September 2018 – By the Numbers

September my bike riding dropped like rain. Because rain.

For the first time in five months, I rode less than 1,000 miles. What a slacker.

In 24 days of riding, I managed to plod through 788 miles. Most of my rides were about 30 miles in length, coincidentally the distance from my home to the office and back. My longest ride (61 miles) was the 50 States Ride, my tenth – and last – time. (Yes, I know, I’ve said that before.)

The weather really sucked this month. It rained or was hot and muggy. One way or another, you were drenched the second you walked outside. Thankfully, the misery ended with two perfect fall days yesterday and today when it was perfect outside and I rode 94 1/2 miles.

My Crosscheck reached 10,000 miles a couple of days ago.

For the year, I’ve ridden 9,555 miles. (Yes, I am tired.) Barring a medical catastrophe (been there, done that) I should break 10,000 miles for the year next month. My next goal is 10,444 miles, which would mean I’ve ridden 10,000 miles outdoors. (I did 444 miles in my basement, last winter.)



Any Road Tour – Riding with La Mariposa

During my bike tour to the Pacific northwest, I tried to put out of my mind that I had several mountains to climb to get from central Montana to the Pacific. With each climb I’d find myself grinding away, sometimes at speeds as slow as 4 or 5 miles per hour. On several occasions as the effort became difficult and my speed fell, I would pick up a companion.

As it turns out, butterflies fly at about 6 miles per hour. I’d find myself totally focused, giving it everything I had, and there, flitting around me would be a butterfly. Each time it seemed as if the butterfly was telling me, “See how easy it is?” These encounters would go on for as long as five minutes, welcome diversions from the arduous task at hand.

And my flying companions would remind me of someone.

Four years ago, a friend of a friend died. She was hit by a bus while walking home from a Metro station. It was 2 hours before her 42nd birthday. A Facebook memorial page was started. Many of the postings in her native Spanish referred to la mariposa, the butterfly. Perhaps this was just an obvious reference to rebirth or maybe it was a childhood nickname. Regardless, the upshot of these posts is that whenever I see a butterfly I think of Lorena.

Lorena was going to American University. Younger students and friends would look up to her and ask for advice. Her advice was often couched in three sentences:

Are you happy?

What would make you happy?

Do that with everything you’ve got.

Time and again this summer, mile after mile, I pedaled onward and upward, fulfilling my dream of a lifetime. And when the hills steepened, una mariposa would remind me to give it everything I got.







Fomo and amnesia

I have serious envy these days. My friends and relatives are doing all sorts of exciting things and posting pictures of their fab lives on social media. My nephew Conor is cavorting in Bali. Friend Linel is finishing up two weeks in Portugal by hanging out in the Azores. Amanda, fresh off her first bike commuting crash, has flown to Lisbon to recover. Charmaine just participated in the Bicycle Ride Across Tennessee. Blogger Brittany is working at Yellowstone Park. Jessica is living in the Altacama desert in Chile. Brian is in Bologna. Juneau Julie chartered a seaplane to take her family members to a bay in Alaska.

Oh how I hate them all.

Several times in the last week I have said “I wish I were doing something like that.” Then the person listening to me whine says, “Dude, you just rode your bicycle across the United States.”

I forgot.


Then I think about the tour and the afterglow returns. Square Butte, Rogers Pass, 136 miles in one day, excellent pizza and beer in Wibaux (and Minneapolis), the Painted Canyon, the turquoise lake on the descent from Rainy Pass, ASL bike racks in Fargo, Big Ole. And on and on.

I woke up this morning and, for a moment, I felt like I should get packed up and head on down the road.

Oh, give me land, lots of land under starry skies above. Don’t fence me in.

It’s not like I’m doing nothing. I rode the 50 States Ride. I went to see Hamilton last week. Last night we went to see Portugal. The Man. (I actually liked the opening act, Lucius, better.) Today I am taking my daughter to see the Washington Nationals. I think this may be her first game of the year, having spent most of the year in London. And it’s her first chance to use the scorebook I gave her for her birthday.










One year later

Last year at this time I was riding my bike in eastern North Carolina on my way to Key West. The country lies low and there are many rivers to cross. Except right now the whole thing is a river of sorts. I passed through Plymouth, New Bern, Jacksonville, North Topsail Beach, Wilmington, Fishers Island and Southport. I had lovely sunny pre-fall weather. This year not so much. Most of what I rode through either has been, is now, or soon will be flooded.

When you ride a bike you get a different sense of the terrain. You have to work your way over the hills. You feel the cool air pooled in the bottoms. You have a physical sense of how high the river banks are. It’s part of the appeal of bike touring. What is boring at 60 miles per hour is full of sensations at 60 miles per day.

