Fifty States in a Pandemic

Preliminaries

Most people who read my blog know that the Washington Area Bicyclists Association’s (WABA) Fifty States Ride is my favorite event of the year. This year marks the 12th time I’ve done it and each year’s ride is different. None more so than the 2020 addition this past Saturday.

For those of you late to the game, the 50 States Ride is the most ironically named gimmick ride ever. The 60-ish mile open-streets route (it changes a bit each year) takes riders all over the District of Columbia so that they ride on the streets named for the 50 U. S. states. The gimmick part is obvious. The irony is that the ride takes place entirely outside of the actual 50 states. (DC is not a state. Its residents do not have voting members in Congress, despite the fact that they outnumber at least two actual states.)

Although the ride is 62 (give or take a mile) miles long, if feels like 100 miles. Stop signs, traffic lights, traffic circles, and, well, traffic of all kinds (the streets are not closed) slow riders down. Downhill speed is forfeited at traffic lights. Uphills begin with a standing start. This means that instead of taking four or five hours, the ride takes all day. And you can cancel your evening plans because you’ll be trashed after the event. It is hard.

In every normal year, the ride begins in a park in the centrally located Adams Morgan neighborhood. In recent years the 50 States has also had shorter versions for the less insane. This meant that all 700+ participants gathered at a sign in point. Obviously, this is not doable during a pandemic.

So the folks at WABA got creative. They created shorter events for the two previous Saturdays. Then for the 50 States they established five starting points spread strategically throughout the city. Each starting point had three sign-in times, 7:30, 8:30, and 9:30. Each location and time were assign 25 riders. The only downside to this feature is that riders could not form large posses of friends. The upside was that the long lines at check in were gone. Also, in the past, the large mass of riders at the start caused congestion at stop signs and traffic lights for the first 10 miles or so. This was great for meeting people but really annoying for both participants and drivers. Another casualty of the pandemic was the loss of post ride celebration at a pizza place in Adams Morgan.

I chose to start in Meridian Hill (also known as Malcolm X) Park in Adams Morgan, a half mile from the former starting point. Other riders started in Anacostia Park in Southeast DC, Lincoln Park on Capitol Hill, and Forts Slocum and Reno in upper Northwest DC. Each of these points doubled as pit stops where riders could get snacks, water, and use a porta potty.

My History with the 50 States

I have previously done the 50 States Ride in 2006, 2007, 2010, 2011 – 2014, 2016 – 2019. In 2006, 2007, and 2010, I started alone, but ended up meeting people or chatting with old friends along the way. All my rides since then have involved posses of friends, new and old, which made for a festive day. Also, the first two or three times I did the ride, it was held in August. It was brutally hot and muggy. Thankfully, WABA moved the ride into September which often involved torrential rains. (Not this year, however.)

This Year’s Ride

To avail myself of free, on-street parking, I parked over a mile from the start. I arrived early at the 7:30 start and checked in without waiting. This year I had a posse of one, Kevin W. with whom I’ve done the ride two or three times before. Michael B. was unable to secure an early start time so he started an hour after us.

A Flat Start

We made our way west on streets wet from overnight rain out of Adams Morgan dispatching Wyoming and California without incident. After a brief downhill we began heading east picking off New Hampshire. After more easting we turned south and rode Rhode Island southwest to Vermont. (Geographic reality had no place in the 50 States Ride). Next we rode toward the White House. Security fences kept us off Pennsylvania Avenue for now. We zig zagged to the east and conquered New York. More zig zagging to the south and east found us harvesting Indiana. We circumvented the Judiciary Square area and headed along New Jersey where we took the exit for Louisiana. After a touching base in Columbia Circle in front of Union Station we back tracked on Delaware to the base of Capitol Hill.

Climbing the hill we turned southeast on Massachusetts Avenue before doubling back toward the Capitol on Maryland. 2nd Street took us behind the Supreme Court and through the Library of Congress buildings. We headed west to Washington before turning south again for Virginia. A security gate caused a brief departure from the route but we were back on track after a couple of blocks. At this point Kevin noticed that his front tire was losing air so we stopped for a repair.

With his tube patched, we headed west on Independence Avenue to 15th Street. Turning south we touched Maine before doing a nearly four mile loop through East Potomac Drive on Ohio Drive. Back on Maine we headed past the District Wharf area and down a long stretch of M Street within a block of Nationals Park.

