Cold Car Care

“The car won’t turn when it’s cold outside.”

I’ve been hearing these words from my wife and daughter now for over a year. I took the car in to the dealer who wanted $3,000 to fix the steering. For a ten-year old car. I don’t think so.  I could use this as an excuse to buy a new car but the entire family likes how the old heap drives. And other than a few dents and scrapes from my daughter’s first year of driving, it’s in pretty decent shape.

Bob “Don’t Call Me Rachel” Cannon gave me the name of his mechanic in Arlington to try. So I did. The mechanic has formulated some theories as to what is wrong but can’t test them with temperatures above 40 degrees. Lucky for me it’s supposed to be really cold tomorrow.

So I drove the car to work with Little Nellie in the boot. After work I drove to the mechanic with instructions to check out the car first thing in the morning. If it’s cold enough they should be able to determine if it needs a new power steering pump, hose, o-rings, or (fingers crossed) more. 

Once I dropped the car off, I took off for home on Little Nellie. It was cold. Rain and snow approached. Onward!

I dreaded the ride. I thought I would freeze. Fortunately, I guessed right on my clothing selection and was toasty the entire way. I stopped at the W&OD Trail and Columbia Pike to get a reflective vest and some blinky lights. I intend to give them away to a friend who shall remain anonymous until the next paragraph.

Tomorrow morning will be the coldest morning since early April. I plan to go to Friday Coffee Club early to introduce my friend Flor to some folks, something I have been trying and mostly failing at for seven years. Once she gets to know this motley crew, she may never talk to me again.

Coffeeneuring Wrap Up 2014

I finished the 2014 Coffeeneuring Challenge with a weekend to spare, thanks to some super nice Veterans Day weather. Here’s the run down of my seven excursions.

Veterans Day Coffeeclub

Trip No. 1: This trip was facilitated by a gift certificate that was burning a whole in my wallet for two months. The Grounded Coffee Shop was a fun, family friendly place located on one of the least bike friendly roads in Fairfax County. The coffee was good. The soup was outstanding. The bike parking non-existent. Still I’ll go back if only to finish off my rest of my gift certificate.

Trip No. 2: Back in my New England days I lived on Dunkin Donuts coffee and chocolate chip cookies. So I thought I’d give it another go during the challenge. Maybe my tastes have changed but I thought the coffee was lousy. Not a very good choice. Sorry, Dunks. I;m over you.

Trip No. 3: Bread and Water is a new bakery next to my local bike store. It’s kind of a discombobulated shop but they make excellent bread and the coffee gets a passing grade. This one is worth checking out. It’s about 1/2 mile off the Mount Vernon Trail in the Belle View Shopping center.

Trip No. 4: I had intended to go to Old Town to eat some fish and chips. By the time I got there, my stomach had changed its mind. So I walked across the street to Bittersweet Bakery. It took forever to pay for the privilege of serving myself watered down Swings coffee. Skip this one.

Trip No. 5: Peet’s has expanded into the suburban car nightmare known as Hybla Valley. This is what they call Mount Vernon when you get away from the trees and hit Richmond Highway. I can’t say that Peet’s is bad coffee. The place had a decent enough vibe, but the area is soulless and worth avoiding.

Trip No. 6: Mount Vernon may be the home of George Washington but the food court there needs some decent coffee STAT. Not a bad ride though.

Trip No. 7: This was more like it. All my other Coffeeneuring excursions had been solo affairs. Bob “Don’t Call Me Rachel” Cannon decided to post a coffee get togther on Veteran’s Day morning at St. Elmo’s Coffee Pub. I really like the vibe of this place. The neighborhood is very bike friendly too. They even have a bike corral on the street in front of the shop. The coffee’s not bad either.

Coffeeneuring on Veteran’s Day

Today was my last coffeeneuring ride of the challenge and it turned out to be the best one of the seven. Bob “Don’t Call Me Rachel” Cannon invited folks to meet up at St. Elmo’s Coffee shop in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria. It gave me a good excuse to get out of bed and get something useful out of an odd Tuesday off from work.

Veterans Day Coffeeclub

It was in the 30s when I left the house but warmed up very quickly on the 45 minute ride to Del Ray. Big Nellie got the call because my neck was barking at me yesterday. It was an effortless ride and my mind just blanked during most of it.

By the time I reached the coffee shop I was warmed up. Bike commuter Dana was already there and taking in the sun over coffee outside. So I grabbed a house coffee, a couple of cookies and a blueberry muffin and joined him. Other folks started arriving shortly thereafter. A few folks came and went but about eight people hung out for an hour as the temperatures rose into the 60s. Bob’s wife Liz brought her dog named Evil. He seemed pretty good hearted to me. Rod Smith had come from Maryland pulling an huge flatbed trailer. I met Sara and Bomber (I think) who were prepping to drive up to Sugarloaf for a 50 mile ride. Steve O was there too. As was Kathy the godmother of social bike riding in Arlington.

