Flor Weather: T-shirt. Shorts. Water. Recumbent. Go!

T-shirt. Shorts. Water. Recumbent. Go!

I love commuting when I don’t have to deal with layers of clothing.

I was out the door and headed toward Alexandria for a visit to my finger doctor. I had surgery to remove a cyst and a bone spur on my right middle finger. Thanks to the motorists of the DMV I was able to assure the doctor that my middle finger is now fully operational. He was pleased with the result and said in a few months all the swelling and numbness would be completely gone. I was good to go.

The finger doctor was only one of several on my medical to-do list. He was a professional and easy to deal with but I am glad I now have him in my rear view mirror.

The next few medical visits were supposed to be: MRI for my back tomorrow. Back doctor on Monday. Eye doctor on Tuesday.

It looks like I may now wiff on all three.

The eye doctor had to be rescheduled to August because the calendar on my stupid iPhone did not sync up with my work laptop. So I scheduled a meeting involving 3 consulatants from out of state for the same time.

The back doctor appointment is contingent on getting the MRI.

I arrived home to find a copy of my insurance company’s approval for the MRI. I was dated May 7. It was a copy of a fax. They cc’ed my primary care physician and my back doctor. I checked my home voice mail. The radiology center called to tell me that they haven’t received authorization so they canceled my appointment for tomorrow. So my MRI and my Monday doctor appointment will get rescheduled. This is the second time I’ve rescheduled because of clerical problems.

I’d be really pissed about this except for the fact that for the last two days my back has been almost painfree. Pain in my left hip and left knee at 5 in the morning are a reminder that all is still not well. It may be that the NSAIDs and muscle relaxants are helping. I am certain that riding my recumbent is a postive factor as well. Something about the mechanics of riding a bike while pushing my lower back into the mesh seat back seems to relax my lower back.

So I may still be dealing with this back thing until after Memorial Day. Then I can go back to the skin doctor and the dentist.

As for the ride home, it was hot and muggy so the Mount Vernon Trail was not very crowded. (I call this Flor weather. My friend Flor lives for it. Pretty much everyone else I know hates it.) Nothing beats ridng home in hot weather. I was going to drive to work so that I could go to the MRI place tomorrow, but now I’m going to have to ride instead.

T-shirt. Shorts. Water. Recumbent. Go!

P.S. On the way to work, I watched as a guy on a water board went flying as he hit the wake of the tow boat that was pulling him.

Need Me Some Elbow Room

It has been a busy couple of days. Sunday brought lovely weather. So I went for a 45-mile bike ride. That was followed up by a one-hour mow the lawn festival. Then Mrs. Rootchopper, our daughter, and I drove into DC to see Elbow play at the 9:30 club. Just as they did a couple of years ago they put on a fantastic show. And just as two years ago, Ed (@dailyrandonneur) and Mary (@coffeeneur) were there, except this time they were not standing next to me. They were on the opposite side of the stage. It was fun trying to spot them in the crowd. I figured I’d just look for Ed’s (um, how do I put this kindly) dome. Apparently the Domehead society was in attendacne because there must have been 20 men with shaved or bald heads. I stuck to my strategy and, using Twitter for communication, managed to exchanged some waves.

Speaking of waves, the Elbow lead singer got the crowd to wave their hands rhythmically over their heads during several songs. It turns out this was excellent therapy for my back problems. Considering the fact that I was on my feet on concrete from 7 to 11:30 this revelation came as welcome relief.

I hit the hay after midnight. My left knee and hip woke me at 5 a.m. This is going to be a long, painful day.

After another hour or so of trying to sleep, I got up and found that I was in not-half-bad shape. I did my back exercises, a few yoga poses, and some waving of my hands over my head. When I was done, my back, hip and knee felt fine.

I rode Big Nellie to work and felt no ill effects of Sunday’s exercions. On the way I saw Nancy “Two Sheds” Duley and Tony from Alexandria along the way. Waves.

The ride home featured 80+ degree temperatures. What the heck is that all about? Wait’ll I tell my wovel.

The ride home also featured a calvalcade of annoying and dangerous cyclists and drivers. The fun began went a  car blogged the curb cut at the Lynn Street connection to the Mount Vernon Trail. This is the very Intersection of Doom that poses so much danger to cyclists and pedestrians. I yelled at the driver to move back as I passed him.