Except for Capitol Hill, this entire 17-mile section of the route was flat, a warm-up for the hillscape across the Anacostia River.

Clockwise for a Change

At 11th Street we headed across the Anacostia River and made our way to the Anacostia Park pit stop along the river. Here Kevin noted that his tire was getting soft so he pumped up his tire. We snacked, used the blue room, and chatted briefly with my friend Josephine who had volunteered to take the early staffing shift. As we were dallying, Michael arrived. He was with a friend who wanted to ride at a faster pace than us. They were gone within ten minutes. Michael has been a part of the Rootchopper 50 States Posse for many years. Sad face.

We gave luke warm pursuit. This year, the route east of the river (EOR) was clockwise and otherwise somewhat different from the past. We wondered what surprises awaited. We followed the Anacostia River Trail to Benning Road, a high speed traffic sewer. Benning took us east away from the river, across DC 295 and into far briefly into Northeast DC. Soon we hit East Capitol Street where we picked up Texas. This section of Texas Avenue, new to the route, was a long, easy climb through a pleasant residential neighborhood transitioning to a still-uphill curvy road through Fort Circle Park. After our park ride, we rode west about a block on Pennsylvania before turning back toward the east on Alabama. The clockwise route now had us at the top of previous years’ long climb. The next 2 1/2 miles were mostly downhill.

At a stop light, an African American man at a bus stop asked to take our picture. “You’re the only white people I’ve ever seen in this neighborhood.” His joke had a point. The EOR neighborhoods were mostly black. We riders were mostly not. I pondered a bit what would happen if the shoe were on the other foot. 50 States comes with a heaping side of white privilege.

Down Alabama and a few steeper side streets and we found ourselves on level ground heading east along Mississippi Avenue. What goes down must go up Whittier. I dreaded the climb but it was not as steep as I recalled from all those downhills of years passed. Zigging and zagging to MLK Boulevard, Anacostia’s Main Street. After another long, steady downhill we found Good Hope and took it east to Minnesota.

With the EOR hills behind us we made a few more turns and came back to the river. I noticed a couple of riders about to climb a paved path up to the Pennsylvania Avenue bridge over the Anacostia. I shouted that they were going the wrong way. They would have ended up on the wrong side of the bridge. (Been there. Done that.) We all passed under the bridge then took it back across the Anacostia River.

Back to Level Ground

Around Barney Circle (maybe the goofiest name ever) to Kentucky Avenue and east through the aptly named Hill East neighborhood on the backside of Capitol Hill. Kentucky led to South Carolina which took us for the umpteenth and final time to Pennsylvania. We stopped at District Taco at Eastern Market so Kevin could get his burrito fix then headed up North Carolina to the pit stop in Lincoln Park. The ride was now only half over.

A few weeks ago, Lincoln Park was the site of protests over the statue of Lincoln standing over a slave in chains. Today, it was the site of parents and kids, playing in a playground in one spot, sitting in a wide circle listening to a singing storyteller in another. Dog owners were being walked by their dogs. DC, it’s a hellscape of anger and violence, don’t you know.

After the burrito and a tire refill, Kevin was ready to ride. I had lunched on free pit stop snacks. (Do not follow my nutritional regimen.) We left the park headed east on Tennessee until we found Oklahoma for all of a block. Next we back tracked on C Street and went this way and that out off Capitol Hill into Trinidad (not a state but a state of mind for sure) where we picked up Florida and West Virginia. (Geography in DC is rather warped.) Another mile of level ground ensued and then, after 37 1/2 miles, things got serious again.

Northeast Traffic Hell

A mile of flat West Virginia (not remotely like the actual state) led to the insane traffic circle where New York Avenue meets Montana. Around the don’t-kill- me circle and up Montana for a few blocks. We headed east for a 1 1/2 miles on 18th to the first of two hair-raising states.

South Dakota is a four-lane highway masquerading as a city street. Cars ignore the speed limit. Fortunately we were only on it for a few blocks. Despite having ridden this ride so many times, the left on Taylor Street snuck up on me. I glanced in my mirror, saw only a car in the distance, signaled, and turned left. In South Dakota, cars are closer than they appear. Kevin veered off to the right so as not to be run over by the car running up my rear wheel. I made it without harm and waited for Kevin. “That was close,” he remarked rather dryly. To our credit, neither of us wet our pants.

