Spring Cleaning

Colors

It’s been an odd couple of days around here. Every day a new plant seems to burst into color. Crocuses, forsythia, daffodils. Cherry trees. Redbud trees. These have mostly come and gone but now we are in tulipalooza. I grew up in Ak=lbany NY, a former Dutch settlement. Every year there was a tulip festival. It was a big deal. Or so I am told. I never once attended. Around DC you can’t help but attend. Tulips are everywhere. The Pentagon Reservation (they actually call it that) and the Arlington Memorial Bridge are two places with tulips on display. The front of our house, and countless other houses in suburbia, are another.

In time the tulips will shrivel and die back of course. Don’t despair; azaleas are about to go nuts! We have three azalea bushes that are ready to burst into color any day. Two other azalea bushes planted last year did not survive the winter. My theory of the case is that they were planted too far under the eave of the house and didn’t get enough moisture. If you want to get your azaleas on, there are two pretty cool places in the DC area. One is Bluemont Park in Arlington. It’s right off the W&OD and Custis Trails. The other place is the National Arboretum in Northeast DC. It’s a bit tricky to get to by bike but once inside the biking is grand.

My ungodly looking lilac bushes (they are more like skeletons) are starting to leaf out. Soon their aromatic blue blossoms will emerge, as long as my attempts to cut the bushes back last fall didn’t do them in. I love the smell of lilacs. They remind me of my grade school. I remember going out the door and getting hit with a wave of that glorious scent. Alas, the DC are a is too far south for serious lilac bloomage.

Taxes

Somehow, someway I did several things today that worked out right. The other day I e-paid my estimated taxes. I screwed up the Virginia filing and called the tax office in Richmond this morning to clear things up. After waiting less than five minutes, I talked to an honest-to-god human who told me that I would be fined $500 for my error.

Just kidding.

She was very helpful. She told me my error didn’t stop affect the payment and everything should be okay.

Changing

The other day I brought Big Nellie out of the basement – as sure a sign of spring as you’ll ever see. What you can’t see from this photo is the bald rear tire. It turns out that riding hundreds of miles with the rear tire contacting a resistance unit is not the best thing in the world for tread life.

I found an old Schwable Marathon Plus tire and decided to use it as a replacement. This tire probably has over 5,000 miles on it but you’d never know it. Marathon Plus tires are practically indestructible. And, better yet, they rarely get flats. This is especially good news because installing a Marathon Plus tire is a total pain. I have lost quite a lot of skin on my fingers getting one of these beasts mounted. To make matters worse changing the rear tire on a long wheel base recumbent is like wrestling a dolphin. The bike has a very unbalanced weight distribution. Trying to keep it in one place while working on it can be next to impossible.

So I decided to use my repair stand.

It took me three attempts to get the bike on the stand. The first try worked but I placed it on the stand with the chain facing the lever that clamps the bike to the stand. Not gonna work. So, I took the bike off the stand and turned it around. Picking the bike up was significantly harder because I am right handed. With the bike oriented in this direction my weaker left hand had to pick up the heavier rear end of the bike. I managed to get it into the stand but somehow in the process of applying the clamp the dolphin came loose. Eek. I fed the bike a fish (just kidding again) and tried again. This time the bike stayed on the stand and I closed the clamp. Now I could tilt the bike so the front tire was on the ground and the rear tire up in the air right at the ideal height for swapping out the tire.

The old tire came off with only minor assistance of a set of tire irons. Now came the hard part. I started working the Marathon Plus onto the wheel. I worked my way around the wheel, pushing the tire bead over the rim wall. After only one attempt, the bead popped over the top of the rim. Then I turned the tire around to work on the other side. Somehow, some way I had managed to install that side too. Do you believe in miracles? I flipped the tire around to make sure I wasn’t imagining things. In another few minutes the wheel was back on the bike and I was good to go.

