May Day Ramble in DC

The citizens of #bikedc are agog. The long, cool, wet days of April are behind us. We’re in an honest to god heat wave. Hallellujah.

I took the opportunity to buy a ticket to a night game at Nationals Park. With several hours to kill I rode Little Nellie to DC. My first stop was at the Renwick Gallery. The Renwick is part of the Smithsonian Institution. Admission is free. Yay, America. It is located at 17th and Pennsylvania NW, a couple hundred yards from the White House or, if you have better taste, Swings House of Caffeine, home of Friday Coffee Club.

The Renwick has recently embraced the idea of multi-room art exhibits that visitors can be a part of. It’s the new, new thing in DC these days. The current exhibit contains artwork from Burning Man. Something about the size of these kinds of exhibits make me wonder “What kind of mind thinks this stuff up?” Certainly not my kind of mind.

The exhibit continues on the sidewalks in the surrounding neighborhood.

I left the Renwick and rode across town to the REI store. The store is located in the building that was once the Washington Sports Arena, the site of, among many other things, the first U.S. Beatles concert, held two days after an eight-year-old me watched them on Ed Sullivan.

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After purchasing some fancy pants (wicking underwear that I find useful for biking and hiking), I sat down for coffee and a cookie. Shopping requires sustenance, don’t you know.

Refueled, I headed for the Anacostia waterfront and Yards Park. Yards Park is part of the rejuvenation of a long neglected area of DC. Unfortunately, development has chewed up big chunks of the park. Still, on a day when the wind is blowing from the south and the sun is working it’s spring time magic, Yards Park is a great place to linger and reflect. I say on a bench and read a National Geographic.

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Next up was a ballgame at nearby Nationals Park. Ticket prices were surprisingly low so I bought a seat in the baseline boxes just beyond the Nationals dugout. The game was a treat. After weeks of moribund offence, the hometown team broke out of its funk by scoring 12 runs. They hit four home runs, two of which were Ruthian clouts. The only downside to the proceedings were the pollen (ick) and the heat. After about three innings the heat was getting to me. How will I ever ride across the country if my heat tolerance is so low? DRINK some water you moron! And so I did. I downed about a gallon during the game.

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After the game I was rewarded with a glorious ride home in the dark. As I reached the Virginia side of the 14th Street bridge over the Potomac River, I felt the temperature drop several degrees. It declined incrementally for the next hour as I pedaled the final 12 miles home.

So, 11 hours and 36 miles after I left the house my May Day ramble ended.

For more pix from the day, you can check out my Flickr album.

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Friday Double Header in Shorts

Spring finally arrived for a few days on Friday. It was shorts weather at the break of dawn so I rode to DC to attend Friday Coffee Club properly attired. The ride featured a warm tailwind, the best kind. Little Nellie’s wee wheels were rolling just fine.

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@edbikes’s apple fritter and coffee

After hanging out with the cool kids at Swings House of Caffeine, I headed back home. Of course, I took another walking lap around the Tidal Basin and a spin down to Hains Point to absorb all the cherry blossom goodness.

Inebriated on all the pinky whiteness, I rode home into the aforementioned wind which was decidedly less than joyous but I had shorts on and I didn’t care.

After a few hours at home, I rode back to DC for some baseball watching. My route back glanced off the cherry blossoms at the Tidal Basin again. (If you don’t do cherry blossoms and bald eagles, you might as well not live around here.)

I met Kevin U. at The Wharf, DC’s newest, absurdly overdone development on the water. What it replaced was utterly forgettable, but the excess of this place is just inane. Kevin and I ran into Ted and his mother and her friend Bert. I think this is the first time I have seen Ted without cycling clothes on. Now that I think of it, it may be his mom’s first time seeing him with cycling clothes on too.

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I parked Little Nellie in here. It’s the best thing ever.

Kevin and I walked to the ballpark. He wouldn’t accept payment for the seat he gave me so we agreed that I would buy him some nachos. At the nacho booth, the server was being a bit stingy with the portions in the chicken nachos for the customer in front of us. The server’s co-worker started kidding her about it. Then I got into the act as a joke. Stingy server moved down the line of ingredients and Co-worker waited on me. The co-worker put his finger to his lips to keep me quiet as he made a HUMONGOUS bowl of chicken nachos for Kevin. We all had a good laugh when Kevin hefted the thing.

