Wovel and Ride

I woke up yesterday feeling quite a bit better. I took it easy and rode my Cross Check 18 flat and easy miles in the 30 degree cold. The cold air helped my sinuses immensely. My hands, however, were frozen into claws. Maybe next time I’ll use those chemical hand warmers. Doh.

I woke up today feeling better still. This was a good thing since it had snowed overnight and there was shoveling to do.

I spent about 90 minutes with my wovel (a big shovel on an even bigger wheel) and a conventional snow shovel. A kindly neighbor plowed the sidewalk in front of my house.

The snow was what we called in my childhood days growing up in upstate New York “good packing”. Ideal for snowballs and snowmen.

Last year when it snowed, I watched Mrs. Rootchopper do the shoveling. I stayed inside feeling feeble, a result of pulmonary embolisms and a collapsed lung


With pavement clear and cars liberated, I went inside.

I spent another 80 minutes in the basement riding Big Nellie, my Tour Easy long wheelbase recumbent, on a resistance trainer. While riding I read a chunk of Presidents of War, a new book by Michael Beschloss.

After a 30 minute nap I awoke to find my cold completely gone. Better still my legs feel springy for the first time in weeks.

While I was underground, it started snowing again. Now the snow is big, puffy flakes. It’s picture pretty outside. I’ll venture out again in an hour or two.


Shutdown of another sort

In apparent sympathy with federal government employees and contractors, my body has shut down. Three days ago I came down with a nasty head cold. I can’t remember when I’ve been sick for more than a day so I suppose I was due. The head cold coincided with my legs feeling like lead. I think two years and 20,000 miles of riding, much of it without any stretching whatsoever, has finally maxed them out.

I hope to be back on the bike for a few hours before tomorrow evening’s predicted snowstorm. With snow on the ground, I’ll probably be riding Big Nellie in the basement for a few days before I give my bike legs a planned full week of R&R. After that, I’ll turn my attention to the business of summer tour planning. Once the weather turns warmer, I’ll be itching to ride somewhere where the purple mountains rise.

Twice to the end

A Ride with Heather and Daniel

My friend Heather sent me an email the other day asking if I’d like to do a ride on the Mount Vernon Trail to take advantage of the nice weather and her furlough. And so I found myself riding my Surly Cross Check up to DC to meet her at the Capital Crescent Trail beneath Key Bridge in Georgetown.


Heather brought her friend Daniel, an ultramarathoner and rider of a 29er (a mountain bike with big wheels and front suspension). Heather rode her aluminium Specialized Sequoia which bears absolutely no resemblance to the Mule, my 1991 steel Specialized Sequoia. (Specialized recycles it’s bike names, apparently.)

We began by walking up stairs to get from the underside of Key Bridge to the roadway atop it. Across the Potomac we rode. I stopped before turning onto the Mount Vernon Trail to point out the Intersection of Doom, the bicycle counter, and the glass and steel ick that is today’s Rosslyn.

Down we rode to the trail and across Trollheim, the sketchy boardwalk under the TR Bridge. We came to the staging area of the Memorial Bridge reconstruction project and were delayed by a tractor trailer backing its load onto a barge in the river.

Down by the airport we stopped to admire the planes landing at National Airport. I broke the news to a dismounting cyclist that the porta potties were padlocked shut thanks to the government shutdown. I explained that in order to keep rapists and drug dealers out of the country park users must pee our pants. The cyclist who was by now doing the pee pee dance hit me with a right cross.

On we rode to Old Town were we stopped to admire the hulk of the decommissioned coal fired power plant.

Further south I explained how the fake arches of the Woodrow Wilson bridge were put together. Then it was down the trail past Porto Vechio were an SUV driver failed to stop at the red light and nearly hit me as she turned right  onto the Parkway. Having been hit here once before under nearly identical circumstances at this intersection, I hit my brakes and STOP!! I do wish Alexandria would change this to a no right on red intersection.

As we rode south I pointed out a bald eagle perched in a tree across the road. We made our way through Belle Haven Park then along the edge of Dyke Marsh where I pointed out the nests on the Haul Road and along the trail just south of Tulane Drive.

