September Dud

I really have no excuse. September was a bike riding dud. I only did 773 1/2 miles. That’s my lowest monthly mileage since March. I managed to ride the 50 States Ride for the 11th time. And I did two 60 mile days, which involved Friday Coffee Club in the morning and a baseball game later in the day.

My only other accomplishment was to re-acquaint myself with Big Nellie, my Tour Easy recumbent. I would have ridden it today but for the rain.

And I found out that I don’t need a joint replacement for either my knee or my hip. I had cortisone shots instead. They help a lot but I am hoping physical therapy puts me right.

I took seven days off this month which is weird because the weather was good. We’re in a drought here in DC. Today’s rain didn’t put a dent in it.

For the year I’ve managed to ride 8,324 1/2 miles. Half of that was on The Mule and 3,000 miles of that was from my tour. My Cross Check picked up 30 percent of the miles. The rest were split between Big Nellie and Little Nellie, my Bike Friday.

I’d say that I will make it to 10,000 miles this year but I don’t want to jinx it.

Bearing Witness

On Friday dozens of people showed up in a DC courthouse for the sentencing of the man who killed our friend Dave Salovesh. We were there to console each other one more time, to support Dave’s family, and to bear witness to the inadequacy of the court to right a horrible wrong.

During the proceeding we learned that the killer was driving a stolen van at 78 miles per hour five seconds before he ran a red light, hit a car, and careened into Dave who was waiting at a stop light astride his bike. He was driving more than three times the speed limit.

The crowd of supporters was so big a separate, overflow courtroom was needed.

The hearing was a formality, but it gave Dave’s family an opportunity to express their feelings to the judge, to the community, and to Dave’s killer. Their statements were articulate and extremely moving. Boxes of tissues were passed up and down the aisles as we heard about every aspect of this tragedy.

The killer pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and received an 8 1/2 year sentence  for breaking every bone in a Dave’s body and snuffing his life out in a few, horrifying seconds.  On Good Friday.

The killer didn’t get sentenced for devastating Dave’s family or for inflicting bewildering sadness on the vast community of Dave’s friends.

As I left the courthouse it occurred to me that it was five years ago nearly to the day that the best friend of a friend of mine was killed by a transit bus as she made her way home from the Metro. The randomness and finality of it all was incomprehensible to me.

Some things never change.




A Shot in the Arm. Well, Two. And Not in the Arm

Today was doctor day.


For the last couple of years I’ve been having trouble hearing in crowded situations like restaurants, parties, and such. In the morning, I went to an ear specialist to find out why. They gave me a hearing test. It took 15 minutes.  I have hearing loss in certain high frequencies and in one mid-range frequency. The high frequency result is classic age-related hearing loss. (I highly recommend not aging.) The mid-range result isn’t as bad but it’s still well below normal.  No need for hearing aids or any other intervention at this time. The doctor recommended coming back in a year to be re-tested.

Knee and Hip

In the afternoon I went to the orthopedist. He looked at my MRI pictures. His office had software that animated the scans. He explained the damage he could see. There was some fluid build up in the knee. And a couple of minor irregularities in the meniscus. But he agreed with the MRI report that I have worn down the underside of my knee cap. Pretty much classic runner’s knee. He examined my knee and could feel the crunchiness. Ewww.

Then we discussed my hip. It was tender all day, probably the result of doing some work using an extension ladder yesterday. He examined it and found tenderness in a few spots. It was tender enough that I flinched from his probing.

My knee case is interesting because I ride a bike and cycling is a classic treatment for my knee problem.

His diagnosis is that I have bursitis in my hip that is messing up my mechanics. He says he’s seen my symptoms in soccer players. The good news is that he thinks this is easy to fix. He never once mentioned surgery.

It seems like there are risks involved when amping up your annual mileage to 10,000 miles per year, riding a ton of mountains, stopping your stretching routine, and getting old. Who knew?

He gave me a cortisone shot in my hip. And another in my knee. Yes, they hurt but I didn’t cry or yell or anything like that. I did punch a whole in the office’s drywall but that sort of thing is okay, right?

I have to rest my leg for 24 hours then I can ride again. The man cave TV is now hooked up so I can watch baseball tonight. Tomorrow’s game is at 4 pm. The doctor said it is okay to ride to the game. Life is good.

