Not a Vampire

It was a tweener weather day. The thermometer said 49 degrees. Fog hung on the moors. Hounds bayed in the gloom. I decided to wear my rain pants over my shorts to avoid freezing. Instead, withing a mile or two, my legs were wet from sweat. Big Nellie’s fairing was making my legs uncomfortably warm. In Old Town I passed Nancy Duley, who was wearing lycra bikes shorts. She had pulled over to the side of the trail to take a bracing pull from her bourbon-filled flask. Okay, I made that last part up. She was straddling her bike on the side of the trail. We said our “Good Mornings!” as I rode past. It just occurred to me that she is always smiling. And she almost always seems to be riding away from work. Coincidence? I don’t think so.

About a half mile after my encounter with Ms. Duley, I decided that cold legs were better than sweaty legs. I stopped and pulled off my rain pants. It was good planning that I had worn mountain bike shorts underneath, because, otherwise, I’d be writing this from the Alexandria City jail. Back on the bike again I realized I had traded warm, sweaty legs for cold, wet legs. Scar was right. Life’s not fair.

The rest of the ride into Rosslyn was copacetic. I didn’t get killed riding through the Circle of Doom, otherwise I’d be writing this from the great beyond, the sweet by and by.

We had our office Christmas lunch today. Just before my food arrived a waiter lost control of a tray he was carrying. I had slung my waterproof bike jacket over the back of my chair. The fallen tray loosed a slow motion splash of ketchup across the back of my jacket. I took the brunt of the splash, thereby saving my office mates from a mass trip to the dry cleaner.

After the lunch we were allowed to go home. I went back to the office for a little bit to finish off some this and that and was on the road long before sunset. I rode home in daylight!!! I didn’t dissolve or sparkle which depending on how old your vampire lore is pretty much means that I am not the undead. I could still be a werewolf but the full moon is weeks away. (Ahhh Oooooh!!!)

Big Nellie did a nice job tacking through the blustery winds. On windy days fairings make for a challenging and rewarding ride.

When I got home, I through the jacket into the washer with some other stinky bike commuting clothes, of which I have bo-ku.

Then I realized that it felt like 2 a.m. at 5 p.m. And I was shaking with cold.

There wasn’t any garlic around and we don’t have a crucifix in the house.

I am the unwell.

Gloomy Monday

I left early this morning. It being just a few days before the winter solstice, this guaranteed me an extra dose of darkness. When you’re working on a vitamin D deficiency, you can’t get too much darkness. In addition to being dark it was foggy. I felt like Rudolph with his nose on backward.

Other than being kind of depressing, it was a pretty nifty commute. The Mount Vernon Trail was all but empty. Near the power plant I spotted a hawk in a tree looking out over the river. I think it was a hawk. It was big. It didn’t have bald eagle markings. Of course, it could have been an immature bald eagle but I forgot to put an ornithologist on my speed dial so we’ll have to settle for generic hawk.

In addition to being foggy it was warm-ish. I left the holey sweater at home and wore a t-shirt over my base layer.

The ride home was a replay of the ride in. Except there were several ninjas. So far I’ve done an amazing job of not thinning the ninja herd. It’s bad when you wear all dark clothing on an unlit trail. It’s worse still if you are backlit by car headlights. It’s almost inevitable that I will hit one of them. They are simply impossible to see until I am right on top of them. I am averaging a whopping 11.3 miles per hour so it’s not like I’m setting any speed records or outriding my headlight.

I am looking forward to tomorrow. The temps will be warm-ish for one more day. And I am hoping to leave work early and avoid the headlights on the way home.

On Sunday I plan on riding to the city to see the Hains Point 100. A bunch of cyclists will be riding a 3 mile loop to raise money for the Washington Area Bicyclists Association. WABA is trying to get more women on bikes. Hopefully most of the riders will be women. I have donated in support of Kate , who is riding. Go Kate!

Big Nellie Rolls to 31,000

31,000 for Big Nellie

It was cold this morning. 26 degrees at the Masonite-enclosed Rootchopper Weather Center. I was in a hurry to get to the early edition of Friday Coffee Club. It was not to be. I had to dig out my fleece lined over boots and put an extra layer of clothes over my legs.

