August by the Numbers

I have to say that I am a little surprised by my riding in August. I missed five days because of a car trip to Indiana. With the 26 other days of the month, I kept my stable of bikes pretty busy. I rode to work 18 out of 18 days (not counting one day of telecommuting). My parking space at work has grown some cobwebs this summer. (I haven’t used it since mid-June.) I had a false start with one commute when the chain on Big Nellie broke 6 miles from home. 

All but one of my 18 commutes were aboard The Mule. Big Nellie had the other one. Big Nellie spent most of the month in dry dock, because its manufacturer twice screwed up sending a replacement fork. First, they sent the fork to the wrong bike shop. (I am told by Tim at Bikes at Vienna that this isn’t the first time they have confused his shop with this particular other one. ) Then the sent a second fork to the right shop, but it was the wrong size. If not for Tim’s intervention, they’d be unaware that their inventory is messed up.

I did some casual rides, two of which were metric centuries (around 62 miles). One was aboard Little Nellie, the second was the Hoppy 100.

I rode 563 miles just getting to and from work. I did another 218 miles on the weekends. That’s a total of 781 miles for the month, and 4,444 for the year.  I ridden to work 119 times.


Ultrarunnergirl at Friday Coffee Club

DSCN2515 by Rootchopper
DSCN2515, a photo by Rootchopper on Flickr.

Today, I finally got Big Nellie back on the road. I headed straight for Swings House of Caffeine and Friday Coffee Club. I passed Nancy “Two Sheds” Duley and John “Hoppy 100” Roche heading the opposite way. Sadly, these two were putting work before pleasure. What were they thinking?

Ultrarunnergirl knows better. She has her priorities straight. Of course, a case could be made that anyone who voluntarily runs 50 miles on mountain trails in the summertime is a candidate for the nervous hospital. Lucky for her, Friday Coffee Club welcomes all. The club seems especially welcoming to redheads, of which there were three today (if you count me whose red hair is a mostly a memory).

So the next time you’re riding to work on Friday morning, swing by 17th and G Streets NW for some coffee and conversation. You’re sure to meet some nice people, like Ultrarunnergirl.

Big Nellie Returns, Not

A few weeks ago during a bike ride, I went to open my water bottle valve with my teeth as I have done hundreds of times before. This time, a veneer crown popped off one of my teeth. Yesterday, after two weeks and over $800, the dentist installed a new crown and my tooth looks fabulous. Frankly, I don’t give a damn about its appearance, I’ll settle for structural integrity.

After visiting with my dentist, I drove out to Bikes at Vienna to pick up Big Nellie. The gears work. The brakes work. The new Panaracer Pasella tire with Tourguard feels like buttah. On the way home, I dropped the car off for an oil change and rode Big Nellie the last mile and a half. Sweet.

When I spotted our silver Accord in my driveway, my brain said, “Lily’s home.” And I immediately realized how life has suddenly changed. Lily, my daughter, is now a freshman in college, far away in Indianapolis (a city with some pretty awesome new bike infrastructure, by the way.) Not having her around brings a mixture of feelings. There is a sense of loss and a sense of excitement. I miss her but I know she’s going to have a great experience in college. Go get ‘em, Lily!

I was all psyched to ride Big Nellie to work this morning when I discovered that her new rear tire was flat. Yeesh! Rather than mess with a tire change first thing in the morning, I hopped on The Mule and headed for work. It was muggy and foggy and just kind of gross out. I passed the Hoppy Runner and Nancy “Two Sheds” Duley. Nancy was riding with a headlight on, which I find depressing; summer is almost over.

The ride home was typical for DC in late summer: an erratic tailwind combined with muggy conditions. The ride was made significantly easier than the ride in, because I wasn’t carrying my anvil of a laptop in my panniers.

Once home, I took the wheel off Big Nellie and examined the tube and tire. I couldn’t see anything wrong with the tire but the tube was losing air pretty fast. It turns out the valve stem was broken. Stuff happens. While I was working on the bike, I toed in the brake pads on the rear wheel.

Big Nellie is rested and ready. Tomorrow we ride to Friday Coffee Club at sunrise.

Detour on the Mount Vernon Trail

There’s some maintenance work going on along the Mount Vernon Trail near the power plant north of Old Town Alexandria. I rode past the detour to check it out. You can ride through but you might have to wait a few minutes if the workers are on the trail. They are cleaning up some downed trees.
This is my last post for a while. Try to remain calm. I’ll be back at it next Tuesday or Wednesday. In the meantime, put down your Internet toys, pick up a bike, and go for a ride.