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Here’s Kevin, slim and trim before eating his nachos
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The Nacho Bomb: Kevin’s gonna need bigger pants

Back at our seats I pulled out my food from home and Kevin dove into his nachos. In the spirit of the thing, he did his best to eat as much as he could but it was a titanic calorie bomb. I brought a glove to catch foul balls (our seats were down the first-base line). Good thing too, because the nachos had rendered Kevin immobile.

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The view from our seats. Note the nets put up to protect fans during batting practice. They take them down for the game.
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I brought my son’s glove for protection. Note that it is an ARod model. As a former resident of Boston, I felt a sense of intestinal distress putting it on.

The game was a bit of a yawner. The Nats played poorly and lost 2-1. During a pitching change, the stadium played some dance music and hidden cameras panned the stands for people dancing. A woman in the row behind me was dancing up a storm. That’s how I, standing with my arms crossed looking bored, ended up on the Jumbotron. (It was my second time on the big screen. The previous time was under similar circumstances as the cameras spotted the large couple in front of me wearing Virginia Tech clothing on Virginia Tech Day.)

Well, I didn’t catch a foul ball, but Kevin and I had a good time. Kevin’s gastroenterologist, however, will probably not be amused.

As always, my favorite part of riding to night games is the ride home in the dark. Even the headwind didn’t spoil the fun. I made it home at midnight.

I awoke late on Saturday. At 10:30 a.m. I found out that the Nats were playing at 1 p.m. I could go! Sadly, I was too pooped to pedal. Double headers are hard.

My thanks to Kevin for a fun evening.

 

Extra Innings by Bike

One of the benefits of retirement is you get to go to baseball games whenever you want. Today’s Nationals vs. Braves game started at 1 p.m. All during breakfast and my hour of physical therapy at home I checked the weather. I didn’t want to go and freeze my butt off.

I checked ticket prices. I found a seat in the front row of the left field grandstand about 20 feet to the fair side of the foul pole. For $10. I figured, if it gets too cold, I’m only out ten bucks so what the hell.

Little Nellie and I took our time during the 15+ miles to the game. As I passed the Tidal Basin, I could see that it was still peak bloom for the cherry blossoms. One tree in particular just gobsmacked me. So I took it’s picture.

 

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No words

My seat was perfect. My friend Katie Lee who is a baseball fanatic sent me a message asking if I had brought my glove. I laughed and said no.

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Caution: Baseballs are closer than they appear

I looked up and there was that foul pole. In the first inning, the second batter, a former National named Kurt Suzuki, hit a home run that hit the pole (the foul pole is in fair ground) about 20 feet above my head. BONG!

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It’s hollow

Maybe Katie was on to something.

The game was entertaining with some strange things that made it notable. The Braves tried to steal home plate late in the game and nearly got away with it. It was one of several plays in which the Nationals’ players seem to fall asleep mentally. On another a Braves batter managed to get a double because no Nationals fielder bothered to cover second base on a bloop hit. Derp. The Nationals had a runner on first base late in the game. The next batter hit the ball hard with a resounding WHACK and his bat shattered sending the top two thirds like a spear down the third baseline. The ball made it to the third baseman who threw out the batter to end the inning. If that bat had stayed intact I might have had another home run come my way.

The Nationals tied the game with a homer in the bottom of the ninth. Extra innings. For ten bucks. (I actually paid as much for a soda as I did for my seat. Normally I drink water but the water vendors who set up outside the park were not there today.)

The sun was in and out of the clouds all day. In the first inning I wore two layers topped with my hooded jacket. After the sun dropped below the stadium roof line, I put on a wool sweater and put my hood up.

Did I say something about another home run. Well, Kurt Suzuki hit another home run. It was coming right at me. Holy crap. My brain said “If I catch it with my bear hand the blood thinners will turn my hand into a black blob.” I turned to watch it come and went to stood up. At this point I realized that my now four layers of clothing had turned me into a hooded, immobile mass. A virtual Charlie Brown in the dead of winter. The man sitting in the row behind me three rows to my left “fielded” (more like shielded, I guess) the ball off his oversized scorebook. It bounced to the row behind him.

I thought again of Katie, who keeps score at every game she attends. She’d have made the catch if only to protect her scorebook. She would give a rats ass about my blood thinned hands. (JK, KL.)

There is a video summary of the game on Facebook. You can clearly see me dressed like the Unabomber in the front row.

