What’s August Going to Be Like?

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It was t-shirt and shorts day. No need for layers since it was already 65 degrees outside when I left the house. I have been so obsessed with the cherry blossoms in DC that I forgot about the one on the front lawn. It’s a weeping cherry and Little Nellie thinks it looks fine.

The ride in was as splendid as a bike ride could be. My only problem was the fact that I got only 5 hours of sleep last night because it was 80 degrees in our house. We are experiencing a bit of a heat wave here in DC.  The thermometer hit 90 today which broke the record. Fortunately the humidity was low, so there were no dead bodies along the Mount Vernon Trail.

Unfortunately, the lovely weather has brought out the Lancelots, cyclists who think its reasonable to buzz past you without warning at 25 miles per hour. I will not cry when I see one of them under a BMW.

On the way home I diverted into DC for a final ride by the cherry blossoms. It seemed a good ten degrees cooler in DC. There were people everywhere. I rode two laps around East Potomac Park, meeting up with Dana from the Friday Coffee Club. We continued on through the epic traffic jam, on to the 14th Street bridge, and south on the MVT.  I mentioned that it seemed significantly hotter on this side of the river. Dana said, “That’s because we’re in the south.” He should be a meteorologist.

We had a fierce headwind. Dana tucked in behind me and was kind enough not to rear end me when I came to a near stop several times. At the south end of the airport, Dana turned off on the Four Mile Run trail. I continued into the wind.

Near the power plant two passing runners looked like they were having seizures. I heard one of them say “bugs”. A second later I was in one of those spring time bug clouds. Ack!

The rest of the ride was honest work. I didn’t see any interesting waterfowl. Or raptors. My recent regulars weren’t around, but I did see Hardware Store Guy. He owns the hardware store near my house. He rides a red Serotta up and down the MVT in the morning.

Tomorrow I get the day off. My daughter has a lacrosse game and my wife turns 37 again.

Snowblind in Springtime

Shorts were the order of the day. Yeah, baby.

Little Nellie appeared to get the worst of yesterday’s ride. She was making making more noises than my joints which has me a little worried. I isolated one noise: my rear fender was rubbing against my rear tire. Fixed.

Yesterday a clicking sound appeared during the last hour of my ride. It was worse today, maybe because I didn’t have a 20-mile-per-hour headwind to mask the sound. It only clicks when I pedal. So this is either a bottom bracket bearing gone bad, a pedal in need of a dab of lube, a seat post or saddle rail problem. I can deal with the pedal easily enough, but the other three could mean big trouble. Of course, since Little Nellie is a folding bike, it could be that one of the half dozen oddball parts on the bike is misbehaving. Time will tell.

Little Nellie is overdue for some TLC anyway so I hope to get her to 10,000 miles before she disintegrates.

The tailwind on the Mount Vernon Trail was most appreciated after yesterday’s long ride. I looked to see if my Dyke Marsh Canada geese were parents yet. Overnight Mother Goose gave birth to three retired men with fishing poles. They were lined up like See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil, sitting on their folding lawn chains in the narrow grass  strip between the water and the Parkway. I hope they don’t make it a habit of fishing there.

In Belle Haven Park the Hoppy Runner came cruising by, with nothing on his head and shorts on his bottom. This is perfect running weather, and he looked pretty happy.

The Belle Haven nest was empty but in a tree next to the MVT there was a sentinel. An osprey high up in the tree was positioned so that he could see both the river and the nest. He looked serious. I wasn’t going to mess with him.

By the time I hit the halfway mark of my commute near the power plant, the clicking from my bike was really getting on my nerves. North of Old Town, traffic on the Parkway was all gummed up because of a collision. I do believe the Prius is kaput.

French Braid Girl came rolling by. She’s sporting some Annie Hall sunglasses. Stylish.

A virtual Cossellian plethora of cyclists passed me on the way to work today. I felt old and pathetic. Then again, they will get to work early and I will still be out here enjoying the splendid weather. Ah, ‘tis good to be the tortoise.

I have a new regular. He’s John Roche Clone. John rides with black rimmed glasses and a wool cycling cap. So does JRC. I have waved to the clone three times now, each time wondering what he must be thinking.  Shortly after passing JRC, I saw Bob (Don’t Call Me Rachel) Cannon coming by. He didn’t see me. He was in a morning trance. Or maybe he has a clone too.

