Feels like we’ve crested the hill

January, here’s your hat. What’s your hurry?

For the second year in a row January involved recuperation. This year it was from four bouts of head colds. (I’m almost completely recovered. Knock wood.) And I took a week off life to travel to London to watch my daughter get her diploma from the graduate school at King’s College. And see sights and walk over 40 miles and eat foods. Sadly, the shitty air circulation and leg room on the British Airways flights has made me dread getting on a plane again in this lifetime.

I did do some riding, but it was my lowest mileage month since December 2017. I finished the month with 381 miles. 241 of that was on my Cross Check outdoors. The rest was on Big Nellie in the basement.

Now that the polar vortex has had its way with us, I look forward to getting some serious miles in during February. And to turning my attention to getting my bikes fixed up.

Being sick for over three weeks has made it hard to care about warm weather bike touring. (No, Jessica, you will not see me roll up to your apartment in Buenos Aires next month. But keep bugging me. You never know. Nothing stops an old gringo on a bicycle.)

Today, Cyclosource, the catalogue from Adventure Cycling, came in the mail. It contains the complete Adventure Cycling U.S. route network. And once again the little squeaky planning wheels in my brain are turning.











London thoughts

  • The streets in London are smooth. I didn’t see a single pothole or patch.
  • The Underground is more than 100 years older than DC’s Metro. And it seems infinitely more reliable.
  • Underground trains come every two minutes. There is no crowding on the platforms because there’s no time for a crowd to accumulate.
  • With that level of train frequency, why would you ever want to drive?
  • I wonder how many billions of dollars we could save if DC’s Metro trains ran every two minutes.
  • Horn honking in London is not much of a thing, mostly because drivers seem to obey the rules. (Truer still in Stockholm.)
  • I didn’t hear anyone cuss out a cyclist in my seven days. They often use bus lanes and the bus drivers just go with the flow.
  • Bromptons are very popular in London.
  • Bike theft is apparently a problem; people lock their bikes with serious hardware.
  • People in London walk fast. They seem to be underdressed for the temperature.
  • I have yet to figure out if walkers should stay to the left or the right. When on an escalator, you stand on the right.
  • Footbridges across the Thames are the best. They seem to be about the length of the Key Bridge between Rosslyn and Georgetown.
  • I don’t quite understand why the platforms and the train floors are not at the same level. “Mind the gap.”
  • You can actually understand the announcements in the tube stations and on the trains. I wonder if they could send someone to DC to teach Metro personnel how to pronounce “L’Enfant Plaza”.
  • Curbstones are not nearly as high as in the US. And the buses come right to the very edge of the curb.
  • I’ve now been to five left hand drive countries. It still confuses the hell out of me.
  • I was hit by a wrong-way cyclist on a one-way street in Boston when I was in college. I now look both ways all the time, regardless of traffic flow. Without this I would have been roadkill in London.
  • The entire time we were in London, the temperature varied only about 10 degrees F. And it was warmed than DC despite being at the same latitude as Labrador.

Germliner aftermath

Last January I lazed around the house trying to re-inflate my collapsed lung and waiting for my pulmonary embolisms to dissolve. Since then I have read numerous accounts from friends who knew someone who died from PEs. Every time I read about one of these people I shudder.

This January I have had a head cold off and on for three weeks. The first one came and went in three days. I didn’t miss a beat. The second one did the same. I felt fine when I boarded the flight to London, only to arrive in England with a horrible head cold. After four days, it went away. Then I boarded another British Airways Germliner home. I have been sick for three days. You know I am sick when the temperature outside is 50 degrees F and I sleep through the entire day.

I know that if I wait a week my cold will probably go away, but tomorrow I am raising the white flag and calling my doctor. No mas.


For the first time in a year, I took a week off my bike. My wife, daughter, and I went to London to attend my daughter’s graduation from King’s College masters program in International Conflict Studies.

Last Thursday we took a red eye from Dulles to London. The plane was a 787 Dreamliner and it was a dream for British Airways profit margin. Economy class had nearly no leg room which is not a good thing if you are tall and have a history of pulmonary embolisms as I do.

Also, the air circulation was lousy. Within an hour I was sick as a dog. This really ticked me off because I had just recovered from a cold a few days before our departure.

When we got to London, my left knee, hip, and lower back ached. My daughter is the travel expert and knows how to get around London better than she does DC. So we proceeded to walk nearly 8 miles before succumbing to the time change. By the time we ended the day walking to and climbing Primrose Hill I could no longer stand up straight. Ugh. We finished the day walking 6.9 miles. (By the end of the trip we had walked 44 miles. Ironically, switching from my hiking boots to my black Clark dress shoes made a huge difference in my comfort. Go figure.)