Taylor gave way to a dicey intersection at Michigan which we took back east. We used the sidewalk on the bridge over the railroad tracks in Brookland to Catholic University where Kevin once again refilled his front tire.

Aloha Bitches

A half-mile flat ride gave way to the bumpy climb up Hawaii Avenue. After a slight downhill and rest at a red light, we turned southeast and then east toward Petworth. A hard right and we were on Illinois Avenue heading north. Around Grant Circle and north toward the three-syllable streets. (Streets run east-west and are alphabetical, adding syllables with each turn through the letters.) After a left on Buchanan, we hung a left on Kansas and headed back to Petworth. A right on Varnum took us directly onto Iowa, right onto Arkansas, and left onto Georgia in quick succession. Georgia is another notorious DC traffic mess but the pandemic worked to our advantage by keeping traffic more or less sane.

To the Top

A left on Kennedy took us to a hard right on Colorado. Every year people seem to linger in the street at this intersection. Every year I avoid colliding with them. This year was no different. Colorado took us to Missouri. This splendid downhill was spoiled by speeding DC traffic. The left on Longfellow could not have come soon enough. Kevin spotted his friend Sam hanging in front of his house. Sam and Kevin walked a few blocks as I lolled along on my bike. We arrived in Fort Slocum for another rest stop. Here Kevin changed his troublesome front tire and I ate snacks. The snacks seemed to vaporize before reaching my stomach. Lunch would have been a good idea. I had a chat with Anna, the WABA event coordinator.

After leaving the park we headed southeast on North Dakota, which was decidedly saner than South Dakota had been. When we reached 3rd Street we turned back to the north, lefting and righting into the Tacoma Park neighborhood. We rolled past Mike and Lisa’s house where the Tacoma rest stop was before the virus. I rang my bell and waved at someone working on a bike in their garage. His mask made it impossible to ID him.

We’d now reached the northern most part of DC and turned south along Alaska Avenue. As in years past, Patty Heck was standing at the turn taking pictures of us as we made our turn south. She’s done this in all sorts of weather including downpours. Check out her pix on Flickr.

Alaska was all downhill to busy 16th Street. We took a left for a few hundred yards before banging a right through a closed traffic gate at Sherrill Drive into Rock Creek Park. To this point the day had been overcast. The sun was now fighting to break through and temperatures and humidity were rising. The shade on Sherrill was most welcome but we could have done without the wet leaves that turned the curving downhill into a nervous descent.

Was It Always This Hilly?

At the bottom of the hill we turned left onto Beach Drive in the park only to exit the other side on Bingham. Bingham has been closed for years and the roadbed has been allowed to deteriorate. It was rideable and only mildly annoying.

Next up was a left on Oregon Avenue which has been under construction and off the route for a couple of years. We took a left on Oregon. It had only one lane and of course was bumpy and up hill. Being good citizens, we pulled over after a while to let cars pass. At Military Road, another car sewer, I followed Kevin onto the sidewalk. We backtracked onto Utah and into tony Chevy Chase. If you have to ask you can’t afford it. After a turn south on Rittenhouse. we turned onto Nevada. Unlike the brutal desert basin and range of the real thing, Nevada was like a locale for Landscaping for the Rich and Famous.

We had climbed out of Rock Creek Park but the fun was only starting. At Linnean Street we went up some more. Then we took a left on Fessenden Street and climbed more. And more. And more. How did I forget about this? Really. It was looong.

We stopped at Fort Reno for a chat with WABA’s Kristin at the last pit stop. More snackage. Hey, these little cheese circles ain’t bad. And they go so well with Goldfish crackers.

A couple of blocks later we were climbing up Wisconsin Avenue over yet another hill to Tenley Circle. As we took a right onto Nebraska Avenue an impatient Mustang driver roared past us. (This was only the second aggressive pass of the day.) Mr. Mustang zoomed to a red light 100 feet later. As far as we could tell there was no cross street, just a cross walk. Karma for the gas horse.

Nebraska was flat past American University and through Ward Circle and onto Loughboro where the road turned down. A left down Arizona made for the best descent of the day. Of course, it was wasted by a red light at MacArthur Boulevard but only dreamers get the green.