In the 12th inning the Braves prevailed. Sad face.

I’d have ridden straight home, but the cherry blossoms called my soul. I did another lap of Hains Point. I saw two trees without blossoms. But the rest were just stunning. I just had to take another walk around the Tidal Basin. I was surprised to see that the sidewalk wasn’t very crowded.

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I’m drunk on cherry blossoms

After feeding my addiction one last time, I started the long slog home into a steady headwind.

I’m going to Friday night’s game. It will be in the 80s during the day. No more Unabomber outfits for me. And maybe I’ll bring a glove. Or a scorebook.

 

Seven to Seven

I’ve don’t like being idle so today was my kind of day. I was running around and doing stuff from 7 am to 7 pm. After breakfast and reading the newspaper I did this:

  • 15 minutes of physical therapy exercises
  • A visit to the pulmonologist. She has pretty much decided to let the hematologist determine whether I should stay on blood thinners indefinitely. This was quite a surprise to me. This assumes that my lower leg is free of the deep vein thrombosis that dispatched the clots to my lungs. When I get back from my bike tour, she’s going to experiment with lowering the dosage of my asthma medicine.
  • Checked out patio furniture at Home Despot. It looked crappy.
  • Took my car to a state inspection station to find out if it would pass inspection with a ding in the windshield. He said “yes”.
  • Bought bird seed coated with hot pepper powder. (Alas the neighbor’s squirrel appears to be adapting to the stuff.)
  • Got my haircut so that I don’t look like I am undergoing electric shock therapy
  • Meditated for 30 minutes
  • Ate lunch
  • Rode Little Nellie to DC for one last look at the cherry blossoms. Okay, I might go tomorrow and Friday buy this is peak bloom and there’s no telling when it will end. The Tidal Basin was crowded so I skipped it and rode through the tunnel of blossoms in East Potomac Park instead. If you still plan to go this year, tomorrow or Friday before work would be best. Walk around the Tidal Basin and go snow blind. Then take a bikeshare bike (the dock was full when I was there) to ride the tunnel.

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    To be honest, this picture doesn’t do the road to Hains Point in East Potomac Park justice.
  • Rode to the gym to lift weights lamely. I tried some free weights today.
  • Rode home feeling tired.
  • Ate dinner
  • Turned on the Nats game right about now

 

 

Bulldogs and Bicycles on a March Sunday

Well the day began with the loss of our adopted college basketball team in the NCAA tournament. My daughter went to Butler University so we adopted the Bulldogs. The game itself is only mildly interesting to me. Watching Mrs. Rootchopper lose her mind and yell at the TV greatly adds to the fun. She was raised in Indiana so it must be in her blood.

After the game I took off on my Cross Check despite a stiff back. I am king of ailments these days, aren’t I? I had nowhere to go and a little under five hours of daylight to get there. So I went. Up river into a light wind. Temperatures were in the high 50Fs.

Of course, the Mount Vernon Trail was crowded. I am always amused when I pass under an eagle nest and I am the only one who knows to look up. I didn’t see any action at the Morningside nest but there were two adults in the Tulane nest. I could only glimpse their white heads but I’ll bet they have an egg or two to tend. Photos from the third nest in Dyke March along what is called the haul road show two adults. One of them appeared to be feeding eaglets chunks of fish.

The ride north was really pretty splendid. I stopped to check out the monuments across the river in DC.

Not half bad. Did I mention the skies were blue?

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I rode up to Rosslyn where I used to work and crossed the Key Bridge into Georgetown. The sidewalks were absolutely packed with people. And M Street was packed with cars. I made my way down to Water Street and took that to the Capital Crescent Trail. Cars that were turning around were clogging up the entrance. I made it past them unscathed and took my time grinding up the trail to Bethesda. I saw three massive trees that had been blown down by our recent wind storm. I’ll bet the ground shook when they landed. Along the trail I saw several cherry trees in near bloom. They were pink and just waiting to explode in white. Sorry trees, but there’s a snow storm coming.

The trail ends at Bethesda Row, a neighborhood of shops and shoppers. I checked my phone and figured out how to ride to Rock Creek Park. Until recently, you could take the unpaved Georgetown Branch Trail, but it’s closed. As it turned out I made it to the park with only one turn. I also probably climbed every hill in Chevy Chase Maryland in the process. I am pleased to report that my lungs and legs did just fine.

