My recent post about Lorena and our mutual friend Florencia has received far more readership than any previous post on this blog. Normally, this blog is about my bicycle escapades and is read by a modest audience in a handful of countries in any given week. In three days, the Lorena story has been accessed by hundreds of people in over 25 countries on six continents (come on, Antarctica, we’re waiting for you!) around the world. What a testimony to the power of love and friendship.
Most of the readers, I am sure, don’t know me from Adam. (Romania? Nepal? Malaysia?) They came here from seeing a link on Florencia’s Facebook page or from her cross-posting the link to the We Love Lore Memorial Facebook page. My hats off to the geeks who figured out this Internet thing. As my late father would say: you done good.
Over the last several days I have gotten to know more about Lorena through the testimonials on the Memorial page. My previous post simply did not do her justice. She was a force of nature. An indomitable spirit. And deeply beloved by so, so many people.
I am grateful to be able to spread the word through this crummy little blog of mine. Most importantly, many of these readers made a donation to Lorena’s memorial fund. Many, many thanks to you all. For those who might still want to contribute, here is the link again:
It’s been a depressing weekend. The weather has been amazing so I decided to spend my Sunday going for a hike and clearing my head.. I headed over to Great Falls Park in Maryland. (Note: if you drive to Great Falls Park in MD there is not much parking. Parking in the No Parking area along MacArthur Boulevard will cost you $60 if you get a ticket. I know. I got one today.)
I took a map and improvised a route. The Berma Road to the Overlook Trail to the towpath and the River Trail. At the far end of the River Trail, I turned around taking the towpath back to the Gold Mine Spur to the Gold Mine Trail to the Anglers Spur and back along the Berma Road. 5 miles plus. I took a wrong turn and it cost me the $60 parking ticket.
This route was much smoother than the other trails in the park. It was mostly a walk in the woods. I would have prefered more solitude but most park users are pretty respectful, whiny little kids notwithstanding.
I really enjoyed the River Trail, smooth and flat with excellent views of the river. The Gold Mine was mostly smoooth and somewhat hilly, but it passes through dense woods. I twice heard large animals moving about unseen off the trail. At one point, I came upon three deer eating. They weren’t at all bothered by me until my camera made an annoying sound. Then they bolted.
Back in the car, I drove home, turning on the radio for the first pitch of the Nationals last regular season game. It turned out to be the first no hitter I’ve seen. I think the boys are ready for the playoffs. Some more pix on my Flickr page.
Before Friday night’s baseball game began, I checked my Facebook page on my phone. I noticed that my friend Florencia had replaced her profile picture with a shot of her and her friend Lorena. The picture was taken at Flor’s birthday picnic a few weeks ago in Meridian Hill Park. Flor is sitting on her knees holding a small glass vase of white roses that I gave her. Lorena is sitting behind her to her side with an arm around her shoulder. The best of friends marking yet another special occasion together.
Lorena and Florencia have been friends for a long time. They are both from Argentina and they both came to the US to work as au pairs over 15 years ago. They shared the adventure of living in a new land and growing through young adulthood. Florencia’s Facebook page has literally dozens of pictures of Lorena and Florencia through the years. Lorena’s face always stands out, strinkingly beautful with an ever-present radiant smile.
Despite the fact that we both have been to several of the same social gatherings, I barely know Lorena. We always seem to be on the opposite side of the room or the picnic blanket. I know this much about her. She is someone Florencia loves to the bone. My sense is she is Flor’s older sister, confidant, mentor, protector, cherished friend. It has always been my intent to talk to her but for whatever reason it just never happens.
As I left the birthday picnic and rolled up my blanket, I looked over at Lorena and realized that once again I had not had the chance to talk with her. “Next time for sure,” I thought.
There will be no next time.
On Thursday night, Lorena Gimenez, loving mother, wife, daughter, sister, and friend, died. She was struck by a Fairfax Connector bus as she was walking home from the Huntington Metro station.
She is the fifth person, all women, of my acquaintance who has been hit by a motor vehicle in the last 2 1/2 years in the DC area.
