October Riding

This month hasn’t been much to talk about in terms of bike riding. I spent the first half of the month riding my recumbent and the second half riding my folding travel bike. My body is all kinds of confused. By messing around with the height of my handlebars on my Bike Friday, I screwed up my back. So I have been maxing out at 30 miles or so per day. When your back hurts riding is exhausting. I better up my game for Saturday’s Cider Ride. which is over 50 miles.

Total miles for the month: 835.

Longest ride: 43 miles.

Miles so far this year: 10,390

(This means I have now ridden over 10,000 miles outside after being a rehabbing cellar dweller for January and a weather weenie for parts of February and March.

My next goal is to reach 21,000 miles on Little Nellie. I’m fewer than 300 miles from that goal. Maybe I’ll do a hike to celebrate.


Ramblings on a Gloomy Saturday

  • My participation in a 60+ mile bike event today was dashed by an 18-inning epic World Series game. Yes, I watched the entire thing which didn’t come to an unsatisfactory end (the Saux lost) until 3:30 in the a of m. A few years ago I attended a Washington Nationals game that lasted 16 innings. I have to say that I was grateful that I didn’t have to ride 15+ miles home after last night’s affair.
  • I actually woke up on time to go to the 9:30 start but the combination of feeling bleery, the cold, rainy weather and the ache in my lower back convinced me that crawling back in bed was a better way to spend my day. I did download the cue sheet so maybe I can ride it someday during the coming week.
  • Yesterday, I rode to Friday Coffee Club in DC. After starting small the gathering grew to about 8 or 9 people. Somebody took a group picture. I had my mouth full of muffin. I look like a deranged chipmunk.
  • Most of the gang left leaving me talking, I kid you not, to two men named Poncho and Bones. Cowboys? Bank robbers? Drug runners? The left side of a athletic yet inept infield? Nope. Just Frank and Steve, an attorney recruiter and a computer scientist. So boooring!
  • I am getting kind of depressed by the low angle of the sun and the shortness of daylight. I left for Friday Coffee Club in predawn blackness. I waited until I was 6 1/2 miles from home to take a sunrise picture. sunrise 102618
  • For you politics junkies, as I took this picture I had my back to the condominium that was once home to Paul Manafort. I think he’s still in the pokey.
  • Tomorrow morning I am riding to Crystal City to watch the Marine Corps Marathon. A friend of my daughter is running. It will be her first. Go Marien!

Tailwinds Forever Chris

It was a raw early December morning five years ago. I was riding the inaugural Cider Ride here in DC. The course took us across the Anacostia River uphill into the near suburbs of Prince Georges County. We were riding to a couple of apple farms. The roads and drivers were not exactly pleasant. I was riding alone. At the rest stops I said hi to the few volunteers that I knew. I was looking forward to finishing and warming up at the after party.

Somewhere, somehow during the last ten miles I met Chris Maimone. He, like me, was enduring the cold. Chris asked if he could ride with me. And so we became a pair, chatting and keeping an eye out for each other as the cars squeezed by on the narrow roads. Approaching FedEx Field we came upon Katie Fiegenbaum, an undergraduate at American University who was was riding alone and starting to struggle. So we adopted her, adding her to our little pity party on wheels. The company made the last few miles of the ride so much more enjoyable. Afterward we shared pizza and laughs.

From time to time afterward, I’d run into Chris on bike commutes or at bike events in DC. Of course, as usual, I had a difficult time recognizing him but he never made me feel bad about it. A few years later I saw him at the start of the Seagull Century in Salisbury Maryland. He asked me to ride with him. Forgetting that he was more than 10 years younger, I said yes.

For the next 100 miles, I strained to keep up with him, doing my best to disguise the fact that I was in a world of hurt for most of the ride.

Sometime after that event he described me as the person who showed him how to do bike rides.


We all take the people around us for granted. I didn’t do Seagull this year but when I saw that Chris did I figured I’d see him at the next ride down the road.

That’s not going to happen.

Chris died Wednesday night.

He was a proud husband and father. A devoted Catholic. From his athletic events he raised thousands of dollars for Amyotropic Lateral Sclerosis, more widely known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. He did this in memory of his father who succumbed to ALS 20 years ago.

