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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No Time for Old Bike Commuters

Last night and for much of the day today we were hit with a late winter storm. It dropped an inch and a half of slushy wet snow and rained and sleeted and such. It was pretty, especially seeing as how we hadn’t really had a snowstorm this winter.

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This was the view out the front door early this morning. This closed some schools and government offices (not mine) and made for some bumper car action on local roads. I worked from home and, to my surprise, was somewhat productive.

I cleaned off the cars and shoveled the pavement clean with my long-neglected wovel. It was not much fun. I spread de-icer so I don’t pull a Buster Keaton in the morning.

Migrating birds have been gathering in the area for a week or two. I have a bird feeder outside my kitchen window (next to the weeping cherry tree in the photo above). I keep it topped off. Birds are going to be stressed to the max over the next couple of nights so we need to top off their bellies. The two bald eagles at the National Arboretum had a rough night but their eggs were well protected. The eggs and the nest beneath the birds are dry.

Arboretum eagles snowstorm

By the end of the day, my back yard was still covered with icy slushy mess.

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At least the screens in our new windows are in good shape.

The forecast calls for temperatures well below freezing overnight. This will turn the Mount Vernon Trail and some untreated side streets into a skating rink. No bike commute for me. We’ll see how things stand on Thursday.

The good news is that this will all be gone by this weekend’s Vasa ride. It will be windy and a little on the cool side but the ride should be fun. If you are in DC and ride a bike, you should do it. As Doctor Seuss said, “These things are fun and fun is good.”

Stay warm, y’all.

 

 

Winter ramblings

  • I was dreading riding to work in subfreezing temperatures this morning. Truth be told it wasn’t bad at all. I still hate having to put on and take off all the additional clothing though.
  • It will be cold for one more week then we go back to seasonal temperatures and constant rain.
  • Sitting in a ball park watching an exhibition game in late March may not be the brightest idea I ever had.
  • This blog gives me daily reader counts by country. I know (at least) nine people who are overseas right now. Six of them (India, Australia, South Africa) are reading regularly based on blog diagnostics. Hi Rick and Laurie, Alan and Dona, and Joe and Jane.
  • I left home a little late to avoid having to use lights. I got a sunrise picture as a bonus.

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  • I was going to go to my eye doctor appointment in Old Town tomorrow. He rescheduled it because of an expected snow storm. He’s a bike commuter. Probably doesn’t have fenders on his bike.
  • There is a bike motto thread on a local message board. Here are some of my ideas:
    • The farther one bikes, the less one knows.
    • Whereever you bike, there you are.
    • I bike. Therefore, I am.
    • To bike or not to bike? That is the question, albeit a stupid one.
    • Some kind of happiness is ridden out in miles.
  • I rode home in daylight. Saw a bald eagle perched above the Tulane nest. My face was moistened by hundreds of conversational snowflakes.
  • My favorite blog is going into hiatus. Have a blast in Ireland, Britt. We expect a full report without any blarney.

Winter’s End? – A Walk in Huntley Meadows Park

We are tantalizingly close to spring. The cherry trees in DC should be at peak bloom in less than two weeks. This weekend was cold. Cold for around these parts anyway.

I took a day of rest yestimg_7580erday. We watched basketball and lolled around the house. Today, we started filling out retirement forms. If two people with masters degrees can’t figure out the forms, something is amiss. We planned for this. We each have about ten questions for HR people. It will only take a few minutes to finish all this nonsense. Then I wait until my birthday and launch into the unknown. It’s one part scary and one part exciting.

To get my calm on before the paperwork, I went for a walk. Huntley Meadows Park is tucked away off US 1 in southeastern Fairfax County Virginia. It is little known and I hope it stays that way. (Don’t tell anyone, okay?)

It is what I as a child called “woods”. Not a forest just woods.img_7570 And there is a big swamp (they call it wetlands to make it palatable to neighbors). The swamp used to run dry from time to time, but nowadays the beavers have been allowed to dam it up and the water is high and wide. A boardwalk winds its way over the waters.

Huntley Meadows is different each time I go. This time of year the beavers were nowhere to be seen but there was a very loud hawk (or maybe a vulture) circling overhead, some mallards and coots and Canada geese floating about, and a great blue heron stalking his lunch. I startled a flock of grackles in the woods. They would launch in unison, fly 10 or 15 yards and land. Then I’d catch up to them and they’d repeat the process. I could hear the call of red wing blackbirds, one of the few bird calls I recognize from my days hanging out near Dead Man’s Pond in Albany. (If there was a dead man in it, he had decomposed. I never saw him.)