The sensations I felt last year at this time make me acutely aware of how vulnerable eastern Carolina is right now.

Riding through the area will be impossible for at least a week. Rains keep falling and the storm will move into the mountains, only to cause a second wave of river flooding in the week or two to come.

I hope Ken and Dani my Warmshowers hosts are okay. Their community outside Jacksonville has many ponds and creeks. Ditto for my college friend Wendy and her husband Brian who are in Southport near the South Carolina border.

It looks like DC will be hit with the echo of the storm in the days ahead. We should be fine but the rivers will rise and probably damage the C&O Canal again, as it has several times this summer.





Will I get a discount on Guinness?

So what have I been up to lately? A little reading. Watching a few baseball games. Riding my bike a bit here and there. And procrastinating.

I am eligible for Irish citizenship. In order to get it I have to provide a certified paper trail of my Irish lineage back to my grandmother’s birth on the 25th of May in 1882 in Balla, County Mayo, Ireland. Using this information I will be placed on the Registry of Foreign Births.

I contacted my brother Joe who successfully went through this process 30 years ago. He had copies of several documents, which included a certified copy of my grandmother’s civil marriage certificate.  Joe also provided several non-certified copies of other documents. My brother Bill had a certified copy of my grandmother’s birth certificate from Ireland.

So I was expecting to make short work of the process.

Alas, I learned today that the rules of the game have changed. I need certified copies of civil certificates. Church certificates, even from Catholic churches, are no good. Mary, mother of God, what’s the world coming to?!

The list of papers is long:

  • Grandmother’s birth certificate (have it)
  • Grandmother’s marriage license (have it)
  • My father’s birth certificate
  • Grandmother’s death certificate
  • My father’s marriage license
  • My birth certificate
  • My father’s death certificate
  • My marriage license

My birth certificate actually says that I was legitimate so this means my parents were married. Yet I still need their marriage license.

My grandmother would be 136 years old. If she were still alive, she’d be world news. Yet I still need a death certificate. My father would be 100. Either way, what difference does it make whether they are alive?

Why would Ireland care if I were married anyway? I don’t think my wife’s eligible for citizenship unless they have a cross border agreement with the Cherokee Nation or the State of Illinois.

So I have my work cut out for me. I sent away for a copy of my birth certificate. Then I went to get my parents’ civil marriage certificate. The town where they were married in 1950 keeps records for 50 years. Derp.

I thought being in DC would be helpful. I could go to the Irish Embassy. Then I looked at the website for the Registry of Foreign Births. It says d0 not go to the Embassy. Only the Dublin office deals with this process.

Well, that’s the last time I buy a U2 album.

My friend Lauren just went through this process in Luxemborg. I am pretty sure that she can get free lift tickets and apres ski drinks with her new Lux passport. I might be able to get a seat at the bar at the Dubliner and a free Guinness for my troubles woes.

Don’t tell the office in Dublin but Guinness makes me gag.


50 States in a Dayluge

There’s something about riding cross country that changes your perspective on adversity on a bike. Your brain starts talking to you with pearls of wisdom like “You may be hurting but remember how hard Rogers Pass in Montana was?” and “It’s not as wet as Iowa” and “You’ll feel better when you get to North Dakota.”

Your brain can be an idiot, if you know what I mean.

For the uninitiated, the 50 States Ride is a 60-ish mile ride through nearly all the neighborhoods of DC. The route takes riders on all the avenues named for the 50 U. S. states. The ride is the big event for the Washington Area Bicyclists Association. The route is hilly as hell and somehow almost always occurs during bad weather. (WABA has a weather machine.)

The cue sheet for the ride is over 10 pages long and now comes in book format. I am not making this up.

The 50 States ride happens on open-ish streets. There is regular Saturday DC traffic to deal with. This year we also had to ride around several neighborhood block parties and a big fun run.

I met up with a frightful posse of #bikedc friends. Returning to the fold from last year were Michael, Rachel, and Kevin. New to the fold were Jesse (in the Maryland flag jersey and Jeanne to the bottom right).

50 States from Rachel

As you can see Rachel was an official Ride Marshal. This required her to hand out fritters to disabled cyclists. Would I lie about such a thing?

Jeanne was doing the ride for the first time and trusted me, a nine-time participant, to guide her. Poor Jeanne.

Amid temperatures in the mid 70s and high humidity, we took off> In keeping with tradition, I missed the first turn about 100 feet into the course. Hey, they changed the course again. What was I supposed to do?

We corrected my gaffe and were soon rolling through the streets of Northwest DC. We appeared to be having a good time despite a remarkable number of street closures. It turns out that we were riding during DC’s Annual Construction Crane festival. Who knew?

