A Hoot of a Day

With a guest coming over on Sunday, I was hoping to take in a Nationals baseball game on Saturday. The forecasts was for rain in the afternoon during the first of two games. After the rain the forecast predicted a decline in temperatures. Not exactly great weather for watching a baseball games.

I rode Little Nellie to work wearing shorts. It was not raining. Yesm this is worth noting because it has rained here in DC for 15 consecutive days. The incessant gloom has really become annoying.

After keeping an eye of the Saturday forecast, I decided not to chance it and, just after lunch, bought a ticket for Friday night’s game.

I rode the nearly six miles to the ballpark. I left at 5 so that I could eat dinner at the park during batting practice.  There were no lines for food and I found a perch in dead center field. Somebody from the Miami Marlins was hitting cannon shots deep into the stands in front of me. Lordy, these guys can hit. I hung around hoping to run into someone I know. That didn’t happen so I took my seat for the second time this year in section 223.

You take your chances when you go to a ball game. Sometimes the people around you are fun; other times you get jerks. This night was a mixed bag. To my left were a young mom and dad with a four year old daughter and under one year old son in tow. The daughter had long curly red hair and freckles. The son was beyond cute, watching everything around him with big, unblinking eyes and clapping rather incompetently with his tiny hands.

The man sitting behind me was explaining the nuances, every single one, of the game to someone sitting next to him. It was like being at a movie with an interpreter for the blind. I appreciated what he was doing but it was way too much information.

The game was quite fun with the Nationals hitting two pinch hit home runs and fielding incompetently. My favorite moment of the game came when Bryce Harper came to bat with Anthony Rendon on first base. The game was tied. The preferred  strategy of dealing with Harper is to walk him. In the process, if you are careful, you can try to get him to chase bad pitches, preferably really low ones that are difficult to hit far. After giving signs for each pitch, the catcher positioned his mitt so that it was touching the ground. Rendon saw this and hoped that the pitcher would throw a ball in the dirt allowing Rendon to take second base. This happened once but the catcher controlled the ball and Rendon had to stay at first. The next time they tried this, the pitch wasn’t quite as low as planned. Harper clobbered it into the stands in right field. Erp.

The family left. Soon I noticed that the two men about 55 – 60 years of age sitting in front of me were talking politics. The more man on the right drank the louder he talked. Man on the left seemed like he was trying to listen while actually paying attention to the game. This went on for the last four innings. The more Right Man drank the more he ignored the game. He wasn’t drunk, he just clearly didn’t care about the game. It’s the second time I’ve been to a Nationals game where someone sitting next to me talked business on and on and on. When the batter came up with 2 out in the 9th inning, fans througout the park stood in anticipation of celebrating the last out and a win. Right man sat in his seat. Dude, next time save $35 and stay home. For the rest of us.

On the way out of the park, I was checking out the signs above the food concessions when I found myself falling hard to the concrete floor.I had tripped over a 3 foot black post, the kind that holds the ropes that make the queue for the concessions. They take the ropes off and the posts are remain. In an case, I found myself on the ground with hundreds of people nearby and all I could think of was “What the hell hit me?”

I gathered my wits and stood up. Someone handed me my cell phone. I limped out of the park to the bike valet. The 16 mile ride home was not going to be fun.

During the game I tweeted with my friends Katie and Ursula. They were sitting in different sections of the park above me. I was hoping to run into them on the way out. I didn’t but I did run into Mike, a randonneur, tandem rider, and head of the Rootchopper Fan Club. He thinks the name Rootchopper is hilarious. Actually, he thinks a lot of things are hilarious. We should all bring so much joy to the mundane things in life.

We chatted briefly and agreed to take in a game later in the summer. I can’t wait.

I was expecting the ride home to be painful but once I got to pedaling my banged up left knee felt fine. As I cruised down the I Street bike lane, I came to a light about to turn red. A cab turned right across my path. No wonder so many of my friends get hit riding in the city. The cab wasn’t going fast it was just unpredictable. I managed to avoid hitting it but expressed my displeasure with a few choice four letter words.

In a couple more miles, I was free of the city and ball park traffic. The Mount Vernon Trail is unlit. And it was DARK. I was alone. Just me and my bike and my lights. Just following the big white circle. The temperature was in the mid 60s. I reminded myself to keep my mouth closed to avoid swallowing swarms of tiny flying bugs that I rode through at irregular intervals.

All alone but for the sounds and sights and smells of the spring night. Take it in. Appreciate every second of it. When I smelled a skunk I kept my head pointing forward so as to avoid spotlighting Pepe LePew.

I rolled through Old Town Alexandria with its abundance of bars and restaurants. I assumed each car was piloted by a drunk driver. I made it to through without becoming a hood ornament or a statistic.


The underside of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge is in Jones Point Park. The bridge loomed ominously in the dark as I approached. The path traces an “S” as it passes under the bridge. I ride this nearly every day but it seemed unfamiliar. I recalled the last few times I rode under the bridge that a homeless man camps out on the path as it heads toward Washington Street. Sure enough, there he was covered in a dark blanket and wearing dark clothing. I gave him a wide berth. Why he doesn’t plop himself down in the abundant empty space elsewhere in the park is beyond me.

South of the Beltway the car headlights blinded me off and on. I looked for wild life. Nothing but those pesky swarms of tiny bugs. My arms were covered with them.They don’t bite so I left them alone.

Just south of Dyke Marsh, off to my left in the woods near the river, I heard the hoot of an owl. Welcome to the night, bicycle rider. He hooted again. The perfect aural ending to a long day. I arrived at home 10 minutes after midnight.

Riding at night to the ball game and down the Mount Vernon Trail is a hoot.



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