Goodbye Blue Monday

I slept poorly last night.  Maybe I felt badly after seeing the Saints score over 60 points against the Colts who appear to have moved from Indianapolis to Hapless.  Or maybe I felt bad for wasting a beautiful Sunday mowing the lawn. Or maybe ten days of riding in a row has made me overtired.

In any case, I woke up grumpy and planned to stay that way.  I normally have everything laid out for my transition to bike commuting.  Helmet here. Shoes there. Panniers loaded. This morning everything was where it should have been but I couldn’t find the battery pack for my light. And my riding clothes were in three different places. And I couldn’t find my ID. And, I’m NEVER going to get out of here!!!!

Fifteen minutes of crabbing later, I was on Big Nellie, my Tour Easy recumbent, and off to work.  My legs felt tight despite a helpful tailwind. It just seemed like I couldn’t find a riding rhythm.  Then five miles into my ride I looked up and saw something I haven’t seen since spring. A bald eagle next to its nest near Belle Haven Country Club.  On a lower branch of  the same tree, a great blue heron was perched like a Dr. Seuss bird.  In a few weeks the herons and egrets will be gone so this was a bit of a treat. 

Unfortunately, my point-and-shoot camera was not quite up to the task, but if you squint you can see the eagle in the upper right and the heron dead center in the picture, below the eagle’s nest.

A hundred yards up the trail, I crossed the bridge over Little Hunting Creek and saw a huge splash in the water. I don’t know what it was but it was hefty. 

Well, all that certainly improved my mood. A few miles later at the half way point of my commute I spotted trouble in the water. Pirates! Avast!  A tall ship was making its way down river across from the power plant.  Once again my camera did what it could but the ship was about a quarter mile away. 

You have to admit it’s pretty cool to spot a tall ship on a Monday morning.  All this cool stuff was actually starting to strip away my orneriness.  (If that’s even a word.)

Another half-mile up the trail and I get a splash of color smack in the face.  Yes, fall is upon us here in DC and the trees are starting to turn.  This one was pretty good but I know the show is only just beginning. 

Now that I’d blown ten minutes stopping to gawk, I got down to the business of riding to work.  My crabby attitude behind me, I made like a bakery truck and hauled buns.

In 45 minutes, I had finished the ride, locked my bike, showered and made it to my office. I got a cup of coffee, sat down at my desk and, speaking of buns, a pastry cart magically appears outside my office door. I can tell the kind hand of providence when I see it. So I bought a gooey cinnamon bun.  Monday mornings aren’t so bad after all.

The day was a bit of a grind but the ride home was sweet. After about 5 miles, the rhythm returned and I was cruising along at a healthy clip into a headwind. Even a pretty nasty cloud of skunk smell didn’t put a dent in my mood. As I made it to Old Town, I saw the tall ship docked near the Torpedo Factory. I hate sailing, and I know nothing of ships (despite having attended Herman Melville’s high school), but tall ships are magnificent.

After I escaped the Beltway, I passed a man on the trail. First, I saw his poles then I saw the two monster catfish he was holding. The darned things were bigger than my thigh.  I wanted to stop and take a picture – the fisherman was grinning with pride – but I needed to get home to check out the progress on the patio in my back yard. After two weeks of delays, the contractor had made good use of the day.  From mud pit to roughed out patio in eight hours. Not bad Luis. Pretty good for a blue Monday.

Bike Commute 116: Orange You Glad I Rode

It was a nearly perfect autumn day to be riding a bike to and from work.  Maybe the near perfection had to do with the traffic jam I witnessed on the way home on the GW Parkway. At one point, cars were bottled up by a broken down ambulance. A half mile later a nasty rear end collision had left a couple of cars all smashed up. I didn’t bother to take pictures since I see these sorts of ties ups with disturbing regularity.  A mile farther on I spotted a guy riding toward me with what looked like a sculpture. It was a shiny new bike frame that he had slung around his head and neck.  I didn’t get a picture of that either.  It wasn’t the first time I’d seen a guy riding with a frame on his head and neck.  You get used to unusual things when riding your bike to work on the Mount Vernon Trail.