Like some many people I know in the BikeDC community I am in shock at hearing this news. We’ve lost a splendid human being.

Here is Chris’s obituary.

Tailwinds forever, Chris.

Getting Better

A day of rest and plenty of ibuprofen saw me through yesterday without too much discomfort. I wasn’t getting sharp pains like yesterday, just a general ache and stiffness. So I lounged about until noon. The weather here in DC was about as perfect as it can get. I decided to take a chance and go for a ride.

Before I left I lowered the handlebars back to where they were before my back went out. I gently rode down the street. No pain. And I rode some more. I did my best to avoid hills because they stress the lower back.

Trees were fighting the season, holding on to their greenery. I made my way to Fort Hunt Park. The maples there put on a great show during autumn. Not this year. Not yet anyway.

I left the park and continued on. No back pain. In fact, other than a lack of power to my legs, I felt surprisingly good.

I called it a day after 30 miles and rewarded myself with some cookies. (They are not as big as they appear in the photo. I had my camera set on “gluttony”.)

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I should be fine by Saturday. I plan on doing over 60 miles on the Boundary Stone Ride. It goes around the perimeter of DC to visit all the cities boundary stones. Then there’s a party at a bar called Boundary Stone. I don’t think they serve cookies. Beer will have to suffice.


Slowing Down

  • It’s been nearly a month since I’ve ridden a bike more than 40 miles in a day. On tour, I aimed to ride 40 miles by lunch but now that I have the comfort of a bed and a car and unlimited snacks, 40 miles seems like a big deal.
  • I recently switched to riding Little Nellie, my folding travel bike. It’s little wheels are hard on my back. Yesterday, for the first time in over a year, my lower back started aching. Before going on a 30-mile ride, I raised the handlebars about a half inch. The new position felt great while I was riding. I ended the ride, ironically, at the drug store. That’s where my back started to send shocks of pain into my hips. So today I am laying about the house feeling glum as I look outside and see the perfect blue sky. Ibuprofen goes great with corn flakes for breakfast.
  • I’m back in the habit of lifting weights. After only five visits to the gym, my arms are no longer twigs. It feels strange to have meat on them after they withered away on my bike tour.
  • After drinking beer three times in a week, my tummy is not happy. I think it may be time for a beercation soon.
  • I am still waiting for documents for my Irish citizenship application. I need three more. Two of the three require a notarized affidavit which I did not provide with my applications so I know I will have to resubmit them. The third (a certified copy of my father’s birth certificate) requires a court order. I’ll blow that bridge up when I get the affidavits out of the way. The documents take 10 to 12 weeks to process.
  • Yesterday I read the blog posts of Gretchen, a woman who is solo hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. She’s been hiking for over four months. Although she complains about being slow, she is covering up to 20 miles per day with a monster back pack on. Go girl!
  • Another blog that I am really liking these days is by my former co-worker, Jessica. Jessica left DC to teach in the desert of northern Chile. Who’d have thought such a remote place would be so interesting?
  • I have made no progress on plans for a bike tour next year. Reading Gretchen’s posts brought to mind how much I loved the solitude of my tour. Basically, I am contemplating a cross country ride that includes the Grand Canyon or a double cross (to the Pacific and back).
  • This week autumn arrived. We skipped the first two weeks of gentle cool down and jumped right into the windy cold part. The trees didn’t get the memo. They are mostly still green. I broke out the holey sweater for an evening ride. Dang. I don’t mind though. The heat and humidity of DC summers really wear on you after a while.





About ten months ago, my kids were coming home from overseas, Christmas was approaching, and I was about to hit 10,000 miles of bicycle riding for the year. I was really looking forward to a big finish to 2017.

Then I got my ass kicked by some invisible friends. Unbeknownst to me, I had been harboring a deep vein thrombosis, a big blood clot, in my left calf. On the night my kids came home, a week before Christmas, my DVT sent tiny bits of blood clots to my heart and my heart pumped them into my lungs. I’ll take pulmonary embolisms for 1,000, Alex.


There I was in the ER hearing the diagnosis from a gaggle of doctors. It was literally unbelievable, and inane.

Me: You’re putting me on!

Doctor: No. We’re serious.

Me: I just rode a bicycle to Key West.

Doctor: Ever hear of a plane?

