Greetings from Hoth

I couldn’t sleep. I was really worked up about my bike commute today. I turned on the TV at 4:30 am. The weather report said temperatures were 17 degrees colder than yesterday. Wind chill was 0. (That’s Farenheit not your wimpy centigrade wind chill. And what happened to Celsius? Did he get fired?)

I went back to bed because all that’s on TV is ads for herbal penus enhancements. Insomnia and gullibility apparently go hand in hand.

I woke up at 5:50 and went out to get the newspaper. Dang. Twas cold.

After a hearty breakfast of oatmeal and fruit I got dressed. Underpants, tights, socks nearly up to my knees, wind pants, hiking boots with chemical hand warmers inside, long sleeve base layer, t-shirt, holey wool sweater, rain jacket, balaclava, mittens. Now if I could only move my body.

I penguined outside and managed to climb on my bike. I would have taken my tauntaun but it froze to death. So off I went on The Mule.

Twas cold.

Pedal, pedal.

I was so encumbered by my layers on layers that sustaining 10 miles per hour was a challenge. The headwind didn’t help. And there’s always a possibility that The Mule needs some TLC.

I don’t think I broke 20 mph on the Park Terrace descent. Usually, I hit 30 with ease.

I stopped for a sunrise picture at Dyke Marsh. It was too soon. Too soon for the sun. Too soon because 100 yards further along there was beautiful ice in the marsh. I didn’t take a picture of this because…

Twas Cold

Pedal, pedal.

Lots of effort. Very little speed. And I was overheating.  I lowered the zipper on my jacket. In minutes my upper chest was frozen. Yeah, well.

In Old Town the illegally parked car at 406 North Union was gone. It was replaced by another illegally parked car. At least this one wasn’t blocking the bike lane.

An astonishing number of people were riding on the trail. I saw a woman running. She was pushing a stroller. Don’t mess with this family. They are from Hoth. (Hotians?)

Ed, a bike commuter who lives near me, blew by me like I was standing still. As did pretty much every other DC-bound commuter.  Ugh.

As usual the headwinds intensified between the airport and TR Island. I started talking to myself. Mostly cuss words. Slow progress. Pedal harder, mofo. My left eyeball started to feel frozen. Gross.

I found that I had to stand to get up the Rosslyn hill. Something really must be wrong with this bike. Or could it be the 4,000 cookies and 3 cases of beer I ate and drank over the holidays?

I arrived at work. The garage attendant and a maintenance worker congratulated me. All bike commuters should have fans.

It took me another 10 minutes to peel off all the layers. I got to the office 30 minutes late. It was so worth it.

I was looking forward to a tailwind all day. Then I got the news. The winds had calmed but it was a springlike 31 degrees outside.

Arlo Guthrie once referred to a 40 degree day in the Berkshires as New England tanning weather. I was practically ready to break out the sunscreen. Instead I ditched my t-shirt layer.

The ride home was truly lovely. For the first ten minutes it was light out. I warmed up immediately and was perfectly comfortable. Even better I was riding at my normal 11 – 12 miles per hour. Between the TR and Memorial Bridges I came upon hundreds of Canada geese. They posed for a picture then I did my best Charlton Heston and made them part.

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Okay, Moses didn’t yell “Yee Haw!!!!” but I did.

The rest of the ride home was geese free. In Old Town, the bike lane was free of parked cars.

I am looking forward to my ride to work. It will be in the 20s with light winds.

I cannot believe I just wrote that.

Pictures of the Year 2015

Pool Noodles for the Win: Sam got us organized. We were going to occupy the Pennsylvania bike lanes to get barriers installed between 13th and 15th Street to keep cars from making illegal u-turns. Somebody got the idea of using pool noodles as props, to indicate where the barriers would go. Afterward, Dave carried them off. I think they took him to the nervous hospital later.

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We all had a blast. Human bollards come in many shapes and sizes. Here’s the Katie Lee model. It’s generally impervious to u-turning cars, but can be moved aside with tickets to Packers games and Phish concerts.

