First Day of Spring: This Bird Doesn’t Get the Worm

I took the day off to go to the doctors office. The weather looked great but there was still a chill in the air, especially considering this is the first day of spring.

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I rode to the eye doctor’s office, picking up my first errand of the 2017 errandonnee in the process. I was expecting to be dilated which would have ruined my ability to read for the next several hours. Instead, the doctor checked my personal field. My right eye didn’t fare well. A closer examination of my eye revealed protein deposits on the membrane behind my lens. My lens is artificial having been replaced during cataract surgery. I had notice some difficulty seeing in low light and was planning on getting new glasses. Now the glasses will wait until I get the membrane cleared. This will be done with a simple laser procedure. It takes about three minutes. Still, to my mind it counts as eye surgery. It will be my 7th surgery and my 3rd of this type.

After the doctor’s visit, I rode to DC to check out the cherry blossoms. Basically, there were none. The cold temperatures knocked the trees for a loop. I rode to Hains Point and then up to the Tidal Basin. So disappointing. Next I  stopped to help some visitors from Minnesota. I took their picture under the non-blossoming trees with the Jefferson Memorial in the background. They have come to DC five times to see the blossoms and haven’t seen a peak bloom yet.

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I biked and walked around the Tidal Basin then headed for Virginia. I wanted to check out the sale of winter gear at the Spokes Etc. store on Quaker Lane in Alexandria. I rode the Mount Vernon Trail to the Four Mile Run Trail to Shirlington. This was about 6 or 7 miles without a traffic light and only two stop signs. Not bad. Once in Shirlington I backtracked and rode up the long hill to the Quaker Lane shop. They were all out of the jacket I wanted so I headed for home along the King Street bike lanes. The city did a pretty nice job with this. On the way home, I swung by the Belle View Spokes Etc. shop where I had tried on a jacket a few days ago. The jacket had been sold so he who hesitates doesn’t get the worm. Or something like that.

Some more pix from my excursion are on my Flickr page.

 

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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Pre-peak Cherry Blossom Ride

Winter has returned. It was in the 30s with a northwest wind. A snowstorm looms in the days ahead. DC’s famous cherry blossoms are in jeopardy. So I went up to DC today to check out what was in bloom. Short answer: not much.

I parked at Gravelly Point Park near the airport across the river. This was a good idea because the highways heading into the city were jammed with traffic. The 1 1/2 mile ride was pleasant enough. Blue skies and puffy white clouds practically commanded me to look up. So I did. Here’s one from the back side of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial.

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There were only a handful of trees in anything close to peak bloom. And the wind picked up as I walked and rode among them. Even without peak bloom the blues skies and the trees and the monuments made for pretty views. Deets couldn’t resist striking a pose.

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Here are a few more over on my Flickr page.

 

Recovery Bikeabout

I woke up sore and hungry. I immediately took care of the latter. Mrs. Rootchopper prepared a breakfast casserole that tasted like a plate of Denny’s comfort food all smashed up together. Add a heap of salt – because it’s how I roll – and you have the first course. Then I ate a bunch of strawberries. Then some mixed nuts. And a bagel. And OJ and coffee. Feed me Seymour! (1)

Mrs. Rootchopper came downstairs and opened all the windows. It was early May outside. Qu’est ce que le fuck?

With aches like Aunt Blabby (“All over my body”) I hit the road bound for the National Arboretum and its nesting pair of bald eagles. My first stop though was the local hardware store where I took a lawn mower blade to be sharpened. It was my preparation for the Errandonnee 2017. If you are a bicyclists anywhere in the world, you should do this. I will post the link when the Errand Queen starts the clock.

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The ride up to DC wasn’t too bad, except for a very slow line of traffic north of Old Town. I am told that patience is a virtue as rewarding as a new love in spring. (2) So I calmly took my time. I was into DC without too much of a delay and rode along the National Mall which was teeming with tourists. There were three lines, each several people wide, lining up to get into the Air and Space Museum. Up Capitol Hill and out Maryland Avenue to Bladensburg Avenue, which must be a cycling death trap at rush hour. This area of DC is scruffy but development is springing up. At this pace, in another 50 years all the old crappy parts of DC will be gone.

As I rolled by the Arboretum I looked into the tree tops for a nest. I had no luck and my luck worsened when I turned into the grounds of the Arboretum and encountered the pedestrians only sign. With over 100 miles on my legs in the last 26 hours there was no way I was going to go hiking in search of the next. (I had already passed three or four nests on my way to DC.)

I rode around the interior perimeter of the Arboretum. The place was crawling with people.  I wondered where the hell all these people are the other 364 days of the year.