Most of Beach Drive, the main drag through Rock Creek Park, is closed to motor vehicles on Sundays. I plodded along riding the slight downhill back toward downtown DC. The road is actually at the base of a canyon which is a pretty darn cool thing to have smack dab in the middle of a city. Alas, road construction diverted me out of the canyon. I rode uphill on busy Military Road. And my lungs and legs didn’t complain at all. Once at the top, I turned back into the park and rode all the way back down. If I wasn’t afraid of falling and dying, I’d have opened it up on the descent. My new life motto is YODO and I am not ready to shuffle off this mortal coil just yet.

The rest of the ride through the park was uneventful and pleasant. I followed the trail past the zoo and a graveyard and the end of the C&O Canal and the Watergate complex. I made it over the Kennedy Center washboard without losing a single filing. Beach volleyball, Lincoln Memorial, polo field, softball field, cricket pitch, Tidal Basin, Jefferson Memorial. And back over to Virginia on the 14th Street bridge.

The slight tail wind aided my return home. I rolled into the driveway at sunset. 51 miles of bicycle goodness.

We might have lost the game but we won the day.

 

Hoops, Sleep, Bike to DC, Bike Home, Nap, Repeat

The last couple of days have been killers. Our daughter’s college team is playing in an NCAA conference tournament. My wife and I watched the games. When I met my wife I was a very mellow marathon runner. Once I got behind the wheel of a car I became a raging maniac. She’s pretty much the same when watching college basketball. Her reactions to the game are as much fun as the game itself.

The games ended around 11:30 p.m. The morning after the first game, I got up before 6 a.m., skipped breakfast, and rode into a cold wind to Friday Coffee Club. It was worth it. Swings House of Caffeine once again has apple fritters. At 9 a.m. the festivities ended and I got to participate in the roll out. The remaining east bound club members ride across the Pennsylvania Avenue plaza in front of the White House then disburse to their homes and jobs. I think this was only my second roll out because I went west to my office after coffee.

I headed for home. I waited at Constitution Avenue at a red light. The Washington Monument stood to my right, encircled by flags on flag poles. All the flags were pointing straight out. Fortunately, they were pointing in my direction of travel. I still had to cross the Potomac River on the 14th Street Bridge. Long story short, I froze my ass off.

The 12 miles to home were blissfully wind aided.

I ate breakfast and took a nap.

Friday night I stayed up late again to watch Mrs. Rootchopper’s team get eliminated. This morning I awoke before 6, skipped breakfast again, and headed back to DC. This time I had a tailwind going to the city. I stopped at the Dyke Marsh bridge on the Mount Vernon Trail to renew my tradition of taking pictures of the early morning sun.

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My Cross Check jumped into the picture.

I arrived at the start of the Rock N Roll Half Marathon. This was on Constitution Avenue from about 14th Street to 9th Street. There were so many people that I couldn’t possibly find anyone I knew. I decided to find a good point on the course to view the runners.

I picked 18th and C Streets NW.  The streets were closed to cars and it was early so getting around was simple. I stood on the corner where the runners turned west off of 18th onto C. And watched.

The lead runners were incredibly fast. These folk were not messing around. Then the field became more and more crowded. I kept looking for my friends Ursula and Grace. And looking. And looking. Trying to find someone in a crowd like this brings on a kind of runner’s blindness, akin to snow blindness. Your brain just can’t process this much visual information.

Then I realized that a runner was coming right toward me. It was Ursula. She was just a few feet in front of me before I recognized her. I flinched when she gave me a high five (it’s her thing) because my hand was frozen. Right behind her was her co-worker Doug.  Another feeble high five. And they were away. I managed to get their picture from behind. (She’s got a fanny pack on. Doug is to her right.)
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I waited for Grace but I never saw her. On to Adams Morgan I rode, straight north on 18th Street.

I parked myself in the sun and waited as the runners turned from Calvert Street to go east on Columbia Road. It was still very cold, pretty much perfect for the runners. They were about a mile from running up the killer Calvert Street hill out of Rock Creek Park. Most of them had recovered, but Columbia Road was itself a bit of an incline.

Just as I began to get runner blindness again, I spotted Ursula. Yes! Then I accidentally shut off my camera. No! At least I got another high five. This time we made solid contact. Dang, it hurt. My hand was beet red.

