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.

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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.

Ospreys and Scaffolds

To Whom It May Concern:

It’s mid-April. In Washington DC. I froze on the ride to work this morning. Can we have our spriing back?

Yours

Rootchopper

I wouldn’t have froze if I broke out my jacket and holey sweater but I didn’t. It’s the principle of the thing.

The ride in aboard Big Nellie was tearful. The cold on my eyes made me tear up like the end of It’s a Wonderful Life. Zuzu’s pedals!

I saw four regulars on the way in: Three-Step Runner, Hoppy Guy, Nancy One-Bag Duley, and French Braid Girl. They are always going the opposite way. I wonder if they don’t get together for coffee at my house after I pass them. There are others I see nearly every day, but they aren’t distinctive. Nancy may get renamed Wave Crash because she waves so enthusiastically I am afraid she’s going to crash.

Along the way I heard a peep-like sound over head.  Riding a recumbent makes it much easier to see things high up. The peep came from a hawk of some sort, perched on a branch of the tree I was passing under.

When I came off the second flyover bridge at National Airport, I spotted three big birds circling over Roaches Run, a little inlet on the opposite side of the GW Parkway.  It looks like a big pond. It was hard to get a good visual fix on the birds, then, suddenly, one took an awkward dive to the water. Dang, that’s a hard way to get breakfast. I think they were ospreys.

I came to the Gravelly Point parking lot and some military folks were doing some sort of timed run. I came to their finish line just as two runners were finishing. They were so focussed on their time that they blocked the entire path. I slowed to a crawl until everyone realized that what my bell was for and they stepped aside.

It was considerably warmer for the ride home. Another osprey was stalking the fish in the Potomac near the 14th Street Bridge. I stopped to take a picture of the scaffold on the Washington Monument.  Several years ago a scaffold was erected on the monument to allow workers to do maintenance. We had an earthquake a couple of years ago so more work is needed. Up goes the scaffold.

Washington Scaffold

I spotted a man on a bike with big fat tires. I wondered if he could ride at a decent pace. I looked away for a minute and he was long gone. Later I saw him crossing the GW Parkway south of Alexandria. It looked to me as if he had an electric motor in the rear wheel. Cheater.

Put one of those bad boys on the back wheel of Big Nellie and we’ll see who’s boss, punk.

Monkey Off My Back

It was in the low 50s. I thought we were done with this. Out came the tights and the vest. And off I went.

I have been riding Little Nellie pretty much constantly for the last several weeks. I know the bike needs a lot of work. It needs a new cassette, chain, two new chainrings, new cables, and housings, and new handlebar tape. An annoying clicking sound happens whenever I pedal with even moderate force. I suspect the bottom bracket needs to be overhauled. So I figured, why not ride it until the parts are completely shot.

I rode to DC avoiding the Mount Vernon Trail except for the last four miles. Once in the city I did a couple of laps around Hains Point, looking for a bald eagle nest that I keep hearing about. Then I rode up into Rock Creek Park. I decided to climb up the Calvert Street hill. Most people don’t ride up this hill. Most people have common sense. Not me.

After the top, I wound my way higher and higher until I came to 34th Street when I turned for home. I made my way back using the Massachusetts Avenue downhill. This would be a really great ride except for the manhole covers. I managed to hit about five of them. Somehow my filling stayed in. I took the L Street cycle track across downtown to the 15 Street cycle track. I’d have taken it all the way to Virginia but it dies so that street vendors can live. We all know that it’s more important for visitors to have stale pretzels and crappy t-shirts than it is to have save cycle routes. I rode through traffic, past an amphibious tour bus and behind a bicycle rickshaw.

Back in Virginia I took empty streets through Arlington and Alexandria until meeting up with the Mount Vernon Trail at the beltway. When I finally arrived home after 46 miles, I looked down at my odometer and saw this:

10,000 Miles for Little Nellie

The monkey jumped off my back.

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?

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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.

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.

Snowblind in Springtime

Shorts were the order of the day. Yeah, baby.