At some point that evening my right lung collapsed.


And so it became clear that my mileage for 2017 would fall 88 miles short of 10,000 miles. Which, at the time, wasn’t exactly at the top of my worry list.

I’ll take Please don’t let me die for $2,000, Alex.

About a week later, Katie B. and Rachel surprised me. Rachel sent the fritters. Katie sent the t-shirt..


And I decided that I wasn’t done with 10,000 miles.

After a week or two, I gently began riding Big Nellie in the basement. Then, I ventured outside. Mile after mile. Day after day. I got a little bit stronger.

By February I was feeling pretty much like my old self. My lung had long since re-inflated and my pulmonary embolisms were gone. Still, I had to be careful; I was on Xarelto, a powerful blood thinner with no antidote. One blow to the head would cause me to bleed out in my skull. Can I have Dead as a door nail for $800, Alex?

And still I rode. And rode. And by the end of April my DVT was gone. My hematologist took me off Xarelto. And he and my pulmonologist gave me the green light to ride to the Pacific northwest. Their words of warning: stay hydrated and, if your symptoms return, get to a hospital.

All was well until my left calf became enlarged near Fargo. I felt fine. but by the time I got to Bismarck, I knew I had to go to an ER and get my leg checked out. A doppler ultrasound confirmed that I was fine and could continue to my tour. As it turned out, my December DVT made my left calf rather elastic, prone to swelling. Now all I had to do was wear a compression sleeve on my calf.

And I rode on. Through the plains, past the Painted Canyon, over the Judith Mountains, around Square Butte, to the Missouri Breaks, over Rogers Pass and Waconda Pass and Sherman Pass and Loup Loup Pass and Washington Pass and Rainy Pass, down to Anacortes, and, eventually, to the Pacific Ocean near Astoria, Oregon.


But I wasn’t done.

For the next three months, day after day, I rode. And rode.

And today, just riding along the Mount Vernon Trail, I reached 10,000 miles.

In the immortal words of Blue Swede:


I think it’s time for some pizza and beer.

I’ll drive.

My car misses me.



Coffeenuering with Susana

I met Susana several years ago at a get together in Meridian Hill Park. Although I’ve talked to her only a few times, it quickly became apparent me that she’s about as kind a human being as you could find. Earlier this year she didn’t hesitate to meet with my friend Jessica who was moving to Chile, Susana’s home country, this summer to teach English.

Susana’s athletic thing is rock climbing, not a bicycling. (I said she was kind, not sane!) I was a bit surprised when she contacted me over the summer to hear about my bike tour. After a long delay, we sat down this afternoon to chat at Firehook Coffeehouse and Bakery in Cleveland Park.

Of course, I took this as an opportunity to get a ride in. I chose The Mule so that Susana could see the bike I rode during my tour.

I rode my baby into a headwind up the Mount Vernon Trail, across the Teddy Roosevelt Bridge, up Rock Creek Park to Cathedral Avenue then up the long hill to Cleveland Park. The entire way, The Mule felt like it was an extension of my body. Sweet.

We sat in the sunny window and much talk ensued. Mostly I recounted my decade of foibles in learning how to bike tour by failing. Along the way, we covered hostels, Warmshowers, Crazyguyonabike.com, and Adventure Cycling Association maps. Time and again the conversation returned to familiar themes. No hill is too high, no tour too long that you can’t reduce it to a series of manageable efforts. People are just plain nice. Solitude is wonderful. Montana, North Dakota, Iowa,….are beautiful, each in its own way. Blood clots and collapsed lungs suck. Random conversations with plant nerds, elevator technicians, and rolfing artists are gold.

My sense is that Susana wants to bike tour. We talked about buying a bike, what to avoid (big box stores) and what to insist on (a bike that fits). One of these days , we just may see her riding from Pittsburgh to DC along the Gap and C&O Canal trails. (Hey, Susana, want to do a tour in Chile?)


Coffeeneuring notes: I rode 38 miles round trip for my second coffeeneuring adventure. Susana had chai tea. I had the house coffee and a chocolate chip cookie. Observation: We talked for 3 hours. During that time the temperature dropped about 15 degrees. Even with a tailwind and an additional layer of clothing, I froze on my ride home. Weren’t we complaining about the heat and humidity just a few days ago?

