Five and Nine

Last night, just as I finished writing my blog, my head started flopping around like a bobblehead. I was sooo tired. I went to sleep. I started to count sheep. I got to two. Eight and half hours later the alarm went off. It was as if I had been under anesthesia.

The weather reports yesterday at one point were calling for five inches of snow today. I went outside to get the paper. It was well over 40 degrees out and there was no precipitation. I somehow managed not to scream “We’re screwed!!” and run down the street waving my hands over my head in my jammies.

I headed out the door ready to ride to work with gusto, except that about 200 yards from home I realized that I forgot to put pants in my panniers. Fail. So I went back home. Sheepishly. (Two sheep references in one blog post is my limit so don’t go looking for more.)

The ride to work aboard Little Nellie was loverly. No rain. No mighty headwinds. And I was dressed for success. The holey sweater is my meterological salvation once more. I’ve got this 40 degree thing down to a science.two miles in, the plunge down the hill at Park Terrace woke my ass right up. A few minutes later on the MVT I saw the hoppy runner. He’s the regular who runs with a skip in his step. It looks like he has knee issues in one leg. He’s still seems to be doing a decent pace, maybe 8:30 a mile. He can whup me with one knee tied behind his back. (This is because I have two bad knees, a bad back and mini-keg abs.)

I rode with the Catholic SUVs this morning at Saint Mary’s School for the Environmentally Ignorant in Old Town. It’s a bit like the running of the bulls in Pamploma except beautiful Spanish women in low cut dresses are not leaning out of their townhouse windows along the route cheering me on. I do wish Old Town would up its game. Think how popular bike commuting would be.  (Heterosexual women and gay men can insert your favorite hot guy in the previous sentence. This blog is inclusive, except you can’t ride on South Royal Street because that’s where all my Hispanistas will be.)

Back on the MVT north of Old Town, I turned on my autocycle program and magically appeared opposite DC and the monuments, 30 minutes later. This happens a lot to me. I have bike commutimng black outs like some skid row drunk.

(I do recall one thing. The National Park Service has once again breeched the beaver dam north of Slaters Lane. Those poor beavers work their asses off for weeks and finally get a decent pond going and thugs from the NPS come and ruin it.)

Near the Memorial Bridge I heard a fanfare of horns. I stopped and looked at Little Nellie’s odometer.

Little Nellie Turns 9

9000 miles.

Little Nellie done good.

We rode into Rosslyn nodding to our admiring fans. (Make that “fan” and disregard his tin cup, please.)

Instead of riding home in a raging storm, I experienced only a couple of not-so-raging sprinkles. I took some of my disappointment out on a driver who blocked the curb cut to the MVT at the I-66 offramp. I simpathize with these drivers. They want to take a right on red but there’s a railing on the bridge that obstructs their view. So they inch out into the crosswalk. This sort of thing can easily be fixed. Either move the railing or put up a No Turn on Red sign. Dream on.

One advantage to riding Little Nellie is that I can easily use the blinder on my helmet to shield my eyes from the headlights of the cars on the Parkway. It’s just a whole lot more pleasant than when I ride my recumbent. (Don’t tell Big Nellie.)

Tomorrow morning is the first anniversary of the Friday Coffee Club. Mrs. Folger and Juan Valdez will be there and every one will sing the Chock Full O’Nuts song. Or not. Better coffee bike commuters’ money can’t buy.


Smashed and Trashed

On Sunday and Monday nights I probably slept 3 hours combine. Last night I was eager to saw logs when a little after ten p.m. my phone rang. It was my son calling to tell be that someone had put a rock through his car window. I was up until nearly 2 a.m.

A Smashing Evening

My alarm went off at 6. I really wanted to stay in bed. I really didn’t. I was out of the house after arranging for the car to be repaired. I was out of the house only ten minutes later than usual.  The ride in was a zombie slog. Cold, rainy, foggy. I hate living in Seattle even when I don’t.

The ride home was Slog II: The Sequel. It was just like riding in only backwards. Sort of. I zoned out again. I don’t remember anything from the last 8 miles.

I am so tired I could cry. Maybe I will. Then I will go to bed.

Instant Karma

I rode to work yesterday in shorts. I knew the gods would smite my ass today. And so they did.

