A Sunday Ride with The Impermanent Resident

Did you know peripatetic is a noun? If you look it up, you’ll see a picture of my friend Florencia right next to it in the dictionary. Would I lie to you? 

Flor and I have been doing rides together since we met on the 50 States ride in 2007. It doesn’t seem possible that seven years have passed since we met. We were going to do it again this year, but she has a conflict. Boo. Her friend Emilia is riding for the first time and is a little worried that she won’t be able to handle the 50 States course. So Flor thought it would be a good idea to get us together for a little shakedown ride.

Florencia at the Watergate
Florencia at the Watergate

It was a nice Sunday morning so I decided to bypass the Mount Vernon Trail and ride Fort Hunt Road to the streets of Old Town and Potomac Yards in Alexandria, Crystal City in Arlington, and (according to the sign on the side of the road) the Pentagon reservation. (Apparently the Pentagon was one of the little known tribes of the pre-colonial days.) I met up with Flor at the Jefferson Memorial. Emilia was a no show. Sad face. Flor later told me that the two of them are doing a 120-mile two-day ride in the weeks ahead. I do believe Emilia will drop me after about 10 states.

Flor and I soldiered on. We rode the Halfvasa route from DC to Potomac Village and back. We managed to survive the onslaught of tourists on bikes and idiots looking for parking spaces on K Street in Georgetown. The Capital Crescent Trail had little traffic allowing us to settle into a nice groove. At Fletcher’s Boat House we cut over to Resevoir Road managing to avoid several toddlers who seemed determined to die by under our front wheels. 

The ride up reservoir was long and slow. For me. Flor didn’t seem to be working with the same gravitational field. We rendevoused at the top and proceeded side by side out MacArthur Boulevard chatting all the way. The hill near the reservoir made us work a bit but we cruised over the top and enjoyed the breezy downhill on the back side. 

Flor Is a Way Better Photographer than I
Flor Is a Way Better Photographer than I

MacArthur has no shoulders making it hard to ride side by side so we took to the side path and chattered away. Yoga, rolfing, vegetarian food, being a proud big sister, DC condo values, riding motorbikes in Thailand, and Montessori education. She has a lot going on. She also gave me an update on our pal Richard who rode the 50 States with us in 2011. It’s good to hear that he’s still the kind of person who never has a down day.

Along the way, Flor yelled, “DEER!” There, dead ahead. was a young deer grazing in the grass next to the road. As we approached the deer bolted, thankfully away from us, and joined two others in the roadside shadows. 

We reached the dreaded hill at the end of MacArthur and slowly, ever so slowly, made our way up. The chatter stopped. The work was honest. We made respectable time. After a brief stop to discuss our route, we headed down Falls Road to Potomac Village. 

We chilled in the shade, enjoying iced drinks and continued the conversation. Once we were talked out, we headed back to DC via the Avenel neighborhood of massive houses. “They’re just boxes holding stuff. Once you get enough stuff, it owns you.” Life according to Flor.

We made our way back to MacArthur. Since Flor lives in the city uphill from the river and the memorials, I thought it would make sense to cut through Georgetown instead of heading downhill to the river. And so we did. 

Once we crossed Rock Creek Park, Flor took over navigation. She knew the best route to her place. Just before we got there she asked if I wanted to go to Meridian Hill Park and hang out. And so we did. 

We sat in the sun and talked with Jeff, a friend of Flor whom I met at a happy hour last winter. We talked and listend to the drum circle drummers until the sun wore us down. Flor and I headed to our respective homes. She got the better of the deal by about 15 miles. Or maybe not. Riding down 16th Street to the White House followed by ten miles along the Potomac River is a mighty fine way to go.

Flor and I took some pix.



July by the Numbers

After my 1000-mile June, I backed off a bit in July. I rode to work 18 times. The only times I didn’t ride to work were days I took off or worked from home. My parking space at work must have cobwebs on it.

Other than a half-mile spin on The Mule to check out its new drivetrain, all my riding was on Little Nellie, my Bike Friday New World Tourist, and Big Nellie, my Easy Racers Tour Easy recumbent.  I rode Little Nellie for 16 commutes (including one where I rode from work to Nationals Park). Big Nellie picked up the other two rides to work.

My long ride for the month was Big Nellie’s 111 mile ride to Purcelville and back.