(Digression: Yesterday, the Nats played a double header. I listened to the day game on the radio then went to the store to buy cables for the TV. I watched the night game. So I was able to watch the Nats clinch a playoff spot.)

The doctor sent me to physical therapy. I have a therapist that I like but she can’t see me for 10 days. (I guess I’m not the only one that likes her.) She’ll do an evaluation, recommend exercises, and have me work with a trainer to learn how to do the exercises correctly.

If my doctor is right, my hip and knee should be back to normal in a couple of months.

If he’s not, I am going to have my head examined.

I’m going to sign up for a couple more rides, one in late October, the other in early November.

And I have to decide whether to sign up for the hike in Peru next September.

Then there is the matter of next summer’s rides. I still haven’t ridden in 16 states. What a slacker.

Cranky Question

I just read the MRI report on my right knee. I find it hard to believe but nothing is torn. I do have some chondromalacia (deterioration of the cartilage under my left knee cap). I ride a bike but I have runner’s knee. Frankly, given my symptoms, I find this a bit hard to believe.

I did some research and found that one way to fix chronic knee pain is to use shorter crank arms on your bike. (This is pretty common in the recumbent world.) The reason is that you have less flex in your leg at the top of the pedal stroke when you push down. (This is exactly when my knee aches.)

All of my bikes use 175mm length cranks which come stock on bikes for people my height.

So I have a question.

Do you use cranks shorter than 175mm?

Random News from the Rootchopper Institute

House Renovation: While I was on my tour, Mrs. Rootchopper hired a contractor to update the lower two levels of our house including my man cave. My man cave consists of the TV corner of the lower level of our house. It has the TV, the modem/router/ a recliner (for me), and a reclining sofa for visiting couch potatoes. It also had a really crappy little bathroom with a shower that I took to using years ago to avoid the early morning traffic jam on the bedroom level.

The new man cave will look pretty much like the old one but the walls will be insulated so that I will be able to sit in my comfy chair during the winter months. The bathroom is about 50 percent bigger and is way too nice for me. Every time I use it, I feel as if I’m in some hotel on a bike tour. I have flashbacks to East Jesus, Missouri.

The basement level has a finished section that will house a monster sewing machine for my wife’s quilting addiction.

My Wonky Knee and Hip: I’ve had a messed up left knee since the Reagan administration. It bothered me now and then during last year’s tour. My left hip had a strange tendency to feel like it was popping out of the joint on long climbs. During this year’s tour both the left hip and knee were very painful. I felt like I was riding with only one leg, especially in the mountains.

Last week my doctor referred me to an orthopedist. The strategy is to work our way up so the knee is being treated first. They took my history and examined my knee. Then they took a bunch of x-rays, all of which looked just fine. The doctor started to talk about sending me for physical therapy. I explained to him that if riding a bike thousands of miles ought to be plenty of physical therapy. He agreed. Then I asked for an MRI. At first the insurance company denied coverage. The doctor persuaded them to cover it and I had my MRI last Friday night. I go back to the doctor for the results on Wednesday.

Deaf from the Neck Up: I have noticed that my hearing, especially in crowded spaces has deteriorated over the last couple of years. So I am going to an hearing specialist to have it tested, also on Wednesday.

Big Nellie Returns:  A couple of weeks ago my lower back started to give me little warnings that it was going into spasm. I decided it was time to bring out my back fixer, my Tour Easy recumbent. I call it Big Nellie. I’ve ridden it about 90 miles in the past three days. My left knee is not amused, but my back is happy.

I Am Not a Muggle: My head wound has nearly healed. Well, the scab has fallen off and the swelling is gone. It still hurts to touch it. I have a small gash just above my left eye. Someone pointed out that it looked a bit like Harry Potter’s scar.

Fall Bicycling Events: Because of my knee situation, I have signed up for only one ride this fall. The Tour de Mt. Vernon is near my house and, for me, it’s free because I won a raffle last year at the finish of the ride. For everyone else it’s $25. It’s on Saturday, October 19 and begins and ends in Lorton, on the grounds of what was once a DC prison. (It’s now an arts space of some sort.) Info and a registration link can be found here.

