November – Ups and Downs

I managed to do about 27 days of physical therapy this month. About ten days ago it seemed to be working great. I did three rides back to back to back without pain. About a week ago I did a three mile walk near home. I wore beat up old running shoes and didn’t use trekking poles. I was surprised at how well my leg did. Yesterday I joined some friends on a six mile walk on the C&O Canal towpath. I wore new, low cut hiking shoes and used trekking poles. After about five miles my left hip was holding a silent, but quite painful protest. My PT and I will have a talk on Monday.

It’s the end of another month and, despite the ups and downs of my left leg drama, I managed to put in some decent miles. I totaled 758 miles, about 25 miles per day. My longest ride was 55 1/2 miles at the Cider Ride with my friend Emilia.

I failed at Coffeeneuring for the third year in a row. I think we need to start a napeneuring event. I way better at naps than I am at coffee drinking.

For the year, I’ve ridden 9,944 1/2 miles. I should bag 10,000 miles next week. Lord willin’ and the blood clots don’t rise.



What a difference a week makes

About this time last week I was ready to throw in the towel on physical therapy. My knee and hip were regressing and I was getting frustrated.

Then I raise my saddle a couple of millimeters on Little Nellie. It seemed to help. Surprisingly the new position didn’t bother my back either.

When Little Nellie’s front shifting went to hell, I switched to the Cross Check. Again, I raised my saddle a couple of millimeters. The first ride didn’t cause me pain but I felt like I was getting no power transfer to the pedals. My physical therapist suggested I leave the seat up and see if my body adapts to it.

That night, Monday of this week, I went to a concert in DC. I stood on concrete for over four hours. If you have a messed up leg and a back back, standing on concrete for hours is not a great idea. My legs were incredibly tight for the last hour of the concert. And my lower back was aching.

It took about an hour to get home by car. When I got out of the car my left hip and knee were screaming at me. They felt like they did before the cortisone shot and the PT. I thought I had screwed the pooch.

I took two ibuprofen PMs (with a sedative) and went to sleep. About six hours later I woke up with my left knee screaming at me. In a few minutes the sedative put me back to sleep.

I slept until 9:30. It’s the latest I’ve slept in months. I woke up groggy only to learn that I had overslept my 7:30 doctor appointment. I’ve never missed a doctor appointment. (He fit me in anyway.)

Then I went for a bike ride on the Cross Check.

I was expecting to feel like a cripple. Instead, I rode like I had a tailwind. Other than some brief soreness on the outside of my left hip, my legs felt great. My back did too. I rode 32 miles and could have gone on for another 10 without any difficulty.

Today, I rode the Cross Check again. That little bit of soreness outside my left hip came and went within 10 minutes. I rode hard into a headwind without discomfort. My route took me from the Mount Vernon Trail along the Potomac River up the Custis Trail, a roller coaster of short, sometimes steep hills. No problem. I didn’t notice any discomfort beneath my left knee cap or near my left hip.

The ride home was a blast because I had a tailwind and it was gently downhill back to the river. I flew in a big gear. 35 1/2 miles with plenty of pop left in my legs.

I haven’t felt this strong on a bike since last year when I came home from riding to Portland.

So much for throwing in the towel.


As any economist knows, life is all about assessing trade offs. If I do this, what do I give up. I spent my entire career doing this sort of basic calculus.

For the last several days I’ve been dealing with a rather eclectic set of trade-offs. As a federal retiree, I’m trying to comprehend the inane world of 401Ks and Medicare. Congress meant well when they created these things but lordy do they get complicated. I’ve been doing math in my head and on spreadsheets now for a couple of weeks and I’ve come to the conclusion that the best retirement choice is a good red wine.

The other day I went to my pulmonologist. She gave me a prescription for an antibiotic and battery of over-the-counter medications to combat a cold that I’ve had for over three weeks. My head and chest feel better, but my gut microbiome is all kinds of messed up from the antibiotic. On the bright side, I am having a colonoscopy in a few weeks so my innards are all warmed up for the purge.