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The trail through the woods is well groomed, unpaved, and flat. I did a figure 8 which probably amounted to 2 miles total distance. It was just enough of a walk to wake me up and chill me out.

There are some more pictures over on my Flickr page. I used an old Canon EOS Rebel digital SLR. I was stunned at how much better the pictures are than the ones I take on my point and shoot camera and my phones. I will try to remember to bring this camera with me to events in the future.

April Chores before February Storms

For yet another day it was April in February. My mind turned to thoughts of spring. Well, old fart thoughts of spring.

I rode Deets to the Hardware store to pick up my sharpened lawn mower blade. While waiting for my blade, I read the local free newspaper. An injured bald eagle had been found on the farm next to my house. It had a full head of white feathers so it was probably mature. This is egg laying season. One injured eagle means another may be without a mate. Not good. (This eagle is not one of the eagles that nests at the Arboretum in DC. Those eagles probably forage for food along the Anacostia River some 10 to 15 miles from my house.)  I bought some stuff at the drug store nearby then rode home.

I pulled out The Mule to see what I could do about it’s screeching front brakes. Well, the short answer was not much given the fact that the brake pads were almost completely worn out. So I hopped back on Deets to ride four miles with a tailwind to the local bike store for some replacements. Alas, they were out of stock so I rode a couple more miles into Old Town where my not-so-local bike store had one pair of the kind of brake pads I prefer.

The ride home was into a strong headwind, a sign of an approaching storm front due to reach us in early afternoon. Along the way I passed a woman running. She stumbled as I passed and fell flat on her face. I stopped to see if she was okay (she was). Of course, my concern only made her feel embarrassed. Onward.

Pedal pedal.

Back at the ranch, I put the brake pads on with a surprisingly limited number of f-bombs. When I am working on a bike, I use a lot of lube and a lot of f-bombs. They just make things work better. I don’t know why.

Next, I drained the oil from the lawn mower and replaced the blade, the air filter, and the spark plug. When I went to put new oil in the engine, I found that the oil I had in my shed was last winter’s dirty oil that I had yet to dispose of. Derp.

Clouds loomed.

I jumped on The Mule and headed for the hardware store so I could get some oil and test the brakes.

Pedal pedal.

Raindrops fell. Then the sky cleared. I bought some oil and made it home warm and dry. The brakes worked and didn’t squeal.

The oil went into the mower. I put some gas in. And started it up. It went clank. Then it ran normally. I repeated this. It went clank each time I started it. Clanky sounds aren’t good but the thing worked. I will unclank it another day.

My final task of the day was to polish my shoes. Do people still do this? I learned it from my father who wore the same shoes for 35 years. Good shoes last forever. I bought this pair over 20 years ago. Good shoes are kind of like bikes. Trust me. Someday you’re gonna need a quality shoe.

Having finished my chores, I sat down with a bagel and a newspaper to enjoy a sunny day on the deck. Ten minutes later the front came through.

It’s February now.

 

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.

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  • 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.

 

A Proper, if Reluctant, Recovery

After totally botching a recovery ride yesterday, I decided to give it my all today. It being a national holiday, the last one for many weeks (a stretch of the calendar that I call The Long March as if it is comparable to Bataan), I slept in. Then I did what most old farts do, I ate a slow and methodical breakfast and read the dead tree edition of the newspaper. The good folks at the Washington Post had the decency to load up the sports page with baseball stories causing me to cry tears of joy in my Rice Chex.

Next came some web surfing. This is normally utterly unproductive, especially when accompanied by solitaire playing. Today was an exception. I learned (and saw with my own eyes) that the bald eagles at the National Arboretum have produced one egg. You can watch the entire process of egg sitting on the webcams that the U.S Department of Agriculture set up. This is a phenomenal time killer as not much happens for days. It is oddly addictive, however.

Interspersed with eagle watching and solitaire playing, I read some of Bill Bryson’s In a Sunburned Country. It is a funny travelogue about Australia, which I happened to have visited a couple of years ago.

At about 1 pm, I tired of my sloth and jumped aboard Deets for a ride to my local bike shop to have my front derailler looked at. It started throwing the chain to the inside a couple of days ago and I couldn’t get the appropriate adjustment screw to adjust.

Lucky for me there appears to me a time warp going on in DC. It feels like April. Flowers are coming up. Pollen is dusting cars windshields. The sun is warming bicyclists in shorts.

I expected there to be a long line at the bike shop and was delighted to see there was none at all. The mechanic on duty made quick work of the adjustment advising me to put the chain in the biggest gear before fiddling with the adjustment screw. I knew there had to be a trick. The adjustment was free (thanks Spokes Etc.) and I was on the road in no time.