Garfield Isn’t the Worst of It

We tuned left up the short hill on Ashby Street, then left to recover for a half mile on flat 49th Street. Just as the feeling in my legs returned, we took a right up dreaded Garfield Street. This sucker nearly killed me the last few years but Kevin said, “We’ve got all day.” We dropped into our granny gears and took the hill without undue pain. Then Kevin remarked, “There’s another one ahead that I really hate.”

What?

The other side of Garfield was downhill then up. The up was taken care of by our momentum. We stopped and turned left up New Mexico, a false flat. (Looks flat. Goes up. Kills your psyche.) Our next right turn took us up Cathedral Avenue. This was the hill Kevin was talking about. I think past torture on Garfield had erased it from my memory. UGH.

After the slog we turned left on 39th and crossed Massachusetts to Idaho. The good news was that we were now in Cathedral Heights, the last of the hills. The bad news was that the inside of my left knee was screaming at me. As we turned onto Macomb Street we could see National Cathedral to our right.

Starting up after a red light at Wisconsin Avenue was extremely painful. I felt like a knife was sticking in my left knee. Fortunately, the rest was downhill. A right, left, and right took us through Woodley Park onto Connecticut Avenue.

The WABA route maker always leaves this busy boulevard for last, when riders are exhausted and traffic is relentless. Except for this day. No cars! We took the left lane and sped downhill to Calvert Street where the oncoming cars let us make a left turn without stopping. My knee was grateful. After a mile we were back at the park where we started where Hannah and Chris, staffing the WABA tent, were there to congratulate us.

Fin.

A Dozen in the Books

It was a tough ride, but well worth the time and effort. Thanks to Kevin for being an excellent one-man posse. Sorry for nearly getting you killed on South Dakota Avenue.

To the participants, thanks for wearing your masks and maintaining social distance. Compliance was excellent.

The clockwise ride EOR was an interesting improvement. Somehow the same hills seemed much easier in the clockwise direction. We had to give up prior years’ screaming downhill on Pennsylvania Avenue, but it was well worth it.

Big thanks to the volunteers and WABA staff, especially the early shift who woke up before 5 a.m. and set up the starting points/pit stops in the rain.

Congratulations to the WABA team for creatively re-imagining this event. It worked! Unfortunately, the social aspect of the ride suffered but your hard work salvaged and, in many ways, improved the event.

Scenes from the day.

Pictures from around here

I haven’t been very good about taking pictures lately so here are a few things that caught my eye on recent rides around home.

I was crossing the 14th Street Bridge into DC when I spotted a velomobile headed in my direction. I couldn’t get my camera out in time for a shot of the front but here’s the driver as he passed me.

After he went by I noticed that the roof of the “car” was covered with solar cells. And to he was pulling a trailer with additional solar cells. As you can see it’s a bit wide for the bridge trail but we managed not to collide.

You can also see the small American flags that have been duct taped to the side barrier at intervals. A volunteer has been doing this every year as a tribute to those who lost their lives on September 11, 2001. If you squint and look to the left of center just above the railing on the barrier you can make out the Pentagon and the three curved spires of the Air Force Memorial. The Memorial was constructed after 9/11. It is more or less in the flight path of the hijacked plane.

I live near Fort Hunt Park. There is a 1 1/4 mile paved circuit road in the park that I often use when I want to let my brain wander having to worry about fast moving big metal things. The other day I noticed people stopping to read this sign. It explains that in 1939, just before all hell broke loose in Europe, King George VI came to check out the Civilian Conservation Corps operation in the park. They planted a tree in his honor.

Here’s a close up of the sign.

This evening I went to the park to ride around in mindless circles. It was a beautiful evening. Park of the reason the temperature was so agreeable is the fact that a haze is blocking some of the sunlight. The haze is caused by wildfires out west, over 3,000 miles away.

Hike Test

I have a condition known as spinal stenosis. This is the narrowing of the pathways around the spinal cord and the nerves that branch off of it. Some of the nerves get irritated causing pain. My pain primarily shows up in my lower left leg. It is a dull ache that gets worse when I walk or stand. Last winter my pain was so bad I couldn’t walk across a room. As is typical of spinal stenosis, I can ride a bike without any pain at all.

To treat the pain I had cortisone injections in my back. The injections were very painful. The shot goes into the already irritated nerve and an electrical shock shoots down the nerve all the way to your toes. After a couple of days, the stenosis pain went away. The analgesic effect of my shot lasted about six weeks. Then covid hit and my doctor left the practice I was using.