I am no stranger to sudden death of people before their time. It never gets easier. The shock is always there. Every time I’ve spontaneously said “Oh, no. It can’t be.”
Yet it can.
My condolences to Lorena’s husband and daughter and to her parents, sister, and friends.
Lorena’s friends are asking for donations to help defray the cost of her memorial service. The costs will likely be substantial since they include flying her parents and sister up from Argentina. If you would like to help, please make a donation at the link below. Any amount would help.
Friday means only one thing: Friday Coffee Club. Unfortunately, late September means DARK. I left before 7 am with my Light and Motion Stella light strapped to my helmet. This is my fourth season using the Stella. It seems to work just as well as when I bought it too. Light and Motion makes good stuff.
Since I was going to the night game at Nationals Park, I rode The Mule which has conventional pedals. This way I didn’t have to wear shoes with cleats. It was my first commute on The Mule in at least three months. It felt totally weird soon I was dialed in.
The ride in was uneventful. Your usual beautiful spin along the Potomac River. Over the river on the 14th Street Bridge, through the tourists at the Washington Monument, up the 15th Street cycletrack, and across the Pennsylvania Avenue plaza in front of the White House.
The tables outside Swings were packed with #bikeDc folks, including to my delight Elizabeth who rode the 50 States Ride with me this year. It’s always great to see new people at Friday Coffee Club.
Ellizabeth at the near head of the table presides over Friday Coffee Club
Ed, Mary, and I had made a date to attend the night game at Nationals Park. I paid Ed for my ticket and rode off to work resplendent in my Anthony Rendon Number 6 Nats shirt.
At 5 I was out of work like a rocket. This would likely be my last game of the year. I rode along the river to the 14th Street bridge, through East Potomac Park, over the Case Bridge to L’Enfant Promenade, then wound my way to I street and its smooth pavement and clearly marked bike lanes. Signs directed me straight to the bike valet at the ballpark. What a great idea.
I ate what passed for dinner and took my seat. Ed and Mary arrived a bit late. They were delayed because they needed to get their gear ready to drive to the Seagull Century on the Eastern Shore of Maryland before dawn on Saturday.
The game was a romp for the visiting team but we had a good time hanging out and talking baseball and bikes. At about 11, game over (Marlins 15, Nats 7) I hopped on The Mule for the ride home. The air was dry and calm with temperatures in the mid 60s. Once I cleared the area near the ballpark, the roads were all but empty. I calmly rode the 18 or 19 miles home. Best bike commute ever!
I walked in the house at 12:38, 18 hours after I left.
I’ve signed up for the Backroads Century three or four times before this year. I have always ended up riding the metric century, 100 kilometers or 62 miles, instead of the 100-mile version. Kirstin, aka Ultrarunnergirl, persuaded me to ride the 100 miles this year. So we did.
Backroads is the annual big event of the Potomac Pedalers riding club. The ride starts and stops in Berryville Virginia in the Shenandoah Valley. To say that this area is pretty is to do it a gross disservice. Numerous times during the ride my jaw dropped open at the beauty of the hills and farms (I am a sucker for a field filled with big rolls of hay). The terrain is also damned near perfect. The hills, at least for most of the ride, are perfect for hill hopping, speeding down one hill and using the momentum to ride up the next. The narrow roads curve around farms and through corn fields and, well words don’t do them justice.
The weather was damned near perfect. I wore arm wamers and a vest for the first 25 miles, then put them away for the rest of the day. Temperatures rose throughout the day. Just as they seemed to get oppressive, the skies opened up for a two-minute cool down at mile 95. The weather gods could not have timed it better.
I’d never ridden most of the first 50 miles which wind their way north from Berryville into Jefferson County West Virginia in the eastern panhandle. The ride was hilly but I had fresh legs so they didn’t bother me in the least. Kirstin wore the teeth off her granny gear spinning like a fiend. Once, much later in the ride, in a burst of insanity she actually got out of the saddle and attacked a hill. For a few brief moments she was flying. Lordy!
For much of the time we rode separately, but I’d soft pedal or wait at a turn on the top of the hill to bring us back together. She had a light on the front of her bike which helped me pick her out among the long line of cyclists.