Practice

I have participated in the Chasing Mailboxes Errandonnee every year except last year when it was cancelled because of the pandemic. (I suppose it could have been held but it would have had to be renamed the Infectionnee, or something like that.) The Errandonnee is a friendly challenge to do errands on your bike (or by foot or scooter or some means other than an gasmobile). Errandonneuring is not for the faint of heart. It takes determination and focus.

This year’s Errandonnee starts April 15. I suppose you could just jump right in to the event. With all the good weather we’ve been having, well intentioned errandonneurs often end up with errands undone. You just ride right past the store and end up doing a tour of tulips. There is only one way to avoid a failed Errandonnee.

Practice.

Yes, I know Paul Hornung and Allen Iverson made fun of practice. Let the record be clear: neither Horning nor Iverson ever completed an Errandonnee.

Little Nellie and I would not make the same mistake. Today, I rode my trusty Bike Friday to Walmart to pick up my glasses at the Vision Center. We made use of the fabulous bike parking at the shopping cart return. Walmart ain’t exactly woke when it comes to Errandonneuring. We were not to be deterred and finished the errand in fine fashion.

Then I went for a ride to look at the tulips.

The Errandonnee is open to the public. That means you. You can achieve errandonneuring greatness.

The Mule Turns 30 and 61

It was 30 years ago that I gave up trying to commute on my Trek 1200 and bought a commuter bike. The Specialized Sequoia that I bought came with a generator lighting system that was wired through the metal fenders. The lights were lame (3 watts as I recall) and the generator contacted the tread of the tire and wore tires out.

Over time I replaced everything but the frame, fork, seat post, and rack. The bike was priced to move, at $300 off list because, back in those days, people shied away from heavy bikes. What I didn’t know was that this bike was the best selling touring bike in Europe.

It is an awesome touring bike. Stable. Comfortable. Dependable.

For a while I stopped riding it when I switched to Big Nellie, my recumbent bike. Nerve problems in my legs eventually drove me back to the bike I have come to call The Mule.

Today The Mule turned 61 as in 61,000 miles. Still going strong.

Getting Stooped

Anytime you ride 40,000 miles in four years, something has to go by the wayside. I have neglected my house and yard now for a long time and it shows. I have so many projects to do in the months ahead there is no point in making a list.

The first job on my backlog is to re-paint the metal stoop outside our kitchen. I last did this a couple of decades ago> I did a poor job and the paint never looked good. It’s been a rusty mess with lots of chipped paint for years.

Last week I spent three two-hour sessions washing and scraping and sanding and grinding away at the mess. I also fixed some rusty holes using some epoxy. I did the best I could before saying “no mas”.

Next up was priming. The weather here was absolutely perfect for bike riding but alas I was back at the stoop. It is a cruel coincidence that perfect riding weather is also perfect painting weather.

First, I taped off the area. Next I rode Little Nellie to the hardware store for primer, a mini-roller and a brush. The last time I painted the stoop I used a brush. It was a frustrating mess. This time I started to prime with a small roller and was shocked at how much better the roller worked than that old brush. The horizontal surfaces all have a texture to them supposedly to impeded slipping. Getting paint on all sides of the textured surface was impossible with a brush but it was super easy with the roller.

As I primed I could see cracks in the paint that I had missed during prep. I did what I could to fix these. No doubt I’ll be re-doing some of this later in the year.

Unfortunately, I ran out of primer so I jumped back on Little Nellie and returned to the hardware store. The upside to this misadventure was that I now knew how much paint to buy for the top coat. So I bought that too.

The rest of the priming took about 20 minutes.

Priming and painting are infinitely more rewarding than prep. I had spent about six or seven hours doing prep and felt like I had accomplished nothing. After an hour or so of priming I felt like I was cooking with gas.

Today was the last step, the top coat. Last time I used black gloss paint. It was slippery and didn’t adhere well at all. The hardware store paint guy said that black satin would be a better choice and would not be as slippery, so that’s what I used. It took no time at all to paint the stoop. The only problem was the fact that the daylight was such that I had trouble seeing where I had failed to completely cover the primer. So once I had painted the entire thing, I walked around and looked for spots where I could see primer peeking through the top coat. After 15 minutes of this I declared victory.

