Getting Well

After my trip to London I was a physical wreck. I think I am starting to get well.

My one-month cold is almost gone. Lord knows my sinuses must be tired of producing so much gunk.

I have had a nasty pain in my upper left arm for more than a year. It’s occasional but extremely painful, like someone is stabbing me. It seems that the shorter stem I put on Little Nellie is helping a lot. I haven’t woken up with a dagger in my arm for a few days. Now that I think about it, the pain went away when I was on my bike tour on The Mule, a bike with a similar reach to the handlebars. (This is not a coincidence; Little Nellie was custom made to mimic the geometry of The Mule.) So, maybe the culprit is the geometry of my Cross Check. Hmmm.

My left hip is still wonky but it’s definitely better. I do two PT exercises specifically for it. Then I do my runners calf stretch. This, for some reason, helps with my lower back. After that comes my mishmash of about 20 yoga and PT exercises. The whole thing took me 30 minutes today. I am going to add some foam roller exercises soon because why be bored shitless when you can torture yourself too!

My left knee is still barking a bit. I use a pillow between my legs when I sleep and this keeps it from aching at night.

For whatever reason my legs no longer feel like concrete. My thighs are still tight, so tight as to completely rule out certain yoga asanas from the book I am using.

I was weighed at the doctor’s office the other day. 218 pounds is way too heavy for me. I spent some time backing up pictures from my laptop to an external hard drive. I saw a picture of me at the 50 States Ride, six months ago. Yep. I done ate too many cookies this Christmas. The added weight probably isn’t helping my legs, hip, and back when I walk 7 or 8 miles in one go either.

Off to bed for this busy boy. I have to get up at dawn to get a CT scan. They will inject me with contrasting dye. It imparts a warm tingly feeling from the top of the head to the groin (I don’t know why I’ve never felt it in my legs) as it spreads through the blood stream.

Too bad this anti-freeze doesn’t linger in the system. I have a 35 mile bike ride to do tomorrow morning.

 

A busy week

It’s been a busy week:

  • Four medical appointments (endocrine system, eyes, teeth, skin), two indoor bike rides on Big Nellie, two outdoor bike rides on Little Nellie, a visit to the gym, five yoga sessions (on my own) (Did I mention I hate yoga.) A return to meditation after several months. One WABA event followed by a WABA happy hour. And Friday Coffee Club. Also, I stealthily bought Mrs. Rootchopper flowers for Valentines Day. And we went out to dinner.
  • I started doing yoga again because my body is a wreck. I suspect part of the reason it is a wreck is that I’ve gained about 20 pounds since last summer. My left knee, hip, lower back, and arm are all messed up. And very painful. My thighs feel like they are made out of concrete. So the yoga I am doing is very basic and emphasizes freedom of movement. My routine also includes PT exercises for iliotibial band syndrome (which I think may be behind the knee and hip pain) and runner’s calf stretches. I’ll give it another week before I go to my doctor and raise a white flag of surrender. The last thing I want to do is get on the medical hampster wheel again.

Next week promises to be busy as well.

  • A CT scan (as part of the endocrinology thing) on Monday at 7:30
  • A bike ride at 9:30 on Monday (I’ll probably miss the start because it’s in DC)
  • Breakfast with Mrs. Rootchopper at a diner on Thursday, an every other week thing.
  • The Hains Point 100/Bike DC 3rd Thursday happy hour. (This coincides with my friend Rachel’s trio playing at a local eatery. Sad face. Gonna miss it.)
  • Friday Coffee Club

I suppose I could be cavorting in Antarctica or Munich or some other far away land. But I’ll leave that to the young folk for now.

In a couple of weeks, the Crystal City Garage Bike Races begin. If you are in DC and want a cheap (i.e. free) night out, you should come.

