October 2022 – In the Book

Another madcap month of riding, reading, listening, and watching has passed and I did my level best at three out of the four.


I managed to pull off my sixth straight month of 1,000 miles or more on my bikes. October clocked in at 1,041 miles. I took five days off for the sake of sanity. I did rides of 50 or more miles six times, which might sound impressive but that’s called loafing by bike touring standards. (It still strikes me as odd that I can do 55 miles a day carrying 40+ pounds of gear over mountains or into stiff headwinds and feel energized on a tour, but feel whipped after three days of unweighted local riding in the flat terrain around home. Let that be a lesson to you aspiring bike tourists.)

I rode my CrossCheck most often only because it was whining that I had neglected it for most of the summer. (My bikes can talk. If only the CrossCheck would tell me its proper name. Someday, I suppose.)

I rode one bike event, the Great Pumpkin Ride. It takes place in rural Fauquier (don’t ask how it’s pronounced) County, Virginia. It was one of many leaf peeping jaunts this month. I have to say the foliage has been pretty darned awesome around here this year. And there hasn’t been a truly nasty storm to put an end to the festivities so I expect I’ll get a few more days of reds and golds and browns yet.

I have less than 50 miles to go to reach 10,000 miles for the fifth year in a row. That is, assuming a calamity (pulmonary embolisms anyone?).


Cloud Cuckoo Land: Yes, this month is by the book (singular) because I only read one. Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr. This one was a bit of a challenge as the plot is split among multiple plot lines across centuries. The separate plot lines are linked by an ancient Greek text. (Doerr’s mind works in strange ways.) Doerr does manage to tie things together at the end but by page 400 I was getting whiplash from going from the distant future to the 16th Century and back to present day Idaho.


Ultra: A few years ago I got into podcasts in a big way. Over time I fell out of the habit but this month I found a whopper. Rachel Maddow Presents Ultra is the absolutely riveting tale of how white supremacists and the Nazis nearly took over American politics in the run up to World War II. The whole story starts with the deadliest plane crash to date in U. S. history. The crash took place near Lovettsville, Virginia. Lovettsville is separated from the upper Shenandoah Valley by a mountain ridge into which the plane, carrying a sitting U.S. senator, two FBI agents, and a federal prosecutor, collided. That’s episode one. It gets better and better.

Ghost Stories: Ultra uses some audio from the 30s and 40s which brought to mind a repressed memory from my childhood. For some reason during a bike ride my brain coughed up a story about a squirrel. (It’s a bit ironic. One friend once called my bike rides my meditation practice. Another friend refers to having squirrels running around in her head when she meditates.) A few miles later the name Clarence came to the surface. Then I recalled that the squirrel could talk. When I got home I did some searching of the interwebs to find that these memories were fragments of a story contained on a 1962 spoken word LP called Alfred Hitchcock Presents Ghost Stories for Young People. I listened to the entire record and only recalled the squirrel story, for good reason. It’s about a ten-year-old boy named Johnny who is playing in a house that is under construction, something that I (same first name) used to do when I was about the same age. On a dare, the boy decides to stay in the house overnight. A squirrel comes into the house. Then another bigger than the first. And they start talking. They have names, one of which is Clarence. Then another still bigger squirrel comes in. And, well, go listen to it for yourself.

Revolver: At the end of the month, reconstructed recordings of the Beatles album Revolver came out. These new recordings use an advanced audio technique developed for the Get Back documentary. On Revolver, the Beatles used one track for the band playing live: guitar, bass, drums, piano, and such. The other three tracks were for vocals, instrumental add ons, and sound effects. Applying the new audio techniques allowed the live track to be deconstructed as if each instrument and vocal and sound effect had been separately recorded. The fruits of this show most clearly in the new mix of Taxman. The rhythm guitar and drums practically jump into your ears. The mix of Eleanor Rigby actually sounds worse to me as you can hear the scratchiness of McCartney’s voice. It sounds as if he just woke up. In contrast, his vocals for Here, There and Everywhere and For No One are smooth as glass.