All that’s left is to take off the painter’s tape.

In celebration The Mule and I went for a ride among the blossoms in Alexandria and Arlington. Cherry trees are fading. Red Buds are taking over. After that come lilacs and azaleas. Also, the deciduous trees are leafing. Soon the Mount Vernon Trail will be a tunnel of green again. This will obscure the three bald eagle nests between my house and Old Town Alexandria. Two of these nests are quite active. The third seems in need of a tenant.

My next project involved a big tree root. No chopping though. Stay tuned for all the excitement.

Well, I’m Glad That’s Over

March is done. Kaput. Over and done with. Here’s your hat, what’s your hurry. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

Biking: I was a sloth this month. I attribute this to being sick and tired of cold weather. This meant that for seven days I rode Big Nellie in the basement for a total of 122 “miles”. (I assume 11.5 miles per hour and translate time into distance.) Another 19 days were spent riding 631 miles on The Mule, mostly going around in circles. I did manage to ride the Indian Head Rail Trail. The 27-mile round trip featured more bull frog croaks than spring blossoms. The Mule did my longest ride of 50 miles early in the month. I also used Little Nellie to run a short errand. Yesterday, I cracked 2.000 miles for the year while on my second cherry blossom fly by in DC. Total mileage for the month was a paltry 755. For the year I am at 2,028 miles, about 100 miles fewer than 2020.

May be an image of bicycle

Health: I think I ate well over 2,028 Doritos which explains why I ballooned to 223 pounds. I seriously need to do some long slow distance. A couple of 60-70 mile rides should get my metabolism back on track. On the up side, I received two Pfizer Covid-19 shots this month with minimal side effects. I attain full immunity tomorrow. Yeah, science. On the down side, three days after my second shot, one of my pre-molars died. I had a root canal last week. I go back to the endodontist to finish the repair. After that I’ll be visiting my regular dentist to fully seal off my tooth (probably with a crown).

Reading: I didn’t set the world on fire in the reading department either. I read The Searcher by Tana French, State of the Union: A Marriage in Ten Parts by Nick Hornby, and In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson. They were all entertaining but not likely to be re-read soon. The Hornby book is actually the script of a rather unusual 10-part TV series. Each chapter is a conversation between a husband and wife who meet in a pub across the street from the marriage counsellor. Chris O’Dowd and Rosamund Pike play the couple to perfection. The book is witty and ironic and clever. The actors take it to another level entirely. It can be streamed on Sundance in 10-minute episodes.

Viewing: We finished watching Wandavision and still have no idea what the hell that was all about. We also took in four other films via streaming services of course. Britt Marie Was Here is the film version of a novel of the same name by Fredrik Bachman. It’s faithful to the book which I liked a lot. After that we started prepping for the Oscars. We all liked Nomadland but it gave me flashbacks to the long, brutal days riding my bike tour across the barren landscapes of Utah and Nevada in 2019. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom didn’t float my boat. Mank was okay, but Gary Oldman who plays the lead is way too old for the part. We finished our Oscar prep (at least until next weekend) with Pieces of a Woman. Depressing and a bit predictable. My wife and I stumbled in Casablanca on TV and watched it again. They don’t make ’em like they used to.

Chores: It was my intention to do one adult thing every day during the pandemic. Suffice it to say this didn’t pan out. If you want something done, give it to a busy person, as the saying goes. Last week I began the first of many small jobs around the house. (There are an infinite number; you just have to decide when to stop. They’ll be plenty left over for your ancestors.) We have a metal stoop on the side of the house that I painted about 20 years ago. The paint failed a long time ago and the stoop is now rusted and ugly. So I am re-painting it. So far, I have spent about 4 or 5 hours scraping the old paint and rust off. The platform and steps of the stoop have a textured surface which means I can only scrape about one square inch at a time. It’s tedious. In another two or three hours I should move on to sanding, plugging holes, and washing. Then I get to paint. The best time to do this work is when the weather is perfect for riding. I should be done with the project by October.