I took a spin through Trinidad on my way home. This neighborhood was notorious for drug-related violence only a few years ago. It sits on the edge of Gallaudet University, the nation’s (and maybe the world’s) most prestigious college for the deaf. I rode by Klarence’s house.For some stupid reason I don’t have Klarence’s phone number. Klarence responds to DMs and emails with an idiosyncratic two-week lag so there was no way to contact her ahead of time. So I continued on through NoMa, across Capitol Hill. I rode down the hill up Independence Avenue. This was where the main body of the Women’s March had formed. With the road laid out before me, I could only think “WOW”. The march filled this entire avenue and every street near it. I could see where we were standing and there must have been 50,000 people between us and the main gathering.

I passed the opposite side of the Air and Space Museum. Tourists were milling about. I overhead one tell another, “It’s free.” I wonder how much longer that will last.

After dodging dozens of cabs and Ubers, I made it back across the river. I had a nice tailwind for my ride home. Too bad I couldn’t take advantage of it. The Mount Vernon Trail was packed with people from the 14th Street Bridge to beyond National Airport and again into Old Town. I gave up on Union Street after I saw cars back up for two blocks.

The ride home was pleasant. I made it a point to check out each bald eagle nest but I didn’t see any of my feathered friends.

Once at home, I fiddled with my front derailler, made a snack, put some laundry in, and settled on the deck in my shirt sleeves with a cold beer.

41 miles and I am pronounce myself recovered.

Some pictures of my bikeabout can be found on my Flickr page.

If you are wondering what the parenthetic numbers are, they indicate obscure pop culture references from the more than 30 years ago. Anybody want to guess where they are from?

Have a fun Presidents’ Day.

 

 

The Freeze, The Moon, The Heron, The Nudge, and Blowing Up The Karma Bridge

The Freeze

We are preparing for the arrival of the polar vortex. Whoever is in marketing in the weather world is brilliant. POLAR VORTEX just sounds like DOOM. It’s right up there with DERECHO!!!

Basically, the polar vortex is a few days of cold air and wind. It’s not the end of the world, particularly if you grew up with this sort of thing. When I lived in the northeast we called it January.

So we endure.

As luck would have it there are three days of events coming up that will all but require me to drive to work. I haven’t driven to work three days in a row since last winter so this should be nerve wracking.

The Moon

Last night’s ride home featured a near full moon over the monuments in DC. It was a thing of beauty. I stopped to take a picture.

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I wasn’t alone. Flogini, the erstwhile spiritual adviser to the Rootchopper Institute, has become a passionate bike commuter with her return to DC. Just like me she was stopped in her tracks by the sight and took a picture of her own. Proof once again that she is part of my karass.

The Heron

The ride into work was graced by another amazing sight. Unfortunately I did not have a camera at the ready. As I rode along the Mount Vernon Trail, a great blue heron flew just a few feet above the surface of the Potomac River near the river bank to my immediate right. The heron was going much faster than me. It buzzed a gaggle of geese bobbing in the water as it flew out of sight. A few minutes later I spotted it on the river bank. As I approached it took off in the opposite direction.

Did I say I love my bike commute?

The Nudge

Today after I “liked” Flogini’s DC moon picture on Facebook I received an errant private message from Gladys, the mother of her friend who was run over by a bus two years ago. This kind of “wrong number” has never happened to me before. In any case, I regarded it as a surreal reminder to go to the Rally for Rose tonight on the way home.

Thank you, Gladys.

Blowing Up the Karma Bridge

I rode to the market that Rose worked at to give my donation. A couple of folks were waiting by the door collecting. So I explained the story of the $140. (In retrospect the whole thing sounds a little Alice’s Restaurant. Perhaps I should have raffleforrosewaited for it to come around on the guitar.)  So it turns out that donations are rewarded with tickets to a raffle. They gave me about six feet of raffle tickets and sent me down the street to the barbecue place where the raffle was being run. There were several different containers to put your tickets in, each container representing a different set of prizes. It took a while to dispense with the tickets. Now my problem is this: if I win do I undo the karma from the donation? Have I blown up the karma bridge that I was crossing? If I win a gift certificate, do I put it on the street where the money came from? (Was I raised Catholic or what?)

I’ll figure something out.

In all seriousness, there were several other people with big cables of raffle tickets. The restaurants that participated in the fundraiser were packed too. (If you ordered certain menu items, all proceeds from the purchase went to Rose’s fund.)  And the gofundme website is making real progress as well.

And once again the city of Alexandria is pledging to get serious about pedestrian safety. It’s too late for Rose Cruz, but maybe some good will come of this tragedy.

