If the Answer Is Blowing in the Wind…

…then what the heck is the question?

It was a mighty good thing I took it easy this weekend because this morning’s bike commute was epic. I rode 20 miles on Saturday and 30 miles yesterday. All relatively flat.

This morning I rode into a dead headwind. My first few miles have trees and houses so I was somewhat protected. I stopped for my morning sunrise picture which worked out okay. My bike didn’t blow over, but the sun was well up in the sky. The Mule cast long shadows.

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At the north end of Old Town Alexandria the road goes through two warehouses. They formed a wind tunnel. I could barely make headway. Heading northwest, time after time gusts would knock me down to single digit speeds or nearly blown me clean off the trail. Going even 10 miles per hour took serious effort.

As I made the turn into the wind at Gravelly Point, I passed a runner heading my way. He let out an f-bomb in frustration. It was around this time that the weather station at the airport recorded a 46 mile per hour gust. I believe it. I made it to the Humpback Bridge and stopped to take a picture of the white caps in the river and the monuments in the sunshine.

white-caps-2-13-2017-edit

The last two miles were extremely difficult, but I was very grateful that I didn’t have to cross the Potomac River. The crosswinds would have been brutal if I had to ride across the river. My friends who did so are badass. Or crazy. Or both.

In Rosslyn, the power was out so police were directing traffic through the Intersection of Doom. Traffic seemed to flow better than normal. Crossing an on-ramp to I-66 from Lynn Street I was hit with a blast of wind. I nearly fell over but managed to continue forward through the curb cut. The last 100 yards featured an intense tailwind. Too bad there were pedestrians in the way.

The high wind warning that had been posted since late last night was cancelled but I still had a pretty decent tailwind for the ride home.  And lots of daylight. I turned my headlight on low to be seen in Old Town. I didn’t bother turning it on high until I was less than two miles from home.

That’s a pretty good sign of spring. So is the fact that Nationals pitchers and catchers report to spring training tomorrow.

Winter Bike to Work Day

Apparently today is International Winter Bike to Work Day. It’s that day of the year when the wheelpeople of the southern hemisphere ride around in shorts to mock us in the frozen north. Yesterday was a planned day off and it was a good thing because it was cold and very windy. Today was colder still but the winds were light, my legs were fresh, and the antibiotics were still kicking in.

I rarely climb out of the saddle but I did it three times on the way to work today. I am feeling my oats. Nothing like having two functioning lungs to get my ya-yas out.

About 100 yards from my driveway I was stopped in my tracks by the most amazing blazing sunrise I’d seen in ages. I pulled over to admire it. As I was pulling out my camera for a picture a motorcade of school buses and cars came by and obscured my view. So you’ll have to take my word on it.

I banged a left and climbed a short hill out of the saddle. A car came up behind me and honked loudly. It’s a residential neighborhood with narrow streets but Mr. BMW was bound and determined to demonstrate is automotive superiority complex. Do people who drive like this realize what incredible asses they are?

sunrise-02102017

I pedaled on into the cold winter air. It was in the 20s but I had dressed nearly flawlessly for the occasion. I had extra high socks on under my rain pants. I had chemical hand warmers between my shoes and my overboots. I had three layers on my head: skating cap, Buff, and jacket hood. The only part of me that got cold was my thumbs which never seemed to recover from taking this picture of The Mule at its usual sunrise posing place in Dyke Marsh.

There was a dusting of snow on the boards of this bridge but I didn’t slip. I just chugged away to the office arriving surprisingly comfortable.

The ride home feature gray skies, a headwind, and ten degrees less cold. I enjoyed the grind except for two close passes by cars whose drivers were in a big rush to get home. One, of course, was a BMW. Ask any bike commuter what cars have the most obnoxious drivers and you’ll hear “BMW” more often than not.

I made it home in one piece with a smile on my face. Not a bad way to end a workweek.

I hope you fine readers have a splendid weekend.  I plan on doing as much..

 

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Shorts and Tailwinds

Winter around DC is normally cold and blustery. Cold winds blow down from the north and west unimpeded by leaves on trees. Day after day I typically find myself bundled in layers, grinding away into a cold headwind, spent by the time I get to work.

