The Story of O

I spent the last several nights changing bike tires. The back tire on Big Nellie was transferred to the back of the Mule. I was shocked at how easy the tire went on. No struggling. No blisters. It just popped right on. The Mule now has two Schwalbe Marathon 700×32 tires.  It looks spiffy.  Then I put a new 700×32 Panaracer Pasella with Tourguard on the back of Big Nellie. Big Nellie has been neglected lately so I planned on riding her to work today. 

Last night I put a 406×1.5 Schwalbe Marathon on the front of Little Nellie. (Note to readers: bicycle tire sizes make absolutely no sense whatsoever.  And even the same numbered sizes vary from one manufacturer to the next. It’s a bit like clothing sizes.)  Now Little Nellie has matching front and rear tires, too.  I wore my cotton gardening gloves to get the tire on and it was still a bitch to do. At the end I learned a little trick.  Instead of trying to push the wire bead over the edge of the rim, push the sidewall up and over the rim. For some reason this makes the bead glide right over the rim.  I also got a bonus from this tire installation.  I had used a dollar bill to boot the old tire after a flat.  A boot forms a barrier between the hole in the tire and the new tube.  Dollar bills make good boots but they disintegrate over time.  This particular dollar bill no longer resembled legal tender. I probably got much more than $1 worth of tire wear out of this bill so it was a dollar well spent.

I have one more new tire, another 406×1.5 Schwalbe Marathon for the front of Big Nellie, I was going to put it on, but the old tire that’s already on looks to be in good shape.

This morning I went to ride Big Nellie and her bike computer fell into my lap.  The computer mount is held on to the handlebar using a rubber O-ring.  Big Nellie’s O-ring looked more like a C-ring this morning. I’m thinking of changing Big Nellie’s name to Challenger. Or, maybe, Feynman.

I rode Little Nellie to work instead. Bikes ride better on new tires and Little Nellie felt great. I fiddled with the saddle and handlebar height today because I was getting leg cramps earlier this summer. I attribute the leg cramps to having the saddle set to low. When I got home tonight – after picking up a couple of O-rings at a hardware store – I had a sore lower back. Ugh.

Tomorrow Big Nellie gets the call after spending a couple of months alone in the Rootchopper Institute for Bicycle Storage.  I still need to order a new seat and a new fairing for this bike but, for now, it will get me to the office.

California College Safari

My daughter Lily is a rising senior in high school. She’s trying to select a college and one of her criteria is that it be far from home.  Last Spring we drove from DC to Auburn, Alabama to check out a bunch of colleges down south.  This week we flew to Los Angeles to tour colleges in the L. A. area.

The flight out via Phoenix was uneventful except for the fantastic views of the high mountains of the desert southwest.  We landed in LAX which is one gawdawful mess of an airport.  We jumped into the rental car van and arrived at the rental car place expecting, at most, a 20 minute process. We were in line to talk to a rental car clerk for 45 minutes.  After several more minutes during which time a clerk tried to upsell me the sun the moon and the stars, I finally got the paperwork that should have been ready when I walked in the door. We were sent into a garage to get our car. Except there weren’t any cars there. We waited another 30 minutes to get our metallic lime green Kia Soul.  After 90 minutes, we were finally on the road. If you have a choice I highly recommend staying the hell away from Dollar Rental Car. I will never use them again.

We drove north to see some sights on a pleasant Sunday afternoon. After some time meandering in various towns (I can’t quite figure out where Los Angeles city is and where the county is.  It’s all just one urban mess.)  We ended up with Lily’s helpful navigation on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. This famous retail strip is like Bethesda on steroids. The only people walking were tourists which makes me wonder if the stars don’t shop at TJ Maxx in Encino. 