Big Nellie gets color coordinated

Since I try to take a picture each day that I ride to work, I decided to pull out my camera and get busy.  Nothing interesting caught my eye.  There seemed to be an unusual amount of orange on my bike so I took a picture of that.  The bottle came from the Backroads Century.  The bell was provided by New Belgium Brewery at the 50 States Ride. Two mementos of 2 great rides. The bell replaces my little black bell which made a dainty “ding”. This one goes “Ka-Ching!”  It will take some getting used to.  Having completed my daily picture chore, I enjoyed the ride through Old Town.  As I was making my way into Fairfax County on the trail I did a triple take. It looked like, no it couldn’t be, yes it is. An orange poodle! Bizarre.  The woman who was holding his leash said he was dyed pink a month ago. Go figure.

Don’t feed you dog cheetos.

Bike Commute 115: Dupont Circle Brass

I got home late last night, the result of taking a friend out to his hotel in Sterling Va. This morning I rode Little Nellie (my Bike Friday New World Tourist to work). It rained making me tired and wet. After work I rode across the Key Bridge into Georgetown to attend Maret’s homecoming football game. The Frogs were down 14-0 when I arrived and it never got closer.

After the game I rode to Maret to watch a volleyball game. Maret won and, as usual, it was very fun to watch. One of the players’ parents tried to get me to put on a red wig and lead the cheering in the stands. Um, no.

After the game. I rode home. I got here at 10 p.m. It was a perfect night for a ride. I passed through Dupont Cicle where I heard a tuba playing “Lean on Me”. the old Bill Withers song. The crowd was very enthusiastic. It was a nice surprise.

Bike Commute 113: Mom and Son on Tour

Okay, I admit it. I screwed up this shot of a mother and son who are riding bikes from Fredericksburg VA to Long Island. Mom appears to have boundless energy. Son seems without a care in the world. Of course, they gave me their names but I forgot them. Sometimers disease strikes again. If you care to, you can follow their adventure here.

Bad Day Sunshine

It was one of those perfect fall days here in DC.  Not a cloud in the sky.  A light breeze. Temperatures in the low 70s with not even a trace of mugginess.  In short, the perfect day for a two-wheeled meander to “The City”.

On Thursday the rear tire on Big Nellie, my Tour Easy recumbent, blew out. The sidewall failed and that was that. Yesterday, I put a new tire on and when for a ten mile test drive.  All was once again right with the world.

So it was with cheerful anticipation that I opened the door of the Rootchopper Institute to roll out Big Nellie for a spin. That’s when I knew the gods had it in for me. The rear tire was flat.  As I changed it, I inspected the tube and it appeared to have a defect in it.  It looked like a big black patch had been put on.  The leak was around the edge of the patch.  I have no idea where I acquired this tire so I chalked it up to the emptors of caveat and installed another tube.  And off I rode.

My first mistake was taking the Mount Vernon Trail.  It’s beautiful almost any time of year, but on a perfect fall day it really is a treat. Apparently, about 10,000 other folks thought so too. And all 10,000 of them wandered left and right across the trail at 5 miles per hour, all part of an evil conspiracy to make my ride suck.  For about 10 miles they succeeded.  At one point I stopped to check out the river. The tide was out and the river was low.  A couple of anglers in a boat didn’t get the memo and they were stuck in the mud about 100 yards from the river bank.  “Don’t drink that last beer, Darryl.”  “You mean this one, Fred. GULP”

I thought you brought the tide charts.

Nothing to reflect on here.

My day wasn’t going very well, but, by comparison, I was doing okay.

On I rode to DC, dodging bikes and walkers and dogs every 100 feet.  I made it and did a celebratory lap around Hains Point.  I decided to visit Abe so I rode up to the Lincoln Memorial. It was mobbed.  The reflecting pool was all torn up, ruining what is one of the great vistas in DC.

I came to Constitution Avenue which is under construction for the next decade or so.  I took a right turn around a parked tour bus and moved into the right lane.  In the blink of an eye, I was on my side with my legs pinned under Big Nellie. The first thought was OWWW! The second was I hope that bus isn’t moving. 