Yesterday morning I was determined to go to Friday Coffee Club. As a retiree, I can sleep in any time I want. At 6 a.m., the temperature was 29 degrees F, way below normal for this time of year. Friday Coffee Club is one of my few social activities each week so the trade-off was freeze and hang with my peeps or curl up in a ball in a warm bed and snooze. The coffee and peeps ruled the day but I froze my nunus off in the process. Friday Coffee Club is always interesting. This week a CNN reporter walked right past our group. I was the only one who noticed. The rest of the group was transfixed by Ricky’s discussion of exciting recent administrative law cases.

In a way, I got to sleep in after all.





Little Nellie goes bung

After a day of rest, I sprung back into action, filled with pills and nasal sprays. While I was resting, temperatures in these parts dropped about 25 degrees. Curse you, weather gods.

Today’s ride allowed me to test the warming properties of the Showers Pass shoe covers I bought a few months ago. I rode 30 miles and I managed to keep my feet warm for 25 or so. Temperatures were just above freezing so I think I can say that the shoe covers passed the test.

Little Nellie not so much.

My plan was to ride Little Nellie until I hit its next 1,000 mile threshold (which would be 23,000). With fewer than 90 miles to go, the front shifter has apparently died. Or the front shifter cable housing has accumulated too much gunk to allow the cable to move properly. This happens because of all the bends in the cable routing, required to allow the bike to fold, trap small bits of debris.

I rode the last four miles in my granny gear spinning like a maniac bear at the circus. If only I had a ball to balance on my nose.

Probably too cold for that, though.


A Fistful of Pharma

About three weeks ago my son came home from Thailand for a week. The last time he came I ended up in the hospital with life-threatening, utterly improbable pulmonary embolisms. This time I woke up with a massively sore throat.

Being a sports fan, when not visiting his friends, my son wanted to do little more than hang out and watch sports on TV. Conveniently the Nationals were on their march to a World Series title. My son is the master of timing.

The sore throat went away in a day but the accompanying cold lingered for over a week. I felt pretty good until two nights ago when the sore throat returned. Last night it woke me at 2 a.m. It was accompanied by a cough that brought up strange and nasty things from my lungs. I was up most of the night gargling and coughing and blowing my nose.

I suppose my son got his timing thing from me. Today I had a check up with my pulmonologist. I’ve been seeing her since she crashed my PE party at the emergency room.

The primary purpose of the visit was to see how much blow power my asthmatic lungs have. The test involved blowing into a tube that records how much air you can expel until your lungs are completely empty. The test is repeated three times.

I hadn’t been tested in over a year and, despite my cold, I easily bested my last test. Each effort made my head spin. I groggily moved to an examination room when my pulmonologist entered. She put on a mask. She was sick too!

Same thing. She checked my breathing and asked about my use of a rescue inhaler over the last three months. My breathing, despite my cold, was free of the raspy crackle that asthmatics have. I hadn’t used my rescue inhaler once.

Then she asked me about my cold. She examined my nose and throat and gave me a four-step program for survival. One of my tonsils had white spots on it.

  • Take Afrin to dilate my sinuses.
  • Add Sudafed, those little red decongestants, during the day to dry up my sinuses.
  • Toss in some Mucinex, an expectorant, to break up the junk in my lungs. (Don’t buy the kind with a cough suppressant.)
  • Finally, at my option, take an antibiotic.

She actually advised me to wait a day or two on the antibiotic to see if the first three medicines work. It could be that the source of my misery is a virus making the antibiotic unnecessary.

Well, why wait? I’ve been sick for two weeks. I haven’t had an antibiotic for 2 1/2 years. So I decided not to wait.

Within an hour I was feeling much better. By coincidence, I had decided to take today off the bike anyway. I canceled a visit to the gym in favor of a nap. The Sudafed as most athletes and college students know is a stimulant. My nap was less than successful but lying on the coach for a couple of hours with open airways was a treat anyway.

In a minute I’ll start doing my PT exercises. I went to the therapist yesterday thinking I had made great progress. She tested my muscle strength in my hips and butt. Long story short I still have work to do.

Hopefully I’ll be able to breath while doing it.

Better or worse

My father was an ophthalmologist. When working up a prescription for glasses, he’s swap out lenses and ask “Better or worse?” That’s what I’m wondering about my knee and hip.

I’ve been doing physical therapy for over five weeks. A few days ago I asked on Twitter how much more of this I should do because I seemed to be getting no benefit out of it.

