Nobody Told Me It Was Fitness Friday

On the way to work this morning I was riding through Belle Haven Park when I spotted the strangest thing: a young man was walking toward me carrying a barbell across his shoulders. There were two huge circular weights on the bar, one on each side. He was followed by a small group of people and a woman taking a video. I could have stopped and taken a picture but I didn’t want to mess up the video. As a certified, retired altar boy, I gathered that this stunt had something to do with it being Good Friday.

In the evening as I made the turn onto Union Street in Old Town Alexandria, I spotted two women doing what appeared to be synchronized yoga moves on the loading platform of one of the Robinson Warehouses. This time I stopped. I asked them if they minded if I took their picture. “Do you want us to pose?” I laughed. “No, just go about what you were doing.” And they did.

 

Getting Yagged

About a decade ago, I began to have trouble seeing at night. Everything I saw was occluded by a yellow and gray fog. I had cataracts. The lenses in my eyes were kaput. Cataracts was a word I heard almost every day growing up, because my father was an ophthalmologist.

The standard treatment for cataracts is to remove the lens and replace it with an artificial lens. The details sound gross so I’ll spare you. Suffice it to say, the power of the replacement lens can be chosen. It’s a bit like getting a contact lens implanted in your eye.

In my case my cataract surgery allowed by eye doctor to correct another problem. I had had surgery for a detached retina that left me much more nearsighted in my left eye than in my right. This caused some depth perception problems that could only be corrected by wearing one thick lens and one thin lens in my eye glasses.

During the cataract surgery the doctor chose different powered lenses to rebalance my vision. The result was pretty darn amazing. After the surgery I could see better than I had since I first got glasses in third grade. The yellow/gray haze was gone.

About a year later, my vision got cloudy again. This is called a secondary cataract. It is not caused by a defect in the lens itself rather it is cause by a build up on the membrane or capsule in which the replacement lenses are situated. The actual name of the surgery is posterior capsule opacification.  Something called a YAG laser is used to remedy the situation. I don’t know what YAG stands for, but it sounds pretty cool. Actually, it sounds a bit like a Dr. Seuss creature. I had both eyes yagged (it really ought to be a verb).

Last month I thought I needed new glasses. I just couldn’t see right. The doctor examined me and found that my right eye once again had opacification. So today I got yagged again.

My eye exploded and juicy bits went all over the office. It was GROSS!!!

Okay, I am kidding. I had three drops put in my eye. I waited ten minutes. I sat in a chair with my chin resting on a cradle. I held onto to knobs to keep myself still. The doctor used his machine to put a little white thingie about the size of a kernel of rice in front of my face. “Keep your on on this. Don’t move.” The doctor used his YAG laser to zap my eye. All I could see was two red lights, one on top of the other. I’d hear a click when I got zapped by the YAG. Then the doctor moved the light a tad and zapped me again. It didn’t hurt at all. In fact, it was over in a couple of minutes. I rode my bike home (with sunglasses on because my eye was dilated).

I am the only kid on my block who’s been yagged three times.

Postscript: According to Gaines, beer, wine, and science adviser to the Rootchopper Institute,  YAG stands for Yttrium Aluminium Garnet. Which is really helpful because we all know what yttrium is, don’t we? (It’s on the Periodic table with the designation Y and having an atomic number of 39. Which shows you how much I learned in chemistry in high school. I’m pretty sure that @bobbishaftoe could help here but she’s in hiding until the midterm elections.)

 

 

 

 

 

Riding to Eagles and Beatles

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The weather was perfect for a bike ride. Yay, April. So off I went on Little Nellie to DC. As I passed beneath the Morningside eagle nest I spotted a white head sticking up from the nest. I couldn’t tell if it was an eagle or an opportunistic osprey but it gave me an idea for a destination: the National Arboretum and its bald eagle nest.

I took the Woodrow Wilson Bridge across the Potomac River. The climb away from the river passes the enormous new MGM casino complex. It’s a whole lot of ugly, but you can eat at posh restaurants and see a show and throw away your hard earned dollars there. Go get ’em. I’ll pass.

At the top of the hill, I took a sidewalk (because MDOT hasn’t figured out how to accommodate bicyclist for beans in this area) to Oxon Hill Farm and descended back to the river. You see this climb and descent is required because MDOT couldn’t figure out how to add a trail along the river as there has been in Virginia for over 45 years.

The descent was a little scary because my left hand is messed up from getting jammed in flood debris on my hike yesterday. I think a small piece of wood may be lodged in my left middle finger. So braking is rather difficult.