After way too much coffee we went our separate ways. The thought of hanging on my deck in the sun one last time before winter’s chill arrived was more tempting than the prospect of a lengthy bike ride, so I headed home.

Along the way I saw evidence of a car mishap that must have been pretty interesting.

This must have been an interesting event

Tomorrow we get one more warm day before it’s time to break out the woolies. Thanks autumn, I had a blast.

Coffeeneuring Check List

Place: St. Elmo’s, 2300 Mt. Vernon Ave, Del Ray, Alexandria VA

Drink: House roast. Tasty but two tall cups was too much. I’m all jittery.

Observation: There is a bike corral on the street directly in front of the shop. Very good accomodations. Also, an art bike rack to the side of the front of the shop.

MIles: 15.5

Photo op:

Veterans Day Coffeeclub

Let’s Play Thermonuclear Bike Commute

I was having a pretty good go of things today. The ride in was a tad chilly but entirely comfortable. The Mule didn’t complain a bit. The ride home was going okay when I came upon beaucoup police and fire activity on South Union Street in Old Town. My photo makes it look like a thermonuclear event but I am pretty sure it wasn’t. I didn’t glow or anything like that as I rode past. Seriously, I hope the activity wasn’t the result of a pedestrian or cyclist being hit by a car.


Coffeeneuring with George Washington Foodcourt

I waited to long to go on my bike ride today. You see, last night I attended a bike poster art thing called Artcrank in DC. There were bike themed posters on display. They were very creative. As it turns out, my favorite was from Friday Coffee Club member Aaron. His poster was called No Bad Day and it showed a bike rider in silouette, half riding in foul weather and half in fair. It reminded me of my running days. My wife would look out the window and say, the weather sucks. My response would invariably there is no bad weather for a run. And out I would go.

The real highlight of the Artcrank event was the fact that there were 20 or 30 #bikedc people I knew there. (No way I’m naming names since I would surely leave some out.) And I met several people who I hope to see again soon. I’d say the first edition of Artcrank DC was a big, big success.

Aaron, is a year round, indefatigable bike commuter. He commuted in Minneapolis which is either badass or insane. Or, actually, both. We were talking with beer cans in their cozies in our hands when he mentioned that the cozies make excellent toe warmers for winter cycling. This is either badass or insane, but it is an economical (actually free) alternative to the stupid toes covers I bought a couple of years ago. They lasted all of two weeks before shredding.

Cozy toes? We'll soon find out

I put them on today but it wasn’t cold enough to make a difference. I’ll get another chance soon enough. (There is of course the possibility that Aaron was putting me on. I am unshamable, however.)

Fort Hunt Park never disappoints in the fall

My ride today was my sixth coffeeneuring ride. I decided to roll down to Mount Vernon and check out the food court. I’ll bet you didn’t know George Washington invented the food court. He was badass, too. On the way I took a lap around Fort Hunt Park. The trees in the park were a little past peak but they still impressed with their bold colors.

New bridge on the Mount Vernon Trail

Further down river on the Mount Vernon Trail I came upon a brand new bridge. This is really quite nice and was much needed. Thank you, National Park Service.

SS Minnow found at last

Just past the bridge I came upon a boat parked at the river bank behind some yellow tape. It could have been the S.S. Minnow, but maybe not.

Coffeeneuring No. 6: MV Foodcourt coffee

The food court was ‘Merica. Burgers and fries and pizza and other things that didn’t make my nose too happy. I bought a decaf coffee and a soft pretzel. The pre-ride coffee I made with my new coffee maker was more better by far. The soft pretzel was salty and took up sufficient space in my digestive tract that it might be classified as actual food.

The ride home along the river was lovely. It had warmed up a bit while I was decaffeinating and so it was quite comfortable.

Chain love with the Nellies

Back at home I had a chain lube party with my three favorite bikes. They are my favorites because they are the only three I have.

Coffeeneruing Rap Sheet

Place: Mount Vernon estate food court at the end of the Mount Vernon Trail

Drink: House decaf as bland as coffee gets

Miles: 13

Observation: There used to be a Starbucks in the foodcourt but now it’s just generic weak joe. The coffeeneuring pickings sure are few and far between in SE Fairfax County. The ride, however, is pretty darn nice.

Fresh Air for the Win!

I wanted to go for a hike today. Unfortunately, 150+ miles of bike commuting put the kabosh on any hopes for a long excursion. I needed to do some errands anyway. Why not jump in the car and have a miserable time? No? Well,  I needed to break in my new shoes so I decided to hoof it to the barber shop. It was perfect weather for this sort of thing. The shoes took a little getting used to but they are a vast improvement over my other footware.