The Incompetent Coffeeneur Rides Again

The Coffeeneuring event is up an running again thanks to Mary’s tireless dedication to destroying my central nervous system with gallons of caffeine.

Of course, I wasn’t really paying attention so I accidentally coffeeneured (is it a verb?) today by riding 30 round trip miles to Swing’s House of Jitters in DC to see my peeps at Friday Coffee Club.

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Did I mention we went from 80s and muggy to windy and 55 overnight here in DC? I had on tights and two shirts (one with long sleeves) and I still froze. I have to admit it felt pretty terrific.

I rode into town in the pitch dark and slalomed around scores of limbs downed by the overnight passing of the remnants of hurricane Michael. In Jones Point Park I dismounted to try to remove a small tree that had landed across the trail. I didn’t bring my axe so rootchopping wasn’t in the cars so I snapped the top off to clear half the trail.

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At Swing’s I celebrated with an apple fritter along side my Nicaraguan brew. (Actually, as far as I know this coffee could have come from Dubuque. But it said “Nicaragua” on the urn so I’ll go with that.)

The brew and the fritter put my heart and pancreas into overdrive. On the way home I stopped at the gym to lift weights. You wouldn’t like me when I’m mangry.

So ends my first day of coffeeneuring. I am coffeeneuring again tomorrow because my friend Susana wants me to tell her all the things about my Any Road bike tour.

The Coffeeneuring rules say that I can’t count Friday Coffee Club again. And, despite tomorrow’s coffee meet up, I don’t normally drink coffee anywhere else but home. Therefore, I’ll probably fail to successfully complete the challenge and qualify for the Golden Coffee Urn or other fabulous prizes.

Now if I could only get to sleep….

Let’s Help Julie’s Dad

One thing I have grown to appreciate as I age (and, boy, am I old) is a terrific conversation. A few over the last twenty years come back to my mind over and over again. Until this summer, the most recent one lasted four hours.  I downplayed it in my blog post the next day but I think about it all the time. The more we talked the more there was to talk about. We were each peeling the others’ onion.

The day after I dipped my wheel in the Pacific Ocean in July, I happened to find myself sitting next to Julie Counseller Crabtree at a pub in Astoria Oregon. We didn’t know each other, but a conversation broke out that lasted two hours. Onions were peeled. She told me about her jewelry making and painting, bragged rather subtly about her kids, described how she, a certified rolfer, would deal with the nerve issues in my legs, and told me about staying at an Air B&B on a goat farm. I told her about my bicycle touring adventures. I didn’t want the conversation to end. Since she lives in Juneau, Alaska, it’s unlikely we’ll cross path again, but Facebook keeps us in touch. Last night, she posted something on Facebook about her father.

On October 3, Julie’s father had a stroke. He has a long row to hoe to recovery. The rest of the Counceller family will be doing what they can, but clearly the stress on them will be difficult. One way to help would be to take some of the financial burden off their backs. If you can, please make a contribution on her Go Fund Me page.




Borrowed Time

You know you are old when you only see your friends at wakes and funerals. Somebody older than me said that once.

Today I went to a memorial ride in DC for Tom Hollowell. Tom was an avid, year-round bike commuter. About a week ago, not far from his work at the Smithsonian, he was run over by a driver of a car. He died. It was a hit and run. The driver has yet to be apprehended.

I didn’t know Tom. But as I looked around at the gathering, perhaps two or three hundred strong, I saw so many people I did know. Rachel M., Rachel C., Adam, Leslie, Lesly, Ted, Jean, Jeff, Joe, Peter, Jesse, Jeanne, and Rudi among them.

During the moment of silence, I spotted Laura and Cyrus. I met them a month ago at a similar event for Laura’s son and Cyrus’s brother Malik was run over and killed a few miles away while riding his bike.

I could see and hear people crying. I didn’t take pictures. I wanted to feel this. It felt dreadful.

Many, perhaps even most, of the people I know who ride bikes or walk around this city have been hit by the driver of a motor vehicle. Some more than once. It’s hard for me to say which is more miraculous: the fact that of all these victims only only one died or the fact that I was hit – while on the Mount Vernon Trail, no less – and walked away without a scratch.

Days like today remind me that I am living on borrowed time.

We all are.