After cruising around we started heading east (Directions here are difficult. My mental map had east being toward the ocean; west coasters have it the opposite way.)  We decided to track down an In and Out Burger joint after being told by my friend Erika that it had the best burgers in the universe. In the process we stumbled on Hollywood and Vine, Graumann’s and the Pantages theaters, and other Hollywood landmarks that were positively swarming with tourists. It was like Manhattan for three blocks. Crazy.

The In and Out Burger was across the street from Hollywood High which sounded impressive, even if it looked mundane. The restaurant was a madhouse with lots of yelling (Number 23!!!! Number 22!!!!) It was a little too noisy and the food was nothing special. (I’d take BGR or Ray’s Hell Burger over this any day.)

We hopped on the highway and promptly missed a turn, sending us north when we needed to go east. I do believe the highway sign was missing.  In any case we recovered and spent the next hour crawling toward Eagle Rock which is close to Pasadena.  The next day we toured Occidental College.  Unfortunately, my back decided to go out sometime during the day and the trip was off to wonderful start. Oxy was where Barack Obama went to school before transferring to Columbia.  It’s also where Jack Kemp went to school.  I was impressed with the political range of its alumni. My back was unhappy that Oxy is on a hill.

From Oxy we drove to USC for an afternoon tour. Here we saw our only semi-famous person of the day, Gary Tuckman, a CNN reporter who was moving his kid  into school.  (I see more famous type people at a high school sporting event in DC so I refrained from pointing and saying, “Look a famousy type person.”) 

USC has a lot to brag about.  It has a marching band with a a gold record (Tusk by Fleetwood Mac), the George Lucas film school which includes the Hugh Hefner exhibition hall, a boatload of olympic athletes, and a professional football team.  On display in their sports hall of fame, with four other winners, was OJ Simpson’s Heisman trophy. If you got it, flaunt it.

After seeing the new light rail station (it’s about time LA), we drove in rush hour traffic to Claremont California to get ready for the next day’s adventures at Pitzer and Claremont McKenna colleges.  The drive took forever.  Ugh.

The Kia Soul was a nice little car to drive. We felt every bump in the road, though. I think the highways are hurting. They are very bumpy and strewn with litter, perhaps a result of California’s financial mess.

We checked into a hotel and ate at Denny’s because it was the closest food and we were starving.

The next day we toured the two colleges, which despite being part of an Oxford-like consortium of schools on a common campus, had remarkably different feels to them. Between tours we hit King Taco for lunch. I wanted to try fish tacos since so many of my DC biking friends seem to like them. Meh.

After the tour we drove further east to Redlands for the University thereof.  The drive was not so bad since Redlands is over 60 miles east of LA.  A friend from Santa Monica says that it is where smog goes to die. What a shame because the mountains just outside of town are amazing to look at.

Our tour of U of Redlands was fine, but by this time my back problem had turned into a full blown muscle spasm and I was looking like Quasimodo in shorts.  It was painful.  Another loverly campus. Our tour guide who swims on the Redlands swim team reminded me of Olympic swimmer Summer Sanders.

Finished with Redlands at noon, we drove to Chapman College in Orange California, about 40 or 50 miles to the southwest.  The highways were dusty, terrain marked by unsightly industrial buildings and sketchy retail places.  We couldn’t park anywhere near campus because it was freshman move in day.  So we gave up on Chapman and drove ever so slowly to Whittier. The next day we toured Whittier College. Like USC, Whittier has an infamous alumnus, Richard Nixon.  The tour guide did not point out the modest memorial to him. Quakers don’t do bling.

Before the tour I experimented with chorizos, a Mexican breakfast dish of eggs and Mexican sausage, for breakfast. One plate of this stuff and I could ride a bike to the moon.  And it was tasty, too.