I skipped the Great Pumpkin Ride in Warrenton last year to ride the Tour de Mt. Vernon. This year the Great Pumpkin Ride is on Saturday, October 27. It’s $70. Details and registration are here.

I am also hoping to do WABA’s 5th Cider Ride. Follows trails along the Anacostia River to the north of DC. It’s November 2. You have to be a WABA member or come as a member’s guest. It’s $45 if you sign up before October 1.

Fall: Daylight is dwindling. I rode to Friday Coffee Club and caught a pretty nice sunrise over Dyke Marsh on the Potomac River.

Image may contain: bicycle, sky, tree, motorcycle, outdoor and nature


50-ish States with Nigel Tufnel

Before we begin my overdue recap of this year’s 50 States Ride, let me clarify something about this weekend’s axe incident. I did not hit myself in the head with an axe. Using the axe, I split a piece of wood lying on the ground. Half the wood launched into the air. The spinning mini-log and its jagged end caught me in the forehead right above the eye. I have a small cut and a welt on my forehead. And a headache. I should also point out that if you think this is a good way to get a third eye you would be eligible for a rare Darwin Woo Woo Award.

As for the 50 States Ride, the day started on a down note as it took some members of my posse 45 minutes to get registered. Given that this was at least the 14th time this event has been run, we were not happy campers.

This year was the 11th time I have done this ride so my ride was dedicated to the great Nigel Tufnel. I had lined up an impressive posse: Michael and Kevin returned from the last two years. Sean, husband of Kristin from the 2014 Ride with the Rookies, and his college roommate Alan were riding for the first time. Peter, Chris, Tony, Rachel M., Andrea, and Cassie were all in. Cassie expressed some concern about being able to do the entire ride so she left before any of us got to the start. She managed to ride the entire thing in about the same time as us. Sean and Alan left early because they were worried they’d take all day. (They threw in the towel somewhere around the 50 mile mark, which is not too shabby. A for effort. See you next year.)

We intended to start around 7:45 but didn’t get underway until around 8:30. We were joined at some point by a tall woman, presumably Muslim, dressed from head to toe in black. (She told me her name but my fusiform gyrus ate it.) It being a comfortably pleasant day this did not seem to be much of a comfort issue until the last few miles when temperatures surpassed 80 degrees. It didn’t matter, she was quite a strong rider.

We rode the first 15 miles, how should I say, rather aggressively. At least there were no arrests for traffic infractions. We stopped at the first pit stop for only a few minutes. And in no time we had made our way through downtown, past the White House, and the Capitol Hill complex of granite and marble buildings, Next came a quick spin through Southwest DC before flying by Nationals Park and across the Anacostia River to the second pit stop.

After about 15 minutes we attacked the first hills of the day, the formidable trio of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, Stanton Road, and Alabama Avenue. After roping Texas we moved through Fort Davis. Next came the 0.7 mile downhill on Massachusetts Avenue, SE. Weeee!

Negotiating Minnesota Avenue and its two traffic circles made us lose contact with Andrea. Michael did a quick recon search once we were back across the Anacostia River and couldn’t find her. She had missed a turn but, after the main posse crossed Hill East, we reconnected at the third pit stop at Eastern Market.

PB&J sandwiches and munchies were provided. After about 30 minutes we regrouped joined by Shira and Qudsiya on their tandem. We rode back across Hill East and then through NOMA past Gallaudet University and into industrial Ivy City. Although the gin mill and brewery were tempting, we forged ahead and began the climb up Montana Avenue. This led us to the most traffic-y part of the ride. South Dakota Avenue, Taylor St, and Michigan Avenue in Northeast DC are godawful places to be in a car or on a bike on a Saturday. And the cars let us know it. Michael led the charge into the traffic mess and in ten somewhat messy minutes we were free and clear, riding past Catholic University on John McCormack Drive. A few hundred yards afterward, I spotted an apparently crazy woman in a broad brimmed hat standing in the middle of the road. It was Ursula, fearless leader of WABA’s Trail Ranger’s, giving out high fives to the riders. It was the kind of nice surprise that makes you forget the craptastic car hellscape we had just left. Thanks, Ursula.

As we made out way up a short hill to Hawaii Avenue a cyclist nearly took me out. He was clipped in and didn’t want to wait to get around a car that was parallel parking. He cut me off. I belted him across the neck with my frame pump.