To my surprise, I heard, “That just happened to us.” A couple was standing next to bikes on the grass along side of the bus. The driver and the tour guide from the bus were offering them bandages from the bus’s first aid kid. A passerby had given the woman rider an ice pack for her leg.  Thank you lord, I’ve crashed in a MASH unit. 

I disentangled myself from my bike.  The bike still works. I still work. I’m going to live. I sure wish my hand and elbow would stop bleeding.  And my outer right thigh burns and my upper right arm burns. The MASH unit gives me a sterile wipe and some band aids.  I do what I can to clean myself up, get the bike out of the street, and go commiserate with my fellow patients.  They look to be in pretty good shape. “I’m glad I had this helmet on. I landed on my head,” she says.  It occurs to me that today was one of those very rare days when I didn’t wear mine.  Luckily I didn’t hit my head.

Helmeted patients tending their wounds.

One of the benefits to riding a recumbent is that you have a shorter distance to fall.  As long as you keep your feet on the pedals, your have a decent chance of riding away from your misfortune.  (If you take your feet off the pedals, they can be drawn under the bike and you can break a leg. This phenomenon is known, cleverly, as leg suck.)  Broken collarbones, which are common among conventional bicyclists who crash, are rare for recumbent riders but smashed up elbows aren’t. (When I first started riding this bike, I crashed so often that I started wearing elbow pads. I was running out of meat on my arm.)

‘Bent elbow

I wear bicycling gloves almost as often as I wear a helmet.  Gloves are of little use while riding a bike and are essentially superfluous on a recumbent.  Except for one thing: gloves save your hands in the event of a crash.  Wouldn’t you know it, I didn’t wear my gloves today.

Yup, shoulda worn my gloves.

One thing I was surprised about is the fact that my clothes didn’t get torn up when I slid on the pavement.  I was wearing a loose fitting t-shit and conventional (i.e. non-bike) shorts.  Ah, but they don’t do squat for you in an accident. 

My right thigh was already starting to swell up when I got home.

My upper arm just under the sleeve of my t-shirt.

So what caused this lovely accident. The District Department of Transportation (DDOT).  The new construction had replaced sections of the curb lane. In most other parts of Constitution Avenue the transition from the second-from-right lane to the curb lane had an asphalt patch and could be ridden without trouble.  This particular stretch of the street did not have a patch. In the sun and shade the fact that the lanes were at different heights was impossible to detect.  I never had a chance. I hope DDOT puts some asphalt down before somebody gets killed.

Right lane one inch or so higher than middle lane. How about a sign DDOT?

See how the shade obscures the transition?

I continued on with my journey.  I rode to the Ellipse on the south side of the White House but was informed by a police officer that bikes were not allowed in the street and that I had to ride on the sidewalk, the sidewalk crammed with tourists all gawking at the White House hoping to spot Barry or Michelle or watch some lunatic fence jumper get taken down by the Secret Service.  I made my way very slowly to Pennsylvania Avenue to ride down the bike lanes.  I made it one block.  I ran into The Taste of DC which is a block party for DC restaurants.  There were thousands of people.  Add to that the fact that Freedom Plaza to my immediate left was filled with Occupy Wall Street protesters and all I could say was “Get me out of here.”

Pennsylvania Avenue

I escaped to Constitution Avenue where I saw a tourist running to catch a tour bus. She tripped, stumbled twice a couple of times and did a face plant on the sidewalk. Down goes Frazier. Down goes Frazier. She was quickly assisted by several food vendors who helped her to her feet and gave her an impossibly dry soft pretzel from the Cretacious Period.  I hope she lives.

Too bad it’s not supposed to rain tomorrow.  If I think about it, I’ll try my best to fall on my left side, the one with some intact flesh. 