The fun continued on the trail. Every mile or so somebody decided to pass me as bike and pedestrian traffic approached from the opposite direction. Doesn’t it occur to these idiots that the reason I am waiting behind the bikes and walkers is so that I could pass them safely. On multiple occassions the bike passing me ended up swerving back to the right to avoid on-coming bikes. Kevin the @byclclebug on Twitter suggested that these aggressive riders were trying to set some sort of record on Strava.  They are going to get someone hurt. I won’t lose a lot of sleep if they hurt themselves.

As the MVT goes around the power plant it crosses a cantilevered bridge that is enclosed in a wire mesh fence. There are two bling turns to negotiate. As I approached the first turn, I rang my bell and hit my brakes. An on-coming bike tried to cut the blind corner and had to swerve to avoid hitting me. Set your Strava record somewhere else, a-hole. He very nearly crashed into the fence after his swerve. Too bad he missed.

In Old Town Alexandria I spotted a rarity: an Alexandria cop had pulled a car over. Finally!

Near Belle Haven Park, a motorcycle was lying on its side between the MVT and the George Washington Memorial Highway. It had a small trunk on the back. The lid of the trunk was in the grass a few feet beyond the bike. I hope the bike wasn’t involved in a crash.

Further south on the MVT, a boy of about sixth grade age served toward me as he approached. His mother called at him to pull over. Two near misses in one day. 

South of Old Town a mother and child were riding bikes in my direction, 

It’s BIke to Work Week. I can’t wait until some of these people get back in their cars. I need the elbow room.


No Mother. Yes Bike Ride, Elbow Later

My mother is in a better place. My wife is in upstate New York with our son. My daughter slept until noon. What should I do?

Big Nellie and I headed out for a flat ride. Yesterday was a bad day for my back so I planned on taking it easy. Within 2 miles my back loosened up and I was good to go. A bunch of #bikedc folk were headed out to a barbeque place on the W&OD bike trail. Most people around her go nuts over barbeque. I think it’s way overrated. (I have eaten at the barbeque place they were headed for. I’m sure it’s great barbeque. For somebody who likes barbeque.)

I rode through Old Town Alexandria and out King Street. Part of King Street is about to get bike lanes after a months long kerfuffle that even involved op ed pieces in the Wall Street Journal. (Pity the Journal’s readers. They can’t get it’s editorial head around the concept of public infrastructure. They probably oppose increases to the gas tax. May they drive over a bridge as it collaspses due to floods caused by man-made climate change.)

King Street, even on Sunday morning, is not a whole lot of fun to ride on. Once I crossed I-395, I jogged north a half mile to the W&OD trail. (Please note: it’s the Washington and Old Dominion Trail. Many people call it the WO and D. Dyslexia lives.)

Out the W&OD I rode against a gradual up grade. I didn’t see anyone I knew and figured the DC biking crowd was behind me. Some 10 miles later I pulled into Cafe Amouri in Vienna and there they were. A group of eight or so cyclists with the buzz of caffeine on their faces. 

I grabbed a Guatamalan coffee (this place makes excellent coffee, by the way) and chatted with the assembled wheelpersons. Most of them took off for barbeque, but Ed and Mary rode up the street a couple of blocks to Bikes at Vienna, the shop where I bought Big Nellie. The shop was closed until noon and this being just after 11 we decided it wasn’t worth waiting around for an hour when the roads were calling our names.

Ed and Mary headed back to DC on their Co-motion Tandem. The thing is huge. It looks like something the Defense Department would design. It’s got racks and bags and bike computers and couplers (so it can be broken down for shipping) and a new generator light and mounts for all sorts of other goodies. It probably cost more than my car. It probably rides better too.

I headed back on the trail, enjoying the 70 degree weather and the slight downhill. I avoided the Mount Vernon Trail on the way home. On days like this it is so congested as to be nearly useless. About four miles from home, I decided to tackle Beacon Hill. It is one of the nastiest climbs around these parts, which explains why I avoid it like the plague. 

After 45 miles I arrived home. Time to mow the lawn and get ready for Elbow at the 9:30 Club in DC. They gave an excellent show the last time they were in DC. Ed and Mary will be there too. Mary is an Elbowhead. (Don’t tell any body.)

National Park Police and Driver Incompetence Rule

Earlier this week a cyclist was hit on North Lynn Street in Rosslyn, Virginia while riding past the I-66 ramp. This is the intersection that cyclists have come to call the Intersection of Doom or, my prefered version, the Intersection of Death. Every month, without fail, a pedestrian or cyclist is run over here. Drivers are in a hurry to get through the intersection so that they can sit on Key Bridge to get into the Georgetown.