There are a few treats such as a Yellow Submarine outtake that shows that this bouncy children’s song grew out of a somber germ of a song idea from Lennon. Paperback Writer and Rain, without all the technical slight of hand, are straightforward rockers. Rain was played at much faster speed then slowed down in the final version. Paperback Writer without the dominating heavy jazzy bass, reveals a tight band playing their brains out. Getting a peek at the creative process is always fascinating to me.


I didn’t go to any baseball games because the weather at the beginning of the month was cold and rainy. The Nats were the worst team in baseball so nothing lost. Wait til next year. Nowhere to go but up.

The playoffs have been quite entertaining. It’s nice to see major league baseball played well, something that’s been missing hereabouts for a few years. One painful aspect though is seeing so many former Washington Nationals playing for other teams. Harper, Scherzer, Turner, Schwarzer, Soto, Bell, and Hand. Oof. Two certain future Hall of Famers and perhaps two more.

Away from the ballgames, I watched Andor, the latest Star Wars miniseries. It’s so well done. Much better than anything else from Star Wars since, well, Rogue One, to which Andor is a prequel. Diego Luna is great as are Stellan Skarsgard and Fiona Shaw.

I finished watching SheHulk, Attorney at Law. It was dreadful. I kept hoping each new episode would get better. Nope.

Finally, I watched Anxious People, a Swedish miniseries based on the book of the same name by Fredrik Bachman. It took a few episodes to get into but I enjoyed it as much as I did the book. Mrs. Rootchopper did too and shed a few tears at the end. I am looking forward to the release later this year of A Man Called Otto, based on Bachman’s book A Man Called Ove. (It was already made into a movie in Swedish which I recommend.) In this American version, Otto is played by Tom Hanks.

Colorful riding

It’s crazy pretty around here this fall. The dominant colors are browns and yellows, not the blazing reds of the northeast. I’m not complaining. I’ll pass on a few red maples just to avoid that one or two week period in the dead of winter when the thermometer dips below zero and the inside of my nose freezes.

The colors are made more vivid by the angle of the sun this time of year. The twinkling water of the river and the glow of the leaves makes for happy riding. I’ve been cruising around the DC area on all three bikes savoring the fading days of warmth. In the last seven days I’ve ridden over 280 miles just peeping my fool head off.

Dawn on the Mount Vernon Trail

When I ride to Friday Coffee Club this time of year, the sun is just rising when I reach the Dyke Marsh bump-out on a bridge on the Mount Vernon Trail. Sometimes the sun is peeking through the tree line across the way in Maryland. Other times its radiance is muted in the pre-dawn minutes but the river is steaming its way into the morning.

The Mule at Dyke Marsh at sunrise. #specializedsequoia #potomacriver #mtvernontrail
The Mule at daybreak in Dyke Marsh

Autumn in DC
One week later from the same spot just before sunrise

Rock Creek Park

Going to Friday Coffee Club gets me out of bed and into the city some 15 miles up river. After the working stiffs head off to make the donuts, I ride up into Rock Creek Park, an urban canyon with a bike trail and, for now, restricted car access on Beach Drive, the main road. It’s pretty splendid scenery.

Autumn in Rock Creek Park
This is the brand new path near the National Zoo in Rock Creek Park.

Autumn in Rock Creek Park
Heading down hill on Beach Drive in Rock Creek Park

Fort Hunt Park

Closer to home, Fort Hunt Park puts on quite a show. Sadly, two old large maples have died in recent years but there’s still some arboreal fireworks on display.

Fort Hunt Park in the fall
Big Nellie takes in the colors in Fort Hunt Park

The C&O Canal

Last Sunday I drove up to Maryland to make for an easier 50 mile out and back ride on the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal towpath. The C&O is a terrific place for a day ride, made all the better by recent improvements to the trail upriver from Riley’s Lock in Montgomery County, Maryland. The towpath in is area used to be filled with ruts and mud and now it’s a sweet roll for miles and miles.