 

Tour Planning 2019

  • Warm weather and improving health have nudged me to start thinking about a tour.
  • I went to Friday Coffee Club and talked to Felkerino about the Sierra Cascades Adventure Cycling Route. He said it was not a climbing hellscape, had lots of services, and is very pretty.
  • So I just sat down and mapped out a tour using Adventure Cycling’s interactive route map.
    • Take Amtrak to Chicago (I’ve ridden across Ohio and Indiana enough, thank you.)
    • Ride Bike Route 66 from Chicago to Marshfield MO. (Basically this is in west central MO.)
    • Hang a right and take the Trans America Route west from Marshfield to Pueblo CO.
    • Take the Western Express Route from Pueblo through the Rockies, the canyons of Utah, and the basin and range terrain of Nevada to Alpine Village CA, near the southern end of Lake Tahoe.
    • Switch to the Sierra Cascades Route north to Sisters OR.
    • Switch back to the Trans America Route and head west from Sisters to the Oregon Coast.
    • Ride from the coast to Portland and fly home.
  • This tour would be 3,700 miles long. That’s 600 miles shorter than last year. This one is considerably hillier and hotter, though. I guess I could do it in 65 days.
  • If I were feeling spunky, I could ride down to the north rim of the Grand Canyon. This would add 300 miles and a week. Also, a side trip into Bryce Canyon would take a couple of days.

 

Lost and Found – Adventures in Early Onset Dementia

Lost

Another springlike day in DC demanded that I go for a ride. Having just achieved a mileage milestone on my Cross Check, I switched hosses and pulled Little Nellie, my Bike Friday New World Tourist, from the shed. I was all set to go when I remembered that I needed to bring a lock.

I looked.

And looked.

And looked.

No lock.

WTF

I’ve had the same Kryptonite black U-lock for ages. In fact, in 2004 when Kryptonite’s old key/lock mechanism was found to be hackable with a Bic Pen, I sent in my old lock for this one.

So we’ve been together for 14+ years.

After 30 minutes I gave up, grabbed the lock off the Cross Check and headed out.

Found

A few month ago I bought new brake levers for Little Nellie.. The levers were more comfortable than the old ones and I was pretty happy until I rode a few hundred miles with them. My back was screaming at me. The brake hoods (the part your hands rest on) on the new levers are about an inch longer than the old ones. In order to use the brakes I had to stretch out my lower back, which is a bad thing even if you’re a yogi (which I ain’t). It’s even worse when your missing a disc in your spine (like I yam).

Now, Bike Fridays have little wheels and little wheels do not absorb road shock like bike wheels. The jolt of every bump went right to my lower back.

Ow.

Shortly after buying the bike, I bought a second stem for it. (The stem is a long piece of tubing that connects the headset to the handlebars.) This stem was shorter. So I figured I’d just swap out the shorter stem to compensate for the longer brake hoods.

It must be here somewhere….

I looked.

And looked.

And looked.

No stem.

WTF

In order to ride the bike I had to rotate the handlebars to bring the brake hoods closer to me. This meant that the shift levers which stick out of the ends of the handlebars would be farther away. And with the brake hoods leaning backward, the brake levers rotate upward making for very awkward braking ergonomics.

As I rode Little Nellie today, I contemplated this less-than-ideal set up. I all but decided to call Bike Friday and order another short stem.

Then, as if I were tapped on my shoulder, I thought about the suitcase that I bought for this bike. I wondered if my short stem was in the suitcase. When I got home, I opened the suit case and

Voila!

There was my short stem swaddled in bubble wrap.

I figure if I wait a few months, I’ll remember where I put that lock….

We interrupt this winter…

I rode 32 miles today. In shorts. It was 70 degrees F during the ride.

I’ll take it.

Oh, and this happened.

CC11000

My Cross Check went all Nigel Tufnel and turned 11.

Time to put this bike away for a while and switch to one of the others.

Tonight was the State of the Union Address. No mention was made of the most important event on the horizon: Pitchers and catchers report to spring training in a week.

 

 

Do hips lie?

On our first day in London we walked about 8 miles. My left side was a wreck. My back, my hip and knee all screamed with pain. Same after days 2 and 3. Then I switched shoes and things got better.

I haven’t done any long walks since. So today, to take a break from riding in the basement, I went for a long walk. (My iPhone said it was 6.1 miles but my bike and car odometers put it at 8.)

I used a third pair of shoes, some low rise hiking shoes with no orthotic insoles. After a mile, my lower left back started to tighten. That’s pretty normal for me these days. After five miles my left hip felt a little tender.

The last half mile was Day 1 in London all over. My left hip and knee were on fire. I could barely get up the steps in to the house. My left leg wouldn’t flex.

