Very Nearly Unhappy Hour

Whenever I go for a ride, I always check that my tires have air and that they are spinning freely. This morning and evening were no different.  It looked like there was rain in the area so I rode Little Nellie to work.  The rain stopped within five minutes. The ride was pleasant and uneventful.

The work day ended with my officemates and I going to a bar around the corner for happy hour. I had a couple of pints of (Shiner Bock and Fat Tire Ale).  I didn’t get on the road until 5:40 or so. 

I made it about halfway home before it got dark and I had to turn on my headlight. It has been a couple of weeks since I rode this long in the dark. The trail was swarming with ninjas. I managed to miss six of them before reaching Old Town.

The Mount Vernon Trail hits Pendelton Street at a T. To my left were a line of parked school buses with their headlights on.  I rode just past the stop sign (first mistake) to get a look to my left around the buses. Then I looked straight. There were two cyclists with headlights turning from the street on my right onto the trail. They were passing directly in front of me. I veered to my right to avoid them. Then looked left again to make sure the coast was clear. Then I hit something. It was a flexipost (a sort of flimsy bollar) that had recently been place in the middle of the street. I stopped immediately and righted the post. Since I was in the middle of the street, I quickly re-mounted my bike and continued on my way. Everything seemed to work fine.

And it did. I got through Old Town in one piece and even managed to avoid my seventh ninja of the night once I was back on the trail. 

Once at home, I opened my shed. I lifted the front end of the bike off the ground to hang it up. The wheel made an odd rattle. I looked down and saw that the quick release on my front wheel was not closed. The flexipost collision had pried it open.  I don’t want to think what would have happened if the front wheel had come off while I was riding. This would be hard to do since the tire is too fat to clear the break pads, but surely a pothole or a good yank on the handlebars could have brought an unpleasant result.

So I am adding checking my quick releases to my pre-ride check list.



Great Caesar’s Heron

The ride in was pretty darn nice. The roads were still somewhat wet out so Little Nellie got the call again. Temps were in the 40s so I gave the holey sweater and my Marmot Precip jacket a rest.  After yesterday’s soggy ride home, it was apparent that the waterproofing on my Precip jacket and pants is history. Time to look for a sale at REI for replacements. I have beat the crap out of these two pieces of clothing for the last 3 years. Good stuff.

I read in the Post that February and March are bald eagle breeding season around these parts. I have only once seen a pair of bald eagles this winter so I am not expecting a lot of eaglet action when spring arrives. There was no bald eagle at the Belle Haven nest today. In fact other that a stupifying number of geese there wasn’t much in the way of big-ish waterfowl at all. That is until I came upon a big, scruffy looking great blue heron on the river bank right next to the wooden bridge that takes the Mount Vernon Trail under the TR bridge. (Question: why is it so important that the Key and Memorial Bridges look classy but the TR Bridge looks like a rusty piece of crap? Show Teddy some love please.) This bird was impressive so I decided to stop and  walk back with my camera. He was on to me. I must have had birdparazzi written all over my face. He started to walk into the underbrush away from me. He got to the edge of the river and took off about 2 feet above the water. By this point he was too far to get a decent picture but the sight of him in flight made my day.  Herons combine awkward and graceful in a way that few other animals do.

Work was less than intense today. I left a few minutes early. I could have ridden the whole way home without any lights but in the interest of making sure I could be seen I turned them all on as usual. No problem with ninjas tonight. Just hoards of runners. Patriots Day is less than two months away!

During the day friend of the blog, Nancy Duley told me that a police officer was shot in Old Town Alexandria today, about 5 blocks from my commute route. The last I heard he was in critical condition. The assailant was chased and crashed his car on Fort Hunt Road about three miles from my house. He was taken into custody. My bike commute takes me through Old Town Alexandria twice each day.

Another friend of the blog, Kate C., is a police officer in DC. She will be riding her bike from Richmond to DC as part of the Police Unity Tour. This event raises money for the memorial to fallen law enforcement personnel. You can read more about it on her blog. Or you can skip straight to her fundraising page.

As for the ride home, it was a piece of cake. I left work a little early so I was in daylight all the way home. I turned on my lights just to been seen. The Mount Vernon Trail was filled with runners in their shorts. Some of them were moving pretty fast. Patriots Day is less than 2 months away!