After another night of little sleep, I woke up and waited for the return of the plumber.  He arrived pretty much on time, fixed the kitchen faucet in less than a minute and was gone. I left the house at 8 into a rainy, cold headwind. Little Nellie is probably getting annoyed that she gets the call when the weather sucks. Suck it up, baby. You have the oldest drivetrain in the shed.

The ride in was uneventful. Rain. Cold. Headwind. Despite the elements, I was comfortable all the way to work.  I hung up my wet things on the back of my office door and placed my overboots on the floor hoping that they would somehow dry out.

At 5 I started to dress for the ride home. My holey sweater had apparently been in contact with my rain jacket and had soaked up some water.  I put it on anyway. They say that wool will keep you warm even when it’s wet. They ain’t lyin’. The last thing on was the overboots. I was amazed to find that they had dried out during the day.

The ride home was pretty much like the ride in except I now had a mild cross wind and the rain was little more than a few sprinkles here and there. I managed not to hit a single ninja, because even ninjas are smart enough to know not to be out in this kind of weather. Not me. No no. I’m pretty sure I am not on Mensa’s speed dial.

It’s supposed to rain right through the morning tomorrow so the ride in sure looks like a whole lot of fun.  I can’t complain. It hasn’t snowed (yet) and the temperatures have been above freezing for most of the winter.  There I’ve done it again. The gods will surely smite my ass – again.


Shorts Story

It’s the middle of January and I wore shorts to and from work. As unusual as this feels, it actually is not all that rare. I remember when I was living in the frozen north, there would be a couple of thaws every winter. And there would be at least one week of no-way-I’m-going-outside cold weather. One of the nice things about living near DC is that super cold weather is extremely rare.

Last night I logged a good, solid 1 hour of sleep. It seems to happen about once every ten days. I even took some zzzzQuil. The stuff is useless. NyQuil knocks my ass right out. zzzQuil is lame.

I had fresh legs because I didn’t ride all weekend. Add a tail wind and I felt like I had EPO for breakfast. There were several points along the river where the air temperature was a good ten degrees colder. Woke my ass right up. The fog was intense too. As I rode opposite the Washington Monument there was a sort of fog plume on the river. I like fog. I once taught at a college in Newport RI. It was frequently socked in with dense fog and a fog horn sounded in the distance. I love that sound.

I managed to get through the Rosslyn Circle of Blood without incident. I arrived at work unscathed.

It was a few degrees colder on the ride home. As luck would have it the wind had changed direction and I had another tailwind. I saw a woman running in a thin sweatshirt and shorts. I smiled at her. I loved running in Rhode Island. I rarely wore long pants. I hated the feeling. So seeing a runner in shorts is always a good thing. Except if they have cankles. Most runners don’t have cankles.

With the foggy haze and the dark it looked like the incoming planes at National Airport were going to land on a plane on the runway. One was landing from the east. One was on the NW bound runway awaiting take off. Two were coming in for a landing from the SE.  Doing air traffic control at that place must be nerve wracking.

The ride to Old Town was calming. No effort with the breeze at my back. My back wheel seemed to be a little slippery. I didn’t have a flat but my panniers were stuffed with my work clothes and my bad weather cycling gear. There’s only so much weight you can put back there before a bike’s handling goes all to hell.

South of Old Town I came upon a double header. Two ninjas, dressed all in black walking side by side. The three of us are fortunate that they were on the other side of the trail. I encountered another as I approached the Dyke Marsh boardwalk. This was a runner in all black but he had white legs (shorts again) and white lettering on his long sleeved shirt.

The weather takes a turn for the worse tomorrow. Cold and rainy. Good thing the plumber is coming back to re-do the kitchen faucet. At least I get to ride in after sunrise. No shorts though.

Plumber Populaire

I really did want to ride the populaire with DC Randonneurs. The ride is around 65 or 70 miles with plenty of hills. The ride would have to wait. My downstairs sink was completely destroyed by a Friday night DIY frenzy that made me glad I didn’t go to trade school. My son left town to hang out with his girlfriend (the boy has his priorities straight) and I waited for the plumber.