I waited some more for Grace. She tweeted a description of her outfit (at my suggestion) so that her friends could pick her out of the crowd. I pulled out my phone to check the description and Twitter locked up on me. All I remembered from the tweet was that she was wearing gray tights (like a third of the field). Fortunately, Grace has red hair and tons of freckles. (I did too when I was a kid, so she gets bonus points in my book.)

And, sure enough, here she was. Her hair was pulled back and she wasn’t wearing glasses but she was easy to spot. And she was moving pretty fast despite the hill.

After she passed I rode across town to intercept the race again. This time I had to make my way through traffic jams. Drivers were now out and about and they were not happy to be hemmed in my street closures.

I made it to North Capitol Street. The runners were running south using the underpass to avoid New York Avenue. I had to use the side road and got stuck at a traffic light that lasted over a minute. I think the delay cost me a third shot at seeing Ursula. I set up camp at where the course turns east on K Street NE.

In just a few minutes Grace came cruising by. All smiles. She flashed a peace sign as she passed.

Grace Pooley

I turned and headed for the finish. This took much longer than I thought. At one point, on Capitol Hill I turned left where a police car was blocking off the road. My focus was in the distance and I didn’t see the yellow police tape strung across the road. I broke the tape with my helmet and apologized to the cop. He thought it was pretty funny and waved me on.

At the finish the runners were joined by family and friends. There was no hope of meeting up with anyone I knew so I decided to ride home.

By this time, I had come to realize that skipping breakfast was not the smartest move I could have made this morning. After I crossed the river, I had to contend with a strong headwind for the next 12 miles. Like yesterday, I had worn hiking boots instead of proper cycling shoes. The added quarter of an inch of sole made my knees very unhappy.

I pulled into home and ate all the things. The three cups of hot coffee could not have tasted better.

I had ridden 70 cold, windy miles in hiking boots on about 11 hours of sleep over two days. The coffee had no effect. I listened to my body and took a long nap on my bed in the warm afternoon sun.

 

Winter Weather or Not

Nine years ago today, a 32-year-old bike commuting friend of mine posted these words on my Facebook page:

“I just could not feel my body in the cold. So I damaged it without noticing it!”

What a difference nine years makes! Today was almost summer-like in DC. I saw a roadside sign that indicated it was 78F degrees at 3:30.

Of course, I saw this sign while out on my bike.

I didn’t get started until just before midday. I had spent the morning eating diner food and going to the library with Mrs. Rootchopper.  With my belly and brain satisfied, I was off on my Cross Check for a jaunt up the Anacostia River.

I began my ride on the Mount Vernon Trail. I crossed the Potomac River on the Woodrow Wilson Bridge Trail. Once in Maryland, I made the long slog up to Oxon Hill Road. The climb goes right past a massive MGM casino. The ginormous electronic sign indicated that Cher was performing there this month. I don’t gamble and I don’t Cher so let’s just say the whole casino thing is lost on me. I think the complex looks like the Imperial Star Destroyer from Star Wars. I prefer Mos Eisley bars to casinos.

Having reached Oxon Hill Road I made my way to Oxon Hill Farm and proceeded to ride right back down the hill to the river. Somebody’s got some explaining to do.

The Oxon Cove Trail winds its way to a enclave of public buildings including a police training facility, a city bus maintenance yard, some Smithsonian greenhouses and a vocational training complex. After perusing all these fine public sector facilities, I rode right back up the hill to Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue.

MLK Jr. Ave is not exactly where it’s at. I think maybe it’s were it might have been at about 80 years ago. It’s actually kind of depressing. My ride north took me past the grounds of St. Elizabeth’s nervous hospital. The complex is being taken over by the Department of Homeland Security which probably says something snarky about DHS.

The ride through Congress Heights and Anacostia was interesting. Drivers in this part of DC use the freestyle method of motoring. Random u-turns, lane changes, horn honking are the rule. I waved a thank you to a driver for not cutting me off and he laid on his horn. De nada, dude.

Suffice it to say, my rather precarious medical condition made me apprehensive for this part of the ride. I was happy to see the Anacostia River Trail which runs rather appropriately along the Anacostia River. And so, like a Yogi Berra malapropism, I took it. North. The scenery was still the grays and browns of winter but the temperature told me it was late spring.

