920 Muggy Miles

It is official: my pandemic boredommeter has broken. I continue to ride nearly every day but my daily average is falling. Doing 80 to 100 miles in oppressive heat and humidity is likely to lead to an evening at the neighborhood trauma center.

My neighborhood trauma center is used to seeing bicyclists. One time many years ago I crash on the Mount Vernon Trail. I had a dislocated left knee cap and my left arm was cut to the bone. There was blood. The first question the triage nurse asked me was “Did you hit yoru head?” I said “No” and had to wait 20 minutes. Later, as I was wheeled to x-ray, a patient in cycling clothing on a gurney was being wheeled out. We said hello and he asked me “How’s your bike?”

He hit his head when he fell.

Anyway, my longest ride this month was 52.5 miles. I nearly got killed doing it thanks to a rumble strip and a pile of storm debris. On the plus side I averaged over 29 1/2 miles per day, even while taking three days off.

For the month I rode 920 miles putting me at 6,885 miles so far this year. I’m still on pace to exceed 10,000 miles for the year, but only barely so. I need to have a big September and October.

My stenosis came back. I reached 17,000 miles on my Cross Check. And I signed up for my 12th 50-States Ride in late September.

On to autumn!

Readin’ the ‘Rona

Well, I’m not exactly burning up the roads of America this year. Other than watching Washington Nationals baseball games, I am spending a lot of time reading. I read National Geographic and Adventure Cycling magazines. Otherwise I’ve been working my way through a pile of books.

  • This Is Going to Hurt by Adam Kay – the diary of a doctor in the National Health Service in the UK. This is very funny, and sometimes tragic.
  • Labyrinth of Ice by Buddy Levy – the incredible tale of a multi-year arctic rescue mission in the days before modern communications. If you liked books about The Endurance expedition to Antarctica, this one’s for you.
  • The Body, A Guide for Occupants by Bill Bryson – This book lacks Bryson’s usual wit (his A Walk in the Woods is the funniest book I’ve ever read), but it will tell you a million bizarre factoids about your bag of bones.
  • Lie to Me by J. T Ellison – an entertaining novel in the style of Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl.
  • Sharp Objects by Flynn – ditto.
  • Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson – a Bryson travelogue showing off his wit as a fish out of water in Great Britain. As you’re about to discover I tend to work my way through books by author
  • Dark Places by Flynn – Another dark Gone Girl-ish novel
  • And I Do Not Forgive You by Amber Sparks. The author is the wife of a former co-worker. Well written off-beat short stories that was not well read (as Nick Hornby likes to say).
  • The Road to Little Dribbling by Bill Bryson. Another witty travelogue.
  • Made in America by Bryson. A book about the history of the English language. I had high expectations for this one but it wasn’t my cup of joe.
  • Giving Good Weight, La Place de la Concorde Suisse, Irons in the Firel Looking for a Ship, The Ransom of Russian Art, The Control of Nature all by John McPhee. I loved these on first read many years ago but reading them in sequence got a bit tedious. Still he’s a skilled researcher and writer and they hold up well to the passage of time.
  • Buzz Saw by Jesse Dougherty. The tale of the improbable march to a World Series title by the 2019 Washington Nationals. I always regard the long baseball season as like an epic novel. This one proves my point.
  • Table of Contents by McPhee. By this point I was pretty burnt out on McPhee. (I have only Coming into the Country left to read in my McPhee collection.
  • One Day: The Extraordinary Story of One Day in America by Gene Weingarten. Dang is this book a revelation. Using a day chosen entirely at random, Weingarten reports on events that happend on that date in the recent years. I like Weingarten’s weekly humor column in the Washington Post but he’s cheating us by not writing more books like this.
  • The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness. A young adult novel in the style of Twilight. Weird times five.
  • Circe by Madeline Miller. She’s a nymph, she’s a which, she’s a badass. I didn’t think I like this but it’s pretty great. The writing style is unusual but it works.
  • A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles. How about a Russian novel in the style of Graham Greene. Not that I know anything about Greene’s writing.
  • The Hours by Michael Cunningham. Unless you’re a big fan of Virginia Wolff and Mrs. Dalloway, don’t bother. By page three I was sick of metaphors and atmospherics.
  • Normal People by Sally Rooney. A rich nerd has an affair with a smart jock in high school in Sligo, Ireland. The story follows them through college in Dublin. Rooney is amazing at describing the nuances of relationships.

Still to come: this eclectic pile. Note that my wife and daughter picked up on my tastes. I read Ron Chernow’s biography of Ulysses S. Grant last year and was amazed. And since I saw Hamilton on stage last year it was a no-brainer to gift me the book where it happened. I loved Matt Damon in the movie about a botany nerd stranded on Mars. The Outsiders is a classic that I’ve never read. And two books by authors I first read earlier this year.

I am saving Hamilton for after the baseball season. I’m not throwin’ away my shot.

It’s been a long time since I’ve read so many books that float my boat.

Let’s Get Ready to Rumble

On Sunday night I stayed up late watching a movie with my wife and daughter. The following morning I awoke after about six hours of sleep. Several cups of coffee later I was driving to Solomon’s Island in Maryland to take on oppressive humidity and rolling hills aboard my Cross Check.

The first ten miles of the ride were mostly along Route 2, a four-land highway and the only major north/south road in the area. I was still a bit groggy from my lack of sleep as I started my ride. The highway had wide paved shoulders which were occasionally guarded by rumble strips next to the right travel lane.

For the uninitiated, rumble strips are sequential cuts in the roadway that run in a line parallel to the travel lanes. These particular strips were about one foot wide. These cuts resembled a tractor track like you’d find on a dirt road. Their purpose is to alert drivers that they are leaving their lane and driving off the road. Properly designed they can be helpful to bicyclists because cars that hit the rumble strip make a distinctive, loud rumbling sound. If you’re riding and hear that sound it’s a really good time to take evasive action.

After a few miles I was getting into a nice pedaling rhythm, bombing along the shoulder at 15 miles per hour when I came to a long downhill. My speed increased quickly. I looked ahead and could see some vegetation obstructing nearly the entire width of the shoulder. This debris was probably caused by recent storms.

I rather absentmindedly started to drift to the left to go around the debris when I found my bike and me shaking violently. I had drifted right into the middle of the rumble strip. I’ve ridden some rumble strips that were no more disruptive than riding on an unpaved trail like the C&O Canal towpath. These strips, however, were composed of deep cuts in the roadway. They were so deep that the bouncing I was experiencing had slowed my speed into the mid 20s.

Even at this somewhat reduced speed, the shaking was making it impossible to control the bike. My butt kept coming off the saddle. The bike started to wobble. Instinctively I reacted by veering to the left. Freed of the rumble strip, my bike accelerated straight across the right travel lane.

I peeked at my mirror and saw nothing coming in my lane but, far behind, a vehicle was indeed approaching from the passing lane. Just as I was about to cross the dashed stripe into that lane I managed to get control of the bike and steered hard to the right, across the rumble strip, and onto the shoulder, well beyond the pile of debris.

This was the closest I’ve come to a high speed crash on a bike in years. It scared the crap out of me. I am very lucky that both travel lanes were empty when the rumble strip ejected my bike and me.

It took my several miles to calm down. In about 30 minutes the route took me across the highway onto back roads. Although these roads were quite hilly, unlike the highway, they were shaded. Temperatures had climbed into the low nineties. The high humidity made it feel like over 100 degrees.

There’s nothing quite like grinding up a series of steep hills in sweltering heat and humidity to take your mind off a homicidal rumble strips.