Total mileage for the month was 746 miles. About 2/3rds of which was on Little Nellie which pretty much tells me that my back will tolerate big miles on its little tires.

Off the bike I finally started doing some hiking. The Billy Goat A trail is only about 3.5 miles but it proved to be brutally hard on an oppressively hot and humid day. I did the Billy Goat B and C trails, a total of at least six miles. It was a much more enjoyable hike. I really like doing these hikes as a thing unto itself and as a break from all the biking I do. I need to further investigate the trails in the woods of Great Falls as well as the Rock Creek Park trails which I am ashamed to admit I’ve never hiked.

For the year I have racked up 91 commutes, 41 on Little Nellie, 24 on Big Nellie and 27 on The Mule. I’ve ridden 4,544 miles, a little under 650 miles per month.


Big Nellie Naked

]I had intended to go for a monster ride today, drive out into the country, take Big Nellie off her leash and let her rip. I stupidly didn’t get my butt in gear until 10 so the opportunity for  a century an hour drive away was lost. Instead I went into my basement looking for a cue sheet for the Southern Maryland Century, which starts in Indian Head MD, only 20 minutes from my house. During my search I found a cue sheet for a metric century (64 miles) in eastern Prince Georges County MD 30 minutes from my house.

So I took off Big Nellie’s fairing (a windshield made of Lexan) and plopped my long wheel base recumbent on my bike rack. And off I drove.

When I pulled into the park where the ride began, I saw a couple hundred cars parked. What are the odds that I would randomly pick this cue sheet on the day of this year’s ride? I felt a bit like a gate crasher. Riders on fast bikes were finishing as I was getting my bike ready, so it was unlikely that my ride would overlap with anyone’s in today’s event.

As I went to put Big Nellie’s fairing back on, the Lexan around one of the mounting holes snapped off. I have literally had this fairing duct taped for a couple of years so this wasn’t really a surprise. It has taken an incredible beating for ten years and nearly 30,000  miles.  So we rode naked. (Good thing, too, because halfway through the ride the mounting hardware broke!)


The fairing helps a lot when riding in windy conditions. It adds a couple of miles per hour on descents. And it weighs down the front wheel, balancing the weight distribution of the bike. Riding without it, however, makes the bike feel completely different. The front end feels lighter. The bike climbs a little better because it is lighter. On a warm day, the breeze across my body feels great. The biggest benefit was entirely unexpected: I could see the road. The fairing had been scratched so badly that I could no longer see through it. I have been compensating by braking a lot and leaning to the side to get a better view of the road surface ahead of me. No more.

The ride does a big figure eight along the Patuxent River, which separates PG County from Calvert County. I doubt the terrain gets more than 200 feet above sea level. Never the less there is quite a bit of climbing because the rest areas are the banks of the river. Every rest is rewarded with honest work.

The first twenty miles were a blast. My legs were fresh and I was trucking. I had fun waving to the event riders coming my way. I did quite a bit of hill hopping, screaming down one hill and using my momentum to blast up the next. I knew I’d pay for my early speed later in the ride but I didn’t care. I was zipping along at over 20 miles per hour, something I never get to do during the workweek.

The first rest stop was deserted so I took a quick look at the river. A park employee commented on my bike. We chatted and she told me about kayak and canoe rentals. The river looked inviting but I had riding to do.

I kept trucking, perhaps a bit slower than before. I chalked it up to bigger hills and headwinds. About a mile before the next rest stop,  a car pulled along side me and the driver asked me if I was okay. Weird. Then it dawned on me that he was the sag wagon, looking for stragglers from the event. At the next rest stop, the volunteers were loading all the food and drinks into cars. I parked a discrete distance away. One of the volunteers came over and offered me some food and drink. Don’t mind if I do.

The ride up from the river was considerably harder than before. I was slightly over half way. No problemo. It was, however, getting hotter and the humidity was rising too. Pedal, pedal.

A guy on a fast looking road bike blew by me on a hill. He stopped at the top. I later found out that he was waiting for a friend. The two of them volunteered at a rest stop and were getting some miles in after their good works. We talked a bit at the next rest stop. His friend gave me some pretzels and I took some pictures of them with their camera. They loaded their bikes on two cars and I rode off. Uphill. Ugh.

