Rainy Friday, Worth the Ride

Rain. Cold rain. On a Friday morning when most retirees stay in bed. I got up and hit the road a little after 6:30. The rain, blown by a northeast headwind, spit on my face. And I rode. I arrived at Friday Coffee Club (yes, we capitalize it) around 8. The crowd was predictably small, given the crummy weather: Ed, Ricky, Andrea, Jeff, and a player to be named later. (Sorry, I didn’t catch your name.) Ed and Andrea were discussing a 400 kilometer randoneuring event they are participating in tomorrow. (Ed is riding. Andrea is volunteering.) That’s 248 miles (plus 5 because the course designer is a sadist.) In one day or so. I can’t even.

Ed brought a lightly used Brooks Flyer saddle with fancy copper rivets. I bought it from him for my tour. It has lots of room for tension adjustments. My tush should be a happy camper.

After Andrea, Ricky, and the PTBNL left, Ultrarunnergirl made her first appearance of 2018. Yay! I haven’t seen my biking-hiking-baseball-flaming drinks buddy in a very long time. Hugs and smiles. She took the bus because she is nursing a messed up hip. We must get her well for future adventures.

After I left FCC, I rode to the gym and went all Hulk for 40 minutes. Next, I did 20 minutes of physical therapy at home. Then, I went to an acupuncturist down the street.

I had a hard time tuning my ears to my acupuncturist’s heavy Korean accent but with some forbearabce, we managed to get the gist of my problem understood. He examined my tongue and poked various parts of my body. Mostly this was painless, but a couple of pokes in my feet caused sharp pain. (A similar discomfort shortened a Thai massage a few years ago.)

As I lay on my back, He pinned me in my upper left arm and at various other points all over my body. After about 15 minutes, he flipped me over and repeated the process. Acupuncture is rather hocus pocus to me but I have had success with it in the past. I have to say that my arm does feel better this evening. I’ll wait a day or two before declaring the trip a success.

At the end of the appointment, he placed small stickers on spots on my hands. This mark points that I should prod and massage to help my shoulder heal.

When I got home I ordered two new maps from Adventure Cycling. Over coffee, Ed has made the road west out of Missoula sound like bicycle heaven. He said there is a 90 mile gradual downhill that follows a river through the mountains. I stumbled across a blog online that described the shortcut to the Cascades in less than glowing terms. I will use the maps to work out itineraries for both routes.

One of the maps contains a small surprise, a short cut to Missoula from the east. I’ll have to give that a closer look at that. (It probably involves a climb of horrific proportions.)

I think the only way to properly plan for this trip is to go with the flow and see how I feel when I get to Montana.









My Top Ten of 2015

The year began with a paper lantern rising in the post-midnight sky over Old Town Alexandria. I hoped it was a sign of good things to come. Here in no particular order are the highlights of what followed:

Around the World in 19 Days: When your kids move to the other side of the world, you have a perfectly good excuse to go visit them. We flew via LAX to Sydney to meet up with our daughter who was studying abroad at Macquarie University. We explored Sydney, Uluru, and Melbourne in Australia and Rotorua in New Zealand. Then we flew to Thailand where our son now lives, teaching English at a school in Phuket. We flew back via Abu Dhabi and JFK, completing our trip around the world. Speaking of travel….

Six Days without a Plan: I did my first bike tour in ten years, riding 370 miles from Pittsburgh to home, nearly entirely off road in six days. Kevin and Ryan made for good company. The Meth Man not so much. Earl and Anne, two friends from my years in Boston,  met up with us for Mothers Day brunch. And we saw the Pirates execute a triple play at PNC Park in Pittsburgh. Speaking of baseball….