Big Nellie and I rolled into the darkness. All was well until a light shined down upon us. Trumpets blared. Angels sang. I stopped to take a picture (sadly blurry).

It’s been a tough year for Big Nellie. She had a nasty crash. She tried to eat Flor’s pants. Her chain broke. Her seat needed to be replaced.

All that’s behind her along with 31,000 miles.

I made it to Friday Coffee Club but only after Mary and Lisa had left for work. We passed like bikes in the morning in front of the White House. I am sure the President was looking out his window and thinking, “I wish I could ride my bike to work in the cold. Instead I’m stuck being leader of the free world and stuff.”

Poor Barry.

When I got to Swings for the FCC I was taken aback by the number of people there. Apparently they didn’t get the memo that it was COLD outside.

I met Nancy, a newbie and the thrid graphic artist in attendance. Laura, who hasn’t been coming lately, came despite having an office Christmas party last night. And I learned that you can make a Christmas tree out of a lamp. Sort of.

I left for work a little late. I had a ten o’clock meeting. I got to my desk and an email told me that the meeting was canceled.

I could’ve had another cup.

7000 and Climbing

This morning’s ride was uneventful except for some trail bandits. Trail bandits take up the whole trail so that no one else can get by. I came upon the first bandits as I came from under the Woodrow Wilson Bridge and headed toward Ford’s Landing along the river. Two women were walking four dogs. They were spread across the trail from left to right: dog-woman-dog-dog-woman-dog.  I rang my bell four times. They made no effort to move out of the way. I came up behind them and said “COMING THROUGH”.  I’d have added “please” but my polite was gone by the fourth ring.  My friend Reba has long said that the people who live at Ford’s Landing, which is a small development of million dollar townhouses, think they own the trail. Now I see her point.

About a mile later on the north side of Old Town Alexandria, two maintenance workers were walking up the path away from me.  One was pushing a dumpster of sorts. I rang my bell. He didn’t move. I rang again. Nothing. I said “PASSING.” Still nothing. I rode around him on the grass. Grrr.

The ride home was uneventful. For some reason I seem to have figured out dressing for the cold. I was completely comfortable. Now if only I can figure out how to keep from being blinded by car headlights.

When I reached the Woodrow Wilson Bridge tonight, no horns honked, no rockets exploded overhead, no bells rung. I felt shortchanged. I had just passed the 7,000 mile mark for 2012.  Can I have some more please?


Just Drive Your Car

Tonight’s ride home was in the dark. I typically ride a bit slower than usual and it makes for an almost effortless ride. It would have been great but for four drivers in their cars, three of whom were probably well meaning.

About seven miles into my commute the Mount Vernon Trail crosses the access road that connects Daingerfield Island to the George Washington Parkway. A car approach from the Parkway from my right. I slowed. He slowed. I slowed some more. He slowed some more. I came to a stop at the stop sign (he had none). He came to a stop.  I guess he must have been waving me through.  Word to drivers of this world: if I have come to a stop, waving me through is pointless. You aren’t doing me a favor. I waved him through. Don’t try to drive my bike. Just drive your car.

A couple of miles later the MVT meets a street at a T with the parking lot for an office building on the top of the T.  I approached the T and saw a car coming from my left. I slowed to let the car go by. The car slowed. It got within range of my headlight. I could see the driver waving me to go ahead. If I had obeyed her signal, I would have ridden directly into the path of a car coming from my right. Thanks, lady.  I stopped, put my foot down and waved her through. Don’t try to drive my bike. Just drive your car.

A quarter mile later I was on Union Street. A road intersected with Union Street from the right making a T with Union Street as the top of the T.  A car was parked at the curb, facing me on the left on the opposite side of the intersection. Next to the car was a car stopped at a stop sign. Curb car put on his left turn signal. And waited. Stop line car waited. I stopped and put my foot down. After a few more seconds, curb car does a left hand turn into the stem of the T cutting off both the stop line car and me. I think curb car wanted me to go first. Thanks, but no thanks. Just drive your car.

A mile later I was clear of Old Town, heading down the MVT from the South Washington Street deck above the Beltway. This nice, gentle downhill is complicated by an intersection with the access road to a large condominium followed by a zig zag in the trail. The access road/MVT intersection has a traffic light for MVT traffic. This was put in place after the condo people bitched up a storm about the trail users messing with their right drive onto South Washington Street unimpeded.

