Close Encounter with the Raptor Kind

From time to time I come upon bald eagles on the Mount Vernon Trail. Today, while test riding my new Velo Orange touring pedals, I hit the trail south of where I live. I picked the trail up just south of Fort Hunt Park.  About a half mile before reaching Mount Vernon, I passed a woman standing on the trail and looking up into the trees. As I passed I made eye contact and said, “Bald eagle?”  She said “I dunno.”  I kept riding and thought, when she sees one, she’ll know.

About 90 minutes later I was retracing my route.  I came to an elevated boardwalk section of the trail just south of Fort Hunt Park.  There were five or six people looking up into a tree that was arched over the boardwalk. I glanced up and RIGHT there was a big bald eagle.  He was between 15 and 20 feet up in the tree and doing his regal scanning thing.  The trail here is about 15 feet above the river bank so my little friend was perfectly situated to check out the menu at the Potomac Fish Market.

I took a few pictures and started to walk underneath to see if I could get an interesting angle. Splat!  I think he took offense!  Bald Eagle poo is a lot like pigeon poo, white and liquid. Thankfully, he missed me.  Not finding a better shot, I rode off. As I did with my back to the eagle, a passing cyclists said that he just took off.

I think the pedals passed the test..

Mechanical Ineptitude Sunday

After driving 860 miles in two days, I decided that Sunday would be a day to fix up a couple of my bikes then head out for a ride.  I forgot, however, that I am mechanically inept.

All I was going to do was swap out a set of pedals and toe clips on the Sequoia. Easy Peasy.  Not so fast, wrench head.  I had the left pedal off in seconds. Put the pedal wrench on the nut part of the pedal axle. Hold the pedal down with one foot. Push. No problem. Done it a million times. I open the box of pedals from Velo Orange and the first problem arises.  There’s no indication of which pedal is left or right. Since the threading on the left pedal is reversed, this is critical information.

So, I take off the old pedals and carefully examine the threads.  I think I id’ed the left pedal.  I start to thread the pedal on and I notice there’s no nut part.  There’s no way to use a pedal wrench on this thing.  WTF.  I can get it on but I’ll never get it off.  So I search the Velo Orange website to no avail.  I call Velo Orange and, well, it’s Sunday.  They’re probably on their bikes enjoying the weird design of their pedals!  So the Sequoia goes back in the shed.  I send them a WTF email. 

Next up, my Tour Easy recumbent.  I need to order a new seat for it.  So I go and check the design of the old seat.  Go to the company’s website and it asks me for the frame size. To me it’s “enormous”, but that’s not one of the options.  So I go searching for the purchase receipt which should be in the folder with all my bike paperwork.  Should be. It isn’t.  I finally find a repair receipt for my bike. It has the serial number on it.  Yess! I call Bikes at Vienna where I bought the bike and have it repaired. Nobody answers. Of course. It’s Sunday.  They aren’t open yet.  I wait until noon. Call back at 12:05. They have a long history for me in their computer but the computer doesn’t have the spec sheet for the bike. They say check the manufacturer’s website.  They’ll list the wheel base of the different sizes.  I do. They only list up to size large. Argg!

The folks at Bike at Vienna do tell me that the pedals should be put on with a big allen key! They’ll happily put the pedals on for me. They, alas, are 23 miles from my house.

I’m going out to search for the appropriate sized allen key. 
I was going to start my taxes tonight but I think that may be unwise.

Epilogue (A Quinn Martin Production):

I called Spokes about the pedal. They said bring it in. On the spot Chris at Belle Haven checked the threads put the right pedal on, fiddled and diddled. Voila.  On the road again….

Now for the Tour Easy seat….

Creak, Squeak, Groan, Click

The Sequoia has the withers.  It is fading away day by day, pedal stroke by pedal stroke.  I rode to work in near-60-degree weather with a nice tailwind.  The Sequoia acted like a horse being reined in.  And the pedals clicked and the bike squeaked. 

The ride home began in 70 degree weather into a strong headwind. I had so much weight on my bike I was pretty sure I would be staying rubber side down. (A 925 page novel was in one of my rear panniers. No ebooks for me.)  All the way home the bike seemed to resist rolling. The pedals clicked and occasionally caught.  Further.

As I went under the railroad bridge across from East Potomac Park a man rode past me with a toddler in a seat in front of him.  I felt utterly pathetic.  10 miles per hour into the gale.

