June: No Century. No Problem.

I finished off June today with a 22 mile ride on Big Nellie, my Tour Easy recumbent. The repaired chain seems to be working fine. I did notice when installing new brake pads yesterday that my front fork has some surface rust on it. I think I’ll replace it when I swap out the chain and drive train.

It was a pretty busy month. My daughter graduated from high school. All eyes are now on late August when she starts a new chapter in our lives when she heads west to Butler University in Indianapolis. I missed several days of riding dealing with graduation and other family events. I still managed to ride 672 miles. 508 ½ of those miles were aboard Big Nellie. The big hoss has become my go-to bike this summer. The Mule, my old Specialized Sequoia touring bike, came in with 125 miles, all while riding to work. Little Nellie, my Bike Friday New World Tourist, got light use with only 38.5 miles.

I rode to work 16 times, 11 on Big Nellie, 4 on The Mule and once on Little Nellie. My longest ride of the month was 64 miles on Big Nellie in Prince Georges County, Maryland.

For the year, I have 3,526 miles with 82 bike commutes.

I haven’t signed up for any fall rides this year. I will probably do the Southern Maryland Century and the 50 States Ride again. Once the kids go to college, I may jump in the car and go for some long rides in the boonies. That’s what they’re there for.

The plan was to clean the chain…

After lounging around doing crossword puzzles all morning, I went outside to clean the chain on Big Nellie, my Tour Easy recumbent. This is not a trivial task since the chain is 2 1/2 times as long as on a conventional bike. I made it to the side of the house and saw it. The eastern redbud I planted three years ago split down the middle during yesterday’s storm. So I spent a half hour in the sun sawing and lopping and chopping.

I put the debris from my tree clean up in my neighbor’s pile of yard debris which had floated down the street to our house. Suburbs are so convenient. Mrs. Rootchopper moved the pile earlier today. It contained a mess of creepy bugs and a snake. I am amazed she didn’t go screaming down the street.

I pulled Big Nellie out of the shed and set her up for a good chain cleaning, Then I saw it. One of the master links on the chain was broken. I am thankful that it didn’t snap off completely during last night’s deluge.

I pulled out my chain tool and an old chain and went to work. Not having much experience at this sort of thing, it was taking a long time. Midway through the operation, I noticed that one of the chain guides on my chain tool had broken off. No worries. I got this. Then the second chain guide broke off. Despite all these annoyances, the chain was nearly repaired when I dropped the chain and the pin fell out. This meant I had to go back to square one.

Instead of going to square one, I drove the bike to Spokes Etc. in Belle Haven where they repaired the chain in short order. I drove home. Big Nellie kept trying to jump off the bike rack. I had to stop three times to re-secure it.

As I write this it’s four in the afternoon. The day is shot. At least I cleaned my chain…oops. Forgot all about that.

Once You Get Wet….

Woke up. Fell out of Bed.

You know the drill. It was Friday morning. Once I get out that door, I’m good.  Drink some OJ. Eat a banana. Boogie.

I left early to maximize my Friday Coffee Club time. Big Nellie was on autopilot. I don’t think I passed any regulars. Frankly, I could have passed the Preservation Hall Jazz Band and I wouldn’t have noticed.

Into the city and around the Jefferson Memorial. I passed two runners and out of the corner of my eye I recognized one. Of course, her name is Kate (the first of three today). She was talking intensely (when your running in swamp air it’s hard to look anything but intense) so she didn’t see me on my rolling lawn chair. Gypsybug says to ride like your invisible. I apparently am.

In the 15th Street cycle track, Kel came flying by, riding downhill to my uphill. She had to leave Friday Coffee Club early.  She had to be to work by 8. Poor Kel

At Swing’s, Reba and the aforementioned Gyspybug were keeping a dozen guys entertained. They looked grumpy. (The guys, not Reba and Gypsybug. They always look smashing.) Okay, only Aaron looked grumpy, but this is his natural state. Next Jon showed up with his two little girls in a bike trailer. They are beyond CUTE! And very well behaved.