I also helped my daughter move back home from her apartment. My wife and I managed to move a 30-year-old sofa out of her place to the trash room in her building. It weighed a ton and had to be twisted and turned to get it out of the apartment and into and out of the elevator. My 80-year-old back was not amused. It took me three days to get fully upright again.

Today we cut down two trees and a couple of large, overgrown Russian olive bush. Ok, we paid someone. The pine tree was diseased. I was a white pine, one of a stand of six or seven evergreen trees that are now all gone. The other tree was a silver maple. Like the pine it was over 30-years old. It was unattractive and messing up an oak tree next to it. When we moved in 30 odd years ago, we had four silver maples. Only one of the original cohort remains. My wife planted two volunteers, seedlings that sprouted in the yard. They are thriving. Live goes on.

May be an image of sky and tree

Baseball: I watched the only two spring training Washington Nationals games broadcast this year, last weekend. Yesterday the Washington Post had a special section on the upcoming baseball season. My picture was in this section. It’s been a while since I was in the Post. The previous time was an article about bike commuting. I’ve also been interviewed by local radio (my part was cut for time, on air, but I made the station’s online story) about long distance bike commuting. For work I’ve did a telephone interview that was broadcast live on local radio. It was a bit nerve wracking. I put a picture of the interviewer up on my monitor during the chat. It helped me stay focused. I also did an interview for AP radio and another on local TV in southwestern Missouri. My big shot at media stardom came when I was interviewed on tape for a segment on NPR’s Marketplace, They used about 10 seconds of the 20-minute interview and broadcast the story on the day after Christmas. Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close up.

Tomorrow is opening day. Dang.

They’ll Put Anybody in the Washington Post

I’ve been meaning to do some blog posts about my favorite bike rides. Without a doubt one of my favorites is riding to and from Nationals Park to see a baseball game. Of course, I haven’t ridden to a game in over a year. The last time I saw the Nationals play in person was in 2019 when they were on their way to the playoffs and, eventually, to winning the World Series.

A few weeks ago somebody from the Washington Post sports department put out a request for people to provide their favorite thing about attending a baseball game. For me it is simple: that first moment when I see the field as I come out from under the stands. Boom.

About a week after I sent in my remark, I was contacted to send in a picture. I only had a few to choose from. I sent in tow and the Post chose one of me in a Montreal Expos baseball cap. (Before they became the Washington Nationals, our local ball club was the Expos. Montreal’s loss is our gain.)

The Post ran a special section today about the start of the baseball season. Two full pages were devoted to people explaining their favorite thing about attending a game. Yep, I was one of them.

Note that the t-shirt I wore was from the 50-States Ride, another of my favorite rides.

The first game of the season is Thursday night. It happens to fall on the day when I will be fully immune, two weeks after my second dose of the Pfizer vaccine.

The Nationals are allowing only 5,000 people in the ballpark because of Covid concerns. The seats will go to season ticket holders. The secondary market is pricing them on a par with World Series tickets. Too rich for my blood. I’ll watch from home.

Play ball!

Spring Sprung Yesterday

Today’s post is dedicated to all my friends who moved away from DC.

Yesterday marked the first day of spring in DC. Not the meteorological spring. Not the vernal equinox. The cherry blossom bloom.

The last couple of days, the National Park Service has banned cars from the Tidal Basin area. For those of you unfamiliar with DC, this is the odd man-made lake of sorts which is lined by cherry trees and three memorials (Jefferson. FDR, MLK). If you go at sunrise, this is the place to check out the blossoms on foot. If you go any other time, you’ll encounter crowds, although judging by today, much smaller crowds that usual.

Of course, the best way by far to see the cherry blossoms is by bike. I rode to DC and took the 14th Street Bridge which ends right at the Jefferson Memorial. Then I rode east on Ohio Drive along the Potomac River. At the intersection of Buckeye Drive there is a stand of early bloomers that are amazing. Buckeye Drive took me across East Potomac Park which is a short man-made peninsula in the Potomac. Buckeye dead ends into Ohio. I took a left and rode 3 miles down to Hains Point and back. The entire way was lined with trees nearly all of which were in full bloom. I was in a tunnel of cherry blossoms.

