The $800 Drink of Water

Monday dawned with more awesome fall weather, which is great considering we are still in the first week of August. My long ride yesterday resulted in some significant log sawing last night. As a result, I overslept by a good 20 minutes.

Out of the house late I board The Mule for a surprisingly spirited ride to work. I say surprisingly because I had a head wind and lots of hilly miles in my legs from yesterday. I passed the Hoppy Runner and Nancy “One Bag” “Crash Wave” “Bridge Troll” Duley en route.

I called the dentist about the veneer crown I lost yesterday. Not only would he see me today, but he moved my September cleaning appointment up. I left the office at noon for the unusual ride to the west end of Alexandria which might as well put up banners that say, “Welcome to Traffic Hell”.

I headed uphill out of Rosslyn into Arlington. Garbage trucks and city buses made for a less than enjoyable ride so I bailed from Wilson Boulevard and meandered through the side streets. I used to live near Ballston so I am pretty familiar with the streets. I was taken aback by all the new apartments in the Buckingham neighborhood near my old apartment. I hooked up with the Washington and Old Dominion trail and headed east on a slight downhill.

Near Shirlington I left the cozy confines of the W&OD (NOT the WO&D) and headed toward my date with traffic. This being a summer day, the traffic was light and I survived the mayhem long enough to find the Taylor Run Trail which took me within a few blocks of the dentist’s office.

The good news is my teeth are now clean. The bad news is that the old veneer crown cannot be re-used. A new one is going to set me back a cool $800. They offered to put a veneer on another tooth to even out my smile. Big of them, no?

After the appointment I headed for home via the not so magnificent Eisenhower Valley. I arrived home in time to do a little more work and contemplate how a sip of water is going to cost me $800. It’s what you would call a big, big thirst.

How I Found Jesus and Lost a Crown

You could not ask for a nice day to ride a bike. Warm, breezy, sunny and dry is an awesome combination. It’s a little bit of Vermont in DC. It was the perfect day to try out my new prescription sunglasses. I pulled Little Nellie, my Bike Friday New World Tourist, out of mothballs and headed out for parts to be determined.

We headed up the Mount Vernon Trail. Traffic on the trail on nice summer weekend days is usually pretty heavy but it was tolerable today. I decided not to press my luck and left the trail to cross the Potomac River on the Woodrow Wilson Bridge trail. The bridge trail was very crowded but everybody was polite and considerate so I made good time. On the connecting trail in Maryland I passed an interesting tandem bike, a Hase, I think. The stoker sits in front on a recumbent seat. The captain steers from behind the stoker on a conventional bike saddle with conventional handlebars. The riders seemed to be having a blast.

I pedaled up the half mile hill to Oxon Hill Road which is being completely rebuilt to the south. Not wanting to ride through the construction site, I turned north. The intersection at Oxon Hill Farm has been redesigned to deny a left hand turn. I couldn’t figure out how to get to the farm any other way so I turned left anyway. Take that MDOT.

I rode back down the long hill in Oxon Hill Park to Oxon Hill Cove. The trail through this parkland, owned by the National Park Service, is a mess and really needs to be torn up and repaved. (I will refrain from bitching about Congress and how it seems hell bent on turning our public infrastructure into East Germany 1978.)

One mile and a big climb later I was on the streets of Anacostia. As usual, Sunday in Anacostia means church and church goers dressed in Sunday best. I took Martin Luther King Junior Boulevard (is that the longest street name in DC?) down and up and down through the neighborhood. Instead of taking the 11th Street bridge over the Anacostia River to Capitol Hill, I turned instead into Anacostia River Park. I headed north, up river, exploring side roads here and there.  A nifty new bridge takes the park trail north toward Benning Road. Coming toward me on the bridge was a chatty pack of women on bikes. Nellie from the Washington Area Bicyclists Association was at the head of the group. I recognized one of the riders as a regular Mount Vernon Trail bike commuter. She has a blinky light that swivels on the top of her helmet and a very serious bike commuting demeanor.

Since none of the women said “What a man!” as I passed on continued onward. I spent a few minutes trying to find the entrance to the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens but only succeeded in finding the solid waste disposal facility for DC. Fail.

I crossed the Benning Road bridge and took the Anacostia Trail downriver on the west side of the river. Next I meandered through Capitol Hill where I took a break at Eastern Market. After some food and drink, I headed to the Capitol (because it’s there) and then up the Metropolitan Branch Trail. A left put me on the contraflow bike lane on R Street. (Contras make good bike lanes.)

My wanderings took me through a street fair of sorts complete with a farmers market and bike repair, because you need some peaches with your new brake pads.  Up U Street where all the people who can’t get to the beach were eating brunch. I turned up 15th Street and headed into Meridian Hill Park. The park is usually filled with people doing acroyoga, slack lining, and hula hooping, and a very entertaining drum circle. Sadly the only activity was a bunch of people having picnics and an ultimate Frisbee game.

Up 15th Street to 16th I rode. Traffic got a bit heavy so I started to zig zag to the east and the north. I managed somehow to ride past the Tacoma Park  home of Mike, the world’s most loquacious randonneur. (He and his wife Lisa hosted a rest stop on the 50 States Ride last year.)

I pushed onward into the confusion of downtown Silver Spring. If there’s a silver spring anywhere about it’s probably paved over or built on. I spotted a sign for a bike trail that eventually led me to the Georgetown Branch Trail which meant it was time to head for home. After spending a few minutes enjoying the view and chatting with people on the Rock Creek Trestle, I headed toward Bethesda Row for a bit of iced tea. After refilling my water bottles, I hopped on the crowded Capital Crescent Trail and headed for Georgetown and the Potomac River waterfront. The trail is downhill the entire way and the downhill combined with the tailwind to make this a perfect ride.

