On the DL

On the DL

My hand surgery went fine this morning. The doctor told me he’d put a small splint on my finger. He didn’t tell me about the huge bandage that would keep it in place. Biking with this is going to be interesting,

Get Lost, March

March, and I mean this with all sincerity, has sucked. As I write this, it has been raining for two straight days, except for the last half hour during which it has been sleeting like a bitch. Good riddance.

The before picture. Conveniently, it’s also my “Goodbye March” picture.

In addition to depicting pretty much exactly how I feel about March 2014, this is also a picture with a medical purpose. If you look closely at the nail, you will see it is deformed. Just behind the nail is some swelling. When this finger gets aggravated, that swelling blooms into a big painful cyst. (The cyst deformed the nail.) If I bump this finger when the cyst is inflamed against anything hard, it hurts a whole bunch.  As it turns out, the cyst is somehow related to arthritis and a bone spur in the adjacent knuckle. So tomorrow morning I am having both the bone spur and the cyst removed. Later this week I’ll be riding in North Carolina with a splint on that finger. Let’s just say, it’s going to be interesting.

It is really important for me to get this taken care of. I’ve been dealing with it for several years now. A painful middle-finger cyst can impede the sharing of important information with my fellow road users, particularly those driving BMWs and Range Rovers. Once the surgery wound heals, my finger will be all set for the busy DC riding season.

I was expecting to get a local anesthetic for my surgery but it seems as though they are going to knock me out. I expect to be in a post-op fog tomorrow. This means that my bike riding for March is complete. The numbers are pretty lame. I rode 484 miles in March, 312 of this was on 11 bike commutes. As usual the Mule did the bulk of the work, 301 total miles with 213.5 miles from seven commutes. Little Nellie picked up the remaining five commutes and a total of 169.5 miles. Big Nellie was confined to the basement. I did one ride down there for what I guess was about 13.5 miles.

I completed the Errandonee Challenge. My long ride was a 40-mile errandonnee on a Saturday. I also did the Halv-vasa ride last weekend. I did several fun sessions of snow shoveling with my wovel. Finally, I started doing yoga again and actually did a head stand yesterday. I used the couch to spot myself. I didn’t stay vertical for long, maybe 15 seconds or so, but it was actually pretty comfortable.

For the year, I have ridden to work 27 times, which I was surprised to discover is only four times fewer than last year. I have racked up 1293.5 miles so far this year.

Everyday Bicycling Is Creeping into the Mainstream

Riding a bike for everyday transportation often makes me feel like I’m on the fringe of society. Unless you live in Davis, California, bike commuting puts you in a tiny slice of the commuter pie chart. Things are starting to change.

I work in Rosslyn, which is a pretty unniviting place. Tall buildings, lots of construction, car traffic combine to make it a rather harsh streetscape. There are a few bike commuters who work here and quite a few more who pass through on their way to DC. Some of them use Capital Bikeshare.

There are two flat screen TVs in the lobby of my office building. One shows CNN. The other has information on transit. On the bottom right of the screen is a listing of the CaBi bikes available nearby. I think this is pretty cool.

Bikeshare goes mainstream.


Tonight I went to a public meeting in which plans for the US 1 corridor from the Beltway to the Occoquan River were discussed. US 1 is a mess of bike big box stores and car congestion. And it is getting worse by the month. The plans are to put some sort of enhanced transit down the length of the corridor. This will be combined with a redesign of the land use with an emphasis on mixed use development. Bicycling and pedestrian facilities are an integral part of the thinking. (Frankly, some versions of the plans look a lot like the Rosslyn to Ballston corridor of present day Arlington. I (and most of the attendees) will be long gone (either living in a home or six feet under) by the time these plans are fully implemented. It’s refreshing to see Fairfax County openly admit it has a big problem in my area of the county. I predict that as the corridor gets more congested, local politicians are going to see some mighty angry constituents.

A packed house at the US1 meeting. Lots of gray hair and bald spots. (I can say that because I fit right in!)

I had to drive to the meeting (I was running late) but another attendee came in style on a Sun EZ3 delta trike. His Bike E 2-wheeled recumbent was in need of repair, he said.

Sun EZ3 recumbent. It’s a delta, meaning two wheels in back.


Springtime in Washington

Springtime in Washington

I rode to work in a snow storm today. It was beautiful. The snow accumulated in the oddest places on my bike. I reached down for a drink and my water bottles were covered in 1/2 inch of snow. There’s something to be said for drinking cold, cold water mixed with snow crystals. This picture was taken once I made it to the parking garage. The ride home was less enchanting. The snow had turned to a strange kind of rain: not quite sleet, not full on rain. I was dressed for the weather but I’d rather be riding in shorts and a t-shirt by this time of year.


