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.)
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.”
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.