I rolled along the trail past the garbage consolidation facility (helps with the sinuses don’t you know), past the Aquatic Gardens (the flower show happens much later in the year), through assorted fields, both natural and athletic, and around a cement plant to Bladensburg. As I crossed over the Anacostia, I passed about five priests (or, more likely, seminarians as they all looked pretty young). We waved at each other. I said “Mea Culpa” three times for good measure. (I was a altar boy who had to learn the Latin Mass and the English Mass, a biographical fact that dates the crap out of me. )

I am kidding about the Mea Culpas, by the way.

Once across the river I consulted the Google for advice on how to ride home without retracing my steps. I rode up the river until the trail split into the Northeast and Northwest Branch Trails. I took the latter and spotted a cupcake shop, a landmark from the Cider Ride last November. I didn’t stop. (I know, what a fool.) But I did find a trail that would take me back toward DC.

After a few miles I bailed on the trail It would have taken me to Queens Chapel Road which I am familiar with. Basically, it’s a bicycle death trap. So I started riding neighborhood streets and following the sun. I found myself back in DC riding a straight street to the west. In these parts “straight” almost always translates into “hilly”. As I slogged up one long hill, I passed an old man doddering around his front yard. He looked at me and remarked, “Better you than me.”

I love it when I’m mocked.

Soon I was in familiar territory. Monroe Street leads to 8th Street which leads to the Metropolitan Branch Trail. How nice of someone to put a trail with very few cross streets right in the middle of a city. The trail took me back southward and after a wiggle and waggle I was on a cycletrack that took me right past the incomparably boring Bureau of Labor Statistics.

I rode past a scrum of photographers at a courthouse. They were waiting to take a picture of a Trump associate who was being charged with treason or money laundering or some such offense. (I can’t keep it all straight, to be honest.)

Soon thereafter I was riding along the National Mall pretending I was in the Olympic tourist dodge event. I was pretty proud that I didn’t hit a single one.

After the podium ceremony, I rode around the tidal basin and over the 14th Street Bridge to the Mount Vernon Trail. The 12-mile ride from the bridge to my house was interrupted by a stop at the gym, because nothing improves a 48 1/2 mile bike ride quite like lifting weights.

Fug.

I arrived home exhausted but still had some physical therapy exercises to do. I am doing these because my left shoulder is on the blink.

Despite trying really hard, I did not damage my body. I guess you need cold weather to do that.

 

 

A Bike Ride in America 2018

The weatherman called for temperatures in the high 50Fs so there was just one thing to do: go for a ride. I had originally planned on spending the day at the Women’s March in DC. Last year Mrs. Rootchopper and I went to the Women’s March. We stood unable to move for hours in a throng of at least a half million people. I hadn’t heard much about this year’s march. I had committed to a volunteer event that was cancelled by the government shutdown. Mrs. Rootchopper was committed to doing a volunteer event that wasn’t cancelled, so I decided that, rather than commit my whole day to the march, I’d ride up to the Lincoln Memorial and check things out instead.

The ride featured a helpful tailwind. I slalomed through the people on the Mount Vernon Trail and stopped after 11 miles to take a picture of a jet landing at National Airport.

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I rode into the city on the Memorial Bridge. There was quite a bit of foot traffic coming away from the city. Since the government had shutdown all the Smithsonian museums and public restrooms were closed. I suspect that many of these folks were not having a very good time.

As I arrived at the east-facing side of the Lincoln Memorial I could hear speeches and cheers. Then I saw it. Tens of thousands of people lining the reflecting pool. The crowd was significantly smaller than last year but much, much larger than I was expecting.

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If you look really closely you can see my friends Joe and Veronica and Justin. Okay, maybe not. They were there though. I am sure there were other people I knew too.

As I passed in front of the memorial (to the left in the photo) I saw counter protesters with anti-abortion signs. It seemed that every one of them had a smiling Women’s March participant standing right in front of them holding a sign or wearing a t-shirt with a pro-choice message. Many of these counter-counter protesters were carrying Planned Parenthood signs. Somehow despite their differences of opinion, they seemed to be showing mutual respect. Whadda ya know about that!

I made my way down Constitution Avenue, amazed at the throngs coming and going from the Mall. I took the road around the Ellipse, a park situated between the White House and the Washington Monument, so I could get to the pedestrian plaza on the opposite side of the White House. I decided to stop and take a picture of the White House on the near side. I had taken the Ellipse road counterclockwise. It is a one-way street going clockwise so I was expecting to pull off if I encountered any cars.

