Last week, I changed the tires on The Mule. The next day I inflated the front tire and it exploded. Okay, so I made a wee little mistake installing the new tube.

Yesterday, I misplaced a cue sheet during a bike ride on my Cross Check. I ended up only riding 28 miles instead of my planned 44 mile route. During the ride, I noticed that the right shifter cable had begun to fray where the cable exits the shifter.

Today, I rode Big Nellie. I was tired from mowing the lawn so I rode in circles in a park close to home. Eight miles into my ride my front shifter cable split in two. Obviously it had started to fray a long time ago but I didn’t notice.

Lucky for me my local bike shop burned down last year and is still closed.

My back up bike shop won’t answer the phone. I am not making this up.

I have one more bike that is still intact. I dare not touch it.

Clearly, the bike gods want me to take a nap.

Always eat the snacks during the ride

The plan was to use an old cue sheet that I photocopied from a book of rides called The Washington Area Bicycling Atlas. The cue sheet is a turn-by turn guide through Virginia hunt country. You know, the horsey set that Hugh Grant pretends to write about to get to interview Julia Roberts in Love Actually.

So I drove to Middleburg ready for anything. I had the cue sheet for this 45-mile ride. I did not have the corresponding map for the ride, but having done it a few times back in the 1990s and 2000s I figured I’d have no problem navigating.

I arrived in Middleburg after driving by a few dozen stone mansions on vast greenswards and past tony shops where you can buy things made of wool or shepherd’s hooks hand crafted out of wrought iron. They probably sell chaps and riding crops too. And proper tea sets. Cheerio.

I left the car with a single pannier on my rear rack, loaded with extra water and snacks. Off I rode following my cue sheet. Once off US 50 it was all rolling hills, tall grasses, and stone walls. I was being shoved along by a tailwind that I only noticed when it gusted above 30 miles per hour.

Stone wall, brown fence, rolls of hay, and the Blue Ridge Mountains in the background.

About five miles into the ride I noticed that the cue sheet stopped at 13.7 miles. Hmmm. Then I realized that I only had the directions for the first third of the ride. Rather than turn around and add ten miles to my effort, I decided to follow the directions all the way to the end then use the Google to see if I could recall the rest of the route.

Up and down, around the bends, past the quaint farm houses and the massive estates. I took Zula Road to Frogtown Road, knowing to turn onto Frogtown even though the road sign gave it another name. (I missed the turn for this very reason the first time I did this ride 20 or so years ago.)

I made my way in a big square ending up back on US 50. All of this was familiar. A few miles on 50 would take me to the general store at Atoka where I would check the Google to see if I could conjure up the rest of the route.

My brain told me to head north. I don’t know why. I remember riding to the south on Atoka Road but for some reason I was sure that the route must go to Saint Louis to the north. I also decided that even though I was nearly halfway through the ride that I would save the snacks in my pannier for later.

Off I rode. I took St. Louis Road to Foxglove Road and I can’t say I was disappointed in my choice. It was green and rolling and winding. And windy. Dang, was it ever windy. Of course, now that I was lost, the wind would be in my face. And the gusts were intensifying.

We’re having fun now.

Foxglove descends to a creek and I rode along that for a meandering mile. By this point my brain was off in the clouds, which, come to think of it, was entirely appropriate on this overcast day.

Foxglove headed south past hunt clubs (the Horse and Hound kind). I didn’t see Hugh Grant. In fact, I only saw a couple of anonymous humans. One was an old man in a facemask walking with a pronounced forward lean on his way down his driveway to his mailbox. I stopped and we did the secret dance of the Stenosis Society.

Okay, I lie.

The headwind and the hills were beating me up pretty good when I spotted a water tower a mile or two ahead. Foxglove led me right back to my car.

28 1/2 miles. I decided to see if I could find the missing part of my cue sheet. Curiously, it was not in the car.

Oh well, I guess I’ll have that snack now.

I opened the pannier and there, on top of my snacks, was the cue sheet. I had the damned thing the entire time. And, of course, the route actually went south from Atoka to a town called The Plains. (No, Fantasy Island jokes please. Ironically, this is actually the home of Robert Duvall.)