Dad and Toddler on Cool Bike

As I made the bend on Gravelley Point there was the man and the toddler.  I pulled over to admire the bike set up.  This little girl had nice high perch in front of dad.  They could talk as he pedaled.  She was protected from the wind by a small fairing with an apron hanging from the bottom.  Very cool set up.  I took a picture of the bike with the toddler on it.  Then I took a picture of the bike and saw wires.  It had an electric motor.  That’s how he rode by me so fast.

Electric Dad Bike

After a brief chat I left as a plane came in low as approached the runway.   It never gets old.  I’ve been watching planes land and take off since I was a little kid sitting in my family’s Ford Country Squire station wagon at Albany Airport.  Way ahead of Wayne Campbell.

The right pedal caught several times on the way home but I managed to free it up.  By the time I arrived home it felt like it was going to disintegrate.  I took the bike into the shed and checked it out for the other noises.  As I stood over the bike, I could hear squeaks.  I looked left and right. More squeaks.  The bike wasn’t moving. Then I realized that the noises were coming from my helmet!  Doh.

Since I was checking the bike out anyway, I sprayed lube into the pedals (aren’t they supposed to be sealed?) and on the dolly wheels of the rear derailler.  Then I cleaned the chain using my old t-shirt and citrus cleaner method. Added some Pedro’s Ice Wax and quiet was restored for now.

I suspect that the groaning noise I am hearing is the read axle which needs to be overhauled or replaced. That I will do whenever Mavic decides to ship my rim.  It’s been on order for a month.  I suspect this is why Germany invaded them twice in the 20th Century.  Ich vant mien velo parts!!! 

I’m getting some new pedals tonight. 

Eventually, the Sequoia will be restored to its youthful glory.  I hope. 

Bike Repair Wack-a-Mole

Not long ago I replaced the front wheel on the Sequoia, a bike with 29,000+ miles on it.  The brake wouldn’t work no matter what I did to it. The brake wouldn’t work because the rim had begun to cup. This sort of thing happens after over 18 years of use. 

So I put the Sequoia away for a while and came back to a couple of months later, only to discover that the back wheel wouldn’t turn freely and the back brake wouldn’t work properly.  The mechanic at Spokes, my local bike shop, adjusted the rear hub in a couple of minutes and warned me that it may need a rebuild (which means new ball bearings and grease).  Meanwhile I ordered a new rim from Mavic to match the front rim. 

Then I rode my Tour Easy, another bike with 29,000+ miles on it, in the basement.  The left pedal was making all kinds of noise.  It was starting to disintegrate just as it had done a few months before. I took it in to Spokes to replace the left crank arm and the pedals.  

While the Tour Easy was in the shop, I crashed the Sequoia and bent the front fork.  Spokes bent the fork back and I was good to go.  I rode the bike during the Halvvasa ride and had no problems. Today, I rode the bike and the right pedal was wobbling. When I got home I discovered that both pedals were coming apart. And the rear wheel was, once again, not spinning freely.

So I check out the Tour Easy and the mesh seat back seems to be tearing apart.  I also need a new seat pad so I am considering getting an entirely new seat.  $365.

Are these two bikes trying to tell me something?  Wouldn’t a nice shiny new bike fit nicely under the Easter tree or bush or,….,whatever?

Or maybe that tadpole trike I’ve been thinking about.

I’ll be broke no matter what I do.


Half a Vasa Is Better than None


Swedes are crazy people.  You would be, too, if you lived way up north and didn’t hardly see the sun for most of the winter.  At the end of winter, as proof of their insanity (as if the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Abba were not enough), thousands of Swedes participate in a very long Nordic skiing event called the Vasaloppet. Along the way, they eat lots and wash it down with warm blueberry soup.  (Would I make this up?)

I belong to the Washington Area Bicyclists Association (WABA).  Every March, WABA teams up with the Swedish embassy to host a bicycling version of the Vassaloppet.  Some folks do the entire 60 mile ride. They must be Swedes. I, however, am of Irish extraction. I don’t do 60 mile rides in 45 degree weather. So I did the Halvvasa, which apparently is Swedish for Half Vasaloppet.

Pre-Ride: The Crowd Gathers

I drove to DC at an ungodly hour for a Sunday morning.  Coffee was my co-pilot.  I parked near the Jefferson Memorial and rode my Sequoia two miles along the river to the ride start/finish at the Swedish embassy along the Georgetown waterfront. This would be the test ride for my recently repaired front fork.

Bike Friday Club of DC – Jonathan and Me

The full Vasa ride had already left on its 60 mile trek. I picked up my cue sheet and found Jonathan Krall, like me a member of the Bike Friday Club of DC. We chatted with some other Halvvassed riders then headed out into a steady headwind.

