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.