November 2021 – Around in Circles

We had a mighty nice November here in the mid-Atlantic. The foliage seemed to last for weeks. There were no big, blustery storms to blow all the leaves off the trees. The red maples and a few yellow ones, and some stubborn ginko trees were hanging in there to the end. Well played, mother nature.


As usual, cooler temperatures led to a switch to long pants on bottom and layers on top. I added a key piece of clothing to my bicycling wardrobe and I am really happy I did. Junction Hybrid Cycling pants from REI are a cross between long pants and tights. They fit perfectly. And they seem to be good for a wide temperature range. So far I’ve ridden in wind chills down to 35 degrees F as well as temps in the mid to high 50s F and felt very comfy. The only shortcoming to these gems is a lack of pockets. I would have bought another pair or two but I had to give my daughter something to get me for Christmas. I hope she comes through.

The month began with the last cycling event on my calendar, the Washington Area Bicycling Association’s annual Cider Ride. I began the ride with Barney (real name Kevin). At the first rest stop, Gomer (a. k. a. Michael) caught up to us. (This must make me Floyd the Barber, I suppose.) The weather was mighty fine and so were the warm cider, donuts, and apple pie at the pit stops.

In mid-month I did a one-way, 57-mile ride on the Washington and Old Dominion and connecting trails. The rest of the month included all too many loopy rides on area streets. I did get to check out the extensions to the 15th Street cycletrack in DC however. Earlier in the year it was extended from Pennsylvania Avenue to Constitution Avenue. In November, in a matter of days, a further extension was added across the Mall from Constitution to the Tidal Basin at Maine Avenue. No more dodging tour buses and taxi cabs near the Museum of the African American, the Washington Monument, and the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. Sweet.

For the month I rode 846 miles, mostly on Old Nellie and the Cross Check. For the year, I have ridden 9,564 miles, nearly evenly split among those two bikes and The Mule. The odometer on Old Nellie hit 47,000 miles along the way. If I can manage to average a little over 14 miles per day during December, I’ll hit 10,000 miles. Pedal, pedal.

Off the bike I raked a helluva lot of leaves. This left my body achy. After Thanksgiving dinner in North Arlington, I joined the other feasters on a hilly, half-mile waddle around the neighborhood. My back and legs were screaming at me the entire time. The next day a few friends reconvened for a short hike in the woods at Scotts Run Recreation Area in Mclean, Virginia. I used trekking poles and had absolutely no pain issues. My body is a mystery to me.


When pondering my medical woes, I watched a few movies on the tube. Worth was pretty interesting. It’s about how 911 victims’ families were compensated after the attacks. As someone who did wrongful death economic analyses as a side gig in graduate school, I brought an unusual personal perspective to the movie. Michael Keaton, Stanley Tucci (who’s in more movies: Tucci or Samuel L. Jackson?) and the rest of the cast was terrific.

Next up was Greta Gerwig’s Little Women. I am not big on period chick flicks so it’s no surprise that this one wasn’t really my cup of tea but the acting, set design, and direction were top notch. It has an all-star team of young actors (including Saoirse Ronan, Timothee Chalamet, and Florence Pugh) and July Johnson, er, Chris Cooper that is (who I’ll watch in anything). So don’t let my meh reaction put you off.

A few weeks ago I read The Vanishing Half, a best seller about two black sisters whose lives diverge when one decides to pass as white. The movie Passing explores similar themes and received decent reviews. I found it to be a disappointment. For the movie to work, you have to be willing to accept that one character passes as white. I never bought this for a second. It seemed cheaply made too. Thud.