The ride home began with another encounter with tourists lacking situational awareness. A huddle of seven or eight Asian people, probably Japanese tourists on the hunt for Cherry Blossoms, had completely blocked the Mount Vernon Trail. On the right of the scrum was a rock wall and the GW Parkway. On the left of the huddle was the front of a line of parked cars. I rang my bell and slowed to a crawl. After a few seconds somebody called an audible and they awkwardly dispersed, but only enough to let me squeeze by. As I was about to clear the group two bikes coming from the opposite direction closed in on me swerving to cut speed as the huddle re-formed behind me. I nearly hit the second bike. I turned and yelled, “GET OFF THE TRAIL!!!”  I think by this point, having nearly been hit by three cyclists, they may have gotten the hint.

Truth be told, I feel sorry for people like this. They are disoriented by their surroundings, trying to get their group organized, and getting yelled at by the locals. From now on, whenever I go abroad, I will make it a point to obstruct the locals whenever possible, just to even the score.

I made the executive decision to take my life in my hands and ride over to DC to take in the cherry blossoms. I’d say they were about 90 percent of the way to peak. I rode the Hains Point loop in the hopes of seeing some of my cycling friends. None were to be found. I decided to walk around the perimeter. Instead of locking Little Nellie, I decided to walk her around. At first I followed a wheelchair. This made for plenty of room for my bike and me. When the wheelchair pusher ran out of steam, I had to fend for myself. I took about an hour to get all the way around. I had to stop dozens of times so that I wouldn’t photobomb the tourists getting their picture taken with the blossoms. Everyone was very civil. It’s hard to be in a bad mood when you’re going snowblind from blossoms.

Cherry Blossoms
Cherry Blossoms

The ride home was into a strong headwind. I didn’t much mind. It was actually warm out. What a strange feeling after five months of being all bundled up. South of the airport French Braid Girl came by. She looked happier. Maybe it was the tailwind that was pushing her along.

I arrived home after dark. 37 miles in shorts. Not too bad.

For pictures of the blossoms, check this out.

Could It Really Be Spring?

The weather report called for temperatures in the low seventies. I prepared by taking yesterday off the bike, mowing the lawn and doing a number of chores. I waited until I saw a 5 and a 0 on the digital thermometer in our house.

Off I rode on Little Nellie and felt very strong. It was obvious that I had a tailwind. About three miles from home, I passed the Morningside nest and spotted a white head. Hopefully, we’ll have some eaglets soon (if we don’t have them already). A mile further on I looked left as I crossed the Dyke Marsh boardwalk.  The pair of geese I saw earlier in the week were still waddling about. It was a bit troubling that papa goose was on the far side of the Parkway. It would suck if he became roadkill.  (My wife and I once saw a black SUV mow down a mama duck and a few of her ducklings as they tried to cross the Parkway. The surviving ducklings were a sad sight, waddling around in a panic.)

The Mount Vernon Trail was very crowded, which is typical of a warm, sunny weekend day. The tailwind made passing easy. I cruised to the city with surprisingly little difficulty. At Gravelly Point, a plane came in for a landing. A man transfixed by the plane wandered directly in front of me looking up. “YO!” He came back to reality and hopped out of the way.

The tailwind became obvious when the trail curved along the river bank. Little Nellie was a happy camper.

I turned to ride up the ramp to the 14th Street Bridge. Now with the wind in my face, it was time to work a little. Bikes were coming down the ramp in a long line. There was a fence on the left and a highway ramp on the right. There were three bikes in front of me. They stopped. No warning. The two women in front were having a conversation. The guy in the back said nothing. I veered to the left (thankfully there was a little room) and stopped with my front wheel next to his rear wheel. For some reason I blurted out “What the fuck are you doing?” It was louder than intended, perhaps because my expectations of a smooth ride to DC had been dashed. The guy turns to me, objects to my remark and starts explaining the situation (as if it wasn’t self-evident) . While he’s jabbering, I look up and two cyclists are coming down the hill, passing the long line of bikes, straight at me. I turn to my new personal friend and yell, “Move your god damned bike NOW!”

I think this blows my chances at the Cherry Blossom Festival Mr.Congeniality award. And I am sure he thought I am a total asshole. He has a point. I don’t care. Safety comes first.

On the DC side of the bridge, chaos. I weaved through the buses and tourists. I could see that the trees along the Tidal Basin were nowhere near full bloom so I headed for East Potomac Park. Into the wind.