When the dull ache returned this summer, I decided to wait a while to see if it would go away. My activities included riding my bike, reading, watching baseball, cleaning the house, and mowing the lawn. Mowing the lawn is not a problem because it involves supporter walking with a forward lean. The forward lean decompresses the spin so as not to irritate the Inflamed nerve. Only house cleaning and trimming the grass caused pain, both because they involve unsupported standing and walking.

I’ve also been doing physical therapy. I searched YouTube for appropriate exercises. Recently I added a few. They take about 15 minutes to do.

About three weeks ago, the pain became much greater so I called for an appointment. After a couple of insurance-related hassles, I ended up seeing a nurse practitioner.

Yesterday I mowed the lawn without pain. Then I used a trimmer and a blower. I expected that walking around with the trimmer and blower would cause my leg pain to flare up. It didn’t.

Going to a doctor without symptoms seemed pointless, so I decided to walk the half mile to her office. I brought a cane, just in case. About 100 feet into the walk, my left calf started aching. On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being mildly annoying pain and 10 being just-shoot-me, my pain was a 1. I expected it to increase as I walked but it either stayed the same or went away entirely, The only abnormality was a slight awkwardness to my gait.

I explained to the nurse that I made this appointment with the intention of getting a shot. Obviously, a shot was not necessary.

All was not wasted, however. We set up a plan. I will test my back by going for a short, east hike. Three miles should do the trick. If the pain returns and lingers then I call her and she’ll get the insurance authorization and set up the injection appointment with the doctor.

We also discussed how to deal with activities like vacations and such. If I expect to be doing a lot of walking, she will prescribe pain medicine as appropriate. Sadly, because I live in Virginia, she cannot prescribe marijuana edibles. With appropriate levels of THC, they work extremely well with little to no side effects.

I walked home without a problem. Then I went for a 30-mile ride.

Time will tell.

Hit or Miss Forecasting

Before going on a bike ride, experienced bike riders always check the weather report. When I woke up this morning the reports called for heavy rain all day. Then, just a little before I left on my ride I saw this report from the @capitalweathergang on Twitter:

DC area forecast update, 10a: Radar shows very little rain in the region and the forecast for today has improved. We no longer expect widespread heavy downpours. Just hit or miss showers. Some could be heavy later on but dry more often than not.

I left the house into the slightest of sprinkles. No problem. Within 2 miles of home the rain started falling more heavily. No problem. A raindrop managed to make it into my right eye. Sting. Can’t see. Problem.

The rain intensified. Now I am riding in a downpour with raindrops all over my glasses and one eye pretty much out of commission. Just before descending a half mile hill on Fort Hunt Road, I pulled over to get the sting out of my eye. I realized that the best way to keep this problem from recurring was to lower my forehead to keep my eyes under my helmet’s visor. It worked but I had to keep my speed down below 10 miles per hour. At this speed I look over the top of my glasses and see about thirty yards ahead, enough to avoid crashing into the construction worker’s pick up truck parked on the shoulder in the middle of the hill.

This was the hardest rain I’ve ridden in since Iowa on my 2018 bike tour across the country. I was riding downhill at over 30 miles per hour. My old cantilever brakes were utterly useless. It was terrifying. Last year I replaced them with mini-V brakes at the suggestion of a mechanic at my local bike store. As it happens, I did some maintenance on them before yesterday’s ride so they were ready for today’s challenge.

Speaking of local bike stores, mine caught fire last year and has been closed ever since. I turned off Fort Hunt Road to check out progress on its re-construction. I am happy to report that there is now a roof on the place and some framing for walls inside. Yay, progress.

I’d have taken a picture but the rain was coming down in sheets. Ugh.

I continued northward along Fort Hunt Road and took a trail over to South Washington Street in Alexandria. At South Washington Street I pressed the beg button to cross the street. I rested over my handlebars while waiting for the light to change. My back felt like I was in the shower at home. The rain was just pelting down even harder.

After a short descent I stopped underneath the Woodrow Wilson Bridge. I was a tad moist.

Here’s a shot of the playing fields to my immediate right in Jones Point Park. The Potomac River is just beyond those trees.

I continued into Old Town Alexandria down Union Street. At King Street things look a tad damp.

Flooding here is pretty common. What’s not clear from the picture is how fast the water is running toward me on the left side of the road. No sooner had I taken this picture than the rain intensified again.