After the 3-mile ride I was back at Buckeye Drive. I re-traced my route but instead of going to the Jefferson I continued upstream along the river to the turn off for the FDR and MLK memorials. The path along the edge of the basin was nearly full of people but the road that I was on 50 yards or so away was empty.

At Independence Avenue I took a right and rode with the big metal boxes. They were going about 10 miles per hour so I was very safe but on guard against drivers distracted by the blossoms. I followed Maine Avenue and rode clockwise around the basin past the Jefferson then back over the bridge.

Five miles. Five bazillion blossoms. Perfect.

Tomorrow I’m going back. If I feel spunky I may ride up to the Kenmore neighborhood in Bethesda. It is packed with cherry trees. And, unfortunately, cars.

Welcome to My Pain Party

For the last two years or so the teeth on the upper right side of my mouth have felt off, as in not right.. I especially noticed this during those long days in the saddle on bike tours. Some days it felt as if one of my teeth was going to pop out. It wasn’t painful, just strange.

Sunday morning I woke up and made breakfast. With my first sip of coffee I experienced a dull ache in the same area of my mouth. The more I ate and drank, the more intense the ache became. When I was in graduate school, I experienced the same pain sensation in the front of my mouth. The problem was an infected root in one of my two front teeth. The solution was a root canal.

I decided to wait and see what happened. I took acetaminophen for the pain and went about my day. The next morning the pain had subsided. I called my dentist and made an appointment for Thursday (today), thinking that perhaps this pain was a side effect of my second Covid vaccine shot last Thursday. On Tuesday the dull ache was gone, replaced by only a stabbing pain when I chewed using one of my upper right teeth. Yesterday, the pain was nearly gone altogether but every so often I’d get a jolt when chewing. This morning it felt better still.

In late morning, I went to my dentist. He took an x-ray of the offending area and did some basic investigations for the source of the pain. I knew which tooth it was but sometimes problems in one area of the mouth create referred pain in another area. (This is the essence of spinal stenosis. a pinching of the spinal cord that appears as a pain in the leg.)

Although the x-ray was inconclusive (a mass of nerves in the tooth were obstructed from view by a crown) the dentist diagnosed a tooth with necrotic nerves, or in layman’s term a dead tooth. He referred me to an endodontist.

The endodontist took me right away. She did a similar examination and added one extra step. She put ice cold material on some sort on the suspect tooth and the one next to it. I felt nothing on the bad tooth but the neighboring tooth was ice cold. She looked at the same inconclusive x-ray and agreed with my dentist. My nerves in my tooth were kaput having most likely died sometime on Sunday. (My sister-in-law who is not a dental professional made the same diagnosis, by the way.)

We discussed treatment options. Basically, there are few. Do a root canal or pull the tooth. I picked root canal. I was expecting a brutally difficult procedure but it was unbelievable benign.

After three painful shots of novocaine, one on each side of the tooth and one in the roof of my mouth, the endodontist put a clamp of sorts around the tooth. She put a cushion between my upper and lower teeth on the opposite side of my mouth so I could relax my jaw in an open position. Then a tent of sorts with a hole in the middle was placed over the front of my mouth.

Instead of looking directly into my mouth, the endodontists used a very cool microscope. She looked into lenses at a 90 degree angle from the opening in my mouth. Her line of sight was reflected down the main mast of what looked like a large lens with an integrated light that illuminated the work area. I was given sunglasses to wear so that the light wouldn’t bother me.

The procedure involved drilling through the crown to the tooth. She removed decayed tooth material under the crown then went about extracting the roots. Since my root channels were tight (something she could see on the x-ray) she had to spend several minutes opening them up, being careful all the time not to compromise the structural integrity of the bone.

I had thought ahead and taken Flonase beforehand which allowed me to breathe freely through my nose despite having a rough time with spring pollen. As long as I focused on not gagging I had no problem just letting her go at it. An assistant suctioned my mouth from time to time but this was more for the endodontist’s benefit than mine.