I rode through Anacostia and made my way to Anacostia Park where there was a big festival. I ran into Nelle and Ursula from WABA. They were busy getting set up for the event.  At an adjacent booth I talked with Carlos (I think that’s his name) who used to work in my local bike shop. He immediately recognized Little Nellie and asked how many miles she had on her (17,500+). Carlos did good work.

After being social for a few minutes I went back into introverted rider bliss mode along the Anacostia River.  Puffy clouds and blue skies were reflected in its calm waters. I crossed over the river on the Benning Road overpass and took busy Benning northeast. Not a lot of fun but it got the job done. No way I would ride this street on a weekday. Two more busy, bike-hostile roads (17th Street and Blandensburg Road) and I was into the Arboretum. I walked by bike past a road block allowing only pedestrians to enter. Alas, further up the road a more restrictive sign appeared. No entry. Period. So I turned around.

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You can check out the bald eagle nest on dceaglecam.org.  There are two very cute eaglets in the nest right now. They seem to be thriving for all I know.

After my eagle fail,  I headed across town to the new REI store where a free beer event was to be held later in the day.  I arrived way too early so instead of drinking beer I went gawked at all the merchandise. It’s a outdoorsy wet dream. Kayaks and bikes and clothing, oh my.

The store is in the renovated Uline Arena, the site of the first Beatles concert in the US. (The place was called the Washington Sports Arena back in 1964.) The store gives a nod to this history (and other events that happened there) by putting replicas of concert posters on the concrete support posts in the store. The Beatles concert occurred a few days before their appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show that I watched in my jammies. (I found it utterly incomprehensible. I had three older brothers who, like every other kid in the country, became big fans. As, eventually, did I.)

After being overwhelmed with retail madness I headed home. The traffic on the streets and the trails was quite heavy. Tourists were stopping without warning on their bike share bikes. A couple of Lance Mamilots tried to impress the word with their speedy and agile bike riding on the narrow Mount Vernon Trail. The annoyances were minor.

I made it home to watch the end of the baseball game and to re-lube my chain. Yesterday I removed the clipless pedals from Big Nellie. Today I remove the matching cleats from my biking shoes. I am an old school toe clip dude. Sue me.

Postscript: the piece of wood in my finger popped out while doing dishes tonight. All in one piece. That’s never happened to me before. It looked like a dark brown rice kernel. Ewww

Finishing What I Started

The Potomac Heritage Trail is the closest hiking trail of any decent length near my house. It’s about a 20-30 minute drive. I lucked out. The parking area at Chain Bridge was full but a pickup pulled out and I pulled in.

The goal of the day was to hike the trail upriver to the point where I turned around last weekend. The good news is that this section of the trail involves very little rocky stuff. The bad news is the turn around point was about 1 mile less distant that I thought.

The first half mile or so follows Pimmit Run. In Virginia creeks and streams are called runs. (There are no hits or errors.) Perhaps the most well known run in Virginia is Bull Run.

At a half mile I needed to cross the run and, after studying the rocks in the stream, I made it across without getting wet.

The next section climbs up to Fort Marcy. It wasn’t a particularly difficult climb.

After crossing the parking lot, the trail winds through some more woods within sight of the GW Parkway.  The cars wizzing by really messed with the vibe. Near the end of the hike, I crossed the Chain Bridge Road exit ramps. Not exactly a zen experience.

To my surprise the turnaround point was only a couple hundred yards beyond the exit.

On the way back the hills seemed easier. I tuned out the cars and made it a point to focus my attention on the smooth track, a little beetle and the blue sky above.

It seemed liked someone had moved the rocks around in Pimmit Run. I could not figure out how I made it across. So I worked my way downstream looking for a better option. I stopped three times and found myself in mid-stream with no chance of leaping to a far rock to finish the crossing.  The banks of the creek were piled high with flood debris. I put my foot on top of it and my foot went in like it was a snow drift. A few minutes later I started to sink in again and reached out with my left hand making contact with the debris. I ended up with several splinters and cuts. There was blood. Just enough to make a mess of my pants when I wiped my hand on them.

After 15 minutes I found a spot with a downed tree sticking across the creek at a height of four feet. I jumped from one rock to another grabbing the tree. Thankfully it took the weight of my left side without breaking (which would have caused me to fall into the creek.)

I made it across and found myself back at the car in short order.

My next hike will likely take me out to Shenandoah National Park.