The barber did his thing, all the while telling me about his airship fetish. He’s going to decorate a Christmas tree with airship decorations. Let’s hope it doesn’t go all Lakehurst on him.

Who needs sidewalks?

From the barber shop I decided to truck on over to pedestrian hostile US 1 to buy a new coffeemaker. My old one had sprung a leak about a week ago. So I made my way north-ish on Fort Hunt Road. The sidewalk disappeared leaving me facing oncoming cars. Oh, joy.

After a couple of blocks though a side path appeared. This is what Fairfax County calls a trail. It is asphalt and tree routes. A total mess. It was better than walking on the unpaved shoulder of the road.

Leaf Riot

If you’re going to take your life into your hands you can at least admire some pretty fall foliage. The DC area is just past peak foliage but there is still much to ooh and aah at. Lucky for me there is a sidewalk on at least one side of Sherwood Hall Lane. I used it. After about a mile, I made it to a cross walk only a block from where my wife was run over in 2010. After looking both ways, I started crossing. I got about half way across when an approaching motorist honked at me. I stopped and turned at him and mouthed saucy epithets.

Safely across the street I made my way closer to US 1. About a block away, the concrete sidewalk gave way to crappy asphalt on dirt. Why can’t one of the wealthiest suburb in the US build proper sidewalks?

Memorial to fallen pedestrian

To cross US 1 in a crosswalk and make it to a continuous sidewalk I had to take a left through a crosswalk on my sidestreet, take another left to use the crosswalk to traverse US 1, take ANOTHER left to cross the re-cross the sidestreet to get to the continuation of the sidewalk. Along the way I saw a memorial for a pedestrian who was killed (by a Fairfax County police officer driving a police car, no less). When I got across US 1 I gave up on the 3rd crosswalk and just used the street. There you have it. Someone gets killed and they still can lift a finger to make an intersection safe for pedestrians.

I made may way through the parking lots to the store and bought my coffee maker. I took a different route back. Along the way I encountered an intersection that had been recently stiped and paved. Not a single cross walk to be seen. HOW HARD IS IT, VDOT?

Division of labor

I made it home and saw that Mrs. Rootchopper had come outside to do battle with the yard. She seems to like raking leaves. There are plenty more so come on down and help her out. I am sure you’ll have a blast. (In the division on labor at the Rootchopper Institute, I do lawns and snow shoveling.)

So I walked about 5 miles. The verdict on my shoes is thumbs up. They aren’t perfect but they are quite a bit more comfy that my old Dunham boots. I hope to give them another go on Tuesday or maybe next weekend. Oh, and the coffeemaker does the job.

New coffee maker - yay!

Deer, Sticker, and Regulars

i voted

Yesterday dawned with a nip in the air. Wait. Who am I kidding? It was downright cold. cold. Fortunately, it was the first day of standard time so the rising sun had warmed things up a bit before I left the house. I took my winter route, which shaves about a mile off my commute by riding diagonally across the Hollin Hall neighborhood rather than around it. Even with the warmer air, my face was covered in tears as my eyes rebelled against the cold wind.

With apologies to the late George Carlin (is that as opposed to the early George Carlin?) , the forecast for the evening commute was DARK. Dang. I nearly steered off the bike path a couple of times. And the headlights in my eyes from the cars travelling north on the GW Parkway weren’t a whole lot of fun either. Then there was the rider who came up behind me with a flashing  death ray mounted on his bike.

Dark. Solar flare. Dark. Solar flare. Dark. Solar flare.

It’s always helpful to have burned out retinas when commuting at night.

South of Old Town, a young deer jumped out of the trailside shrubs and bounded across my path. In all my years of bike commuting I have only once hit a critter. It was a squirrel whose tail buzzed the spokes of my front wheel. The squirrel survived the encounter. I think making contact with a deer might not turn out so well for me.

I noticed recently that the “I voted” sticker on my helmet was weathered. Lucky for me, today is Election Day. I rode Big Nellie to my polling place and picked up a new one. (It’s always fun to ride my humongous recumbent to the polling place. It’s like saying, “I ride a lounge chair and I vote!”) Oh, and I voted. I wonder if more people would vote if they gave out pumpkin spice lattes or cheesecake.

The ride to work was not as cold as yesterday but the tears in my eyes were back. The tears might have something to do with the fact that I hit 34 miles per hour bombing down the hill from Park Terrace Drive. Weeee.

As I ride in these days I am monitoring the progress of a pregnant runner. She started showing a couple of weeks ago. Lately she’s been walking a bit. Today she had on a Purdue sweatshirt. I forgot that under my vest I had a Butler t-shirt. Who’s yur kawledge?

Another new regular on the trail is Smiling New Mom. She runs southward as I ride north, pushing a superduper pram with a near-toddler inside. Mornin’ Mom. The kid is so cute.