The route diverted into Charles County for a few miles. I saw a vulture in the middle of the road. Do I look that bad? No, he was busy with some road kill.

The last few miles back to the start were flat or downhill. I finished strong but was plenty pooped. 64 miles. Naked. Big Nellie didn’t blush once.

Kono Coffee

The weatherman warned of nothing but sprinkles for my ride to work. It sounded like a good day for me to wear sandals and ride Big Nellie to Friday Coffee Club. I stepped out of the house ready to go when the sprinkles became a steady rain. Urgh! I prefer to ride The Mule in the rain so I went back into the house to put on some cycling shoes and a vest. Back outside, I saddled up and headed for DC.

I’d only ridden 6 or 7 miles since Sunday. Biking with fresh legs is joy. The pedals seem to go round automatically. I could hear the gears make a buzzing sound. Pedal, pedal, buzz. Riding up North Royal Street in Old Town Alexandria I watched as a young girl broke away from an older girl and dashed across the street in front of the SUV that I was behind. The SUV stopped and the girl made the crossing unharmed. She had a sheepish look on her face that made it clear that she knew she had done something foolish. As I rode past, I told her “Don’t do that again!” I hope she remembers. SUVs make for unpleasant pedestrian experiences.

Trash Walker said hello as I passed him near the airport. It must be good to be retired and healthy.

I crossed Maine Avenue and something seemed different. It wasn’t until I saw a tweet from Katie later that I realized that the terrible rutted and potholed road surfaced and been repaired.

I arrived at Swings to see the early birds already in attendance. As usual most of the Friday Coffee Club folks in attendance were guys except for Lisa who usually leaves before I arrive and Kel who I haven’t seen in quite a while.  Chris rode his monster bike. I forgot to get a picture. The tires are so wide that I couldn’t get my hand around the tread. (As the owner of a clown bike and a rolling lawn chair, I am in no position to make disparaging remarks about his choice of two-wheeled transpo.)  A few months ago Jesse was visiting from Seattle. He was back today with the news that he had moved to DC.  Welcome to the madhouse!

Felkerino arrived on his massively impressive CoMotion tandem with his daughter riding in the stoker seat. Then one by one women began arriving. It was a cascade of femininity, the likes of which the Coffee Club has not seen in ages. Reba, Rachel, Mary, Kristin, Katie, Kirsten, and Kate (making it a 2-Kate Coffee extravaganza) all grabbed a seat. Somehow Mike and Bob (Don’t Call Me Rachel) Cannon sneaked in undetected.  Even with satellite versions of Friday Coffee Club now operating in the burbs, we were overflowing with cheerful faces.

Finally, our guest of honor arrived. Lauren (@lkono), a Coffee Club fixture from early on (which is to say last spring), moved to Dublin last fall to go to grad school. I am ever impressed with how she can bike around this city dressed in stylish clothing and not look the least bit disheveled when she arrives at Swings. (I ride ten feet and I look like I slept in  a ditch all night.) She’s only here for a couple of days before jetting off to do field work in rural Brazil. (Lauren, can I have your life please?)  Suffice it to say, we were all happy to see her. Felkerino took a picture of Lauren and me. (Lauren, can I have your bangs while we’re at it.)

After Coffee Club I still have a couple of miles to go to get to the office back in Virginia. The Teddy Roosevelt Bridge has become my route of choice. I was passed by two inbound cyclists who didn’t register with my brain. I think they were Shawn and Mark, who have both been known to appear at Swings on Fridays.

The ride home was marked by the usual car hassles in the Rosslyn Circle of Death (RCOD). Two cars, one in the left-most lane and one in the center lane, were about to take right turns on red, directly in front of me. I yelled at both and they stopped but not before fully obstructing the crosswalk and curb cut I use to get onto the bike path. (Bitch about scofflaw cyclists all you want, but I can show you some seriously dangerous drivers on a daily basis in the RCOD.)

There are few things more life affirming than a tailwind on the ride home on a Friday night. The Mule and I felt like Dave Stoller and his racing bike. I could almost hear the overture to Rossini’s Barber of Seville. (You’ll note that I felt like Dave Stoller, but The Mule does not follow semis doing 60.)

The Mount Vernon Trail was somewhat crowded, mostly with bike riders going too fast and not announcing their passes. It won’t be long before I see another rider on the ground from this stupidity.