Grieving and Other Trail Droppings

  • Jewel Kilcher on the end of a relationship: “You grieve the loss of the fantasy you had about the person.” 
  • When a friendship has lapsed and you run into the person, you might say “I miss you.” You don’t miss them. You miss what you thought they were bringing to your little life party. You thought they were bringing chocolate chip cookies but after a bite or two you realized they brought ginger snaps. It’s as if Mama Gump had a cookie jar.
  • A cute little house sat at the eastern end of the stone bridge on the Mount Vernon Trail. It was built at a time when its little neighborhood was a summer escape from the heat of the city. It still had a screened in porch. It was torn down this week. I wish I had a picture of it. I grieve its loss. They’ll probably replace it with yet another oversized Arts and Crafts house.

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  • I hate it when people take down trees so they can build a house that’s twice as big as they could possibly need. Or seeing Steven Spielberg suburbs, miles and miles of curvy roads and houses in three or four cookie cutter styles. Little gravestones in a cemetery of soulless suburban sprawl.
  • For years I have wondered what goes through your mind when you are about to get seriously injured or die. Now I know. Your brain becomes hyperfocused. It processes a stupifying amount of information.  Yet (at least for me) the intensity is accompanied by a calmness:

Okay, then. This is it. Gonna hurt a lot. I’m still upright. Gonna get run over. No. The car stopped. I’m falling. No, I don’t accept that. Let’s get upright. Stuck the landing with the rubber side down. Dang.

  • Now I get Steve Jobs last words: “Oh wow. Oh wow. Oh wow.” I also get the “out of body” concept. I felt like an observer and a participant.
  • I think it’s a shame that Johns Hopkins has discontinued a study of how marijuana can help with PTSD. Marijuana can have powerful neurological effects. Smoke a joint then try to resist a bag of Cheetos. Just try.  Then you eat them all, wake up the next day, and feel shame.
  • So I ride to work. I lean my bike against the rack. The bike falls over and gashes my right shin. There was blood. Damned bike did more damage than the SUV that hit me.
  • I used to buy multiple copies of the brand of running shoes I liked. I few years ago I bought 2 pair of Shimano biking shoes because they are wide and fit well. Today I bought a third pair just in case they stop making them.
  • I also bought a pair of platform pedals. I am giving up on clipless pedals….again. Toe cages and platforms are how I roll.
  • I saw Grace for the first time during our commutes today. She rides in the opposite direction. She didn’t notice me. She was too busy smiling. It was really nice out this evening. I felt the same way.

Elizabeth and Brittany

Say It Ain’t So, Tin Lizzie

Today I was saddened to read Elizabeth’s blog post about the possibility of giving up bike commuting. Elizabeth lives and works in the busy Ballston to Rosslyn corridor of Arlington, Virginia. Many years ago Arlington planned this area out to be a place where you could do just fine without a car. As it turns out, Elizabeth could easily get to work by subway, bus, or bike. She’s been riding her bike on unprotected bike lanes and has had more than her share of close encounters with big metal things.

What’s doubly depressing about this is that Elizabeth mentioned my recent intimate get together with a red light running SUV as a factor in her thinking.  When I wrote that post it never occurred to me that it would put people off bike commuting. I should have put my event in context. I have had dozens of close encounters with motor vehicles over the years. Maybe I’ve been lucky, but in over 100,000 miles of riding, I’ve never been hit.  I have hit two cars. One right hooked me and I hit him in the back right fender. If I had been competent I would have missed him entirely. Another was parked and jumped out in front of me. (It was windy. I had my head down. It was really embarrassing.) I was doored a block from Elizabeth’s office a few months ago. I was going very slowly. The door hit my very full rear left pannier.  No harm, no foul. I gave the exiting passenger a dirty look.

Stuff happens. I could be in the hospital or a funeral parlor right now. But I’m not. I rode to work today – right past where I was hit. I did come close to a collision today though. A goose was hanging out in the center of the trail. An oncoming commuter scared it into my path. She laughed and so did I. I’m riding to work tomorrow.

If experienced commuters like Elizabeth quit, we are doing something seriously wrong as a community.

Snakes in the Trees

In completely unrelated news, I learned today that rat snakes grow up to six feet long and climb trees. They are known to inhabit Dyke Marsh where I take my sunrise photos for this blog. I can handle big black SUVs but I think if I had to deal with a six-foot black snake in a tree, I’d soil myself.  This picture was taken today, by the way.

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Photo from Friends of Dyke Marsh Facebook Page

The Bliss Comes Back

And now some good news. Blissful Britt came back to her blog today. I thought she was going to be gone for months. She lasted three weeks. Stamina is overrated.

