Solo in Charm City, Hon

Today was the annual Tour Dem Parks, Hon ride in Baltimore. Charm City has its, well, charms, and, as it turns out, so does this ride. I learned about this ride from my friend Paris who I ran into a couple of years ago when I was visiting Baltimore. Paris was in the middle of the ride and having a blast. So, it went on my to-do list.

Things didn’t start particularly well. I had hoped that my friend Linel, bike commuter and mama to Daphne the wonder dog, was hoping to join me. Sadly she bailed last night. So I did the ride solo.

The ride is a counterclockwise circuit of the city of Baltimore. The route passes through eight city parks. Along the way, the ride shows off the city’s extensive bike route system, including the Jones Falls, Gwynns Falls, and Herring Run Trails.

The trails and the city could use a lot of sprucing up. Some of the trails were riddled with tree routes. Some of them are signed routes on sidewalks.  The city is a strange mix of beautifully restored and maintained old buildings, hundreds of row houses, and a depressing number of dilapidated buildings, commercial, industrial, and residential. It struck me as sad that I was riding through slums with a view of a publicly funded football stadium in the distance.

Normally, I bring a point and shoot camera with me.  And I did today. I forgot to charge its battery so there would be no picture taking on the fly.

Enough depressing stuff. The ride itself began in very comfortable temperatures with pleasant breezes. Since it begins on a trail there is a long string of bicycles for the first five miles. You just have to be chill, and I was. Not having a working camera or anyone riding with me made for a very meditative mood. I’d get into my trance focusing on my legs spinning then snap out of it when another rider would do something unexpected (like veer in front of me, stop in the middle of the trail, etc.)

The scenery varied. Druid Hill Park, the Cylburn Arboretum, and Gwynns Falls and Leaking Park were all stellar. They provided dense shade and rippling streams. At one point we went through Dickeyville, a 19th century village. The road wound past stone walls and picket fences. Beautiful.

Long stretches of the ride were on city streets. Traffic was practically non existent. This let me get my speed fix. My Cross Check may weight a lot but it can roll nicely.

After Leaking Park we rode to the Inner Harbor, passing briefly through Carroll Park.  Near the inner harbor we climbed to Federal Hill Park with its views of the harbor.

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After the inner harbor we went to Patterson Park where we had a rest stop at a pagoda. This is such a beautiful structure and a stop you really need to make if you ever visit. It’s not always open. (It was today but I passed on taking in the view from the top. I’ve climbed the steps many times before.)

 

 

 

 

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Just behind the pagoda there was a yoga class wrapping up on the lawn. Shucks, I missed it.

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The ride headed on city streets into the northeastern section of the city.  Clifton Park seemed more about playing fields than most of the rest of the parks. This was followed by Herring Run Park, where there was a rest stop at 32 miles. My cue sheet had a big 35 on the front so I wondered why a rests top was needed three miles from the finish. The answer was that the ride was actually 37 miles long.

Once we entered the Inner Harbor area we were riding on shadeless streets and the temperature was in the low 90Fs, warmer still because of all the asphalt and the masonry row houses.

So what’s a couple more miles when your cookin’, right. As it turns out the last two miles were in shady Druid Hill Park. Ahh.

On the way up the next to last hill, I ran into John Roche pulling daughter Ellie in a trailer. John used to live in DC, but he and his wife Kate left town a couple of years ago. We chatted for a minute. Ellie was looking pretty wiped out. They headed home and I headed to the finish for a burger (excellent), a hot dog (meh), and a cold beer (might fine).

Before leaving for DC, I stopped by John’s house. I expected Ellie to be asleep but she was full of energy. The last time I saw John and Kate, Kate was past her due date, so this was my first time to hang out with Ellie. She’s a charmer. She speaks a form of English only day care teachers can translate. Talking to her was a bit like watching a French movie; I could understand a word here and there, but it was hard work. After an hour or so, I headed back to DC.

I think the drive home was harder than the ride. I was groggy from the heat.

Bottom line: this is a ride well worth doing. It is a good companion ride to the Tour du Port event that I’ve done four or five times.