At Gravelly Point a man sat under a tree and played his trumpet  Bike  commuting is often made better when you have musical accompaniment.

Down near home, the Mount Vernon Trail merges with Northdown Road. Road construction crews are busy rebuilding the road. It needed it because it was nothing but one bumpy patch after another.

Tomorrow I hope to get out for a long ride in the country. This will require getting out of bed early which seems dubious in light of the fact that it is 12:45 as I type this.

Buona notte, Fellini.

Lloyd Bridges, phone home

I knew I should have worn my waterproof jammies. By the time I retrieved my newspaper from the end of the driveway, I was soaked.  I stalled my departure to no avail and headed out aboard The Mule for a nautical ride to work.  

There’s really no way to dress for this sort of thing. If I put on a rainproof jacket, I get all hot and sweaty. If I don’t, I get all wet and possibly cold. I opted for my illuminite vest and a cotton t-shirt. I packed a second t-shirt for the ride home.

I was squishy after one mile, but the vest kept me warm so that it was actually kind of pleasant. I wore my Bike Virginia 1991 cycle cap under my helmet to keep the rain out of my eyes. After twenty minutes it was saturated with water. Water was pouring into my eyes and mouth. I could taste the shampoo from last night’s shower. Yum. At least I had a tailwind.

I hit 32 miles per hour on the Park Terrace downhill. This would have been fun but for the car that pulled out 100 yards ahead of me causing me to ride my brakes. Not that they did a damn bit of good. Fortunately the car rolled through the stop sign at the bottom of the hill. Disaster averted.

At the GW Parkway crossing, the cross traffic was incredibly heavy. I waited two minutes in the deluge. Not a happy camper.

The Mount Vernon Trail was deserted. It would appear that most trail users eat quiche on a regular basis. The rain was coming down so hard that the Canada geese in Belle Haven Park were waddling next to the trail when they normally hang out at the river’s edge.

Once at the half way point the rain abated. French Braid Girl came rolling past, wearing no additional clothing to thwart the rain. Her sole concession to the elements was that she was not wearing her RayBan aviator sunglasses. She didn’t appear to be nearly as wet as I so there was hope for the remainder of the ride.

I started seeing people after Four Mile Run, commuters from Alexandria and South Arlington. Most people were plodding along. I passed more people than passed me, a highly unusual occurance.

On the ride up the steep hill to Rosslyn, I spotted two bunnies along the side of the trail. They didn’t seem the least concerned about me rolling past. The underbrush where they hide must have been flooded.

The radar on my pc said I’d be riding into nasty weather on the way home. It lied. It was actually a pretty nice ride. I saw the Nine Hour Lawyer riding up the hill to Rosslyn. The Mule and I headed down to the MVT with a light tailwind making this a two tailwind day. With no rain coming down, I could focus on the ride. The handling on The Mule seems to be very stiff. I don’t know what is going on. Maybe I need to fiddle with the headset a bit.

South of the airport, French Braid Girl made her northbound appearance. The aviators were back on. All was right in the world.

Under the Wilson Bridge, a father watched as his two little kids rode their bikes in circles. If you know anybody with a kid learning to ride or who needs a safe place to pedal, tell them to go to Jones Point Park and ride under the bridge. It’s shaded, protected from most of the rain, and the pavement is smooth as silk.

At Northdown Road crews were working on finally repairing the road. They were tearing out cobblestones along the edge of the road. This is going to take a while.

I arrived home to a swampy yard. I put The Mule and my snorkel away.

May by the Numbers

I had all kinds of conflicts in May but still managed a 710.5 miles of bike riding. Sheesh! Two rides accounted for 208 miles of the total. One was a group ride to and from Baltimore. The other was a solo ride to East Jesus, Maryland and back. The remaining mileage was mostly commuting. I rode to work 13 times for 395 miles. I rode on 20 days out of 31. Two of those days were short hops to test out adjustments to my bikes.

I have been dogged by breathing problems for months. A few days after the Baltimore ride they went away only to come back. Yesterday and today, they were mostly gone. I hope they don’t return. I am also dealing with hot foot, a condition that recumbent riders get. It’s hard to describe but my feet get fatigued after lots of pedaling, but only on my recumbent.  My biggest physical bitch has to do with the fact that I managed to gain weight while riding 700 miles. Life’s not fair, is it?

