I named my Tour Easy recumbent bicycle Nellie during my bike tour to Indiana. I was coming down Big Savage Mountain in western Maryland when I glanced at my speedometer and saw “45”. I started riding the brakes and saying “Whoa Nellie” like Keith Jackson, the football announcer. If you’ve never done it, riding a bike at high speed on an unfamiliar road is thrilling, and really kind of idiotic All it takes is one pothole and you’re toast.
Today, I woke up to a beautiful Easter morning. Mrs. Rootchopper and Teenage Daughter Rootchopper were nestled all snug in their beds, while visions of chocolate bunnies danced in their heads. After a humongous bowl of Cheerios, I decided to go for a bike ride. I chose to ride my recumbent because, all last year, riding it for more than an hour was causing a painful condition in my left foot called Morton’s Neuroma. Imagine a nail being inserted into your foot just an inch behind the gap between your third and fourth toes. It really hurts and it only presents itself when I ride this particular bike.
I have a theory that the cause of my condition was not in my foot, rather it had something to do with me moving the seat back on my bike. So I recently moved it just a bit forward. Today’s ride would put my theory to the test.
I also decided to see if my legs could take some challenging hills so I picked a course with plenty of them and kept my chain on the big chainring (the hardest to push) for as long as my knees would allow. This would test my knees fitness for the hills of eastern Pennsylvania which are part of my upcoming bike tour.
I rode from my house in Mount Vernon VA to Washington DC. After a brief ride on the Capital Crescent Trail, I rode up to MacArthur Boulevard. I followed MacArthur (thinking “I shall return”) to Persimmon Tree Road which skirts the famous Avenel Golf Course. I continued on to Potomac Village. By this point I had ridden on a dozen or so respectable hills without any problem with foot or knees. The weather was gorgeous so I decided to ride west on River Road. I neglected to stop in Potomac Village to refill my water bottles. Any experienced bicyclist would tell you that this is dumb. Being an experience cyclist I told myself “This is dumb.” So what did I do? I rode on anyway expecting to get water at Poole’s General Store which I thought was only a couple of miles away.
River Road is a serious roller coaster ride that is a favorite of DC-area cyclists. I screamed down one hill and climbed up the next. I was really impressing myself. Recumbents normally don’t climb very well but I was doing just fine, even passing other riders. (Hell was feeling a chill.)
After many miles of this I came to a “T” near Bretton Woods Country Club. Still no General Store. Had it closed? I rode on, screaming down a hill at 40 miles per hour. Nellie was willin’ and so was I. At the bottom of the hill I saw the store. CLOSED. Not good. I had maybe 2 ounces of water left.
Did I turn around?
On I rode down one hill and up another. Maybe I’ll knock on someone’s door and ask for water. Maybe I ask the Buddhists at their temple, or the Hare Krishnas at theirs. Not wanting to take the chance of getting converted after getting all that Catholicism from my youth out of my system, I rode on.
I finally did what no man is supposed to do. I asked for help. I spotted a cyclist just getting underway at an intersection and asked him where I might find water (That’s a fine looking bottle you have there, Mister.) He told me to just take a right and ride into Poolesville, just up the road a ways. About 15 minutes later I pulled into a gas station with a little convenience store. Water, Gatorade, really crappy snacks! I’m SAVED!
I snarfed and guzzled. Then looked up. Dark clouds formed a line to the west. Not good. I looked down. The odometer said 50 miles. Think I can outrun it? I kicked Nellie with my spurs and took off for home,
All the hill climbing had made my knees sore but the bothersome foot was doing just fine. I rode hard back a slightly different way to River Road. Apparently all the hills up to now had been more up than down. Good news. Nellie smiled.
We started to hill hop, going down one hill so fast that our momentum carried most, if not all, the way up the next. Down we went… 40, 41, 42, 42, 41. I made it back to Potomac Village for another food and water break. Then back to MacArthur Boulevard, flying down the wooded, twisty hill out of Great Falls Park. About 20 minutes later I saw a sign with a thermometer:
All those high speed descents had masked the rise in temperatures. 90 degrees on Easter.
Nellie and I slowed down for the last 20 miles of our ride. The bike paths were packed with families and riders out for a casual (i.e., slow) ride. We pulled into home at 97 miles.
My foot feels fine but my knees are aching. I think we passed the audition.