September 2021 – Big Nellie and The Mule Go Long

Another month of aimlessly riding in circles is in the books. Early September brought the usual extension of summertime, but the month ended with day after day of absolutely perfect weather. It was my highest mileage month of the year, clocking in at 1,051 miles. The newly refurbished Big Nellie carried me 598.5 miles. The balance of riding, but for one mile on Little Nellie, was on The Mule.

It took me a while to regain my confidence on Big Nellie. This is normal considering the fork broke off back in June, landing me in a heap along the Mount Vernon Trail. After a while I started feeling like I was part of the bike. I even rode it to a Nats game, to Friday Coffee Club, and on some explorations all across DC. (I am extra careful riding Big Nellie in traffic. Drivers and other bicyclists don’t expect to see me when I am so low to the ground. Oddly, the opposite is true in the country; drivers stare at the weird bike and tend to steer at me. Mirrors are life savers. Caveat Bentor.)

One highlight of the month was my 13th 50 States Ride. As with my two 80-ish-mile rides on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, I did this one on The Mule. The Mule does hills better than Big Nellie. And I wasn’t really keen about driving across the Bay Bridge and its crosswinds with a huge recumbent tailfin on the car. (I needn’t have worried. I once drove back from Indiana with Big Nellie hanging off the back of my Accord.)

Another highlight of the month was the return of Friday Coffee Club at Swings House of Caffeine on G Street NW. I have to work on the getting-out-of-bed aspect though. I am no longer accustomed to waking before dawn.

I did attend three Nats games, the last one with my daughter. I’d like to say these were major league baseball games but the Nats are pretty much a AAA club with a couple of ringers (Soto and Bell). If they had a bullpen, they’d be on the verge of mediocrity. There are three more games against the Red Sox. Despite the fact that I lived in Red Sox Country for 11 years, I am not planning on going to the games.

For the year, I have ridden 7,748 miles, on pace for over 10,300 miles.

Oh, and one last thing, I had a Covid vaccine booster shot a couple of days ago. Other than a sore arm for a day, I haven’t had any side effects.

Get the jab, y’all.

Challenging Rides in Kent and Cecil County, Maryland

Last summer I found a website with three rides all starting in Chestertown, Maryland on the Eastern Shore. I did the shortest of the three last summer. This past month I went back to knock off the two 80–ish mile rides.

The first ride, called the Historic County Loop actually covers much of the ground of the shortest ride. Still I managed to make a wrong turn or two and stretch an 81-mile ride into 86 miles. It’s a talent.

To be honest the maps and cue sheets are old so it’s not surprising that I got lost. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. I mean your talking about somebody who did the 50-States Ride in DC 11 times and still missed the first turn on his 12th ride.

The roads in Cecil and Kent Counties are in good shape. Higher speed roads have very wide paved shoulders. There’s a bit of truck traffic probably because these routes are close to US 301, a major divided highway running north and south. Most of the roads I was on are marked as bicycle routes so local drivers are used to seeing bikes on the road.

The Historic County Loop travels through miles of farmland and diverts now and then to the Chesapeake Bay. To be honest, I’ve seen better bay views in a dozen other places. The farms appear to my city-dweller eyes to be corn and soybeans. If you spun a Hoosier around they would swear they are right back home in Indiana. If memory serves, Indiana farms are much bigger, but these farms will do nicely for visual purposes.

I did the second ride, called the Pump House Primer, a couple of days ago. This one is a bit more interesting. Once again I encountered corn and soy but over the line in Cecil County the terrain became more rolling and the farms were a bit more diverse. One farm had a stand of hops (they grow on wooden poles). Another had some sheep. The most interesting farms were stud farms for breeding thoroughbred horses. These farms look very much like those in central Kentucky. Unfortunately, I couldn’t manage a decent picture of the horses. They are beautiful beasts.