The gradual climb up to the stone bridge took us by another nest, this one near Morningside Drive.

We continued on the trail with Daniel taking the lead. Despite having sore feet and knobby tires he set a healthy pace. We came to the nasty switchback hill south of Waynewood Boulevard and everyone slowed to wobble a bit.

The ride to Mount Vernon was pretty and uneventful. We are all pretty tired once we reached the top of the hill at the end of the trail. Heather’s husband Rulon appeared as we were about to lock up our bikes. Heather treated us to lunch at the food court.

After lunch I led the descent back toward DC. As we passed Fort Hunt Park I pointed out the big eagle nest across the Parkway. When we got to the stone bridge, I bid Heather and Daniel good bye and headed for home. I finished with 41 1/2 miles on my odometer, my longest ride since Veterans Day.

The Puzzle from Hell

This year we decided to go low key for Christmas. No tree. No presents (we all cheated a bit). Just a few decorations, a shitload of junk food, some board games, and, a 1,000 piece jigsaw puzzle. The puzzle has been on our dining room table for over a week. I swear it was taunting us in our sleep. Looking at it day after day made me see jigsaw pieces as I rode my bike around.

Jigsaw puzzles make you appreciate how painters take what we see and how our brains translate that vision and distill it into bits of paint. That white dot in the puzzle piece is a headlight. The splash of white on the leaf is the reflection of a street light. The black line is the shadow beneath a piece of trim on a building.

Today I finished the painting. The push to the finish involved re-placing a couple of dozen pieces that had been improperly positioned. I laid 999 pieces together and realized the last piece, on the upper left side of the puzzle, didn’t fit! After 10 minutes of puzzle inspection I found a piece of the right side that was misplaced, switched them, and voila! Done.


I am doing the puzzle in the middle of the day because I woke up with a head cold. Reason enough to lay about in sweatshirt and sweatpants and eat some chicken soup.

Now to bed….

Into the new year

Turning the corner on the new year allowed me to back off the biking for a few days.

Okay. Okay. One day.

I watched a bunch of movies with my wife and daughter. We went around DC looking at holiday light displays such as Georgetown Glow and a disappointingly unlit display in Yards Park. We had dinner at a tavern in Petworth with #bikedc friends.  I finally got to see my friend Rachel’s string trio (the Tocatta Players) who were playing for the customers. Rachel surprised us by putting down her viola and singing three songs. (She crushed “Santa Baby”.)

On New Years Day we moved my daughter into her new apartment 15 miles away. This involved moving a van load of stuff including a full size mattress and bed, a full size sofa, and some other somewhat lighter stuff. I am shocked that we pulled it off in only a few hours without any orthopedic injuries. We lucked out when a tenant at her  apartment building helped us with the sofa. (Thanks, Emmett.)

We started a 1,000 piece jigsaw puzzle. Emphasis on “started”.

I replaced the fan and motor to two noisy bathroom ceiling fans. (Not exactly brain surgery, but still…)

I put a very small dent in Michael Beschloss’s Presidents of War.

And I did go for a couple of bike rides on New Years Day and today. On both days I expected to ride only 20 miles but ended up going 30, aches and pains from the move notwithstanding.


I spotted an interesting map on Facebook yesterday. It’s from a charity bike tour of Oregon, California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, and Washington. Around 4,000 miles with a number or national parks that I have (Yellowstone) and haven’t (Yosemite, Redwoods, Death Valley, Grand Canyon, Glacier) been to.

I need to do more research to see how this overlaps with Adventure Cycling routes which would simplify logistics for a solo bike tour. Stay tuned.

Western Parks Bike Tour.JPG

A Year by the Numbers

It was a whopper of a year for me on my bikes. I pretty much shattered every personal record.

I rode a total of 11,837 miles, 1,926 miles more than last year.

I averaged 32.4 miles per day.

I rode 309 days, taking 56 days off. I never took more than 3 days off in a row.

On my riding days, I averaged 38.3 miles.