The incident in question is described in this report.  Let’s see how many ways this is messed up.

The cyclists was riding in a crosswalk. This is allowed by Virginia law. They can also ride on sidewalks. I know because I checked since I ride this crosswalk and the adjacent sidewalk nearly every day. A car turning right from the I-66 ramp hit the cyclist. Let’s give the driver the benefit of a doubt. Let’s assume they didn’t do this with intent. The driver is responsible for coming to a complete stop at the light. It is no more complicated than that. (It doesn’t matter that it was late at night. Or that people don’t like seeing cyclists roll through red lights or stop signs.) Then the driver may make a right turn on red when pedestrians are not present. A cyclist in a cross walk is acting as a pedestrian. The driver turned anyway.

The crosswalk is a red herring, of course. Drivers may not enter an intersection even on a green light when the intersection is occupied by another vehicle. (I was on a jury when this exact nuance was raised by a defendant.)  Again, there is no ambiguity,

I rode through this exact intersection in the dark and in daylight over 360 times last year. I can attest that drivers routinely run the red light to make right turns. They don’t stop. I have been nearly hit dozens of times from illegal right-turn-on-red drivers.

The report I linked to says that the driver did not get out of her vehicle. On what planet does this driver live. He or she nearly kills someone and sits in the car while the person on the ground is injured and in harms way.

Another driver yells at the victim.

The victim is taken to a local hopsital. While there a National Park Police officer gives her a ticket while she’s still in bed! What a compassionate law enforcement officer. The ticket was issued based on the driver’s account despite the fact the driver’s account is inadmissable in court because it is obviously biased. The officer could not take the cyclists account because she had a mild concussion. He could have asked if her what happened anyway. Her could have asked her if she had a photo of the scene. He did neither. Maybe it was time to go eat a doughnut. (Yes, this LEO has it coming.)

When my wife was run over by a car two years ago, the driver was cited for “failing to pay time and attention.” This driver should have received the same ticket as well as for making an illegal right turn on red.

I do hope the cyclist recovers fully from her injuries. I also hope she goes to court and gets the ticket reverse. I hope the presiding judge reads the cop the riot act for being both incompetent and inhumane.  Finally, I hope she sues the crap out of the driver. If she is rading this I will happily refer her to an attorney,

Finally, a personal message to Arlington County, VDOT, and whatever federal agency has jurisdiction for this intersection. Stop making excusses. Get off your bureaucratic asses and fix this intersection. Are you going to wait until someone dies?



Call Me “Duncan”

I awoke feeling pretty good. I stood with pretty decent posture. I even was able to do a full set of my physical therapy exercises. By the time breakfast was over, the pain and stiffness was creeping back in.

So I rode to work.

You knew that was coming.

It was a little chilly for shorts but I wasn’t about to screw around with putting wind pants on. I hopped on Big Nellie. Cold air be damned.

I expected to have tired legs but they seemed fresh. 

Pedal, pedal.

A bald eagle checked me out as I rode past the Belle Haven nest. Good morning, Mr. Apex Predator. 

Zipping down the little hill to Jones Point Park I spotted Nancy “Two Sheds” Duley climbing my way. 

I could read her mind. (“It’s Monday. The sun is shining. We’re riding bikes!)

The only bad part about the commute was the fact that I had to stop riding for work. I gotta work on that whole pay-me-to-ride thing. 

During work my back stiffened up. I walked around listing to the right. Yes, master.

When the whistle blew, I was back on the ‘bent.

Monday’s don’t suck when you have an evening tailwind. 

I cruised between 15 and 20 miles per hour most of the way home, leaning into turns like street luge. 


The bald eagle had given way to a pair of ospreys. 

The last mile brought dark clouds and an occasional sprinkle.

Home and dry.

Friday my back felt awful. Today was much better. I’ve been through this up and down thing about 15 times since first injuring my back in early February. Good. Bad. Good. Bad. My back’s a yoyo.

Call me “Duncan.”

Biking on Drugs

What a beautiful day. The weather that is. My back not so much.

After dawdling over the newspaper and eating some a muscle relaxant and an NSAID, I decided to go for a short, gentle bike ride on Big Nellie, my Tour Easy recumbent.

I loosely planned to check out some bald eagle nests along the Mount Vernon Trail, maybe grab some lunch in Old Town Alexandria and head back home.