One highlight of the route is the descent to a drawbridge over the Sassafras River. The bridge connects Georgetown in Kent County with Fredericktown in Cecil County. The drawbridge has a metal grate for a surface so rider beware, especially when it rains.

The northern most point of the ride is at Chesapeake City on the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal, which connects the Chesapeake Bay in the west to the Delaware River to the east. Years ago I rode on the Canal trail which is worth doing if you’re in the area and aren’t already mashing out 80 miles on the roads.

The ride back from Chesapeake City makes a small loop. The route then starts another small loop, or so the cue sheet and map say. Alas, one of the roads on this loop is closed. I checked it out and found a barrier across the road and woods beyond. From the age of the trees and underbrush, I suspect this route map is more than a decade old.

Using my phone, I improvised a course correction and managed to screw that up. I back tracked and found a road on the cue sheet. Following the route, I rode 19 miles back to Chestertown, going back over the first 19 miles of the ride. I ended up riding 78 miles with a nice tailwind for the last 14 miles. As it turns out, the part of the Pump House Primer route I lopped off was on the Historic County Loop route so I actually didn’t miss a thing.

Grateful for Rock Hall
Your Basic Soybean Field
Weird How the Road Just Goes into the Bay
Another Soy Bean Field
One of Many Scenic Water Spots
Chesapeake City Bridge
Ruh Roh!

I did these rides on The Mule but need to try them again on Big Nellie. Level and gently rolling terrain is what recumbent bikes are made for. All I need is a repeat of the amazing weather I had for these two rides.

If you are interested in these rides, plan to spend some time wandering around Chestertown, Chesapeake City, and Georgetown. They are small towns with buildings dating back to the 18th and 19th centuries.

Garbage Day Treasure – Mystery Solved

I took the bill back to the bank where the alert bank manager took one look at the bill and said, “It’s movie money.”

As you can see from the photo, it’s obvious. it clearly says “Motion Picture Purposes” in multiple places and the serial number begins with “MP”. And the motto on the back says, “In Props We Trust”.

Update on the Garbage Day Treasure

Yesterday I took the $100 bill I found on the street to a bank. The tellers gave it a close inspection and said that it was fake. So I took it to a second bank. The teller there reached the same conclusion. From where I stand it was a pretty good fake printed on paper that seemed legit.

I asked the teller what to do with the fake bill and she said to google the U. S. Treasury Department. I already knew from a rather crazy incident in my grad school days that the Secret Service is the branch of government that deals with counterfeiting. I found the number for the nearest Secret Service office in my state and called them. They told me to turn the bill over to a bank and have the bank call them.

It’s a bit troubling that the person I talked at the Secret Service didn’t seem overly alarmed by the fact that I had found a counterfeit $100 bill. And there was no urgency to her instruction to take it to a bank. It’s also a bit troubling that neither bank knew that they were suppose to confiscate the bill and send it to the Secret Service.

I’m going to the bank tomorrow to turn over the bill. We’ll see what happens. There’s still the remote chance that it is a legitimate bill that was damaged by being out on the road.

Garbage Day Treasure

Ever since my running days I have found things during my daily jaunts either on foot or by bike. When I was running I’d pick up a dollar or two each week in coins. My theory was that when people reached into their pocket for their car keys they’d pull out a few coins by accident. Most of my runs on the city streets in and around Providence were along parked cars so inevitably I’d scoop up some laundry money. The most I ever found back in my running days was a $5 bill. For a starving grad student this was a big windfall.

DC may not be such a great place to run (way too hot and humid) but it’s fantastic for roadside treasure. My most frequent finds are golf balls. This is especially true in early spring when the ground is hard and the golfers are rusty. Errant shots hit the hard ground and bounce clear off the golf courses. I have found as many as a dozen balls in a single 30-mile ride. I have a bag in my shed with over four dozen balls in it and that’s after giving away a few dozen over the last two years.