 

Full Moon Baseball

Twice this spring I have had tickets to baseball games that were rained out. The first one was called before I got to the ballpark, but I managed to make it an eventful day by being hit by an SUV. For the second game, I rode to the ballpark from work and stood around for an hour while the rain came down. The game was called and I rode home in what I expected to be steady rain. Once I was a few miles along, the rain stopped. Go figure.

So the makeup game to that second rainout was last night. I sat with two co-workers, Bob and Karen, and Richie, who retired after working with Bob for many years. I rode to the ballpark on Little Nellie in case I wanted to get a ride home from Bob by folding Little Nellie up and dropping her in the trunk of his car.

The Nationals arrived back from a west coast road trip at 1 am. This meant that many of the older star players would be getting the night off. The starting pitcher had been struggling all season. So I was expecting the Nationals to lose and for the fans rooting for the Orioles to be really obnoxious.

Instead the Nationals dominated from the outset. The good guys won 6-1 thanks to the performance of Dos Padres, speedy shortstop Trea Turner and pitcher Joe Ross. Turner and Ross are young players that the Nationals acquired in a trade with the San Diego Padres. What were the Padres thinking? These two guys are great.  Turner never hit the ball out of the infield but managed to get on base on three weak singles. Then he stole bases at will. He also made one of the best defensive plays I’ve seen. Ross pitched up a storm, striking out 12 and lasting into the 7th inning.

The haircut on the kid sitting in front of me was as good as the game. He got it for the last day of school.  Sister Irma would have had a heart attack if one of us showed up with a mohawk.

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During the game a full moon rose over the Anacostia River to the east of the park. This was a good omen for my ride home. The game was over by about 10 p.m. and I made my way to the bike valet. I usually run into Klarence there but not this night. (I miss you Klarence, but, no worries, my mouth’s still bleeding. Stay proud.)

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Once clear of the ballpark traffic I made my way around the Jefferson Memorial and over the 14th Street bridge to Virginia and the Mount Vernon Trail. The moonlight reflected off the river and made for a sweet transit.

The trail, of course, was empty. The air was cooling and I was rolling along in trance mode. The moonlight reflecting off the path was only occasionally disturbed by car headlights on the parkway.

I rolled through Old Town Alexandria and didn’t see a single car. There were no tourists. Only peaceful quiet soothing breezes, and the glow from the moon.

Back on the trail south of the beltway, I started down from the bridge over Cameron Run. I spotted a dark mass at the bottom of the brief decline in the shadows. It was a homeless person, dressed completely in dark clothing huddled along the left edge of the trail facing the bushes along the river. If he did not have white hair, I don’t know if I would have even seen him.

The rest of the ride on the trail was just me and the cooling evening air with Mr. Moonlight casting a glow on the proceedings. No bugs to annoy, only a breeze and the sound of my breathing.

Cutting through a neighborhood about a mile from home, there was movement. An animal darting across the road in front of me. A mature fox was crossing the street at a trot. The fox population has exploded near my home in recent years. They tend not to care a whole lot about humans being around, even humans on funny looking machines.

Little Nellie made quick work of the last half mile and we flew across the lawn into the back yard. I didn’t really need my bike light to open my shed; it was illuminated by the moon.

I honestly can’t say which was better, the game or the ride home. I’ll have to try again. Soon.

Hiking Up and Down to Raven Rocks

Today I did another out and back hike on the Appalachian Trail. At my current pace I should have the entire AT hiked by 2047.

I started at just to the west of Snickersville Gap, where VA Route 7 crests the Blue Ridge. I lucked out and got the next to last parking space in the trailside lot.

This area of the AT is known as the roller coaster because it goes up and down and up and down and around. The hike started with up to the ridge. The entire hike is heavily wooded. And rocky. And tree rooty.

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The start is up. And Up. Then down to a run, which in Virginia is a creek. The water level wasn’t too high so I made it across with ease. A family came a hiking behind me. They were a chatty bunch. I resigned myself to the fact that solitude would be elusive.

Next I hiked up to the ridge Then down with rocky switchbacks. Then up. Then down to a creek. Then up then down. Then up until I saw sky.

