Ear Bud Coffee Ninja Tuesday

Yesterday on the Mount Vernon Trail was Butt Cheek Monday. My thanks, once again, to the designers of skin tight running shorts for women. Today was Ear Bud Coffee Ninja Tuesday.

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I was plodding along going up a slight rise in the trail. The base of the rise is where I was nearly shuffled off my mortal coil by the driver of an SUV a couple of weeks ago.  As I made my way past the bus stop, a man came off a staircase to my right and walked directly in front of me. He was in ear bud heaven and his left hand held a cup of joe at about the level of my head. If I had hit him it would have been a literal hot mess.

I froze, proving that meditation can get you only so far in bike crash world. I swerved left and came to a stop avoiding making a four-ten split of some more folks waiting for the bus doors to open. (Why the heck do all these people have to stand when the bus is just sitting there with its doors shut?)

I said something exclamatory that did not include the letter f, shook my head, and rode away. Ear bud coffee ninja didn’t say a word.

I have ridden past this bus stop thousands of times. This is the first time I nearly crashed into someone. Maybe all my past caution has given me a big balance in the karma bank.

Today was cool with rain and wind. By Saturday, it will be 90F degrees. Bring it on. I am torn between riding 16 miles to the Climate March or riding 16 miles to the Nationals baseball game. (They are both in DC, about a mile apart.) Everybody knows that saving the planet is roughly as important as winning the NL East.

 

I Shoulda Know Better

Today’s title comes from one of John Lennon’s songs in A Hard Days Night. It’s been one of my favorites for a long time. It also describes how I felt about 40 minutes into my ride to work.

On the up side, I didn’t need to use a headlight today. Props to Copernicus.

It was cold. I had a headwind. Most importantly it had rained and sleeted and snowed a bit overnight. My lawn had a dusting of white. The streets were perfectly rideable. So I headed out on The Mule.

The three miles to the Mount Vernon Trail were uneventful, but for the fact that getting warm was a bit of a problem. As most of my readers already know, the National Park Service owns the Mount Vernon Trail. They do not treat it or shovel it in winter. This morning the asphalt parts were fine, but every wooden bridge was icy. The Dyke Marsh bridge is a couple hundred yards long. I didn’t slip at all as I rode across it. There were no signs of crashes in the this white layer that sat on top of its wooded deck. A very short wooden bridge near Belle Haven Park was also not a problem.

I made it to the bricks on the Washington Street deck. I expected to see ice but it was clear.  My next challenge was along the trail near the river just north of Fords Landing. This too was snow and ice covered but I could see tire tracks had made it through this section successfully. I rolled right on through.

My next challenge came from the concrete bridge that skirts the power plant. A cyclists was walking his single speed bike up the hill from the bridge. Not a good sign. I rolled across the bridge and around its tight turn without incident, but I took note of the icy mud in the middle of the turn.

I figured that the farther north I rode, the lower the ambient air temperature and the higher the chance that one of these bridges would be bad news. I figured right.

The next bridge is a wooden deck that skirts the Slaters Lane apartment building. It takes a leftward 90 degree turn midway. The first half was rideable, but I spotted a smear mark in the thin layer of ice and snow on the boards. Someone had crashed. I made it through the turn in good shape despite several more smear marks. Then with out warning my rear tire began to slide sidewards. I gradually tried to steer out of it. Then down I went in a pretty decent imitation of an albatross landing. Somehow I ended up lying flat across the bike’s frame with my upper body and left ribs landing on the downtube (the diagonal one from the handlebars to the pedals) and my legs smacking the top tube (the one from the seat to the handlebars.

Oof! Am I hurt? Nope. Then I untangled myself from The Mule. Ow. Ribs hurt a bit. I stood the bike up. It slid. I was going to take a picture of my smear but the bike would not stay upright. So I walked off the bridge. As I did I could barely get traction. I made it off the bridge, straightened the handlebars and brake hood and rode away thankful that all my personal parts were working. I credit my not getting hurt to the fact that the bike frame cushioned the blow and the bike and I slid on contact.