The plumber came around noon and went to work. This guy moved like a dancer around the sink. Within 30 mimutes or so, he had the drain pipe, new valves and the sink and countertop installed. Go team!  Then he had his way with the shower which has been dripping for six months. He replaced both valves, the shower head and the pipe leading to it. Ta da!  To finish off his work, he replaced the stem valve in the kitchen sink faucet. He was gone by 1:20. If nothing leaks, he’s going to be our plumber for ever.

I have been watching tweets from Mary, Lisa and John, who are doing the populaire, Adam, who is counting trail users for the city of Alexandria, and Ted, who is riding around Alexandria for fun and food. It looked gray and cold outside but my brain could not get my ass in gear. So I am taking a day of rest.

Some friends from my grad school days are meeting up in Garrett Park MD for a Secret Santa brunch.  So Sunday will most likely be another day off the bike. I should be ready to rumble come Monday.


Just Ducky

I had another sleepless night. I don’t really know why other than the fact that I had a mild tummy ache. I slept maybe 3 hours. Sleepless nights are no excuse for driving to work. Having 3 cars and 4 drivers pretty much seals the deal.

I chose Little Nellie, my Bike Friday, today. It was the first time this year that I did not ride Big Nellie, my Tour Easy recumbent. There was rain in the forecast and I hate to get Big Nellie’s new foam seat wet. Before I was a mile into the commute, I could hear the sound of ever so tiny raindrops on my jacket. The ride in was pretty nice. Dark with a beautiful sunrise over the river. I would have stopped to take some pictures but I was on my way to Friday Coffee Club and didn’t want to be too late.

On the way I passed the front of the White House. It’s almost ready to receive the Inauguration Day parade. Part of Pennsylvania Avenue is blocked off so I followed two other cyclists onto the sidewalk and around some German (or maybe Dutch) tourists dressed up in suits. They were getting a group picture with the White House in the background.  How do you say photobomb in German?

I arrived a little after eight. The Coffee Club was humming as usual. I ended up spending most of my time with Kate and Rachel who remind me of Mary and Rhoda, except without the New Yawk accent or smile that’s too big for her face. Bob and Rachel share the same last name but had never met, so the two Cannons had good fun trying to figure out if their family trees intersected. Kate and I discussed bike touring between Massachusetts and DC.

Just before leaving Leslie Tierstein showed up and asked about our friend Charmaine who had been run over by a pick up truck last month while riding to work. Later I heard from Charmaine. Her recovery continues. She has many more weeks of therapy for her broken right arm. I am signed up to escort her on her first ride once she is healed.

Leslie and I rode together across the TR Bridge to Rosslyn. To get there we had to take a poorly designed detour (steep, narrow, no curb cut) near the Kennedy Center. DDOT you can do much better than this. I made it across the narrow bridge sidepath without having to stop for DC-bound bike riders. I timed it so that they approached me at the bump outs in the trail. This was a first for me. I should get a reward. The TR Bridge, even without the detour, is a mess for all users. It’s dysfunctional and ugly. It really should have been replaced years ago. The Sousa Bridge, which carries Pennsylvania Avenue across the Anacostia on the other side of town, is in much worse shape. Sousa will beat Teddy for highway $$.

At the Rosslyn Circle of Certain Death, I crossed the I-66 ramp on Lynn Street in front of a car that was jutting out into the crosswalk. The driver was looking left and I was coming from the right. I continued in front of him and he started to make his turn – into me. I yelled “Wait” at him and the panhandler on the other side of the crosswalk yelled at him too. He stopped abruptly. I don’t normally give money to panhandlers but I think on Monday I will show the panhandler some green.  This really should be a no-turn on red intersection. Drivers trying to make a right turn on red have to nudge their cars into the crosswalk to see around the railing that separates the sidewalk to their left from I-66 below. It’s just a lousy design.

The work day was difficult. It started with the discovery that I had forgotten to pack my slacks. Fortunately, I keep a spare suit at work. Otherwise I’d have had to look like M.C. Hammer all day in my biking rain pants. It would have been fun to go into a meeting and tell everyone, “Can’t touch this.”  And to have theme music all day. Truth be told, if I tried to dance like M.C. Hammer I’d hurt myself something fierce.

Bike commute fail. Forgot my slacks. Wore biking wind pants to office. Hammer time!