Every so often I find something else of use. I have a pretty nice pair of garden shears, a pair of pliers, and a phillips head screwdriver, all from bike rides.

From time to time I find cash. Not the change of my old running days but currency. Once again I figure this is the result of someone reaching into their pockets for keys or a phone and inadvertently pulling out a few bills. Six years ago I was shocked to find $140 – two $20s and a $100 bill – on the street in front of my house. It was garbage day and I suspected that one of the workers on a garbage truck dropped the money. I had no way of reuniting the money with its owner so I held on to it. Eventually I donated it at a fundraiser for the daughters of a woman named Rose who was run over and killed on Del Ray Boulevard in Alexandria.

It’s been a long time since I’ve found money lying around. This morning I went to the bank. After I was done I spotted a dime sitting on the chair I had been using in the waiting area. How strange, I thought. I don’t carry coins these days. I pocketed the dime and laughed. It’s my lucky day.

After my bank errand I went for a ride on Big Nellie. We were making our way along Fort Hunt Road heading for Alexandria city. I stopped at a red light. Big Nellie isn’t the fastest accelerating bike on the planet so we were only going about 5 miles per hour after we crossed the intersection on the green light. I noticed what looked like a dollar bill on the paved shoulder. After passing it, I hit the brakes and duck walked the bike back to the bill. It wasn’t a dollar. It was another $100 bill.

This is a test right? I mean who the heck finds a $100 bill in the road even once? Unlike the previous bills this one was pretty beat up. Maybe it had been there a while. Then, again, maybe not. After all, in a weird coincidence, today is garbage day.

What the most unusual thing you’ve found on your walks, hikes, or bike rides?

The 2021 Fifty States Ride: 50 x 13 = A Whole Lotta Hills

The 50 States Ride, the Washington Area Bicyclist Association’s signature event, is my (nearly) annual exercise in self abuse on a bicycle. I’ve done it all but three years since 2006. making this my 13th time. The course is about 60 miles long, weaving through all eight wards of DC so that riders pedal their steeds on the avenues named for all 50 States.

Each year the course is tweaked. This year for the first time that I know of the start of the course was moved from centrally located Adams Morgan to Yards Park in near Southeast DC, on the banks of the Anacostia River. The change moved the first 15 miles of flat terrain to the end of the ride. Yay! Oh, wait.

Starting at Yards Park meant that the first of countless hill climbs came at about one mile into the ride instead of 18 miles. Put on your big boy pants, this is gonna hurt.

And it did. Riding up Martin Luther King Boulevard in Anacostia, I was dropped by my posse – Michael B., Kevin W., Peter K., and Chris M., augmented by Shira and Steve O. piloting tandems with blind stokers. All of these riders are young whippersnappers and I knew I had no hope of keeping up.

After a brief descent from Alabama Avenue and a flat section on Mississippi Avenue we climbed right back up to an even higher point on Alabama. Dropped again. My posse humanely waited for me to catch up. Another flat-ish section was followed by a descent to Texas and another climb back up. Whose idea was this, anyway?

The next 10 miles or so was relatively easy as the route descended to and over the Anacostia to the Hill East and Capitol Hill neighborhoods. Despite its name, Capitol Hill isn’t much of a hill. We rode north through NoMa and into Trinidad past my friend Dave’s ghost bike (a bicycle painted all white as a memorial to and reminder of Dave’s demise from an out-of-control driver in a stolen van).

After a brief pit stop, we began to climb again up aptly named Montana Avenue and up 18th Street Northeast. This long stretch on 18th was designed to put us on busy and traffic crazy South Dakota Avenue for the shortest distance possible. After three quick turns we were headed southwest on busy and traffic crazy Michigan Avenue. We took the lane and rode in a pack which gave us the illusion of safety.

Once past Catholic University we began another climb up bumpy Hawaii Avenue. At this point, Michael left us. He was riding a single speed bike and wisely opted to swap sanity for knee cartilage.