Little Nellie appeared to get the worst of yesterday’s ride. She was making making more noises than my joints which has me a little worried. I isolated one noise: my rear fender was rubbing against my rear tire. Fixed.

Yesterday a clicking sound appeared during the last hour of my ride. It was worse today, maybe because I didn’t have a 20-mile-per-hour headwind to mask the sound. It only clicks when I pedal. So this is either a bottom bracket bearing gone bad, a pedal in need of a dab of lube, a seat post or saddle rail problem. I can deal with the pedal easily enough, but the other three could mean big trouble. Of course, since Little Nellie is a folding bike, it could be that one of the half dozen oddball parts on the bike is misbehaving. Time will tell.

Little Nellie is overdue for some TLC anyway so I hope to get her to 10,000 miles before she disintegrates.

The tailwind on the Mount Vernon Trail was most appreciated after yesterday’s long ride. I looked to see if my Dyke Marsh Canada geese were parents yet. Overnight Mother Goose gave birth to three retired men with fishing poles. They were lined up like See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil, sitting on their folding lawn chains in the narrow grass  strip between the water and the Parkway. I hope they don’t make it a habit of fishing there.

In Belle Haven Park the Hoppy Runner came cruising by, with nothing on his head and shorts on his bottom. This is perfect running weather, and he looked pretty happy.

The Belle Haven nest was empty but in a tree next to the MVT there was a sentinel. An osprey high up in the tree was positioned so that he could see both the river and the nest. He looked serious. I wasn’t going to mess with him.

By the time I hit the halfway mark of my commute near the power plant, the clicking from my bike was really getting on my nerves. North of Old Town, traffic on the Parkway was all gummed up because of a collision. I do believe the Prius is kaput.

French Braid Girl came rolling by. She’s sporting some Annie Hall sunglasses. Stylish.

A virtual Cossellian plethora of cyclists passed me on the way to work today. I felt old and pathetic. Then again, they will get to work early and I will still be out here enjoying the splendid weather. Ah, ‘tis good to be the tortoise.

I have a new regular. He’s John Roche Clone. John rides with black rimmed glasses and a wool cycling cap. So does JRC. I have waved to the clone three times now, each time wondering what he must be thinking.  Shortly after passing JRC, I saw Bob (Don’t Call Me Rachel) Cannon coming by. He didn’t see me. He was in a morning trance. Or maybe he has a clone too.

The ride home began with another encounter with tourists lacking situational awareness. A huddle of seven or eight Asian people, probably Japanese tourists on the hunt for Cherry Blossoms, had completely blocked the Mount Vernon Trail. On the right of the scrum was a rock wall and the GW Parkway. On the left of the huddle was the front of a line of parked cars. I rang my bell and slowed to a crawl. After a few seconds somebody called an audible and they awkwardly dispersed, but only enough to let me squeeze by. As I was about to clear the group two bikes coming from the opposite direction closed in on me swerving to cut speed as the huddle re-formed behind me. I nearly hit the second bike. I turned and yelled, “GET OFF THE TRAIL!!!”  I think by this point, having nearly been hit by three cyclists, they may have gotten the hint.

Truth be told, I feel sorry for people like this. They are disoriented by their surroundings, trying to get their group organized, and getting yelled at by the locals. From now on, whenever I go abroad, I will make it a point to obstruct the locals whenever possible, just to even the score.

I made the executive decision to take my life in my hands and ride over to DC to take in the cherry blossoms. I’d say they were about 90 percent of the way to peak. I rode the Hains Point loop in the hopes of seeing some of my cycling friends. None were to be found. I decided to walk around the perimeter. Instead of locking Little Nellie, I decided to walk her around. At first I followed a wheelchair. This made for plenty of room for my bike and me. When the wheelchair pusher ran out of steam, I had to fend for myself. I took about an hour to get all the way around. I had to stop dozens of times so that I wouldn’t photobomb the tourists getting their picture taken with the blossoms. Everyone was very civil. It’s hard to be in a bad mood when you’re going snowblind from blossoms.