I decided that to recover the missed part of the ride would involve at least 27 more miles of windy riding. Not gonna happen.

Now I can look forward to doing this ride again properly. Now for a brisk cup of piping hot tea.

Biking to “Work” with a Bang

I was feeling proud of myself after yesterday’s bike maintenance trifecta. Today promised to be the first warm, summer-like weather of the year so I was ready to take The Mule for a peaceful celebration of Bike to Work Day out in the country.

When I’m not riding it, I hang The Mule by its front wheel. When I took it down this morning, the front wheel, inflated to 80 psi yesterday, didn’t thud when it hit the floor. I squeezed the tire and found it to be soft. Odd. The valve seemed to be slightly open so I assumed that was the problem.

Using a floor pump I raised the pressure in the tire back to 80 psi. As I leaned over to pull the pump head off the valve, the tire exploded!


I removed the tire from the rim and took one look at the tube. It had a three-inch tear in it. Using a new tube, I had the thing back in working order in five minutes.

There was no way to tell whether the explosion was caused by a damaged rim. a bad tire bead (the part that seats under the lip of the rim), or a doofus improperly installing the tube.

Rather than take a chance that the thing would explode again. I decidded to switch to my CrossCheck for today’s ride.

I drove to Indian Head, Maryland where I have done several event rides. I kept the cue sheet from one year’s rides. This sheet included a 60-mile ride on one side and a 43-miler on the other. I was feeling crabby about the tire explosion. Also, it’s been a couple of weeks since I rode a conventional (non-recumbent) bike. So I chose the 43-mile route.

After three mostly downhill miles, my legs started to feel un-bent. The roads had very little traffic. The busier roads had wide paved shoulders. The smaller roads were little more than country lanes. Nearly every road was lined with trees so I rode almost entirely in the shade.

My only incident with traffic came about six miles into the ride. I was riding up a small hill on a shoulderless country road when a big black pick up truck came up behind me. The driver decided to pass. Just as his rear bumper passed my front wheel, a white SUV came over the hill from the opposite direction. I was certain they’d collide head on but instead the pick up veered hard to the right, directly in front of me.


Except for that one incident of vehicular madness, I was having a rather blissful go of things. I could hear the wind in the trees, the birds singing, the frogs croaking. Laundry was drying on the line. Creeks were burbling (or maybe they were gurgling.) Lord how I have missed the open road.

During the first ten minutes of the ride, I felt a twinge of pain across my lower back. Just my lumbago checking in. It decided to take the rest of the day off.

The route had three hills of some difficulty. The third was Rose Hill, an infamous 1.5 mile slog that gets steeper in the middle. The shoulder is a six inch ditch filled with litter (Icehouse beer appears to be popular.) and mud. I did this ride with my friend Kirstin a few years ago. She did not like Rose Hill at all.

The new pedals on my CrossCheck served me well. Rather than mashing down on them as I climbed, I imagined I was riding clipless pedals and concentrated on unweighting each foot at the bottom of the pedaling stroke. Not only did this help me get up the hill but my feet didn’t feel all beat up when I got to the top.

The last ten miles after Rose Hill were a snap. I’m pretty sure I could have comfortably ridden much farther but I decided to quit while I was ahead. There will be many more solo rides in the boonies.

I think my next excursion will be to Virginia hunt country or Maryland’s Eastern Shore.

Spring Comes for Mr Fixit

Spring finally arrived this week. Temperatures were still a little below normal but the sun was out, the air was dry, and the breeze was breezy.

One hallmark of spring is the arrival of gosslings. I saw my first clatch the other day along the Mount Vernon Trail across from the Jefferson Memorial. There were plenty of adults standing guard and from the looks of things they’d been eating more grass than a Lawn Boy.

This year’s models

A quarter of a mile away I passed a vulture hiding behind a bush about to chow down on a decent sized catfish. The bush was about 20 yards from the river. Generally, vultures eat carrion so I wondered where he could have gotten the fish. A few seconds later I saw three fisherman on the opposite side of the bush. I wonder if the vulture picked their creel.