My tummy wasn’t happy. At all. I made it through the day without much joy. I was not looking forward to the ride home. I rode out of the garage a little after five and into a dark, cold rain. It felt like some of the raindrops were frozen. They weren’t but I was pretty cold none the less. The ride home was made more difficult by dense fog that was thickest along the river. I had wet glasses, fog, and headlights in my eyes. About two miles into my ride, I almost hit a ninja on the humpback bridge. As I rolled past, I said “I can not see you.” Twice. He’ll figure it out when he has a bicycle wheel up his butt.

A little further along I heard a quack. I nearly ran over two mallards in the fog. Damn, it was hard to see. Fortunately the rain let up and I made it the rest of the way unscathed. It’s frustrating going so slowly but when I got home I felt like I could ride 10 miles per hour forever.

Tonight was the night that my son and I were to take a second try at fixing the sink in the downstairs bathroom. After about an hour,we had everything nearly perfect. I nudged the countertop one last time and the drain pipe snapped. Ugh. So we found a spare drain pipe and it was ever so slightly smaller in diameter. No Mas. I called a plumber. Instead of going to the DC Randonneurs’ Populaire ride (a little under 70 miles) tomorrow, I’ll be hanging at home waiting for Mr. Buttcrack. It’s all for the good. I’ve already ridden 150 miles since Monday. And half the pipes in the house are dripping.

It’s Electrifying

I normally get passed by several bikes on my way to and from work. Most of these are lycra clad dudes in a great big hurry to get to or away from work. Some are simply run of the mill bike commuters who are in better shape than me. (This, of course, covers several billion people worldwide.) On my last two rides to work, I have been passed by someone who doesn’t fit the fast commuter mold.

Yesterday, I was riding up the gentle grade alongside National Airport. It’s a what cyclists call a false flat. It looks flat but it’s uphill enough to slow your speed by a couple of miles per hour. I was doing my usual 10 miles per hour along this stretch both mornings when she passed me.  She’s a petite woman. She wears street clothes including a quilted winter coat. She rides a heavy looking bike with an upright seating position. She was pedaling gently. And she blew by me like I was standing still. In no time flat she was out of view taking my fragile aging male ego with her.

Today she passed me in the exact same spot. I check out her bike. The front wheel had a huge hub which housed an electric motor. A grumpy person might say that trails like the Mount Vernon Trail are not intended for use by motorized vehicles. Not me. She wasn’t harming anyone. In fact she was riding more safely than many of the Lancelots in the lycra crowd. And she was getting to work pretty darn fast.

Did the future just pass me by?

You don’t have to be a big time bike rider. Being old doesn’t much matter. You can navigate streets and trails with ease. And there are no parking problems when you get to your destination. And you get some exercise and fresh air.

As an aging bike commuter who finds his 30-mile bike commute increasingly difficult, I have to admit this electric assist thing has legs.

Or wheels.

Or pedals. .

Two for Two for Tuesday

Another day, another ride to work on Big Nellie. We sure are getting along fine these days.  I once again gave the holey sweater the day off even though it was about ten degrees cooler than yesterday. After about a mile I warmed right up and was comfortable for the rest of the ride. I think I have the hang of winter now.

I decided that no two commutes would be the same. So today my route took me to the stone bridge where I picked up the Mount Vernon Trail about a mile sooner than usual.  When I take this route I pass up the swooping downhill on Park Terrace. Most winters the trail is icy from the stone bridge to Dyke Marsh but this year has been so dry and warm that ice is not an issue.

On the north side of Belle Haven Park I spotted an osprey in a tree right along side the trail. It was facing me and I could see its white underside. It was all fluffed up. Show off. About a quarter mile later, I spotted a black bird flying across the trail away from the river. It was a bald eagle, probably returning from a fine fish breakfast. The eagle alit in the tree with the Belle Haven nest. Two raptors in one morning ain’t bad.

On Union Street in Old Town, I spotted Nancy Duley for the second straight day. I can always tell she’s coming because she has a single small pannier. I think it’s where she keeps her bourbon but I’m not sure.

The rest of the ride was peaceful. I graciously allowed many riders to pass me. I also took my sweet time on all the iced up boardwalks. My recumbent does not do ice very well.