Cherry Blossoms
Cherry Blossoms

The ride home was into a strong headwind. I didn’t much mind. It was actually warm out. What a strange feeling after five months of being all bundled up. South of the airport French Braid Girl came by. She looked happier. Maybe it was the tailwind that was pushing her along.

I arrived home after dark. 37 miles in shorts. Not too bad.

For pictures of the blossoms, check this out.

Could It Really Be Spring?

The weather report called for temperatures in the low seventies. I prepared by taking yesterday off the bike, mowing the lawn and doing a number of chores. I waited until I saw a 5 and a 0 on the digital thermometer in our house.

Off I rode on Little Nellie and felt very strong. It was obvious that I had a tailwind. About three miles from home, I passed the Morningside nest and spotted a white head. Hopefully, we’ll have some eaglets soon (if we don’t have them already). A mile further on I looked left as I crossed the Dyke Marsh boardwalk.  The pair of geese I saw earlier in the week were still waddling about. It was a bit troubling that papa goose was on the far side of the Parkway. It would suck if he became roadkill.  (My wife and I once saw a black SUV mow down a mama duck and a few of her ducklings as they tried to cross the Parkway. The surviving ducklings were a sad sight, waddling around in a panic.)

The Mount Vernon Trail was very crowded, which is typical of a warm, sunny weekend day. The tailwind made passing easy. I cruised to the city with surprisingly little difficulty. At Gravelly Point, a plane came in for a landing. A man transfixed by the plane wandered directly in front of me looking up. “YO!” He came back to reality and hopped out of the way.

The tailwind became obvious when the trail curved along the river bank. Little Nellie was a happy camper.

I turned to ride up the ramp to the 14th Street Bridge. Now with the wind in my face, it was time to work a little. Bikes were coming down the ramp in a long line. There was a fence on the left and a highway ramp on the right. There were three bikes in front of me. They stopped. No warning. The two women in front were having a conversation. The guy in the back said nothing. I veered to the left (thankfully there was a little room) and stopped with my front wheel next to his rear wheel. For some reason I blurted out “What the fuck are you doing?” It was louder than intended, perhaps because my expectations of a smooth ride to DC had been dashed. The guy turns to me, objects to my remark and starts explaining the situation (as if it wasn’t self-evident) . While he’s jabbering, I look up and two cyclists are coming down the hill, passing the long line of bikes, straight at me. I turn to my new personal friend and yell, “Move your god damned bike NOW!”

I think this blows my chances at the Cherry Blossom Festival Mr.Congeniality award. And I am sure he thought I am a total asshole. He has a point. I don’t care. Safety comes first.

On the DC side of the bridge, chaos. I weaved through the buses and tourists. I could see that the trees along the Tidal Basin were nowhere near full bloom so I headed for East Potomac Park. Into the wind.

I saw a few nice trees but the whole experience left me frustrated. If I hadn’t lived here for decades I’d swear that this whole cherry blossom thing is a hoax.

A Lonely Bloomer on Hains Point

I rode upriver to the Lincoln Memorial, crossing Constitution Avenue through one epic traffic jam. I spotted a Park Service employee helping people cross the street. He just laughed. It was so bad that there’s nothing he could do.

I back tracked on the opposite side of the Mall and past the White House. Pennsylvania Avenue was not very crowded. Cherry Blossoms, even disappointing ones, trump the leader of the free world.

I don’t much like cycletracks but on this sunny day it seemed like the most civilized way to ride through town. All but one turning car yielded to me so I felt safe. At Meridian Hill Park, here were no drums to be heard and no acroyogis or hula hoopers to watch so I plodded up the hill and kept on keeping on. The cycletrack dies out at 16th Street so I took for a ways. At a four way stop, a car behind me went through the intersection out of turn. The car that had been slighted laid on his horn and followed the offender up 16th, passing me. He stayed on his horn for a block until he pulled up next to the offenders who were obviously lost. They exchanged words. The offenders turned onto a side street out of which came a DC police cruiser. The cop pulled over the SUV driver, apparently for making a public nuisance out of himself. I felt bad for him. He won’t win Mr. Congeniality either.

