Extra Innings by Bike

One of the benefits of retirement is you get to go to baseball games whenever you want. Today’s Nationals vs. Braves game started at 1 p.m. All during breakfast and my hour of physical therapy at home I checked the weather. I didn’t want to go and freeze my butt off.

I checked ticket prices. I found a seat in the front row of the left field grandstand about 20 feet to the fair side of the foul pole. For $10. I figured, if it gets too cold, I’m only out ten bucks so what the hell.

Little Nellie and I took our time during the 15+ miles to the game. As I passed the Tidal Basin, I could see that it was still peak bloom for the cherry blossoms. One tree in particular just gobsmacked me. So I took it’s picture.

 

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No words

My seat was perfect. My friend Katie Lee who is a baseball fanatic sent me a message asking if I had brought my glove. I laughed and said no.

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Caution: Baseballs are closer than they appear

I looked up and there was that foul pole. In the first inning, the second batter, a former National named Kurt Suzuki, hit a home run that hit the pole (the foul pole is in fair ground) about 20 feet above my head. BONG!

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It’s hollow

Maybe Katie was on to something.

The game was entertaining with some strange things that made it notable. The Braves tried to steal home plate late in the game and nearly got away with it. It was one of several plays in which the Nationals’ players seem to fall asleep mentally. On another a Braves batter managed to get a double because no Nationals fielder bothered to cover second base on a bloop hit. Derp. The Nationals had a runner on first base late in the game. The next batter hit the ball hard with a resounding WHACK and his bat shattered sending the top two thirds like a spear down the third baseline. The ball made it to the third baseman who threw out the batter to end the inning. If that bat had stayed intact I might have had another home run come my way.

The Nationals tied the game with a homer in the bottom of the ninth. Extra innings. For ten bucks. (I actually paid as much for a soda as I did for my seat. Normally I drink water but the water vendors who set up outside the park were not there today.)

The sun was in and out of the clouds all day. In the first inning I wore two layers topped with my hooded jacket. After the sun dropped below the stadium roof line, I put on a wool sweater and put my hood up.

Did I say something about another home run. Well, Kurt Suzuki hit another home run. It was coming right at me. Holy crap. My brain said “If I catch it with my bear hand the blood thinners will turn my hand into a black blob.” I turned to watch it come and went to stood up. At this point I realized that my now four layers of clothing had turned me into a hooded, immobile mass. A virtual Charlie Brown in the dead of winter. The man sitting in the row behind me three rows to my left “fielded” (more like shielded, I guess) the ball off his oversized scorebook. It bounced to the row behind him.

I thought again of Katie, who keeps score at every game she attends. She’d have made the catch if only to protect her scorebook. She would give a rats ass about my blood thinned hands. (JK, KL.)

There is a video summary of the game on Facebook. You can clearly see me dressed like the Unabomber in the front row.

In the 12th inning the Braves prevailed. Sad face.

I’d have ridden straight home, but the cherry blossoms called my soul. I did another lap of Hains Point. I saw two trees without blossoms. But the rest were just stunning. I just had to take another walk around the Tidal Basin. I was surprised to see that the sidewalk wasn’t very crowded.

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I’m drunk on cherry blossoms

After feeding my addiction one last time, I started the long slog home into a steady headwind.

I’m going to Friday night’s game. It will be in the 80s during the day. No more Unabomber outfits for me. And maybe I’ll bring a glove. Or a scorebook.

 

Seven to Seven

I’ve don’t like being idle so today was my kind of day. I was running around and doing stuff from 7 am to 7 pm. After breakfast and reading the newspaper I did this:

  • 15 minutes of physical therapy exercises
  • A visit to the pulmonologist. She has pretty much decided to let the hematologist determine whether I should stay on blood thinners indefinitely. This was quite a surprise to me. This assumes that my lower leg is free of the deep vein thrombosis that dispatched the clots to my lungs. When I get back from my bike tour, she’s going to experiment with lowering the dosage of my asthma medicine.
  • Checked out patio furniture at Home Despot. It looked crappy.
  • Took my car to a state inspection station to find out if it would pass inspection with a ding in the windshield. He said “yes”.
  • Bought bird seed coated with hot pepper powder. (Alas the neighbor’s squirrel appears to be adapting to the stuff.)
  • Got my haircut so that I don’t look like I am undergoing electric shock therapy
  • Meditated for 30 minutes
  • Ate lunch
  • Rode Little Nellie to DC for one last look at the cherry blossoms. Okay, I might go tomorrow and Friday buy this is peak bloom and there’s no telling when it will end. The Tidal Basin was crowded so I skipped it and rode through the tunnel of blossoms in East Potomac Park instead. If you still plan to go this year, tomorrow or Friday before work would be best. Walk around the Tidal Basin and go snow blind. Then take a bikeshare bike (the dock was full when I was there) to ride the tunnel.

