Top Ten of 2021

It was the year of the jabs. And not a whole lot else. Our trip to Peru was put off until 2022 (at the earliest). My fall bike tour to New Orleans would have been the Tour de Covid, as the entire route went through the gut of anti-vax America. I stayed home and got a booster shot instead. Still, some good stuff happened and here’s a go at the ten best. (Assuming, of course, that nothing bodacious happens in the next few days.)

1. One L

My daughter, scholarships in hand, enrolled in law school in Connecticut. After a recon trip in May, we rented a U-Haul and moved her 350 miles in August. It being the case that I have spinal issues and my wife and I are both north of 60 years old, the wise move would have been to hire some help. Yeah, well. We managed to pull off the move and live to laugh about it. My back held up amazingly well, too. And the apartment that my daughter rented sight unseen turned out to be much better than her apartment in Rosslyn or any apartment I ever had in college or grad school

2. Going Yard

One downside to doing a series of long bike tours is that my yard became neglected. The backyard mysteriously started flooding. The lovely perimeter garden was a bed of weeds. The landscaped steps next to the house were a mess, The metal stoop at the side of the house had more rust than paint. And there were big muddy patches in various parts of our lawn from the removal of trees and some Russian olive bushes. In between bike rides, I attacked these tasks with mostly good results. Each task took two to three times longer than expected, mostly owing to my decrepit back. The yard is still a bit squishy after heavy rains, and one of the muddy patches didn’t quite take to seeding, but the rest came out as good or better than I had anticipated. I never got around to re-painting the shed, but there’s always next year.

3. Wait Till Next Year

The baseball season started with a surprise. I got in the paper! A special Opening Day section of the Washington Post included quotes by and pictures of Nationals fans. And one of them was meee, wearing a Montreal Expos (the former city and name of our Washington Nationals) cap and a 50 States Ride t-shirt.

Once it warmed up, I rode to some baseball games. Alas, it was a lackluster year until the Nationals gave up entirely and traded away many of their star players to replenish their farm system, depleted by years of trades that led to their 2019 World Series victory. The last two months of the season the team was pretty dreadful, but tickets were easy to get and inexpensive. At one game I sat a few rows behind the Nationals dugout and felt like a kid in a candy store.

During the spring law school recon trip to Hartford, we attended a AA minor league game. The home team is the Hartford Yard Goats. They play in Dunkin Donuts Park.

4. Baker’s Dozen and Other Events

I completed my 13th 50 States Ride this year with the help of a posse of charming gents. Michael, Kevin, Peter, and Chris made the journey a pleasure. Historically, the hardest part of the ride had been the climb through the Palisades up to Cathedral Heights only a few miles from the finish. This year the start and finish were moved to the low lying area of DC known as Near Southeast. Those killer hills now came 45 miles into the ride instead of 58 miles in. No problem! The after-party even included some surprise guests one of whom just moved back from Brazil (hello, Kitty).

I did three other event rides in 2021. The Sweet Ride is relatively new spring ride which, like the 50 States, is a production of the Washington Area Bicyclists Association (WABA). The very hilly course goes places in the near suburbs that I had never ridden. I’m not a big fan of climbing so it’s one and done for this one.

The Great Pumpkin Ride is one of my favorites. It’s held in autumn in the Virginia Piedmont when the air is crisp and the foliage is starting to turn. This year I rode it alone and passed on the beer at the final pit stop. I did the long 60+ mile route and I was finished at the finish.

The WABA Cider Ride in early November featured a slightly altered course. I started with Kevin and we added Michael at the first rest stop. The three of us had a great time together and I am grateful that my amigos waited for me several times when I couldn’t maintain their pace. I may be old, but I’m slow.

5. Riding East and West

The Eastern Shore of Maryland is a pretty cool place to ride a bike. It’s flat-ish. Traffic is relatively light. And I was sick of riding around home. So I drove over and did rides in Dorchester, Kent, and Cecil Counties. On one ride I kept seeing signs saying “Road Closed” and “Bridge Closed Ahead”. I ignored them, of course. Then I came to a bridge that had been damaged in a flood. I managed to walk across the bridge thanks to some strategically placed guard rails and traffic barriers.

On three other occasions my wife drove me to Purcellville, Virginia where the Washington and Old Dominion Trail has its western terminus. Each ride from there to home was about 57 miles long. One way. Gradually downhill, for the most part.