I turned off 16th and found 14th with a bike lane. It ended at a T on Aspen Street. A left turn and soon I was cruising down a series of S curves into Rock Creek Park. This road is part of the 50 States Ride so I have ridden it several times. It is the bestest.

At the bottom of the hill I turned right and headed for Chevy Chase (the neighborhood not the actor). I spent a few minutes on Rock Creek Trestle The creek is way down there.

Reversing course, I made for Bethesda Row and its fine array of eateries. After crossing a busy street the trail makes a hard left turn. The woman cyclist in front of me was wearing the full bike rider kit (matching lycra top and bottom). She clipped into her pedals and seemed to be going at a snail’s pace. As I was about to pass her, she waved me by with her left hand. In her hand was a lit cigarette. Carbon makes bikes go faster, or so they say.

I ate at Bethesda Bagels because it’s good and I am boring. I always eat there when I bike to Bethesda.

Instead of dealing with the Capital Crescent Trail crowds I headed out on the quiet side streets of Bethesda. A right hand turn put me on Bradley Boulevard, normally a busy road but not I had PEDs in my pedals. After passing through Avenel I picked up Falls Road. A left on MacArthur Boulevard had me descending through the woods of Great Falls Park, The windy road is flawed only slightly by the bumpy pavement, otherwise this one rivals the downhill into Rock Creek Park.

I was headed into the wind but the descent made me unaware. At the Old Anglers Inn, I jumped on the C & O Canal towpath for the ride back to DC. Now that I had slowed down, the headwind was annoying. Little Nellie’s short wheel base does not make for a comfortable ride on rough surfaces. I bounced along slaloming among the walkers and runners. I spotted a big great blue heron standing still on a log over the canal. Even with the bumps, the ride on the C & O Canal is a thing of beauty, Except for the gnats swarms. For about four miles I encountered clouds of flying black bugs They don’t bite but they get into everything, your mouth, eyes, hair, ears.  And your whole body gets covered in them. Ick.

After switching over to the paved Capital Crescent Trail, I looked at the Seussian Cormorants perched in the trees along the Potomac. They do this every year, feeding on the fish swimming up river to spawn.

Back in the city, I decided to avoid the cherry blossom scene and the Mount Vernon Trail, I took the Teddy Roosevelt Bridge to the MVT for about a mile then crossed over to the Pentagon. With a stifling headwind, I followed roads past the vast Pentagon parking lots and Long Bridge Park, through Crystal City and Potomac Yards. In Old Town Alexandria I followed Columbus Street, several blocks from the touristy madness. After waiting at a stop light, I started pedaling when it turned green. The car opposite me starting coming through the intersection too. A green taxi coming from the cross street blew through the light. I think the light must have been back lit for the driver. If I had had a tailwind instead of a headwind, I’d have been roadkill. The taxi missed us both.

South of Alexandria, the Mount Vernon Trail wasn’t crowded so I hopped on it and slogged into the wind.

At home, I took inventory: my hands hurt. my back hurt. my arms hurt. my knees hurt. My face and thighs burned.

Spring is here.

For some pix check out my Flickr page here.

Incoming!!!

