Bring Me Light

We are in the trough. The next two weeks have the least amount of daylight, then, like a overweight cargo plane, we take off ever so gradually toward springtime. Of course, the coldest days of winter remain but they are small price to pay for deliverance from the dark.

The morning dawned shrouded in fog. This always means an interesting river view. Today was no exception. The spike of the fog bank looming above the far river bank looked as if a madman had taken over, his hair pointed skyward.

Sunrise, Fogbank and Bike

Despite the 40+ degree temperature the boardwalks on the trail were treacherously coated with a thin rime layer. In old town, Nancy “Two Sheds” Duley came rolling my way, Normally she awakens me from my commuting reverie but this day the tables were turned.

“Hi,Nancy”

“Watch out for the ice on the boardwalks!”

When  I came to the beaver boardwalk, the one north of Old Town where a beaver builds and re-builds a dam, I saw a cyclist recovering from a crash. I glided, hands off my brakes, past him. I could see the right leg of his tights were torn. I asked if he was okay and he nodded. On I rode. A few minutes later he passed me. Even crash victims ride faster than me.

The boardwalk under the TR bridge seemed ice free by the time I made it there. I took my time to avoid an unpleasant surprise.

I learned through Twitter that Nancy had in fact been involved in a four-bike pile up on the beaver boardwalk. She was pretty composed for someone who had such a nasty ride.

During the day, my numb foot had me contemplating alternatives to the creepy neurosurgeon. Ultrarunnergirl gave me the name of a sports acupuncturist so I decided to schedule a treatment. He didn’t sound very optimistic but I figure I only have a few bucks to lose. Ultrarunnergirl says he cured her persistent plantar fasciitis with one treatment. I am not one who buys into alternative medicine. I even don’t like chiropractors, but the prospect of back surgery will have me trying just about anything. If acupuncture doesn’t work, I’ll try massage or rolfing or golfing or, maybe, bowling. Back surgery is very risky, even with the best of surgeons, and months of post surgical misery is not something I hope to repeat.

The ride home tonight was about as good as it gets for December. I had a nice gentle tailwind and the ice was gone from the trail. Even the headlights and ninjas didn’t bother me.  Pretty soon, they’ll be a memory.

My Right Foot 2

My right foot is stiil numb so I went to a neurologist today to, I thought, get an EMG exam. Instead I was given a duplicate exam that my primary car doctor gave me. And it wasn’t nearly as thorough. he neurologist suspects that spinal stenosis (basically an old back) is the cause of my numbness. So I have an EMG test on Friday, an MRI Friday evening, and an EMG next Tuesday.

I brought my May 2014 MRI with me but he didn’t look at it. He read my pain doctor’s notes instead. I thought this was weird. MRIs are expensive. I am half hoping that my insurance turns this down.

Once we get through all the tests I’ll see what the neurologist has to say.

There’s one complicating factor: the neurologist gave me the creeps. He had an intern examine me then didn’t read her notes. He spent a good deal of time talking about how the practice of neurology has gone to hell in a hand basket, complaining that he was, in effect, a dinosaur. I mentioned the neurologist who operated on my back 20 years ago and he started reminiscing about him. This went on for 20 minutes during which he thanked me for seeing him 3 or 4 times. This made me think that something might be wrong with him. The thought has crossed my mind that he may have the early stages of dementia.

I almost gave up and called for a referal to another neurologist but instead I decided to get all the tests done. I already know that I won’t have anything to do with this man operating on me. I just have very little confidence in him. I switch to a new insurance company in 2 weeks so I can will just jump to another doctor then if I have to.

Good thing this is happening around the holidays. Work is somewhat calm. I’m a little upset by all this. Maybe I should watch one of those AMRS videos with the whispering lady. They are creepy.

It would be weird if the whisper lady was related to my neurologist.

I Won!

I went to the WABA Holiday party tonight. It was quite a good time. It was good to see Alan and Jeff and Jeff and Sam and Steve and Katie and Megan and Dave and Jean and Michelle and Nelle and Colin and Greg and Eric and Ryan and Matilde and almost certainly half a dozen other people whose names escape me at this moment. The Wit beer at Smith Public Trust was tasty as was the grilled cheese sammich with avocado.

Best part of all, I one a prize in the raffle! Woot!!

What do you think? Do I go for the ear piercing or give them away?

(Note: Photo by Ryan.)