The endodontist walked me through all the sensations I would be feeling. “You’ll feel some pressure.” “This will be a bit noisy.” “You may hear a beep or two.”

After a few seconds during which I expected to feel pain, I realized that my mouth was so numb that she could have hit the tooth with a sledge hammer and I wouldn’t have felt a thing.

I could tell that the drilling had entered the tooth itself because the taste changed. Different but not nasty. After the drilling and some carpentry with a dental probe, she used another tool that felt like a spinning piece of sandpaper.

After perhaps 30 minutes of this, she announced we were almost done. She warned me that she was going to put some “medicine” in the tooth and that it would hurt. Yep. Just for a nanosecond I felt a sharp stinging pain like a very fine needle or electric shock.

Finally, only a couple of minutes later she closed the top of the tooth with a temporary filling and I was good to go.

She said that when the novocaine wore off I’d feel pretty much the same as earlier in the week. I’d have an intense dull ache that would fade away over a few days.

I went home and had a soft lunch. About an hour later the pain hit. And it hit. And it hit. The only riding I did today was on the couch. I took some acetaminophen and tried to think of anything but the ache in my mouth. It crested after two or three hours but I was pretty miserable.

The endodontist called to check up on me at around 6 pm. She said everything was going by the book and told me to call her if I had any problems.

In ten days I go back to have her finish the job. Then I go back to my dentist for either a filling or a new crown.

Don’t Let the Western Distress Get You Down

When I did my 2019 bike tour, I decided to ride from Indiana to Pueblo Colorado where I would pick up the Adventure Cycling Route’s Western Express Route across Colorado, Utah, Nevada, and California. I knew this route would be challenging.

Up to Pueblo, there had been minimal climbing on my route. Missouri was a series of rollers that I handled without much difficulty. Kansas was a false flat, a gradual climb of 1 or 2 percent. After Pueblo things got interesting.

The first 20 miles to the town of Wetmore involved about 1,500 feet of climbing that I handled without difficulty. The next ten miles involved a climb of over 3,000 feet. I had never ridden above 7,000 feet and it showed. I couldn’t catch my breath. I stopped and leaned over my bike wheezing. Albuterol (which I take for asthma attacks) did nothing. I pushed my bike for miles unable to maintain power while pedaling to go more than 3 miles per hour. At the top of the climb was Hardscrabble Pass. There was no sign denoting this landmark. I had only my fatigue and broken spirit as a reward.

Somehow I didn’t notice this climb during my tour planning or even during my stop over in Pueblo the day before. It was the beginning of a relentless series of climbs that, while mostly beautiful, broke my body.

Hardscrabble Pass was just the beginning. This and each ensuing summit was followed by a descent of a thousand or more feet. My trek across southern Colorado included six more climbs including a 4,000-foot climb over Monarch Pass and the Continental Divide at 11,312 feet of elevation.

Utah involved more of the same, six climbs culminating in a another 4,000 foot ascent to Cedar Breaks National Monument at over 10,000 feet. After an amazing 25-mile, 4,500-foot descent to Cedar City I faced a brutal roller coaster that would last more than a week. Four more climbs in Utah to a maximum elevation of 6,723 feet at Wah Wah Summit.

Then came Nevada. 13 climbs including back to back 7,000+ footers. And wind. And heat. And I had to carry extra food and water because there is no there there in Nevada. Once out of the basin and range country, I had four more climbs to get across the Sierras maxing out at Carson’s Pass at 8,573.

So depending on how your keeping score I did about 35 climbs during my tour. In an odd way, the pandemic has been a godsend. It allowed me to fully recover from the toll this took on my body.

What did I get for my troubles. Rocks, as Frances McDormand’s character in Nomadland says. So many rocks. The scenery is truly amazing. And there is so much more to see. I bypassed Natural Bridges in Utah. Canyonlands, Monument Valley, Moab, and Zion National Park were off my route. By the time I got to western Nevada I was so sick of rocks! The blue water of Lake Tahoe blew me away. And the trees in the Sierras seemed to be pumping me full of oxygen.