Two big girls, Katie and Kate (the second and third Kates of the day) showed up. Katie just finished a minibike tour. And Kate is soon to leave us for grad school. (Sad face.)

Katie and Kate
Katie and Kate

Then the star of the day showed up. Nicole was riding her bike from Minnesota to Massachusetts. One of the Coffee Clubbers ran into her near the C&O Canal and invited her to join us. She got a round of applause and fit right in to the group. I am beginning to think that Swing’s spikes their drinks with nice juice.


Around 9 we all went our separate ways. Hi ho! Hi ho!

Eight-ish hours later the skies opened up. Every bike commuter in DC had the radar on his computer at work. I missed my first chance at a dry escape around 4:30. A half hour later, a cap in the storm appeared. Hiyo, Nellie. Away!

I got about a mile before it started raining lightly. I rode very gently because Big Nellie’s front wheel has a bad habit of sliding out on wet pavement. This is not a lot of fun for yours truly and I have plenty of scars to prove it.

I looked over at the city and could see distinct areas of heavy downpours. The downpours didn’t look like much fun. Near the 14th Street Bridge underpass an old regular came by. She’s literally old, gray hair, maybe in her 60s. Her mouth is usually open. She’s been riding to and from my neighborhood for at least ten years; I seem to recall seeing her in Mount Vernon Hospital. Ironically, despite her experience, she wears her helmet back on her head. For all the miles she’s put in, she can wear her helmet however she pleases.

I could see a line of clouds rolling in as I biked past the airport. Every so often I would get a little rain from the front edge of the storm. Pedal, pedal.

A commuter rode by. He asked me a couple of weeks ago if I liked my waterproof Ortlieb panniers. I highly recommended them. He took my advice and bought a pair.

Another commuter passed me and said, “Nice shirt.” I was wearing a Backroads Century t-shirt. He was wear a Backroads cycling jersey. Monday is Bike DC t-shirt day. Please make a note of it.

I started thinking about places to seek cover in case of lightning or high winds. There are buildings with overhangs in Old Town Alexandria. The Wilkes Street tunnel. The underside of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge. No need. Of course, as soon as all the good cover spots were behind me the clouds opened up. For the next  3 miles it poured. After a mile, it hardly mattered. I was making squishy noises with each pedal stroke. Big Nellie’s seat stayed dry because I had covered it with a white kitchen trash bag. (No, I was never a boy scout.)

At Northdown Road, the rain stopped. A cyclists stopped in the middle of the road to clear some fallen limbs. We rode together on the east side of the GW Parkway. The road had a fresh later of asphalt. Sooo nice.

The last 1 1/2 miles of my commute puts me on Collingwood Road. Dark clouds were ahead. I reached back and turned on my red blinky light. As I approached a red light at Fort Hunt Road, lightning flashed a couple of miles to my right. I rarely run red lights but GET ME OUT OF HERE!!!! Pedal, pedal.

I made it home and got in the house just as the clouds opened up. It didn’t much matter. I was already wet.

Pix from Friday Coffee Club are over here.

Detour on the MVT

Detour on the MVT by Rootchopper
Detour on the MVT, a photo by Rootchopper on Flickr.

The National Park Service is doing work on three bridges on the Mount Vernon Trail between Dyke Marsh and the stone bridge. Today, they closed off a short section of the trail in anticipation of replacement of a short bridge. Additional work is on-going on Northdown Road, which now has one layer of new pavement. West Boulevard Drive, which runs parallel to the MVT from the stone bridge at Alexandria Avenue and Collingwood Road, is being torn up and re-paved. Despite all the work, the trail is still passable.

Riding with Mr. Moonlight

Since it is the longest day of the year, it makes sense to go all in on activities. The day started with splendid weather. It was actually sweater weather when I woke up. (This is especially odd since it was 100 degrees on the same day last year.) The day quickly warmed up to the comfortable 80s. Ahhh.