As I approached the bike light, I saw two white vans pulling up to the trail from the condo. The front van pulled right across the trail directly in front of me. I yelled “STOP!” three times to no avail. Despite the fact that I had the green light, I came to a near stop and shined my helmet-mounted headlight at the driver. She was looking down and texting on her Blackberry. As I rode past, I screamed at her. I am proud that I didn’t cuss. Just drive your car.

Long story short, if you wave a bike through an intersection and he doesn’t respond there may be two things going on that you are unaware of. (1) If a bicyclist can’t make eye contact with you, he is wise not to go into your path no matter how slowly you are driving. As my friend Mary says, I assume I am invisible. (2) A cyclists can see and hear things that you may not be aware of.

A State Police officer at my daughter’s driver’s license ceremony gave a scary lecture to the newly licensed drivers. His message was simple: Don’t text. Don’t fool around with the radio or your iPod. Don’t horse around with your passengers. “Just drive your car.”

Thank a Driver Today

It’s December 10. But for the limited daylight, it felt like October 10. I mean it was 60 degrees out when I left work. I’d have ridden in shorts but the shorts I had on under my rain pants are immodest to say the least. They are made by a company called Jackson and Gibbons. They are touring shorts with a chamois and an unusually short inseam. I think the polite way to put it is the inseam is too short particularly for male persons. So I have to either wear them with underpants or get arrested for flashing.  This is a shame because they are super comfortable, otherwise.

The ride to work was supposedly into a headwind, but with two days’ rest I felt like i had a tailwind. The Mule wasn’t complaining a bit.  The tree with the Belle Haven nest had two bald eagles in it. And in a smaller tree just in front I spotted a great blue heron. Dang. Birds o’plenty. Just off the trail underneath the Roosevelt Bridge I spotted another heron.

On the way home I could hear some mallards quacking up a storm in the river under the Roosevelt Bridge. I am sure they were all worked up over RGIII. 

Rare Football Digression: I admit that I watched the Redshirts play yesterday. Memo to RGIII: make sure you have a guarantee on the contract, dude. You keep leaving your legs out like that and some big sombitch’s gonna snap ’em right off. Ask that Theisman fella.

So today’s superb bike commuting weather was brought to you by all those folks who drive to work and heat their homes to 76 degrees. The downside is soon I will be able to fish for frankenfish from my front doorstep. 

My Blog’s New Home

After nearly a year over on Blogger, I reached my memory limit. That means I can’t add photos to my blog without paying Google for the privilege. Since I am not a fan of Google’s attempts to assimilate me into their Borg-like universe of other products, I’ve decided to move my blatherings over here to WordPress. It’s a bit overwhelming but in time I should have some content up. Stay tuned.

Oh, and if you just stumbled on me here, you can read my old stuff over there.

Friday Fun and the Spanish Inquisition

When I was in middle school, my science teacher used to have a little weekly quiz called the Thursday Thrill or Friday Fun. They were neither thrilling nor fun but they were some of the many memorable things I learned about science from F. Norton Curtis, a.k.a. Snortin’ Norton (because he had a habit of snorting when he talked) and Skippy for reasons unknown.

It was an all-boys, private, military school. In those days at least, the teachers could use physical means to maintain order. One English teacher I had used to make disruptive boys go to the corner, step back then lean into the corner and hold themselves there using only their foreheads. The walls were hard plaster. You’d have a screaming headache for the next hour. Try it.

Skippy had a different approach. If you were disrupting his class, he’d walk up to your desk, tell you to roll up your sleeve and stick your hand out palm up. Then, he would slap your wrist with his open hand. It was far more embarrassing than painful. He understood the peer pressure of an all-boys middle school.

So what the hell does this have to do with Friday.  Well, yesterday was Friday and it was fun. (Sorry, I ramble sometimes.)

It was ever-so-lightly raining when I left the house, so The Mule was the ride du vendredi. As I rode up the river on the Mount Vernon Trail, the “ever-so” part of the precipitation got dropped.  I gave the holey sweater the day off and I was glad I did. Between the light rain and the 40-ish temperature, I was comfy in my long sleeve base layer and t-shirt and my touring bike shorts, all beneath a water proof rain suit.