I could never be a police officer. Just the thought of doing a night time traffic stop gives me the willies. Friend of the blog, Kate C., however, is a police officer in DC. In a few weeks, she will be riding from Richmond to DC as part of the Policy Unity tour. It raises monet for a memorial to fallen law enforcement personnel.

Seattle, You Can Have Your Weather Back

The day dawned cold and sunny. I had missed a magnificent sunrise. The weather report was for cold rain in the afternoon and evening so I rode Little Nellie. The ride in was nothing special. I did get to see a bald eagle at the Belle Haven nest,  So that was something.

When I left work in the evening, it was sprinkling out but I was prepared for the worst. For the first half of the ride the wind was blowing me around but the rain was pretty much as no show. When I approached Old Town, the rain started coming down. Sideways off the river from the east. The drops weren’t big but there were billions of them. I was surprised that the weather wasn’t really bothering me. This may have been because there was nobody else on the trail. At all. Anywhere. Maybe they are on to something.


Cars and Cannons

I stayed up late to watch the Academy Awards. As a result I was operating on 5 1/2 hours of sleep when I headed out into the cold morning on Big Nellie. Winds were light so the ride in was not too difficult.

There are two fly over bridges at the airport. The bridges carry the Mount Vernon Trail over airport access and egress ramps.  Just as I finished riding over the first bridge, a guy on what looked like a mountain bike but with bigger wheels passed me. He was tall and was wearing a backpack. I couldn’t see around him. As he passed another bicycle came from the opposite direction. To avoid a collision he cut back in front of me just missing my front wheel.  When it comes to down hills, faired long wheel base recumbents are king.  I rode up the second flyover bridge right behind Backpack Lance. I couldn’t safely pass him so I had to ride my brakes for 1/4 mile.  Really considerate of you Lance. Fair warning. Next time you get the bicycle death ray.

I heard that a car drove off the Memorial Bridge into the Potomac River last night so I was hoping to see the car nose first in the river. No luck though. Evidence of where the car blasted through the side railing on the bridge could be seen but the car had already been removed. Apparently the driver was not seriously hurt (which is something of a miracle)

A Long Way Down

The ride home featured a wave to Bob (“Don’t Call Me Rachel”) Cannon of the Friday Coffee Club as we passed between the Memorial and 14th Street Bridges.  The sunlight lasted so long tonight. I didn’t need a headlight until I was well south of Old Town. As I enterred Belle Haven Park, I spied an osprey about ten feet up in a tree next to the trail. He was facing toward me with his back to the river.  Ospreys look pretty impressive until you see one next to a mature bald eagle, that is. Then they look like wimps.

As I rode past Dyke Marsh I was treated to an rising full moon. It was orange and a damned impressive sight. I’d have taken a picture but that would have required photographic competence of which I have none.

Early Spring Ride

Looking out the window, the weather seemed dreamy.  I decided to go for a long Sunday bike ride. Just before leaving I checked Twitter and saw that my cycling friend Lisa just arrived at Mount Vernon about 3 miles from my house. I tweeted her to be on the lookout for me.

I interesected the Mount Vernon Trail  1 1/2 miles from my house. I turned right and in about 30 seconds saw Lisa coming my way.  I joined her for her ride back toward DC. Along the way we stopped at the Morningside bald eagle nest. Just as she dismounted behind me on the side of the trail, I pointed out the nest. No sooner had she said that she saw it, a bald eagle swooped in from the skies over the river and landed in the nest.

Lisa at the Morningside Nest

After the bird show, we resumed riding.  I kept getting far ahead of her because I was on Big Nellie and we were heading downhill. Big Nellie goes downhill incredibly fast. (Of course, going up hill is quite a chore, so all is fair.)  We stopped at the Belle Haven bald eagle nest but there were no eagles around. Next I showed her how to get on the Woodrow Wilson Bridge trail. Once she saw it she had to ride it so we took the trail over to National Harbor.

After gettting a drink at a coffee shop we wandered over to The Awakening statue. The Awakening used to be on Hains Point, but the Park Service kicked it out and it ended up in a cramped spot on a teeny bit of riverside beach. We posed for the obligatory pictures and started to leave when we bumped into Ted and Jean from Friday Coffee Club and their friend Jenny. We chatted and then headed out for Alexandria and lunch.