6. Big Nellie Reborn

I was riding Big Nellie, my Tour Easy recumbent, on the Mount Vernon Trail one day in June when my front wheel hit a root heave and my fork snapped off. I was fortunate that I was not on a road in traffic when this happened. (Of course, if I had been on a road, there wouldn’t have been a root heave to begin with.) A passerby saw my crash and portaged the bike to a nearby parking lot where I was rescued by Mrs. Rootchopper. Easy Racers, the company that made my bike, is no longer in business. The fork was made specifically for this bike so my fear was that Big Nellie was a complete loss. I emailed the owner of Easy Racers and didn’t receive a reply. Then I sent hopeful emails to bike shops across the country and Peter, owner of The Bicycle Man in Alfred New York, replied that he had what I needed. I put Peter in touch with Tim at Bikes at Vienna, my local recumbent shop. They figured out a repair plan. With the able help of Daniel and Beth, mechanics at B@V, Big Nellie was made good as new.

7. 10,000 Miles to Nowhere

At the start of the year, I told myself that I would not get caught up in another year of mega mileage bike riding. A few months later I found myself well off the pace for a 10,000-mile year. Then the weather took a turn for the better. Fast forward to the end of summer and I found myself chasing down that 10,000 mile bogeyman for the sixth year in a row. (I failed in 2017 because I became gravely ill with fewer than 200 miles to go.) By year’s end, I had ridden over 3,000 miles on three different bikes and bagged my 10,000-mile prize.

8. Jab Me

As someone who is over 65 and has a recent history of ideopathic (fancy medical speak for “dunno”) cardio-pulmonary disease, my anxiety over the Covid pandemic was at Def Con One in January. In February, after many fruitless internet searches, I signed up for my first shot of the Pfizer vaccine at my local Safeway. A month later I had my second. Five months later I went in for a flu shot. After another month I was Covid-jabbed for the third time. Boosted! In total I had the following side effects: a sore arm for one day after all four shots. From my second Covid shot, I had mild fatigue which I cured with an afternoon nap. I know others who had some more significant side effects, but none that came within a fraction of the impact of acquiring Covid.

In 2019 and 2020 I finally resolved chronic pain issues by getting cortisone shots in my hip and knee. Next I turned my attention to a growing concern, spinal stenosis. A narrowing of the pathway through which my spinal cord runs had been causing me increasing amounts of pain. At one point I had trouble walking a hundred feet. Finally, I received cortisone shots directly in my spine. The shots sent momentary electric shocks down my legs. It was extremely painful but it did ameliorate my pain. The pandemic kept me from returning to my pain doctor so I started a course of physical therapy that I found in various YouTube videos. It seems to be working. Somewhat. I had all but given up on hiking, however, but a short two-and-a-half mile hike the day after Thanksgiving was pain-free. I am now experimenting with, how should we say, plant-based analgesics.

9. Nature Is Weird

We were treated to another nearly snowless winter. We now seem to have only light, pretty snow falls, called “conversational snow”. It’s as if the entire area has been moved south 200 miles. Not that I am complaining. After all, I moved here to get away from winter. Little did I know that, unlike the northeast, this area is invaded by creepy flying bugs every 17 years. And 2021 was the year of the 17-year Brood X cicada bloom. For about three weeks in June we were treated to life in the Twilight Zone. It’s hard to describe the eerie sound of billions of flying insects mating like there is no tomorrow, because, for them, tomorrow is in 17 years. Some neighborhoods had massive infestations with piles of cicada shells lying under old trees. Others had next to nothing. Our yard had conversational cicadas. The fall brought one of the best foliage shows in many years. The colors just kept on coming.

10. Lost and Found

I found over 125 golf balls on my rides around DC this year. I have no idea what I am going to do with them. Nobody I know golfs much these days. I looked around at local public golf courses hoping to find a kids’ clinic or something that I could donate them to.

I also found a $100 bill on the road. I was stunned. A few years ago I found $140 on the street in front of my house and thought I’d never see anything like that again. Well, I did…and I didn’t. This year’s c-note was fake, movie money. How it ended up on the side of a busy suburban road is anybody’s guess.

But the big find was my wedding ring. I took my ring off when I was doing all that yard work in the Spring. One day after working in the yard and going for a bike ride, my ring vanished. After months of searching and even renting a metal detector, I gave up hope. Then, seven months later, it appeared in the dirt near my shed.

And we have one more thanks to Nigel Tufnel:

11. Hold My Guinness

In mid December after a long wait because of Brexit and Covid, my application for Irish citizenship was accepted. My name is now included on the Registry of Foreign Births of the Republic of Ireland. The entire process took over three years. Once the papers arrive from Dublin, I’ll be able to get my Irish EU passport.

Athbhliain faoi mhaise duit!

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