The White House grounds is bound by a tall black metal fence. The security perimeter is further extended near the Ellipse by a jersey barrier that cuts off half the roadway I was on. I was inching my way along the remaining traffic lane. I could have gone onto the sidewalk but it was packed with tourists taking photos of the White House. I stopped in the road and reached into my handlebar bag. I pulled out my phone when I heard a man say “MOVE ALONG.” There was no “sir” at the end of the command. This was clearly meant to intimidate me. I turned and saw a Secret Service man (If it’s secret why did he have the words SECRET SERVICE in big white letters on his shirt? Maybe he should get one that says OBVIOUS SERVICE. Just a thought.) He was perhaps in his late twenties. He had on body armor of some sort and was holding an automatic (or semiautomatic) weapon in his left hand. It was pointed at the ground.

My brain went to work. Do I look like an evil doer? A desperado? Do assassins kill with cell phones while holding a bicycle between their legs? Why the hell does he have a weapon that could wipe out me and everyone within 20 feet of me? Why does he have it out?

Then my mouth went to work. I put my phone away and looked Mr. Secret Service in the eye and said “This is America.” I left off “You fucking Nazi.” Call me Mr. Restraint.

I went on the sidewalk and took my picture. In retrospect I wish I had taken a picture of him. I have a bad feeling that I’ll be reading about him in the paper someday when he uses that weapon against a harmless tourist from Des Moines.

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After this pleasant encounter I made my way up the 15th Street cycletrack to the other side of the White House. Pennsylvania Avenue is closed to motor vehicles. Today it was occupied by a hundred or so people expressing their support for the Dreamers. There were plenty of police around. None of them seemed to think they needed to bark at people or hold an uzi in plain sight. This made me feel a little better.

I made my way back down the cycletrack to the Pennsylvania Avenue cycletrack At 4th Street I took a right to head toward the waterfront and the bustling new development called The Wharf. At a stop light I heard a voice coming from my left. A bike had just pulled up along side me. I turned and saw Rachel M. I know you! She hadn’t recognized me. She was just making idle chatter. So we rode side by side to M Street. She turned left to explore the Anacostia River Trail. I turned right for the Wharf.

When I got there, I stopped to check my phone. When I got off my bike my middle and upper back went into spasm. Since an apparent back spasm a month ago had been the rather unpleasant first symptom of pulmonary embolisms, I decided that it would be wise to head for home. Slowly.

After a couple of miles, my back loosened up. I rode down the trail, weaving in and out of the humanity. Feeling better I diverted away from the river to ride through the Del Ray neighborhood. Everyone was smiling. People were drinking coffee outside. It felt like April (except there was no baseball).

I arrived home without any lingering pain. It’s pretty pathetic when you consider it a good day when your body doesn’t reject you.

But it was a good day. I even managed to get a little tan on my face. In January.

Play ball. This is America after all.

 

 

Lifting a Fog

For several hours after yesterday’s tentative 20-mile ride I felt fantastic, the best I’ve felt since the roof caved in three weeks ago. Temperatures this morning were in the 60s. I know a sign from the bike gods when I see one. It was time to push things a bit further.

I rode from my house to the Lincoln Memorial and back. For most of the 30-mile ride, I was cruising on flat ground. I felt fine. My lungs and heart felt completely normal. Normal is awesome.

So was the fog. The warm air caused the ice on the Potomac River to create amazing spooky clouds. The southerly breeze pushed the fog up against bridges and buildings. I stopped at the Reflecting Pool in front of the Lincoln Memorial. I could only see a few feet in front of me.

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Mount Vernon Trail heading north out of Belle Haven Park
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The Reflecting Pool and Washington Monument

At the Virginia side of the Memorial Bridge, visibility was nearly zero. I could barely see past my front wheel. I stopped and the wind blew a gap in the fog bank.

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Heading toward Arlington Cemetery on the Memorial Bridge

The ride home was into a steady head wind. If anything would test my heart and lungs. this surely would. After about two miles, I settled into a steady, calm breathing pattern. Dang.

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Fishing in the fog under the Woodrow Wilson Bridge in Jones Point Park

At 26 1/2 miles I decided to try climbing a bill. The Park Terrace Drive hill is well known to local commuters. I can easily break 30 miles per hour riding down it. Riding up it I am lucky to maintain 5 miles per hour. So It was pretty gratifying to see 4.9 on my speedometer only for a moment as I reached the top. It took a few seconds longer than normal for my heart rate to come back down but, having not ridden a hill in over three weeks, I was pretty darned pleased with how it went.

