Trails – Little Things Mean a Lot

The DC area has some truly wonderful multiuse paths, or what we humans call bike trails. As the DC bicycling community grows, these trails become more than just a recreational resource. Thousands of people use these trails every day to get to and from work and to run carfree errands. So it is important that they are maintained properly.

I came across two good examples of trail maintenance today. In Arlington, the Four Mile Run Trail connects the Washington and Old Dominion (W&OD) Trail to the Mount Vernon Trail. The entire Four Mile Run Trail had been treated with brine to keep rain from freezing. Unfortunately, the treatment stops at the Mount Vernon Trail which is maintained by the National Park Service.

IMG_2035

Alexandria City doesn’t treat their trails either. But somebody, either the city or the Park Service or a landowner, fixed a troublesome spot on the Mount Vernon Trail yesterday. At the north end of Old Town in a mixed use development called Canal Place, the trail zig zags across a set of railroad tracks that run parallel to the trail. (Of course, these tracks are a hazard in and of themselves. I watched a man crash his bike a couple of years ago when his wheel got caught up in the rails).

To continue north, you have to ride across the tracks at a 90 degree angle to the right then you turn 90 degrees to the left to stay on the trail. While doing this second turn you have to squeeze between a pole and a concrete curb. Between the curb and the pole there was a big bump and several smaller ones. (There used to be a hole which made things even more interesting.)

Whoever does such things came along yesterday and smoothed all these bumps out. You still have to negotiate the tracks and do a zigzag but one aspect of this hazardous little trail segment has been fixed.

IMG_2036

November – Slouching toward Winter

I rode 23 out of 30 days in November. Mostly I took time off the bike because I am tired and sore. Hell, I ought to be. Anyway, it’s a good idea to listen to my body.

I rode 764 miles, my lowest total since March.

I did two bike events during the month. The Cider Ride made for a 55-mile day. The Tour de Mt Vernon. My longest ride was a hilly 70-mile ride around most of the perimeter of DC.

During the month, I crossed the 11,000 mile threshold for 2018. Considering the fact that I began the year with a collapsed lung, 11,000 miles is not too shabby.

And to top it all off, I had my first flat tire of the year. (Feels pretty good to get that monkey off my back.)

 

 

Sunrise and Coffee

Only a complete idiot would get up before dawn and ride 15 cold miles for a cup of coffee. Yep, I’m your man.

Friday Coffee Club is my excuse for getting my ass in gear once a week. It’s also my excuse for a nap about five hours later.

I was unable to locate the battery for The handlebar bag on The Mule obstructs a handlebar mounted light so I pulled my CrossCheck down off its hook, slapped a headlight on its handlebars and rode off into the cold and dark.

I made it to the Duke Marsh bridge and was happy to see no ice on the boards. I stopped to check out the predawn light over the Potomac.

The ride to DC featured a headwind but I didn’t much mind because my legs were feeling strong after taking yesterday off.

Friday Coffee Club was in fine form. Ricky brought some homemade pumpkin banana chocolate chip bread. Poncho sported his new merino wool Phoenix Bikes jersey. Joe showed off his new screaming yellow jersey. Steve O describes his icky sinus surgery (I had to ask!). Andrea described how to tell male baked goods from female baked goods.

Fellerino checked his batwatch. It said rain was approaching so I headed for home. Of course, I got caught in the rain but the tailwind more than made up for the dampness.

Nap time beckons.

Tweets and Cold Feet

The thing I dislike most about winter bicycling is the fact that it takes five minutes to get dressed and undressed. Summer is so much easier. And there’s no guesswork either.

The next most dislikable thing about winter bicycling is cold feet, especially toes. Despite riding in New England for six years and in DC for the another 34, I have yet to find a satisfactory solution to the cold feet problem.

I use pedals and toe clips. Most of the time I ride with mountain bike shoes. Shimano came out with some that are extra wide which is a must for my super wide feet.

Down to 50 degrees, I just wear wool socks. Even when it rains. Below that is when things get difficult. I have three solutions, none of which is ideal.

Solution 1: Put chemical hand warmers in my shoes. Toe warmers fit better but hand warmers put out more heat. I try to place them on the top of my forefoot.

Solution 2: Performance brand over boots. These clodhoppers go on over your shoes. They have a liner that is fairly warm and a smooth, flat rubber sole that keeps my feet dry when the grass is wet on my  walk out to my shed. The over boots drawbacks include: they are a pain to get on, they don’t grip the pedals like my shoes do, and they change my pedaling mechanics.

Solution 3: Hiking boots. I recently saw some Instagram pictures of a #bikedc acquaintance who went bikepacking on the Blue Ridge. She and her friends wore hiking boots. I have some Gortex hiking books that are pretty comfy but they have thick soles that change my effective leg length. If I ride a long way in these boots. my knees bark.