 

 

 

A Ride with the Rookies: 50 States in a Rainy Day

The Fifty States Ride is an event put on each September by the Washington Area Bicyclists Association (WABA). The ride covers every nook and cranny of Washington DC so that participants can ride their bikes on every street named for a state. I’d done the ride six times: 2006, 2007, 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013. In 2006 and 2007, the ride was held in the sweltering heat of August. WABA moved the ride into September but the 2010 ride had all the heat and humidity of the August rides. Last year it poured buckets for the last hour. No matter what the weather, riders have to be prepared to climb a dozen (probably more, I lose track) hills. Every few blocks, riders come to a stop sign or red light, making for sore hands from so much braking.

When I lived in Boston, I drove a cab during the sunmers. The only part of the city my college friends knew, was the half mile around the subway stops they used. The same happens in every city. DC-area residents know the area near work and home, and a few other often frequented parts of town. The rest is a mystery. Riding the Fifty States ride gives a cyclist the chance to experience the entire city, warts and all.

Getting to know the city is a plus, but the real secret to the Fifty States Ride is the fact that all the starting and stopping all but forces riders to sociallize. I’ve met dozens of people because of this ride and they represent an incredible breadth of humanity. Students, writers, scientists, lawyers, educators, police officers, librarians. Black, white, asian, latino. Young and old. Incredibly fit and not so much.

A Plan Falls Apart

My friend Florencia and I have never done the entire ride together, In 2007 she abandoned me in the oppressive heat of Rock Creek Park. In 2011, she took off after we reached the lunch stop. So the plan was to ride the entire route together. Then life interceded and she had to cancel. Sad face. As it turns out, her friend Emilia had signed up but didn’t know anybody. So I agreed to ride with her.

Family Planning

I drove to my office in Rosslyn and rode the 3 1/2 miles to Adams Morgan in DC for the ride start. While waiting for Emilia, I started talking with Lorraine, a first-time rider who was having some anxiety about getting lost. I invited her aboard the Rootchopper Bike Bus. Next I spotted Emilia. As I introduced Lorraine, she said she was my “daughter” so I introduced Emilia as my wife. Instead of adopting a son, we added Jeremy Cannon, the son of Bob (Don’t Call Me Rachel) Cannon. Bob was marshalling the shorter 13 Colonies ride. I did the Great Pumpkin Ride with Father and Son Cannon last October. Then we added rookies Kristen and Elizabeth with whom I did the Backroads ride last September. Up stepped John Roche, Mr. Hoppy 100. Dave Salovesh, man with the Green Bay Packers bike, joined in. (It had belt drive. You gotta have belt drive in your group!)  We tried to draft Rachel (Don’t Call Me Bob) Cannon, but she had commited to riding with Ursual Sandstorm who was a volunteer ride marshall and her friend Jordan. So we went into the draft and picked a ringer: Friday Coffee Clubber, Michael Brunetto a man who knows DC like the back of his bicycling gloves. From my pix, I can see we were joined by a tenth rider, a woman in green, whose name I neglected to get.

Leading Is Overrated

Kristen decided that we should leave before the formal ride start.  This turned out to be a great idea because it meant that we avoided the usual congrested roads for the first 10 miles. Since I was the grizzled veteran I was dubbed the point man for our group. I nearly missed the first turn, so Michael grabbed the reins and off we went spiralling through DC neighborhoods and downtown.

Making Progress

Despite gray skies, there were smiles all around as we picked off states in quick succession without much effort. We skirted a 5K race near the Mall, and zipped over Capitol Hill and into Southwest DC. The route took us to East Potomac Park where the friskier riders among us sped away. We regrouped at a public restroom and headed for Maine, crossing the path of the riders who had started after us.

Smiles - Before the Hills
Smiles – Before the Hills

We rode past Nationals Park where Emilia proudly told me that three of her Venezuelan countryman (Ramos, Cabrera, and Lobeton) were on the ballclub. Go Nats! Go wife!

I led the posse through the confusion of near Southeast, through an alley, and over the Souza Bridge. We hit the pit stop in Anacostia Park, chatted with some friends and headed out for the first hills of the ride. We climbed Martin Luther King, Junior Avenue. It was a bit of a shock as the climbers among us got their ya yas out. All I could think of was: this ride is going to suck if I don’t get my legs in order. The next climb came a mile later on Stanton Road. By this point my legs were loose and I made a decent showing of things. Our climbing contingent – Elizabeth (QOM), Justin, Michael, and Jeremy- put us to shame but they kindly waited at the top for the rest of us.

