big glass of ice water. I nearly cried. The perfect gift!

There was much talk with #bikedc folks with more ice water and iced cold beer. Mr. Felkerino bought the gang a couple of pizzas. Thanks Ed.

So that’s it. 50 States number 8 is in the record books. 400 States. (There is some doubt in my mind. It could be 399 because I think I accidentally missed Vermont one year. Then again, I may have ridden it and gotten confused. 50 states in a day can do that to anybody. Especially when it’s HOT.)

I can’t believe I signed up for another long, event ride next weekend. They don’t have any states either. What a gyp that’s going to be.

 

 

Keep My Boss Happy

The Tour de Fat in DC is a big time fundraiser for the Washington Area Bicyclists Association. Last year, it was sunny and hot and Yards Park was filled with people having a great time. Revenues from beer sales were off the charts. This year not so much. It was cold and rainy and not very nice out. It wasn’t all that bad (I was under a tent drawing beers from a keg so what do I know?) but attendance was way down. Unfortunately, so were revenues that go to WABA and other local cycling organizations.

So WABA needs some mid-year love. Wanna get your merit badge for the month? Do what I did: open up your wallet and throw some green WABA’s way. While you’re at it, renew your membership. If you’re not yet a member, now’s a good time to become one.

Why? Bicycling in the DC area is getting better every year. WABA is a huge part of that. If you live in the suburbs and think WABA is irrelevant to you, think again. Changes in DC are being noticed and envied by suburban politicians and their constituents. They can see that DC is booming and that bicycling is a big part of that rebirth. The suburbs are losing young professionals and their families to DC. I heard this with my own ears at a Fairfax County meeting on bike lanes last year. I almost fell over.

Of course, this is not news to me. Every day I park my bike next to my boss’s bike. His bike is a longtail designed to carry two kids on the back. He rides from his home in DC’s Columbia Heights neighborhood to Mundo Verde Public Charter School on the eastern edge of Shaw. Then he rides back through the city to our office in Rosslyn,Virginia across from Georgetown. He loves it. His kids love it. This would simply be impossible without the decades of work of WABA.

So keep my boss happy. Donate to WABA. Here’s the link.

https://org.salsalabs.com/o/451/p/salsa/donation/common/public/?donate_page_KEY=2154

 

 

 

 

WABA in the Wild – C&O Canal Trip

Last year I rode the length of the C&O Canal as part of the No Wrong Plan tour. It’s a great tour, especially for first timers. I had previously ridden it in the opposite direction for my 2005 bike tour.

Many of my friends keep talking about riding the length of the C&O DSCN3912_1039Canal but they never seem to get around to it. As Flogini, the erstwhile spiritual adviser to the Rootchopper Institute,  once said: “We only have today. Tomorrow may never come. Stop planning and hoping and dreaming, and start doing!” I took her advice: in the last 18 months I have done 2 bike tours and visited nine countries. Flogini will be the death of me.

You really should do this ride. (I am out of town that weekend or I would do it myself.) The logistics are a bit of a hassle though. There’s good news: if you are willing to do some fundraising WABA will solve the logistics issues for you. I even think they’ll cook you some s’mores if you ask nicely. So check it out over here.

I can’t promise wildflowers for miles but if the weather gods cooperate you might just see some awesome foliage along the way.