The next day, over near Arlington Cemetery I saw a turkey. Is it the cleaner air or the reduced traffic of all sorts that is bringing these birds out?

In the last couple of weeks I have switched to riding Big Nellie, my recumbent. It’s generally more comfortable but it does take a while for the body, specifically the legs, to adapt. I rode 220 miles in the last seven days and this morning my legs felt like they had ossified. Also, something about this bike is really messing with my left knee. So despite the beautiful weather I took the day off from riding.

Instead I did some deferred maintenance on my bikes. First up was Little Nellie, my Bike Friday. The last few rides on this bike have been hard on my back. Today, I changed the saddle from a Brooks Flyer (a standard smooth leather saddle with springs for suspension) to a Brooks B67 (a textured leather saddle with a wider rear and springs with a bit more travel). Changing saddles can be a total pain but I pulled this off in about five minutes. I started by taking off the saddle bag so I had room to work. Next, I loosened the bolt that attaches the saddle to the seat post. I stopped just before the bolt came free of the fixing nut on the underside of the saddle. The old saddle came off and the new one went on without a hitch. I tightened the bolt and I was done but for some tweaking of the tilt and fore/aft position.

Brooks B67

I ordered a pair of Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires this winter for my summer tour. The pandemic has put the tour on hold so the tires sat in my shed, making forlorn saddle noises.

Today, about one year after the start of last year’s tour, I put the new tires on The Mule. These tires are notoriously hard to get over the rim but I took my time and had no trouble. I put a tire on the front wheel then, after mounting the wheel on the bike, I noticed I had put the tire on backwards (with the tread pointing to the rear). It really doesn’t matter much but I know it would bug me so I took the tire off and remounted it with the tread in the proper direction.

Next I worked on the rear tire. I put the chain on the small cog and small sprocket to give me slack. Then I popped the wheel off. The new rear tire needed a bit more persuasion that the front for some reason, but I got the job done, with the tread properly oriented.

New rubber with clean sidewalls.

In the course of mounting the tires, I had to undo the brake cables. So, I managed to get a bonus brake tune up after I was done with the tires. This, too, went without a hitch.

Finally, I gave my CrossCheck some TLC. I realize I ride a lot of miles but I seem to be very hard on pedals. I have twice had pedals break on a tour. One time the welds on the cage of a platform pedal failed. The pedal disintegrated. Usually, though, the pedal breaks by sliding off the spindle. That’s what was going wrong with the pedals on the CrossCheck.

The trick to replacing pedals is using a proper pedal wrench. I have a Park Tool PW-4. It has a long padded handle. The mouth of the wrench, the part that goes around the pedal nut, is angled. Somehow this gives the wrench exceptional leverage. Both nuts popped off without the slightest problem.

Park PW-4

Once I was done with surgery, I took Little Nellie for a short stroll around the neighborhood. After about five breezy miles it started to sprinkle. Time to head for home and declare my day off the bike a success.

Heat and humidity are scheduled to arrive tomorrow. It was a nice few days, Spring. Sorry to see you go. My bikes are ready for whatever you have in store.

Some pictures from recent days

Sadly, no cake.

There’s a meditation center about a mile from my house. The other day they put these banners up.

Are rocks animals?

Lately, people have been doing a lot of decorating with rocks. These ones have animals painted on them. Pandemic boredom, I suppose.

Hockey tape fixed my Grip Shifter

An unfortunately blurry shot of the right hand Grip Shifter on my Tour Easy. All the gippy stuff came off which left a slippery hard plastic shell. I put cloth friction tape (top half of picture) on it. Works like new. I hope it doesn’t get all messy when the hot weather comes.

Why lock it to a post when they give me this big special parking space?

I’ve been running a lot of errands lately. I went to the grocery store yesterday. It doesn’t have proper bike parking. Big Nellie has a free standing kick stand. I didn’t bother to lock it. I figured who’s going to steal it anyway? They’d probably crash within ten feet.