Getting started hurt. A slight hill near home hurt. Then I loosened up and Big Nellie and I were cruising. My first stop was the nest in Fort Hunt Park. I spotted it from the MVT. In a few days as the trees leaf out, it will be very hard to find. There were no eagles about so I took a picture and then made a note of the landmarks nearby so that I can find the nest again. 

Bald Eagle Nest in Fort Hunt Park

I started up again. Ow. Once underway the pain subsided. I took the trail with all its curves and bridges and ups and downs all the way to the Morningside nest. The new bridges on the trail along this stretch are a terrific improvement over the cheap ones they replaced. 

At the Morningside nest I struck up a conversation with a photographer. It turns out that she is the same photographer that told me where the Fort Hunt Park nest is last summer. She’s a real bald eagle addict. She told me that both the Fort Hunt and the Morningside nests have eaglets. Three other nests, one along Spout Run in North Arlington, one south of Mount Vernon on Ferry Landing Road and the one at the Belle Haven country club, have been abandoned by bald eagles. The Belle Haven nest has been taken over by ospreys. She was going to Alaska for a cruise this summer. I mentioned that she’d be seeing a ton of bald eagles on her trip. She mentioned that she will be stopping in Haines. I told her to stop at the museum and say high to Rachel, one of my #bikedc friends who will be working there this summer.

After our talk, I headed north to Old Town. The traffic on the trail was pretty busy. The usual asshat MAMILs (middle aged men in lycra) were indulging their athletic fantasies by riding way too fast. One woman walker yelled at a close passing cyclist to slow down. He had it coming.

Under the Woodrow Wilson Bridge two little boys were showing off their bicycling skills for their moms. The rode their itty bitty two wheelers in tight circles, all the while having a blast. 

I rode through Old Town. Not yet hungry I decided to ride over to Del Ray to see if any food looked good. All the restaurants along Mount Vernon Boulevard had people eating outdoors. I was tempted by a couple of Mexican places but rode on.

I kept heading north through Arlandria, Crystal City, and Long Bridge Park, past the vast Pentagon parking lots and into DC across the Memorial Bridge. The tourists were out in droves. I resisted the urge to run them over. 

On a whim I made my way to Carpe Diem, the little used bookstore that Rachel had been working in.  I had a specific book in mind but,alas, it was too old and obscure. 

Next up was a side trip to Mount Vernon Square to check out the building that collapsed the other day. Only a few years ago, the streets of this neighborhood were lined with two and three story buildings. Now, most of them are gone, replaced by modern mixed use buildings. The streets were alive with young adults milling about. The collapsed building and the ones next to it looked utterly out of place among all the new buildings, one of which housed a “gentleman’s club.”

Collapsed Building in DC

Having satisfied my curiosity I worked my way back to Virginia. During my time in DC I saw literally dozens of women walking the streets carry yoga mats. You could make a decent living selling yoga mats around here.

Once in Virginia I turned south on the MVT. Normally on such a nice day, the trail is packed with runners, bladers, cyclists, and walkers. Today it was crowded but not enough to slow me down. South of the airport I saw a women on skates heading toward me. These weren’t rollerblades or traditional roller skates. Instead they had big skateboard style wheels, four to a skate. Must be a new thing.

Many of the cyclists were riding CaBi bikeshare bikes. In Old Town and for the next couple of miles I got stuck behind three groups of Bike and Roll customers riding their rental bikes south. The first two clusters of renta-riders had about ten people in them. Under the Wilson Bridge I encountered a line of close to 20 bikes. They were going slowly and Big Nellie (and my back) were feeling fine so I passed them in one go. This never happens, by the way.

Long Line of Rental Bikes under the WWB

The last three miles were a bit of a slog. I think my muscle relaxant was wearing off, but I made it home without any pain. The walk into the house reminded me of my back woes. I look like an 80-year old with osteoporosis.

So my little jaunt lasted 39 miles. Success through chemistry. 


Oh Doctor! Please Help Me. I’m Damaged.

I finally decided to stop trying to heal myself and go to a pain specialist, a physiatrist. His office is about 200 yards from my house as the crow flies. I, not being a crow, had to take the roads which made it 1/2 mile. I debated on whether to drive there which would entail getting in and out of the car. Given the fact that I was standing like Quasimodo, I thought it would be less painful to ride Big Nellie, my recumbent. It was less painful getting there but parking the damn thing nearly did me in. I had to find a street sign which was in a landscaped berm on a hill in the parking lot. (This is Fairfax County Virginia. We don’t do bike parking.)

Once in thedoctor’s office I filled out a stack of forms while sitting next to some pretty sorry looking patients. None of us was having much in the way of fun.