The first event ride on my calendar every year is the Vasa ride, a joint production of the Washington Area Bicyclists Association (WABA) and the Swedish Embassy. It is held as a nod to a huge annual cross country skiing event in Sweden. Them Swedes are crazy. At the end of the ride, we cyclists get to go inside the embassy and drink warm blueberry soup. As I said, them Swedes are crazy.

So I dragged myself out of bed at 5:30 still groggy from the Nyquil I took last night to combat my lingering cold. I did some yoga to start the day. Actually, that’s not quite true. I do this thing that looks like a grown man having convulsions. You see, yoga is no match for the steel in my hamstrings and quadriceps. I am about as flexible as an I-beam.

I changed into my biking clothes and headed out the door. I drove to my office building in Rosslyn across the river from the start of the ride at the embassy on the Georgetown waterfront. The ride on The Mule across Key Bridge was invigorating owing to the fact that I didn’t wear enough warm biking clothes. The thermometer on my bike said it was 50 degrees. My body disagreed.

I rode past Baked and Wired, a coffee shop in Georgetown. It was not yet open. I cried. So, I just went to the starting point of the ride to hang out.

Soon Kate C. (@girlonabikedc) arrived on her awesome bike Kermit. Kate volunteered to be a ride marshal for the 15-mile ride. We chatted for until she was called to listen to the ride marshall training lecture.

I then began a conversation with Dave P., a bike rider from Arlington who organizes an annual brunch for bike trail users at an Indian restaurant in Shirlington. After wearing his ear out, I welcome Alex Baca (@alexbaca), the WABA communications goddess, online grad student, and binge TV watcher who has been known to ride me into the ground on occasion.

Then the waves of the Friday Coffee Club crowd began arriving. Dave S. (@darsal), Jacques (jarsenault) , with his Dad and toddler son Hugo, John R. (@dirteng) and Kate S. (@katesyl) (proving that Kate is the number one name for women cyclists), Kevin (@BicycleBug), Kirstin (@ultrarunnergirl) and Tom and their friend Betsy, and Lisa. Ed (@dailyrandonneur), riding a single bike, rolled in sans Mary (@coffeeneur), she who pushes Ed over the hills on their tandem. Peter (@jopamora), Ricky (@bikeeveryday) appeared, too. And Ted (@MrTinDC) and Jean (@jerdlngr). I was hoping to see Rachel (@rachelcannon) “Don’t Call Me, Bob” Cannon, who came to marshal the 15 mile ride, but, alas, she had the good sense to stay in bed an extra hour. I did bump into Lesly, who fell in with during the 2012 and 2013 50 States Ride. Lesly (@DCxFitChic) has the ability to ride fast and talk a blue streak simultaneously. It’s as if she can’t breathe without taking. Good thing she’s funny and upbeat.

Ed and Ricky, being more better than the rest of us, took off on the 59-mile route. The rest of us left a half-hour later on the 31 mile jaunt.

It was a cold start. I was literally shivering. My front wheel was wiggling left and right with each shake of my arms. Lisa and I rode side by side for the first 7 or 8 miles. I think the last time we rode together was in September so it was good to get caught up.

On the Capital Crescent Trail, I man rode by me and said, “Rootchopper! Hi! Haven’t seen you in a while.” He looked familiar but I couldn’t place him. (Lisa later told me that it was Joe (@josephlrc), an infrequent but cheerful Friday Coffee Clubber. Once he took off his helmet and whatever he was wearing on his head, I recognized him immediately.)

We were also passed by a man on a Penny Farthing, a big wheel bike from the 19th Century. He was hauling buns. (We’d later see him pushing the bike up a hill.)

Crossing over the C&O Canal we passed Tony, yet another Friday Coffee Clubber. “Hi, Tony!”

Along MacArthur Boulevard I started feeling my oats. This may have had something to do with my feet and fingers thawing out.  I climbed over the hill at the reservoir without difficulty. As I crested the hill, a paceline of lycra clad bicyclists went past. I decided to hitch a ride. The Mule can motor when motivated and off we went. Weeeee.

Now I was warmed up. I got into a rhythm and rode fast-ish (when you ride The Mule speed is relative). At the western end of MacArthur was the half mile long hill to Falls Road. Kate S. and John buried my sorry ass but I remained calm and rejoined them near the top.

We all came together again at the rest stop at the turnaround point in Potomac Village. I bought some coffee and it made my central nervous system happy. Lisa bought a scone and shared a bit with me. Twas yummy.

I spotted Nelle (@NellePierson) from WABA and made note of her amazing tights with tigers on them. Of course, I didn’t think to take a picture of them so you’ll have to take my word on this.

Kirstin, who is following a Paleo diet, couldn’t find any animals to kill so she snarfed a muffin. And Tom ate quiche proving, I suppose, that real men do eat quiche.

