Away and home

60 miles a day for days on end while carrying 40 pounds of gear. This is a normal day on tour. At home this would be torture.

I’ve ridden carrying no more than 5 pounds for 17 days in a row. Mostly on flat terrain. I am beat up and tired. I cannot figure it out. Partly, the fatigue has to do with riding Little Nellie. The small wheels on my Bike Friday beat my body up. It’s fun to ride because it’s twitchy and nimble but after a couple of weeks my back starts going into spasm.

I had intended to exploit today’s perfect weather here in DC by going on a monster bike ride. Last night I had a couple of minor back spasms. Then I went to sleep only to wake up with stomach cramps. This turned out to somehow be connected to my ingestion of sour dough bread last evening. I know this  because I had sour dough toast for breakfast and my stomach went nuts.

After lazing about for the entire morning, I set out on The Mule to see if my body would respond favorably. It did. I was riding about 10 percent faster. I could barely feel the tree root bumps in the trail. The weather was perfect. The only negative thought I had was whatever will I do when The Mule dies? It fits me so perfectly.

When I got home, I sat on my deck with a glass a merlot. I did the crossword puzzle while listening to a baseball game (Nats won 7-2 over the Cubs) on the radio I  received for my birthday. Bliss.

Tomorrow is another perfect weather day. Mrs. Rootchopper and I are joining a couple of friends for a morning hike on Sugarloaf Mountain in Maryland. I get to try out one of my birthday presents, a new Osprey backpack. (I tossed my WalMart fall-apart backpack. I hated that thing.) Afterward, I shall retire to the deck for more radio baseball. (Our TV is out of commission as a result of the renovation to the man cave.)

Next week I have nothing planned and some awesome weather. I think I shall take The Mule out to the country for a long stroll.

So much going on

  • The home renovation project is proceeding. We are in Week 4 of having our family room and a chunk of our basement refurbished. Framing and electrical are done. The plumbing awaits the fixtures. Insulation is in. Next week will add more drywall, install a new exterior door, and do more work on the bathroom in the man cave. I think we are past the unpleasant surprises stage. Knock wood.
  • I have been collecting golf balls on my athletic excursions for decades now. No photo description available.Yesterday brought the biggest one day haul ever.
  • Nine golf balls! They were scattered about on the outside of a golf course fence near a green and its adjacent sand traps. There must have been a parade of rank amateurs recently. Among the balls I found a beat up iPhone. I took it to a local phone store. They found that it was missing its SIM card and concluded that it was stolen and tossed out a car window. Phone thieves are the worst.
  • For two years, I have been working on my application for Irish citizenship by birthright. Just before I left for my tour in May, I sent off a request for documents to the New York State Vital Records office. I paid $30 extra for expedited, 60-day treatment. I should have received the documents in July, but it took them a month to cash my checks. So the clock on my expedited treatment didn’t start until mid-June. (Unscrupulous credit card companies use a similar tactic. They sometimes sit on mailed payments then charge late fees. My wife had this stunt played on her twice.) Despite giving themselves a full month leeway, it still took the folks in Albany 2 1/2 months to process my request. I had lost all hope until I checked today’s mail. Bingo!
  • With my grandmother’s wedding certificate now in hand, I now had all the necessary documents in support of my application. As I went to mail it, I noticed that the form listed one address in Dublin and the Irish government website listed another. A lovely lady at the Irish embassy in DC told me to use the address on the website and to send the documents with tracking. As I left the house it began to rain as if I was in Castlebar, County Mayo on a dreary winter day. I drove to the nearest FedEx office. They couldn’t deal with the lengthy address. I was beginning to wonder if I’d ever get this thing out of my hands. A competent bloke at a nearby UPS store set things right and my application and documents are now winging their way to Dublin. Now I wait a year. Yes, a year.
  • On my way home I was stopped at a stop light. A big silver sedan pulled up behind me and nudged my car. I looked in the rear view mirror and saw a bun of white hair and two eyes peering over a steering wheel in the sedan. The little old lady had a death grip on the handlebars. It’s a good thing that I drove. That nudge would have knocked me ass over kilter had I been on my bike.
  • My left knee is really unhappy with me. When I exert force on the pedals, it barks and sends painful electrical signals to my hip which then joins the pain party. When I sit with my leg elevated the knee stiffens up. No bueno. If this doesn’t clear up, I am afraid I will go under the knife this fall. What’s winter without a medical mess to deal with, I say.
  • Congrats to
    • Ed and Mary, the King and Queen of Caffeine, on completing Paris-Brest-Paris yesterday. They rode their tandem 750-odd miles in under 3 1/2 days. Mon Dieu!
    • My friend Chelli and her daughter Shivani. They both climbed Kilimonjaro in Africa. Over 19,000 feet. Chelli is taking some friends, me included, for a hike on Sunday. We are so screwed.
    • The French sisters who completed their ride across America in New York City this week. I only talked with them for a few minutes in Boulder, Utah but their energy was inspiring. In the process, they raised over $4,500 for Rose Altitude, a breast cancer charity
    • Dan Hurwitz who I met near Sapinero, Colorado. He was scheduled to reach the Atlantic Ocean at Revere Beach, Massachusetts today. He started in San Jose, California over 100 days ago.
  • Cassy is riding 50 States with me this year. When I asked her to join me for the ride, she said she was worried that she wouldn’t be able to keep up. Today she passed me on the way to work. Left me in the dust. Suffice it to say, I am going to get my ass kicked in a couple of weeks.