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Take a Walk VDOT

It’s been a stressful week. I only rode to work twice as a result of little sleep. I reached out to a couple of friends and they gave me interesting advice about my stress. One friend, a single woman, whose father abandoned her family when she was growing up, told me to look out for number one. The other, a father with family issues that boggle the mind, told me that I need to put things in perspective, chill, and work the problem. As it turned out the problem worked itself and I was blissfully relieved of stress at 4 pm on Friday. Even my boss telling me that a project that I had worked on for months had all but crashed and burned didn’t phase me. I rode home with a smile on my face and a mild tailwind that felt like a gale.

Today was devoted to Christmas shopping. I ordered a few things online, then headed out to Potomac Yard to battle the crowds. I used my bikey knowledge of the roads to bypass most of the traffic. The parking lot was packed. I parked far from the store, walked in, and it was EMPTY. A sales clerk helped me pick out the stuff I was looking for and I was done in 10 minutes. I was all ready for some PTSD, but I left in a state of bewilderment.

I arrived home with time on my hands. The idea of riding for riding’s sake didn’t float my boat. What to do? I called Gold’s Gym to cancel my son’s idle membership. They said, “You have to come in and sign a cancellation form.” Really. You want to hassle me when I already told you I’m not doing business with you any more? Turning an annoyance into a plus, I put on my hiking shoes and headed out to Gold’s 1 1/2 miles away. I did okay for about a mile until I came to an intersection that was recently re-striped by VDOT. There were no crosswalks at all. Fail.

I ran across the street with another walker and his dog.

When I got to US 1 I pushed the idiot walk button and waited. I stopped counting the cars at 100 as they flew past me. And that was only in one direction.

Gold’s is at the back of a parking lot with no separate pedestrian access. If you want to walk at Gold’s you have to do it on a treadmill. Is this a great country or what?

After cancelling the membership, I retraced my steps. Rather than deal with the crosswalkless intersection I stayed on the far side of the street and walked a quarter mile to the nearest crosswalk.  Just before I reached the crosswalk I came upon this:

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Are you kidding me? The switchbox for the traffic light was plopped directly in the sidewalk. Look closely and you’ll see that the post for the traffic light is also anchored in the sidewalk. VDOT fail.

Incidentally, this is about 50 yards from where my wife was run over by an SUV back in 2011. You’d think they’d get their act together. You’d think wrong.

My Right Foot

Back in my running days, I’d have an orthopedic issue every other week. Other than my recurring back problems, I’ve had very few injuries since I made the switch back to cycling. One injury, to my left foot, was a Morton’s neuroma. The long bones of the forefoot are called metatarsals. Between these long bones are long nerves. When the sheathing in which the nerve slides gets inflamed it can feel like you are stepping on a nail. That’s what Morton’s neuroma is. My neuroma comes and goes, mostly aggravated by narrow shoes. I am thankful that Shimano mountain bike shoes are wider than in the past.

About three weeks ago I was riding home from work and my right ankle seemed to momentarily give out. In a few days the outside of my right foot went numb. I figured the numbness would go away but it hasn’t so I went to my doctor today. He conducted a pretty thorough exam and even read the MRI report from my physiatrist who I was seeing in May for my back.

He decided that my back wasn’t causing the numbness. I asked about multiple sclerosis and he said that was highly unlikely. He did say that diabetes and Lyme disease are two possiblities. I had two diabetic uncles so it’s not too far fetched.

Lyme disease has always been on my mind. I am outdoors a lot and a few years ago I even had a bullseye bug bite on my back. I also have aches and pains in my arms and joints that I have been atrributing to aging. It will be good to know if Lyme’s at issue.

My primary care doctor refered me to a neurologist for an electromyography (EMG) exam. Basically it involves putting sensors on nerves and muscles to figure out what’s going on.

So by sometime next week I should have an idea of what’s going on in my foot.

The Impermanent Resident Moves On

One of the highlights of my year was the return of my friend Florencia from nearly two years abroad. Flor is one of the most interesting people I know. I’ve never met anyone so passionate about so many disciplines. She’s determined to master all kinds of things including cycling, running, rock climbing, acroyoga, nutrition (especially vegan and vegetarian), astrology, reiki massage, Buddism, Hinduism, Thai massage, foot massage, and the traditional yoga that she immersed herself in at an ashram in Rishikesh last year. Other than cycling and running, we don’t really have all that much in common. This, I think, is what makes our times together interesting.

One day several years ago I went to watch her do acroyoga in Meridian Hill Park. Afterwards she took me aside. A normally upbeat person, she started telling me how unfulfilled she was in the relentless grind of DC life. “John, I am so unhappy.” She is openly loving of her friends here, but it wasn’t enough to compensate for the hole in her spirit. I could see by the look on her face that she was dead serious when she told me she was quitting her job and moving to Thailand.