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Here’s Sam, the mad genius behind #biketivismdc. It’s funny what getting run over by a car does for your determination to make streets safer.

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Kelly Biked to Work!: Kelly sits across from me at work. She had hip surgery which meant she couldn’t run for weeks. So she took up bike commuting. The smile means it was a success.

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To her credit she really got into the bike commuting thing. Here she poses at an underpass on the Four Mile Run Trail. A few days before rising water during a downpour caused her to abandon shelter and head into the maelstrom. She survived and added a snorkel to her bike commuting gear.

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Like Father Like Daughter: I went to a bunch of baseball games this year. Katie Lee and I attended a couple of games together. She is a meticulous genius at scorekeeping, an art she learned from her late father. At one game, there were two little boys in the row in front of us attending their first baseball game. They were trying to figure out how to keep score. Katie moved down and gave them a game long tutorial. It was an act of kindness that just knocked me out. Somewhere her dad is smiling.

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Posh Bike Parking: For some inexplicable reason, our office building started getting all environmentally conscious this fall. Without telling anyone, they replaced their absolutely crappy bike racks with a pretty awesome, secure bike room. Combined with the gym and showers one floor above, it’s a pretty darn bike friendly place to work.

Here’s the before shot.

Bike parking

Here’s the after.

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No Wrong Plan: Ryan, Kevin, and I rode from Pittsburgh to DC. It was my first bike tour in a decade. Here we pose in Georgetown’s Waterfront Park at the end of our trek. Any resemblance of me to Hoss Cartwright is entirely coincidental.

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In Williamsport, Maryland, we stopped at the Desert Rose Cafe for breakfast. They made us sandwiches for lunch. Inside the bags they included napkins. Each one had a personal message. Such nice people. Such good food. Eat there. (They speak veggie and vegan too!).

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Going Up: I did quite a lot of day hiking this year branching out to Shenandoah National Park for several exceptional hikes. All my hikes were solo except for this one with Ultrarunnergirl. She kicked my ass all the way up to Little Hawksbill, the highest point in the park. Then the mountain kicked my ass all the way back down.

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On my 60th birthday, I hiked Old Rag. It was a tough hike and convinced me that rock scrambles are for the young and frisky. Also, the thin.

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Glory Days: Mrs. RC is a very talented quilter. When I had to quit running about 25 years ago we talked about using my race t-shirts to make a quilt. Nothing came of it until she made the quilt as a surprise for my 60th birthday. What an amazing gift. Oh how I wish I could run like that again.

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Around the World in 19 Days: My kids were living in Sydney, Australia and Phuket, Thailand. We decided to go visit them. While in Australia, Mrs. RC and our daughter Lily went to Uluru for dinner under the stars. Here we enjoy a drink just before sunset.

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After trips to Melbourne and the north island of New Zealand, we headed for Phuket. The island is very hilly so everyone rides a motorbike like this one my son Eamonn uses.

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We paid a visit to Big Buddha. He was aptly named.

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Lily made friends with a baby elephant.

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Cookies and Cider: I did a bunch of event rides this year. The Cookie Ride had a good hook. Cookies at every rest stop. Here I pose with a human cookie along with Paris and Lisa.

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I missed my two favorite rides of the year, the Backroads Century and the 50 States Ride, which both occurred while I was traveling. I swore off the Cider Ride last year but decided to give it a go after they moved it into November. Finishers got this cool mug. Thanks to Michelle for her event magic on behalf of WABA.

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Sunrise: The year is nearly over but I am pretty sure that the new one will start something like this. Thanks for reading.

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Bittersweet End of Summer

When I go out to get the paper, it’s dark out. I take this personally.

It’s also unseasonably cool. It feels like September.

I want it warm. I want it light. I want it to stay that way. Do I have to move to Argentina or something? Oh wait, a friend already has that covered. I could move to Australia. Oh wait, my daughter has that covered. Maybe I should visit her.

In the meantime, I’ll take a picture of the sunrise over Dyke Marsh.

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Have a great weekend, y’all.