The river north of Key Bridge was choked with kayaks and canoes and powerboats and other floating things. DC sure likes its water. All this activity made the going kind of slow on K Street which runs by the packed Georgetown Waterfront Park. I pedaled along and was soon at the beach volleyball courts near the Lincoln Memorial. A couple of Park Police officers cruised at 5 miles per hour on the trail making sure that none of the scantily clad volleyballers were drinking or evil doing. As he drove the driver of the cruiser sucked at a Slurpee. (Um, can we move along guys? Please.)

With the help of my tailwind, I rode down Ohio Drive past several softball games (I saw two batters hit frozen ropes in the process.) As I rode across the Potomac on the 14th Street bridge my tailwind became a cross wind strong enough to lean in to.

The Mount Vernon Trail was as crowded as I suspected but the trail users were generally well behaved (an abnormality on a nice summer day, to be sure). As I cleared Gravelly Point Park I went to take a drink from my water bottle. As I pulled on the valve with my teeth something clicked in my mouth.  It was a porcelain veneer crown on one of my front teeth. Bummer. Luckily I didn’t swallow it. Hopefully my dentist can glue it back on. (It was put in about 20 years ago so I’ve got nothing to complain about.)

In Old Town I decided not to deal with Union Street which is usually teeming with touroids on days like today. I rode down Royal Street where, in front of Saint Mary’s Catholic church, a couple was setting up a series of long tables with carvings of various Christian people and scenes. I found Jesus on South Royal Street.


Not wanting to take a couple of mulchy detours on the MVT, I took the Park Terrace Drive hill instead. I rode up the hill in the saddle at 8 miles per hour, twice as fast as on my recumbent.

I pulled into my driveway with 62.9 miles on my odometer, a metric century (100 kilometers).


July by the Numbers

July is one of the peak bike riding months of the year and Big Nellie and I took good advantage of it. For the month I rode 858.5 miles, all but 39 of it on Big Nellie, my Tour Easy recumbent. The other 39 miles were on The Mule, my Specialized Sequoia. Little Nellie, my Bike Friday New World Tourist, took the month off.

I commuted to work 20 times, 19 on Big Nellie. My total commuting mileage was 565 miles. That’s about 22 gallons of gas or $55+ in my pocket. The rest of the miles were fun rides on the weekend, a total of 260.5 miles. The longest ride was my 109.5 mile ride on Big Nellie to Haute Dogs and Fries in Purcellville.

For the year, I’ve ridden 4,184.5 miles and 100 commutes.

Of course, all this riding takes its toll on my bikes. As I write this, Big Nellie is in dry dock at Bikes at Vienna. She’s getting a new cassette, new chain, new rear tire, new fork, and new cables. I hope to have her back in a week or so to get ready for the fall riding season.

Goodbye, Kate

Friday Coffee Club is a pretty upbeat occasion. Today’s was somewhat bittersweet as we sort of said goodbye to Kate (foreground). She may be back next Friday, but will soon leave DC for grad school.

All the best, Kate. I know I speak for all us Coffee Clubbers when I say “We’ll miss you.” We hope to see you someday down the road.

Break These Chains, Felkerino

There used to be a tech education company that advertised it’s certification programs for people chained to dead end jobs with the phrase “Break those chains!” Apparently Big Nellie is feeling frustrated with her role in this whole bike to work thing. About six miles into the ride to work I came to a stop sign at South Franklin and Union Streets in Old Town Alexandria. I stopped a little late as a car came through the intersection from left. I didn’t downshift. When I started up, I pressed hard on the pedal and BANG the chain snapped.

This chain is rather long, about 2 1/2 chains long. It has a long and sordid history. It’s first escapade was attacking my friend Flor’s pants at her farewell party in Meridian Hill Park. About a week later it snapped on the hill to Rosslyn about 1/2 mile from work. It held together for a while then this year it decided to rebel. Three times in the last two months the chain has broken. The first two times the outside plate on a link just flaked off, like it was made out of sugar.  Then today, the link just spontaneously came apart.

So there I was with my nonfunctioning bike and a chain tool on the wet sidewalk of Old Town cussing under the window of a million dollar townhouse in Ford’s Landing. After about 15 minutes of frustration , I called Mrs. Rootchopper for a ride home. While waiting I, of course, reassembled the chain except I twisted it and now my bike had a Mobius strip for a drivetrain. I thought about re-breaking the chain but it occurred to me that the bike gods were sending me a message: GET A F%@KING NEW CHAIN, DUDE!  This is exactly what Felkerino, known around these parts as The Sage of Swings, advised me to do at the last Friday Coffee Club (without the profanity, of course). And, so, it shall be. Big Nellie is going in for a bunch of maintenance on Saturday courtesy of the folks at Bikes at Vienna.

I spent the morning working at home. It poured buckets for about 1 1/2 hours. When the clouds cleared, I headed out on The Mule. With a light tailwind, I made rapid progress, a bad day turned good.

The ride home was better. After struggling to get some sort of rhythm on this bike over many months, I finally got it. The ride home was effortless. Just what I needed. And, somehow, the breathing problems that have been plaguing me for months have disappeared.

One thing that’s bothering me is that the steering on The Mule feels off somehow, like I’m pushing the handlebars to make the bike turn. I suspect that something is wrong with the steerer tube, perhaps damaged in an accident a couple of years ago. Maybe, after 20+ years, it’s time for a new touring bike.