We left Whittier and sat in traffic for an hour so that we could drive Mulholland Drive in the Santa Monica Mountains. It was curvy and had cool views of the city. The whole time I was driving all I could think of was an episode of the old Superman TV show in which Jimmy Olsen drives with Lois Lane on a scary, windy mountainous road without any brakes (the bad guys sabotaged their car). At one point the steering wheel comes off in Jimmy’s hands.  I wouldn’t be surprised if it was filmed on Mulholland.    
After Mulholland we drove into Santa Monica via Brentwood, We promptly got lost and ended up on the Pacific Coast Highway headed for Malibu. We stopped and had a bite to eat then returned to Santa Monica. We checked into a hotel and crashed for the night.  The next day we played tourists.  We people watched on the Santa Monica pedestrian mall then headed for the beach.  The beach was massive and stretched as far as the eye could see.  Not being big fans of deep sand we spend most of our time on the Santa Monica pier, at the western end of fabled Route 66.  We read in the sun, had a very casual lunch, and rode the Ferris wheel.
Then we jumped in the car and drove to a hotel near the airport.  The traffic was so bad that we were repeatedly passed by skate boarders.  After about an hour we made it the 15 or so miles to LAX.  We woke up early, not trusting Dollar Rental Car to take forever to process our car return.  We were stunned when it was the normal three minute process.

Waiting for the plane to board, I discussed politics with a 70 year old Christian tea bagger. He calmly explained to me how everything is Obama’s fault. I calmly disabused him of his simplistic understanding of economics and politics.(You voted for Congresses and presidents that neglected to fund social security, medicare, two wars, and public infrastructure. And don’t forget the positively scary economic mess that Obama inherited, dude. Do you think that John McCain, who was admittedly clueless about economics,  would have done better?)  I doubt that I had any long term effect on his thinking. Any thought that he didn’t agree with was explained away by God and the bible. Thankfully, he didn’t sit next to me on the plane.

The plane home was a 737 packed with more rows than I would have thought possible. We made it home without incident mostly because we were stuffed in our seats like proverbial sardines.

Captain America costume at USC film school

The tour guide at Redlands reminded me of Summer Sanders
The pedestrian mall at Santa Monica

Waay too much food for lunch. (She didn’t come close to finishing it.)

If you have to do summer reading, do it on the pier at Santa Monica

We didn’t stay here. A little out of our budget

We was hungry

OJ’s Heisman  

Bike coop at Pitzer College

Serious grub for serious safaris

Whittier College

Jimmy and Lois crashed here

Not me. No way.

No more college tours!

At the airport

We’re going home!

After a week of misery sitting in traffic and looking at smog and an astonishing amount of litter on the roads, I can only shake my head. How do people live like this? Why do people live like this? When we drove home I could not have been happier to feel humidity in the air and see green leaves and grass everywhere I looked.    

16 Lanes

16 Lanes by Rootchopper
16 Lanes, a photo by Rootchopper on Flickr.

Here is my humble Mule on the Washington and Old Dominion Trail high above the recently expanded beltway in Falls Church Virginia. Count ’em. 16 lanes.

I was recently in Atlanta and saw pretty much the same thing. And I am going to Los Angeles tomorrow to see it yet again.

I am flabbergasted that Americans actually want this. What happens 20 years from now? Do we add another 4 lanes? Transportation policy in this country is simply inane.

A simple solution to this would be to raise the tax on gasoline to the inflation adjusted level it was at in 1993, the last time it was raised and index it (just like your income taxes and social security benefits) to the rate of inflation. That would be about a 13 cent increase. Congress won’t do that because Congress is a gutless, dysfunctional mess that responds only to a populace that has all the fiscal discipline of a four-year old.

There are two good things about this picture. One is the trail that my bike is parked on. We need many, many more of them. We might even reduce our health care expenses in the bargain.

The second good thing is that four of the lanes are HOT lanes. That’s right, they use a transponder to charge for use. How long will it take for Virginia to grant exceptions. They did this on the HOV lanes for hybrid cars. Now the sprawl extends 20 miles farther away from the city.

End of screed.

Carp Diem or Carpe Carp

Some times you feel like a carp; sometimes you don’t.

Today was my day. 