In addition to her graduation at the Royal Festival Hall, we hit beaucoup sites including:

  • The British Museum
  • The Millennium Bridge, a new-ish footbridge across the Thames. Here we talked with Ben Wilson, known as Chewinggumman. He makes intriguing mini-paintings on the remnants of chewing gum along the bridge.
  • The Tate Modern Art Museum where we saw all manner of exhibits purporting to be art. (Including a urinal that was less artistic than those in the men’s room)
  • St. Dunstans in the East, the ruins of a church (designed by Sir Christopher Wren) bombed by the Luftwaffe during the Blitz. It’s now a garden with walls.
  • The Monument to the Great Fire of London, 1666. The fire was started at a baker’s home on Pudding Lane.
  • The Royal Observatory and the Queen’s House in Greenwich. This included a fun boat ride on the Thames. It was fun to stand on the Prime Meridian.
  • The Book of Mormon at the Prince of Wales Theatre in Piccadilly Circus. (Sadly, after we were back in the hotel room, I learned that Neil Finn had played about 2 miles due north of our hotel.)
  • The Churchill War Rooms, a warren of underground offices and living quarters where Churchill ran the war effort during the Battle of Britain.
  • The Seven Dials
  • Covent Garden
  • The Natural History Museum
  • Westminster Abbey
  • Regents Park
  • Primrose Hill

We skipped the Tower of London, St Paul’s Cathedral, and the Tower Bridge because we had done them before.

We saw a taxi protest during the evening rush hour. How they managed to get taxis side by side lined up for three blocks in the core of downtown is a mystery.

For food we ate at:

  • Dishoom (twice) for the ladies’ favorite breakfast with bottomless chai. The vegan granola is to die for.
  • Pizza Sophia, a cozy pizza place near our hotel that dispelled my hatred for London pizza from a previous trip
  • The Marquis Cornwallis, a pub two blocks from our hotel, for fish and chips and lager. Twice.
  • Nicholson’s Pub in The City (the old part of London). More beer and food. Walking fuel.
  • Nandos, because I’d never eaten there before. Underwhelming.

I didn’t ride a bike, but there is bikeshare everywhere including dockless MoBike. Feel free to ride them but good luck with the left hand drive thing.

We stopped at the Brooks Store. It’s heaven. (Unfortunately, they confirmed for me that they do not make a longer adjusting bolt for their leather saddles, leaving me with two saddles about to run out of adjusting room.)

The temperature barely changed the entire time we were in London. It was in the low 40s F every day. We were rained on once or twice but it was a light, misty sort of thing.

The flight home was another BA 787. This one had some leg room, thank god, but the air quality sucked so I got sick again.

After a day of rest, I’m heading back to the basement for some recovery bike riding on Big Nellie.

Lots of pix on my Flickr page.


fish and chips






Wovel and Ride

I woke up yesterday feeling quite a bit better. I took it easy and rode my Cross Check 18 flat and easy miles in the 30 degree cold. The cold air helped my sinuses immensely. My hands, however, were frozen into claws. Maybe next time I’ll use those chemical hand warmers. Doh.

I woke up today feeling better still. This was a good thing since it had snowed overnight and there was shoveling to do.

I spent about 90 minutes with my wovel (a big shovel on an even bigger wheel) and a conventional snow shovel. A kindly neighbor plowed the sidewalk in front of my house.

The snow was what we called in my childhood days growing up in upstate New York “good packing”. Ideal for snowballs and snowmen.

Last year when it snowed, I watched Mrs. Rootchopper do the shoveling. I stayed inside feeling feeble, a result of pulmonary embolisms and a collapsed lung


With pavement clear and cars liberated, I went inside.

I spent another 80 minutes in the basement riding Big Nellie, my Tour Easy long wheelbase recumbent, on a resistance trainer. While riding I read a chunk of Presidents of War, a new book by Michael Beschloss.

After a 30 minute nap I awoke to find my cold completely gone. Better still my legs feel springy for the first time in weeks.

While I was underground, it started snowing again. Now the snow is big, puffy flakes. It’s picture pretty outside. I’ll venture out again in an hour or two.


Shutdown of another sort

In apparent sympathy with federal government employees and contractors, my body has shut down. Three days ago I came down with a nasty head cold. I can’t remember when I’ve been sick for more than a day so I suppose I was due. The head cold coincided with my legs feeling like lead. I think two years and 20,000 miles of riding, much of it without any stretching whatsoever, has finally maxed them out.

I hope to be back on the bike for a few hours before tomorrow evening’s predicted snowstorm. With snow on the ground, I’ll probably be riding Big Nellie in the basement for a few days before I give my bike legs a planned full week of R&R. After that, I’ll turn my attention to the business of summer tour planning. Once the weather turns warmer, I’ll be itching to ride somewhere where the purple mountains rise.

Twice to the end

A Ride with Heather and Daniel

My friend Heather sent me an email the other day asking if I’d like to do a ride on the Mount Vernon Trail to take advantage of the nice weather and her furlough. And so I found myself riding my Surly Cross Check up to DC to meet her at the Capital Crescent Trail beneath Key Bridge in Georgetown.


Heather brought her friend Daniel, an ultramarathoner and rider of a 29er (a mountain bike with big wheels and front suspension). Heather rode her aluminium Specialized Sequoia which bears absolutely no resemblance to the Mule, my 1991 steel Specialized Sequoia. (Specialized recycles it’s bike names, apparently.)