I’m over 2,800 miles for the year with 68 bike commutes. I figure June will be a lot like May. Except my daughter will be a high school graduate. And, did you know that June is car maintenance month? I’ll be shuttling back and forth between various garages and my office. It’s something I truly hate to do, but it’s got to be done. After September when both kids are in college, we’ll have two functional rolling metal ornaments in front of our house.

Dead Beavers Tell No Lies

I was back in the saddle – er, foam pad – for an early morning departure. I haven’t been to Friday Coffee Club in a long time so I was looking forward to it. It was nice of Mother Nature to give Big Nellie and me a tailwind assist. The miles seemed to fly by. I spotted a garbage bag next to the trail just south of Belle Haven Park. It turned out to be a beaver all balled up. I think he was dead. He certainly wasn’t looking very spunky.

Since I left earlier than usual, most of my regulars weren’t out yet.  So the critters kept me entertained. Near the power plant another critter caught my eye. It was a black snake coiled up in the middle of the trail. I think he’s with the beaver in critter heaven.

Near the airport I cruised by Trash Walker, my first regular of the day. Trash Walker hoofs it along the trail and picks up trash as he goes. And he always waves and says “Hello”.  He didn’t get the memo about crumpy-assed bike commuters like me.

The early morning brings out the Lancelots, the bike riders who have delusions of cycling grandeur. (Digression No. 1: Look people, you’re on a bike trail with hardly any hills. You don’t look badass passing a bike commuter carrying 30 pounds of crap on his recumbent. You are pathetic. Chill.)  I came off the first of two flyover bridges at National Airport at considerable speed. Three cyclists coming toward me decided to pass a walker just as I came upon them. (Digression No. 2: The levers on your handlebars activate your brakes. Don’t pull out into the path of an on-coming bike when you don’t have to. Wait your turn, just as you would when you’re driving your car. Otherwise I will have to use the bicycle death ray on you. You’ve been warned.)

I rode into the city with two other commuters. At the Jefferson Memorial I was overtaken by a vast bicycle commuting conspiracy. This included one of my regulars, the guy with the mountain bike with slick tires and aerobars who looks slow but goes lickety split.

Crossing Maine Avenue, French Braid Girl came past. Normally I see her four miles closer to home, so I had a good idea how early I was. As I passed the Garbage TruckWashington Monument, a bike came from my right and a runner came from my left. Somehow we avoided a calamitous collision. At Constitution Avenue the light was green (which never happens without a long wait) making up for all of life’s early morning injustices. Soon, another injustice appeared in the 15th Street Cycletrack.

At Swings, the weekly meeting of the WAAMCCD (Washingtion Area All Male Cycling Coffee Drinkers) was in session. Fortunately, we were soon joined by Kate Drake, fresh from her vacation in the high Sierras, and her friend Kate. New Kate makes the fifth cycling Kate that I know in DC, and sixth overall. The three Lisas  (all local) need to up their game.

Out of the garage I bolted into the bike lane on Lynn Street, kinda cutting off a cyclist. My bad. I caught all the lights and made for the bike trail. Two cyclists on the sidewalk to my right passed me unexpectedly on my right. No warning. Thanks, guys. (Please see discussion of the bicycle death ray, above.)  Down on the Mount Vernon Trail there were all sorts of walkers milling about. I came to a stop until they finished milling. All the way to the airport the wind was gusting into my face. A bike commuter passed my and said “This sucks!” Dude, try it in February. This is positively lovely. Takes the edge off the heat and humidity.

Once south of the airport the trees gave me relief from the headwind. Big Nellie and I tootled home. We stopped to take a picture of the beaver. He was still dead.

Kate Drake asked me about the bald eagle nests. I put her off coming down to see them. The trees have made them very hard to find.  It’s a shame. I should have put together a bald eagle ride earlier in the spring.