I headed into DC and Friday Coffee Club. FCC is much more fun when you’re not sick. And this week I was feeling better than I had in at least ten days. There were a surprising number of people in attendance considering the fact that it was raining. The high-ish point was the return of Froggie, our active duty, naval, weather geek. It was great to see him even if it took me about 10 seconds to recognize him wrapped in a couple of layers of bike commuter rain gear.  I think I speak for all the FCCers (not to be confused with Bob Cannon who is an FCC FCCer) when I say that we miss Mary, Queen of Caffeine, whose j-o-b schedule no longer permits attendance. There was some discussion on Twitter about having an extra early FCC next week. This would necessitate me leaving home at something like six a.m. That’s probably not going to happen.

Speaking of Mary, she is also Queen of the Coffeeneuring Challenge. It is now official, I am a Coffeeneur. For complete results, check out her blog. I am proud of this accomplishment. The last time that Mary held a bicycling challenge I failed miserably by, among other things, riding into the back of a parked car. (I am not making this up.)  Mary gave me an honorable mention.

The ride home on Friday was slow and effortless.  No complaints. Just the kind of easy cruise that Friday evenings merit. It was my 150th bike commute of the year.

As soon as I got home, I showered, changed and headed out to see Lincoln at the movies. I had popcorn for dinner. I think the movie is overrated but the acting is off the charts. It has many of my favorite actors in it including David Straithairn and Tommy Lee Jones. They say Daniel Day-Lewis is in the movie too. I didn’t see him though. All I saw was Abe Lincoln.

Today I did Christmas stocking shopping by bike. I rode Big Nellie into Old Town. As I was coming out of a Starbucks, I heard bag pipes. I nearly walked smack into Santa playing a Christmas tune. I would have taken a picture but a Santa playing bag pipes is a bit like the Spanish Inquisition. Nobody expects it.


Antisocial Oversleeping

I had a meeting at 8:00 this morning.  I needed to get out of the house by 6:30 to get there on time.  So I thought I’d wake up around 5:30 – 5:45 and be out the door with little trouble. Good plan, except that I woke up at 4:00 and thought, “No problem. Ill pop out of bed at 5:30 easy.” The next thing I saw was 5:55 in big illuminated red numbers in the dark on my nighstand. Oops.

Lone Ranger fanfare music…

As usual I got the paper from the end of the driveway, did my back exercises, and watched a few minutes of inexplicable TV with the sound off. I am trying to guess what’s going on in the telenovella that airs during my back exercises. Since I don’t speak Spanish, having the sound off does not place me at much of a loss in this regard. Suffice it to say, after over a month, I have no idea what Anita is up to. I can tell who the baddies are though. They grimace a lot and dress in sexy clothes while Anita usually dresses like a high school cheerleader, when she’s not rocking a teeny bikini at the beach.  Go figure.

Into the kitchen to inhale some watered down OJ and Cheerios. I got a pow-pow-powerful good-good- feeling.  Please note that the OJ goes in a glass not on the cereal. I would be gag-gag-gaging.

In a rush, I skipped using the sinus wash thing. I went for the Flonase instead. Except the bottle is empty. This probably explains why my sinuses are unhappy as I type this.

It was in the low to mid 30s this morning so, of course, I spent ten minutes getting just the right clothing on. I HATE this. Too many choices and not enough time.

Out the door I went. I hopped on Big Nellie, yelled “Hi Ho, Silver! AWAY!” to the consternation of my sleeping neighbors and wife and headed down the road in the dark.

About 2 miles into my rumbling ride, I spotted two cyclists crossing the road I was on. I caught up to second one and she said “Hi, Rootchopper!”Begorrah. If it wasn’t Nancy Duley who I have never actually ridden with but who I see going south as I go north most mornings. She and I tweet a lot about the biking life around these parts.  We chatted for a few seconds, just long enough for me to explain that I was running late for my meeting. She mentioned that the other rider was her husband Patrick who had ridden a bit ahead of her.  Patrick is a fine Irish name but to me he is forevermore Mr. Nancy Duley. Maybe even with an @ in front.