Next up was the Petworth neighborhood. This section was not particularly hilly but involved several turns (and a walk through a farmers market on Colorado Avenue). We headed north to the northern peak of the city. (DC is shaped like a diamond with a bit taken out of its lower left quadrant.) Here we stopped at the Takoma pit stop, home of Mike and Lisa, about whom I can’t say enough nice things. So I won’t.

(No seriously. They do this pit stop thing every year allowing totally sweaty total strangers to use their restrooms and trample their front yards. And they are Nats fans. Lisa maintains a bobblehead shrine. And they ride a tandem that has weird asynchronous pedaling. And Mike has a DC area GPS in his head and knows every street within a 50 mile radius. Also, he laughs at my jokes.)

Lisa and Mike – They’re the pits

After the pit stop we headed to Alaska. As we made the turn back toward the southwest we had our pictures taken by Patti Heck, who does this every year rain or shine. She posts the pix on her Flickr page so check them out. She even got a group picture of my posse. (And an shot of me too.)

We rode down into Rock Creek Park then back up the opposite side into Chevy Chase, home of posh single family homes. We continued working our way south to encounter a climb up Fessenden Street. Somehow I always forget about this monster. Dropped again.

Down and back up to ride Nebraska past American University. Then down a looong way to MacArthur Boulevard in the Palisades neighborhood. Now came the hard part. Up a short, steep stretch on Aspen. Then a reprieve for a mile followed by the longer, steep climb up Garfield Street. When the route started in Adams Morgan this beast came around the 55-mile mark. This year it came around 40 miles when legs were not completely spent. We managed it without much difficulty at all.

Unfortunately, about a mile after a descent from the top of Garfield came Cathedral Avenue, another tough climb my brain had blocked out. Fortunately, there was a water stop at the top of the hill. Unfortunately it was out of water. No worries; all of us had plenty of water to spare on our bikes.

The remainder of the ride took us back across Rock Creek Park to the start of the old route. From there we weaved our way down to downtown on flat streets. During this part someone on a bike yelled out to us. I had no idea who it was but one of my posse recognized the voice. It was Ursula who works for WABA. When we reached the final pit stop at City Center, she re-appeared. She was riding a shorter route with her parents. We chatted a bunch then the posse headed out for the finish. Down to Penn Quarter, over to Union Station, around the Capitol, through Southwest, past the Tidal Basin. We did a 3 1/2 mile loop to Hains Point in East Potomac Park. I had been feeling dead at that last pit stop but adrenaline kicked in and the wind-assisted ride back from the point felt like I was sailing.

The last bit of the ride took us past The Wharf and around Fort McNair. We then did a close pass of the northern end of the brand new Frederick Douglas Bridge, being careful to navigate a construction zone and beaucoup bridge traffic. After a half lap around Nationals Park we arrived at the finish. Knackered and chuffed, we joined the after party where we picked up our t-shirts and shared a victory beer and a slice of pizza.

The things this idiot will do for a t-shirt

As an added bit of pleasantness we were greeted by Jesse, a member of my 2018 50-States posse, and her friend Mike (the two of them housed me at the end of my 2019 tour in San Francisco) and Kitty, a friend who has been living in Brazil for the last few years.

As always, big thanks to all the volunteers (including my friends Monica and Josephine) and to the WABA folks, especially Anna McCormally WABA’s events coordinator, for making this ride a success once again.

Friday Pandemic Club

As long time readers of this pathetic blog know, Friday Coffee Club is a thing. Every Friday before work, bike commuters would assemble at M. E. Swings house of caffeine on G Street NW in Washington DC for a dose of friendship with a side of coffee. About a year and a half ago, Coffee Club was suspended and Swings suspended operations at it’s G Street location, because no one was commuting to the nearby office buildings.

Coffee Club regulars continued to meet in smaller gatherings. I attended a few, one on Capitol Hill and a few more in Old Town Alexandria. The vibe somehow was not the same.