Regina – Have Smile, Will Ride

The route takes trails and roads west to Great Falls Park, mostly along the Capital Crescent Trail and MacArthur Boulevard. This is a pretty flat ride save for a short-ish hill near the reservoir. We rode past Glen Echo Park, a mothballed amusement park of yesteryear and over the Cabin John Bridge.

The climb up into Great Falls is challenging.  It’s probably 1/2 mile long which is long enough to find a climbing rhythm.  We took Falls Road into Potomac Village spotting a flock (“flock” isn’t the right word here) of vultures snarfing down Sunday brunch – a deer carcass on the side of the road. Gross. 

The Boots Rider Had a Moustache on Her Bike.
Dude, Get Off My Dream Bike
Blue Bike, White Tires, Boots!
Welcome to Sweden

After a 15 minute chat in Potomac Village, we reversed course,  Before we reached the vultures, we banged a left through the Avenel development.  Oaklyn Drive was pool table smooth with several rolling hills.  It’s as nice a biking road as you will find. As I was about to pass the riders in front of me, I caught sight of a bicycle moving very fast on my left.  He was the lead rider in a club ride.  The club riders.soon were three abreast along side.  As they made their way past us, a car came from the opposite direction. The club riders compressed toward us. Thankfully, the driver was not playing Angry Birds on his iPhone and we all survived the encounter.

Swedish Innovation Exhibit

The ride back was very pleasant with a light tailwind that upped our cruising speed by five miles per hour.  Smooth sailing.  I fell into a pleasant 15 mile per hour groove and lost contact with Jonathan as he faded into the distance ahead of me.

A lovely, enthusiastic WABA volunteer called out to me at Reservoir Road and I made the right hand turn back down to the Capital Crescent Trail. Another 5 miles of scenic river riding and I was back at the embassy.    I had forgotten my lock, so Jonathan used his cable lock to lock our bikes together. Thanks, Jonathan.

Blueberry Soup

We entered the embassy and had some warm blueberry soup to celebrate our day.  We chatted with a bunch of other riders, including Mark Blacknell, whose name I have seen a million times on the Internet.  Mark is the current WABA president.  Frankly, I have no idea what that means, but his security detail and bullet proof bike were very impressive.

After Ride – Trying Out a Utility Bike

Good ride. Well done, WABA. Thanks for the hospitality, Swedish Embassy.

Until next year, skol, y’all.

On to the Blueberry Soup

When you are not allowed to eat, every commercial on television has the most amazing looking food in it.  Even food I don’t eat like fried shrimp looks amazing.  I stayed up until almost midnight watching TV and surfing the net while the flushing juice did its thing on my digestive tract.  I slept like a log.  Accompanied by my post op wingwoman, Mrs. Rootchopper, I arrived at 630 at the Colonoscopy Center around the corner from our house.  (When you buy a house, location is everything.) 

After the usual paperwork, I was taken back to be readied for the procedure.  Clad in a backless hospital gown, I laid down on an operating table. The nurse took my vitals (all good, thanks to cycling no doubt) and hooked me up to oxygen and a blood pressure cup and a pulse taking gizmo. (When your pulse is lower than your age, your in good shape and getting old.)  The doctor came in, stinking of gin.  Just kidding.

The anesthesiologist sat near my head and introduced himself. I promptly forgot his name.  Today I would be getting the celebrity anesthetic Propofol.  (This is what Michale Jackson od’ed on.) Dr. McCone, the man with the plan – and the scope – came up from behind.  He introduced himself and after some small talk, and an injection of Propofol, I blanked out. 

I was having some pretty good dreams.  It seemed like I was out for hours, but the whole procedure takes only 15 minutes. In my case, a little longer since the good doctor found two very small polyps.  As he said, odds are they are nothing to worry about, but left alone they could have become cancerous. (Eek, the “c'” word.)

My wife drove me home and I went to sleep for a couple of hours. I woke up and ate breakfast.  I’m still a tad off – mostly from the persistent gurgle in my gut.  That will go away with a couple of meals.

I go back in a few weeks to get the official pathology results. I won’t be surprised if Dr. McCone puts me on a more frequent schedule than every five years.  No complaints here. 

So for those of you who shy away from this sort of thing, here’s some advice from the Rootchopper Institute of Fluid Dynamics and Cancer Prevention:

  • If you have a family history of colon cancer and you are over the age of 40, get a colonoscopy. If your doctor says no, get another doctor, and get a colonoscopy. If you’re younger than 40, talk to you doctor about one. If you don’t have a family history, and you’re over the age of 50, bend over!  You should have one, too!