If I am going to ride my bike to work and get there at a decent hour (I can only get there at an indecent hour when Friday Coffee Club is involved), I have to leave around 7. This morning at 7 there was a monsoon in my neck of the burbs.  No gills, no glory.

My bike is locked in the Rootchopper Institute for Bicycle Storage (which is abbreviated SHED en Francais) located inconveniently in my back yard.  By the time I made it to the SHED, I was SOAKED (which is French for wet as corpse in the Seine).  I was wearing my reflective vest for two reasons. It would keep me warmer than going without and it would keep me visible. I also wore my 1991 Bike Virginia cycling cap which I earned my riding up the Shenandoah Valley in a series of driving rainstorms.  It is probably the scuzziest piece of clothing I own but it helped keep water out of my eyes so fashion be damned.

Once I was good and wet, I started my commute. Two miles later the rain stopped. Lovely.

Not surprisingly, I had the Mount Vernon Trail pretty much all to myself.

At lunchtime I rode over to Georgetown to cash another check.  I cashed two yesterday. They all came from the company that runs our Flexible Spending Account program at work.  How they can stay in business cutting three checks in two days when one would do is beyond my little brain.  The woman in front of me withdrew $430 in tens and fives.  Carpe Throatum.

I worked late for the second day in a row.  I don’t want to make a habit of this, but at least I can do my Friday Coffee Club thing this week without feeling guilty.  All my evening regulars were long gone. The trail was busy with ultrafit runners in their stylish running gear. When I ran back before most of you were potty trained, I ran in rags. All my spare grad school money went into my Mizuno running shoes.  I loved them and bought ten pairs over the course of three years. Of course, the company decided to stop making them. Some asshat in their marketing department probably thought it would be a good idea if their best customers bought their shoes elsewhere.  Why can’t businesses leave well enough alone?  Didn’t anybody learn from the New Coke fiasco? Carpe Marketing Throatum.

The ride home was a bit windy. I didn’t care. Somehow riding 111 miles and drinking beer has energized my legs.  The same thing happened on my bike tours. The more I ride the better my mechanics get and the smoother I ride.  I don’t use clipless pedals, just toe clips and straps.  They work great if you pedal properly. The problem is that, most of the time, I pedal like an oil well. Down, up.  The right way is to spin your feet and keep from mashing your feet into the pedals. I had clipless pedals once. After a couple of Arte Johnson falls, I decided to go back to what I know.  Any efficiency gain from going clipless would almost certainly be offset by the weeks off the bike waiting for my broken collarbone to heal.

My friend Paul rode Bike Virginia with me in 1991 on a heavy hybrid, with a broken collarbone.  He didn’t have clipless pedals though. He’s just fell down unassisted.  He’s also a bike commuter. I wonder if her wore a scuzzy hat today.

Mule and Deer

After a Sunday completely off the bike, I awoke to what could be the best biking morning in weeks.  Low humidity with temperatures around 75 degrees.  Despite some residual fatigue from Saturday’s proceedings, the ride in was effortless. 

At lunch I did a short ride to a bank in Georgetown.  It’s hard to call riding on M Street enjoyable, but the weather made it less than its usual maddening experience.

The muggies began creeping back in on the ride home.  After a mile or so, I forgot about the weather as I came upon two fawns munching grass along the Mount Vernon Trail.  A couple of weeks ago I saw two very young fawns in the same area.  For days afterward only one fawn could be found. I read online about a small deer carcass being eaten by a vulture.  I assumed that one of the fawns was dead. So today’s sighting was uplifting.  One thing that I have a hard time with is the fact that the deer around here are oblivious to people.