Busy Day on the MVT

Busy Day on the MVT by Rootchopper
Busy Day on the MVT, a photo by Rootchopper on Flickr.

It’s late summer. The sun is coming up a little bit later and high school kids are getting ready for the fall sports season. I managed to get around this group of 20 or so runners on my way to work. They were well behaved and stayed out of the left lane (mostly).

The car traffic on the George Washington Memorial Parkway on the left looks pretty heavy but this is actually a light day as many people are getting their last summer ya yas out.

This commuting weather is just awesome: nice easy breezes, sunny skies, comfortable temperatures. I’ve ridden something like nine days in a row. I am expecting my legs to say “No mas!” but they are spinning away without complaint.

Bikes, Blood, and Beer – The Second Hoppy 100

It began with an alarm clock awakening me at 5:45 a.m. This is indeed an ungodly hour for a Sunday morning. It was raining house pets outside so it looked a bit like the Hoppy 100, a bike ride to sample local craft brewers, would be a very, very wet affair. By the time I headed out the door some 40 minutes later, however, the downpour had given way to an intermittent drizzle. I abandoned the thought of driving to DC, hopped on The Mule and headed north.

The ride in went by pretty quickly, which is not surprising considering the fact that the streets and trails were empty. Just me and a whole bunch of puddles. I rode across the Memorial Bridge and around the Lincoln Memorial. Then it was up through the GWU campus to the rendezvous point at the Brewmasters Castle, a gorgeous old brownstone mansion built by a nineteenth century sudsmeister.

John Roche, the mastermind behind this ride, was handing out Dunkin Muchkins to the riders as they assembled. Proper nutrition is required on long bike rides, you know. The rest of the crew:

  • Alex, communications professional, grad student, fresh from a 100 mile ride on a flat tire last weekend.
  • Chris: Alex’s boyfriend, a volunteer at The Bike House, a bicycle repair cooperative in DC
  • Peter: another Bike Houser guy and Kristen’s personal bike mechanic
  • Kristen: uber Mom, world traveler, and Friday Coffee Club regular
  • Lisa: librarian, musician, grad student, my frequent riding buddy, and Friday Coffee Clubber
  • Dave: who commutes with his daughter on the mean streets of DC and sticks his tongue out at bicyclist oppressors
  • Jason: a resident of Del Ray riding a bike with big fat tires
  • Brian: clown bike rider and noted Hungarian toaster

We headed out in a light rain, destined for an early morning glimpse at a couple of new-ish craft brewers. Within a mile , Dave was kind enough to demonstrate  a roadside flat tire repair complete with $1 bill tire boot. Remarkably, he omitted the part where you swear profusely when the puncture occurs.

After the repair, we headed to Northeast DC to a brewer on West Virginia Avenue. We rode right past the nondescript industrial building. The brewery was so new, it did not yet have a sign. They should call this company Stealthy Beer.

We doubled back and headed south, stopping to admire Bardo, another craft beer operation on Bladensburg Road. This operation appeared to be entirely outdoors and resembled a nuclear waste storage facility with metal barrels arranged along the fence. It was hard to tell since the chain link fence around the place was locked.

On we rode to the Anacostia River Trail. There was no brewing here but the riding was pretty sweet along the banks of DC’s other river. We rode north then crossed over on the Benning Road bridge to the eastern bank of the river and headed south. At the Frederick Douglas Bridge, we took a side path back over the river. We were slowed when John stopped to help a cyclist in distress on the bridge. The cyclist had crashed on the metal grate that constitutes the roadway (the side path had a  concrete surface). He was stunned and a bloody mess having smashed on of his hand on the grate. He managed to get off the road and onto the side path with us. We walked our bikes past him, offered help which he refused, and took our time getting to the western bank of the river near Nationals Park.

We stopped to reconnoiter and Bike Crash Victim came walking behind us looking very much not okay. After some gentle persuading he sat down. Kristen said he was in shock at which point Chris took over and called 911. BCV sat down and Chris kept him talking. Lisa donated a hankerchief to cover his now disgusting bloody hand. Dave checked his helmet for signs of impact. He stretched out on the sidewalk and waited. A few minutes later an ambulance arrived. They put him on a stretcher and told us to take his bike to a police station a few blocks away.

Chris rode his own bike while holding BCV’s bike alongside and we made our way to the station. In the process we skipped brewery number 3 (which was not open anyway). We hoped that we could drop off the bike and be on our way but what followed was a Pythonesque farce of bureaucracy:

Station Desk Officer: Don’t bring that bike in here.

Chris: We’re dropping it off. The rider was involved in a crash and taken to the hospital.