Not today.

This has been a remarkably mild winter. The wind has not put its big cold hand on my chest as I pedal. At least not nearly as often as usual.

Today I rode to and from work in shorts. And I had a tailwind both ways. When I got home I made a sacrifice to the bike commuting gods. It was only a small child. I doubt my neighbors will miss him.

The ride to work really seemed effortless. Considering the fact that I was bedridden only 48 hours before this ease of movement made me positively joyful. People that I rode past must have wondered what brand of whisky I had with breakfast.

Normally this sort of ride leads to a trance. Today my trance had brain squirrels running amok. They were inventing awkward social situations for me to deal with with smart ass retorts. You know, the kind that you never think of during the situation but come up with three hours later.

Then Dave rolled up alongside to chat. I was thinking of telling Dave that I was already talking to someone but I feared he might call the folks from the psychiatric facility nearby. After a half mile my sluggish pace bored him and he rode off.

The ride home was every bit as fun. The slight tailwind made me feel like I was in midseason form. Runners, obviously fit ones, were everywhere. These folks were flying in t-shirts and shorts. I felt a pang of jealousy, as I recalled my long ago running days in Providence.

The only negative on my ride home was a dangerous pass. I was heading south, a cyclist was heading toward me going north. A tall (perhaps 6 foot 3 inches or more), helmetless cyclist riding a bike with a straight handlebar and with ear buds in his ears passed me without warning at the same time as the oncoming cyclist. There were mere inches of room between my left hand and Ear Bud. I yelled at him to not be a douche. I yelled at him last night in nearly the same spot, doing nearly the same stupid maneuver.

But that was two seconds of bad in 2 1/2 hours of bike commuting bliss.

I’ll take it.

 

Bike Commuter Thanks Scientists

There seems to be a lot of people in this country who don’t like science. I for one am not one of them. After all if it weren’t for the discovery of anesthetics, my back surgery would have been rather unpleasant. Or take the fact that I (ironically the son of an ophthalmologist) have had six eye surgeries and see better at 61 than I did at 16.

I woke up yesterday sore all over. My head ached. My lungs were full of gunk. I was having fits of coughing. At 3 pm I saw my doctor. After a thorough examination he sent me off to the pharmacy for three little pills. Antibiotics. I took one at about 5 pm.

By 9 pm I was feeling considerably better. I was still coughing but my headache had eased and my body aches too. I awoke this morning feeling nearly human. What a difference 24 hours and one little pill made!

Aware that I was not quite 100 percent, I decided that the promise of a bike commute in warm weather compelled me to try to ride to work. It felt like I was riding with one lung. I huffed and puffed and coughed and spit but I pedaled on.

The passing of four days since my last bike commute made a noticeable difference in the sunrise. The sun was well above the horizon. The Mule posed for a picture:

sunrise-feb-7-2017-edit

When I tried to get underway, I realized that my balance was not so good. After nearly careening off the wooden bridge, I got my act together and pedaled slowly onward. The running mom (with kid in jogging stroller) gave me a big smile. Did she know I was sick?

I made it rather deliberately to the climb from the river to Rosslyn. Ugh. I think I can. I think I can. I can. Boy were my lungs burning.

After a shower and a cup of coffee (and some danish provided by our Chief Data Officer for reasons unknown) I felt wonderful.

From time to time I would feel light headed but I was shocked that I was feeling better with each passing hour. My hat’s off to Alexander Fleming, who discovered penicillin in 1928.

The ride home featured a strong headwind. This did not upset me one bit. It was 72 degrees out in February. I was in shorts. I had a smile on my face for 15 miles, despite the fact that the warm weather had released Lance Mamilots and clueless bicycle hipsters (earbuds in, passed without warning within inches, must not kill) upon the trail. This was all thanks to Svante Arrhenius, the Swedish scientist who first proposed that fossil fuel consumption would result in global warming and climate change. He figured this out in, wait for it, 1896.