The entrance to the White House plaza on Pennsylvania Avenue was closed to keep out anonymous trolls but I rode around the closure. I was waved back by White House security police. Okay, we’ll ride on Pennsylvania Avenue some other time. (We did. Three times, in fact.)

We hit the first rest stop at City Center (which was once my favorite dirt parking lot in the city). There we met Friday Coffee Club charter member Brian and his lovely wife Nicole. Nicole was staffing the health food table where I managed to score some cheese puffs. Well, played Nicole!

Experience does actually count for something in this ride. We made it through the confusing maze of streets from downtown around the Capitol and over to Southwest DC. The course then took us to Ohio Drive but not down to Hains Point as in recent years, thus shaving 3 miles from the route. Next up was a roll past the new DC Wharf development and down a long stretch of M Street where the Nats were preparing for a double header with hours of rain delays. (Ain’t baseball great?)

We rode over the Anacostia River to Anacostia Park in Anacostia. (We looked for hobgoblins with little minds but saw none.) We did all enjoy the new path connecting the bridge directly to the park. It’s short and sweet.

On the flat road to the rest stop in the park I started to feel faint. I had no strength in my legs and the group faded into the distance. Uh oh. I guess those chills that woke me at 4 a.m. weren’t caused by a glitch in the house thermostat.

Fortunately the rest stop had plenty of food like bananas, Doritos, pretzels, potato chips, and, thank god in heaven, cheese balls. The assault on my gut biome must have smothered whatever was going wrong with my body and I was ready to roll once more.

We took off into the hills of Anacostia. I must say that our group did a truly laudable job of the climbs. Last year these climbs were extremely difficult for me. It may have been the result of pulmonary embolisms that ultimately put me in the hospital in December. This year I did okay. I weigh less, my bike has lower gears, and I am much stronger owing to my bike tour.

After bombing down the long Massachusetts Avenue hill, we rode through a series of traffic circles where I got out ahead of the group and lost contact. I think Rachel had to hand out some fritters. Anyway, I continued on with a couple of other riders through Capitol Hill east to Eastern Market for lunch.

The lunch was $10, pre-payed, and was rather disappointing. Just a small bowl of veggies. I almost went up to the food tent and said in a child like English accent, “May I have some more please?” To make matters worse, there were no cheese balls. WTF!

While waiting for the posse to arrive, I ran into Jeff and Tara. Jeff met in the fall of 2007 and have done many rides together, including at least two 50 States. Jeff and Tara were doing the new Route 66 version of the ride which is a bit shorter and goes into a few neighborhoods missed by the main route.

My crew showed up and began to refuel. Rachel ran to a coffee shop for life sustaining caffeine. She returned looking like a vampire after a good neck draining. Then we were back on the road headed east to pick off Oklahoma. There were no winds sweeping down the plains so we doubled back through Trinidad and past Gallaudet University on West Virginia Avenue. Our groups’ returning members and I were pleased to see that this year’s course did not ride up Mt. Olivet Street, a tough hill. Sadly, we rode up Montana Avenue instead, which is just as nasty.

On South Dakota Avenue we rode behind a car with South Dakota license plates. What are the odds? South Dakota Avenue brings out the mania in DC drivers. So what better time for the rain to start falling.

As we made our way past the Catholic complex in Northeast DC, we lost contact with Rachel and Jeanne. I think Rachel helped someone with a flat tire.

Michael, Jesse, Kevin and I rode to Rachel M.’s house in Petworth where she had set up an unofficial pit stop. We hung out there waiting for our Rachel and Jeanne. After 20 minutes we took off and made it about 200 yards before Michael got a flat. He changed it in about five minutes in the rain. At the very end as he was putting his Camelback on, his bite valve bounced off and we all watched as it took one…two….three…four bounces on the pavement then down a storm drain.

It’s not like Michael was going to notice waterdripping down his shirt, because it was now raining pretty hard. And I was once again feeling faint. I blame a cheese ball deficiency.

I was soaking wet and cold, because, as we later learned, temperatures had fallen into the low 60s. I sent a message to Rachel and learned that she and Jeanne has skipped Rachel M.’s pit stop and were 30 minutes ahead of us! (Actually somewhere along the way Jeanne abandoned the last few miles for the warmth and comfort of the after party. I can’t blame her. I think she rode about 10 miles more than she expected to.)

I was also pretty much riding blind. My glasses were covered with rain drops and smears from me trying to clear the water off.

At the Tacoma rest stop we refueled and I put on my rain jacket. l started feeling better. Being soggy, I neglected to go inside the house to thank my friends Mike and Lisa for hosting this pit stop. They are awesome to do this every year.