Okay, I didn’t. Violence doesn’t solve anything. I stopped and let him go, even forgoing an f-bomb in my magnanimity. (If he does it again, I’m letting him have it with the bicycle death ray.)

We scrambled up hill and down across Northeast DC. Most of the posse went to Rachel’s house in Petworth for mid-ride beers. Kevin and I forged ahead. I was starting to feel my age at this point. Sometimes sobriety is your friend.

We pulled into the Tacoma pit stop at the top of the DC diamond. This stop is at the home of friends Mike and Lisa. Mike is a bit deranged and Lisa isn’t so they match up well. And they are incredibly nice, not just because they let hundreds of sweaty strangers into their house. They collect Nats bobbleheads. I think this is because Mike wants to be one when he grows up.

As Kevin and I were about to leave, the posse showed up. So we waited a few minutes and all took off for the final eight miles. We rode west to Alaska where Patti Heck stood on the corner and took pictures of us. In a previous year I yelled “Hey, Patti” which caused her to look up and miss taking my picture. I called well in advance this year. She got me.

A mile later we descended into Rock Creek Park. The route took us up a nasty, paved trail on the far side of the canyon. It was steep-ish and bumpy. Several people chose to walk. This was wise. I, of course, didn’t. No way was I walking up another hill after Colorado, Utah, Nevada, and California this  summer.

On the far side we crossed but did not ride on Oregon Avenue. I don’t know why the route didn’t go down Oregon. These things are mysterious. So technically this was a 49 State ride. Sue me.

We rode the next few miles in Chevy Chase and not one person made an SNL, Fletch, or Community joke. Strange.

After climbing an insulting little hill we rode past Fort Reno. The posse took off while I stopped at the last pit stop to say hello to Colin. Hi, Colin.

Back on the road, I couldn’t see the posse. Dang. Climbing up Wisconsin Avenue I was blocked by two clusters of riders, a bus, and some chunks of metal with people in them. I followed the bike as they made their way onto Nebraska Avenue. They were chatting but I had a posse to catch. I stepped on the gas, or The Mule as it were, and passed them as we cruised by American University.

The ride down Loughboro Road and Arizona Avenue was rather rapid. Not quite as fearsome as the Hogback but not bad for DC. I figured somebody in the posse would find it intimidating. Wrong. The posse abides.

Now came the dreaded climb over Cathedral Heights. First, a short warm up climb on Ashby Street followed by a flat ride half mile on 49th Street. Then came Garfield Street. Oh, how I hate this street. Straight up. No posse in sight. Dang.

I shifted into my granny and let The Mule do the rest. I must have passed ten people on the way up. The hill was not giving them bike joy. There was lots of grumbling. Not by me though; I was too focused on spinning my legs off.

Over the top then down a ways working my way back to Wisconsin. There, right next to Cactus Cantina, I could see the posse waiting at the traffic light at Wisconsin.

I sped up and made the light, and caught the posse a half mile later. I do believe mid-ride beers may be a thing.

We jumped onto Connecticut Avenue, our last state. Connecticut is not for the faint of heart. Here. at Peter’s suggestion we turned off a couple of blocks early, and took the new counterflow bike lanes on Woodley Place.

Onto Calvert Street, across the Duke Ellington Bridge into Adams Morgan. A half mile past the start we finished at Mellow Mushroom where pizza, beer, and t-shirts were acquired.

Many thanks to the posse for getting this aging road warrior through the hills of DC without a scratch.  I had a great time. On a scale of 1 to 10, this one went to 11.



I shoulda stuck to rootchopping

Well, you see, there was this tree. A weeping cherry tree. It has s secondary trunk that was diseased and needed to be removed. It was about the thickness of a fungo bat and 12 – 15 feet long.

I sawed it off with a pruning saw then went about cutting it up so I could put it out with the trash. I was down to one last section of the trunk. It was about six feet long. I laid it on the grass and hit it several times with an axe. The last whack split it in two.

One half of the log flew up, spinning end over end, and smacked me in the forehead. There was blood. Lots of blood.

Luckily I had a clean paper towel in my pocket. I applied pressure to the wound and got it to stop bleeding after ten minutes.

It turned out that the cut was small. To be on the safe side I drove to the ER which is 1/2 mile from my house.