Lisa at Awakening

Lisa and Jenny at DC Cornerstone

We rode through Old Town and stopped at Buzz, a coffee shop and bakery on Slaters Lane. Here we partook of more chat and a light lunch (if you can call coffee and a cookie “lunch”).

Union Street Bike Gang

The wind was making a nice sunny day a little bit uncomfortable (just 10 more degrees and we are THERE, BABY!!!)  I headed home with a mighty tailwind. I rode onto my lawn and just managed to avoid running over the first crocus of spring.

First Crocus of 2013

It’s be here any day now.

Off the Bike

I drove to work today in anticipation of an icy Mount Vernon Trail. The ice didn’t materialize, but I was thankful for the rest.

Each time I write one of these blog posts I realize that I left something out. Yesterday, I was passed for the second evening in a row by a man on an electric assist bike. I was cruising along with a tailwind on Big Nellie. I must have been going around 20 miles per hour when I saw him in my mirror. I slowed to 15 and he closed the 100 yard gap between us in no time. He had to be going at least 20 miles per hour. He was pedaling but I think the motor was doing the heavy lifting. I am just so impressed by these electric bikes. I can’t believe more people don’t use them.

Another thing I have been seeing a lot of lately is Canada geese. They must be migrating north. I’ve never seen so many. It’s like goosestock out there. I imagine that it will be a big problem if they stick around. It would be great to see lots and lost of goslings. Unfortunately, there would also be lots and lots of geese poo.

I spotted a bald eagle at the Belle Haven nest. It just doesn’t look as imposing from behind the wheel.

Tomorrow it’s supposed to rain for most of the day. Nothing says February like cold rain. February in DC is like April in Boston. When I lived in Boston, April would drive me mad. The sidewalks still were icy. The snow was melting and the T buses would splash all that snow and grime on you as they drove by. Once it all went away it was time to take exams. Why do so many college kids go to school up north?

The only redeeming thing about driving a car to work is car tunage. I listened to Mark Knopfler’s Sailing to Philadelphia and the BoDeans Indigo Dreams today. I put 30 miles on the car. The car is getting so little use it’s going to get rumatoid carthritis.

Did you know that today is National Marquerita Day?

Now you do.

Who decides such things anyway?



I woke up at 5:30. Actually my bladder woke up at 5:30. My brain was still asleep. It was a fierce fight for anatomical dominance but my bladder won.  My trip to the end of the driveway was invigorating. Not because of my bladder. It was in the 20s and the wind was blowing.  Maybe I should get wind resistant jammies. I briefly considered driving to work, but then I thought, “Why not freeze my noo noos off instead?”  And so I rode Big Nellie into the frigid morning.
Despite the big fairing on the front of Big Nellie, I was having quite a rough time getting any speed going.  I hit the hill on Park Terrace Drive going only about 10 miles per hour.  In a few seconds, I was doing 32 and ducking behind the fairing to preserve the flesh around my eyes.  Tears were shed involuntarily. Dang.
Onto the Mount Vernon Trail without a stop to cross the Parkway. Ithink I will call this maneuver “Pulling a Moses.” How nice of people to provide a gap in traffic. The Dyke Marsh boardwalk was free of rime, too, so things were going swimmingly.
I didn’t blog about my ride yesterday but it was notable for two wildlife sightings. Along the river near Dyke Marsh a tree was absolutely filled with red winged blackbirds. They were making the trilling sound that reminds me so much of my days as a kid playing in and around Dead Man’s Pond.  (Sounds a bit like something Luke Skywalker would say, no?) Sadly, the pond was filled in by developers long ago. When I got to the northern side of Belle Haven Park, I spotted a bald eagle about 200 feet up in the air flying from the river across the trail toward the Beltway/US1 mixing bowl.
Yesterday’s flashback was provided so that I could place today’s wildlife sighting in context. As usual, I was hoping to spot a bald eagle in the Belle Haven nest.  Instead, I spotted one about 30-50 feet high gliding straight toward me over the trail.  All I could think of was, “It would suck to be a mouse right now.” Just before getting to me, the eagle flapped its wings, turned and gained altitude as it headed for the nest. Double dang.
I slogged into the headwind through Old Town. The beaver dam is starting to get built up again. I wonder if this isn’t the work of the National Park Service official beaver dam disrupter or just a very stubborn beaver. The water level is almost up to the trail again so I suspect the disruptor will be back soon. Damn. (So to speak.)
The rest of the ride in was work. As usual, once I cleared the airport, I had nothing to block the headwind. The bike seemed unusually sluggish. On the way home I learned that my front fender was dragging on the side of my front tire. I must have been really sleepy this morning because I didn’t hear it rubbing even with the fairing to amplify the sound. Once I freed the tire, I could enjoy the tailwind all the way home.
And so I completed my 30th bike commute of 2013.  Normally I don’t hit 30 until sometime in March. Tomorrow I am driving in. The forecast is calling for afternoon snow showers and a wintry mix for the evening rush. Not gonna happen on two wheels.