SDO: How do I know that it isn’t stolen?

Yep, apparently robbers bring their loot to the M Street police station for safe keeping. I am a little surprised the SDO didn’t try to sell us a license for our pet fish, Eric. Well, after 45 minutes we left after we convinced the police to take the bike. While we were waiting Peter did a squealectomy on Kristen’s brakes.

Having spent so much time with the constabulary, we decided to chop a few miles off the ride and head straight to Mad Fox brewery in Falls Church. We crossed the river and headed for the Custis Trail in Rosslyn. Kristen, as she had planned, peeled off to head for home across the Key Bridge. The rest of us continued up and down and up and down along the Custis. We picked up the Washington and Old Dominion Trail and were at Mad Fox in no time. While there, Brian appeared with his Brompton to join the festivities.

The beer was pretty good (I had a Kolsch) but the coffee was what most of us really craved. I drank four cups. We ate a leisurely lunch and watched as the rain finally stopped. Somewhat drier we headed back to the W&OD and our next destination Port City Brewery in Alexandria.

The W&OD is gradually downhill all the way and we welcomed the easy riding. Brian gave chase to a passing roadie with delusions of speed. Seeing Brian spin his ass off on his Brompton, catch the guy and hang on his rear wheel made for some greatly appreciated comedy on a gray day. After crossing into Alexandria, we slogged up a long hill. Three riders broke away and the rest of us stopped to check our cue sheets. A half block up a side street, a party seemed to be starting. We could see an American flag and some bikes as well as hear some cheering. We rode up to see what the commotion was about.  A father and son had just arrived from riding their bikes across the country from San Francisco. What a joyous loving welcome they received. The Hoppy 100 salutes you!

We regrouped with the breakaway and followed John’s cue sheet which led us onto an unpaved trail through a stretch of woods. Jason finally got to take advantage of his ginormous wide tires. The rest of us made do and stayed upright. The trail dropped us off in familiar territory and we managed to traverse pavement the rest of the way to Port City Brewery.

Port City was pretty crowded. I was thirsty so I had a Derecho (a little thick for my taste) and an IPA (perfection in a glass). After an hour of beer tasting, we headed back out outside. The rain had stopped. We took the nearby Taylor Run Trail to Eisenhower Avenue to Old Town. I peeled off in Old Town and headed for home. I arrived about 11 hours and 65 miles after I had left. Tired and feeling old, I sat down with my family and had dinner  with chocolate birthday cake and ice cream.

A fitting end to a long, wet, hoppy 58th birthday.

My pix of the ride can be found on my Flickr page. Lisa’s account of the day is on her blog.

The Mule Turns 33

The Mule Turns 33 by Rootchopper
The Mule Turns 33, a photo by Rootchopper on Flickr.

Another perfect weather day made for splendid riding. I hit Friday Coffee Club and chatted with Brian Sassoon, Nancy “Two in a Row” Duley, Pappa Kid O, Jesse Seattle, Kristin McMurdo, and Ultra Kirstin. Work was crazy busy. My reward was more fantastic weather and a bike ride home. On the way, I watched as two Capital Bikeshare riders squared off in a bike rage incident. (My CaBi’s faster than yours. No, it’s not! FIGHT.) In a stereotype gone bad, one of the two young Asian men started kick fighting. The kick was a sloppy roundhouse one, so bad that I almost stopped to mock him. But Friday night is not alright for fighting, so The Mule took me home to ponder the first bike rage fight I’ve seen in over decade of bike commuting on the Mount Vernon Trail.

Via Flickr:
The odometer on The Mule my 20+ year-old Specialized Sequoia turned 33,000 miles today on the way home from work.

Hoppy Hoping

It was a splendid early October morning for today’s bike commute on The Mule.  Too bad it’s August. Oh well. I broke out a long sleeve t-shirt (that my daughter bought me in Alaska ironically) and hit the road. I was in the zone the whole way to work. I said hello to the Hoppy Runner and Nancy “Lumberjack Jersey” Duley along the way but I don’t recall anything else. You know the David Byrne feeling you get when you drive somewhere for the umpteenth time, you arrive at your destination, and think to yourself “How did I get here?”

During the day, John Roche,  BikeDC’s Godfather of Craft Beer, announced the details of this year’s Hoppy 100 ride. Last year’s ride was pretty epic, 100 miles, three beer establishments, a ferry ride across the Potomac, a torrential downpour, and a ride home in the dark. What more could you ask for. (And one of the beers was even called Derecho!)