On the ride home, Lynn Street in Rosslyn was packed with cars. The police had closed off the Key Bridge into Georgetown. They weren’t even letting bikes or pedestrians across. I could clearly see a stream of pedestrians coming across the bridge from DC but on the far side of the bridge. (II later learned that a man had threatened to jump off the bridge. The police talked him out of it.) I took a picture or two and headed down to the MVT. Under the Roosevelt Bridge I ran into (not literally, of course) Chris B. from Friday Coffee Club and the HoPolice block off Key Bridgeppy 100.  Based on where he lives I knew he was headed for the Key Bridge. I yelled underneath my neck gaiter “Bridg is closed!” I don’t know how her heard me but I stopped and he did a u-ey and we talked briefly.  He headed across the TR bridge and I made my way home. Two bike friend encounters in one commute, my second twofer of the day.

The ride home was splendiferous if a little odd. I guess that somebody might have jumped off the bridge and watched as a Park Service helicopter passed low over the river. I kept my eye out along the river side to see if anything human popped up. No bodies, just geese.


When I got home I emptied the mailbox to find my booty from the Coffeeneuring Challenge. There were two pins, one pewter pin of a coffee cup and another metal pin showing the fancy pattern from a coffee with the words Coffeenuering Challenge on it. Thanks for sending this Mary.

It’s a Trap

I left early. In the dark. It was warmish, over 40. I wore the base layer that my brother-in-law’s family gave me for Christmas instead of the holey sweater. It was perfect, like wearing pajamas.

When I reached the Mount Vernon Trail I could see police car roof lights on the GW Parkway about 1/4 mile ahead. A speeder, a Camry with two high school kids inside ,had been pulled over. They had the my-dad’s-gonna-kill-me look. Traffic was getting backed up by the loss of the right lane. I  thought of calling my daughter to warn her about the speed trap, then decided against it figuring she can’t speed because the Parkway’s all clogged up.

The MVT uses the crosswalk at the intersection with the Hunting Towers Apartments’ access road. The crosswalk was filled for the second time in a month with a huge white SUV trying in vain to make a right on red, during rush hour with a view obstructed by buses waiting at the adjacent bus stop. In other words, there was no reason for the SUV to be blocking the crosswalk. I carefully rode around the front of the SUV trying my best to stay out of the parkway traffic. On Big Nellie, my right arm is just about even with the grill of this behemoth. I almost smacked it with my fist in protest. I thought better of it. This is a good thing because the driver of the behemoth could have made me road kill with a step on the gas. Instead I turned to give the driver a dirty look. I forgot about the light on my helmet. Got him right in the eyes.

On the north side of Old Town I saw Nancy Duley. Nancy has been out of action due to illness for a couple of weeks. “Hi, Nancy.”  She was all smiles as usual.

A slight headwind made the rest of the ride an honest effort. As I approached the 14 Street Bridge underpass, I saw a Brompton coming up from behind at surprising speed.  Thankfully, he turned off to take the ramp up to the bridge before he could pass me. Getting passed by a bike with 16 inch wheels is no way to start the work week.

At about this point I hit 100 miles for the year. Woo hoo.

At the Rosslyn Circle of Certain Doom, I cross the I-66 ramp without getting killed. Woo hoo, too. As I passed him, a panhandler said, “Nice bike.” Recumbents have fans in every demographic.

I ate lunch at Quiznos. They had really bad rock and roll Christmas music on. Midway through the meal, the Christmas music was replaced by normal, bland rock music. The holiday’s are now officially over. Thus sprach Quizno.

Last night we took the Christmas tree down. I carried it out to the curb awkwardly, managing somehow to get my face right up into that sucker. All day today my sinuses were throbbing. Guess I can add fir to my allergy list.

Since i arrived at work a little early, I left early. It was light out. Woo hoo three.

I rode down the MVT with a slight tailwind. I could tell because the planes at National Airport were taking off toward the northwest. And because I was riding in excess of 15 miles per hour. The daylight lasted into Old Town. I took the Wilkes Street tunnel at the north end of Old Town. I haven’t used it in a long time preferring the trail under the Woodrow Wilson Bridge. As I came to the far end of the tunnel, I thought “I’d better be careful.” I rang my bell and slowed. From behind the wall at the exit of the tunnel, a man with a toddler on his shoulders stepped in front of me. I said, “I guessed right.” He said with a smile, “I heard your bell.” Peace on earth. Goodwill toward bent.