Thanks for the HBDs

I heard from people from every part of my life yesterday. It was pretty cool. Family, high school, college, grad school, work, my bicycling friends, readers. It’s nice to be in your thoughts. Thanks. For the rest of you who blew my birthday off, please drop dead.

Just kidding. Let’s do it again next year.

(Knocks wood.)

Extra Innings

The idea was to celebrate my 64th (god that sounds terrible) birthday by riding 64 miles but things got a bit complicated.

My daughter Lily decided that we should go to a Nationals baseball game for my birthday so last night I met her at the bike valet (I biked; she took Metro) and went inside the ballpark to watch the Nats take on the Milwaukee Brewers.

We bought two beers each at the center field bar’s happy hour and some fries and headed to our perch in Section 318. The extra beers were a money saving venture that backfired as the second beers became warm in the oppressive sauna of the Washington summer night.

beers and friesDinner view

The contest was entertaining. Lots of home runs. Just when you thought the Nationals were done for they came roaring back. They led by three runs into the ninth inning. I thought I’d get home by midnight (the ride takes about 1:20). The Nationals brought in their closer who was shelled like an oyster. Three home runs and the Brewers were ahead by one run. The Nats tied the score in the bottom of the night but stranded the winning run in scoring position.

They stayed tied until the Brewers took another lead only to surrender it. Again the Nats tied the game but left runners in scoring position. In the 14th inning the Brewers scored twice and the Nats scored once. End of game. It was now today. I had aged a year in 14 innings.

The 14 1/2 mile ride home was pretty great. A near full moon made up for the still, muggy air. I arrived home at 2:30, showered, and surrendered to the sandman at 3.

I awoke about 5 1/2 hours later and lazed around the house until 11:30. It was once again hazy, hot, and humid outside. This, combined with my bleary, sleepy head, made me dread the idea of riding 64 miles, one mile for each year. But wait! I already had 14 1/2 miles in the bank because the ride home occurred well after midnight.

I climbed aboard Little Nellie and we rode to Bethesda and back, taking a lap of Hains Point for good measure. 50 miles done. Mission accomplished.

I need a nap.

 

Turning

Nothing makes you feel older than seeing an odometer click over. Because I ride a lot and split my riding among four bicycles, I see several odometer events every year. Today, my Crosscheck clicked 13,000 miles, for instance.

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I think it may be time to get new brake pads, don’t you?

Earlier this summer I went to the National Mall to see a projection of the Apollo 11 Saturn V rocket on the Washington Monument. It was pretty cool.

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While I was out of town, the Smithsonian celebrated the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11 by having the rocket take off with all kinds of extra audio and video stuff. It was a real crowd pleaser. I didn’t mind missing it though. I was a space junkie when I was a kid. I saw Apollo 11 live.

Another thing I saw live as a kid was the Beatles on Ed Sullivan. I wasn’t much into music at the age of eight but my older brothers were. When one of them yelled down the cellar stairs that the Beatles were on, the rest of us scrambled up to see the big event. I had no idea why they were so worked up. I was expecting to see some sort of beetle act, after all Ed Sullivan had novelty acts on all the time.

As I watched the performance, I didn’t get the big deal. They looked strange and sounded even stranger. They sure seemed to be having fun though.

I never saw them live of course. And I have shied away from those Paul McCartney arena shows because hearing him sing now is a bit depressing. But when my friend Paul asked me to join him to see Ringo at Wolf Trap I decided I might as well go.