Sitting at home an hour or so later, I feel even better than yesterday. You might say I feel as if a fog has lifted.

 

 

 

Hains Point 100

Six or seven years ago, Megan Jones had an idea, a wonderfully goofy idea. She’d ride the 3.3 mile circuit in East Potomac Park 30 times in a day to raise awareness and money for the Washington Area Bicyclists Women and Bicycles program. She called her 100-mile event the Hains Point 100, because the circuit goes down to Hains point and because… do the math.

As someone who’s ridden WABA’s 50-State Ride nine times, I can attest to the magnetic draw of silly bike event gimmicks. Who the heck would want to ride around in circles for hours just to say they rode 100 miles? Who’d do it in the middle of December?

It turns out that LOTS of people would. Over 600 people signed up for today’s spin around the point. And from what I can tell, most of them showed up.

We had a blast. I rode with different people on each of my 13 loops. If you do the math, you’ll see that I didn’t ride 100 miles. Most people don’t. You don’t have to. You can ride 100 miles combined with your friends. Or 100 kilometers. Or 100 minutes. I rode 100 McEntees. According to the Hungarian Bureau of Standards, a McEntee is that unit that converts your miles to 100. This year each 0.44 miles I rode was 1 McEntee. If I had ridden further, it wouldn’t be Prudence.

The weather was about as good as one could hope for. Temperatures rose from freezing when I started at 9 a.m. into the high 40s when I quit at 1:30. Winds were calm. There was no precipitation.

For those of you who are quick on your little math feet, you’ll have figured out that it took 4 1/2 hours for me to ride 44 miles. And your probably saying to yourself, what a pathetically slow rider. Which is normally correct. But today I spent well over an hour in the pit area talking to friends. Adding in chatter time on the bike, I should get additional credit for talking 100 blue streaks.

Another aspect that I enjoyed was the fact that for the first time since my bike tour I felt strong on my bike. In the early going I was comfortably riding at 17 – 18 miles per hour which is unheard of for me. I even joined a massive group of about 20 riders for a while. We were clipping along at about 20 miles per hour. Whee! Pretty good for an old dude on a heavy bike.

On one of my laps I (sort of) rode alongside Kevin W. who had borrowed a Jump electric- assist dockless bike. These bikes are big and heavy but the motor more than makes up for that. Kevin would kick in the motor and instantly and smoothly accelerate away from me. Kevin was having a pretty good time showing me up. Again. (He took me to the cleaners at the 50 States Ride and two off-road rides earlier in the year.) My take on this little adventure is that these bikes are going places. I’d use one all the time if I were living in the city.

Another highlight was to see my friend Mike with his son who has developmental issues on a tandem. The two of them ride just about every weekend. Mike had expected to do one lap and then go home owing to his son’s low tolerance for long cold rides but the two of them were there for at least two hours. They are what love looks like.

Then there is the exuberance of youth. Rachel is about half my age.  She rode six and a half miles to today’s event with no gloves on. Suffice it to say, this was a reeeeeallly bad idea. (I spent the first 28 years of my life in the frozen north. Been there. Done that.) After riding some laps with me, she disappeared. I saw her a while later in the pit area. She had tears on her face and she was bending over, nauseated. Her fingers were nearly purple. Ugh. I gave her my mittens. She protested! She’d actually rather get frostbite than cause someone temporary discomfort. Raaychulll!!! She did reluctantlyeventually take the mittens. This is a good thing because I was about to smack her upside the head. Then Kevin came up with some spare gloves. Then we found a heater. It took a while and some chemical hand warmers but she got her hands thawed out. (Head hits table.)

There were so many other people there: Ryan and Ursulla and Leslie and Colin and Inez and Greg and Carrie (and their new baby) and Katie B. and Nelle and Jeff and Sam and Rachel II and Viola and Ed (thanks for the cupcake) and Kitty and Mary and Ted and Katie Bee and Chris N. and Laura and Adam and Michael and Mark and Jeanne and Finn and at least a half dozen others whose names and faces are lost in the voids of my brain.

I found out later the McEntees were there. Taking their measure of things.

Long story short: I had a blast.

I didn’t take any pictures but there were cameras everywhere. In a day or two there will be literally hundreds of still photos and videos posted to the interwebs.