Where’s My Ring?: I pretty much went all in as a Washington Nationals fan this year. I attended 8 or 9 games (one was a rainout) and watched dozens more on the tube. In the process I discovered the wonderful bike valet service at the ballpark, bottles of ice water (mostly ice) sold outside the stadium, and SeatGeek, a web service for cheap seats. Sadly, the Nats completely fell apart in August and September ending with the sad display of a bad apple reliever choking the eventual league Most Valuable Player. Speaking of things surly…

Getting Surly: My bikes were getting old. And so was I. So I decided to buy a new one, just for riding events and such. I bought a Surly Cross Check on the enthusiastic recommendation of a half dozen friends who own one or wish they did. I’m still working on giving it a name. My fleet of now four bikes carried me over 7,000 miles this year. Speaking of mileage….

Turning the Odometer: I hit 60 in August. My brain still can’t believe it but my body does. Denial only gets you so far in life. I celebrated by hiking Old Rag. My advice is to do this hike long before your 60th birthday. Mrs RC made me with a quilt  from my old running t-shirts. This totally surprised me with it even though she made the thing right in front of me. Still, turning 60 was inescapably depressing.  Speaking of depressing…

Goodbye Blue Mondays: I started the year dealing with rather severe depression, not the “I’m sad” kind but the clinical kind. It’s a drag just thinking about it. I forced myself to socialize (see below), ate vitamin D supplements (I had a severe deficiency), and began daily meditation at the repeated suggestion of a friend. You could say that when it was over I had become comfortably numb. Speaking of numbness…

My Right Foot: I also started the year with a mysteriously numb right foot. I saw a neurologist who was incredibly enthusiastic, competent, and beautiful about my case. She sent me to a physical therapist who gave me a set of exercises including bird dogs, side planks, and nerve flossing that I still do every other day. On a whim, I went for a Thai massage. It didn’t do a thing for my foot but it was just about the most relaxing 90 minutes I can recall. “Use your third eye, John.”  I also went to an acupuncturist who didn’t do a thing for my foot either. He did fix a pain in my upper arm and recommended some orthotics for my shoes. Speaking of shoes….

Ramping Up My Hiking:  After each of my hikes last year, my back and knees were killing me.  The second I put the orthotics in my shoes, my back felt better. I did ten hikes this year, most of them in Shenandoah National Park and a little further north on the Appalachian Trail. All but one were solo hikes. The exception came when Ultrarunnergirl kicked my ass all the way to the top of SNP and back. My knees and back hardly protested. Speaking of protests…

What’s a Park It?:  Bike riders in DC had been getting hit by cars turning illegally through the Pennsylvania Avenue bike lanes. I attended a protest that was designed to bring awareness to the fact that new barriers called Park Its had not been installed on two blocks of the avenue. The protest was successful (the Park Its were installed a few months later) and was a great opportunity to get together with friends old and new. Speaking of new friends…

Do I Even Have a Fusiform Gyrus?: Three months after apparently meeting me at a December 2014 holiday party, a woman walked up at a post-ride reception and said “Hi John.” I had no idea who she was. She later said I needed to have my fusiform gyrus checked out. So began my improbable friendship with Katie Lee. A few days later we spent four hours in a booth in a downtown tavern. Two peas in a pod, pod people you might say, engaged in an incredibly intense conversation. I felt as if I had caught lightning in a bottle of Shiner Bock. On my way home for the first time in months the fog of my depression had lifted. Like a paper lantern. I know a sign when I see one. Thanks for showing me the score, KL. 

Encore, you say?….

Sitting in the Lap of the North Wind: A year or so ago, Mrs RC bought me a CD of celtic sounding music by a Quebec folk group called Le Vent du Nord. As luck would have it, they played very small venues near DC twice this year. We were in the second row for both performances, practically in the lap of the foot drumming, song singing, fiddle player. Even though I studied French in high school and college I can’t really follow their lyrics but I have no trouble enjoying their hurdy gurdy fueled music. Tres bon.


My Right Foot No. 5 – So Much for Acupuncture

It was a snowy day today and I didn’t much feel like driving in the chaos that developed on the unplowed streets near DC. I worked from home. At 2:15 I gave myself 1:!5 minutes to get to the acupuncturist. It should normally take half that time. Wouldn’t you know it, the roads were clear and devoid of cars.