The show featured about nine or ten Ringo songs and 12 songs by his band which included three members of Toto and one each from Santana, Men at Work, and the Average White Band. In fact, the AWB member was Hamish Stuart who toured with McCartney’s post-Wings band.

Ringo is pushing 80 but seems much younger on stage. He runs around a bit and even did some jumping jacks while clapping his hands to the beat of a song.

The crowd was gray and white.

Lately, for some strange reason, I’ve had the urge to rent a cottage in the Isle of Wight.

Recovery

Dang, that bike tour messed me up. Last year’s bike tour was invigorating. I was a lean, mean machine when I got back to DC. I did several 80 to 100 mile rides and they seemed easy. And it wasn’t just physical. I felt a wonderful mental afterglow. I was totally calm. And it lasted a long time, much longer than the physical benefits. (I wonder if this isn’t the same feeling that people get when they go on long meditation retreats. I’d go on one but I’d get so antsy I’d drive myself nuts.)

I re-read some of my last blog posts and I really didn’t convey how worn out I was when I got to the Sierras. For the better part of two days, I had my head down and was just grinding out the miles. I remarked that when I looked in the mirror I seemed to have lost ten pounds. When I got back to DC I quickly realized that I had lost more than that.

When I started the tour, my pants were snug. I was so heavy that I really worried about being able to tour, let alone being able to handle mountains. After the tour, all those tight clothes fell off me when I put them on. It’s no wonder that for the next three weeks I had an insatiable appetite.

I also was thirsty. Constantly. I tried water, Gatorade, Diet Coke, seltzer water, diluted orange juice, and iced tea. Nothing worked. I guess that part of my thirst was caused by the humidity. After all, DC is incredibly muggy in the summer and I had spent weeks in a low-humidity environment. My body had a tough time adjusting.

I was tired. No surprise there. Even though my body wanted rest, I’d pop awake after six hours so sleep. This was not nearly enough so I took quite a few naps over the last month.

Then there was the mystery stink. For about a week after I got back (although Jessie and Mike or my seatmate on the flight home might beg to differ), I reeked. And it was a very unusual odor. You know it’s bad when you are grossed out by your own BO. It wasn’t associated with sweating either. After a few days, my wife brought it up. I’m sure she noticed it earlier. A few days later, the stench went away.

So basically I stomped on my body for seven weeks and it let me know. I feel fine now. Yesterday I did two bike rides. The first was 30 miles in the early morning to and from Friday Coffee Club. The second was 21 miles in the evening to a happy hour. Today, with lower (although still pretty high) humidity, I did 72 miles. I wasn’t riding fast but I managed to go 50 miles before stopping to eat. That’s not a bad back-to-back showing.

My wonky left knee and hip were all kinds of messed up when I got home. I had done a pretty good job of managing the pain using edibles with some mixture of medicinal marijuana in them. I stopped taking the edibles when I left Nevada. Once the chemicals left my system, the knee and hip started to hurt again. And my left shoulder, in which I had a cortisone shot last spring, joined the pain party.

Lately the hip has calmed down. The knee still barks at me, especially when I ride uphill. The shoulder is a lost cause. The only way to fix it is with surgery and a year of physical therapy. I’ll live with it as is and put up with some pain now and then.

I neglected to mention that while I’ve been recovering from the tour, I’ve had to deal with two stressful situations. One was a simple car repair that took four trips to the dealer to get done properly. After a week and a half, they finally got it right. I bitched up a storm and the dealer, to its credit, refunded my money.

And while that was going on we started a home renovation. We are 1 1/2 weeks into what is supposed to take 8 weeks. We are renovating one level of our four-level split-level home. The renovation includes a new bathroom, a family room with drywall and insulation instead of cheapo 1960s paneling. There will also be lighting and electrical upgrades. My wife is getting a sewing space in the basement. Although the project has hit a few bumps, it far less stressful than the kitchen renovation we did 20-odd years ago with a toddler in the house.

My wife keeps suggesting I go on a short tour or something. I might do that. Complicating things, however, is the fact that, on September 7, I am doing my 11th 50-States Ride in DC. (The 60-mile route meanders all over the city so that you can ride on the avenues named for all 50 states. It’s hilly, takes all day, and ends with pizza and beer.) I am putting together a posse that will ride with ferocious good humor. Scuba Michael, Science Dad, Science Dad’s college friend, and Hiker Cassie. I am hoping to rope in a few more gullible fools enthusiastic friends to round out the team. Watch this space.