C&O canal between Riley’s Lock and Edwards Ferry. Super nice new surface.
Morning light on the C&O towpath. Love that smooth surface.
C&O canal between Riley’s Lock and Edwards Ferry. Super nice new surface.
Autumn sunlight makes the Potomac River sparkle along the C&O towpath.

The Great Pumpkin Ride

After Friday’s ride through Rock Creek Park, I drove west to Warrenton for the annual Great Pumpkin Ride. The early morning state made for some cold rolling for an hour or so, but the scenery made up for any discomfort.

Fall foliage on the roads of Fauquier County VA during the Great Pumpkin Ride
On the Great Pumpkin Ride, you have to stop and take in the autumn vibe, babee.

Fall foliage on the roads of Fauquier County VA during the Great Pumpkin Ride
If you sneak out early, before the 9 a.m. start or the Great Pumpkin Ride, you avoid the scrum on the bike path and get the roads all to yourself for a while.

Fall foliage on the roads of Fauquier County VA during the Great Pumpkin Ride
A couple of Great Pumpkin riders cruising down a country lane.

The Great Pumpkin Ride, like most open road bike events, has one feature that I don’t like: packs of riders going fast and passing uncomfortably close to me. After several packs blew by me, I rolled up to one such pack that had ended up in a crash. Some of the riders were sitting dazed in the grass next to the road while someone was picking up their fallen steeds and moving them off the pavement.

After about 50 miles, attention spans start to lapse. A lone rider on a matte black road bike just ahead of me drifted off the pavement into the short grass on the shoulder. My brain said “No. Don’t!’ I’d seen this happen so many times, but there was nothing I could do but watch. He tried to steer back onto the asphalt, caught the edge of his front rim on the transition, and fell hard on his side. He lay on his back until the pain subsided then got up and road to the finish 14 miles ahead.

I may be old, but I’m slow. And al this autumn riding means I’m still in one peace.


My friends seem to be travelling like there’s no tomorrow. Sweden was the destination of choice for Brittany. Katie and her husband went to the Baltics and Sweden. Chris went to Italian wine country. Alan and his wife are spending a month in Italy. Gina and her husband are toottling around Naples. Susana and her husband did Greece and Italy. Rulon and Heather did Peru. Not to be outdone, Tim and Michelle are done with Peru and heading for Ecuador as we speak. Rachel and Kate went to Crater Lake (which I missed after I cut short my 2019 bike tour).

I went to the doctor.

Yep. Aren’t you jealous?

I started with a fine case of Covid-19. My symptoms were mild but I was put on Paxlovid and told to keep away from people for 10 days. I fully recovered in a matter of days.

My doctor noticed that I hadn’t had a physical in several years. So I did that. My blood work came back with problems. Going for a physical is like getting your oil changed. Once the mechanic gets a look under the hood, you’re screwed. Well, in my case, my blood work showed elevated glucose levels, borderline pre-diabetic, in fact. The doctor told me to lay off drinking sugary sodas and fruit juices and eating carbs (of the non-whole-grain sort). I have complied pretty faithfully.

Alas, my blood work also showed elevated and rising cholesterol, and my LDL – the especially worrisome component – was way high. He told me to try changes to my diet, including eating salmon twice a week. Ok, just shoot me now.

So I’ve been doing some research, which is to say I’ve been watching two funny Canadian doctors on YouTube. I no longer drink OJ at breakfast. I have had about six cookies since early August. I feel really guilty whenever I eat red meat. Or oil. Or butter. Or eggs. (None of which I eat to excess anyway, but still.). The Canadian docs mentioned an odd study of ten people that found that Brazil nuts are almost as good as statins for lowering cholesterol. Damned if I can find any. Almonds will have to do. Also, eating lots of fruits and veggies is supposedly helpful but too many fruits can spike my blood sugar. I am doomed.