I rode 4,300 of miles on my Any Road Tour from Mount Vernon, Virginia to Portland Oregon.

June, all of which was tour riding, was my highest mileage month: 2,260.5 miles.

My longest day was 136 miles from Morehead, Minnesota to Gackle, North Dakota on June 18.

The Mule, my 1991 Specialized Sequoia, accounted for 46.5 percent of my riding, 5,502.5 miles. 281 miles of my riding were done indoors on Big Nellie, my Tour Easy recumbent, mounted on a trainer. Most of this riding was in recovery from medical problems in late December 2017. I only rode the Tour Easy 1,099.5 miles in all. I’d sell it except for its usefulness indoors.

My Bike Friday New World Tourist took me 2,001 miles. It’s fun to ride but it beats me up because it’s little wheels don’t absorb road shock particularly well.

My Surly Cross Check soaked up another 3,234 miles, just riding around the DC area.

chart (2)

Year end Odometer Readings

The Mule: 51,024

Big Nellie (outdoors miles only): 42,010

Little Nellie: 21,002

Cross Check: 10,668

Total: 124,704




Pictures of the Year 2019

Recuperating from pulmonary embolisms with book and bike in the basement
Friday Coffee Club returns to Swings House of Caffeine
The best sign of Spring I know
Any Road Tour – Riding the GAP Trail in Pennsylvania
Any Road Tour – Windmills of my mind in Illinois
Any Road Tour – If you want nutrition, eat carrots
Any Road Tour – Breakfast of champions
Any Road Tour – Martin Arnold (Switzerland to Anacortes!) at the Honey Pot, Gackle ND
Any Road Tour – False alarm DVT. Compression sleeve to the rescue
Any Road Tour – Me blocking a great view of the Painted Canyon
Any Road Tour – My 1st of 6 Mountain Passes (photo by Maria Mantas)
Any Road Tour – Turquoise water behind Diablo Dam in Washington state
Any Road Tour – Triumphal wheel dip in the Pacific Ocean (photo by random beach dad)
Any Road Tour – Multnomah Falls near Portland (photo by Eric Koetting)
50 States from Rachel
My 50 States posse – Michael, Jesse, Rachel, Kevin and Jeanne
High Bridge
Riding the High Bridge in central Virginia


Boxing day like a champ

We had lasagna for Christmas dinner in celebration of our Irish heritage. Then we watched Roma, a movie that blew us away. Black and white. In Spanish. Based in a household in Mexico City in the 1970s. The lead actress is a compete novice (and absolutely amazing). Subtle. Filled with every emotion. Mrs. Rootchopper thinks it will win the Academy Award for sound editing. I think it will win for cinematography.  I don’t know what other foreign language films have been released but this one has to be nominated for Best Foreign Language Film, and maybe Best Picture.

And we drank wine. Which interrupts my sleep cycle.

So on four hours of intermittent sleep I awoke well before dawn. I took my car to the mechanic. It was in the 20s. I walked 1 1/4 miles home. Then I took my wife’s car to the same mechanic. And walked 1 1/4 miles home. I walked right past a Dunkin’ Donuts and didn’t go inside.

After breakfast and stalling for warmer air, I rode my Cross Check 7 miles to the bank. Then I rode another few miles just for the hell of it. On the way home I stopped at the gym and lifted some weights. Next I hit the grocery story for coffee and oatmeal.

I arrived home after riding 23 miles. I ate lunch. Read some National Geographic. And rode Little Nellie to the mechanic to pick up my wife’s car. I folded Little Nellie into the trunk and drove home.

I didn’t touch a box.

But I won Boxing Day.

My Top Ten of 2018

Here we go again. In no particular order, my personal faves from 2018.

Breathing Is Good: In January, I recovered from the after effects of pulmonary embolisms. The fun included pneumonia and a collapsed right lung. I am grateful to everyone who helped me recover and kept my spirits up.

Five Hundred States: With the help of Kevin W., Michael B., Rachel C., Jeanne, and Jesse, I rode my tenth 50 States Ride in DC. The ride goes all over the city to traverse all 50 streets named for states. With healthy lungs, and an appropriately geared bike (it’s a very hilly ride), and a massive mileage base in my legs, I made it all 60-odd miles without undue distress.