We began by walking up stairs to get from the underside of Key Bridge to the roadway atop it. Across the Potomac we rode. I stopped before turning onto the Mount Vernon Trail to point out the Intersection of Doom, the bicycle counter, and the glass and steel ick that is today’s Rosslyn.

Down we rode to the trail and across Trollheim, the sketchy boardwalk under the TR Bridge. We came to the staging area of the Memorial Bridge reconstruction project and were delayed by a tractor trailer backing its load onto a barge in the river.

Down by the airport we stopped to admire the planes landing at National Airport. I broke the news to a dismounting cyclist that the porta potties were padlocked shut thanks to the government shutdown. I explained that in order to keep rapists and drug dealers out of the country park users must pee our pants. The cyclist who was by now doing the pee pee dance hit me with a right cross.

On we rode to Old Town were we stopped to admire the hulk of the decommissioned coal fired power plant.

Further south I explained how the fake arches of the Woodrow Wilson bridge were put together. Then it was down the trail past Porto Vechio were an SUV driver failed to stop at the red light and nearly hit me as she turned right  onto the Parkway. Having been hit here once before under nearly identical circumstances at this intersection, I hit my brakes and STOP!! I do wish Alexandria would change this to a no right on red intersection.

As we rode south I pointed out a bald eagle perched in a tree across the road. We made our way through Belle Haven Park then along the edge of Dyke Marsh where I pointed out the nests on the Haul Road and along the trail just south of Tulane Drive.

The gradual climb up to the stone bridge took us by another nest, this one near Morningside Drive.

We continued on the trail with Daniel taking the lead. Despite having sore feet and knobby tires he set a healthy pace. We came to the nasty switchback hill south of Waynewood Boulevard and everyone slowed to wobble a bit.

The ride to Mount Vernon was pretty and uneventful. We are all pretty tired once we reached the top of the hill at the end of the trail. Heather’s husband Rulon appeared as we were about to lock up our bikes. Heather treated us to lunch at the food court.

After lunch I led the descent back toward DC. As we passed Fort Hunt Park I pointed out the big eagle nest across the Parkway. When we got to the stone bridge, I bid Heather and Daniel good bye and headed for home. I finished with 41 1/2 miles on my odometer, my longest ride since Veterans Day.

The Puzzle from Hell

This year we decided to go low key for Christmas. No tree. No presents (we all cheated a bit). Just a few decorations, a shitload of junk food, some board games, and, a 1,000 piece jigsaw puzzle. The puzzle has been on our dining room table for over a week. I swear it was taunting us in our sleep. Looking at it day after day made me see jigsaw pieces as I rode my bike around.

Jigsaw puzzles make you appreciate how painters take what we see and how our brains translate that vision and distill it into bits of paint. That white dot in the puzzle piece is a headlight. The splash of white on the leaf is the reflection of a street light. The black line is the shadow beneath a piece of trim on a building.

Today I finished the painting. The push to the finish involved re-placing a couple of dozen pieces that had been improperly positioned. I laid 999 pieces together and realized the last piece, on the upper left side of the puzzle, didn’t fit! After 10 minutes of puzzle inspection I found a piece of the right side that was misplaced, switched them, and voila! Done.


I am doing the puzzle in the middle of the day because I woke up with a head cold. Reason enough to lay about in sweatshirt and sweatpants and eat some chicken soup.

Now to bed….

Into the new year

Turning the corner on the new year allowed me to back off the biking for a few days.

Okay. Okay. One day.

I watched a bunch of movies with my wife and daughter. We went around DC looking at holiday light displays such as Georgetown Glow and a disappointingly unlit display in Yards Park. We had dinner at a tavern in Petworth with #bikedc friends.  I finally got to see my friend Rachel’s string trio (the Tocatta Players) who were playing for the customers. Rachel surprised us by putting down her viola and singing three songs. (She crushed “Santa Baby”.)

On New Years Day we moved my daughter into her new apartment 15 miles away. This involved moving a van load of stuff including a full size mattress and bed, a full size sofa, and some other somewhat lighter stuff. I am shocked that we pulled it off in only a few hours without any orthopedic injuries. We lucked out when a tenant at her  apartment building helped us with the sofa. (Thanks, Emmett.)

We started a 1,000 piece jigsaw puzzle. Emphasis on “started”.

I replaced the fan and motor to two noisy bathroom ceiling fans. (Not exactly brain surgery, but still…)

I put a very small dent in Michael Beschloss’s Presidents of War.

And I did go for a couple of bike rides on New Years Day and today. On both days I expected to ride only 20 miles but ended up going 30, aches and pains from the move notwithstanding.


I spotted an interesting map on Facebook yesterday. It’s from a charity bike tour of Oregon, California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, and Washington. Around 4,000 miles with a number or national parks that I have (Yellowstone) and haven’t (Yosemite, Redwoods, Death Valley, Grand Canyon, Glacier) been to.

I need to do more research to see how this overlaps with Adventure Cycling routes which would simplify logistics for a solo bike tour. Stay tuned.

Western Parks Bike Tour.JPG