Each week I go to see the therapist. Each week she adds another exercise. Last week she added a step over exercise. Suspend a pole or rod between two lawn chairs. Stand with your hip next to the pole. Step over the pole with your inner leg, then with your outer leg. Then do the reverse. I do 25 reps of this.

I’ll be damned if this hasn’t actually helped. Progress at last.

A couple of days ago I switched from Big Nellie, my recumbent bike, to Little Nellie, my Bike Friday travel bike. I was getting discomfort in my hip and under my knee cap. After ten miles I dismounted and raised the saddle about two millimeters.

This significantly reduced the irritation under my knee cap and allowed my hips to open up a bit. Much smoother. And I seem to be getting some power out of my left leg. Dang.

I’ll keep riding Little Nellie for a couple of hundred more miles. Then I’ll reach a thousand mile threshold and switch to another bike, either my Cross Check or The Mule. I’ll make sure the saddle position is similar to Little Nellie.

I’ve already noticed that going up and down stairs is getting less uncomfortable. The real test will be how my knee and hip handle a hike up the Blue Ridge. That will happen in a couple of weeks.

Meanwhile I’ll continue to slog away at my PT and yoga routine. An hour everyday. Sooo boring.

Cider, Donuts, and a Red Caboose

My phone said 33 degrees when I woke up. The coldest temperature since April. Time to break out the holey sweater because in an hour I’d be starting the fifth Cider Ride.

The Cider Ride is the last official bicycle event of the Washington Area Bicyclists Association calendar. The first couple of years had routes mostly on roads in the suburbs. Back then the event was held in early December. Leafless trees and hypothermia persuaded the organizers to move the ride into early November. The route was changed to a mix of trails along the Anacostia River and its tributaries leading to agricultural and forested lands outside the DC Beltway.

For the third time this fall, I was riding with Emilia. We met just before 8 am near the start. We had to cool our heels (pun intended) until registration opened at 8:30. We needed to pick up our cue sheets and metal mugs (for hot cider at the pit stops) as soon as we could so that we could finish early. Emilia had places to be later in the day.

This year’s 50 States Ride was marred by a very long line at check in. WABA did an admirable job of improving the sign-in process and we were underway after only a few minutes in line.

After wending our way through the streets of Northeast DC and Mount Ranier Maryland we joined the trail system and proceeded up river. The trails in this area are old and poorly signed. This year WABA put colored arrows on the pavement at all the turns. This  greatly simplified navigation.

My holey sweater was keeping me toasty inside my wind shell. Although Emilia was wearing two layers, she was uncomfortably cold until the sun rose higher in the sky. She forged ahead without complaint. We made steady progress and managed not to slip on the wet leaves on the trails.

We passed through the University of Maryland campus where parking lots were full of tailgaters prepping for the Maryland vs. Michigan football game that afternoon. Emilia is a native of Venezuela and found the whole scene amusing. She suggested in jest that we crash the parties to benefit from the heat of the grills.

On we rode through a 5K run on the trail. Then we went around the little airport at College Park and a small lake. We stopped at Proteus Bicycle shop in College Park where we filled our cups with hot apple cider. Emilia mastered the art of donut dunking while I enjoyed pieces of apple fritter.

Refreshed we soon were cruising through barren fields in the USDA agricultural research complex north of Greenbelt. This area had gently rolling hills and nearly no motor vehicle traffic. Now free of the narrow, windy trails along the Anacostia we made better time. Emilia commented how beautiful the area was. Despite the cold, she was clearly enjoying this ride.

Our northerly trek ended after a ride through the woods at the Patuxent Research Refuge where we stopped briefly. I took off the holey sweater and changed from long pants into shorts. Then we headed back toward DC.

I pushed the pace a bit for the next four miles to keep warm. Then we hit the one long hill on the ride which climbs out of the agricultural preserve and into Greenbelt. A mile later we arrived at the second pit stop for some apple pie and more cider. The sun was higher in the sky and we were both comfortable as long as we stayed out of the shade.

After our snack we headed out of Greenbelt back into the Anacostia trail system. We briefly left the trail in order to ride on the Trolley Trail in Hyattsville. This led us in short order to the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail, a relatively recent addition to the trail system. Th ART is wider and has better signage allowing for higher speeds.

Before launching ourselves into a brisk ride downriver we stopped at the final pit stop at Bladensburg Waterfront Park. While it may sound like we were pigging out, we each had only a half donut washed down with about four ounces of cider.