Heading out of Old Town, back on the MVT, I came upon the entrance to Porto Vecchio, an upscale condominium on the river. The entrance has bicycle traffic lights that I obey because I would like to see them used elsewhere. And because traffic turning off the Parkway can crush me like a bug.

Parked across the MVT in the middle of the entrance to the condo was a minivan and a US Park Service police car.  The police officer was discussing the driver’s transgressions with the soccer mom behind the wheel of the van. I was tempted to interrupt and ask the officer why he felt it necessary to conduct a traffic stop that compromised the safety of trail users like me as well as people trying to turn into the condo complex. Clearly, the soccer mom was a menace to society or he would have asked her to move into the condo parking lot where he could conduct his traffic stop in safety.

Instead of confronting him, I rode around the front of the minivan, over a raised flower bed, and went on my way. I figured that seeing a long wheel base recumbent riding like a mountain bike might clue him to the fact that his traffic stop technique needs a whole lot of work.

The rest of the ride featured many moments of blindness thanks to the headlights of cars on the parkway. We’ve only got about a month to go before this annual annoyance is over.

When I arrived at home, I mentioned to my wife that there seemed to be a lot of speed traps out today. She responded by telling me that on her way home from school my daughter got her first speeding ticket courtesy of Fairfax’s finest. We live 1/2 mile from the Mount Vernon District police station.

Should have called her afterall.


Going Mad with a To-Do List

I hate chores. I much prefer aimlessly riding my bike on the weekends. Especially when the weather is good. This weekend the weather was good. My to-do list was gooder.

This weekend I needed to pick up some dry cleaning. Go to the drug store. Get a new shower curtain. Buy a copy of Turbo Tax. Get my haircut. Do the FAFSA (financial aid) form for my daughter. Change the brake pads on The Mule. Drop off The Mule to get a new drivetrain and handlebar tape. Fix a leaky faucet.

Not much room in there for riding. I picked off the drug store, the dry cleaning and the shower curtain. No problemo. In the process I found out that Rite Aid is giving me a discount on everything for the entire year. This is payback for all the medications I bought from them last year. It pays to have chronic health problems. I went to buy Turbo Tax on Saturday but the $10 off sale was not yet into effect. Fail. Then I got my haircut.

I bought the brake pads last weekend with a gift card I got at the Backroads Century. By early afternoon the sun was shining on my patio so I set up my workstand and went at it. I finished in about 20 minutes. I used to let the bike shop do this task but they never toe-ed in the pads properly and I’d have to adjust them anyway. So about a year ago I decided to just do it myself. No squeaks. Me happy. And I get better at it each time I do it.

Next, I took The Mule to Spokes Etc. at Belle Haven to drop it off for a new chain, cassette, chainrings and bar tape. Colin the mechanic said my chainrings were still okay; he had the chain, tape and cassette in stock then stunned me by asking, “Want to wait while I do this?” 20 minutes later The Mule was reborn. Me happy, again. Thanks, Colin.

With daylight fading I had to wait until today to ride. I started with a ride over to Staples to get my Turbo Tax. Done.

Then I did the FAFSA form (or most of it). I thought this would take hours. It took 30 minutes. Most of my finances are regarded as irrelevant. Still the odds of my daughter getting financial aid are roughly the same as the odds of a comet hitting the moon in the next hour.

Then my son and I tackled the faucet which was now flowing rather than dripping. I got the handles off and saw that the cassette on one side, the one with the leak had broken off and it was not coming out. Off to Home Depot for a new faucet. To get all this done we had to take the countertop completely off. Re-assembly was pretty easy. The countertop did not want to go back in place as before. We spent an hour screwing around with it. Then I went to the hardware store (owned by a Mount Vernon Trail regular who rides a nice red Serotta). Shims and caulk in hand we spend another 30 minutes screwing around with things. We got it to “good enough” and quit.

It was 3 p.m. by the time this was done. Time for some football. I’ll get re-acquainted with Big Nellie in the morning.