Our route was now near the northern most neighborhoods in DC and we started heading across town to Chevy Chase. We had to cross Rock Creek Park to get there. The cue sheet was rather confusing, a situation made worse by the fact that a critical street sign was obscured by a large shrub hanging over with the weight of the rain.

Flying down busy 16th Street we blasted past our turn. By this point we were joined by Shira who was piloting a tandem with a blind stoker. (I have forgotten her name. My bad.) We back tracked on the sidewalk and did our best to follow the route. We ended up right where we were supposed to be somehow after climbing a long hill on Military Road in the rain. Oregon Avenue was closed so we followed the detour, getting credit for the state in the process.

We were getting a bit testy as we rode through Chevy Chase looking for Linnean St. We found it and rode uphill past Fort Reno to Wisconsin Avenue. With pizza and beer on our minds, we skipped the last pit stop at a coffee shop and rode through Tenley Circle and past American University.

A steady rain was falling as we made our way along Nebraska Avenue. I heard a CRUNCH and looked to my left to see a car and an SUV colliding at low speed.

Down we rode all the way to MacArthur Boulevard. It must have been about a mile and we enjoyed the fun while it lasted. Soon we’d pay the price by riding back up to Cathedral Heights on Garfield Street. This is where my body completely failed me last year. This year, riding The Mule with its low gears, I made it up the hill without distress.

We made short work of the remainder of the ride. The rain kept coming and we kept riding. On busy Connecticut Avenue I darted ahead riding with the cars for a few blocks.

The ride to the finish at Mellow Mushroom in Adams Morgan was a relief. This had been a tough ride. It always is. And I always forget. But riding with a crew of truly nice people made it much easier. We assembled for pizza and beer and t-shirts, basking in the glory of our soggy feet, er,…I mean feat.

Thank you Marshal Rachel, Kevin, Michael, Jesse, and Jeanne. You made my tenth, and final (I’ve said this before), 50 States Ride a day worth remembering.

Special thanks to all the WABA staff, pit stop hosts, and volunteers.  See you at the Cider Ride in November.


Welcome to the herd, Amanda

For my few years, I worked with Amanda. Amanda lived for a while in Del Ray Alexandria. And like all DC area residents she complained about her commute. I told her how easy it would be to commute by bike. She thought it was an interesting idea but she didn’t own and bike and wasn’t motivated to get one.

Over time, Amanda’s commuting frustrations grew. The last two years Amanda asked me where she could buy an inexpensive bike to commute on.  For whatever reason, she never followed through. She moved to DC and her commuting woes intensified. (Thanks Metro!) This week she finally surrendered. She started bike commuting!

On her first day she rode in the gross, super humid weather we are having. She didn’t complain. (Maybe because she’s from the deep South.) On the ride home today her baptism in the bike commuting cult happened. She got caught in an epic downpour. (She sent me a post ride picture. We should all look so good soaked to the bone.)  I was tempted to say “Go with the flow” but thought she might not find those words amusing. Despite a tough first week, I think Amanda’s going to stick with it. Wait until we get some beautiful fall weather to ride in.

Congratulations Amanda and welcome to the herd.


Summer in DC is notoriously hot and muggy. I lucked out this year by spending the first half of the summer in the comfortable Great Plains and Pacific Northwest. Once I came home, I knew I was in for a difficult transition.

I have tried denial. This involves riding my bike very long distances in the hope that all those bike tour miles would make me impervious to the mid-Atlantic sauna. This was a total fail. I’ve mowed my lawn a few time since coming home. I’m only outside about one hour but I am soaked from head to toe when I’m done.

My pulmonologist warned me to stay hydrated but it’s next to impossible to do that here. I find myself spending a couple of hours each day sitting inside drinking fluids just to get my body back to where I started.

Then today’s ride upped the disgustingness. (This should be a word. I bet it is in German.) I waited until 5:30 then rode Big Nellie, my Tour Easy recumbent, along the Mount Vernon Trail to DC. Then I rode home. No hills. Moderate speed. No big deal. I was soaked for most of the ride.

On the way home the sun went down. The last few miles of the trail are along the river. At this time of year, clouds of small bugs swarm along the river bank at sunset. I’ve dealt with this before. Typically, you ride along in peace then you hit a cloud of the bugs, swallow a dozen, rub them out of your eyes, then continue on. Until you hit the next cloud a mile later.

Tonight, I hit one continuous cloud of bugs for about three or four miles. I was already hot. I had sweated through all my clothing. And now I was engulfed in millions of bugs. I had to put one hand over my face to keep them out of my nose and mouth. I was wearing a baseball cap instead of a helmet. This kept the bugs out of my hair.

When I got home and went inside, I could see black dots all over my legs and arms. I could feel bugs crawling on my shoulders. Ayyyyy!


I can’t wait until I can bitch about cold toes again.