Mr. Nancy Duley was circling around to join us when we hit a slight downhill. Big Nellie, as recumbents are wont to do, accelerated. A gap opened. I expected the Dual Duleys to catch me on the next incline since recumbents are to uphills what rhinoceroses are to flying.  They didn’t. In a few minutes the big downhill was upon me.

Time. To. Fly

In a few seconds I was blowing past the 30 mph barrier with a cold wind tearing my eyes up. Can’t see. Ayyyyyyyy!!!!!

Into the slalon turns at the base of the hill to Tulane Drive and across the Parkway in a gap in traffic. 

No more Duleys. If felt bad. I really wanted to chat some more. Another time.

My momentum carried me onto the Mount Vernon Trail at speed and I chugged along in the dark with the sun just starting to rise. Pretty.

Being early, the line of Catholic SUVs at Saint Mary’s School for the Rich and Devout had not yet formed at the end of South Royal Street. I took the short cut down South Royal instead of following the MVT to the river.

The drivers in Old Town were kind enough to wave me through some stop signs (well, that’s my alibi, officer) and I waited only 5 seconds at the King Street traffic light. Mid-block near some low income public housing some grade-school kids were waiting on the left side of the road for the school bus. I could see three little ones running toward the street from the housing area on the right. The first one who was shorter than the hood of a sedan never broke stride and ran out in front of me. I anticipated this and slowed.  The kids on the left side of the road yelled at her. Good. Next time, yell before she runs out into the street!

I took the bumpy short cut past the power plant and was soon cruising on the MVT at 15 mph.  Near National Airport I was passed by a guy on a road bike. He had on a back pack, a t-shirt and some gym shorts.  His exposed lower back was bright red.

I saw him again as I rode by the portapotties at Gravelly Point. I think he stopped to thaw out his noo noos. A minute later he blew by me again. I am very careful not to get FNNS when I ride. (FNNS is frozen noo noo syndrome.)

I hit all the lights in Rosslyn for the first time in ages. No cars tried to run me over either. I rolled into the garage at 7:49.  Up to the office. I pulled a George Reeves Clark Kent (except I didn’t go in the broom closet and jump out the window) and changed superfast. I grabbed a cuppa joe and walked into my meeting one minute late.

Mission accomplished.

P.S. For my hygenic-obsessed reader(s), I should point out that I did shower immediately after the meeting.  As did my boss – not with me, of course – who rode his bike to work from Columbia Heights/Mount Pleasant area of DC.

Enjoying it while it lasts

Well, it was warmish again this morning. I could have gotten away with shorts but, since it was raining a bit, I went with shorts under rain pants. On top I wore the same thing as yesterday except I swapped out the vest and arm warmers for my rain jacket. I was dressed for success.

Since Big Nellie isn’t all that sure footed in the rain, The Mule got that call this morning. I took the same route as yesterday, picking up the Mount Vernon Trail at the stone bridge.  Cars trying to get onto the GW Parkway clogged up the little side street that connects the bridge to the MVT heading toward DC. I managed to ride around and through the steel parade without harm to man or Mule. As I accessed the MVT, I could hear, high in the trees, a strange bird calling. I am pretty sure it was a bald eagle but I couldn’t spot it. 

Up to Old Town the trail was pretty empty. A few sprinkles keeps people indoors. A bald eagle was once again perched above the Belle Haven nest. I wonder if this one is not visiting from up north during the winter.

I had no problems with SUVs blocking the trail this morning. I had camera at the ready just in case. Maybe I should just hold a camera all the time while I ride and the obstructions to my travel will magically disappear.

Near National Airport I fell in behind a bike commuter and a rollerskier. I could have passed both but decided to check out the skier’s technique. He was pretty good, cruising along at 13-14 miles per hour. At one point he buny hopped a seam bewteen the trail and a bridge. That was a little clumsy but he never lost his balance.  He pulled over at the Humpback Bridge. I wonder if they have a Vasaloppet tide for rollerskiers?

Nobody was hit at the Rosslyn Circle of Doom today. There’s always tomorrow, I suppose.

After 9 hours of cogitating for the greater good, I headed home. A steady 10 mile per hour tailwind made the trip blissful. I couldn’t feel the pedals. I just rolled along effortlessly in the dark. I nearly hit two ninjas but I didn’t care. 

It will be cold in the morning.