Get Back, the Peter Jackson documentary about the Beatles is a technical tour de force. The man can do miracles. His World War I documentary They Shall Not Grow Old is amazing. He restored 90-year old documentary film. colorized it, added sound including voices (in various appropriate British dialects) synced to the images, and other magic tricks. Being a big time Beatle fan, I couldn’t wait to see what he could do with their film and audio archive from the 1969 Let It Be project. Get Back is every bit as technically amazing as Jackson’s other work. His team “de-mixed” monaural audio to extract conversations and re-produce musical rehearsals with impressive aural clarity. The film is visually crystal clear too. I wish Jackson had done brief film about how he pulled all this off as he did with his WWI film. The tone of Get Back is nowhere near as dark in tone as the old Let It Be film. The Beatles decided to write and record an album live, with no overdubs, on a three-week, self-imposed deadline. What could go wrong? Ultimately, they bring in Billy Preston on keyboards to get around their ban against overdubbing and his joy infects the band. As a five-piece, the band gels instantly. All the while, it’s obvious that this is the end of the line for the group. At about eight hours Get Back is quite an endurance contest for the viewer. If you watch it, break it down into 60- or 90-minute viewings.


I only managed to read two books. Release by Patrick Ness is a young adult novel about a sexually active, gay teenage boy, the son of Evangelical parents, going through various traumas over the course of a single day. There’s a side story about the spirit of a recently murdered girl. Neither story line worked for me.

A much better book is Amor Towles’ The Lincoln Highway, a novel about the misadventures of teenagers on a road trip to better lives in the mid-1950s. With so many plot twists and calamities, I was impressed that Towles held it all together. Loved it from beginning to end.


My daughter came down from Connecticut for Thanksgiving. She was happy to get away from the grind of her first semester in law school. We visited with my son in Thailand via Facetime. I vaguely remember when my brother Joe called us from Paris in the early 1970s. That was exciting. Facetiming from Thailand seems oddly so routine.

On to December. I have a 46-mile ride on tap for tomorrow.


The DC area does a pretty darn good job of falling. Here’s some examples.


It always seems to take longer than last year, but the fall foliage around these parts, while not in the same league as Vermont, isn’t half bad. My vote for tree of the year is this one, located near the Virginia side of the Memorial Bridge.

Stopped me in my tracks


The last bicycling event ride of the year, at least for me, is the Cider Ride. It is staged by the Washington Area Bicyclists Association. There are three routes of which I picked the longest, 55-mile one. The course winds its way up and down the branches of the Anacostia River and spends about ten miles meandering around a United States Agriculture Department research facility and its adjacent suburban neighborhoods. On the return the course passes through Greenbelt (which I always confuse with Beltsville). The three pit stops had dozens and dozens of donuts (I had one with white frosting and sprinkles), apple pie, and, of course, warm cider. (The Greenbelt pit stop also includes yellow jackets which find cider irresistible.) Normally I don’t like cider but on a cool autumn afternoon, warm cider is just about the perfect drink.

Kevin W. contacted me the night before and we rode together from the start. At the first pit stop about 13 miles into the ride at Proteus Bicycles in College Park we were joined by Michael B. These two gents have been the anchors of my last several 50 States Ride posses and are the best riding companions. They wait for me at turns because I am old and they are not. At the end of the ride we indulged in libations. A pleasant time was had. As you can see, the weather was splendid.

Kevin (L) and Michael at the after party

A big thanks to the folks at WABA who spend many hours planning this event. On the day of the event they get up way too early and resist the temptation to eat all the donuts. So thanks to all the WABA staff Garrett, Ursula, Kristin, and, Anna (as well as any I haven’t met or didn’t see), and the scads of volunteers. Somehow volunteer Dana got assigned pie duty at the furthest pit stop from his house in Arlington. Hope you didn’t get stung. And a big shout out and thanks for the hug to Monica, the queen of merch at the after party.


Although not strictly limited to autumn, the flooding of the Potomac River is always an interesting thing to see. A week ago, we had the highest water since the epic storm surge from hurricane Isabel in 2003. This picture of the lower end of King Street (the main tourist street) in Old Town Alexandria was taken several hours before the high water mark. News reports showed a couple canoeing here.