According to the Canadian docs, your cholesterol level is 80 percent genetics. So even if I ate salmon and Brazil nuts and oatmeal for every meal, I’d still have crappy blood cholesterol. Long story short, I go back for follow up blood tests in November. After the sure-to-be disappointing results, I’ll finally go on a statin and celebrate my genetic misfortune with a pepperoni pizza and some egg nog.

(On the plus side, my hemoglobin levels were still somewhat high, a benefit of riding at altitude for a month. Also, my weight – even now – remains well below my pre-tour porkitude.)

If you think my insides are bad, you should take a look at my outsides. My doctor did and referred me to a dermatologist. I booked an appointment for early October.

Since I was at the doctor anyway, I had my pandemic-delayed second pneumonia shot and my first shingles vaccine shot. I felt a bit like the family dog. Woof.

After the physical and the vaccines, I needed some good medical news so I went to my ophthalmologist. (If your insurance will pay for an ophthalmologist you should go to one instead of an optometrist. That way, you won’t have to find an eye surgeon when your retina detaches or your lenses fog over. Ask me how I know.) My intraocular pressure is under control thanks to my daily eye drops. And my optic nerve is in tip top shape.

Confident of not going blind, I decided to go to the dentist. I love my dentist but this visit he took a panaromic x-ray of my teeth. Surely he’d find all kinds of nasty dental disasters, right? Nope! Perfection! Okay, when you have as much hardware in your mouth as I do, perfection is a term of art. But not one tooth, crown, or cavity is on the verge of falling out.

On the way home I took a trip to the pharmacy and had a flu shot. It’s a good thing that vaccines don’t make you smell bad because otherwise I’d be reeking.

After a few weeks of relative medical calm, I went to the dermatologist. He apparently was having a sale on liquid nitrogen because he froze 21 lesions off my face and ears. Are we having fun yet? I thought I should get a prize or something but all he did was send me home with another prescription, for anti-dandruff shampoo, to be used on my face. My face has dandruff. Will wonders never cease?

In a couple of weeks, I’m going to get my bivalent Covid booster which has been delayed because I had Covid in late July. After that, it’s time for my blood to be re-tested and for my second shingles shot. Then comes the real fun.

In early December I’ll be having a colonoscopy. Don’t you wish you were me? I’m pretty sure NASA could learn a thing or two about propulsion from the folks that make the colonoscopy cleansing medication. I’m not looking forward to this procedure but it’s not my first rotorooter rodeo. (Come to think of it, the effect of the cleansing medication kind of looks like riding the mechanical bull in Urban Cowboy. Just try not to get thrown. Eww.) I think it’s my seventh or eighth time taking the fantastic voyage.

Once I get the colonoscopy scheduled, I will be setting up an appointment with a back surgeon. My spinal stenosis has steadily worsened since I came home from my tour. I suspect the epidural I had in April has worn off. I’m not in constant pain but, unless I am bent forward, I can’t do anything on my feet without discomfort. If the surgery and post-op rehab goes well, I’ll be all set to jump on my bike and do a tour in the spring.

Maybe I should have my head examined.

700 States in a Fortnight

A couple of weeks ago I participated in my 14th 50 States Ride.

14? Yes, I may have a problem.

For the uninitiated, the 50 States Ride is the main event in the Washington Area Bicyclists Association ride calendar. Participants follow a course that winds all over DC as they ride on every street named for a state. The route is about 60 miles long with minor variations from year to year. Like last year, this year’s ride started at Yards Park, a small green space along the Anacostia River in the Near Southeast neighborhood.

After parking my car in East Potomac Park, I rode about three miles to the start where a posse of hardcore fools met up for the ride. Michael B., Kevin W., and Chris M. returned from last year’s group. Keith A. who I met on my very first 50 States Ride in 2006 and who I ran into on my bike tour this summer joined us. Jeff D. with whom I’ve ridden two 50-States and countless other event rides also met us at the start. Alas, Jeff and his friend Mike seemed always to be just behind our group so we only saw him at pit stops during the ride.