Click to see two deer under the willow tree on the right

The rest of the ride home was automatic.  Just my mule and me spinning effortlessly along the river.  I am so lucky to have such a great ride home. I wonder if the people who voted against federal funding for bicycling infrastructure have ever biked to work along the Potomac.  Beautiful monuments, airplanes taking off and landing just overhead, sailboats playing bumper cars near Daingerfield Island, the quaint oldness of Old Town Alexandria, the massive faux arches of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge, Canada geese in Belle Haven Park, the boardwalk through the swamp grass on Dyke Marsh, the Return of the Jedi weaving through trees to the stone bridge. Probably not. They probably live in Ashburn where a car is synonymous with living in a endless maze of exurban concrete. Or maybe they drive to work on the beltway or I 395.  When I rode above 16 lanes of highway on the beltway near Tysons Corner on Saturday, my brain said, “When will we learn?” 

Well done, Mule

About a mile from home I looked down and saw something that made my day. The odometer on the Mule read 31,000 miles.  Dang.  Well, done Mule.

The Hoppy 100

It started with a breakfast burrito.

Brian (known in the Twitterverse as @sharrowsdc), DC area bike commuter, blogger and Friday Coffee Club (FCC) attendee, wanted a breakfast burrito. He had it in his head that her could find a tasty one in the DC suburbs. So her rode his bike into the wilds of Northern Virginia with mixed results.

Lisa (@ramblingrider), another blogging bike commuter from the FCC, found Brian’s escapade inspiring and proposed that it would be fun to do a ride into deepest Northern Virginia in pursuit of freshly made beer-like beverages.  John (@dirteng), yet another bike/blog/coffee aficianado, sat down and mapped out a century (100-mile) bike ride to three northern Virginia breweries. The route would take us to Whites Ferry Maryland by way of the C&O Canal towpath, across the river on the cable ferry, south to Leesburg VA, back along the W&OD trail and, after meamdering through Falls Church and Alexandria, back to DC on the Mount Vernon Trail.  Along the way he identified three breweries for liquid refreshment, Lost Rhino in Ashburn, Mad Fox in Falls Church, and Port City in Alexandria.

By Friday night we had a team of five riders lined up; John, Lisa, and I would be joined by Kevin (@bicyclebug), yet another bike/blog/FCC triple threat and Crystal (@crysb) who’d be a triple threat if not for the fact that her bike commute takes her far from the FCC’s home base.  Friday night we also had rain. The towpath is unpaved and notorious for becoming a quagmire in certain spots.  We needed a new route.  With help from yet another triple threat named Mary (@gyspybug) who knows the roads of Montgomery County, Maryland by virtue of her randoneuring adventures with her husband Ed (@dailyrandonneur), John mapped out a new route on the roads. 

We agreed to meet at Baked and Wired, a Georgetown coffee shop at 8 on Saturday morning and head out by around 8:20. I decided to ride to the start.

A really healthy breakfast is key. 

After a rather disgusting breakfast of Trix, blueberries and orange juice, I rolled away from home. The ride in was pretty darn nice. The MVT was empty but for a bunch of runners taking advantage of the comfortable morning temperatures.  The river was placid and the skies were an interesting mix of clouds and the rays of the rising sun.

Early morning on the Potomac

At Baked and Wired, we were having coffee, tea, and a bite to eat when in come Mary and Ed, who swung by on their tandem at the start of their overnight bike ride to the upper Shenandoah Valley.  It was a great surprise that lifted our spirits. We blew an hour chatting and hanging out.

The starting five! Kevin, John,. Crystal, me and Lisa

A little after 9, they bid us safe travels and we wound our way uphill through Georgetown.  A few miles into the ride in the Palisades neighborhood of DC, we met up with Chris (@bilsko), yet another bike commuter from the coffee club.  Chris was enjoying the morning with his cute-as-a-button daughter Maya.  Chris couldn’t join us for the full ride, but promised to ride out the W&OD to meet up with us for the last couple of beer stops.