I left home early despite staying up late to watch the NBA finals. On six hours of sleep, I rode Big Nellie into town. The Mount Vernon Trail is just indescribably nice on summer mornings like this. I left about a half hour early so most of my regulars were still messing with visions of sugarplums. The Trash Walker, however, was doing his thing, keeping me on my toes. Under the 14th Street Bridge, Nancy Duley stood next to her bike. This is as far as she goes, like there is a force field just beyond. It would be interesting to see her bounce off the force field while riding. BOING.

She was turning around after escorting Mr. Nancy Duley most of the way to his office in DC. Next time, I am taking her through the force field and into the city. I have to figure out how to get through the barrier because I can’t use my bicycle death ray. It turns out death rays are illegal. Who knew? We’ll breach the barrier somehow.

Friday Coffee Club was once again a men’s only affair for the first hour or so. Kirstin (@ultrarunnergirl) showed up to liven things up a bit. Then, as always, we went our separate ways to earn a buck. Crossing the TR Bridge, the river looked beautiful, the breeze felt splendid, and the skies were blue. I went to work anyway.

After work my son and I took Metro to Nationals Park to watch a ballgame. It was on of my Fathers Day gifts. Our seats were on the lower level behind the third base dugout. As Wayne Campbell would say, “Excellent.” I resisted the urge to yell, “Let’s go! EXPOS!!!” through out the game. (This whole Nationals thing is a charade. They should wear those goofy looking Expos hats a few times a game. Maybe even have the announcers repeat everything en francais.)

The game was a pitching duel with Steven Strasburg striking out 9 in 7 innings. The highlight of the game came when my son and I, singing like a couple of eunuchs, hit the high note of “Take On Me” during the seventh inning stretch. We were tempted to start singing “Staying Alive” in faux Bee Gee falsettos, but thought better of it. (Another beer, though, and I would have gone for it.)

Well, the Expos won and we made our way back to Rosslyn to retrieve the car and Big Nellie. We were prepared to put the bike on the back of the car and call it a night, but the weather was perfect and I was not the least bit tired. So my son drove home and I hit the Mount Vernon Trail.

It was the summer solstice. I expected to find all kinds of Shakespearean characters along the way but only saw 6 cyclists. Three were riding without lights. When I had a solitary stretch of the trail, I turned my headlight off. The moon was intense!  Big and nearly full. Combined with the clear skies it was casting a glow on the river and the greenery along the trail. It looked almost as if someone had sprayed silver on the grass and leaves and water.

I cruised along at 12 miles per hour taking in the views and making sure to keep my mouth shut so as not to take in the bugs. I arrived home at 12:30 ready to call it a day.

Thank you, Mr. Moonlight.

These Playoffs Are Going to Be the Death of Me

Having not learned my lesson from yesterday evening’s TV sports marathon, I watched the National-Phillies baseball game (Ian Desmond grand slam!!!) and the Stanley Cup playoff game pitting the Bruins against the Blackhawks. I don’t know why I did this.  I didn’t even make it to the end of the game. I fell sound asleep on the couch. My son woke me up and I went to bed, to awaken hours later with a sore back. Time to ride to work!

Thankfully a tailwind pushed Little Nellie and me in the direction of my office. I passed some regulars along the way including the Three Step Runner, Hardware Store Man, the Trash  Walker and French Braid Kate, her eyes opalescent in the early morning light. Nobody pulled any moronic passes today and I somehow navigated the Rosslyn cycle of death without being hit, although I did manage to nearly take out a fitness walker wearing ear buds.

During the day, I rode Metro to Union Station. A young man on the train had obvious issues. He spoke with an outside voice telling standees to “SIT HERE. SIT OVER THERE.”  Then once he had satisfied himself that everyone was in their proper place, he started asking them questions like “WHERE ARE YOU FROM?” “WHERE IN NEW JERSEY?” As we approached Union Station, a woman wearing ear buds had her back to the door. He stood directly in front of her and started a one-way conversation as she nodded at him with a patient smile. The woman was a saint. Long ago in Boston, there was a man we called the Yankee Doodle Man. He’d ride the MBTA all day whistling “Yankee Doodle Dandy”. When he came to the end of the tune, he’d start talking a blue streak, usually anti-semitic things.  He seemed to  always be on the train I was on too.