I escaped uphill via an alley and re-connected with the Mount Vernon Trail on the north side of Old Town. I continued on the trail to the Four Mile Run Trail near National Airport. I turned off at Four Mile Run and made my way to the chicane that connects to the Potomac Yards Trail. The adjacent staircase was a waterfall.

I followed this trail back south. When I came to the trail head at Braddock Road I could see water gushing off the adjacent playing fields rail. The water cut right across the trail and down the curb cut into Braddock Road. (In the photo below, this is at the yellow sign on the right beyond the bridge.) I rode into this water and quickly realized that it was over a foot deep. Dang. Not wanting to pedal into a submerged obstruction I dismounted and started to walk up Braddock. The water was running fast and within two steps it was up to the top of my knees. (If the components on The Mule could talk they’d be pretty pissed off at me right about now.) After about 50 yards I reached dry-ish ground. The rain had abated. I stopped to take a picture of some pedestrians trying to get down the street I had just walked up.

Thankfully, the rain lightened. I headed back home. I swung by River Farm, the home of the National Horticultural Society. I turned in to ride the half mile loop and was rewarded with a close encounter with three turkeys. I decided to call them the Capital Weather Gang. They were spreading their wings to warn me off so I kept my distance.

A mile from home I could see a large dark cloud forming over my neighborhood. I called it a day after 28 miles. Apparently the cloud moved away. It hasn’t rained since I put my bike away.

For what it’s worth the area I was riding in had two to three inches of rain. Hyattsville, Maryland about 25 miles to the north had six inches!

I’ll Be Back

Today was my appointment with my new pain doctor. I arrived on time. I was given forms to fill out, of course. As I was filling them out the receptionist called me to her work station. It turns out the pain doctor who is new to this practice has yet to be approved as an in-plan doctor by my insurance company.

Why didn’t they tell me this three weeks ago when I made the appointment? I had the option of seeing an in-plan physicians assistant a week ago but insisted on seeing an MD.

So I was given three choices:

(1) Book a new appointment with another in-plan doctor (which would probably have delayed my treatment by another three weeks).

(2) Pay the out-of-plan rate to see my new doctor today. (Hey, what’s $600 between friends, right?) Or,

(3) Make an appointment to see the physicians assistant on Monday of next week.

It was like being on Let’s Make a Deal. I chose Door No. 3. They assured me that the PA was authorized to order cortisone injections.

While I was there I asked them if they kept a copy of my MRI. Nope. So my first order of business was to go home and dig it out of my files.

Ironically, I am not in pain. Somehow, for the last four days or so, the referred pain in my leg went from a 9 on a scale of 10 to a 1.

What’s behind this?

Well, first of all, other than riding my bike and mowing my lawn I hardly do anything but sit. Mowing the lawn doesn’t cause any pain because it involves supported forward leaning, just as riding a bicycle does. I did some housecleaning (bathrooms, vacuuming and such) last Thursday. Since this activity did not involved forward leaning, leg pain increased.

Another possibility is that I have made some modifications to the physical therapy exercises I’ve been doing. I doubt this is having such a big effect though.

My final thought is that I have been riding The Mule consistently for over two weeks. The Mule has easy gears and absorbs road shock well. In contrast, my CrossCheck has aggressive gears. My Bike Friday doesn’t absorb road shock. And my Tour Easy recumbent does not involve leaning forward.

The time is now for me to get this back issue squared away. I want to be able to walk around like a normal person, perhaps even do a day hike now and then.

Watson! The needle!!

Miracle Cure

You don’t need medicine. Your diet doesn’t matter. Doing yoga isn’t helpful. What you need is a phone. All you have to do is call the doctor and make an appointment and your problem disappears.

This isn’t the first time that making an appointment has coincided with a recovery, but it sure is strange. After three weeks of increasing pain in my left leg, I gave in and made an appointment with a physiatrist, the pain doctor who I hoped would give me cortisone injections in my back. Of course, I had to wait three more weeks to see her.

My leg hasn’t hurt for three days.

It’s a miracle. Hallelujah. Go figure.

Regardless of my current pain situation, my appointment tomorrow is worth keeping to establish a rapport with the doctor who is new to me. It is unlikely that she’ll give me shots if I am asymptomatic. I might try walking to her office which is 3/4 of a mile away. That would probably cause the pain to come back.