100 yards further on was the beaver bridge, a similar wood bridge notorious for crashes. I decided to walk this one. Smears were all over the place. A walker was practically skating as she approached. I made it around the curve and went down. Walking! That’s how slippery it was. I carefully got up and pulled The Mule up and we started sliding backwards with the slant of the bridge! I arrested the slide and ever so gradually made my way to the side of the bridge where I grabbed the chain that acts as a sort of guardrail. Just as I grabbed hold I heard a thump. A rider fell 20 yards behind me. “I’m alright. Planned for it!”

He got right up and walked with me to the end of the bridge.

We both mounted our bikes. He sped off into what had become a pretty strong headwind. We’re having fun now!

As I approached the Humpback Bridge a rider coming toward me warned that the wooden Trollheim Bridge (the boardwalk beneath the TR Bridge) was covered in ice. I decided I’d had enough fun for one morning and turned off the MVT and toward Arlington Cemetery. I rode the path around the cemetery to the gate at Fort Myer, banged a right and rolled straight to the office.  While I showered I looked down and saw a pretty impressive imprint of my top tube across my right knee.

Today's crash results. Owie!!!

Funny thing is, last winter at just about this time, I fell riding Little Nellie on the glazed streets near my home. You’d think I’d learn.

Cops and Goslings

Today was my first day back on the bike after Sunday’s mess of a century ride. Monday and Tuesday were car commutes that allowed me to watch my daughter play lacrosse at schools in Potomac Maryland. (One loss, one win, no injuries.)

The ride in aboard Little Nellie was uneventful. I left a little early and saw the Broken Ankle Biker and French Braid Girl. A red light runner failed to hit me at the Rosslyn Circle of Doom. Free financial advice for Arlington County: if you want to increase revenues just place a traffic cop at this light. You’ll write dozens of tickets for red light running.  Or you can take the chance that somebody gets killed and his or her family sues the county for gross negligence. There will be plenty of hostile witnesses.

The radar promised a nasty ride home but the rain turned out to be light and the winds tolerable.  As I came to the 14th Street Bridge underpass I spotted my first goslings of the year. These babies were fuzzy and their feathers had a tint of green in them. The real fun now will be watching them grow.

Goslings!!!!!
Goslings!!!!!

A mile later I came upon five Park Police cars parked on and near the trail near the Daingerfield Island Marina. The officers stood on the trail having a calm discussion. My working theory is that one of them had extra tickets to tonight’s Nats game.

The streets of Old Town were just wet enough to lift the oil off the pavement. This gave me an excuse to go slowly which my still-tired  legs appreciated. Of course, I rarely need any help riding slowly. I am one seriously lethargic bike commuter.

South of Old Town, I came upon an all too frequent sight, a car crash at the intersection of Belle View Boulevard and the Parkway. I saw one damaged  car and some people standing about and two police cars. What did the car hit? As I rolled on, I saw tire tracks in the grass leading from the intersection to the trail. When I arrived at home, I received a text message from Reba, fellow Mount Vernon bike commuter and Friday Coffee Clubber. The other car in the collision had crossed the trail and ended up in the woods! I never even saw it.

Like the Rosslyn Circle of Death this intersection cries out for a re-design. A traffic light or traffic circle is desperately needed. Alas, the historic integrity of the Parkway must be preserved.

I Just Wasn’t Made for Paperwork

The Rootchopper Institute’s favorite randonista, @gypsybug, has started another biking contest. Last winter, she hosted the Utilitaire Challenge, which involved running errands by bike. Then this fall she hosted the Coffeeneuring Challenge which entailed visits to coffee shops. This winter’s biking extravaganza is the Errandonee Challenge, which is similar to the Utilitaire.

During the Utilitaire, I went out on a day when the winds were howling to run some errands. I put my head down and plowed into the back of a parked car.  (For those of you who think this sort of thing is lame beyond compare, consider this. Dabis Phinney, one of the great American bicycle racers of the 1990s, once rammed the back of a car during the Tour de France. He launched himself face first through the car’s rear window. I, dear readers, managed only to fall ignominiously to the pavement.) @gypsybug was kind enough to award me an honorable mention for my efforts.  I managed to complete the Coffeeneuring Challenge without injuring myself or my bike, but I don’t think my central nervous system will ever recover from all that caffiene.