The acupuncturist asked how I was doing and I said my foot was still numb. Then he asked about my back and my arm and shoulder. Both had been bothering me. He went to work on my back and my shoulder with gusto, even attaching electro stimulation thingies to my shoulder. I was face down for 30 minutes with my arm muscles twitching.

After that he turned me over and did more work on my shoulder. He was about to leave the room when I reminded him about my foot. He put some lubricant on the sole of my foot (the first time he did this) and I flinched. It tickled. He tried again and I flinched again. He stopped and said that I needed to get some magnesium cream and work out all the nodules in my foot. Then he walked out of the room.

Suffice it to say, I am not confident that this is a pathway to success. So, barring a significant change, I am going to a neurologist next week. Back to conventional medicine.

My Right Foot 4 – Acupuncture Mission Creep

Since my last (and first) acupuncture visit, I have purchased orthotic shoe inserts. They seem to help my back from getting stiff while standing. They also make my feet sweaty. You can’t have everything, I suppose.

I rode Big Nellie, my recumbent, twice over the holiday. It made my right foot tingle and generally feel messed up. Yesterday I rode Little Nellie, my Bike Friday, to Old Town to meet some peeps who were having brunch. After brunch as I rode home I felt the peroneal tendon on my calf and foot snapping back and forth. This is not good.

I told my acupuncturist about this. He asked me if I was having any other problems. I mentioned my lower back and my right shoulder and he went to town on me. His method involves squirting the area with a lubricant then massaging the area feeling for tight muscles. Basically, I am a gold mine of tight muscles. His examination amounted to a massage so I can’t say I was bothered by him loosening all my tight areas. While he did this he mentioned that I should take a magnesium supplement to keep my calves from getting all cramped. Not a bad idea.

He pinned my hips, my middle back on both sides of my spine, my right calf (which he declared a mess), and my right foot.

After about 20 minutes he took those pins out and went to work on my right arm and shoulder.

The new areas (hip, back and calf) will need more treatments. Really? We were on the two and done plan last week.

The fact is that one week after my first treatment my shoulder and arm feel much better. I couldn’t be happier with the improvement. My foot is getting worse by the day. In fact, I am starting to get concerned that if I don’t get it squared away soon, I might tear something and be up the bike path without a bike.

So tomorrow I am calling a neurologist. I will likely have to wait a few weeks for an appointment. Then I will decide whether to do one more acupuncture treatment. Mostly that will depend on whether any of today’s treatments do any good over the next few days.

2014 in Pictures

This was a truly eventful year. I don’t normally talk much about my family here but today I will make a few exceptions.

Icy Sunrise over Dyke Marsh - 1/9/2014

January: I have been a year-round bike commuter for several years now. Ice and snow are usually deal killers for me. This day in January was an exception. The frozen Potomac River at Dyke Marsh was beautiful. Even in the dead of winter, my bike commute is the best part of my work day.


February: For most of the winter and spring, I was dealing with severe back pain. The weather gods did not cooperate by hitting DC with several snow storms. I decided to fight back; I bought a Wovel. Damned if it doesn’t make snow shoveling enjoyable. And it didn’t bother my back one bit.


March: I finally decided to take care of recurring, painful cyst on my middle finger. It made for fun pictures.


April: In 2006 I met Charmaine on the 50-States Ride in Anacostia. We’ve done dozens of rides since. She got the idea to go to coastal North Carolina for a three-day bike riding event. We pitched tents on the banks of the Neuse River. Sunrise was something special.

Eamonn BS

May: My son graduated from Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, New York.  After a summer job, he took off on the Great American Road Trip, which included a three-day hike to the base of the Grand Canyon. I am one proud and jealous papa.

SharrowsDC: The Ogremeister

June: I was getting ready to start the 2010 50-States Ride  when Mary came up and took my picture with Little Nellie. Sometime later, she, her husband Ed, Brian, and Lane launched Friday Coffee Club at M.E. Swings coffee house in DC. It has become a thing and has many imitators. I have been going nearly every week and have met so many great people. Here’s Brian, pre-coffee. You can tell by the fog.