On the way to Texas a woman riding ahead of us almost took a wrong turn. It was the first of many wrong turns we witnessed and thwarted throughout the day. We zoomed down Massachusetts Avenue (a real thrill on the 20 inch wheels of Little Nellie, my Bike Friday) and headed back to Anacostia Park.

My peeps were pretty happy to arrive at the Eastern Market rest stop for lunch. Our rookies were smiling so we knew that the pace was reasonable. We took our time and steeled ourselves for the second half.

Staying Off Track

The route took is through the eastern side of Capitol Hill which combined flat roads with numerous turns. As we headed northward, we encountered a closed road. I took us down H Street which has trolley tracks right where we would be riding. At the next cross street, I dismounted and walked across the tracks, fearful that our entire posse might catch a rail and fall. (This is not a good road design, folks!)

The climbers took off up the steep hill on Mt. Olivet Road. They waited for the rest of us to pull up the rear. We crossed over the railroad and US 50 in pursuit of scary North Dakota Avenue. The gray skies had given way to a light rain. I was grateful that the traffic was light and we made it unscathed to Taylor Street. Soon we were riding busy Michigan Avenue and lucked out again with light traffic.

After riding past Catholic University we were treated to Hawaii Avenue, another big climb. We plodded on undaunted. The rookies were holding it together. The rabbits were humoring by waiting at the top of each climb.

Hail Rootchopper!

Zig, zag, pedal, pedal. We made good work of long stretches in Northwest, as the rain started coming down hard. Jackets came on. Lorraine and a bunch of other riders from other posses headed back home. The rest of the crew plowed ahead, thankful to reach the Tacoma rest stop at the home of Mike and Lisa. For some reason, Mike gets a kick out of my Twitter name, Rootchopper. Last year he stood on his porch shouting ROOTCHOPPER as I rolled in. This year, he had a banner up that said “Hail Rootchopper!” It’s nice to be loved.

Hail, Rootchopper!
Hail, Rootchopper!

As I walked around at the rest stop, a funny thing occured to me: this is the best I have felt after 50 miles of biking ever. I felt like I could have ridden for hours and hours more. This soon would fade into memory.

The Rookies Start to Work

After the rest we climbed to Alaska and flew down into Rock Creek Park. On Beach Drive we saw a woman rider on the ground with several riders looking on. They had called an ambulance so we left her in their hands.

On the west side of the park we rode into Chevy Chase, the high rent district. Yes, there were more hills. The Rookies were starting to ask, “Are we there yet?” Shut up and climb.

The route differs from year to year. One of this year’s new wrinkles was 36th Street. It is a pretty little windy street with dense tree cover. And bumps. And a steep hill. Ugh. My wife wanted a divorce. When she reached the top of the hill she had a big smile on her face, but then she said “My legs were gone.” Fortunately, the final rest stop had coffee which seemed to revive her. For the climb up Wisconsin Avenue. Ugh.

Is Arizona a State?

After riding past American University, we rode downhill, picking up newly paved Arizona Avenue, and giving up all our climbing work from 36th and Wisconsin. After a flat stretch on MacArthur Boulevard, it was payback time. With five miles to go we rode up Ashby, up 49th Street, then up the sadistically steep Garfield Street. My wife had given up pn divorce; instead she wanted to kill me in my sleep.

After recoveinrg, we forged ahead. This neck of the woods is called Cathedral Heights. To get there you have to go….up. Emilia was one hurting unit but still she climbed. What a warrior. Finally, we crested the heights and made the gradual ride back down to the start. Of course, it wouldn’t be loads of fun without riding on busy Connecticut Avenue. A ride marshall (Rod Smith, perhaps) had taken the left lane in preparation for the left hand turn onto Calvert Street. We followed his lead.

Happy Campers

We arrived at the after party with big smiles on our faces. We were triumphant. Photo ops with our hard-earned ride shirts were taken. Beer was imbibed. Other riders arrived. Rachel and Jordan and Ursula appeared with had big smiles. Fists were pumped. Riders were hugged. Faces wore satified smiles.

Acknowledgements

Very big thanks to the folks at WABA, especially Michelle Cleveland, who works for months putting this ride together. Thanks to the volunteers, especially Mike and Lisa, who literally opened their home to us.

Thanks to Flor for getting me to ride this again. I missed you.

Thanks to the posse. To Lorraine, Dave, John, Justin, Kristen, Elizabeth, and Jeremy. Thanks to Michael who refused to let me get us lost! And special thanks to my new friend Emilia, mi esposa por un dia. Muchas gracias, senorita.

Emilia Shows Off Her Trophy
Emilia Shows Off Her Trophy