On the way to the first rest stop at mile 25, we were past by Rudi, a Friday Coffee Clubber. Rudi broke his femur earlier in the year so it was great to see him zipping along. He had a huge smile as he greeted me in passing. Joy. Next came Lawyer Mike, another Friday Coffee Clubber, resplendent in his Dartmouth kit. Lawyer Mike was all business, all sweat and determination. Not messin’ ’round, dude.
We rode back to the start to finish the first half. Kirstin went to her car to get her lunch; I went to mine to get new batteries for my camera. We reconvened at the rest stop across the street where we ran into Elizabeth, fresh off her rookie triumph in the 50 States Ride. She somehow had ridden the same 50 miles as us but we never saw her on the road.
After lunch Kirstin and I went back out for another 50, this time south of Berryville. We had both ridden this course before in previous years. I recalled it as hillier than the first 50 and I was right. The hills and the increasing temperature made for more determined work but we were up to the task at hand. Bigger hills meant less hill hopping and more grinding it out.
The second half has three rest stops. One had potatos boiled in salty water. Another had tomato and cucumber sammiches. Ride? Do I have to?
We were plodding along, feeling pretty confident of completing the ride despite the now uncomfortable heat. I spotted a sprinkler on the side of the road and then heard a popping sound all along the road. Enormous raindrops were falling from the only cloud in the sky. Big sloppy drops going splat on the road. What a perfect cool down! I was comfortably wet as I rode under a leavy canopy across the road when the road began an upbrupt ride. It was the steepest, hardest hill of the day. Riders up the road struggled. Been here, done this, got this. No problemo. I waited for Kirstin at the top. When you have infinite cardiovascular capacity, you smile as you crest the hilly beast!
Our reward was a fast glide down to the Shenandoah for a brief riverside cruise. Every down has its up and we climbed away headed for the finish. Once clear of the hill a tailwind pushed us home. My guess is that we rode our fastest miles of the day from mile 96 to mile 98.
We finished after 90 percent of the riders had left. Kirstin somehow found some chips and quac. I found my ride t-shirt and all was right with the world.
If you are thinking about doing this ride, I’d recommend it with one reservation. The people of Clark County,Virginia clearly do not welcome this event. They scowl at you. They drive agressively past you well within the legally required three feet. The sheriff all but declared war on cyclists rolling through stop signs. (Yes, it’s illegal but he could just as easily have directed traffic to allow participants’ safe passage.) It’s surprising to me that they don’t raise a banner in town that says “Cyclist go home!” The contrast with the people in Jefferson County, West Virginia was obvious. They waved and seemed genuinely happy to see us out on the road.
Congratulations to Ultrarunnergirl for completing her first century.
I recently found out that there is a ride for kids coming up. It goes from Jones Point Park, over the Woodrow Wilson Bridge, down a spiral ramp, around a cove, over an unpaved trail along the river to National Harbor. This is fun for an adult. It will be a gas for a kid. So if you have a kid and a bike, check out the Kidical Mass Alexandria ride to National Harbor.
If you think “My kid can’t do that” consider this. My son did 13 miles of Bike DC in the rain when he was 10. He also did the Tour du Port, 20 miles on the streets of Baltimore at the same age. He had only a one-speed bike but he didn’t care. He was so proud of himself. He had a blast. Give your kid a chance to have a blast and do the Kidical Mass ride from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Sunday, September 28.
I am not one to get involved in bicycle advocacy. I am not good at it and feel uncomfortable doing it. Every once in a while I go to a meeting and speak my mind. Tonight on the way home from work I met two bike advocates from the Alexandria Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee. They were handing out materials along the Mount Vernon Trail just north of Old Town.
They gave me a couple of handouts. One was a plea to cyclists not to blow through stop signs in Old Town. I whole hearted agree with this, although I do think that Old Town overuses stops signs which invites cyclists and drivers to disregard them much as drivers once tuned out the national 55-mile-per-hour speed limit. A few yield signs would not harm pedestrian safety.
Speaking of yield, the handouts would have been more credible if they had not spelled yield as YEILD (in caps). Ugh.