My hair appears to be infected

Well, the coronavirus hair situation is getting pretty crazy. This is actually the neatest it has looked in a couple of weeks thanks to the head covering I wore in today’s March weather. Too bad it’s May. Anyway, I have permanent bedhead.

Catching Up with Myself

  • 180 miles in nine days + clouds and rain = day off. That’s the math.
  • I went to see Doctor Pain on Monday. Two days before the appointment, my pain subsided. I conclude that my back is afraid of the good doctor’s needles.
  • I went for a walk on Sunday, a day before the appointment, to see how my lower left leg would respond. It did fine, but my lower left back stiffened up even though I used a cane. Doctor Pain said there is a treatment she could administer but it would involve the approval of my insurance company. In the end, we decided to leave it alone. I asked if ibuprofen is okay to use. And she said the concerns about it making people more susceptible to coronavirus infection is overblown.
  • Doctor Pain seemed quite anxious about potentially exposing patients to the coronavirus. Her office follows strict disinfecting procedures and other protocols (e.g., masks for staff and patients, touchless disinfecting lotion dispensers everywhere) but there is always a chance that someone could transmit the virus. When I was checking out the receptionist advised me to wash my clothes when I got home as a precaution. I did.
  • I went for a walk today without a cane. I made it 1 1/4 miles and had only minor discomfort. In fact, I broke into a jog a few times just to see how my back and leg would respond. The discomfort, which was in my lower left back, went away, replaced by some stiffness in my lower right back.
  • A few days ago I brought Big Nellie, my long wheel base recumbent, out of the basement. It’s rather cumbersome so I was concerned that pushing it up the stairs (a half-flight of steps) might cause my back to go whacky. No problem.
  • Three of my last four rides were “bent”. I ended up riding over 90 miles on Big Nellie. My back and legs felt great afterward. My left knee not so much. I think I may be mashing the pedals too much. Riding a recumbent requires different techniques than a regular bike. One difference is that you can’t stand and use gravity and your upper body muscles to climb. This means that your legs have to work exceptionally hard when climbing hills. A second difference is that using high gears (the ones that are tough to pedal) can trash your knees. It takes a few weeks to adjust to spinning little gears. I’ll get there soon enough.
  • One odd effect of recumbent riding is that my walking gait is much more comfortable. Back in my running days, I found that running immediately after riding a bike is awkward. My legs didn’t want to function normally. (How triathletes deal with this is beyond me.) My quadriceps muscles (in the front of the thigh above the knee) were tight and I tended to bounce a bit as I ran. After riding a recumbent, my stride feels much freer. Pedaling a recumbent seems to distribute the workload more evenly among calf muscles, quadriceps, and hamstrings.
  • I retired in August 2017. Over the next 22 months, I did three bike tours carrying 40 pounds of gear and covering over 9,000 miles on The Mule, a conventional touring bike. From 2017 through 2019, I rode 30,000 miles, far more than I had ever done before, and only about ten percent of it was on Big Nellie. I think maybe the best treatment I can give my back and leg is to ride my recumbent for t he next month or so.
  • Finally, a shout out to fellow blogger Brittany. She’s an American who has been living in Bavaria for a little over a year. One year ago today, she bought a bike to explore the area around her new home. Mostly these have been modest rides of 10 or 20 miles. Today, she went a bit nuts and rode 55 hilly miles. She loved it. I fear she has contracted the cyclovavirus. Fortunately, there is no cure.

Damn you, T. S. Eliot

April, it turns out, really is the cruelest month. Even an introvert could use a little personal interaction now and then. This is really getting tiresome. On the plus side, I’ve avoided being intubated.

Yes, our standards here at the Rootchopper Institute have reached a new low. In the real world, I actually know four people who are medical professionals and are on the front lines of the pandemic. To my knowledge they are all doing well. Knock wood. Cross fingers. Salt over the shoulder.

From personal experience, I know that tomorrow April actually will be behind us. In my college days in Boston, April was when the sidewalk glaciers melted to reveal months of frozen dog poo. Ah, those were the good old days.