She's Like a Rainbow

July: I really got into following the Washington Nationals. I love how the long season traces a story arc, something I first came to appreciate in 1975 when I was living in Boston. (Go Sawx!) I took my son and daughter to a Nats game and it rained like crazy for hours. The game was called but we got to see this amazing rainbow.

Thankfully, the Valley Trail hung a right just at the end of this bridge
Thankfully, the Valley Trail hung a right just at the end of this bridge

August: I started doing day hikes this year. I was a little too ambitious at first nearly killing myself by hiking the Billy Goat A Trail in Great Falls Park on a sweltering day. I’m still getting used to the slower vibe. There’s so much to see, like this bizzarre series of tree roots from an 11-mile hike in Rock Creek Park.

Emilia Shows Off Her Trophy
Emilia Shows Off Her Trophy

September: Early in the year, my friend Florencia returned from over a year and a half abroad. We made plans to do the 50-States Ride in September. She had to cancel but not before sending Emilia my way. Emilia blew me away with her enthusiasm. 65 hilly and rainy miles later she proudly held up her prize.

Flor Tending to Sundance

October: Florencia and I spent many great days together this year, making up for the time she was away. In October, we took a golden retriever named Sundance to Sugarloaf Mountain in Maryland for a nearly four-hour hike among the changing leaves. Sundance had us worried as he wouldn’t drink any water all day. Here, back at the car, Flor watches with relief as Sundance finally drinks some water. Thanks for coming, Sundance. Thanks for coming back, Florencia.

Hawk on a Wire 2

November: We always seem to have some interesting wildlife near our home. In the spring we watched kit foxes play in our back yard. At the end of November this hawk stood guard over our neighbor’s house.

Accupuncture leg

December: Sometime in late November my right foot started to go numb. I suppose this is what I get for years of beating the bejesus out of my feet. I went to a neurologist who creeped me out something fierce. Then on the advice of Kirstin, with whom I cycled beaucoup miles this year, I went to see a sports acupuncturist. As of this writing I don’t know if the treatment worked but it was certainly an interesting experience.

In Memoriam

Brother Mike and Me

My younger brother Mike passed away in October. His death was not unexpected. I defy you to find a cuter baby or toddler, than he. When picture books gave way to word books, it was clear that Mike was dyslexic. Before the alcohol did its insidious work, Mike was a talented special ed teacher in upstate New York, turning his struggle with learning into a a gift for his kids.

Lore and Flor

I learned of the tragic death of Lorena Gimenez, one of Flor’s dearest friends, in September. I had seen her just a few weeks before at Flor’s birthday picnic in Meridian Hill Park where this picture was taken.  They were celebrating 15 years of friendship. Flor, as one of four “soul sisters”,  gave a brief eulogy at Lore’s memorial service. It made me laugh and moved me to tears. About a month later, we learned that American University will award Lorena a Bachelor’s degree in International Development next May. Well done, AU. Congratulations, Lorena.


Speaker after speaker at the memorial told of how Lorena comforted them in times of crisis and gave them some simple advice. Her advice invariably  boiled down to three sentences that I subsequently put on my white board at work. She died on the eve of her 42nd birthday. She was wise beyond her years.

My Right Foot – Part 3: Acupuncture

Having seen the world’s creepiest neurologist, I figured I might as well go all in on the bizarre. I went to see a sports acupuncturist. He came highly recommended by Ultrarunnergirl. She said he cleared up her plantar fasciitis with one treatment. I remained skeptical but for a nominal fee I figured what harm could be done.

I sat down in the examination room and discussed my foot problem with the acupuncturist whomI will call Pokey. Pokey listened to me then pulled out a book and quickly found a page with a drawing on it depicting my problem. Well, whaddaya know about THAT!  He then showed me a picture of the peroneal nerve which runs along the outside/back of the calf straight into the numb area and toward the pinky toe. I explained that mine felt like a guitar string and he said he knew pretty much exactly what was wrong.

Then he asked me if there is anything else bothering me. Well, the true answer is my left knee, my lower back, and my right tricep. I decided to tell him about my tricep. “Okay, let’s see if we can fix that while you’re here.” Go for it.