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    To be honest, this picture doesn’t do the road to Hains Point in East Potomac Park justice.
  • Rode to the gym to lift weights lamely. I tried some free weights today.
  • Rode home feeling tired.
  • Ate dinner
  • Turned on the Nats game right about now

 

 

Some Mondays Ain’t Half Bad

I was zonked all day Sunday. No energy at all. I was a sloth. Today I woke up and jumped on Little Nellie for the ride to work. My legs had pop for the first time in weeks. Off we went into dense fog. We stopped at Dyke Marsh where I take my pictures of the sunset over the river. Today, not so much.

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There’s a river out there. I just know it.

The ride to work was terrific. The temperature was about 50 degrees and I was underdressed and the fog was condensing on everything I had on. Except for the fact that I couldn’t see through the condensation on my glasses I didn’t much care.

Opposite the Washington Monument I looked east to see what my kids called The Pencil. Um, it wasn’t there. Mostly nothing was.

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I swear the fog had gotten even denser.

I heard some noise out on the river. Voices. Loud voices. Then from the left I saw them. The crew teams were out practicing. The eights. Coaches were on small motor boats shouting instructions. Coxswains were yelling whatever it is they yell. One after another they emerged then plunged back into the pea soup. It reminded me of the dense fog off Newport RI where I once taught. All that was missing was the ominous outline of The Breakers and the lonesome fog horn in the distance.

On the way home I passed an old friend just before I hit the TRUMP (Teddy Roosevelt Uber Mulch Pit). We disengaged a couple of years ago. There have been some awkward failed attempts to reboot. As she rolled past she scowled. Was it at me? No matter. Life goes on.

And so did I. I crossed over the river to take in the famous cherry blossoms which reached peak bloom on Saturday. I had already tried twice to take in the show but both times only a few blooms could be seen. I had few hopes for today but was pleasantly surprised by how many blossoms survived the cold snap last week. In years past the blooms were just other worldly. This year they were merely excellent. No complaints from this blossom lover. I walked Little Nellie around the Tidal Basin. Everyone, including me, was smiling.

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After a 3-mile spin down to Hains Point and back to view more cherry trees, I headed for home. The 10 -15 mile per hour headwind didn’t phase me in the least. The air was warm and the trail was mostly empty.

As Monday’s go, this one could not be beat.

Errandonnees No. 10 and 11 – Blossoms and Mouthwash

Hey, I run out of clever titles sometimes. Shoot me.

My first errand of the day was for a near peak viewing of the fabled DC cherry blossoms. I had already made two attempts to have the blossoms soothe my soul but was disappointed by the lackluster bloomage. Yesterday, I was in Old Town Alexandria and parked under a cherry tree in full bloom. Then I saw this beauty in Rosslyn near work.

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So I had to go back to the Tidal Basin for another look. Today was a different story. Far more of the trees were in bloom than I expected. It was quite a show. Little Nellie stopped for a photo with some blossoms and the Jefferson Memorial.

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After this I rode to Hains Point for more blossom goodness.

Errand No. 10

Category: Wild Card

Miles; 6

Observation: I was in a good mood when I left work. On the way to the Tidal Basin I passed a friend who had a scowl on her face. We were once close but haven’t talked in over a year. I wondered if the scowl was meant for me. What a drag. Then I spent a half hour among the blossoms. Good mood restored.

My second errand of the day was a top at the drug store for some mouthwash. Pretty lame but it’s only 1/8th of a mile off route from my ride home. That is unless you forget to take a picture and have to double back.

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Errand No. 11

Category: A store.

Miles: 1/2

Observation: This is Rite Aid’s busiest pharmacy because so many old people live in my neighborhood. We get a discount because we buy more drugs than most junkies. Asthma and glaucoma do have their upside after all.

Errandonnee No. 7: Beaver, Balls, and Blossoms

Good thing I saw some blossoms today because a blog title “Beaver and Balls” would have attracted a new readership.

On the way to work, I saw a beaver swimming near the beaver bridge (why do you think I call it that) just north of Slaters Lane on the MVT.