Tomorrow is the Tour de Fat.It’s a big party with bikes, acid rock, live nude girls, and beer.  Oh, and it’s family friendly. I know this because every ten minutes somebody tweets or posts something on Facebook about it. (If you are fat, they let you in for free, I hear.) I was tempted to go for the entire event which lasts something like six hours. I can do six hours of bikes or beer or acid rock or live nude girls. (Okay, I am kidding about the live nude girls. There will be at least 1,200 Kates in attendance so that counts for something.) Owing to my age and marital status, I decided I’d go for one hour. My plan is to ride to the Washington Folk Festival at Glen Echo Park to see my friend Lisa’s Japanese taiko drum group at 2 then ride to the Tour de Fat.  I hope they have some beer left.


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.


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.

A Monumental Idea

I am a sucker for a gimmick. Last year’s gimmicks included the Hoppy 100, a 100-mile bike ride that hit three microbreweries en route. Leave it to John, the father of the Hoppy 100, and a micro brew lover with a cycling habit, to come up with another gimmick that I couldn’t pass up.

John learned that a bicycle organization in Baltimore was staging a ride from Baltimore’s Washington Monument to DC’s Washington Monument. They call it the Monument to Monument ride. They should call it the Monument to Monument to Monument ride because you have to ride back to Baltimore. John asked for the directions and reversed them, so that we in DC could partake without traveling to Baltimore.

The Mule and the Monument - Start
The Mule and the Monument – Start

Using the power of Twitter and his blog, John organized the DC start. John, Tim, Justin, Alex, Kevin and I met at the DC monument around 8 am. It was a lovely day for a bike ride, assuming it was February. Sadly, it was Cinco de Mayo, a date that does not go hand in hand with the words “wind chill”. Undaunted, we headed out for points north, into a biting headwind.

I chose to ride The Mule for only the second time in months. This turned out to be a mistake of sorts. I was comfortable riding but could not find a riding rhythm for the life of me. I’ve ridden with John, Alex and Kevin before and had over 2000 miles in my legs since the start of 2013. It wasn’t that they weren’t riding fast or that I was undertrained.

I was lagging behind everyone from the get go. We headed up the Metropolitan Brach Trail, then zig zagged through Northeast DC and Mount Rainier before jumping on the Anacostia River Trail system. I have always found this particular trail system to be confusing. I lost contact with the group and then got off track completely. At this point, I figured that even if I couldn’t find the group, I could still get a fun ride in.

Somehow I righted my wrongs and found the group hanging alongside the trail near Lake Artemesia somewhere near Greenbelt. We chatted for a few minutes and then set off again. By this point, I had another problem. My allergies were going berserk. I couldn’t stop coughing up mucus, my eyes were watery, my nose was running, and increasingly my windpipe seemed inflamed and sore.

On to Baltimore!  The group dropped me again near the Agriculture Department farm near Greenbelt. We started seeing riders from Baltimore passing our way on the opposite side of the road. We would see dozens more as the day progressed. Out of the blue, Rod appeared and joined us on our northward trek. I became his project du jour. Each uphill was as struggle. He advised me to go easy on the uphills and bomb down the downhills. My only problem was that I was having trouble going easy on the flats!

We took a shortcut and joined the group at the top of a hill. From this point on, we were more or less together. At some point, Mike showed up. Mike is a randonneur. He has more energy than most thermonuclear reactors. In MikeWorld, hills do not seem to exist. Conversation has no end. He smiles so much that I’d swear he gets paid by the tooth. He brought the group energy. His constant chatter kept my mind off my struggles. And he had the good sense to laugh at my jokes. He found it particularly amusing when, as we spotted Baltimore in the distance, I called it Shangri La.

Before we set eyes on Baltimore we pedaled our way up Brock Bridge Road and Race Road. These roads are excellent for cycling and had surprisingly little car traffic. There are also horse stables and prisons. Let me tell you, if you want to have a kick ass time on a bike you need to get your own self to Laurel Maryland.

Mike took us off route onto the BWI airport bike trail.  We stopped with a view of one of the runways. High on a hill. With the wind in our faces. And Baltimore nowhere in sight. I started to wonder if we’d ever get there. Then, it appeared. Nothing says paradise quite like a smokestack from a sewage burning facility and a spaghetti bowl of elevated highway ramps.

Once we arrived at the monument, Baltimore showed us its charm. The monument is on top a small hill in the middle of a cobblestoned circle. A beautiful old church stood to one side. And a neighborhood that looked reminded me of Lewisburg Square on Beacon Hill in Boston extended a block to the west.