I also have battery powered socks. They eat batteries like popcorn. Not a good solution.

I asked the Twitterverse for some better ideas. Here are some of the responses.

  • Smear Vaseline on your feet.
  • Smear embrocade (an ointment that heats up) on your feet
  • Put plastic grocery bags between your socks and shoes.
  • Giro Alpinduro bicycle shoes with wool socks.
  • Wear wool socks and sandals.

Well, I’m not into smearage. And I’ve tried the plastic bag idea. (Your feet get all sweaty and skanky.) REI doesn’t carry the Giro shoes anymore. (They probably don’t come in super wide, either.)

So that leaves me with wool socks and sandals.

I tried this out today with some really thick Smartwool socks and my Teva sandals.

img_2023.jpg

The temperature was in the low 40s with gale force winds, making for wind chills in the low thirties.

I was surprised at how well this worked, at least for the first 17 miles. Then my toes got pretty cold, especially when riding into one of the gusts. I managed to ride 31 miles though and my feet comfort level was not horrible. I think this solution might work better with closed toe sandals. Regardless, had it been any colder or had my feet become wet, I think my toes would have been miserable.

Skiers are much more dialed in to winter foot comfort issues. Friend of the blog Rudy is an accomplished skier (with a once broken femur to prove it). His solution is to accept your fate. Use platform pedals and winter boots. Winter is for skiing, dude.

So, long story short, there is no good solution. Experiment. Toughen up. Or ride Big Nellie in the basement. Or find another sport for a few months.

 

Flat Free, Almost

The Mule and I are shocked. Stunned. Today, after well over 5,000 miles we had a flat tire. I use Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires. They are advertised as “flatless.” I have to say that 5,000 miles, much of it carrying a load, is crazy good.

I only know how many miles because I thought it would be unwise to keep riding the tires I had on last year. They took me several thousand flat free miles too. The only problem I had was a slow leak on my last day in Florida. I put the bike on Amtrak and pumped the tire up when I got to DC and rode it home.

The culprit of this year’s flat was a nasty piece of green glass, quite thick and jagged. Today was recycling day so I am guessing that I was the victim of a dead Rolling Rock or gin bottle.

I am pretty sure I heard the glass contact the tire. I even scraped off my front tire while riding just to be careful but forgot to stop and clean off the rear tire. That green monster ate through the casing for several miles before I noticed the bike start swaying as I rode.

I walked the last two miles home not wanting to change the tire on the wet side of the road. It was given a proper burial. Come spring time I will buy a new pair of Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires for my next adventure.

A Tip of the Helmet to Nigel Tufnel

It’s rainy and cold and gross outside. This morning I took my car to the mechanic because it’s brakes are seizing and causing smells and heat and unpleasantness. After walking home, I took The Mule out for a quick 16 mile jaunt before the weather hit. And when I entered the miles into my spreadsheet (Strava? Pshaw!) I crossed the 11,000 mile threshold.

So this year, like Nigel Tufnel’s amplifier, goes to 11.

Giving Thanks – 2019

Here are some things I am thankful for.

Martin’s Every Road Tour

I met Martin Arnold in the Honey Pot in Gackle, North Dakota. Actually, I woke him up after midnight. Martin had begun his bike tour two months before mine in Brunnen, Switzerland.

For the next month we met time and again as we both made our way to Anacortes, Washington. Martin had a video camera and has made this edited account of his ride. The section of his ride in Europe is new to me. Although we didn’t see each other, our routes actually overlapped somewhat from DC to Indiana and again from Minneapolis to Gackle.

I got a good laugh out of the pictures from the Northern Cascades in Washington state. He’s going fast one second then crawling the next. Just as I remember it. Except that the crawling lasted all morning and the speedy descents lasted a few blissful hours in the afternoon.

At the end of the video is his blog address. The blog is in German but contains many more pictures including one of the two of us when we briefly rode together near Colville National Forest.

 

Medical Update

I realize I mentioned the fact that I was going to see my hematologist and my pulmonologist for a status check. Sorry to leave you all hanging.

Both visits were little more than conversations. “How are you feeling?” “Are you having any symptoms?” etc.

Long story short: I’m doing fine. Mentally, I have never been better. Thanks to the bike tour and the afterglow.  Of course, a year ago, I was feeling my oats and then the wheels fell off the cart in December. Like the song says, I could go at anytime. There’s nothing safe about his life.

So I have a green light from both medical specialists. Bueno.

Speaking of afterglow, my blogging friend Brittany is glowing like a lava lamp after a very cool summer in Yellowstone. Check it out here.