In a weird coincidence, we found ourselves standing next to a red caboose.


After the photo op, we took off down the trail. We cruised by the Botanic Gardens, through some playing fields, along the cycletrack in the Deanwood neighborhood, and around the trash consolidation plant. After riding under four bridges we crossed the Anacostia River on the 11th Street bridge and reversed course.

We passed by the decaying hulk of RFK Stadium and headed up C Street into Capitol Hill. As we rode, two fighter jets roared overhead, en route no doubt to salute the World Series champion Washington Nationals at the parade being held in their honor on Constitution Avenue near the Mall.

We picked up the First Street cycletrack which led us to the Metropolitan Branch Trail. A mile or two later we were at the finish, about six hours and 54 miles after we started.

Emilia took off for home to get washed up and head out to a cabin to celebrate her birthday with some amigas. I headed into the Dew Drop Inn for a beer. I found a spot on the railing on the bar’s deck where I could feel the warmth of the sun on my face.

Many thanks to the folks at WABA who worked so hard to make this event a success. Special thanks for the improvements to the sign in process and the addition of arrows along the route.

Post Script: After I arrived home, I took a nap on the couch. When I went to stand up, my left calf went into a massive and very painful spasm. I felt like the Dr. Pepper guy turning into a werewolf in London. (Just google it, okay.) Mrs. Rootchopper brought me about 2 ounces of apple cider vinegar which is supposed to cure muscle cramps. I knocked it back in one go. I can’t remember tasting anything quite as nasty. And to add to the experience, it burned all the way down. Perhaps it was the diversion in my throat or maybe the stuff does have medicinal properties. Either way, my leg cramps went away. I am not sure the medicine was worth the cure.

Two Seasons

I am a baseball fan. Before the start of the season, I thought the Washington Nationals had a great chance to win it all. Then the games started. Players became injured. I went to game after game and watched them lose over and over. My bike tour took me away from the wreckage.

But as Joe Garagiola said, baseball is a funny game. The season unfolded like all baseball seasons. Ebbs and flows, just like a long bike tour. Pre-season hopes gave way to harsh realities. A series of injuries gutted the lineup for a month. A relief pitcher coming off surgery on his throwing arm threw 100-mile-per-hour pitches everywhere but over the plate. Other relievers did little better. The injured players returned. Gerardo Parra was acquired and taught the team to just have fun. The team started to win. Max became utterly unhittable. Baby shark boomed from the speakers at the ball park. Strasburg and Rendon quietly, steadily evolved into elite players. Howie Kendrick, a part time player who had spent nearly a year off the diamond with an injury, hit like a monster. Eaton wore out pitchers and played with his hair on fire. Robles vacummed the outfield. Soto played like a veteran, even becoming a decent outfielder himself. The catchers, acquired over the winter to replace the disappointing backstops of 2018, became anchors. Max got hurt. The team kept winning. Astrubal Cabrera returned and hit like a beast.  The team kept winning. Aaron Barrett returned from a hideous arm injury to pitch again and inspire. Zimmerman came back from a long struggle with foot problems. And he hit. More winning.

By the time they squeaked into the playoffs they had become the elite team I had hoped for in March. Then, impossibly, they won five elimination games, the last being Game 7 of the World Series.

Image may contain: one or more people, people sitting, drink and indoor
Red wine. Black sweats. Can’t lose

In a way, winning the World Series doesn’t matter. The long arc of the season matters. Watching games on warm summer nights, sharing a beer or three with my daughter matters. Doing Baby Shark matters. Seeing friends at the game matters. Riding home from the ball park in the dark after a mid-summer night game matters.

Yes, we will celebrate for a few days. There will be a parade.  Enjoy it. Already temperatures have dropped. Winds have begun to howl. Big Nellie soon will take her place in the basement where I’ll spin and read all those books I’ve neglected for the last six months. It will be reading season once more.

Meanwhile, a new team will take shape. Hopefully, my body will follow suit. Then sometime next spring, a flag will be raised and a new baseball season will begin. Maybe I’ll ride somewhere far, hopefully on two healthy legs this time. As Nationals manager Dave Martinez mother told him when he was growing up, “Often bumpy roads lead to beautiful places.”