Against my better judgment, I decided to give the Errandonee thing a go. I rode Little Nellie in blustery winds to the local pharmacy. This 2 1/2 mile trip should have taken me all of 20 minutes except for the diabetic man in the line in front of me who wanted his medicine but didn’t want to pay for it. Sir, bitching and moaning about the U.S. medical system is in aisle 2. Please move aside.

After getting home and taking off my layers of clothing, I looked in the bag from the pharmacy. No receipt. In order to be reimbursed by the persnickety folks who run the flexible spending account program at work, I needed a receipt. So I put the clothing back on and headed back to the drug store where, thankfully the receipt was found and the diabetic guy wasn’t.  I rode home and prepared to file this blog.

I checked the Errandonee rules and learned that trips only count if you document them with a photo. Argh!!

So, right there I made the executive decision to bail on the contest. Paperwork and cycling just don’t go together for me.

I then decided to do some taxes and some college financial aid forms.

Do I know how to party or what?

 

Snow Fail

Here’s the short version: Snow on ground. Side roads untreated. Rode my bike anyway. One mile later. Crash. Ow. Ride home. Fail

The full version goes like this:

Over night we had a lovely snowfall. There was about an inch of very fluffy snow that barely covered the lawn. It was so beautiful outside that I just had to bike to work. I chose Little Nellie for this adventure because a long wheel base recumbent with its lightly weighted front wheel is an invitation to a crash in slick conditions like this. And I didn’t want to muck up The Mule’s new drivetrain.

I also decided to switch to my lobster gloves. These are like mittens with two finger spaces instead of one. This allows better control of the brakes and such. Unfortunately, they are a little on the small side and, as I discovered not 2 minutes into the ride, they are worthless in cold temps. I think they would work better if I had a bigger size so that the air could circulate around my fingertips. As it is, they are a waste of fabric.

Snow and Panniers

I rode out of the neighborhood on the fluffy stuff. There were not many car tracks so I managed to ride without trouble. The main road was well treated and I had no difficulty at all riding on it. I took a left onto untreated Karl Road and made the turn without problem. It occurred to me that it might be best to stay on treated roads, but most of my commute is on side streets and trails anyway. No guts, no glory. Onward.

I made it up the short hill without slipping and took a right on Shenandoah, another untreated side street. I rode up a second rise without incident. So far so good. At Fairfax Drive I decided to take a left. A car ahead of me turned left and seemed to be taking a long time negotiating the turn. Dude, hurry up. The bottom half of my glasses were fogged up so I couldn’t see that the compacted snow at the intersection which has a stop sign was iced over. I felt my front wheel slide and looked down and watched as it lost contact in slow motion on the glazed snow. Down I went. I hit and slid, dissipating the impact. My helmet actually made contact with the ground. This is the first time I have ever hit my head in a bike crash. No worries though, just a flesh wound.

If my brain was damaged, it sure wasn’t affecting my thinking. Screw this!!! I headed back home VERY CAREFULLY. At the top of the slight downhill to the T intersection at Karl Road I watched a car make a left onto Shenandoah. The car was probably going less than 10 miles per hour but it slid across Shenandoah and hit the curb with a CRACK. Bummer dude. Good thing Fairfax County delayed the opening of school because that car hit the curb at a school bus stop. Good thing I was going super slow because that crack could have been my femur. Ick.

The rest of the ride home was without incident. My bike commute was a whopping 1 3/4ths miles, but I lived to ride another day.

As I write this some 12 hours later, my upper body still feels a bit achy from the impact. The outside of my left knee along the iliotibial band is sore and stiff.  Vitamin I to the rescue.

During the drive home I noticed that the Mount Vernon Trail still has some stretches with snow. I am driving to work tomorrow. The Millenium Falcon is far better suited to deal with this than my left knee and head.