I took some ibuprofen and got comfy on the couch. After an hour or two, I got up and did some iliotibial band stretches. They seemed to loosen things back up.

I quit stretching during my 2018 bike tour. I did get hot spots on my left hip and some lower back soreness, mostly when I was climbing for hours on end. On a number of occasions, while walking, my left hip seemed to pop out of joint for a split second.

One unexpected benefit to not stretching was the fact that I became more flexible. I could change clothes in my tent with ease. So I continued to avoid stretching even after getting home.

Looks like I’m going to have to start up again. (I might even pull out the old yoga book that I’ve used in the past, if for no other reason than to give me a routine to follow.)

My left knee has been wonky for decades but this left hip thing is relatively new. I’m going to give it a month. I will test it once a week or so with long–ish walks. I’d like to do some hiking this summer so fingers crossed….

Feels like we’ve crested the hill

January, here’s your hat. What’s your hurry?

For the second year in a row January involved recuperation. This year it was from four bouts of head colds. (I’m almost completely recovered. Knock wood.) And I took a week off life to travel to London to watch my daughter get her diploma from the graduate school at King’s College. And see sights and walk over 40 miles and eat foods. Sadly, the shitty air circulation and leg room on the British Airways flights has made me dread getting on a plane again in this lifetime.

I did do some riding, but it was my lowest mileage month since December 2017. I finished the month with 381 miles. 241 of that was on my Cross Check outdoors. The rest was on Big Nellie in the basement.

Now that the polar vortex has had its way with us, I look forward to getting some serious miles in during February. And to turning my attention to getting my bikes fixed up.

Being sick for over three weeks has made it hard to care about warm weather bike touring. (No, Jessica, you will not see me roll up to your apartment in Buenos Aires next month. But keep bugging me. You never know. Nothing stops an old gringo on a bicycle.)

Today, Cyclosource, the catalogue from Adventure Cycling, came in the mail. It contains the complete Adventure Cycling U.S. route network. And once again the little squeaky planning wheels in my brain are turning.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

London thoughts

  • The streets in London are smooth. I didn’t see a single pothole or patch.
  • The Underground is more than 100 years older than DC’s Metro. And it seems infinitely more reliable.
  • Underground trains come every two minutes. There is no crowding on the platforms because there’s no time for a crowd to accumulate.
  • With that level of train frequency, why would you ever want to drive?
  • I wonder how many billions of dollars we could save if DC’s Metro trains ran every two minutes.
  • Horn honking in London is not much of a thing, mostly because drivers seem to obey the rules. (Truer still in Stockholm.)
  • I didn’t hear anyone cuss out a cyclist in my seven days. They often use bus lanes and the bus drivers just go with the flow.
  • Bromptons are very popular in London.
  • Bike theft is apparently a problem; people lock their bikes with serious hardware.
  • People in London walk fast. They seem to be underdressed for the temperature.
  • I have yet to figure out if walkers should stay to the left or the right. When on an escalator, you stand on the right.
  • Footbridges across the Thames are the best. They seem to be about the length of the Key Bridge between Rosslyn and Georgetown.
  • I don’t quite understand why the platforms and the train floors are not at the same level. “Mind the gap.”
  • You can actually understand the announcements in the tube stations and on the trains. I wonder if they could send someone to DC to teach Metro personnel how to pronounce “L’Enfant Plaza”.
  • Curbstones are not nearly as high as in the US. And the buses come right to the very edge of the curb.
  • I’ve now been to five left hand drive countries. It still confuses the hell out of me.
  • I was hit by a wrong-way cyclist on a one-way street in Boston when I was in college. I now look both ways all the time, regardless of traffic flow. Without this I would have been roadkill in London.
  • The entire time we were in London, the temperature varied only about 10 degrees F. And it was warmed than DC despite being at the same latitude as Labrador.

Germliner aftermath

Last January I lazed around the house trying to re-inflate my collapsed lung and waiting for my pulmonary embolisms to dissolve. Since then I have read numerous accounts from friends who knew someone who died from PEs. Every time I read about one of these people I shudder.