So I owe today’s bike commute to two scientists,  one who has saved countless lives already, another whose discovery may one day save all of us.

Ain’t science great?

Sick Day Bike Rule

Living 15 miles from the office, I have a personal rule about calling in sick: If I am too sick to ride to work, I will call in sick. I have violated this rule dozens of times Not today.

Mrs. Rootchopper has been sick for two weeks with a persistent cough, aches, and pains and fatigue. She took two sick days last week which last happened in the Clinton administration. I keep telling her to go to the doctor but she hates her doctor, who was foisted on her by the dissolution of our primary care doctor’s practice several years ago. I went to him once then decided to bolt. He reminds me of Jaba the Hutt.

Last year I had a cough all winter into spring. This developed into a respiratory infection, severe chest pains, and a trip to the ER by ambulance at 3 in the morning. The ER doctor gave me a nebulizer treatment and a prescription for antibiotics. I was better in under a week.

So I didn’t want to go through that again. I have been sick on and off all winter. I think some of it is allergy related because of the mild winter. Regardless I want my drugs now thank you.

So I slept until noon then went to the doctor. He gave me some antibiotics and swabbed my nose (not a lot of fun) for flu. The test came back negative. My medications are

  • Antibiotics for three days
  • Saline rinse for my nose (neti pot)
  • Zyrtec at bedtime
  • Microdosing LSD

I made the last one up. (Not that I wouldn’t want to give it a go.)

At the drug store my prescriptions (I also filled one for eye drops) were free. This is sick day karma in action.

In the process of tweeting about my illness, I discovered that I have two twitter followers who are nurses and lawyers. Go figure. Is this a thing?

One of the nurse lawyers said I should take tomorrow off, paint my nails and go shoe shopping. Do my tweets betray a latent queer side? Help me, Klarence!

So as of this writing I have taken my antibiotic du jour. Next is my neti pot. My asthma medicine. Followed by a nice long, hot shower. Then I get in my Washington Nationals jammies (pitchers and catchers report in 10 days!!), and curl up like a ball. Zzzzzzz.

I am packed for a bike commute tomorrow.

 

 

What to Wear When You’re Done Expecting

My co-worker Kelly was just getting into bike commuting when she became pregnant with her first child. Charlie (It’s short for Charlotte) was born and a new way of life came with her. Now that Charlie has settled in at day car, Kelly is looking to get back to bike commuting. She plans to start on Wednesday.

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Today she took her new hybrid bike out with disc brakes (a major upgrade) for a trial ride. Despite temperatures in the high 40s and low 50s, she froze. So she wants to know what to wear.

It depends. Here’s some advice. YMMV.

Kelly rides about 7 or 8 miles to and from work and has only one hill (the abrupt climb to the intersection of doom).  The last five miles are along the river, exposed to the wind.

Here are the rules. There will be a test.

Fashion is optional. If you are rocking the fashion world and freezing your ass off, you have more vanity than common sense. You are pathetic. You deserve your suffering. Quit bike commuting and take up Buddhism. Unless you are Coffeeneur or Ultrarunnergirl. They manage to pull off style and comfort with aplomb.

Wear layers. Your first layer is a shirt made of a fabric that wicks sweat away from your skin. No cotton against the skin. Next you need an insulating layer. For temperatures below 45 degrees I wear an old wool sweater over a short sleeve base layer. Above 45 degrees I wear a long sleeve base layer with an oversized t-shirt on top. On top of that I wear a waterproof shell. Pit vents are good. (They are zippered openings under your arms to adjust you core temperature. A zippered front is good too. My shell has a flap over the zipper to reduce air penetration. When it’s a little warmer and dry, I switch to a vest. Some of my #bikedc friends have wool cycling jerseys. They have more money than you.

Break wind. Except when there are cyclists or runners behind you. I kid. Cyclists generate their own wind. To add to the problem winter means higher winds. Your ride from the airport to Rosslyn along the river can be brutal. You’ve already got your torso covered. When it’s under 60 degrees, cover your legs with a wind proof layer. (Water proof is even more better.) You don’t have to wear much underneath. A pair of bike shorts or just wicking underwear will do most days. When it’s cold, layer. Frozen noo noos are no fun fun.