Chris and Maya

Off we rode on MacArthur Boulevard. One small hill near the reservoir, gave way to miles of flats. I was feeling oddly strong despite having logged 140 miles from riding to work during the week.  As usual it didn’t occur to me that we had a tailwind. Along the road we saw two deer, one close enough to almost touch from our saddles. We hit the first big hill near Great Falls Park. This one usually gives me trouble, but, thanks to Lisa reminding me to take a hit from my asthma inhaler before the ride, I had no trouble at all going up the windy, long hill.  We continued on Falls Road to Potomac Village where we stopped to regroup and assess our pace. Everyone seemed none the worse for wear so we headed west on River Road.

We show off our Sharrows pins bought from Brian in support of WABA

River Road has a series of challenging hills. Way down and way up.  As we headed west we saw many bicyclists coming our way, speeding down the downs and slogging up the ups.   After a couple of pretty challenging hills we pulled over to regroup. Crystal, who had plans in the early afternoon, had to turn back and we thanked her for her company.  (We need to ride again, Crystal!)

Crystal says goodbye

River Road continued to dish out the hills and we continued to roll along.  We passed an old one-room schoolhouse, a golf course, more mansions that you could shake a bike pump at, a Buddhist temple, a closed country store. The weather seemed to be on our side this day.  Puffy clouds and warm but not oppressive temperatures.  Pretty darn good bicycling weather for August in DC.

John tweets, Kevin reaches the top of the hill

At the end of River Road, we reached a T. A right would mean more miles; a left would take us along a shorter route, but up a difficult hill on Mount Nebo Road.  We went with the Nebo.  The road soon became narrower and a tree canopy formed overhead. We turned right, looked up, and thar she blows, Mt. Nebo Road.  The steep hill had two short flats sections along the way, which was good because without them I’d be lying along the side of the road with the roadkill.

John thinking of IPA

Lisa thinking of Porter

After the hill came miles of flat roads.  River Road began again, but, this time, unpaved.  The good news is that it was dry; the bad news is that there was quite a lot of little water-filled potholes and washboard.  Most of it was avoidable, but I managed to chatter through a couple of teeth rattling stretches.

The dirt road dropped us where the C&O passes Whites Ferry.  We pulled in to a grassy spot and prepared to use the rest room. As we parked out bikes, Ed and Mary showed up coming down Whites Ferry Road from the north.  Another great surprise. Mary bought a bunch of peaches which she shared with the fruit lovers among us.  We chatted so long that we missed the first ferry, but 15 minutes later we were on the next one, chatting up a storm.

Ed, Mary and the Lead Sled roll into Whites Ferry

Kevin riding away from Whites Ferry

The seven of us rode away from the river to US 15, a high-speed, two-lane highway with mercifully big shoulders,  We rode 15 into Leesburg where Ed and Mary headed west on Route 7. We picked up the W&OD and headed east.  From here on out, the ride would be predominantly downhill and into a headwind.

Is that a hematoma in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?

We took a break at a trail side quarry and, shortly thereafter, left the trail in Ashburn for Lost Rhino brewery.  This off-trail riding took us into the soulless auto-oriented wasteland of Loudoun County.  Endless empty fields awaiting development. Traffic signals that would not recognize the presence of our bikes. Porsches and pick up trucks, Lost Rhino, take me away!

Lisa, John and Kevin on the W&OD

Lisa thinks this ride rocks, or is it the quarry?

The roads were depressing but the beer and food were worth it. I had a pilsner and a bison dog. I’d tell you what the bison dog tasted like, but I inadvertantly bit into a jalapeno pepper hidden under the other toppings.  This fried my taste buds.  You’ll have to try the bison dog yourself, I’m afraid. The beer was certainly tasty though. We toasted our FCC friend Lauren (@lkono) who tweeted that she rode her bike and had a Guinness in our honor, a Hoppy 25 ride! in her new home of Dublin, Ireland.

Lost Rhino Pilsner, first beer of the day

After retracing our soulless tracks we were back on the W&OD. Where once there were farmers’ fields, now were housing developments and highways.  Sterling, Herndon, Reston.  The headwind kept us honest. The downhill grade kept us in a good mood.