It was nice to have a tailwind too. Warm air would be coming on southerly breezes, but it wasn’t here yet.

In the evening I shed a few layers and headed for some cherry blossom therapy. The blooms are clearly below normal peak but they are still a tonic for what ails your weary Friday evening mind. I rode to Hains Point and picked up a golf ball that had settled along the roadside, far from any fairway that I could see. Having contributed a few dozen golf balls to the woods and water features of golf courses back home in my youth, I felt justified in pocketing this beauty.

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Miles: 5 (on top of 29 1/2 getting to and from work)

Category: Non-store Errand.

Observation: When the blossoms are perfect, you could go snow blind walking around the Tidal Basin. I feel for anyone who comes to DC for the first time to see the cherry blossoms like this. Come back next year. They’ll be much better. Whenever you go, try to get to the Tidal Basin about 30 minutes after sunrise. The low angle of the light makes for great pictures. And the crowds are smaller.

Pre-peak Cherry Blossom Ride

Winter has returned. It was in the 30s with a northwest wind. A snowstorm looms in the days ahead. DC’s famous cherry blossoms are in jeopardy. So I went up to DC today to check out what was in bloom. Short answer: not much.

I parked at Gravelly Point Park near the airport across the river. This was a good idea because the highways heading into the city were jammed with traffic. The 1 1/2 mile ride was pleasant enough. Blue skies and puffy white clouds practically commanded me to look up. So I did. Here’s one from the back side of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial.

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There were only a handful of trees in anything close to peak bloom. And the wind picked up as I walked and rode among them. Even without peak bloom the blues skies and the trees and the monuments made for pretty views. Deets couldn’t resist striking a pose.

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Here are a few more over on my Flickr page.

 

Navigating the Blossom Borg

Yesterday I rode my bike to the Adams Morgan neighborhood of DC.  I was going to a get together for my friend Ricky who was hit by  a car a couple of weeks ago. He was also celebrating his 50th birthday. Under the circumstances, he’s probably grateful to be 50 instead of pushing up the daisies.

My trip took me through Old Town Alexandria where I did some business at the UPS Store. Then I rode the inland route, the alternate to the Mount Vernon Trail, all the way to Lady Bird Johnson Park opposite the monuments in DC. There I crossed back over to the MVT. There were an unusual number of walkers on the Virginia side of the Potomac so I knew it would be crowded at the Tidal Basin directly across the river.

As I took the ramp to the 14th Street Bridge, I waved a family group of bicyclists to go before me. There were perhaps 15 people in the group. Their ages ranged from 10 to 50. They took their time and were very careful to avoid crashing into each other or into other trail users. Nicely done folks.

On the bridge I could get a closer view of the crowds around the Tidal Basin. It was insane. When I arrived at the Jefferson Memorial at the DC end of the bridge it was an absolute zoo. Suffice it to say, “On your left” doesn’t work with a busload of disoriented tourists from Japan.

After my bicycle escort veered off to park, I rode through the tourist hordes. I tried to use pavement but it was pointless so I rode on the grass and eventually found a clear path on the sidewalk that follows the approach to the bridge to the east of the Memorial.

The sidewalk curves back to merge with the cherry tree lined sidewalk that goes around the perimeter of the basin. It was a sea of humanity. Moving ever so slowly through a pinch point on a bridge over the inlet that connects the basin to Washington Channel. It must have looked like a swarm of ants from above.

You could almost hear the voice in their collective hive mind:

Must. See. Blossoms.

Must. See/ Blossoms.

Resistance is futile.

I crossed the street to get around the swarm. At 15th and Maine, I waited for  a red light. Pedestrians who were waiting to cross Maine were so thick they spilled from the sidewalk and blocked my way.

The light turned green and the swarm moved as one. As I rode up to Independence Avenue, the swarm moved on the sidewalks to either side of me. At Independence, the swarm swallowed a crosswalk. Two traffic control officers tried in vain to maintain order. The swarm would not be denied. It swallowed them. After half a light cycle, an opening appeared and I carefully slipped through. Now I only had to deal with the swarm of cars moving so slowly.

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The Touroid Borg at 15th and Independence. If you look closely, you can see one of the traffic cops. 

A turning tour bus blocked 15th at Pennsylvania allowing me to get onto the 15th Street cycletrack where I was joined by a woman riding alone. She seemed uneasy with riding in such conditions so she told me she was going to follow my lead. She had an accent, and, as it turns out, was German. Having lived on Capitol Hill for the last year, she discovered that riding a bike was the best way to get around town. Especially on days like today. Once we escaped the White House area the crowds dissipated and we made good time. She peeled off at P Street while I forged ahead.