On a related note, one of my sisters has been dealing with stenosis for quite some time. Today she had her first shots. “Stood me right up!” she reports. I hope it helps.

Mindless 50

Today was our third perfect biking weather day. The weather gods are kind. And my Sunday blahs went away after an unusual eight hours of uninterrupted sleep. Lord, I needed that.

There are two theories as to my Sunday malaise. One is Blissful Britt‘s theory that the Five Guys gut bomb I had for dinner Saturday night blew up inside me. The other is John Fisher’s comment that I may have been reacting to the flu shot I had on Saturday, because the dose is higher for people of a certain vintage.

Speaking of vintage, as of mid-August I am now in a higher risk age bracket for Covid-19. Just shoot me.

The Mule and I had nowhere to go so we went to the Mount Vernon Trail to dodge noobs. The trail is packed with people who don’t normally use a bike trail. We took our time managing not to get hit or to hit anybody. To my surprise it wasn’t nearly as crowded as I expected.

I rode all the way to DC when I had to decide where this ride would go. Then it occurred to me that if you don’t know where to go, ride around in circles. I headed to East Potomac Park where Ohio and Buckeye Drives make for a flat 3.3 mile circuit. The road was packed with bikes and other self-powered humans. The lawns along the sides all had picnic-ers and fisherpeople and hammock hangers and such. A few parked cars were blaring music. One van had its rear doors open the better to maximize the boom from a mega boom box.

I stopped a couple of times to pick up stray golf balls from the raggedy course in the middle of the park. I think my summer shag stash is approaching three dozen.

I rode my usual pace and let my mind drift. Every so often I’d ride through a cloud of weed smoke. Too bad I was wearing a mask. I swear I could have had a free buzz if I slowed down.

After 6 laps (20 miles) I headed back home on the trail. After about 44 miles I was starting to flag. I had homemade diner breakfast and it was wearing off.

I could ride the last six miles home in my sleep and nearly did. All told I made it 50 miles.

I could get used to this.

Blahs

After yesterday’s splendid bike ride, I got a flu shot. For dinner we ate mass quantities of Five Guys food while watching the Nationals game. They won. Miracles do happen.

During the game my left arm ached as if someone had punched it hard. I went to bed only to toss and turn all night as the Five Guys re-arranged my GI tract.

I left the bed and slept on the couch hoping the change of venue would bring relief. No dice.

Now it’s past midmorning. The weather is perfect once more and I feel like I have a hangover. No energy. Slight headache. It’s the first time I’ve felt remotely ill since last winter.

Of course, I could have Covid. Ayyyyyyy!

Unlikely.

So I’ll sit on the deck and drink fluids while reading The Martian (very entertaining). At 1 I’ll go inside and watch the ballgame. I’m hoping by 4 I’ll feel up to a bike ride. I’d hate to waste this weather.

Perfect

The heat and humidity left town last night. The gross DC summer has ended. (I hope.) It was time to open the windows and breathe.

After reading the paper, I climbed aboard The Mule and headed northwest. I took the inland route to Georgetown. This uses city streets and lightly used trails and bike lanes to avoid the Mount Vernon Trail. On perfect weather days, the MVT is jammed with people. For some reason the authorities did not inform them that the trail is MINE!!!!!

To be honest, the inland route is a bit hilly in spots but it has its charms. I picked up another free golf ball near Belle Haven Country Club for a start. Then there’s the scenic majesty of the loading docks of the buildings in Crystal City. And let’s not forget the glorious vistas of the massive Pentagon North Parking lot. You can tell we are not at war because the lot was empty on a Saturday.

Well, I made it past all of them and around the north side of Arlington Cemetery. White crosses in row after row after row. Next it’s up the hill past the Netherlands Carillon (which is surrounded by scaffolding these days) and onto Lynn Street through beautiful downtown Rosslyn. (Sarcasm alert.)

I rode across the Potomac on the Key Bridge onto busy M Street. It was the busiest I’ve seen this road since the pandemic started. A right turn at Wisconsin Avenue brought me to the Water Street protected cycletrack. Sadly, the cycletrack ends after a couple of blocks and I had to waltz with the SUVs looking for street parking. The street ends at the Capital Crescent Trail trailhead and next to a boathouse so the SUVs all get to do a 3-point turn in the midst of heavy bicycle and pedestrian traffic.