I had some time to kill when I came back out of subway. Friday Coffee Clubber Rachel had tweeted that she was at Union Station so I walked around looking for her. She was long gone though. I did see an impressive number of street people panhandling. Between the poverty and the mental problems, I was thoroughly depressed. Bike commuting  insulates me from some of the grim realities of life in the big city.

The ride home was into a strong headwind but the weather was otherwise so nice I didn’t much care. The river was high and full of logs. Big ones. I wouldn’t want to be out on the water tonight.

The trumpet player was back at Gravelly Point park. Bwaaa. BWAAA. Bwaaa. Thanks for the sound track. He’s good but I am holding out for a string section so I can get some Barber of Seville overture action going like in “Breaking Away”.

French Braid Kate came down a slight incline between two guys. Just as in the morning she wore no sunglasses. Somehow her eyes are wide open. Doesn’t that bother her? I wear glasses all the time but if I had the wind in my eyes it would bother the heck out of me.

Spin, spin. Pedal, pedal.

Old Town came and went. I steeled myself for the stench of Belle Haven Park. a hundred yards before the sewery water, I came upon two young moms sitting facing each other on a beach towel in the grass. In front of them, propped up on their butts were two babies, probably about 8 months old. One was bald, the other tow headed.  They were pawing each other like bear cubs and giggling their oversized heads off. I almost stopped just to watch them. They were pure joy.

Instead I rode into the swamp zone. Dang, when will this stench ever go away?!

As I rode along beneath the trees, I took advantage of my upright position on my recumbent and looked up at the underside of the canopy of leaves above me. Green out!  The Mount Vernon Trail rocks as a way to get home!

Tomorrow will be a long day. Coffee Club before work. Nats game after work. Then a late night ride home.

Ray Allen, Leave Me Alone

I stayed up past midnight watching an NBA finals game. Ray Allen hit a shot for Miami which prolonged the game annoyingly. I woke up on 5 ½ hours of sleep. Not ideal commuting 14+ miles on a bike.

Big Nellie was back in action, if you can call it that. I was a zombie on wheels. Thankfully, the weather was splendid;  I didn’t much mind the headwind.

Three regulars made appearances in the morning. Hardware Store Man came rolling by south of Beltway. Lately, he’s been doing a lot of gliding. Trash Walker showed up near Washington Marina. He had a full back of garbage. Why do people litter on the trail? After a day off, French Braid Kate made an appearance near the airport. Lovely as usual.

As I made my way past the pinch point between the airport fence and the Parkway, a superb specimen of cycling stupidity made a close pass. He’s a fair weather commuter on a road bike wearing a back pack. His mountain bike shorts sagged nearly treating me to a view of his ass crack. He passed on a blind curve as a bike approached from the opposite direction. I veered into the brush overhanging the side of the trail, just managing to stay on the pavement. If you are, by chance, reading this, be advised. The next time you pull a stunt like that I am going to hock a loogie in your general direction.

Rains came but passed through just before I left work. Shawn (@shawnofthedread) came rolling by on his way to the Custis Trail in Rosslyn. He waved. Yo. Broken Ankle man came by a mile later near the airport. His right foot is severely toed in as if his ankle was broken and never reset. WABA mom came tootling by. She wears a WABA cycling shirt and has an unoccupied trail-a-bike attached to her bike.

The rest of the ride was regular-free. The trip through Belle Haven Park was smelly. It’s taking a long time for the park to dry out. The ducks don’t mind but humans are having a hard go of using about ⅓ of the park.

When I got home, my son told me that we are watching the Bruins-Blackhawks Stanley Cup game tonight.  What’s slower than a zombie? Tomorrow we’ll find out.