I reached Meridian Hill Park and did a victory lap. The water cascade had not been turned on but otherwise it was a normal Saturday in the park. No swarm of tourists. Just local folk doing local folk park things.

I made it to the get together at a pool hall in AdMo. Ricky looked to be in great shape. He seems to be recovering nicely. He may even start going to work next week full time. It will be a lot longer before he can ride a bike again however.

The get together featured a bunch of BikeDC folks from Friday Coffee Club so it was a reunion one day after the finale.  I stayed way too long. Twilight was descending as I emerged on the street. The effects of the beer were made evident by the fact that The Mule seemed like a bucking bronco.

No guts, no glory.

(Do not try this at home. Really. Riding through traffic at twilight after drinking beer is just not a good idea. )

I rode back down to the swarm, touching cars here and there at stop lights to get my low speed balance in check. The swarm was smaller. Perhaps touroids calm down like hornets when the air cools.

The river crossing was almost normal. As was the ride down the trail to my house.

Today was the first day this spring that The Mule and I seemed to be in sync. After tweaking my handlebars and saddle, I finally found the sweet spot where pedaling seemed effortless. This gives me hope for the spring riding season and my tour planned for early July.

The day really zonked me. I fell asleep working a crossword puzzle at the kitchen table. When I awoke, I lied down on the couch in our family room. Then the spasms in my legs began. First, my left thigh, then my right calf, then my right thigh, then both  my thighs. On and on into the night.

Apparently beer is not the best electrolyte drink.

I drank some water and lemonade and hoped for the best. Then I slept like a log from a cherry tree.

 

 

When in Rome

Even with our relatively mild winter (save for one whopper of a snow storm) I grew really sick of winter. I try to console myself by recalling that for the first 28 years of my life I lived in Albany, Boston, and Providence. These cities have about 6 more weeks of winter and it gets much colder there.

DC is a beast in the summer, but it is heaven in the spring and fall. In the spring, we get life. A week ago I saw three small deer around the corner from my house. Birds are returning to the area. The stars of the show are the bald eagles. I’ve seen bald eagle pairs at two of the four nests along my commute route. As much as I like seeing them in person, I find it hard to beat watching the eagle cam that monitors the nest at the National Arboretum.

The National Park Service and other agencies plant thousands and thousands of bulbs. They are everywhere. The Mount Vernon Trail passes through scads of daffodils up near DC.

The star of the show are the cherry blossoms. This is the week when the 25910740231_b4dc02edca_mcherry trees in DC reach peak bloom. When the trees reach peak, you can go snow blind walking around the Tidal Basin. It’s really a spectacular show. This morning on my way to work I crossed over the Potomac to take a walk around the Tidal Basin.  The trees around the FDR Memorial seem to be a bit ahead of the trees nearer the water. Martin Luther King is still waiting for Boba Fett to come take him to Jabba the Hutt. He looks pretty awesome behind all those blooms. As I was finishing my circuit, I was joined by Brian, blogger, columnist, administrator, grad student, poodle lover, and rider of bikes big and small. Like me, he was a bit underwhelmed by the blossoms.

On the way 25923095971_5cd5dac2bb_mhome, I once again rode over to the Tidal Basin. This time though I took the road to Hains Point. It is lined with blooming cherry trees. The ride to the point and back is
about three miles. I did it twice mainly because the tailwind coming back from the point was a blast. Once headed for home it became a headwind. Boo.

As I told a friend today, life is like the eagle cam: sometimes you get fuzzy gray eaglets, sometimes you get dead fish innards. Innards look nasty but they help the eaglets become bald eagles.  Headwinds may suck but they make you into a badass bike rider if you endure.

Here are some more pictures from my ride.

 

Dang, It’s Spring

Yesterday was opening day in DC. Other than the fact that the Nationals have a shortstop who can’t field for shit early in the season, it went well. So 0-1 means we’ll just have to settle for a 161-1 record.

I went to a get together last night at a brew pub in DC. I am slowly learning that the concept of craft beer and my enjoyment of craft beer are not in sync. I had two beers and neither did much for me. Also my inability to remember names presented itself. When you can’t remember the last name of the person who invited you you’re in seriously deep social yoghurt. So if you see me at a social event and I call you Kate and you’re female don’t take offense. I figure the odds are about 1:3 that I get your name right. Also, if you give me a fritter I am infinitely more likely to remember your name for some mysterious reason. Dr. Pavlov, phone home.