All of this is to say, that I have enormous respect for anyone who rides from San Francisco to the East Coast. I met several people going West to East including Sandra and Elise, two sisters from France who were going from San Francisco to New York City.

Sandra and Elise at a cafe in Boulder Utah

They rented a car to see some of the stuff I missed in Utah but their self-designed route also took then through Yosemite, Zion, and Great Sand Dunes National Park. They put together a video of their trip and posted it to You Tube today. I highly recommend it.

Fun with Vaccines

A couple of months ago I registered with the Virginia Health Department to get the Covid-19 vaccine. Then I began a long wait. During my wait, the rules of the game kept changing. First, I became eligible because the age limit for vaccination was lowered. Then the federal government set up a separate vaccine network through pharmacies.

I started searching for a vaccine site at Safeway, CVS, and Walgreens. Each morning I’d log on and each morning I’d get the same messages. Either the retail outlet had not yet begun giving vaccines to the public or the appointments were all booked.

Then, one morning I tried Safeway and they had a full slate of appointments available at my local store. I signed myself up. These appointments were only available to people who met the age limit. Being old has its privileges.

First dose: On February 18, I received my first dose of the Pfizer vaccine at Safeway. I was third in line so the process took about five minutes. Then I had to wait around for 15 minutes to make sure I didn’t go in to anaphylactic shock. (I didn’t.) Meanwhile my wife did some grocery shopping. When she was done we checked out. Safeway gave vaccine recipients a 10 percent off coupon for groceries. (I did not get a “I Got Jabbed” sticker however.) When I was done with my shot, the pharmacist gave me a small card with my vaccine info and the date and time of the appointment for my second shot.

Other than soreness in my arm at the injection site I had no side effects at all.

A couple of days later, my wife and daughter were notified that they could make appointments. My wife got her 1st Pfizer dose last week at the county government center located conveniently (sarcasm alert) 25 miles away. The massive complex seemed to be dedicated to vaccinations. You waited in your car until the vaccine folks texted you. Then you walked into the building following yellow arrows on the ground outside and on the floor inside. We waited five minutes then her number was called and she walked into the vaccination room where about 10 people were giving shots.

After her shot she followed the yellow areas to a huge waiting room. When 15 minutes had passed, she received a text telling her she could leave.

She too had no side effects other than arm pain.

My daughter was next. I drove her to the Kaiser Permanente facility in McLean Virginia, about 20 miles from home. I was not allowed into the building. She was done in about 25 minutes. No side effects.

Second dose: A couple of days ago I received my second jab. I had a different stabber this time. The first stabber was a man who was all business. The second stabber was a chipper woman who seemed pretty excited about jabbing me. There was no line so the entire process took about two minutes. She gave me the rundown about side effects, acetaminophen for pain as necessary, etc. I didn’t have to hang around because I was obviously not allergic to the vaccine.

Today is day 3 post-vaccine. My arm hurts a little, just like the first time. The day of the jab I took a nap instead of going for my usual bike ride. I could have ridden but I was a bit sleepy and decided to be cautious. The next day my arm still hurt and so did the teeth the upper right side of my mouth. I attributed this to the usual sinus woes and took some Flonase. Problem solved. I rode the equivalent of 21 miles in the basement. Today, I feel exactly as I did yesterday. Same arm pain. Same tooth pain. Flonase to the rescue again. I went for a 30 mile ride to DC in the hopes of seeing some spring blossoms. I only saw one tree and some forsythia bushes in bloom. The bike trails were crowded. MAMILs (middle aged men in tights) and eBikers were being obnoxious. Tomorrow I’ll avoid the trails because it will be warmer and they will be packed.

One other thing. The CDC sends vaccinated people a daily survey about side effects. It takes less than a minute. I can see them getting plenty of useful data from this. (The survey ended one week after my first shot and started up again the day of my second shot.) When you get your shot, do the survey. We’re all in this together.