I woke up at 5:30. Actually my bladder woke up at 5:30. My brain was still asleep. It was a fierce fight for anatomical dominance but my bladder won.  My trip to the end of the driveway was invigorating. Not because of my bladder. It was in the 20s and the wind was blowing.  Maybe I should get wind resistant jammies. I briefly considered driving to work, but then I thought, “Why not freeze my noo noos off instead?”  And so I rode Big Nellie into the frigid morning.
Despite the big fairing on the front of Big Nellie, I was having quite a rough time getting any speed going.  I hit the hill on Park Terrace Drive going only about 10 miles per hour.  In a few seconds, I was doing 32 and ducking behind the fairing to preserve the flesh around my eyes.  Tears were shed involuntarily. Dang.
Onto the Mount Vernon Trail without a stop to cross the Parkway. Ithink I will call this maneuver “Pulling a Moses.” How nice of people to provide a gap in traffic. The Dyke Marsh boardwalk was free of rime, too, so things were going swimmingly.
I didn’t blog about my ride yesterday but it was notable for two wildlife sightings. Along the river near Dyke Marsh a tree was absolutely filled with red winged blackbirds. They were making the trilling sound that reminds me so much of my days as a kid playing in and around Dead Man’s Pond.  (Sounds a bit like something Luke Skywalker would say, no?) Sadly, the pond was filled in by developers long ago. When I got to the northern side of Belle Haven Park, I spotted a bald eagle about 200 feet up in the air flying from the river across the trail toward the Beltway/US1 mixing bowl.
Yesterday’s flashback was provided so that I could place today’s wildlife sighting in context. As usual, I was hoping to spot a bald eagle in the Belle Haven nest.  Instead, I spotted one about 30-50 feet high gliding straight toward me over the trail.  All I could think of was, “It would suck to be a mouse right now.” Just before getting to me, the eagle flapped its wings, turned and gained altitude as it headed for the nest. Double dang.
I slogged into the headwind through Old Town. The beaver dam is starting to get built up again. I wonder if this isn’t the work of the National Park Service official beaver dam disrupter or just a very stubborn beaver. The water level is almost up to the trail again so I suspect the disruptor will be back soon. Damn. (So to speak.)
The rest of the ride in was work. As usual, once I cleared the airport, I had nothing to block the headwind. The bike seemed unusually sluggish. On the way home I learned that my front fender was dragging on the side of my front tire. I must have been really sleepy this morning because I didn’t hear it rubbing even with the fairing to amplify the sound. Once I freed the tire, I could enjoy the tailwind all the way home.
And so I completed my 30th bike commute of 2013.  Normally I don’t hit 30 until sometime in March. Tomorrow I am driving in. The forecast is calling for afternoon snow showers and a wintry mix for the evening rush. Not gonna happen on two wheels.

Robineering

The weatherman warned that there might be snow this evening. Or their might not. I want his job.

Just to be safe Little Nellie got the call today. I can say for certain after riding her 20 miles today that the tweak to the saddle position is a rousing success. And the repair to my shifter cable likewise.

The ride in was nothing to write home about.  And since I am at home as I write this ther wouldn’t be any point to doing so if I did.  Cruising along between the Humpback Bridge and the Memorial Bridge I spotted two robins bopping along the side of the Mount Vernon Trail. They didn’t have their bright orange breast feathers yet but they were definintely robins.

There were a bunch of soldiers doing what must be a required fitness task. They put on massive back packs and walk along the trail. I can tell they are being timed because they look down at their watches and because there’s another soldier timing them at what looked like the finish line just north of the 14th Street bridge.  One of the soldiers was actually running with his pack on. All I could think of is, “Dude, your body’s going to remember this in about 20 years.”

The ride in was dry with a head wind. The ride home was in a spitting rain.  The tailwind made it tolerable. Once the sun went down it was exceptionally hard to see as the light from my helmet lamp and the cars on the parkway were reflecting off of all the water.

Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day. Rather than race around trying to get flowers for Mrs. Rootchopper, I diverted to the Safeway and picked some up. (Here’s hoping the Mrs. does read my blog.)  It took me five minutes to pick them out and buy them. It took ten minutes of walking around in the rain beforehand trying to find something to lock LIttle Nellie to.  I ended up just locking the rear wheel to the frame near some shopping carts.  Sadly, this is all too familiar in Mount Vernon. Fairfax County is way behind on accommodating biked as transportation.

For those of you who are into the errandoneering challenge, I scored two rides today. 1 bike commute of 29 miles (errand number 6) and one trip to the grocery store (errand number 7) in the dark (a one-half mile diversion off my bike commute).  So that gives me 1 of 2 night time rides.

Happy Ash Valentines Eve.

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