The returning posse members were joined by a bunch of youngsters whose names I, of course, can’t remember for the life of me. Okay, I managed to remember Sara, Julie, Catherine (sp?), and Chuck but there were two other guys whose names fell out of my head. Along the way we were joined by Claire. For much of the ride we were shadowed by Steve O., a volunteer course marshal who knows a fund group when he sees one.

That’s a pretty big pack of riders. I believe some of the new people work with Chris at a federal government agency while others are known to Kevin from the Thursday night PubRoll. The PubRoll was started by posse expat Peter K., who moved to Barcelona this summer. (We miss you Peter!)

I would post a picture of the group but Kevin has it and is not giving it up. Maybe he’s got Big Nate class picture issues. I didn’t take any pictures except those below so you’ll have to believe me when I say this was one good looking group.

The route goes up and down and all around. Through neighborhood streets and on main roads, into traffic circles, and on bike paths. There are countless stops at stop signs, traffic lights, and pit stops. Usually this causes a group to splinter but this year’s posse was as cohesive as any I’ve ever ridden with.

Usually we are treated to a cloud burst or horrible humidity but not this year. The weather was splendid.

The pit stops – staffed rest areas with snacks, water, and restrooms – were fewer this year. There was no stop until the halfway point in Eastern Market on Capitol Hill where I managed to fall when dismounting and got a boo boo on my elbow. Michael got me a bandaid from the WABA first aid kit that caused an earnest WABA person to fill out an incident report. This took longer than the incident but this is DC and whenever we have a chance to fill out some paperwork we get rather excited.

We also stopped at Mike and LIsa’s house, the Tacoma pit stop near the northern most part of DC. Mike and Lisa open their home, well, their bathrooms and front lawn, to the pedaling horde every year. They are super nice and ride a mean bike when not handing out snacks. They are also serious Washington Nationals fans.

After Mike and Lisa’s we continued on and had our pictures taken as we turned onto Alaska Avenue by Patti Heck. She stands there, rain or shine, all day taking photos of the riders. Follow the link and you can find scads of pictures of this year’s riders (and, for that matter, riders from previous years).

Me with Keith in hot pursuit. Photo by Patti Heck. Used with permission.
Steve O. – photo by Patti Heck
Jeff D. photo by Patti Heck
Chris M. – photo by Patti Heck
Posse newbies – photo by Patti Heck

After descending to MacArthur Boulevard we climbed back up Cathedral Heights. This involves two challenging hills, one on Garfield Street, the other on Cathedral Avenue.

The 2022 50 States Ride posse at the Cathedral Heights pit stop. Everyone finished.
The posse at Cathedral Heights. They’re smiling because they realize the hills are finished!

The rest of the route was a meander through the flat core of the city, then on to Hains Point along the Potomac River and the big finish back at Yards Park. We tried to join the official afterparty at a bar near Nats Park The bar is located between the Metro and the ballpark. It was no surprise that with a Nats game about to start the bar was packed. So we rode to Solace, a bar located on the opposite side of the ballpark where we had a celebratory beer and finger food.

From the sound of things the posse will re-assemble for WABA’s Cider Ride in early November. Stay tuned.

Sunrise on the Anacostia. Haze courtesy of wildfires out west.

While I was at the Tacoma rest stop I talked with Lisa for quite a while. She has a collection of Nats bobbleheads and is missing only one, Sean Doolittle. I just happened to have one so I rode back up to her house a couple of days later. On the way home I coincidentally ran into Mike. We chatted for long enough for me to take a picture of him in his summer bike cap.

Mike in his summer cap
Mike in his summer bike cap

Just before the event we were handed an addendum to the cue sheet. There was a street festival on H Street NE that the ride organizers wanted us to avoid. The route normally passes by the ghost bike that stands as a memorial to Dave Salovesh a friend who was killed by a driver on Good Friday of 2019. A few days later I went back to see the bike and take a moment to remember him.

Dave’s ghost bike.

And so another 50 States Ride is in the books. Will I do it again? As Rachel Maddow says, watch this space.