These days I’m plugging along in the DC suburbs, no glaciers in sight. It has been an unusually cold April with much too much rain. It poured all day today. I could have donned my rain gear and ridden outside, but in a fit on common sense, I decided to climb aboard Big Nellie in the basement for a day of recovery after yesterday’s 60 miler.

To add to my self pity, I actually rode less in April than I did in March. Quiche for breakfast. Quiche for lunch. Quiche for dinner.

I covered 772 miles this past month. With the exception of 32 miles in the basement, I rode all of it outside within 30 miles of home. So for the first third of the year, I’ve covered 2,906 miles. If I’m going to break 10,000 miles in this godforsaken year, I’m going to have to pick up the pace big time in the months ahead.

The last few days have featured a troubling development; my stenosis pain is returning. Fortunately, a couple of months ago I had the foresight to make an appointment with Dr. Pain for next Monday. I really, really, really don’t want to have another spinal injection but, absent Virginia legalizing medical marijuana in the next few days, I don’t have much choice.

But as Longfellow once said, into each life some pain must fall. Or, as my friend George says, life’s a shit sandwich and every day we take a bite.

Long time coming

Back in my running days, half a lifetime ago, I learned that my body has a strange way of acclimating to long efforts. The first time I ran 20 miles, I nearly died. After a week, I could do the same 20 miles with a 2-mile kick at the end. No problem.

Today was the first decent weather day in months. It was time to reset my body for the long rides ahead. I hopped on The Mule and headed upriver. A tailwind gave me confidence.

After six miles I ran some errands in Old Town Alexandria. I dropped off some glass bottles in a recycling bin. Next, I hit the magic money machine at the bank. Finally, I swung by Old Town Books to pick up a purchase I made online. (Amazon may be inexpensive and convenient but it has all but killed the small book store. Book stores are one of the few places that I enjoy shopping in so I am going to do my part to make sure that this relatively new shop survives.)

Errands competed, I headed to DC. I hit 15 miles in Georgetown. Ordinarily I’d turn around and head for home but not today. I rode a few miles out the Capital Crescent trail slowing only to admire the Seussian cormorants perched in the trees overhanging the Potomac. Someone once told me that they feed on bass that are swimming up river to spawn.

At Thompson’s Boat House I climbed away from the trail to MacArthur Boulevard. The short hill put the hurt on me. I headed northwest on MacArthur. Traffic was unexpectedly normal. Don’t these people know about the pandemic?

The Mule managed the hill at the reservoir without too much distress. We went down the other side and out past Glen Echo Park and its magnificent art deco sign.

Just before the Capital Beltway I turned to climb up Persimmon Tree Road. I had convinced myself that this way would involve less climbing. Why? I was just going to head back home down another hill to this same point on the route.

The climb was gradual but it went on for a couple of miles. Modest homes (each worth a bit shy of $1 million, I’d guess) gave way to posh estates near Congressional Country Club Golf Course.

Trees were leafing. Dogwoods and azaleas were showing off their colorful blossoms. The rain had left all the lawns and the golf course a lush green.

After a few more miles I reached Potomac Village where the rich people pay $1 more per gallon and don’t much care.

I banged a left on Falls Road with a rather large SUV right on my rear wheel. As it overtook me I looked over to the driver and mouthed “What the f$&@?!”

A mile or two of rollers led me to the entrance to Great Falls Park. The park is closed but you can still access it by bike and on foot. I look unhappy in this picture but I was in need of calories, which a small granola bar supplied.

After the granola feastette, I headed down the long, windy, wooded hill back to the flat part of MacArthur.

Clear of the trees, the road took me straight into a headwind. Okay, just 29 miles to go.

I passed a bank sign in the Palisades neighborhood. 77 degrees. It felt much warmer but that’s just Winter Me. Instead of retracing my route to the Capital Crescent Trail I decided to ride across Georgetown. I made a navigational error and ended up on Canal Road. Under normal circumstances this would be suicide, but the traffic had lightened and I was headed against the covid-diminished flow of rush hour commuters.