This year’s ride will be a little more urban in focus and only 73 miles. In order not to tie a car up for the day, I’ll have to ride to the start in DC. This should push my mileage for the day up to 100 miles.

There seem to be quite a few folks interested in this year’s escapade, including my personal riding buddy and returning Hopster Lisa. Also, joining us should be Alex Baca who I’ve done two rides with.

My choice of steed is up in the air. I hope to pick up Big Nellie from Bikes at Vienna on Saturday. We’d been waiting for a fork from Big Nellie’s home base in California, but they sent it to the wrong bike shop. Tim of BatV  is hopeful that I’ll be back in the foam seat (just doesn’t have the same ring as “back in the saddle” does it?) again on Saturday. All that said, if it rains on Sunday, I’ll probably ride The Mule cause The Mule’s a good mudder.

Well, the ride home was so nice that words fail me. I had lots of company. There were so many bikes streaming across the 14th Street bridge I did a double take. Of course, most of them blew by me within the next mile. People coming toward me were talking and smiling. If I had regular pants on, I would have sworn that my fly was down.

The last few miles were a bit of a slog. I rode up the Park Terrace hill without my usual verve, which is saying something because I normally climb like a crippled gnu.

Time to shut it down again for the night. Gotta get up early for Friday Coffee Club.

Long Time No See

After five days without Internet service, I am back at the blog, sounding a bit like Jackie Stewart’s commentary at the winter Olympics, to boot. (It’s a beautiful day here at the blog.) Conditions for bike commuting have been positively eclectic.

Friday’s commute featured a big surprise. I left home early to go to Swings and Friday Coffee Club. I looked for Nancy Duley under the 14th Street Bridge where she has been known to lurk. There were two cyclists there but no Nancy. I continued into the city without incident, pulled into Swings, bought coffee, and sat down at one end of the long table filled with bike commuters. People at the opposite end started yelling for me to come to their end where there was woman with curly hair that I hadn’t seen before. It was Nancy Duley, whom I have never seen without a helmet on. She, of course, fit in perfectly with the gang and had a fine time.

Nancy Duley (left foreground with glasses) at Friday Coffee Club
Nancy Duley (left foreground with glasses) at Friday Coffee Club

Monday’s commute was so uneventful I don’t remember it. When I get into the bike commuting zone, I get into the zone!

Tuesday morning was pretty muggy. Not much happened on the way to work. In the evening I rode shotgun in a Prius to my friend Kate’s (yep, another Kate!) happy hour party at Bar Louie in Penn Quarter. On the way we stopped at the light at Constitution and 15th just as French Braid Kate (no relation to the Bar Louie Kate) rode across the cross walk in front of us. I am not stalking her. Honest.

I had a couple of beers and commiserated with Bar Louie Kate who was celebrating her new job at a new agency. We met during Earth Day activities. We shared a display table, me doing the bike commute thing and she doing the walk commute thing.

I left the bar at 7 and took the subway back to Rosslyn. I changed and headed out on The Mule at 7:20 with an ominous line of clouds just to the west. I didn’t know there was a severe thunderstorm warning in effect. Oops.

It was still light out so I didn’t bother putting my headlight or taillight on. I knew I’d need them for the second half of the commute so I figured I’d stop and put them on when it got dark.

The ride down the Mount Vernon Trail to Old Town began into a headwind. The trail wasn’t crowded and the riding was peaceful. As expected, by the time I reached Old Town Alexandria it was dark out, suspiciously so. What I didn’t realize was that the weather front had blocked out any remaining daylight and moonlight.

I kept rolling right through Old Town. It was dark but I could see just fine. South of Old Town I rolled along the trail when all of a sudden I entered a cloud of gnats that went on for a half mile. It was biblical. I had to keep my mouth closed. They were hefty little bugs, bouncing off my arms, legs and face. I think if I had my headlight on the size of the swarm would have freaked me out. South of Belle Haven Park the darkness was jet black. I had to slow way down.  Seeking street lights, I bailed out on the trail at Tulane Drive, opting to trade the climb up the Park Terrace hill for the blackout.

I noticed that I now had a tailwind. Uh oh.

The good news was the bug swarm was behind me. The bad news was the storm hit. I was drenched in a minute with two miles to go. And the rain was COLD!!! No worries. Pedal, pedal.

I pulled into the Rootchopper Institute and rolled my bike to the backyard  shed. It was so dark I had to fish my cell phone out of my panniers to shed some light the lock on the door. Fortunately, by this time, the rain had stopped. When I got inside the house, I noticed that most of the gnats had been washed off my skin.

In the house, home and wet. Nine o’clock.  All is well.