Earlier this week, Felkerino, one of the co-founders of Friday Coffee Club, posted a picture of the G Street location, open at long last. This morning, without any announcement, the Caffienators assembled. I woke up extra early and rode to DC in the dark. The cool dry air begged for warmer clothing so I broke out a vest that has all kinds of reflective material on the back,

The sun was just beginning to rise as I approached Old Town Alexandria on the Mount Vernon Trail along the Potomac River.

Into a headwind The Mule and I continued the trek. After about 80 minutes we arrived at Swings at 7:30 only to see this sign.


There was a large plastic bag on the ledge next to the front door. After a few minutes an employee came along grabbed the bag and went inside. As it turns out the bag contained the day’s shipment of pastries. And to think I could have robbed the Glendale train and made off with the gold!

Soon, I was joined by Man-about-Town, Joe Flood. As always, Joe who is a skilled writer and photographer, made for good company.

Joe Flood and his steed

The shop’s lights went on and I went inside for a jumbo High Mountain drip coffee and a blueberry scone. Back outside Joe had been joined by Jeanne and we were up and running. Soon more folks arrived, eventually including Felkerino and his partner in caffeinated cycling Coffeeneur. The rest of the crowd included Rudi (who was actually once in a Dunkin Donuts TV commercial), Peter, Steve C., Steve O. Leslie, and Ricki.

Friday Coffee Club in between the women’s arrivals and departures

Ricki told us all about his recent bike racing mishap in Vermont. He came bombing down a hill carrying too much speed to negotiate a turn. He had a choice between crashing in the gravel on the road or taking his chances with the bushes on the outside of the bend. He took door number 2 and went careening down a six foot embankment, ending pathetically in a small pond. (His bike was unharmed; it had the good sense to land in some tall grass next to the water.)

As he was soon to learn, Ricky had broken his left clavicle during the crash. (He will have surgery next week. He should be back to what passes for normal in a couple of months.) He was actually fortunate to be conscious (and not underwater). He was out of sight of the road and could hear riders riding past above him. Soaking wet and beginning to chill, he cried out for help and some riders came to his assistance. They found a house nearby where they could leave his bike. An ambulance came and carted him off to urgent care.

After Coffee Club Peter and I rode over to the White House plaza. This is a short stretch of Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House. As I had done a dozen times this summer, I rode through the security bollards and headed for Lafayette Park. A Secret Service officer on a bike came rolling toward me and sternly told me to leave as the plaza was closed. I think he was upset that his colleagues stood by as I rolled through the security perimeter. All in all, I am glad I didn’t wear my “Stop the Steal” t-shirt. (Just kidding.)

Peter and I split up a couple of blocks later. I could hear him yelling, “You’ll never take me alive, coppers!” as he rode up 16th Street.

On the way home I had a chance to ride through the splendid extension of the 15th Street cycletrack. This two-way bicycle lane continues the cycletrack from Pennsylvania Avenue at the Ellipse to Constitution Avenue. Car traffic is unlikely to be affected by the change as the cycletrack displaces the visual blight of a dozen vendor trucks that sold tourist crap. (There are still scores of them all over the city.) The city also rehabbed the roadbed, removing some nasty moguls just before Constitution. In the days ahead, ‘need to install flexposts or bollards to deter drivers from parking and driving in the cycletrack.

in addition to the police at the plaza there were beaucoup police amassing where Pennsylvania Avenue dead ends at 15th. I had assumed that the police presence was some kind of practice for events connected to tomorrow’s 20th anniversary of 9/11. It turned out to be just normal (three motorcycles, four or five SUVs and squad cars, and a helicopter) security for the President (and First Lady) who were doing some eventing in town. No worries, the presidential motorcade also includes a dozen armored and armed SUVs.

I rode home across the 14th Street Bridge. Each year around 9/11 someone puts small American flags on the railing along the bridge’s side path. They must work quickly because I don’t remember seeing the flags on my way into town.