  • Yes, the prep sucks but it’s only one day.  (I know colon cancer patients who had repeated colonoscopies.  They have it bad. You don’t. Deal.)
  • The procedure sounds awful but it doesn’t hurt at all. Not one bit. No pain. Big gain.
  • It isn’t embarrassing. Okay, a little but what do you care? You’ll be unconscious. Try being a doctor who does this all day. Seriously, Dr. McCone and his staff are superb, professional, and experienced. I know he’s been doing colonoscopies for at least ten years because he did one on me in 2002 and another in 2007.   
  • It isn’t expensive. With my insurance, it cost me $40. And I didn’t have a Groupon. I don’t know what it would cost you, but colon cancer is a killer. I’m pretty sure it’s a lot cheaper (and a whole lot less depressing) than a funeral. As Norman Chad says, “Pay the man, Shirley,”

So get your ass to your doctor.

As for me, I will spend the remainder of the day eating and napping. Tomorrow I plan on eating and reading as it pours buckets outside. Sunday morning, the Sequoia and I are doing the Vasa ride, an event run by the Washington Area Bicyclist Association and the Swedish Embassy. At the end of the ride, I’m drinking some blueberry soup.  

Feelin’ Preppy – Way Off Topic

About 15 or so years ago, my mother had colon cancer. One of her older sisters died from it. My mother survived hers.  It may be because she caught it early, or the fact that she contracted the disease over a decade later when treatments were better. Either way, her cancer puts me in the deep end of the colon cancer risk pool. So I began getting colonoscopies ten years ago.

My first colonoscopy was uneventful. My mother warned me that the preparation would be unpleasant. It involved fasting the day before and drinking a couple gallons of nasty tasting solution. Think flat wheat beer mixed with gatorade and salt.. And you have to drink two gallons.  Basically, it flushes your digestive tract. The nasty taste is from all the electrolites they load the juice up with so that your heart won’t go haywire.  When I was a freshman in college I was very overweight.  A friend told me about this water diet he was on. So I tried it. I ate nothing and drank glass after glass of water for a few days.  Not surprisingly I spent the better part of a Saturday on the toilet, after which I collapsed on my bed with the shivers.  It seemed funny about a week later.  A few years later I learned that this diet can kill you by stripping your body of electrolites and sending you into cardiac arrest.  So, as bad tasting as the juice is, I don’t much mind. After I drank the first gallon, nothing happened.  I sat around for four hours thinking that I might have to cancel the procedure.  Then I drank the second gallon.  Madone!  Gurgle, Rumble and Roar.  Ready, when you are, doctor!

In the exam room, the next morning, a nurse came in to give me a sedative. I think it was vicodin.  I felt the stuff go up my arm. It made my whole body feel like it was glowing. I looked up at the nurse, smiled, and said, “That was so nice.”  Once the sedative took over, the doctor could have used a two by four and I wouldn’t have cared. After the procedure, I was given the news that I was cancer and polyp-free.

Five years ago, I had my second colonoscopy. I decided that, since I knew what I was doing, that I could go to work the day before.  I still had to fast but the flushing solution was different. I only had to drink two liters, about four hours apart. It still tasted foul. And two liters is still a lot.  I drank the first liter around 1 pm expecting nothing to happen.  And it didn’t.  For about an hour. Then, Mary, Mother of Gawd! Gurgle, Rumble, and Roar!  All afternoon. Other than vanishing from work for three hours, the rest of the prep and procedure was uneventful.  The sedative knocked me out this time so I didn’t experience the pleasant rush in my arm. After wards, my doctor gave me the same good news.

This time, for some reason, the preparation is different again.  The instructions say to start taking the juice at 4 pm.  Even though I could have spent most of the day in the office, out of anxiety, I teleworked. All I could think about all day was food. The instructions on the juice box say you can add something to the juice to make it taste lest horrific.  I toyed with the idea of vodka.  Then it occurred to me that you really don’t want to be drunk when this stuff kicks in. And it did kick in. Jesus Christ really does have a middle name! Gurgle, Rumble and Roar! I still have a liter to go as I write this. Ugh and I hoping tomorrow morning brings good news. 

The Sequoia

 Since I couldn’t eat lunch, I drove over to Spokes to retrieve the Sequoia.  The pedal overlap is minimal.  The bike tracks straight and true. Well done, Fred. A mechanic and I fiddled a bit with the front fender and trimmed the stays.  I should be good to go.  Speaking of going…..