Get the Shot: If you are contemplating not getting the shot, all I can say is DON’T BE A PUTZ! Getting the vaccine is safer than driving to the grocery store.

The Astra/Zeneca vaccine is all over the news as causing blood clots. In 0.0002% of the people who got the shot. This is actually a lower rate of clots than in the non-vaccinated population so don’t panic. I’ve had blood clots in my lungs. They are no fun. Even with my medical history, if I hadn’t been vaccinated already and someone offered me the A/Z vaccine, I’d take it in a heartbeat.

The real estate side effect. Within the last week, five people I know have announced home purchases or sales. The real estate market seems rather impervious to the virus.

Re-setting

Cognitive Re-setting

Some people recently gave us jigsaw puzzles. Jigsaw puzzles are a torment. They lie there on a table, unfinished mocking our puny little brains. Yesterday I put the finishing touches to a 1000-piece puzzle that my wife, daughter, and I started over the weekend. Something happened, more than once, during the solving that is intriguing to me.

Late one Saturday evening when I was in college, I was grinding away at some calculus homework. I liked math in school because I regarded it as solving puzzles. This particular day I was making good progress when I hit a wall. I looked at a problem had simply could not figure out how to solve it. After a half hour of frustration I quit. That night I went out and partied. The next day I woke up with a hangover, rolled out of bed, and looked at the calculus problem laid out on my desk. The solution came to me instantly. I sat down and knocked off the rest of the problem set without the slightest difficulty. Somehow, over the course of the previous 15 or 16 hours my brain had re-set.

Over the years I have become a daily crossword puzzle solver. The same re-setting process happens all the time. I’ll get to a point in the solving when noting seems to come to mind, or worse, I know the answer but can’t retrieve it from my brain. (I think this is called presque vu.) If I put the puzzle down, and come back to it an hour later, the answer, more often than not, pops into my head.

The same thing happened when solving the jigsaw puzzle. On Sunday night I hit a wall. I couldn’t fit one more piece. On Monday, the pieces started falling onto place. Then I got stuck again with 75 pieces to go. Off to bed. The next day, all the pieces seemed to fall into place, literally and figuratively. (Oddly, since I was making a picture, literally and figuratively mean pretty much the same thing.)

Cinque Terre jigsaw puzzle complete. (One piece is missing but I found it on the floor after taking this picture.)

Is there some neurological explanation for this sort of re-setting?

Infrastructure Re-setting

Whenever I see pictures of bicycling infrastructure in The Netherlands I get envious. They build beautiful bridges and inter-city highways for bikes there. We have some decent trails in the DC area. In fact, I can pick up a trail near my home and ride with only minor on-road interruption to the eastern front of the Blue Ridge Mountains all on paved trails. Most of the route is along the Washington and Old Dominion Regional Trail, a very popular resource in these parts. The trail is along an old railroad right of way that has frequent, at-grade street crossings. One of the more dangerous at-grade crossings is at U.S. 29 near the Arlington/Falls Church border. This also happens to be one of the busier crossings on the trail. A few days ago, a new bridge was built over the crossing. They did this one right. Instead of doing things on the cheap, the designers built us one splendid looking bridge. In addition to looking fab, it has a concrete surface, attractive side barriers, and lighting. And its WIDE.

The Mule approves of the new W&OD Trail bridge.

Re-setting Winter

Winter in the northern hemisphere runs from December 21 to March 21. Meteorological winter in DC runs from December 1 to the end of February. As far as weather people are concerned, we’re in spring now. Last week we had a string of days with temperatures in the 70s F bookended by a couple of 60-degree days. Freed of my cumbersome winter riding gear, I gleefully rode 228 miles. Then reality hit and temperatures dropped back into the 40s and 50s. A month ago these temperatures wouldn’t have bothered me at all; I’d just put on layers and go for a ride. Now, having had a taste of the good life, I have retreated to the basement.

Even the neighborhood Bernie is having a hard time re-setting to winter. Her put one some earmuffs.

Bernie making the best of a false start at Spring. Pink is his favorite color.