Flags on the 14th Street Bridge. Pentagon at far upper right.

The ride home was a breeze. Literally, as you can see from the flags, I made the 12 miles without effort.

How nice it feels to have Friday Coffee Club back on my calendar. It’s a great little tradition. Speaking of traditions, tomorrow is my 13th 50 States Ride. It’s a non-competitive ride on open streets through all eight wards of DC. It was designed by masochists who managed to find every stinking hill in town. Only a fool would do it more than once.

You’re looking at him.

When I woke up today, my 50 States posse was just three fools: Kevin W., Michael B., and me. As the day wore on, several more people reached out to join us in the 60-odd miles of two-wheeled urban insanity. We will do ur best to avoid ponds.

Back on Track – August 2021

I have been thinking about a three-peat all year. I did over 10,000 miles in 2019 and 2020. Can I pull it off again?

It was looking pretty bleak there for a while. My winter doldrums put me 2,000 miles in the hole. Some of this is expected because of the crummy riding weather early in the year but I, to be honest, was outdoing myself in the sloth department.

Each month since March, I’ve been chipping away at the deficit. I finally made it back on track last week. I am now on schedule to reach 10,059 miles by year’s end. To get there, I have to bang out some big miles in September and October because November and December are usually inhospitable to wheeling.

When it wasn’t wet around here, it was oppressively hot and humid. It’s been so muggy recently that even the breeze generated by riding has not been a relief. Ugh.

I rode 29 out of 31 days last month for a total of 957 miles. My longest ride was only 39 miles. But for few short rides to run errands and test out my handiwork on a few of my bikes, my shortest ride was 29 miles. My recent ride on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, filled with road and bridge outages, was my only ride that didn’t begin and end at home.

I attended a few coffee get-togethers in Old Town Alexandria at the ungodly hour of 7 a.m. (Thanks, Judd.) I also rode into DC for a happy hour. (Thanks, Kate.) And then there was a ride to the ballpark. (The Nats lost.) And a social ride that toured sites of import to the history of entertainment in Alexandria. (Thanks, Josephine.)

Little NellieBig NellieThe MuleThe CrossCheckTotal
August 202161.5348.0134.0413.5957.0
2021 Year-to-Date84.51,709.52,124.52,778.56,697.0

Among the accomplishments buried in the numbers are the fact that I moved my daughter to law school in Connecticut without destroying my back. I am still waiting for a crushing spasm to knock me off my feet, as I knock wood whenever the chance arises.

I finally got back on Little Nellie, my Bike Friday folding travel bike. I lowered the handlebars and the change greatly improved the ride quality. Unfortunately, the impact shock of the bike’s wee wheels still does not agree with my lower back. More tweaks lie ahead.

And Big Nellie returned to form after its fork snapped off during a ride in June. With the help of Peter Stull of The Bicycle Man who sold me the fork and the three-headed team – Beth, Daniel, and Tim – at Bikes at Vienna Humpty Dumpty was put back together again. It took me a while to trust the bike again, fork breaks will do that, I am now zipping around on my street luge to the amusement of little kids and the scoffs of teenagers. Recumbents reveal these things about child development.

My next mechanical issue is the repair of the Brooks saddle on The Mule. After over 6,000 miles of riding one of the nuts holding the springs on the underside of the saddle worked its way loose and fell off. The bike is still rideable but I suspect the nut was there for a reason and am determined to replace it. Normally, I’d go to the hardware store and buy a nut and thread it back on and tighten it with a wrench. But NOOOO. This nut is for a 9/32 sized bolt which Brooks sourced from another planet. And the wrench is every bit as rare. My plan is to steal a nut from another Brooks saddle and hope I can thread it on with an adjustable wrench. If not, I’ll be ordering a wrench and a nut from the Interwebs in the hopes of healing the patient.

On to September. Long rides ahead!