A Long, Long Way from Rotorua

On our trip around the world in 2015, we made a stop in Rotorua, a resort town on the north island of New Zealand. We used it as a jumping off point for various adventures. One evening we went to a local Maori site and had a fantastic cookout and watched a traditional Maori performance called kapa haka.

Rotorua is a geothermal area and the cookout was done in the ground over geothermal vents of some sort. Just wrap the food in aluminum foil, leave it on the vents, and voila dinner is served.

The performance was extremely entertaining. Dancing, weapons, intimidating faces with bug eyes and tongues displayed. Maoris are large humans. New Zealanders of all stripes admire their fierce competitiveness on the rugby pitch either for the national team called the All Blacks or as players on other countries’ teams all over the world. Before each All Blacks game the team performs a haka as a way to acknowledge their roots, fire themselves up, and freak out their opponents.

During the performance I spotted #bikedc man about town Joe Flood taking pictures. He’s a pretty darned good photographer .  Joe’s in the purple shirt in the center of the picture below.

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Today we saw Maoris perform a kapa haka in front of the Lincoln Memorial. Abe was impressed. I am pretty sure he was clapping along with the rest of us. There is obvious European influence in the songs (which were accompanied by acoustic guitarists and other musicians), the performance is unmistakably something else entirely.  My favorite singer songwriter, Neil Finn, is from New Zealand. He credits the Maori strum as the rhythmic underpinning of many of his songs, including the Crowded House hit “Don’t Dream It’s Over.” From time to time Maori music and singers appear on his records.

The performance ended just as a storm approached. I took this picture as we made our way back to the car. We didn’t make it. The clouds opened up. Summertime in DC.

Storm in DC

 

A few  more pictures are on my Flickr page.

My Bike Commute Is Picture Perfect

One of my pet peeves is the fact that I recognize a good photo only after I have let the moment slip away. It’s like coming up with a good retort a day too late. Today on the way to work I had to stop to allow trail users to come through the narrow passage on the Mount Vernon Trail beneath the Memorial Bridge. For some reasons, I looked to my right and saw sunlight reflecting off the Potomac River. The Washington Monument was framed by the branches the tree to my immediate right along the river bank. Normally, I’d just turn back to the matter at hand and wait for the trail to clear. But today, I decided to pull out my phone and take a picture.

River and bridge

Yeah, my bike commute is that good.

Bicycle Listicle

  • Bald eagle sightings have increased hereabouts. Most mornings the Belle Haven nest about 5 miles from my house is overseen by a lone eagle. I’ve never figured out why.The nest is abandoned but for some reason eagles continue to hang out in the tree limbs above it.
  • Yesterday a bike commuter passed me north of the airport. As she did so, she pointed to the sky over the river and said, “Bald eagle!” When I looked I could see a bird about 100 yards away flying toward DC. The bird then banked to the left and I could see its white head. It continued its big turn and landed in a tree along the riverbank next to the trail. My eagle spotter pulled over to take a picture. I would have too but for my squeaky brakes. I didn’t want to scare the eagle. A minute later she came by me again, “That made my day!” Mine too.
  • This morning a bald eagle launched from the Belle Haven nest and flew RIGHT AT ME!!! Top of the food chain, ma! It veered off before tearing my head from my body. Otherwise, well, this blog would be kaput. As would I.
  • Just before the bald eagle attack, I spotted a brand new polyester throw on the trail near Belle Haven Park. I thought it might belong to Running Mom but decided to leave it in case it was someone else’s. A few minutes later here comes Running Mom pushing her son in a jogging stroller. She didn’t seemed to be the least bit upset so I assumed the blanket wasn’t hers. Glad I left it where I saw it. (It was hanging on a trailside sign this evening.)
  • I stopped for a sunrise picture and made it a selfie. I don’t do selfie’s very often, because I look pretty unremarkable and spoil the view. You can’t really see much of the sun. I suck at photography.  Also, I look like I’m 8 feet tall.

sunrise-selfie

  • The morning light was fantastic. I could have taken a dozen pictures. I stopped for this one of the Washington Monument reflected in the Potomac River. (The quality of this picture is proof that even a blind pig finds an acorn now and then.)  I was going to take a picture of the reflections and shadows of the multiple arches of the Memorial Bridge but decided to continue on to work instead. #bikedc friends Jacques and Mary had the same idea and shot the bridge from both sides of the river.