The Kids Are Alright: My daughter completed the degree requirements (classes and a thesis) for her masters degree in International Dispute Resolution from Kings College in London. She’s back in DC interning at the Irish embassy, while looking to launch her salaried career. Meanwhile, on the other side of the world in Phuket, Thailand, my son completed his PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) certification. Assuming his work visa is approved, he will be making money scuba diving in paradise. Good work if you can get it.

Marching for Sanity: Although I didn’t blog about it, I attended the March for Our Lives, concerning changing our gun laws, in DC. There were several hundred thousand people in attendance. I think the proliferation of guns, particularly semi-automatic weapons, in this country is insane. Somewhere along the line, our courts forgot about Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. End of screed.

Where’s My Ring?: For most of my life, the one sport that I have followed is baseball. This year’s Washington Nationals performed well below expectations. Never the less, the season still held its joys. Magic Juan came to town and did Juan things.  Oh, and while I was watching the boys of summer, the boys of winter, the Washington Capitals, took the Stanley Cup, a development that cost me several hundred dollars in motels so I could watch the games as I rode across the country.  And, as far as baseball is concerned, seeing the Saux win the World Series was a pretty good consolation prize.

Take Me Out to the Deluge: 2018 was the wettest year on record in DC. And don’t I know it. The C&O Canal towpath was wiped out in several sections forcing me to ride a much hillier route on the first two days of my bike tour. I also opted out of a attending a half dozen Washington Nationals baseball games to avoid rainouts, not to mention sitting through a miserable rainy game in September. Considering the fact that we had a nearly snowless winter, this new rainfall record is incredible.

Living the Dream: For most of my life, I have dreamed of riding a bike across the country. This year under the banner of the Any Road Tour, I left my home on May 22 and, on July 20, I pushed The Mule over a big sand dune and dipped its front wheel into the Pacific Ocean. With another 100 or so miles of riding to and around Portland Oregon, I rode 4,300 miles in two months. Alone. Dang.

You Meet the Darndest People: Riding across the country means you’ll interact with dozens of strangers. On my tour I met a gold miner, a jewelry maker, a portrait artist, a plant nerd, a Swiss elevator man, a family of Mexican American itinerant construction workers, two Postmistresses, an antique dealer, a woman with packages of cookies in her oven, a dozen or so east bound bike tourists, and a man who reminisced about the circus of his youth.

And See the Darndest Things: You never know what you’re going to see on a bicycle trip. I saw the Wright Brother’s Bicycle Shop, the Painted Canyon, turquoise mountain waters, a perfect beer belly, Square Butte, painted farmland in Iowa, Big Ole, and six mountain pass signs in the Rockies and the Northern Cascades. Dang.

Reconnecting: My bike tour allowed me to reconnect with old friends and meet a few other friend-ish folks. So hats off to Earl and Anne; Kathy, Russ, and Krista; Emma; Tim and Michele; Shannon, Jeff, and Tommy; and Eric. They fed me, sheltered me, and showed me their sights. When I got back to DC, I spent an afternoon with Susana to talk about my tours. And went to a happy hour and dinner with my former co-worker Jessica whose adventures in Chile (not to mention Ecuador and Argentina) inspired the heck out of me.

The Nigel Tufnel Award – Conventional Wisdom?: I rode my bike tour east to west. Many people told me this would be a big mistake because I would expose myself to endless days of soul sucking headwinds. Instead, I had tailwinds for most of the tour. The eastbound bike tourists that I met on the road were all complaining about the relentless headwinds! Although I had to climb five mountain passes in four days in the Northern Cascades of Washington state, I had a total blast flying down the mountains at  35 miles per hour. And the views were spectacular. Eastbound riders have to tackle this formidable terrain during their first week of riding. And, if you start your tour in May, you get to freeze during the descents. Have fun with that.



