It’s been yet another amazingly mild winter month here in the DC area. We racked up a whopping 0.4 inches of snow. Temperatures crested 60 F degrees often and even reached 81 one day. It’s undeniably nice to have March one month early but there will be hell to pay come July.
The highlight of my riding this month was the re-birth of Little Nellie. I ditched the drop handlebars that I had been riding since I bought the bike in 2007 and had H-bars, flat handlebars with horns on the end, installed. The H-bars completely change the feel of the bike and allow me to ride pain-free. In the process of putting the bike through its paces, I nudged the odometer over 23,000 miles.
I spent a few days on The Mule, including a 46 1/2-mile ride on paved trails before giving the bike over to the mechanics at Bikes at Vienna for it’s annual physical.
I did about 152 miles on Big Nellie in the basement which helped me get some reading done (see below).
I managed to destroy the Brooks leather saddle on my CrossCheck. The tensioning pit which is used to keep the leather taut and to connect the metal framework underneath fell off. It didn’t break. It just surrendered. Weird.
As I was puttering around the basement trying to fix it, I found an old Brooks saddle that seemed to be in very good condition, so I swapped it out. Later, I was looking at the Atlantic Coast route maps I had acquired from Adventure Cycling and realized that I was missing the segment between Charleston, South Carolina and Jacksonville, Florida. Go figure. I don’t need this segment for my tour but I bought another anyway just on the off chance that I go down there again. I also bought three Northern Tier route map segments which will allow me to do some more tour planning.
All told I rode 730 miles this month and stand at 1,562 for the year.
Black Panther, Wakanda Forever – The decline of the Marvel movie franchise marches on. This movie did nothing for me. What a shame to see the actors who surrounded Chadwick Bosman in such a boring, humorless slog.
The State of the Union Address – This was good theater. Who’d a thunk Joe Biden would make fools of the nihilist louts in the Republican party? Not bad for a nearly 80-year old man with a speech impediment. (I don’t agree with all his policies by the way but at least he has some.)
The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kid – When I bought it, I had no idea what this book was about only that it was on the bestsellers list forever. It’s a classic tale of Southern women’s empowerment that reminded me a lot of Fried Green Tomatoes which I read decades ago. One of my pet peeves is that novelists often can’t let go of the characters and end up droning on for 50 pages after the story has run its course. This book ties everything up quickly and painlessly.
Educated by Tara Westover This is another book that seemed to be on the best sellers list forever. It’s the memoir of a girl who grows up in a fundamentalist Mormon family, basically a family cult run by her depressed, bipolar father. The girl is subjected to physical and psychological abuse that seems relentless. She could have easily called this book Gaslighted because her family denies her her own reality. This one’s going to haunt me for a while.
On Freedom Road by David Goodrich. This is the author’s account of travels by bicycle along three parts of the underground railroad by which slaves made their escape to freedom from the South during the days before emancipation. Goodrich begins with the tale of Harriet Tubman who escaped slavery on Maryland’s eastern shore. I was flabbergasted to learn that her path to freedom went through my hometown of Albany, New York. Goodrich then pivots to the underground railroad from the cotton fields of Mississippi. He does a fine job of integrating related events of the Civil War and the development of the blues in the Mississippi delta. The book also dovetails nicely with the anti-slavery history in The Pioneers which I read last month. The good folks at Bikes at Vienna brought this book to my attention. I attended a book signing event at Bards Alley, an independent bookseller around the corner from the bike shop. I met the author and we had an interesting chat. When I was finished with this book, I immediately bought his other two books in which he examines climate change from the seat of his bicycle.
Rough Sleepers by Tracy Kidder. This is an account of Dr. Jim O’Connell and his program that provides medical and social services to Boston’s homeless people. It is every bit as intense as Educated. Kidder is one of my go-to authors. His first book, The Soul of a New Machine, explained the world of microcoding and how minicomputers and personal computers work. Sounds boring but Kidder makes it fascinating. I put him in the same nonfiction writing league as John McPhee, Jon Krakauer, Joe McGinnis, and historian David McCullough.
I did the candy. card, and roses thing for Valentines Day, as I always do. Somehow the roses magically appear on the kitchen table every year. Somehow my wife hasn’t figured out how I get them into the house without her seeing me. Ho ho ho.
I bought some goodies for my 2023 bike tour. A Nemo sleeping bag that will keep me warm down to anything Maine can throw at me. It will take up about 1/3rd of a pannier. I also bought a Thermarest Neo Air sleeping pad. This thing defies physics. It weighs nothing and takes up less than half the space of my old, defunct pad, and is infinitely more comfortable. (This was recommended by both Corey and Mark who each used one during last year’s tour. They slept like babies.) I also bought a little pump that inflates the bag. The idea is you attached the pump to the pad and let it do its thing while you set up your tent.
I also bought a collapsible walking cane. This is essentially a miniature trekking pole. It should fit in my dry bag on my rear rack. I’ll now be able to walk at destinations such as Valley Forge and Bar Harbor without worrying that my back will start aching.