At exactly 10 am, my scheduled appointment time, I was taken through the door of relief. As the nurse weighed me she set the heavy weight on 150. I moved it to 200. She was surprised. I guess my skinny bikey legs threw her off. I weighed 212 pounds. Yes, I have gained some weight but I was wearing clothing and had pockets full of stuff and had just eaten breakfast and was still carrying dinner around. (Icky alert: back pain often causes constipation.) So on a good day I figure I’m in the 205 neighborhood which is to say 2 long bike rides from the Mendosa line. Vain? Moi?

The doctor came in stinking of gin.

Well, no. He was sober. He asked me what was going on and took extensive notes. Then he pushed and pulled on my legs and systematically examined my back one vertebra at a time. He spent well over 1/2 hour with me. He wrote down four possible diagnoses based on my story and my symptoms. Each has an associated treatment, Each treatment involves injecting something into the problem area. One of the diagnoses was for lumbago. I cracked up. The last time I heard the word lumbago was during an Alan King routine on Ed Sullivan. (“My lumbago is acting up.”)

The good doctor prescribed muscle relaxants and pain killers with tummy medicine so that I don’t end up making an offering to the porcelain god. He then sent me to the hospital for seven x-rays of my back. And submitted a request for approval of an MRI to my insurance company. This doctor is pressing all the right buttons with me.

I climbed on Big Nellie and rode around the corner to Mount Vernon Hospital. (Helpful real estate hint: if you have orthopedic issues buy a house 1/2 mile from an orthopedic hospital.) Miraculously I found a bike rack next to the emergency entrance. After locking up and going inside I discovered that radiology was on the other side of the building. So I hobbled through the corridors which helpfully are lined with rails for pathetic creatures just like me.

The registration clerk was a helpful 30-something guy who referred to me quaintly as “Buddy.” If I had a cane I would have clubbed the young whippesnapper. (Actually, he was saying it tongue in cheek so it was pretty funny.)

The radiology tech had me put on a gown. The first one came down to just below my personal area. She got a good laugh out of it. Not wanting to awe my hospital peeps with my awesome bikey legs I switched to a long gown and was taken immediately to the x-ray machine. (From bike to scan in ten minutes. Not bad!)

The tech was gentle and made sure I was in minimal discomfort. Having digital x-rays is great because the tech can tell if the picture is usable. We had to take 2 repeats probably because I spasmed during the exposure.

Ten minutes later I was on my way to the Hollin Hall drug store. The ride was two miles and it was not a lot of fun. My back was getting sorer by the minute. I had to wait ten minutes while Eun the pharmacist called the doctorand my insuranc company to cleared up some problems with my prescription. She was so good on the phone. (“He’s in a lot of pain.”) Thanks, Eun.

Back on the bike I rode back past the hospital to Sherwood Hall Gourmet to buy lunch. I didn’t have to order. They know I always have a Gary’s Lunchbox roast beef sammich. I rode home and celebrated five whole miles of biking. Then I told my boss that I wasn’t coming into the office. I would spend the day writing a paper for work at home. (To my surprise I actually knocked off a pretty good first draft.)

I can’t tell if the medicine is working but I can tell that I still can’t come close to standing upright. The weather is perfect for bike riding and I am sitting here on my deck wanting sooo much to go for a spin.

@bobbieshaftoe just tweeted “Who’s riding this weekend?”


I wanna cry.


“You’re Not Riding to Work Today, Are You?” – Part 432

After five inches of rain, the DC area was under a flood warning this morning. I expected that the Mount Vernon Trail would be submerged. It was, in places, but the water was never too deep for The Mule to wade on through. One thing that made it interesting was that the water wasn’t standing water; it was flowing away from the river. Dang.

Intersection of King and Union Streets, Old Town Alexandria 8 a.m.

There was an unfortunate complicating factor to my ride: my back was in spasm. So imagine Quasimodo on a bike with big red panniers on the back.

I know what you’re thinking: only an idiot would ride a bike to work along a river that was overflowing its banks while dealing with the pain of back spasms. I’m your dolt.

It was actually kind of fun. Except for the two times I dismounted along the way. Getting back on the bike hurt like hell.

Tomorrow morning I am going to see a physiatist. This sounds like a mental health professional but it’s actually a doctor who specializes in the treatment of chronic pain. I hope to convince the good doctor to fill a humongous syringe with cortisone and shoot my ass (actually my lower back) up.

A few more pix are over on my Flickr page.