And so she left and began an incredible journey that she chronicled in her blog, The Impermanent Resident. It is a wonderful read and I highly recommend it. The title refers to her plan to move around, never staying in one place for more than a year. Other than a bit longer stay in Thailand (which she grew to regret) she has kept to her plan. When she returned to DC early this year, I thought that she’d finally settle down. In short order it became clear that settling in DC was not to be.

She sold her studio apartment overlooking Rock Creek Park and the National Zoo (she could hear lions roaring). She said she didn’t own things, things owned her. She wanted to be unencumbered. And so she is. Today she flew to Argentina to spend summer with friends and family.

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I haven’t seen her since our hike on Sugarloaf Mountain in October. So I didn’t have the chance to say a proper, in-person goodbye. We said our goodbyes via email which seems like a pathetic way to end a great year. I am going to miss her a lot, but our conversation continues via the interwebs.

I try not to think about the quite real prospect of never seeing her again. It makes me unhappy. DC won’t be the same without her.

Soggy and Saggy

The 2nd Annual Cider Ride was a different thing altogether from the 1st ride. For starters, this one was in Montgomery County; last year’s was in PG County. Last year the weather was just plain cold; this year it was 40s with the threat and eventually the reality of rain.

So I got up early and left the house for the start in Gathersburg. I arrived a little after 8. Only a few people were there. Over the course of the next hour, several dozen people showed up including Dave and Jean on their amazing Co-Motion tandem, Peter, Justin, John, and Reba. Looks like we got us a posse.

The forecast was calling for constant rain from 11 am on. I was counting on being nearly half way done by then. It wasn’t to be though. The first 5 miles were stop and go in the suburbs. We must have hit 20 traffic lights. The stops strung out the impressively large group. Who knew there were so many insane cyclists in this area?

Dave and Jean soon zooomed ahead on their tandem. Dang they are fast. Peter, Justin, Reba, John and I rode in close proximity. Justin flatted and then stopped to help a rider who fell on a slippery descent. She was okay but was put in the SAG wagon as a precaution.  Reba had to stop to put her chain back on.

As the suburbs thinned out the roads became hilly. The hills didn’t bother me in the least. And I was actually too warm in all the layers I was wearing. We pulled into the first rest stop (just a bathroom in a park) and reconnoitered. Reba was nowhere to be found. While we waited we chatted with Rod Smith and Megan McCarty, two course marshalls.

Several minutes later she showed up unhappy. Her chain wouldn’t stay in a gear, any gear. So after much examination we determined that in the course of her chain falling off it had become twisted. A bystander gave is a master link, a easy-to-put-on replacement link. Rod tried to put it on but it was for a different kind of chain, too narrow. So Reba needed to SAG back to the start. This whole chain business took a good 30 minutes. In that time I went from dry and warm to wet and freezing. After my 3rd night with inadequate sleep, I was not feeling very spunky so I joined her in the ride back in the van piloted by GIna from WABA.

This was only my second SAG ride ever. I am glad I took it though. Riding another 40+ miles in the rain would have sucked.

On the way home I stopped in a park to change our of my wet clothes, called a friend who wasn’t home, and headed to my local bike shop to have my brake cables replaced. Nothing makes a ride more interesting that a rear brake that won’t engage.

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In the SAG wagon

As I pulled in, Reba was rolling out with her bike and its new chain. She told me that it was really expensive because while she was at the shop, she bought a new bike. It’s a Trek with fat tires and disc brakes.

So the day turned our okay for Reba. And I learned the limits of my bikiness. At least for this year.

Taking It Easy

Some family matters have me stressing out so I got zero sleep last night. There was no way I was going to jump on a bike in the cold so I decided to work from home. In addition to feeling incredibly groggy I am being driven up a wall by a strange numbness in my right foot. It came on last week. As I rode the Sequoia home, my right ankle seemed to cave to the outside. I am hoping this is a cause not an effect. If so, I have some kind of mild strain.

I am going to the doctor next week. I hate going to the doctor, but it’s a good idea to rule out nasty stuff like diabetes and muscular sclerosis. My guess is that it is related to my recent back woes.

What a drag it is getting old.

Whether the Weather, or Not

I made up my mind after last night’s soaking that I was driving to work this morning. I didn’t bother to pack my panniers because the weatherman said their might be sleet or freezing rain today.

This morning I went out to pick the newspaper up off the end of the driveway and I noticed a distinct lack of rain, or sleet, or freezing rain. And so I said to myself, “Hey, wait a minute.”  I went inside and turned on the weather. The radar showed that there was rain in the area but that my neck of the woods was clear. And so I said to myself, “Hmmmm.”