Prepare for two commutes. Become obsessed with the weather. Choose you clothes for the weather in the morning and in the evening. For me that means, I might swap my wool sweater (morning) for my undershirt (evening).

Cover your head. This is very personal. I have a hood on my jacket, a winter skating cap (without the goofy ball on top) and a buff. Buffs are the best. They can be used for all kinds of head covering. If it’s below freezing consider wearing a balaclava. Do not wear a balalaika or a baklava. Just don’t. I have a balaclava but I don’t wear it very often. I think my system of three layers works better for our DC-area climate, because it’s flexible.

Extremities are hard. I think bike-specific winter gloves are worthless. Except for lobster gloves. These are the spork of bicycle clothing. They have three finger slots: thumb, index and tall man, ring and pinkie. Think skiing! Better yet, think mittens. I have a pair of mittens made of Thermalite. They are comfortable below freezing and block the wind well. On super cold mornings, I throw chemical hand warmers in them. For your feet, wool socks are a must. On super cold mornings I wear a pair that covers my calves. Don’t wear two pair. You want air circulating around your toes. For cold wet mornings I wear Gore Tex hiking boots. (I don’t have clipless pedals.)  For cold dry days, I put cycling boots over my mountain bike shoes. (Buy the boots one size too big.) If it’s going to be super cold, throw some hand warmers in your shoes. After twenty years of winter bike commuting, I still don’t have foot comfort figured out. So…

Experiment.  These are things that work for me. You should try wearing some of your hiking and skiing technical gear.

Some other advice. Become a weather watcher. Note which way the wind is blowing for both your morning and evening commutes. Remember that DC weatherpeople are really into hyping bad weather. Most of the bad weather misses DC. Except for the occasional flood. Kelly already has flood experience. Consider a compact inflatable kayak for those nasty monsoon days. Don’t wear a scarf, It can come loose and get stuck in your front wheel. This does not end well.

Finally, if you are comfortable walking out the door, you are over dressed. Bank on it. Don’t wear what’s in the picture.

There you have it. Now get riding!

Rest Day Adulting

I know I am getting old when 4 consecutive bike commutes wear me out. I woke up sick this morning. Again. My autoimmune system better be banking sick days because I have been sick in one way or another since early December.

So I took the day off from riding. Conveniently it’s actually pretty cold outside. I know because I am inside writing this with my snuggie on. (I am not making this up.)

I woke up at 5:45. And promptly went back to sleep until 7:30. Then I started some laundry. Then I did my back exercises. (No, it’s not yoga. Okay, it involves balancing and shoulder stands and planks. But it’s not yoga.) Then I listened to a 15 minute guided meditation from the New York Times.This Dan Harris’s meditation for dummies cartoon pretty much sums it up. This is about as woo woo as I get.

Next up was showering and breakfast. Followed by swallowing the Saturday and (most of) Sunday Washington Post because I insist on getting the dead tree edition. It sucks to spill orange juice on your tablet. You can spill all you want on the paper version. After failing at both the Sudoku and crossword yesterday, I knocked off the Sudoku, and three crossword puzzles today. This was a good omen.

After helping put the groceries away, I replaced a flushing valve in a toilet. On the first try. It was a miracle. And I didn’t even flood the bathroom.

Next up came filing a claim for reimbursement from my health care flexible spending account. It was my first foray of the day into the digital age.

After wasting time online, I loaded Turbo Tax and did the taxes. I was missing a form from my brokerage so I called its 800 number and set up an electronic account. Downloaded the form and finished my taxes. In the immortal words of Dave Stoller’s dad, REFUND!  (If you’ve never watched “Breaking Away” – the movie not the TV show – stop reading and go watch it. The script won the Academy Award for best original screenplay. And, it’s the best movie ever made about bicycling. Except it’s about so much more.)

Then I spent 20 minutes trying to figure out how to do my daughter’s Indiana tax return and gave up. I think they owe her $5. (Mike Pence, if the Indiana personal income tax forms are your idea of tax simplification, you’re in deep yogurt if you become 46.) It ain’t worth the time. Keep the change, Hoosiers.