I saw a few nice trees but the whole experience left me frustrated. If I hadn’t lived here for decades I’d swear that this whole cherry blossom thing is a hoax.

A Lonely Bloomer on Hains Point

I rode upriver to the Lincoln Memorial, crossing Constitution Avenue through one epic traffic jam. I spotted a Park Service employee helping people cross the street. He just laughed. It was so bad that there’s nothing he could do.

I back tracked on the opposite side of the Mall and past the White House. Pennsylvania Avenue was not very crowded. Cherry Blossoms, even disappointing ones, trump the leader of the free world.

I don’t much like cycletracks but on this sunny day it seemed like the most civilized way to ride through town. All but one turning car yielded to me so I felt safe. At Meridian Hill Park, here were no drums to be heard and no acroyogis or hula hoopers to watch so I plodded up the hill and kept on keeping on. The cycletrack dies out at 16th Street so I took for a ways. At a four way stop, a car behind me went through the intersection out of turn. The car that had been slighted laid on his horn and followed the offender up 16th, passing me. He stayed on his horn for a block until he pulled up next to the offenders who were obviously lost. They exchanged words. The offenders turned onto a side street out of which came a DC police cruiser. The cop pulled over the SUV driver, apparently for making a public nuisance out of himself. I felt bad for him. He won’t win Mr. Congeniality either.

I turned off 16th and found 14th with a bike lane. It ended at a T on Aspen Street. A left turn and soon I was cruising down a series of S curves into Rock Creek Park. This road is part of the 50 States Ride so I have ridden it several times. It is the bestest.

At the bottom of the hill I turned right and headed for Chevy Chase (the neighborhood not the actor). I spent a few minutes on Rock Creek Trestle The creek is way down there.

Reversing course, I made for Bethesda Row and its fine array of eateries. After crossing a busy street the trail makes a hard left turn. The woman cyclist in front of me was wearing the full bike rider kit (matching lycra top and bottom). She clipped into her pedals and seemed to be going at a snail’s pace. As I was about to pass her, she waved me by with her left hand. In her hand was a lit cigarette. Carbon makes bikes go faster, or so they say.

I ate at Bethesda Bagels because it’s good and I am boring. I always eat there when I bike to Bethesda.

Instead of dealing with the Capital Crescent Trail crowds I headed out on the quiet side streets of Bethesda. A right hand turn put me on Bradley Boulevard, normally a busy road but not I had PEDs in my pedals. After passing through Avenel I picked up Falls Road. A left on MacArthur Boulevard had me descending through the woods of Great Falls Park, The windy road is flawed only slightly by the bumpy pavement, otherwise this one rivals the downhill into Rock Creek Park.

I was headed into the wind but the descent made me unaware. At the Old Anglers Inn, I jumped on the C & O Canal towpath for the ride back to DC. Now that I had slowed down, the headwind was annoying. Little Nellie’s short wheel base does not make for a comfortable ride on rough surfaces. I bounced along slaloming among the walkers and runners. I spotted a big great blue heron standing still on a log over the canal. Even with the bumps, the ride on the C & O Canal is a thing of beauty, Except for the gnats swarms. For about four miles I encountered clouds of flying black bugs They don’t bite but they get into everything, your mouth, eyes, hair, ears.  And your whole body gets covered in them. Ick.

After switching over to the paved Capital Crescent Trail, I looked at the Seussian Cormorants perched in the trees along the Potomac. They do this every year, feeding on the fish swimming up river to spawn.

Back in the city, I decided to avoid the cherry blossom scene and the Mount Vernon Trail, I took the Teddy Roosevelt Bridge to the MVT for about a mile then crossed over to the Pentagon. With a stifling headwind, I followed roads past the vast Pentagon parking lots and Long Bridge Park, through Crystal City and Potomac Yards. In Old Town Alexandria I followed Columbus Street, several blocks from the touristy madness. After waiting at a stop light, I started pedaling when it turned green. The car opposite me starting coming through the intersection too. A green taxi coming from the cross street blew through the light. I think the light must have been back lit for the driver. If I had had a tailwind instead of a headwind, I’d have been roadkill. The taxi missed us both.

South of Alexandria, the Mount Vernon Trail wasn’t crowded so I hopped on it and slogged into the wind.