We left the rest stop in waves. I got absorbed by a cluster of people I didn’t know, but the caffeine had me focused on spinning my ass off. And so I did.

Somewhere in the posh Avenel development, I pulled over to take a picture of my bike odometer. 35,000 miles. Not too shabby. (Lest you get all impressed, I’ve had this bike since 1993. Any other sane person would have bought a new bike 15 years ago. I may be slow but I’m frugal.)

Back on the bike, I found Dave P. and rode with him along Persimmon Tree Road past Congressional Country Club, occasional home of the U. S. Open. Soon we were back on MacArthur and retracing our route home. Once again I was riding solo and making pretty good time.

I climbed up over the reservoir hill and bombed down the backside.

One thing I should point out is that we all spent the entire ride dodging potholes. There were hundreds of them. A couple looked like impact craters. It’s been that kind of winter.

I rolled into the embassy feeling fresh and ready to go for more, but warm blueberry soup awaited me. It tasted wonderful. Spring is officially here!!!!

I started chatting with some of the folks in our group and a young woman said, “Hi, Rootchopper.” And, for the second time today I thought, “Who are you and how do you know me?” It was Ursula (@sobacase). She said we had ridden with me during part of the Cider ride in December. It was cold that day. My brain must have stopped working. Once we started talking I kind of remembered her. She had on tights that were about as loud as Nelle’s. This time I took a picture.

After hanging out in the embassy for a while we went outside to wait for Ed to arrive from the 59 mile ride. A man walked up to me and said, “Hi, Rootchopper.” And my brain silently said “Who’s this? AGAIN!” I was so flustered by his third encounter of the day that I forgot his name almost immediately. (I think he said he was Stan, but I won’t know for sure until the next time he picks me out of crowd.)  I am terrible with names but three in one morning?

Ed arrived and we soon followed Dave S,’s lead to the Luna Grill near Dupont Circle where we dined like kings on a budget. The food was good and the conversation was better. Mary came back from her beauty rest and joined us. She gave our Errandonnee badges to Kirstin, Lisa, and me. She sewed them herself while stoking the tandem on a brevet a couple of weeks ago. I swear it’s true.

I indulged myself with a root beer float, a tuna melt, and more coffee. Life is good.

After a couple of hours of gabbing we went our separate ways. Some went east, Some went north. I followed Ursula west until she tuned off for the wilds of Foggy Bottom. I cruised through Georgetown which was absolutely packed with cars and pedestrians. The ride across the river took much longer. The sidewalk was filled with people on a nearly 70 degree, sunny afternoon.

My thanks to the folks at WABA (especially Michelle Cleveland, WABA’s events coordinator) and the Swedish embassy, as well as all the people who volunteered to help sign us up and marshal us along the course.

Pix of the ride are over on my Flickr page.

Lisa’s account of the day is here.

Winter’s Over? You’re Seeing Things!

Today, sometime after 1 pm, winter allegedly ended. j


The 42 degree bike commute felt like summer. The Mule was kind to my aching back and knees. We made decent time on the way to work. As an experiment, I kept track of the number of bike commuters who were male and female. The Washington Area Bicyclists Association has a program, led by the indominable Nelle Pearson, to encourage women to ride bikes. This puzzles me because so many of my bicycling friends are women. At one point the count was 5 male, 4 female. I thought so! Then I got into the thick of the bike commuters north of Alexandria. Final score: Males 26, Females 11. 

I would do this more often but I often go into a trance on my bike commutes. 

I only stopped once on the way to work. Some Canada geese were chowing down on the grass between the trail and the river north of Memorial Bridge. As I rode past, I spotted what I thought might be a bald eagle grazing among them. Nope. it was a white-headed Canada goose. An partial albino goose. I’d never seen such a thing.

I took a couple of pictures but left my camera in my handlebar bag which is in the shed. So I’ll post it tomorrow.

The ride home was pretty darn nice. 62 degrees at the start dropping to 58 degrees. They say winter is over. Don’t bet on it. The “S” word is in the forecast. 


Errandonnee Challenge Control Sheet

Errand #1: Drug Store
Date: March 7
Category: Personal Care and Health (#1)
Distance: 3 miles
Observation: It didn’t occur to me that picking up drugs on a bike called The Mule might be regarded as suspicious by law enforcement. I hope the DEA doesn’t come knocking at my door tonight!


Errand #2: Bank
Date: March 8
Category: Store Other Than a Grocery Store (#1)
Distance: 6 miles
Observation: Mobile banking the old school way.


Errand #3: Haute Dogs and Fries
Date: March 8
Category: Lunch (#1)
Distance: 1 mile
Observation: If you call hot dogs, Haute Dogs shouldn’t you call all in on the French and call them Hautes Chiens? Mais oui.