I took of my shoes, socks, and shirt and laid face up on an examination table. In short order he was massaging my tricep to determine where the needles would go. I figured he’d put one or two in but he went for broke and turned my upper arm into a pin cushion. I didn’t feel him put most of the pins in, only those ones that went into a tight bunch of tissue.

Accupuncture arm Accupuncture leg

Then he moved down to my calf. He went to town down there, finding all kinds of tightnesses. He asked me to tell him if the needles hurt but my leg reacted so much when it did that I couldn’t get “Ow” out of my mouth fast enough. Not that the needles hurt all that much. Just a bit. Each “Ow” elicited an understanding nod or comment from Pokey. Once he was done needling me, he told me to lie still for 15 minutes. I took a couple of pictures of his work. I was shocked at how many needles were in me. I didn’t feel half of them. Also a few needles were hooked up to wires.

Out of curiosity I tried turning my foot. Ow! Not a good idea. Lay still dummy! When we were done he said that he thought the treatment would take completely in about 4 days. (Younger people take less time, he said.)  I don’t notice much difference yet in my foot but my arm is distinctly better. This may just be a placebo effect but I’ll the reason seems irrelavant. It’s better.

Pokey was really very negative about conventional medicine. I told him my diagnosis is spinal stenosis and he laughed. “That’s what they call it when they have no idea what’s wrong.”

When I asked him about Rolfing he was somewhat positive. Basically Rolfing works on the some of the same principles as acupuncture. Acupuncturists find the troublesome nerve or tendon and they used needles to free it up. Rolfers use a sort of targeted deep massage. Rolding can hurt but it also gives you the benefits of a massage. So it’s still on the list of possibilities for me.

Pokey said that he could probably make my lower back feel better but I seriously doubt it. In any case, I’m going back next Monday to see if we can get the foot better. He sounded very confident that 2 treatments would fix it.

Bring Me Light

We are in the trough. The next two weeks have the least amount of daylight, then, like a overweight cargo plane, we take off ever so gradually toward springtime. Of course, the coldest days of winter remain but they are small price to pay for deliverance from the dark.

The morning dawned shrouded in fog. This always means an interesting river view. Today was no exception. The spike of the fog bank looming above the far river bank looked as if a madman had taken over, his hair pointed skyward.

Sunrise, Fogbank and Bike

Despite the 40+ degree temperature the boardwalks on the trail were treacherously coated with a thin rime layer. In old town, Nancy “Two Sheds” Duley came rolling my way, Normally she awakens me from my commuting reverie but this day the tables were turned.


“Watch out for the ice on the boardwalks!”

When  I came to the beaver boardwalk, the one north of Old Town where a beaver builds and re-builds a dam, I saw a cyclist recovering from a crash. I glided, hands off my brakes, past him. I could see the right leg of his tights were torn. I asked if he was okay and he nodded. On I rode. A few minutes later he passed me. Even crash victims ride faster than me.

The boardwalk under the TR bridge seemed ice free by the time I made it there. I took my time to avoid an unpleasant surprise.

I learned through Twitter that Nancy had in fact been involved in a four-bike pile up on the beaver boardwalk. She was pretty composed for someone who had such a nasty ride.

During the day, my numb foot had me contemplating alternatives to the creepy neurosurgeon. Ultrarunnergirl gave me the name of a sports acupuncturist so I decided to schedule a treatment. He didn’t sound very optimistic but I figure I only have a few bucks to lose. Ultrarunnergirl says he cured her persistent plantar fasciitis with one treatment. I am not one who buys into alternative medicine. I even don’t like chiropractors, but the prospect of back surgery will have me trying just about anything. If acupuncture doesn’t work, I’ll try massage or rolfing or golfing or, maybe, bowling. Back surgery is very risky, even with the best of surgeons, and months of post surgical misery is not something I hope to repeat.

The ride home tonight was about as good as it gets for December. I had a nice gentle tailwind and the ice was gone from the trail. Even the headlights and ninjas didn’t bother me.  Pretty soon, they’ll be a memory.