At home, I took inventory: my hands hurt. my back hurt. my arms hurt. my knees hurt. My face and thighs burned.

Spring is here.

For some pix check out my Flickr page here.

Nearly Spring

Here in DC we are being tormented by a winter that just won’t let go. We have had one day over 60 degrees so far this year. March was colder than January. The wind has been blowing day in and day out. No mas.

I didn’t ride to work yesterday so that I could attend my daughter’s lacrosse game. She is the goalie. Watching your kid in goal is difficult. If she performs well she will come home with bruises and contusions all over. If she doesn’t the team probably loses.

It rained overnight, right up to the moment I left the house. It was in the low 40s or high 30s and I had a headwind. So I put on all my rain gear.  Of course, it stopped raining.

Despite the wind, the ride in was pleasant. Two ospreys were messing around at and in the air above the Belle Haven bald eagle nest. I think they are taking over. Ospreys are pretty impressive, unless you have a bald eagle around. Bald eagles are rock stars. Ospreys sing folk tunes.

I have noticed this week that some of the geese are sitting in the grass. I am pretty sure they are mothers about to lay their eggs. Every year two geese set up house on a very narrow piece of grass where the waters of Dyke Marsh pass underneath the GW Parkway. There were two geese there the last few days. By next week we should be seeing fuzzy goslings along the Mount Vernon Trail.

I rode Little Nellie to the Friday Coffee Club. I passed by DC’s famous cherry trees. They are still not in bloom, but the big show should start in a day or two.

Coffee Club was crowded again. This week some Arlington bike commuters began a separate get together. I say “accept no substitutes!!”

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Work was work-like.

By the time I left for home, spring had made an appearance. It was 60 degrees and I had a nice tailwind to end the workweek. I packed my rain gear and went with shorts and short fingered bicycling gloves. My fingertips were pleased to be liberated from long fingered gloves.

At the south end of Old Town the Mount Vernon Trail passes a small wooden area that has river overflow in it. I could hear spring peepers making their calls as I rode by. In a couple of days, the frogs near my house will be making quite a racket.

 

 

April Fog Day

I really didn’t want to go back to work today, but I have to admit that riding nearly the entire way in pea soup fog made the transition from a week off much easier.

There’s a little dip in Collingwood Road about 1/4 mile from my house. The fog had settled in so thickly that I could barely make out the road ahead.  I had some blinky lights on front and back. My executive decision to remove my helmet mounted headlight seemed a bit premature.

I also decided to wear shorts because the forecast called for warm afternoon temperatures. Of course, the fact that it was only 45 when I left the house made for an invigorating ride, particularly when descending the Park Terrace hill at 30 miles per hour.

There wasn’t much to see along the river. The sun was doing its best to burn off the fog bank but the fog was winning the battle.

Fog is water vapor. When it hits your skin it turns to water. Did I wear my waterproof jacket? Of course not. That would have made sense.  I’d already made two bone-headed decisions. I was on a roll. Three for three.

I looked down and noticed that my wool arm warmers were covered in droplets of water. It looked like tinsel.

Rolling along the Mount Vernon Trail I spotted a form running toward me. It was Hoppy Runner, one of my regulars who runs with a pronounced hop on one leg. Later, in Old Town Nancy Duley appeared from the cloud. Two miles further on French Braid Girl made her appearance.

There was no hope of seeing whether the cherry blossoms were blooming. Hell, I couldn’t see the other side of the river. The Washington Monument was a shadow. I expected that the fog would lift but about an hour into the ride the river was socked in. I took a picture of the Kennedy Center. I swear it was there the last time I rode to work.

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If you look really hard, you may see the Kennedy Center. Really.

When I got to work there was a strange new bike in the rack. It had an electric assist motor. I think we are going to see more and more of these in the years ahead.

By midday the temperature had reached 66. The ride home was looking pretty sweet. Unfortunately, the wind picked up by the end of the day. It was coming from the west north west which meant I would have a tailwind for most of the ride.

On Saturday, I put new brake pads on the rear of Little Nellie. The brake levers were now very tight. And, as luck would have it, the pads were sticking to the rim. I tried to adjust them several times to no avail. I watched a video when I got home to see if I was doing anything wrong. Not really.

I’ll probably swing by my local bike shop tomorrow after work. They should be able to free the pads up. If they can find them in the fog.

Pix from today’s ride can be found on my Flickr page.