The handouts also suggest using Royal Street as a north/south route through Old Town to avoid congestion. When I head north to work in the morning, I avoid Royal Street for a number of reasons:
To get to South Royal, I have to make a sharp left turn after some bollards at the base of a hill to go under the Wilson Bridge. Also, I have to avoid curbs that are excessively large and perform no apparent useful purpose. In the dark or shade, they are hard to see.
Once I cross under the Wilson Bridge I have to ride up on the sidewalk to follow the trail around a security gate. The sidewalk has a bollard in it, because “In Bollards We Trust” is the official motto of the Wilson Bridge design team.
After the bollard the trail goes back to the street via a curb cut. In the morning this is the end of the drop off line for St. Mary of the Holy SUV School. Kids are getting out of cars, carline helpers are directing them and the SUVs> It’s just a recipe for somebody getting nailed.
Once I clear that mess and get on South Royal I have to deal with a back up of SUVs (and a few mnivans and BMWs). The drivers are in a hurry to get to work and are spread all over the street making biking unsafe. (Not to put too fine a point on it but whoever thought this was a good idea is an idiot.)
The alternative on Union Street involves no sharp turn after the bollards allowing me to maintain speed from the downhill.
The ride under the bridge and over to Union Street is pretty and one of the nicest stretches of the Mount Vernon Trail.
Unlike Royal Street, Union has no traffic, no traffic lights, and only a handful of stop signs. (It does have the occassional speeding car but Alexandria police can’t be bothered with cars in Old Town for some reason.)
You get to see the river and sunrises and the occassional famous person.
In the evening Union vs. Royal is a toss up. On the weekends I prefer Royal because King and Union can be a mess of humanity.
I tried to use the interactive map the city provides for comments but it was not very useful. A good try but no cigar. I tried to send ABPAC an email but alas gmail says the email address they provided me is no good. (Update Sept. 18: my email finally did go through. I have no idea what the problem was. If you have a comment, pet peeve or praise, send it to ABPAC or the city government. They hear from grabby Old Town residents all the time. I am sure they’d love to hear from you.)
Alexandrians who don’t ride bicycles don’t get the concept of riding for basic transportation. They just don’t. And the city officials still don’t. Here are two simple examples. In the 400 block of North Union, homeowners often park their cars perpendicular to the curb so that other parkers do not block their driveways. Sometimes these perpendicular cars block the sidewalk. More often they obstruct the bike lane cause cyclists to merge with car traffic that is not expected them. I have never (and I am talking about over 20 years) seen a ticket on one of these cars. This tells the homeowners that the city condones obstructing the bike lane; that bicycles are second-class.
In the 200 block of North Union Street is one of the first sharrows in the city. It is placed on the right of the road, directing cyclists into parked cars. You’d think that after ten years the city would get rid of it. I like to think of it as a monument to Alexandria’s official ambivalence to cycling.
For these reasons and more I think the League of American Cyclist should take away Alexandria’s Bicycle Friendly City award and replace it with its first Bicycle Ambivalent City Award.
I think progress in Alexandria will continue to be slow and sometimes frustrating but I applaud Randy and Erin for their efforts today. I really do. If you want to help, you can check out the city’s bike ped plan at http://www.alexandriava.gov/pedbikeplan or atttend the public meeting at the Minnie Howard School Library ay 3801 West Braddock Road on September 30 at 7 pm. Ironically, the school is located in one of the least bike friendly parts of town.
The Fifty States Ride is an event put on each September by the Washington Area Bicyclists Association (WABA). The ride covers every nook and cranny of Washington DC so that participants can ride their bikes on every street named for a state. I’d done the ride six times: 2006, 2007, 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013. In 2006 and 2007, the ride was held in the sweltering heat of August. WABA moved the ride into September but the 2010 ride had all the heat and humidity of the August rides. Last year it poured buckets for the last hour. No matter what the weather, riders have to be prepared to climb a dozen (probably more, I lose track) hills. Every few blocks, riders come to a stop sign or red light, making for sore hands from so much braking.