I crossed the Key Bridge back to Virginia and was blasted by a strong cross wind, the same wind I had been riding into for 15 miles. I headed home on the Mount Vernon Trail. This was not a bad choice for the first three or four miles. Then came the madness. Between National Airport and Old Town there was an insane amount of trail traffic. I kept hoping it would abate but it only got worse. Add in the reckless pathletes out to prove their cycling awesomeness and you have a recipe for crashes. Somehow, someway none happened. I saw a dozen near misses though. Only a fraction of the people on the trail were using masks or other similar face coverings. And with all the traffic, there was little room for anything approximating social distancing.

I left the trail in Old Town and rode the streets. a wise choice. No longer was I encumbered by kiddies on bikes, dog walkers with 20 foot leashes, and alpha males in lycra. When I returned to the trail on the south side of town, I had left the madness behind somehow.

The ride from Old Town to the stone bridge took me through a tunnel of green. So relaxing!

As I neared home I saw that I was 1 1/4 miles shy of 60 miles so I did what any exhausted fool would do, I kept riding until I was that nice round number. It was the first time I’d ridden 60 miles in six months.

I hope that in a few days my body is ready for a repeat.

For now, I am grateful to finally get a nice spring day to get my bicycling yayas out.

When the Going Gets Weird…

Bad Hair Days

It’s been a strange week. Yeah, I know, the world is in lock down, except for barber shops in Georgia. Speaking of barber shops, I haven’t been to one in a while. Let’s just say that this is pretty much how my hair rolls these days.

Cover Your Face!

Note also the buff I am wearing as a face mask. I use it whenever I am on trail or in a crowded situation. I upgrade to one of my wife’s face masks when I go to the store. I do this about once every ten days and I spend the bare minimum of time inside.

I should point out that the compliance with the recommendation that people should wear a face mask when outside their homes is very low in the suburbs and on the trails. I can’t understand why. Any covering is better than none, yet folks around here won’t wear one, not even a bandana. Go figure.

Do What I Say or Your Mom Gets the Pictures

The week began with me receiving a ransom note in an email. The email was sent to a email account I rarely use anymore and the subject line contained a password I used to use for several websites. The email said that the sender had been following my activity on the internet for 155 days and has compromising pictures of me taken on my laptop camera. These pictures, the email said, would be shared with eight of my Facebook friends, chosen at random. The emailer warned that might include my family members, including my parents. He would cease distribution and destroy the pictures if I sent him $200 in bitcoins. There were two links in the email, one supposedly to prove he had pictures and another to pay for the bitcoins.

I asked a friend who is a legal expert on all things internet and another who was subject to a rather nasty doxing (stealing all sorts of personal information) and other related unpleasantness from some evil doers. My friends gave me some sound advice, including an FBI cyber crime address to send the email to.

I re-read the email. Clearly, the thing was intended to get me to click on the links. Not gonna happen, of course. Then I thought about the specifics of the email. Eight random Facebook friends? Why not 10 or six? Why just Facebook? The stalking had been going on for 155 days. Really? My stalker must be very organized to keep track of such an odd number. Or maybe they figured that I would worry that I did something untoward a few months ago and had forgotten about it – until now.

All of these odd details and a few telling spelling errors, led me to believe that this entire thing was concocted by a room full of scammers in a far away land, as my cyber expert friend had suggested. I felt like responding to the emailer by encouraging him to send the pictures to my parents. They can be found at a cemetery in upstate New York.

Some good came from the email. First, I found one web account of mine that includes the old email address and the password. I rarely use this account or website any more. Regardless, I changed both. Second, I realized that a good way to construct a password is to include some information that indicates what account the password is used for. For example, if it’s a password for Horse and Buggy, include H and B somewhere in the password. (Or, even better, some coded version of the same.) If another similar attack were to occur, I would know immediately where the breech occurred. Third, I changed the password on this old email account a month ago, but forgot what it was. As a result, the email wouldn’t work on my cellphone. In the process of looking into this matter, I figured out the mnemonic device I used when I made the new password and changed the settings in my cell phone. Now the email works on my phone again.