El Gran Errando – Sums It Up

Part of the rules of the Errandonnee Challenge is that you have to submit a control card.  Here’s goes mine:

Errand No. 1

Errand No. 2

Errand No. 3

Errand No. 4

Errand No. 5

Errand No. 6

Errand No. 7

Errand No. 8

Errand No. 9

Errand No. 10

Errand No. 11

Errand No. 12

  • Date: February 19
  • Category: Wild Card (7-11 in Hollin Hall) (7th category, 1st time, 2nd night time errand)
  • Miles: 1.0 (Actually 29 but I can’t really count my commuting miles)
  • Total Miles: 107
  • Observation: When a raccoon crosses your path, it must be your lucky day. Buy a lottery ticket or two.
  • Photo:

Final Observation: I honestly can’t believe I did this. It just goes to show you what throwing in the towel at the start can do when you are El Gran Errando.

For ease of use, here are the pix .

The End of an Errand

The ride to work today was a gift.  A tailwind made it a literal and figurative breeze. Little Nellie was my hoss du jour, because of the threat of rain for the evening rush. About two miles from home a raccoon sauntered out in front of me. It was a big one. It could have been a normal sized raccoon with its fur fluffed up against the cold. Or maybe it was a momma full of babies. In any case, it made it to the middle of the street and stopped. It turned its head to check me out, the, as if it were saying “D’oh!” turned around and scampered back the way it had come. Actually, it was more like a waddle than a scamper. Maybe it had too much scampi at the garbage buffet.

I was hoping for more wild life on the way in. There was the usual heap of geese and ducks and a great blue heron all scrunched up out in the river. No raptors or exotics. (I am soooo spoiled.)

I am starting to get the Rosslyn Circle of Certain Doom down to a science. Just assume that, when the light turns red, three cars will run the red to turn onto Key Bridge. Then proceed. You see car drivers never flaunt the laws like bike riders. Never ever.

The ride home was started by a jaw dropping moment.  It was light out. Not, almost-sunset light out, but honest to bejebus light out. And it stayed that way all the way to Belle Haven Park.  Even beyond there was enough sunlight left over that the headlights of the cars on the Parkway were tolerable.

By the time I arrived at the stone bridge 2 miles from home it was dark. I was running my Stella headlight on “high”. I headed for the 7-11 near home and stopped to do my last errand of the Errandonnee. Since it was my wild card, I thought it would be appropriate to buy a couple of lottery tickets. And so I did. Since it was in the dark, I also knocked off my second ride at night.

Errand 12: Wild Card

Now that the Errandonnee is in the books, El Gran Errando will retire knowing that this challenge was muy bueno.

Make Him Stop: Errand Number 11

Last year during the Utilitaire Challenge, I rode The Mule on a fiercely windy day to get me a roast beef sandwich called a Gary’s Lunchbox at Sherwood Hall Gourmet.  The wind won and I ended up ramming into the back of a parked car.

Errand 11: Little Nellie Get Lunch

This year, same conditions, same sandwich, different bike. Little Nellie got the call and handled the wind gusts without incident. I procured my sammich and received a reward, a wonderful tailwind that carried me home with no troubles.

The sammich was most excellent. Lesson learned: when life throws you a headwind, turn around, dummy!

Miles: 1

Cumulative miles: good heavens, we must be pushing 75 by now

Category: Lunch

Remaining errands: 1, but must be done in the dark. Oooh…suspense and intrique await. (Probably not.)