The Mule and the Monument - Baltimore
The Mule and the Monument – Baltimore

After some picture taking, we made our way to the Alewife brew pub and restaurant for lunch. Tim took off for home. He missed some fine vittles.

We headed back with an intermittent tailwind. Once we cleared the city, I got my legs working. Unfortunately, my nose was running like a faucet. And my wind pipe was so sore I could not get a deep breath.  For the second time during the ride I tried some albuterol. It had little effect. Despite these problems, I found myself occasionally in the lead of the group. There is no truth to the scurrilous rumor that I put Vicodan in everyone’s drinks at lunch.

We stopped for Rod to repair a flat. It seems pretty amazing that with about 800 miles of biking among us, we had only one flat. Alex had some problems with her shifting (she was riding a brand new bike) but it seemed to resolve itself.

The next 20 miles were actually quite easy, especially considering my allergy and asthma woes. Mike peeled off near Greenbelt. Once we jumped back on the Anacostia River trails, the group speeded up considerably.This was odd because the trail was swarming with people. Nevertheless there were no close calls and smiles all around. Somewhere along this stretch Rod veered off and headed for home. We were now five. Kevin, Justin, and Alex apparently could taste their end-of-ride shower beers (it’s an Alex thing). John and I lost them somewhere near Catholic University. John had a trip to Meridian Pint on his mind. I lost contact with him somewhere along the Metropolitan Branch Trail.

My last four miles were done on impulse power. The warp engines were toast. So was my wind pipe. I rolled up to the Washington Monument and celebrated with a photo op.

The Mule and the Monument - Finish
The Mule and the Monument – Finish

I drove home, stopping along the way for a Fat Tire Amber Ale. I bought six, drank two. They tasted monumental.

Check out the rest of my pix on my Flickr page. And some more on Justin’s.

Here’s John’s ride summary.

Today was [Trumpet fanfare!!!] my 50th bike commute of the year. I knew it was supposed to rain this morning so I watched the radar on TV very closely and set out for work when there was a clear gap in the storms. About 1/4 of a mile into the ride, I saw a flash and heard a boom. It then occurred to me that the guy at the TV station  who lines up the doppler radar echos with a map needs to find a new job.

I wore shorts and a shirt under a rain jacket. It worked okay. There was a whole lot of standing water along my route so my feet got soaked.

I lucked out in that there wasn’t any more lightning and thunder. Just rain. Lots and lots or rain.

The upside to this nasty weather was that the Mount Vernon Trail was empty. No tourists. No people with dogs on 15 foot leashes. No five year olds careening all over the place on training wheels. No Lancelots blowing by me without warning inches from my left elbow. Just me, Little Nellie, and a few bazillion gallons of cold rain.

As I rounded the bend at Gravelly Point, the rain was joined by a gale force crosswind. I had to lean into the wind to avoid being blown into the Potomac River, where white caps were dancing.

The westerly wind came in handy when I turned onto the 14th Street bridge. It blew me across the Potomac. As I reached the Tidal Basin, I could see that the cherry blossoms had succumbed to the storm. Thousands of little blossom petals littered the sidewalk and street. I’m sad to see them go, placed along the trail by eastern redbuds’ purple blossoms.  And soon we’ll soon be dealing with the 17-year cicadas. Eek!

I walked into Swings for Friday Coffee Club and the six cyclists who were there laughed at me. I probably looked like a wet rag. We stood around a couple of tables, drinking coffee and letting the morning’s rain run off our clothes onto the floor. Normally, on Friday mornings I take my coffee with a heaping spoonful of estrogen. Not today. For the first time ever, it was all guys. Was it something we said?


The ride to Rosslyn across the narrow path on the TR Bridge featured a first: not one stop for DC-bound cyclists.  I did have to slow to squeeze by a runner but she gave me plenty of room.

When I arrived at work, I was greeted with this:Image

The bike parking had been taken over by movers. I pushed some of their moving stuff out of the way and tied Little Nellie to the hitching post. Then it was off to the fitness center where I used an abundance of towels to dry off my stuff.

By the end of the day, my office reeked of wet wool. It’s amazing what an odor just two wet wool socks can put out.

The ride home was dry and warm. The MVT was clear sailing all the way home. My pair of geese is back where they belong in Dyke Marsh but there were no gosslings. Yet.