Errand #4: Used Book Store
Date: March 8
Category: Store Other Than a Grocery Store (#2)
Distance: 9 miles
Observation: If I lived close to Carpe Librum, it would make sense to just move in. What a find! Thanks, Rachel.


Errand #5: Car Dealer
Date: March 10
Category: Wild Card
Distance: 6 ½ miles
Observation: My dealer washes my car whenever he works on it. Wouldn’t it be cool if bike shops did the same with your bike?


Errand #6: My Office
Date: March 11
Category: Work (#1)
Distance: 30 miles
Observation: I was pretty pleased that the new fair weather commuters were all well behaved today. No one buzzed me too closely. Except for the two loonies, people were smiling.


Errand #7: My office
Date: March 12
Category: Work (#2)
Distance: 15 miles
Observation: Sunrises are a drug


Errand #8: Meeting at the Government Center
Date: March 13
Category: Community Meeting (#1)
Distance: 15 miles
Observation: Thanks to the people who spoke up about the bicycle lanes at the meeting. My guess is that there were about 10 people who spoke up for bicycle and pedestrian issues.


Errand #9: Bananas!
Date: March 13
Category: Grocery Store (#1)
Distance: 15 miles
Observation: I am shocked at how well my back and hip responded to today’s ride. Of course, it could be the case that I am so jacked up on Vitamin I that I can’t feel a thing. Or maybe I am getting better. I’ll know when I quit taking the Vitamin I in a couple of days.


Errand #10: Friday Coffee Club
Date: March 14
Category: Community Meeting (#1)
Distance: 15 miles
Observation: If the gods have a choice between having you collide with birds or a dump truck, pray for the birds. Otherwise they will make you wear a funny hat.


Errand #11: Tubes
Date: March 16
Category: Bike Shop (#1)
Distance: 4.5 miles
Observation: Support your local bike shop.


Errand #12: Gary’s Lunch Box
Date: March 16
Category: Lunch (#2)
Distance: 4 miles
Observation: Corvette drivers who pass cyclists within 2 feet will rot in hell.


Total distance: 124 miles

Thanks MG for getting us off our late winter butts and out on our bikes.

Tubes and a Lunchbox

It was 70 degrees here yesterday. Tonight we are under a winter storm warning. The weather gods have been drinking.

I took off on The Mule today to get some tubes from my local bike shop. This would be the Spokes Etc. store at Belle View Shopping Center. They are a pretty good resource for bike commuters. They do small repairs while you wait. When I had only one bike, I abused this service. They never complained. 

They give a discount if you buy three tubes so I bought 2 for The Mule and one for Little Nellie. 

I rode back home and stopped off at Sherwood Gourmet on the way. They make a sammich called Gary’s Lunchbox that I am addicted to. When I got home I mainlined it.

After lunch, I went out to the shed to do some maintenance on my bikes. The rear tire on The Mule has had a slow leak for over a week. I can’t find the leak so it either has a bad valve or the rubber has become permeable. I pulled my old spare tube, the one that I had been carrying around for months, out of my saddle bag. It had an extra long valve that had come apart. It’s a good thing that I didn’t get a flat during my commutes or I’d have been stranded. 

My tire is a Schwalbe Marathon which are notoriously hard to get on and off the rim. I think I have mastered the technique though. It went off and on without a fuss. The wheel didn’t want to go back on the bike however. After a few minutes of wrestling with the bike, I got it all straightened out. The Mule was nearly ready for action.

While at the bike shop, I asked the mechanic to check my chain for wear. He said it was worn and should be replaced. He also recommended replacing the cassette (the gears in the rear of the bike). I figure if the bike still shifts okay and I have to replace both chain and cassette anyway, I might as well keep the chain on the bike until the shifting deteriorates, then replace the chain and cassette.

I oiled the pulleys and cleaned and lubed the chains on both The Mule and Little Nellie. The chains were kind of gunked up from all the sand on the sides of the roads. When I was done, both chains spun over the gears like buttah.

Now I wait until my third and hopefully final wovel-fest. I am sick of shoveling snow. 

On the medical front, I have had to stop taking Vitamin I in advance of finger surgery in a couple of weeks. The stiffness in my lower back came back as soon as the medicine wore off, as did the pain in my hips and left knee. Oddly enough, I am having no pain to speak of while riding my bike. It seems the yoga sessions I do after waking up are doing some good in this regard. I can’t remember when I have felt this comfortable riding a bike. 

Errandonnee Summary

Errand # 11: Spokes Etc. at Belle View

Category: Bike Shop (#1)

Miles: 4 1/2

Observation: If you don’t patronize your local bike store, it won’t be there when you really need it. Show them some love.


Errand #12: Sherwood Gourmet

Category: Lunch

Miles: 4

Observation: About a half mile from the shop, I was buzzed by a corvette. The driver gave me about a foot of clearance as he passed me. I am pretty sure it was deliberate.