Back to the plan

My basic (non-touring) retirement plan was to ride my bike (or hike) every day and do one other thing. This other thing could include a social activity like a happy hour or an adulting thing like grocery shopping. A few weeks ago I started substituting napping for “one other thing.” After I while I was beginning to feel rather pathetic so I decided to make an earnest effort to get back in the game.

Within the last couple of weeks I have attended my old office’s holiday lunch, the Washington Area Bicyclists Association holiday party, a happy hour with my wife and some former co-workers, a concert (Mumford and Sons with Maggie Rogers as the opening act) with my wife and daughter, the Hains Point 100 bike event (in the cold rain), two Friday Coffee Clubs, and a happy hour with my former co-worker Jessica.

My daughter, who is interning at the Irish embassy in DC, took me to a screening of Black ’47, a film set during the Irish potato famine. The screening was sponsored by the embassy. Before the film, the Irish ambassador made some remarks about the movie and its historical context. Ireland had a population of about eight million before the famine. One million Irish citizens died as a result of the famine while another million emigrated to the mostly to the U.S. and Canada, but also to Great Britain and Australia. After the film I met the ambassador who happened to be sitting behind me during the screening.

This experience prompted me to get my Irish citizenship application process in gear again. A few months ago I had been denied access to a couple of family vital records for lack of proof of lineage and sworn affidavits affirming that I was seeking to acquire these documents for good cause. This week, I found the documents to prove lineage and then I rode to a notary public and had the avidavits notarized. I mailed all this paperwork so I should be in good shape in a month or so to apply for entry into the Registry of Foreign Births.

One day last week I discovered that I had 23 matured EE U.S. Savings bonds. So I spent an evening entering data into the U.S. Treasury’s website. I spent Monday morning in a bank redeeming them. Lo and behold, my bonds were worth over $4,000. Dang.

My son moved to Thailand over three years ago. His car – which I call the Millennium Falcon –  has been sitting in front of our house slowly absorbing money for insurance, taxes, and maintenance. Today my wife and I sold it, put the money in his bank account, and contacted the state and local authorities and our insurance company that the car was sold.

Still to come before Christmas is one more #bikedc happy hour, a Friday Coffee Club, and a performance by my friend Rachel’s instrumental trio at a local restaurant.

Speaking of Christmas, we are toning it way down this year. No big live tree, just a little fake one with lights on it. Stockings are hung. Decorations include a few lights outside and some ribbons and wreaths here and there. The big change is we are not doing presents. As an utterly incompetent consumer, I find gift giving incredibly stressful and, more often than not, a complete waste of money. It’s fun when your kids are little or when you are in a new-ish relationship, neither of which apply to my household.




Trails – Little Things Mean a Lot

The DC area has some truly wonderful multiuse paths, or what we humans call bike trails. As the DC bicycling community grows, these trails become more than just a recreational resource. Thousands of people use these trails every day to get to and from work and to run carfree errands. So it is important that they are maintained properly.

I came across two good examples of trail maintenance today. In Arlington, the Four Mile Run Trail connects the Washington and Old Dominion (W&OD) Trail to the Mount Vernon Trail. The entire Four Mile Run Trail had been treated with brine to keep rain from freezing. Unfortunately, the treatment stops at the Mount Vernon Trail which is maintained by the National Park Service.


Alexandria City doesn’t treat their trails either. But somebody, either the city or the Park Service or a landowner, fixed a troublesome spot on the Mount Vernon Trail yesterday. At the north end of Old Town in a mixed use development called Canal Place, the trail zig zags across a set of railroad tracks that run parallel to the trail. (Of course, these tracks are a hazard in and of themselves. I watched a man crash his bike a couple of years ago when his wheel got caught up in the rails).

To continue north, you have to ride across the tracks at a 90 degree angle to the right then you turn 90 degrees to the left to stay on the trail. While doing this second turn you have to squeeze between a pole and a concrete curb. Between the curb and the pole there was a big bump and several smaller ones. (There used to be a hole which made things even more interesting.)

Whoever does such things came along yesterday and smoothed all these bumps out. You still have to negotiate the tracks and do a zigzag but one aspect of this hazardous little trail segment has been fixed.