The Mule and I made our way onto the CCT. The adjacent, unpaved, C&O Canal towpath was a mud pit so I decided to take the CCT all the way to Bethesda.The CCT wasn’t all that crowded except for a group of skateboarders that stretched about a mile in length.

In Bethesda I weaved through the diners and pedestrians who had taken over the city streets and followed the detour signs to Jones Bridge Road. The detour gets around the re-construction of the Georgetown Branch Trail. Jones Bridge Road is a busy thoroughfare during the week as it runs along the Bethesda medical complex. On Saturdays it’s rather calm. Soon I had doubled back across the GBT right of way. I could see where the old Rock Creek Trestle was. This was one of my favorite spots in DC. You could hang out above the treetops which made for a pretty great show when autumn colors arrived.

Crossing the GBT right of way I headed downhill toward Rock Creek Park. A big white SUV passed me with its engine roaring. I yelled “Wow. I’m impressed” into its open passenger side window. A minute later I pulled up behind Mr. SUV at a stop light.

About a half mile later I was on the closed section of Beach Drive, the main road through the park back to Georgetown. It’s insane that such a beautiful park is right smack dab in the middle of a huge city. Beach Drive winds its way down the Rock Creek canyon, crossing and re-crossing the creek. The road has recently been repaved so the riding is just about as sweet as can be.

And the scenery is like this. For mile after mile.

Beach Drive is open to cars and gets a bit hairy nearer to Georgetown. At one point a Maryland driver zoomed passed me honking his horn. I returned digital fire. Then in the interest of self preservation I switched to the side trail. The trail was a mess. Recent rains have caused the creek to overrun its banks. Standing water and mud covered the pavement. I survived.

After passing the Watergate and the Kennedy Center, I entered the beach volleyball slalom. The courts were closed but it was just my luck that the Bikeshare tourists from Oshkosh were in town. They rolled slowly in a sort of mechanical blob for 100 yards or so before stopping all over the trail. One on this side, one on that side, one in the middle, a few off the trail on the left and a few on the right. They then began asking each other where they wanted to go (Hint: the big marble building in front of them was the Lincoln Memorial). I rang my bell and yelled “Coming through!” They said “Oh.” They then proceeded to waddle their bikes all over like the players on an electronic football game or a gaggle of startled geese.

I survived this too. The weather was so good I didn’t cuss or anything. Honest.

Soon I was crossing the Potomac on the Memorial Bridge back into Arlington to reverse course around fab Pentagon North Megaparkland! They should charge for the views.

After clearing Old Town Alexandria I decided to try the MVT for the last few miles home. The first mile was rather frustrating as expected (Okay, let’s assemble the entire family right here on this paved trail while ignoring 30 acres of pristine lawn), but the traffic thinned out and the last two miles were copacetic.

Just before home I stopped and picked up some drugs. The deep discount for my asthma medicine was discontinued. Alas, I am now too old for Big Pharma’s mercy. My glaucoma drops thankfully are still reasonably priced.

I also got a flu shot. It was free. Thanks, Obamacare.

I arrived home after 51 blissful miles. I have now ridden exactly 7,000 miles this year.

It’s time for some baseball and junk food. Perfect.

920 Muggy Miles

It is official: my pandemic boredommeter has broken. I continue to ride nearly every day but my daily average is falling. Doing 80 to 100 miles in oppressive heat and humidity is likely to lead to an evening at the neighborhood trauma center.

My neighborhood trauma center is used to seeing bicyclists. One time many years ago I crash on the Mount Vernon Trail. I had a dislocated left knee cap and my left arm was cut to the bone. There was blood. The first question the triage nurse asked me was “Did you hit yoru head?” I said “No” and had to wait 20 minutes. Later, as I was wheeled to x-ray, a patient in cycling clothing on a gurney was being wheeled out. We said hello and he asked me “How’s your bike?”

He hit his head when he fell.

Anyway, my longest ride this month was 52.5 miles. I nearly got killed doing it thanks to a rumble strip and a pile of storm debris. On the plus side I averaged over 29 1/2 miles per day, even while taking three days off.

For the month I rode 920 miles putting me at 6,885 miles so far this year. I’m still on pace to exceed 10,000 miles for the year, but only barely so. I need to have a big September and October.

My stenosis came back. I reached 17,000 miles on my Cross Check. And I signed up for my 12th 50-States Ride in late September.

On to autumn!