After breakfast I decided to go for it. I packed my panniers and put on my waterproof gear and headed out the door to only the lightest of sprinkles. I decided to ride The Mule because it would give me the best traction on the wet leaves that cover most of my route to work. The Mule, not being a recumbent, allows me to ride in a head-facing down position. This would keep my glasses dry. The only downside would be if my back seized up while riding in the cold. No guts, no glory. Onward.

The faintest of sprinkles turned into sprinkles turned into light rain turned into steady rain which gave me a frowny face. Water sneaked into the corner of my left eye and made it sting. This gave me a squinty, one-eye-open face. Water began to pool in the insides of my allegedly waterproof gloves. Do I know how to party or what?

I made it to work without a calamity, thanks in large part to the fact that the Mount Vernon Trail was all but deserted. There were a few runners out squishing through the puddles but the bike commuters were few and far between. (This may have been the result of me leaving 15 minutes late due to the fact that I wasn’t packed and ready to go at my usual departure time.) To my surprise my back seemed pretty happy with the ride.

The radar said that the rain had left the area for the ride home. Somebody needs to get the radar fixed. There was a light mist that was just enough wetness to be annoying. My glasses eventually got wet which made riding blind into the headlights of the cars on the GW Parkway. Most trail users were displaying lights. Most except for the guy coming toward me with only a small red light on the front of his bike. And then there was the walked dressed in black with a blue backpack on. In the center of the blue backpack was a small circle of white reflective material. Good thing, too, because I almost certainly would have given him a Schwalbe wedgie.

Visibility issues aside the ride home was a pretty nice cruise. I seem to have my legs back and I was buzzing along at about 12 miles per hour without effort. (I’m willing to bet a tailwind was involved, buy why spoil my moment in the drizzle.)

The good news of the day is my back seemed to tolerate the ride just fine. The bad news of the day was that I spotted a couple of holes in my rain pants. If you all have recommendations, send them along.

Cyber Monday Note to Self: Order Desinex

I had it all planned out. The forecast called for rain around 8 pm. The daytime temperatures would rise into the high 60s. It looked like a pretty awesome forecast for the first day of December.

I decided that I’d wear my old wind pants and a water proof jacket. They used to be a matching pair in the waterproofing department but the pants’ waterproofiness gave it up a long time ago.

I have been feelling a little under the weather lately. Despite the fact that I had all but taken four days off the bike, I had no oomph in my legs. This might have been attributable to the fact that my right foot is numb. The mysteries of the 59-year old male anatomy are without number. So to speak.

I rode Big Nellie to avoid re-aggravating my back. At least that part worked. I stopped after 1/4 mile to see why my speedometer was giving me a big 0. I know I had no oomph but did the speedometer have to mock me?

The ride in was pretty nice. The temperatures were in the 50s. On a conventional bike I would have been wearing shorts but on a recumbent I went with the long pants. You don’t want coldish air blowing up into your personal private area for 15 miles. You just don’t.

At the Belle Haven nest I spotted two bald eagles. This is the fourth time in two weeks so I think they have moved in. If true, we should have a baby or two in a few months. Along the way to work I saw Nancy (Two Sheds) Duley (HI!!!!), the Three-Step Runner, the Hoppy Guy, and the Trash Walker. I managed to get all the way to work without hitting anything or having anything hitting me. Success.

When I left the office rain had arrived. Early. Good thing I brought the long pants. At least I’d be warm. I covered the foam seat of my recumbent with a kitchen garbage bag. I was ready to do battle. Within a mile my glasses were so soaked that I could barely see a thing. And the cold rain water was passing through my old rain pants into my mountain bike shorts and, thanks to the garbage bag, the water was staying there. All the way home I felt like a toddler with a wet diaper. Squish. Squish. After a while it started to feel kind of nice in a totally inane sort of way.

One good thing about the rain was that there were no ninjas. I had all I could do to keep on the trail and not kill myself sliding on the wet leaves. South of the airport I heard “Hi, John.” It was Reba. She passed me swiftly uttering something the weatherman and homicide. She was wearing a rain jacket and lycra shorts. She was not about to slow down to chat. She was on a mission from God. Zoom. She had funky lights in her spokes that made her look like an amusement park ride at night. Bye, Reba.

As I rolled through Old Town another interesting thing happened. My brakes were useless. Oh, joy. The tourists must have been hanging with the ninjas. I made it through without hitting anybody.

The twisty part of the Mount Vernon Trail was carpeted in wet leaves. Lovely. Not only was it slippery but I was having a hard time making out the edge of the pavement. Must. Not. Crash.

I didn’t. Yay, me.

After getting inside the house I made a note to myself: next time I wear these pants, I’m bringing Desinex.