Finally, I activated a debit card that gives me free ATM withdrawals at any ATM in the US. Just the thing for my next bike tour. (I’m considering riding to Key West in the fall. Stay tuned.)

The only thing I didn’t accomplish was to go buy some bird seed. I expect that the bird seed consumption rate should pick up in a couple of weeks. Another sign that this rather tame winter is coming to an end.

Only 11 days until pitchers and catchers report to Nationals’ spring training.

Die winter die.

 

 

 

 

 

Friday Mind Dump

  • I changed my password to “Retire” at work. Then the system wouldn’t accept it. I had to change it to something else. I am not making this up.
  • A bike rider on the Mount Vernon Trail approached me from the rear and yelled “Walker up!” Seriously.
  • When I hit 60, my muscle strength noticably deteriorated. The remedy is to drink more wine. You won’t get any stronger, but you won’t care either.
  • I am doing my taxes this weekend. This is slightly more fun that having a colonoscopy.
  • I just failed at doing both the Sudoku and the Washington Post crossword. If my tax return says I get a $42,000 refund, I suspect I’ll be 3 for 3.
  • I am technically part of the investor class because I am old and have a retirement account. The fact that the stock market is up 10 percent since the election is both deeply disturbing and rewarding. I may have to boycott my retirement.
  • I am also fixing a toilet this weekend. This is the limit of my homeowner skills. Also, there will be cussing.
  • I need to put new siding on my shed. I did it before with my son. It’s not hard but the sheets of fake wood product are heavy. Does anybody want to help? I can offer pizza and beer. Contact me in April when the Nats are out of town.
  • Why in the world would you tell someone that you read their Facebook page when you haven’t commented or “liked” anything on it in over 2 years? If you’re going to tell a white lie, at least make it one that’s not so obviously verifiable.
  • I have under-volunteered my entire adult life. So I signed up to be a volunteer at the Vasa Ride in March. I also plan on signing up to volunteer for the Tour de Fat again. If you are in DC in mid-March and want to find out what warm blueberry soup tastes like you should ride the Vasa Ride. Here’s the link:

http://www.waba.org/events/rides/vasa-ride/

  • I actually saw the Vasa at the Vasa museum on my trip to Sweden a coudscn4954ple of years ago. The Vasa was an immense, ornate wooden warship that set said off the coast of Stockholm, Sweden. To show off it’s fire power, on its
    maiden voyage, all her guns were brought to one side of the ship. The weight of the guns caused the Vasa flop over and sink. The picture only shows the very upper part of the ship. The keel is a couple of floors below where I am standing.

January Goes Out Like a Chocolate Bobcat

January was certainly an eventful month. Normally it involves snow and ice and days off the bike. Instead we got only one week of cold weather. The average temperature was 6 degrees above normal. This means of course that February is going to suck. Take it to the bank.

I rode 664 miles during January. Possibly my biggest January ever. 92 miles were actually on Big Nellie in the basement when the roads were too icy to ride on. (I calculate these miles based on 12 miles per hour not actual distance.) I did 184 miles on Deets on the weekends and holidays. The remaining 388 miles were from 13 bike commutes on The Mule.

Last January we had a big snow storm called Snowzilla. I didn’t have a bike in the basement so I missed out on an entire week of riding. Of course, I shoveled a shit ton of snow last year but that doesn’t show up on the odometer. I only rode 446 miles with 10 commutes totaling 301 miles. So I am 118 miles ahead of last year’s pace. 

So what does this have to do with chocolate and bobcats?

Today, slightly less than seven months before I retire, I learned that the soulless neighborhood in which I work is going to be headquarters of Nestles chocolate company. I wonder if you get free Crunch bars if you work there.

Also, at the end of January a bobcat escaped from the National Zoo in DC. On my ride home today I heard the strangest screech from across the parkway. Could it be a bobcat? Nope. They found the bobcat on the zoo grounds late today.

So if it wasn’t a bobcat, what was it?

February begins with a mystery….