I drove home from last night’s festivities in a good mood despite the memory glitch. I proceeded to get lost and ended up somehow in Trinidad, which is a DC neighborhood not an island in the Caribbean. This does raise the interesting question: Why isn’t there a DC neighborhood named Tobago? I shouldn’t make Trinidad jokes because one of my bestest bike mechanics is from there (the island, not the city). And one of my favorite #bikedc people whose name I recently forgot is from there too (the neighborhood not the island).

I made it home under a full moon unscathed by the scary drivers on 295.

This morning it looked like I might be dealing with rain so Little Nellie got the call. She was feeling forgotten. We rode briskly as I had fresh legs from not riding on Saturday or Monday. (I am participating in the 25 Days of April riding event. It’s lonely but somebody has to do it.) I spotted a young deer, probably a yearling, trotting through a wooded neighborhood park near home. Trees here and there had blossoms. Birds were making a racket. I wore shorts and t-shirts (still layering in fear of a surprise attack from winter). The ride in was pretty damned splendid.

At Gravelly Point I stopped to help a bike commuter with a flat. He’d been riding on the rim for several hundred yards. If you are a bike commuter and do not look like Kate Upton, you should carry a tube and a pump. (Kate Upton is followed by horny men in lycra who will buy her a new bike if she has a flat or even when she doesn’t.) You might also think about buying a new tire every decade or so. Spring for the kind with a kevlar belt so you get only one or two flats every 5,000 miles. Since Little Nellie’s tires are, well, little and Mr Flat’s tires were big, I didn’t have a tube I could give him. We tried pumping up his tire but the leak was so big that the outflow from the tire exceeded the inflow from the pump. Mr Flat said he only had a half mile to go so I decided not to waste 20 minutes messing with a patch. I hope you had a nice walk, Mr. Flat.

The evening bike ride was pretty darn splendid too. I took the 14th Street bridge into DC to check out the cherry blossoms. They were not yet at peak but a worthwhile show nonetheless. After two laps of the Hains Point circuit I headed for home.

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On the way home I decided to leave the Mount Vernon Trail and take Fort Hunt Road instead. I made a left turn onto Fort Hunt interrupting a steady stream of right hand turning cars. I had no choice really. I was stuck in the intersection when the light turned red. One of the cars that I cut in front of was driven by a nice young lady who gave me the finger. It must suck to be her.

Even such rude behavior could not ruin such a lovely ride home, however. With fresh legs I rode up three hills on the way home with no difficulty at all. Spring will do that to you.

What’s August Going to Be Like?

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It was t-shirt and shorts day. No need for layers since it was already 65 degrees outside when I left the house. I have been so obsessed with the cherry blossoms in DC that I forgot about the one on the front lawn. It’s a weeping cherry and Little Nellie thinks it looks fine.

The ride in was as splendid as a bike ride could be. My only problem was the fact that I got only 5 hours of sleep last night because it was 80 degrees in our house. We are experiencing a bit of a heat wave here in DC.  The thermometer hit 90 today which broke the record. Fortunately the humidity was low, so there were no dead bodies along the Mount Vernon Trail.

Unfortunately, the lovely weather has brought out the Lancelots, cyclists who think its reasonable to buzz past you without warning at 25 miles per hour. I will not cry when I see one of them under a BMW.

On the way home I diverted into DC for a final ride by the cherry blossoms. It seemed a good ten degrees cooler in DC. There were people everywhere. I rode two laps around East Potomac Park, meeting up with Dana from the Friday Coffee Club. We continued on through the epic traffic jam, on to the 14th Street bridge, and south on the MVT.  I mentioned that it seemed significantly hotter on this side of the river. Dana said, “That’s because we’re in the south.” He should be a meteorologist.

We had a fierce headwind. Dana tucked in behind me and was kind enough not to rear end me when I came to a near stop several times. At the south end of the airport, Dana turned off on the Four Mile Run trail. I continued into the wind.

Near the power plant two passing runners looked like they were having seizures. I heard one of them say “bugs”. A second later I was in one of those spring time bug clouds. Ack!

The rest of the ride was honest work. I didn’t see any interesting waterfowl. Or raptors. My recent regulars weren’t around, but I did see Hardware Store Guy. He owns the hardware store near my house. He rides a red Serotta up and down the MVT in the morning.

Tomorrow I get the day off. My daughter has a lacrosse game and my wife turns 37 again.