I’m fine. I have a headache. And a boo boo. They closed it with glue.

It could have been a lot worse.

I think I’ll go for a ride tomorrow. It’s safer.

Jumping on the Medical Hampster Wheel

Normally I wait until some mysterious affliction puts me in the hospital, thereby threatening to kill me or, worse, ruin my riding season. This year will be different.

I went to an orthopedist today to discuss my wonky left knee and hip. We began from the bottom up. He took my running, volleyball, bike crash, fall off the porch, and ride across the country stories. Then he looked at my thighs. My left thigh isn’t as big as my right. Hmmm.

Then he took xrays of my right knee. They came back normal. No obvious signs of damage. WTF. He suggested sending me to physical therapy. I pointed out that if 10,000 miles of cycling a year didn’t build up my thigh muscles, physical therapy wasn’t likely to do much.

He agreed. Then I gently persuaded him to send me for an MRI. Assuming  my insurance will pay for it, I’m getting one on Saturday. Only 34 1/2 years after my knee went POP while playing volleyball. Stay tuned. The insurance company may turn it down.

As for my hip, he did a cursory exam and listened to me explain the odd mechanics I’ve been dealing with and said that, for now, we’ll assume it’s iliotibial band tightness. I can’t very much argue; my body is as flexible as a steel I-beam.

So next week I’ll try to get in to see him with pictures in hand.

Also, in two weeks I go to an ear specialist to find out why happy hours have recently been exercises in lip reading.

Just before this started, a friend asked if I was interested in hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Pichu. The tour company needs names and deposits quickly in order to line up the necessary permits.


Trail Tales

I went for a leisurely ride on the Mount Vernon Trail today. When I arrived at the access point on Northdown Road, I came upon a truck that was parked illegally and completely blocking the trail.

It takes a certain amount of chutzpah to park like this. There is usuakky a flex post in the middle of the trail at this entry point but somebody must have removed it.

After scrambling around the truck in the bushes, I took this picture. Then I called the Park Police to report it. The officer answering the phone did not know where Northdown Road was. So I told him it’s parallel to the GW Parkway. That didn’t help him. Do you know where Alexandria Avenue and the stone bridge are? Yes. Just north of there. Okay, I’ll send someone out.

He probably knows where Alexandria Avenue is because two of his colleagues are executed a man a half mile up the street. (It was caught on video.)

It’s a good thing the trail is so nice this time of year. Within a few minutes I reached the Dyke Marsh bridge. The marsh took all my frustration away.

Back to the couch

Well, it had to happen sooner or later. I can’t remember the last time my back went into spasm. Considering the effort involved in riding my bike across the country, it’s a wonder I can even stand these days. Last week I rode over 300 miles. Today, emptying the dishwasher was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

It was a minor muscle spasm in my lower back. Not a big deal. I started doing the runner’s stretch. The one where you lean against a vertical object and stretch your calves and your hamstrings. (The psoas muscle is what you really need to stretch but not while your back is out.)

The stretch calmed the spasm down but I decided not to ride to the baseball game today. Instead I spent an hour mowing the lawn. I rationalized that walking my bike up mountains out west didn’t cause me any trouble so mowing my lawn wouldn’t either. And it didn’t.

I spent the rest of the day in a recliner and on the couch listening to the game. (The Nats lost; glad I didn’t go.) Then I read some of Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything. It’s a humbling book. He studied every kind of science that I can think of and barfed it up into a humorous tome. The big take away is we, you and me, are insignificant in the grand scheme of things. And one of these days we will be wiped out in a flash from one of a number of ugly catastrophic events. (A volcano eruption that would make Mount Saint Helens look like a suppressed burp. A lethal microbe that passes from one person to the next. A rock from space that we never see coming. A humongous solar flare. Just to name of few. Sweet dreams, baby.)

Then I listened to an Offcamera interview with William H. Macy. (Go to The hour-long interviews with artists are pretty terrific.) It was filled with wisdom and laughs. One insight about playing bad people: even the biggest asshole you know thinks they are the hero of their own life. That’s how decent people can play evil characters. (Just think of Macy in Fargo and it makes sense.)

I plan to take it relatively easy this week so that I don’t die with my cycling shoes on during the 50 States Ride on Saturday.