Today’s calvalcade of trail users also included Hoppy Guy, the Three Step Runner, Nancy “2 Sheds” Duley, and CAL.  Hoppy Guy is a runner with a bad knee. Three Step Runner is a woman who runs three paces then walks then runs three paces, etc. Nancy “2 Sheds” Duley is a #fridaycoffeeclub irregular who bike commutes when she telecommutes. She is a confused soul. CAL is a sixty something man who wears a University of California shirt. Or maybe he has amnesia and wears his name on his shirt in case he forgets who he is.

For two days in a row no drivers tried to kill me in Rosslyn. There is a great disturbance in the force.

The ride home was peaceful. I was not threatened by any ruminants. I think they must have been at the polls.

October 2014 by the Numbers

I didn’t do half bad in October considering the disruptions. I missed three days of riding due to a business trip. Then another day for a memorial service. And then two days for a wake and funeral.  So I ended up riding only 22 days. 16 of those rides were commutes. One of the commutes was a whopping 3 ½ miles to and from a car mechanic instead of home.

My total mileage was 644.5. Commuting miles were 472.5. The rest of the rides were for errands, coffeeneuring, and the Great Pumpkin Ride.

Bike of the month was Little Nellie, my Bike Friday New World Tourist. I rode it 309 miles. Big Nellie came in second place at 250.5 miles. And The Mule got some action at 85 miles.

So far this year I’ve ridden to work 143 times. 62/51/30 for Little Nellie/Big Nellie/The Mule. I’ve ridden 6,641 miles so far. With 2989 on Little Nellie.

Highlights of the month were the Great Pumpkin Ride with Lisa, and Reba and Robert which had splendid weather and amazing food. And yet another hike, this time with Florencia and Sundance, who made for excellent companions on Sugarloaf Mountain.

The lowlights of the month, at least wth regard to cycling, were the theft of a bike (not mine) and a pump (mine) from the bike parking area at work. I learned a few days ago that another bike commuter had his bike tampered with last week.

I hope to get in one or two more hikes and another ride event in the final two months of the year. Onward.

Coffeeneuring No. 5: Going Wireless

For the last few days, the bike computer on The Mule has been on the fritz. It’s a wired Trip 2 computer sold, I think, under the Trek brand. It has always been buggy but lately it’s been downright useless. The display was working fine but no matter what I did to the set up it wouldn’t pick up the rotations of the tire.

I started my ride intending to go a mile to a new Peet’s coffee shop near my home. Once I saw that I was going 0 miles per hour, I decided toride the 3 1/2 miles to my local bike shop, Spokes Etc. in Belle View Shopping Center. They had a wireless computer that did pretty much exactly what I wanted. So I bought it (and used my WABA discount, yay WABA). The nice folks at Spokes installed it for me for free. Good on you, Spokes.

I turned aroung and headed for Peet’s. Despite the address (below), it’s on US 1 in the heart of Hybla Valley. To say that this road is bike hostile would be a gross understatement. True to form, there was no bike parking anywhere near Pete’s. To be fair, there is no proper bike parking within 5 miles of my house. Fairfax County has a long way to go before it can be considered bike friendly.

The coffee was the house medium roast. I’d give it a 5 out of 10. Nothing remarkable but certainly drinkable. The shop itself had a couple of comfy chairs and some tables.

Date: Sunday, November 2

Location: Peet’s Coffee, 7707 Fordson Rd, Alexandria, VA

Drink: House medium brew. Okay. I drank it. I can make better.

Observation: I didn’t expect much from a chain coffee shop in a strip mall on US 1. It met my expectations. No bike parking.

Miles: 8.5

Coffeeneuring #5: Peet's Medium Roast

Happy Feet

Over the past year I have taken up day hiking as a way to keep myself from getting bored with cycling. When you ride 150 miles per week just getting to and from work, the prospect of a weekend bike ride sometimes just doesn’t float your boat.

Hiking has been a lot of fun with one exception: it leaves my body wrecked. For somebody who used to run 10 miles per day this is a bit hard to accept. I could chalk it up to age since my last marathon was over 25 years ago. I am pretty sure it has more to do with the boots I’ve been wearing.

My old Dunham boots are 10 EE. Even though my feet are very wide, my feet slide aronud in these boots. And the bottoms seem to have no grip at all. Sometimes when I am hiking it feels like I am on ice.

DSCN3533_671So today I drove over to REI to try on some new boots. Actually, they are hiking shoes, a bit of a cross between trail running shoes and lightweight boots. They don’t cover my ankles which I like. These new shoes are 10 1/2 E and fit more snuggly. The soles seem to be grippier. I had hoped to get waterproof boots but they didn’t have any in stock. No worries, I’ll probably not be hiking in the wet anyway.

So for now, I have happy feet. I need to test these bad boys out on a hike soon. Yay!