Ultrarunnergirl told me a few years ago that seeing sky is good. It was. The trail emerged from the woods to a rocky area, the top of a cliff. This is Raven Rocks. Chatty family were sitting across the part of the cliff top that had the best views.

I resisted the urge to push them over the edge and hike a bit further. There was another pretty decent spot to enjoy the view. A sole hiker was just beginning to get underway. She said “It’s a pretty nice spot. You can have it.” And off she went down the trail.

I took in the view for a few minutes. It was very viewy. There was gIMG_0833reen. And a pleasant breeze. I got down on my stomach and looked over the edge. I couldn’t see the bottom. I saw a lot of tree tops. I thought of Flogini who used to climb cliffs even higher than this. I can’t even….

I turned to go down. And the chatty bunch asked me to take their picture at the top of the cliff. Okay folks, step back. Once more. Ayyyyy!

I was nice and took pictures of them from multiple vantage points. The gods will reward me someday.

Not today though. On the hike back to the car, I caught my right toe on a rock and started to fall. I put my arm around a small tree in the middle of the trail. My momentum swung me around the tree so hard that I came out of my left shoe. I swung completely around the tree and landed on my butt between two big sharp chunks of granite. The bark of the tree took some skin off my left arm. And somewhere in the spin I cut two fingers on my right hand. There was blood.

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Feeling like a complete spaz, I put my shoe back on and dusted off my pride and hiked onward. A group of 20 somethings came by with music playing. Bad country music. I resisted the urge to hoedown.

Along the way coming and going I encountered plenty of backpackers and some other families. This is apparently a pretty popular place for a day hike.

For good reason.

It lasted only about 4 hours, quite a bit less than I expected. On the way home, I bought a cherry pie at a place in Round Hill. It’s a bit of a cheat. People thought that the pies were made on site, but the Washington Post did an article about the place and exposed the pies as factory made by Sara Lee. They’re still damned good and a suitable replacement for a shower beer.

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There are a few more pictures in an album on my Flickr page.

May Sloth

May was my lowest mileage month of 2017. I had my excuses. My daughter graduated from college so that was well worth missing four days of riding. And the weekends were cold and damp. I went to a baseball game or two. And I did a couple of hikes. So I am not a complete sloth.  (I have been known to sleep upside down hanging from a limb, however.)

I rode 580 miles in the month. My 18 bike commutes accounted for 527 of those miles, and did one long-ish ride of 50 1/2 miles on Big Nellie.  I rode my Cross Check until it hit 5,000 miles then I switched to Little Nellie until it hit 18,000 miles. Now I turned my attention to my long neglected recumbent, Big Nellie, in search of the 41,000 mile mark. (The Mule is in the stable eating oats.)

As expected the highlight of the cycling month was Bike to Work Day, most likely my last one. I went to four pit stops and the WAMA pizza and beer happy hour. I encountered old friends, made new ones, and deftly avoided unpleasant people.

For the year I have 3,312 1/2 miles with 80 bike commutes.

Onward.

Death and Life on the Mount Vernon Trail

Seeing wildlife up close on my bike ride to work is such an interesting part of the whole bike commuting thing. It’s not all sunshine and lollypops though. Sometimes I get a grim reminder that our animal friends live in a heartless world. Today, near Gravelley Point park I saw a male mallard in the grass near the trail. It was facing the trail and not moving. As I passed I saw lying in the dirt along the edge of the trail a female mallard. Her dusky colored feathers camoflaged her a bit. She was on her side, inert. I circled back and the male waddled a few feet further away. Alas, the female had waddled off her mortal coil. Some of her feathers were strewn across the trail. I am certain she was hit by a passing bicycle.

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I have to say that it was both heart breaking and heart warming to see the male duck standing guard over his mate.

I rode on. Two miles later I came upon some Canada geese. Amongs the adults were a bunch of fuzzy gosslings. They were wandering through the grass at random, a bit like the plastic football players on the old electric football game we used to have (and break) at Christmas. (They were animated by the vibration of the field.)

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The gosling made me feel better. They always do.

Almost as if on order, Klarence posted a selfie. The literal picture of one of my favorite people. Kind. Compassionate. Rowdy. Prideful. It made my day.