Alarming Developments

Yesterday morning another weird thing happened. I was sitting in my family room man cave at around 8 or 9 o’clock when suddenly an electronic sounding alarm went off. It lasted for a second or two and then stopped. It wasn’t a smoke detector because the smoke detectors in my house have a different sounding alarm. My wife was asleep directly above me. She heard it and thought it was part of a dream. Neither of us have a clue what it was.

The alarm reminded me of a problem I once had with an electronic noise in my VW Golf. After about 90,000 miles, the car developed a loud whine that was super annoying. Strangely, it only happened when the car was moving. I took it to the dealer a number of times but they couldn’t fix the problem. A few years after I got ride of this car, I was listening to an episode of PBS’s Car Talk when a caller described the exact same problem. Click and Clack immediately diagnosed the problem. It wasn’t electrical in nature at all; it was a worn odometer/speedometer cable. The cable spins whenever the car is motion.

Bike Rides – Now with Smellovision!

Finally, one bit of good news is the fact that car traffic is way down in the DC area. As a result, the air is noticeably cleaner. You really notice this in two ways. First, if you look a long distance, say over the river, you get zero haze. Second, when riding a bike you smell things you’d never normally smell. I noticed this twice during today’s ride. I was crossing the 14th Street Bridge from DC to Virginia. The bridge is part of I-395. A car went by that was burning oil or maybe some antifreeze. In any case, it was clearly distinguishable from every other car on the road. Later, while wearing a buff over my nose, I rode past a stand of honeysuckle bushes. It smelled as if I had stuck my nose in the blossoms.

When it gets hot around here, the heat radiating off pavement can have a effect on the air near the ground. I wonder if this is the result of car emissions or ozone levels. It causes my windpipe to contract noticeably. Will it be less of a problem this summer? Time will tell.

Sports Music

Sunday’s Washington Post Sports section had a list of the best songs about sports. I found it rather disappointing. It included Centerfield by John Fogarty and Hurricane by Bob Dylan, and a couple of Queen songs, We Are the Champions and We Will Rock You.

They missed a bunch of good ones. I started surfing the interwebs for some good ones. Of course there are seventh inning stretch songs that they missed. Boston uses Neil Diamond’s Sweet Caroline which has always made me want to hurl. The Nationals use Take on Me by A-Ha. It’s very hard to sing unless you’ve had three beers. Then you can hit the high notes with ease (not that the people around you agree).

If you stretch the concept you get two Paul Simon songs, Mrs. Robinson and Papa Hobo. The former has the line “Where have you gone Joe Dimaggion. Our nation turns its lonely eyes to you.” The latter has the line “Detroit. Detroit. Gotta hell of a hockey team. Got a left handed way of making a man sign up on that automotive dream.”

No sports music list is complete without the greatest basketball song ever. Of course, I am referring to Cheech and Chong’s magnificent Basketball Jones . I had no idea until I search for it that the song features George Harrison on guitar.

Bicycling songs are few and far between, but there are two pieces of music that, along with excellent editing, make for wonderful sports songs. They both come from the movie Breaking Away. I first saw this movie before its formal release when I spent a summer in Berkeley a very long time ago. (I also saw Frank Langella’s Dracula and Alien in pre-release. The latter movie almost caused me to go to the ER as the woman next to me dug her nails into my forearm during a scary scene.)

Breaking Away is about a kid in Indiana who dreams of being a bicycle racer for the great Italian teams that he worships. In one scene, he goes out for a training ride after her learns the Italians are coming to his town, Bloomington, Indiana. During the ride, he drafts off a tractor trailer, going faster and faster to the tune of Mendelsohn’s Italian Symphony.

A bit later, he actually gets to ride with the Italians who turn out to be scoundrels. This scene, also filmed near Bloomington, is accompanied by Rossini’s Barber of Seville Overture.

(Sorry about the picture quality. It’s a must see movie. You’ll never hear the word “refund” the same again.)

And, finally, I don’t know if this qualifies as music but it’s even more intense live.

Maori All Blacks Haka – I mean these guys are huge and fierce. I’ve seen Maoris do haka dances in person. It’s intense, Why any other team would line up against the All Blacks, New Zealand’s national rugby team, after they do their Haka is beyond me.