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  • Yesterday I didn’t get enough sleep and was riding in a mental fog. There is one bike traffic light on the Mount Vernon Trail for cars coming into and out of Porto Vecchio, an upscale condo on the river, just beyond the Belle Haven nest. I always stop for this light when it’s red and take extreme care when it is yellow (it is never green) to avoid being hit by turning cars. In my haze yesterday morning I rolled the red light. There were cars about to cross the trail. I am lucky I didn’t get hit. It’s the second time this month that I have escaped getting t-boned because I was in a trance. I really have to start paying more attention.
  • Today was supposed to be my co-worker Kelly’s first bike commute of the year. When I got to work her bike wasn’t in the bike parking room. Last night she laid all her bike clothes out. This morning she woke up, got dressed, went out and caught the bus. Only then did she realized that she had forgotten to ride her bike! Apparently Kelly’s early morning trance puts mine to shame.

 

Chatting, Squalling, Passing

My bike commutes are mostly solo affairs in which I go into a trance and re-emerge at the Intersection of Doom. Nothing takes you out of a deep meditative state quite like near certain death.

This morning, however, I rode about 8 miles of my commute with Big Ed, a caffeine addict with a biking problem. I call him Big Ed because, well, he’s big, but it also distinquishes him from Felkerino, who drinks espresso like tap water.

Big Ed sure is loquacious. Normally I’d rather ride along but he was splendid company and didn’t take out a single oncoming ride. He rides a Surly Ogre which is a rather intimidating steed. On coming riders moved off the trail, dismounted, and bowed.

Ed veered off at the Crystal City connector trail next to National Airport. He was in search of his morning fix. I later learned he achieved caffeine satisfaction.

While Ed was amping up, I found myself riding into a headwind which suddenly turned into a snow squall. I tried to take pictures but I lack patience and photographic skill. Here’s a couple of my failures.

Sadly, the dried geese poop on the trail can be confused with the few snowflakes. At least the Washington Monument is in a snowy haze.

The rest of the ride in was a bit of a struggle into the wind but I managed.

The wind maintained during the day allowing me to ride home effortlessly with a cold tailwind. Near the Memorial Bridge I passed Flogini, the erstwhile spiritual adviser to the Rootchopper Institute, as she rode toward me. It was only the second time our paths have crossed in a year and a half. (I don’t think she recognized me because she had no eye protection and was taking a cold wind to the face.) It’s sad to think that in all that time we’ve seen each other for about 3 seconds.

The rest of the ride home was, forgive the expression, a breeze. My pedaling mechanics seem suddenly to be quite good, especially for this time of year. I am also getting out of the saddle much more than I have in years.

Tomorrow will be another cold commute, then the next seven days should be in the 60s and 70s. In February. In DC. Wow.

 

 

Ospreys and Scaffolds

To Whom It May Concern:

It’s mid-April. In Washington DC. I froze on the ride to work this morning. Can we have our spriing back?

Yours

Rootchopper

I wouldn’t have froze if I broke out my jacket and holey sweater but I didn’t. It’s the principle of the thing.

The ride in aboard Big Nellie was tearful. The cold on my eyes made me tear up like the end of It’s a Wonderful Life. Zuzu’s pedals!

I saw four regulars on the way in: Three-Step Runner, Hoppy Guy, Nancy One-Bag Duley, and French Braid Girl. They are always going the opposite way. I wonder if they don’t get together for coffee at my house after I pass them. There are others I see nearly every day, but they aren’t distinctive. Nancy may get renamed Wave Crash because she waves so enthusiastically I am afraid she’s going to crash.

Along the way I heard a peep-like sound over head.  Riding a recumbent makes it much easier to see things high up. The peep came from a hawk of some sort, perched on a branch of the tree I was passing under.

When I came off the second flyover bridge at National Airport, I spotted three big birds circling over Roaches Run, a little inlet on the opposite side of the GW Parkway.  It looks like a big pond. It was hard to get a good visual fix on the birds, then, suddenly, one took an awkward dive to the water. Dang, that’s a hard way to get breakfast. I think they were ospreys.

I came to the Gravelly Point parking lot and some military folks were doing some sort of timed run. I came to their finish line just as two runners were finishing. They were so focussed on their time that they blocked the entire path. I slowed to a crawl until everyone realized that what my bell was for and they stepped aside.

It was considerably warmer for the ride home. Another osprey was stalking the fish in the Potomac near the 14th Street Bridge. I stopped to take a picture of the scaffold on the Washington Monument.  Several years ago a scaffold was erected on the monument to allow workers to do maintenance. We had an earthquake a couple of years ago so more work is needed. Up goes the scaffold.

Washington Scaffold

I spotted a man on a bike with big fat tires. I wondered if he could ride at a decent pace. I looked away for a minute and he was long gone. Later I saw him crossing the GW Parkway south of Alexandria. It looked to me as if he had an electric motor in the rear wheel. Cheater.

Put one of those bad boys on the back wheel of Big Nellie and we’ll see who’s boss, punk.