At Least the Sunrise Was Nice

I decided to start riding my Tour Easy recumbent bike to work I call the bike Big Nellie.  Big Nellie is fast an comfortable. I hadn’t ridden it in a while so the tires needed some air. I pulled out my floor pump and it wouldn’t work.  Arggg!  Fuss, fuss, fiddle and I finally got it to work right.  Yesterday went fine. Today was payback.
It started off as a pretty good day.  I left home a bit early and timed it just right.  As I arrived at the Potomac River, the sun was just beginning to peek above the tree line as I looked to the east.  Sunrise pictures are hard to take but I think these came out okay.  I was a little surprised how much more of the sun appeared by the time I took the second shot. 

First Shot
Second Shot Just a Few Second Later

So, having enjoyed a bit of natures beauty on the way to work, I was looking forward to a productive day.  And. as it turned out, it was productive.Then came the ride home.

Big Nellie’s tires have to be a couple of years old. Maybe three.  Let’s just say that I have been thinking about replacing them for months but that chore just didn’t make it to my to do list.  I did manage to destroy a pair of pedals on this bike a few weeks ago. The left pedal was making an annoying click with each rotation of my foot.  By the time I got home, the pedal had nearly fallen off.  Kaput.  I replaced them with a pair of pedals I had from an experiment with PowerGrips a few months ago.  I was feeling like Joe Bike Mechanic.  I had reached the limits of my mechanical expertise.

On the ride home from work, the replacement left pedal began clicking. Very annoying. It didn’t seem to be falling apart but the sound was bringing back bad memories. About 4 miles from home I heard another sound that was even worse. BANG! from my rear wheel. The sidewall of my rear tire had failed.  This is a known problem with Panaracer Pasella tires, of which this was one. The upside of these tires is that they are relatively inexpensive and do a good job resisting run-of-the-mill flats. The downside is, well,….BANG!

Umm…That’s Not Good

I began changing the tire, pulled my pump from my tool bag, only to find that it had fallen to pieces. I found several pieces in the bag, cobbled them together, and hoped for the best.  I got the tire up to 20 pounds per square inch of pressure before the pump gave out.  (It normally takes 95.)  It was getting dark so I decided to make do with what little air I had.

Long story short, I made it home, but not without having my camera fall out of my pocket on the way.  It seems to have survived the fall.

I think it’s time to back away slowly and go to bed before something else breaks.

This weekend I’ll be playing Joe Bike Mechanic in the driveway.

Third Time’s a Charm

There has been a series of construction projects on the Mount Vernon Trail this year.  Usually the construction crews do a decent job of giving trail users safe passage through their work zones.  Usually.  This year on two occasions, construction crews put in detours that were downright dangerous to bicyclists.  If you think I am just whining, keep in mind that I nearly crashed in both of these detours and I have been ridden bikes for well over 60,000 miles.  Less experienced riders are goners.

So trail users complained. The detours were fixed.  Now comes detour number 3, brought to you by the same folks who screwed up detour number 2 in August.  Back then, the Jones Point Park rehabilitation project required construction crews to tear up the pavement on the trail under the Woodrow Wilson Bridge.  They put down packed dirt and stone in its place.  This patch was in the shade so that riders had little warning of the change in surface until they were on top of it. After much bitching and moaning, the dirt patch was replaced by a bumpy paved patch. For the life of me I cannot understand why this patch wasn’t smoothed out. Nevertheless it was an improvement.

Now that patch has been torn up again. Instead of going straight under the bridge, a detour takes riders in a U, along the bridge for 100 yards then under the bridge and back along the opposite side.  Easy to do, right?  Wrong. They screwed it up again. As you approach the bottom of the U, the contractors paved a narrow, 90-degree turn.  Apparently realizing that this was inadequate for all but the slowest cyclist, the contractor laid down packed dirt and stone on the inside of the turn.  Didn’t they get the message the first time!!!????  I guarantee that someone will crash on this turn. 

Once you cross under the bridge you make your way back along the far side of the bridge.  This is paved, with what must be the most pathetic pavement job in the developed world. In the middle of this picture you may be able to make out how the pavement is giving way.  My front and rear tires sunk into the trail here almost bringing my bike and me to the ground.  

So let’s make a new rule. If you going to put in a detour on the Mount Vernon Trail, you have to rollerblade on it every day.  Maybe then the contractors and the city will get their act together.