I don’t often drink beer, but when I do, I prefer Lost Rhino root beer.

As we approached the Dulles Toll Road underpass, we spotted a cyclists waving up ahead. It was Chris and his brand new Surly Disk Trucker! (Serious bike envy ensued.) Now we were six.  We rode through Vienna and, after cresting a hill, enjoyed a noticeable downhill stretch  In Falls Church we stopped to buy some lemonade from two enterprising little girls. A few minutes later we were sitting in the Mad Fox brew pub downing another brew and some light snacks.  Delish. Here we stopped to toast Brian for inspiring our adventure.

Chris is man enough for some trailside lemonade.
Lisa at Mad Fox

Back on the trail we rolled into Arlington.  Near Bluemont Park we veered off onto the old Four-Mile Run Trail. After stopping to let Chris fall off his bike somehow, John charted a course through Bailey’s Crossroads.  With me leading, we promptly got lost in a low-ish income neighborhood of garden apartments and 20 year old cars.  Then the clouds opened up. With some help from some rather soggy locals, we made our way to the trail along Holmes Run.  Unfortunately, most of the storm drains empty into Holmes Run so we spent a few miles following the bumpy trail and splashing through gushing water spewing from big pipes and the stream itself.

Creepy tunnel under I395

Twice more I led us astray but the determined efforts of biking beer drinkers would not be denied. We finally found Port City brewery and went inside to partake in refreshment.  As we drank to our health, the skies opened once again. A staff member took our picture and we stepped outside to enjoy our wet saddles and the final ten miles of our journey.

It was getting dark by this point. Since I ride through Old Town almost every day, I led the way to the MVT.  At the base of King Street, I turned south for home and the rest of the crew turned north for DC.  Adios, amigos.

We arrive at Port City

The final five! John, Lisa, me, Kevin and Chris. Cheers!

By the time I reached the Wilson Bridge underpass it was dark. I decided not to stop and put lights on. Instead I rode the abandoned MVT back to the neighborhoods of Mount Vernon.  The street lights and my mental map of every bump in the streets were sufficient to get me home in one piece. About 1/2 mile from home, the skies opened up again. I didn’t care. I’d just ridden 111 miles on The Mule. I don’t think I’d ever ridden this far on a non-recumbent bike.  I was soggy. I was tired. I was chuffed.

So ended the Hoppy 100.  And to think it all started with a breakfast burrito.

For more hoppy fun, check out some more pictures on my Flickr page.

Autopilot Gone Awry

I mentioned recently that while riding to work I fall into a trance. This is generally no problem since I have ridden to work hundreds of times by more or less the same route. Today, instead of leaving from home I put Little Nellie in the trunk of the Millennium Falcon (our Mitisubishi Lancer) and drove it to the dealer. The gas gauge stopped working.  I would make some snarky remark about how the gas gauge on my bike is never a problem except the bike computer on the Mule is messed up.

The dealer is in the heart of Alexandria on top of a big hill.  I dropped the car off and assembled Little Nellie to the amusement of the car dealer’s employees then I rolled down the mile-long hill to Four Mile Run. There I picked up the cleverly named Four Mile Run Trail that took me all the way to the Mount Vernon Trail at the southern end of the Airport.  The ride to work was a short 8 1/2 miles.

Over lunch I rode across Key Bridge to pick up a new mount for the Mule’s bike computer only to notice that it was the wrong mount.  I need to bring the Mule to them so they can see whether the mount will still work. So that’s tomorrow’s business.

For most of the last two years I have been taking a 24-hour non-drowsy antihistamine every day.  Earlier this week I discontinued taking it to see if my body can tolerate the many DC-area allergens.  It became clear this afternoon that my little experiment was not working so I popped a pill and hoped for the best.