When I lived in Boston, I drove a cab during the sunmers. The only part of the city my college friends knew, was the half mile around the subway stops they used. The same happens in every city. DC-area residents know the area near work and home, and a few other often frequented parts of town. The rest is a mystery. Riding the Fifty States ride gives a cyclist the chance to experience the entire city, warts and all.
Getting to know the city is a plus, but the real secret to the Fifty States Ride is the fact that all the starting and stopping all but forces riders to sociallize. I’ve met dozens of people because of this ride and they represent an incredible breadth of humanity. Students, writers, scientists, lawyers, educators, police officers, librarians. Black, white, asian, latino. Young and old. Incredibly fit and not so much.
A Plan Falls Apart
My friend Florencia and I have never done the entire ride together, In 2007 she abandoned me in the oppressive heat of Rock Creek Park. In 2011, she took off after we reached the lunch stop. So the plan was to ride the entire route together. Then life interceded and she had to cancel. Sad face. As it turns out, her friend Emilia had signed up but didn’t know anybody. So I agreed to ride with her.
I drove to my office in Rosslyn and rode the 3 1/2 miles to Adams Morgan in DC for the ride start. While waiting for Emilia, I started talking with Lorraine, a first-time rider who was having some anxiety about getting lost. I invited her aboard the Rootchopper Bike Bus. Next I spotted Emilia. As I introduced Lorraine, she said she was my “daughter” so I introduced Emilia as my wife. Instead of adopting a son, we added Jeremy Cannon, the son of Bob (Don’t Call Me Rachel) Cannon. Bob was marshalling the shorter 13 Colonies ride. I did the Great Pumpkin Ride with Father and Son Cannon last October. Then we added rookies Kristen and Elizabeth with whom I did the Backroads ride last September. Up stepped John Roche, Mr. Hoppy 100. Dave Salovesh, man with the Green Bay Packers bike, joined in. (It had belt drive. You gotta have belt drive in your group!) We tried to draft Rachel (Don’t Call Me Bob) Cannon, but she had commited to riding with Ursual Sandstorm who was a volunteer ride marshall and her friend Jordan. So we went into the draft and picked a ringer: Friday Coffee Clubber, Michael Brunetto a man who knows DC like the back of his bicycling gloves. From my pix, I can see we were joined by a tenth rider, a woman in green, whose name I neglected to get.
Leading Is Overrated
Kristen decided that we should leave before the formal ride start. This turned out to be a great idea because it meant that we avoided the usual congrested roads for the first 10 miles. Since I was the grizzled veteran I was dubbed the point man for our group. I nearly missed the first turn, so Michael grabbed the reins and off we went spiralling through DC neighborhoods and downtown.
Despite gray skies, there were smiles all around as we picked off states in quick succession without much effort. We skirted a 5K race near the Mall, and zipped over Capitol Hill and into Southwest DC. The route took us to East Potomac Park where the friskier riders among us sped away. We regrouped at a public restroom and headed for Maine, crossing the path of the riders who had started after us.
We rode past Nationals Park where Emilia proudly told me that three of her Venezuelan countryman (Ramos, Cabrera, and Lobeton) were on the ballclub. Go Nats! Go wife!
I led the posse through the confusion of near Southeast, through an alley, and over the Souza Bridge. We hit the pit stop in Anacostia Park, chatted with some friends and headed out for the first hills of the ride. We climbed Martin Luther King, Junior Avenue. It was a bit of a shock as the climbers among us got their ya yas out. All I could think of was: this ride is going to suck if I don’t get my legs in order. The next climb came a mile later on Stanton Road. By this point my legs were loose and I made a decent showing of things. Our climbing contingent – Elizabeth (QOM), Justin, Michael, and Jeremy- put us to shame but they kindly waited at the top for the rest of us.
On the way to Texas a woman riding ahead of us almost took a wrong turn. It was the first of many wrong turns we witnessed and thwarted throughout the day. We zoomed down Massachusetts Avenue (a real thrill on the 20 inch wheels of Little Nellie, my Bike Friday) and headed back to Anacostia Park.