Fall Back

We just switched back to standard time this weekend. One annoying aspect is that I have to reset all four of my bike computers. Of course, I have three different kinds, each it its own sequence of buttons to be pushed. My big worry is that when I start futzing around with the buttons I’ll accidentally delete the mileage on the odometers. So, before I start, I take a picture of all four computers’ odometer settings. I’m a bit over 155,000 miles on these four bikes. This means I ride a lot and I, and my bikes, are old. (This does not include mileage from my Raleigh Grand Prix and my Trek 1200, both of which left the stable decades ago.)

Clockwise from top left: The Mule (Specialized Sequoia), Big Nellie (Tour Easy recumbent), Little Nellie (Bike Friday New World Tourist), and my Surly Cross Check.

Welcome to the El Norte Zoo

It has now been over two years since the Irish government received my application for citizenship. (My paternal grandmother was born in County Mayo.) Between Brexit and the pandemic, the delays have become rather frustrating. I guess I’ll have another Guinness while I wait.

My experience is not uncommon so I get chuffed when I learn that someone I know has been granted U. S. citizenship. The latest is my friend Peter’s wife Ona. I confess that I barely know her but it’s quite obvious that Peter is an hombre con suerte. Ona became a US citizen over the weekend. I saw her at the Cider Ride after party and she was still beaming. Congratulations, Ona.


One of the nice things about living in the DC area is that the weather during the first half of autumn is pretty darn good for bicycling. I took advantage by riding 29 out of 31 days for 970 miles. My longest day was the Great Pumpkin Ride, which worked out to 68 miles on my bike computer. It was harder than I recall and it took me a couple of days to recover.

I reached 63,000 miles on the refurbished Mule. It now has a new bike computer and a front brake that doesn’t habitually stick to the rim. Thanks Daniel and Beth at Bikes at Vienna for the wrenchpertise. The Mule will get some much needed rest for the next few weeks as I switch over to my Cross Check which has been in dry dock since it hit 21,000 miles a couple of months ago.

I rode Big Nellie, my long wheel base recumbent. over 400 miles this month. That’s pretty unusual. I doubt it’ll see much more outdoors activity because it’s rearward weight distribution makes it rather crash prone on wet leaves. Then again, at some point in December Big Nellie will take up residence in the basement where it will become my reading platform.

My goal for 2021 is one last 10,000 mile year. I’m on track. I finished October at 8,718 miles. I think I can do 1,282 in 61 days.

In non-biking activities I watched three movies: Black Widow, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, and No Time to Die. After reading several positive reviews about Black Widow, I was disappointed. It just didn’t float my boat. Shang-Chi was much better, particularly before the obligatory CGI pornfest in the last 45 minutes. I was unfamiliar with Awkwafina but I liked her performance in the first half of the movie when the characters are developed. No Time to Die was a pretty classic Bond film, better than most Bond movies. The references to the much derided On Her Majesty’s Secret Service were welcome. (I am one of the few people who think IHMSS is one of the best bond films.) I expected Daniel Craig and the actors in recurring roles to be good (and they were) but I was pleasantly surprised by Rami Malek and Ana de Armas who both owned their scenes with Craig. And while I’m at it, Geoffrey Wright is my favorite Felix Leiter.

My other passive entertainment was watching the baseball playoffs. All the displaced Nationals (other than Dusty Baker) were vanquished in the first two rounds which left me with no strong interest in the World Series. Still, the thought of no baseball for five months means I’ll watch the Braves vs the Astros anyway.

I managed to squeeze in two books this month. The first was The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman. This a fun read, a bit of Nick Hornby meets Agatha Christie. The second book was Beautiful World Where Are You, the third novel by Irish author Sally Rooney. I found it disappointing, lurching between the main plot and emails between the two main characters. The emails struck me as a lazy writing trick through which Rooney could make personal remarks about the writing life and the crummy state of the world. Her first two books were much better. She also seems obsessed with writing sex scenes. She’s a talented writer but by the fourth sex scene I wanted to have a cig and go to bed.