I stopped at the scenic jersey barriers at the Belle Haven Marina for a photo op. Pay no attention to the ugly developments on the far side of the river.deets-at-marina

I rolled into Old Town and could see that the Presidents’ Day parade was still going on. I took the Wilkes Street tunnel from Union Street to check out the proceedings. The air in the tunnel was about 10 degrees warmer than on the street. It was also dark owing to the fact that I was wearing sunglasses.

A walker said hello and used my name. It was Bruce who I worked with until recently. He was dressed in white. Immediately behind him was a group of four or five people including his wife Paula – with whom I still work – dressed in her mandatory black. They looked a bit like Spy vs. Spy from Mad magazine.

I stopped to take in the parade. I couldn’t for the life of me get my phone to work properly to take a decent picture in the glare of the sun. I saw some bagpipers and what looked like Mummers driving itty bitty cars.

Having marched in parades for six years during my military school days I can only tolerate them in small doses. I hopped back on my steed for a slog along the perimeter of the parade and its crowds.

Once I found a street that would take me back home across  the parade route I took it. Slowly. The idea was to recover from the last two days. I took the hilly route home, mostly to test out the derailer. It worked fine.

After 17 miles, I dropped off my bike and drove to Huntley Meadows Park for a quite stroll in the woods. As I drove down the entrance road, I passed dozens of cars parked, an overflow from the normally empty parking lot. So much for solitude. Now I know what there was nobody at the bike shop.

So I bagged the idea of a walk in the woods and came home.

Sometimes recovery happens. Sometimes it is thrust upon me.

 

The Fat Lady Isn’t Singing Yet

As the saying goes, the opera isn’t over until the fat lady sings. Folks, it’s mid-February. The fat lady of winter isn’t doing her number for many weeks. I know because it was in the 20s on the way to work this morning. The edge of the river had frozen.

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For the next week or so we’ll have some April weather. Don’t get complacent. The fat lady is warming up, so to speak, in the wings.

I am hoping on banking out some serious mileage in celebration of our temporary spring. What’s on your President’s Day weekend to do list?

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.

 

 

Spring, Kindness, and Shackelton’s Great Grand Daughter

Robin Rides to Work

As it gets warmer and lighter, we begin to see signs of spring. Today I saw my first new bike commuter. I’ll call her “Robin.”

There is a short connector trail that links the Custis Trail along I-66 with the Mount Vernon Trail along the Potomac River. The connector trail starts/ends at the Intersection of Doom. Along side the trail is a little used service road that goes basically nowhere. It is often confused with the connector trail.

As I reached the IoD traffic light on the connector trail, I spotted Robin coming from the Key Bridge toward the IoD. She looked confused and started to turn down the service road. We made eye contact and I shook my head “no.”  Then I motioned with my head “this way.” (My hands were busy braking.) She immediately got the point and veered off the service road. As she rode past me she said, “Thanks. It’s my first bike commute.” Based on her gear – bike with rack and panniers – she was not an inexperienced rider; she was just new to commuting in DC. She would have figured out her mistake so I saved her all of 20 seconds. Nevertheless it felt good to help a fellow traveler.

So here’s a reminder to all #bikedc commuter. Spring is almost here and, with it, many Robins. It doesn’t take much to help them out. Maybe just a nod or a shake of the head. Give them directions or offer to lead the way. Invite them to one of the scads of bike commuter coffee get-togethers. Tell them about upcoming local events like the Vasa Ride.

Be Kind to Clueless Touroids

And while I am on the subject of being kind, we are just a few weeks away from the massive influx of tourists. Tourists in DC think they know where they are and what they are doing because they see DC on TV every night. The truth is most of them are clueless. Be kind to them. (Yes, I admit I lose my cool with five abreast cherry blossom tourists on the trails. I will try to be more patient this year.) Be especially kind to the ones from far away lands, particularly those who do not speak English. If you’ve ever been disoriented in a place far away, you know how frustrating and scary it can be. The people you help will long remember what you did for them.

Enduring Rosslyn

Later in the morning I had to go to CVS for some things. I decided not to bother with a sweater or jacket since it’s only a block away and 45 degrees is tolerable in shirt sleeves. I was totally comfortable. I spotted a woman walking toward me in a cross walk. She had on a heavy winter coat, oversized sunglasses, and big ear muffs. I stifled a laugh and wondered if her last name was Shackleton. Then I realized she was a friend of a friend, the kind you know of but don’t actually know. Derp. I guess it’s not spring for everyone yet.