The ride home was a drowsy affair. The pill is a bit overwhelmed as are my sinuses.  I hit autopilot about 1 mile into my ride and just started spinning along into a headwind.  I passed the airport just as a small passenger jet (that’s a small jet with passengers not a jet with small passengers) came in for a landing on the auxiliary runway.  The MVT passes just a few feet from the runway so this jet passed about 100 feet over my head. Trance was interrupted!

In just a few seconds I was back on autopilot. Spin, spin, spin,  WTF?  I had ridden another mile and found myself 1/2 mile past the turn off for the Four Mile Run Trail. For a second I couldn’t believe I had done it. I rolled for a few hundred more feet until I realized I needed to turn around. 

The slog up to the dealer was long, made worse by a wrong turn that found climbing up a hill only to cruise back down to get back on course.

I drove home still in a kind of fog.  I may have a sinus infection or something. Benadyl take me away.

Head and Shoulders

People often ask how far I ride to work.  It’s 15 miles give or take a mile because sometimes, like during the warm summer months, I ride closer to 16 miles by taking the scenic route. If it’s raining or cold I cut all corners and pare it down to 14.

When they hear me say this, they usually go “Wow!” that’s so far.  Let’s think about that for a moment. I am essentially sitting on my ass for a little over an hour. Once I get warmed up I go on auto pilot, pretty much like most people do when they drive. I only go about 12 – 13 miles per hour. I would hate to fail a test for performance enhancing drugs. (Is shredded wheat illegal?)

Today I was in my trance, cruising north on the Mount Vernon Trail about 4 miles from home when I cyclists began to pass me and said, “Hello, Rootchopper.”  At least one person in Mount Vernon reads this blog!  Fame is fleeting and so was he. He left me in the dust. I went back into my trance.  As I made my way north from the airport, I was passed by another cyclist. This one was dressed in a white jersey with big red polka dots, the king of the mountains colors from the Tour de France.  He had off white tires. He was going about twice my speed and he buzzed within inches of me so as to avoid a cyclists coming from the opposite direction.  In technical terms, cyclists like this are known as “Assholes” (with or without the quotes).  I learned later in the day that several others had seen him buzz cyclists and smile while doing so. I hope you are reading this blog Mr. Asshole. The only person you are impressing is yourself. Cut the crap or get off the trail.

I feel better now.

Later in the morning, I met Mrs. Rootchopper at her surgeon’s office. Mrs. Rootchopper recently had surgery to remove a growth from her parotid (salivary) gland in her cheek.  After three weeks of review by a passel of pathologists, the surgeon broke the news.  It is cancer, onocytic carcinoma to be more precise. Parotid tumors are rare. Only one percent of them are this particular type. My wife appears to have been sucked into the rare cancer vortex on my side of the family. One of my father’s brothers contracted bile duct cancer. It was fatal. Bile duct cancer is rare. It is not thought to be genetic in nature. A few years after he died, my father contracted bike duct cancer. It was fatal. The odds of this happening are right up there with getting struck by lightning.

The doctor explained that parotid tumors tend not to fall into nice clean classifications so that calling this one malignant while technically correct is probably not very descriptive.  (It is considered malignant because it was wrapped around facial nerves.  Nastier malignancy invade nerves and tissues but this one didn’t.)  The surgeon is confident that he got the entire tumor but she needs to have a PET scan to rule out involvement with her lymph nodes. If so, another surgery is needed. Once that is out of the way, she will begin radiotherapy treatments.

The doctor described the situation pretty succinctly, “It is what it is.”  This is the medical equivalent of the golfing expression, “Play it where it lays.” 

Need less to say, the rest of the day was relatively uneventful.

The ride home was another 16 mile trance. Thankfully, the “Hello Rootchopper” guy passed me again. We both laughed as he called my name and blew by me. Just before I left the trail I came upon a little gift from the National Park Service.  They beefed up the shoulders of a 100-yard stretch of the trail. On days like today, little things mean a lot.

Work was done. Gracias, NPS.