This January I have had a head cold off and on for three weeks. The first one came and went in three days. I didn’t miss a beat. The second one did the same. I felt fine when I boarded the flight to London, only to arrive in England with a horrible head cold. After four days, it went away. Then I boarded another British Airways Germliner home. I have been sick for three days. You know I am sick when the temperature outside is 50 degrees F and I sleep through the entire day.

I know that if I wait a week my cold will probably go away, but tomorrow I am raising the white flag and calling my doctor. No mas.

London

For the first time in a year, I took a week off my bike. My wife, daughter, and I went to London to attend my daughter’s graduation from King’s College masters program in International Conflict Studies.

Last Thursday we took a red eye from Dulles to London. The plane was a 787 Dreamliner and it was a dream for British Airways profit margin. Economy class had nearly no leg room which is not a good thing if you are tall and have a history of pulmonary embolisms as I do.

Also, the air circulation was lousy. Within an hour I was sick as a dog. This really ticked me off because I had just recovered from a cold a few days before our departure.

When we got to London, my left knee, hip, and lower back ached. My daughter is the travel expert and knows how to get around London better than she does DC. So we proceeded to walk nearly 8 miles before succumbing to the time change. By the time we ended the day walking to and climbing Primrose Hill I could no longer stand up straight. Ugh. We finished the day walking 6.9 miles. (By the end of the trip we had walked 44 miles. Ironically, switching from my hiking boots to my black Clark dress shoes made a huge difference in my comfort. Go figure.)

In addition to her graduation at the Royal Festival Hall, we hit beaucoup sites including:

  • The British Museum
  • The Millennium Bridge, a new-ish footbridge across the Thames. Here we talked with Ben Wilson, known as Chewinggumman. He makes intriguing mini-paintings on the remnants of chewing gum along the bridge.
  • The Tate Modern Art Museum where we saw all manner of exhibits purporting to be art. (Including a urinal that was less artistic than those in the men’s room)
  • St. Dunstans in the East, the ruins of a church (designed by Sir Christopher Wren) bombed by the Luftwaffe during the Blitz. It’s now a garden with walls.
  • The Monument to the Great Fire of London, 1666. The fire was started at a baker’s home on Pudding Lane.
  • The Royal Observatory and the Queen’s House in Greenwich. This included a fun boat ride on the Thames. It was fun to stand on the Prime Meridian.
  • The Book of Mormon at the Prince of Wales Theatre in Piccadilly Circus. (Sadly, after we were back in the hotel room, I learned that Neil Finn had played about 2 miles due north of our hotel.)
  • The Churchill War Rooms, a warren of underground offices and living quarters where Churchill ran the war effort during the Battle of Britain.
  • The Seven Dials
  • Covent Garden
  • The Natural History Museum
  • Westminster Abbey
  • Regents Park
  • Primrose Hill

We skipped the Tower of London, St Paul’s Cathedral, and the Tower Bridge because we had done them before.

We saw a taxi protest during the evening rush hour. How they managed to get taxis side by side lined up for three blocks in the core of downtown is a mystery.

For food we ate at:

  • Dishoom (twice) for the ladies’ favorite breakfast with bottomless chai. The vegan granola is to die for.
  • Pizza Sophia, a cozy pizza place near our hotel that dispelled my hatred for London pizza from a previous trip
  • The Marquis Cornwallis, a pub two blocks from our hotel, for fish and chips and lager. Twice.
  • Nicholson’s Pub in The City (the old part of London). More beer and food. Walking fuel.
  • Nandos, because I’d never eaten there before. Underwhelming.

I didn’t ride a bike, but there is bikeshare everywhere including dockless MoBike. Feel free to ride them but good luck with the left hand drive thing.

We stopped at the Brooks Store. It’s heaven. (Unfortunately, they confirmed for me that they do not make a longer adjusting bolt for their leather saddles, leaving me with two saddles about to run out of adjusting room.)

The temperature barely changed the entire time we were in London. It was in the low 40s F every day. We were rained on once or twice but it was a light, misty sort of thing.

The flight home was another BA 787. This one had some leg room, thank god, but the air quality sucked so I got sick again.

After a day of rest, I’m heading back to the basement for some recovery bike riding on Big Nellie.

Lots of pix on my Flickr page.

Cheers.

fish and chips