My peeps were pretty happy to arrive at the Eastern Market rest stop for lunch. Our rookies were smiling so we knew that the pace was reasonable. We took our time and steeled ourselves for the second half.
Staying Off Track
The route took is through the eastern side of Capitol Hill which combined flat roads with numerous turns. As we headed northward, we encountered a closed road. I took us down H Street which has trolley tracks right where we would be riding. At the next cross street, I dismounted and walked across the tracks, fearful that our entire posse might catch a rail and fall. (This is not a good road design, folks!)
The climbers took off up the steep hill on Mt. Olivet Road. They waited for the rest of us to pull up the rear. We crossed over the railroad and US 50 in pursuit of scary North Dakota Avenue. The gray skies had given way to a light rain. I was grateful that the traffic was light and we made it unscathed to Taylor Street. Soon we were riding busy Michigan Avenue and lucked out again with light traffic.
After riding past Catholic University we were treated to Hawaii Avenue, another big climb. We plodded on undaunted. The rookies were holding it together. The rabbits were humoring by waiting at the top of each climb.
Zig, zag, pedal, pedal. We made good work of long stretches in Northwest, as the rain started coming down hard. Jackets came on. Lorraine and a bunch of other riders from other posses headed back home. The rest of the crew plowed ahead, thankful to reach the Tacoma rest stop at the home of Mike and Lisa. For some reason, Mike gets a kick out of my Twitter name, Rootchopper. Last year he stood on his porch shouting ROOTCHOPPER as I rolled in. This year, he had a banner up that said “Hail Rootchopper!” It’s nice to be loved.
As I walked around at the rest stop, a funny thing occured to me: this is the best I have felt after 50 miles of biking ever. I felt like I could have ridden for hours and hours more. This soon would fade into memory.
The Rookies Start to Work
After the rest we climbed to Alaska and flew down into Rock Creek Park. On Beach Drive we saw a woman rider on the ground with several riders looking on. They had called an ambulance so we left her in their hands.
On the west side of the park we rode into Chevy Chase, the high rent district. Yes, there were more hills. The Rookies were starting to ask, “Are we there yet?” Shut up and climb.
The route differs from year to year. One of this year’s new wrinkles was 36th Street. It is a pretty little windy street with dense tree cover. And bumps. And a steep hill. Ugh. My wife wanted a divorce. When she reached the top of the hill she had a big smile on her face, but then she said “My legs were gone.” Fortunately, the final rest stop had coffee which seemed to revive her. For the climb up Wisconsin Avenue. Ugh.
Is Arizona a State?
After riding past American University, we rode downhill, picking up newly paved Arizona Avenue, and giving up all our climbing work from 36th and Wisconsin. After a flat stretch on MacArthur Boulevard, it was payback time. With five miles to go we rode up Ashby, up 49th Street, then up the sadistically steep Garfield Street. My wife had given up pn divorce; instead she wanted to kill me in my sleep.
After recoveinrg, we forged ahead. This neck of the woods is called Cathedral Heights. To get there you have to go….up. Emilia was one hurting unit but still she climbed. What a warrior. Finally, we crested the heights and made the gradual ride back down to the start. Of course, it wouldn’t be loads of fun without riding on busy Connecticut Avenue. A ride marshall (Rod Smith, perhaps) had taken the left lane in preparation for the left hand turn onto Calvert Street. We followed his lead.
We arrived at the after party with big smiles on our faces. We were triumphant. Photo ops with our hard-earned ride shirts were taken. Beer was imbibed. Other riders arrived. Rachel and Jordan and Ursula appeared with had big smiles. Fists were pumped. Riders were hugged. Faces wore satified smiles.
Very big thanks to the folks at WABA, especially Michelle Cleveland, who works for months putting this ride together. Thanks to the volunteers, especially Mike and Lisa, who literally opened their home to us.
Thanks to Flor for getting me to ride this again. I missed you.
Thanks to the posse. To Lorraine, Dave, John, Justin, Kristen, Elizabeth, and Jeremy. Thanks to Michael who refused to let me get us lost! And special thanks to my new friend Emilia, mi esposa por un dia. Muchas gracias, senorita.