And So Does Baseball

And speaking of bliss, baseball is back in DC. The Washington Nationals won their home opener, 4 -2. I couldn’t go, but Klarence did. She willed them to victory on my behalf. They’ve won the first game. The hope is they win the last one. Sometime in early November. Fingers crossed.

 

Hiking among the Bluebells

After mowing the lawn for the first time this year, I needed some fun. So I headed to Turkey Run Park to hike a section of the Potomac Heritage Trail and test out my new orthotics.

The hike began with a quarter mile downhill section. There were some switchbacks but also some steep stuff. Near the Potomac River, I made a right to head downstream (toward DC). The first half hour I was climbing over rocks and fallen trees. The trail was rocky and I was focused on not turning my ankle. Several sections involved crossing narrow streams. I was surprised how little water was in them. The river, on the other hand, was raging. The trail come right down to the edge and the rocks made it a challenge to keep my feet dry.

In the past I have been exceptionally careful on rocks but today I trusted my balance. I have recently added some yoga balancing asanas to my daily back exercises. (It took me two weeks to stand on one foot for an extended period. My balance sucks.) Between this practice and the new orthotics I surprised myself over and over again. I never slipped once or turned an ankle.

In fact, I felt spring in my legs. Even to the point of breaking into a run on flat sections a couple of times. (My back is not happy about this.)

The rocky section gives way to a mile of flat smooth trail, mostly through bluebells. Now we’re talking.

About an hour into the hike I came upon a neighborhood of mansions that came right down to the river near Little Falls dam. The trail turns away from the river and becomes a roller coaster. At one point it even runs along the edge of the GW Parkway. This kind of killed the woodsy vibe.

I hiked until I came to a sign that indicated that I was 6 miles from Theodore Roosevelt Island. I decided to turn around here. In the future, I’ll park a couple of miles closer to DC at Chain Bridge and hike out to this point to finish the trail.

When I came back to the Parkway again, I was passed by a bicyclist on the road. This is illegal and extremely dangerous. The speed limit is 55 and there is no shoulder. I held my breath as I watched this nincompoop ride up the highway with cars braking hard as they approached him from the rear.

On the hike back I was passed by several runners. I don’t know how you can run on such a rocky trail but they were cruising. The flat section with bluebonnets is running heaven.

The climb back up to the start was tough. My lungs were working overtime.

I think I did just the right length for my first hike in weeks. I’m looking forward to returning to Shenandoah National Park in the months ahead.

Some more pictures are posted on my Flickr page.

Errandonnee Finis!

After some finagling, I managed to complete the 2017 Errandonnee. I did rides in all nine categories:

 

  • Personal Care: 2
  • Personal Business (could also be Non-store errand): 1
  • You carried WHAT on your bike (or back): 1
  • Arts and Entertainment: 1
  • Non-Store Errand: 1
  • Social Call (includes restaurants, coffee, and other social activities): 1
  • Work or Volunteering: 2
  • Store (includes bike shop, running store, grocery store, etc. You know, a store.) 2
  • Wild Card (surprise me!): 1

 

I blew past the 30 mile requirement after my third errand (a 29 1/2 mile ride to work). Here are the links.

Errands 1 and 2

Errand 3

Errand 4

Errand 5

Errand 6

Errand 7

Errand 8

Errand 9

Errands 10 and 11

Errand 12

And most importantly, I survived.

 

 

 

Mr. Consistency – March by the Numbers

I rode 664.5 miles in March. This is 1/2 mile more than January and five miles more than February. I didn’t plan it that way. It just happened.

I rode to work 18 times. I shifted from The Mule to Little Nellie after 5 commutes because The Mule hit 43,000 miles. I rode 27.5 miles indoors on Big Nellie. After riding it outdoors for another 16.5 miles, I announced to Mrs. Rootchopper that I was selling it as it was bothering my peripheral neuropathy. She advised me to keep it for those times when my back is bothering me. So I will.

I rode Deets, my Surly Cross Check, only 83 miles this month. Pretty soon I will switch over to Deets full time as I did last summer.

I volunteered at the Vasa Ride and had a pretty good time despite freezing my ass off.

I didn’t do any rides over 37 miles. The weather generally sucked and all the commuting killed my legs.

I participated in the Errandonnee and lived to tell about it. Barely. I have yet to tally up my rides. I forgot to take pictures of two of my errands so I will throw myself at the mercy of the Errandonness. (Maybe I’ll bribe her with a coffee, too.)

So for the first three months of the year I’ve ridden 1,988 miles. A little less than half of that was on The Mule. I’ve ridden to work 45 times. It looks like I’ll make 100 before I retire.