Joyful

I don’t know what has gotten into me. Maybe it’s the contrast with feeling so depressed over the last two months. This morning when I left for work it was 26 degrees. That would have had me looking at the car with just a month ago. Now I was eager to start pedalling.

So I did.

I was a bit cold for a couple of miles. I went by the site of yesterday’s downed tree. It had been removed. but somebody’s probably without cable service as the cables were still lying on the ground.

I made it down to the river without apparent effort. It’s been a long time since I was able to ride four days in a row without feeling tired. No problem today, though.  When I arrived at the Dyke Marsh bridge the sun was rising so I had to stop for a photo and just to admire the beauty. No two sunrises are alike, I suppose. My hat’s off to the man in the sky. You paint awesome pictures.

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Once again I was in mediation mode. Miles whizzed by and I have no recollection of them. Just the cold air going in and out of my lungs, the cold breeze chilling my face.

At the troll bridge, I spotted the great blue heron again. It was perched in the low hanging branch of a tree about 15 feet from the edge of the trail. I stopped to admire it and take a picture. I feared that the squeak of my brakes and the sight of me fumbling around with the phone would scare it off, but it waited patiently. I am ready for my close-up, Mr. Rootchopper.

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My morning photography complete, I rode up the switchback to Rosslyn. The hill didn’t bother me at all. What is going on?  I never smile while climbing.

I went to turn left onto the Lynn Street sidewalk as I do every morning. A car in the nearest lane was rolling forward toward the red light. I guessed that it wasn’t going to stop. And it didn’t. If I had simply followed the law I would have been hit. Instead I yelled at the driver, who was conversing on his cell phone as he turned, oblivious to me or the pedestrains crossing from the opposite side. He looked over at me, shrugged, and drove on. Police were getting set up for traffic enforcement just a few yards up the road. Too bad they weren’t quite ready for him. A walker coming from the opposite side of the crosswalk shook his head and said, “What a jerk.”

Despite Mr. Shrug I maintained my good humor and was rewarded with an invisible cloud of donut aroma. It got stronger as I approached the entrance to my building. A donut truck was parked there, pumping donut essences into the cold air. What a perfect capstone to a bike commute. (I resisted the urge to purchase as the aroma of a donut far exceeds the eating.)

As I parked my bike, I took a drink from my water bottle. Yesterday morning, it was solid ice. Today, it took a little doing to free up the valve but I managed to get cold, cold water from it and it was better than the finest wine.

The ride home featured a headwind. Ack! The gods are messing with my commute bliss. It also featured a temperature of 54 degrees. I could ride without my clumsy overshoes. Headwind? Who cares?  This was great. And it was light out for ten of the 15 miles of my trip.

I could get used to this.

Chill

I have said it many times before but I love my commute. It allows me time to think or to just shut my mind off. I do more of the former than the latter these days. It doesn’t much matter what I am thinking about. Mostly stuff that may be annoying me. I often talk to myself, sometimes out loud. These days you can get away with that sort of thing because people assume you are on your phone.

This time of year I often get a bonus on the ride to work. If the weather and my departure from home align I get to see the sun rise over the Potomac River. More often than not I stop to take a picture from the Dyke Marsh boardwalk on the Mount Vernon Trail. This morning the boards were covered with rime but I managed to come to a stop without slipping. After the picture I took a moment just to take the colors in. I guess this is what causes me, as @sharrowsdc once said, to be “chill”.

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I also like to take in the view of Washington National Cathedral, standing tall above the city as I make my way along the river between the airport and Rosslyn. It is such a beautiful structure. I used to gawk at  it when my kids went to school up in Woodley Park.

In the evening, my ride home usually coincides with nightfall. The monuments of DC are lit up, either by artificial lights or by the colors of the setting sun.

I suppose you can see these things from a car, but you really can’t appreciate them at a glance. Too often we are consumed with the goal of getting to our destination rather than enjoying the ride. That sentiment is a rarity when I commute by bike. I think we’d all be better off if we took some time to chill on the way to and from work.

A Beautiful Ending

One of the joys of riding my bike to work is seeing the sun rise over the Potomac River. This morning’s did not disappoint. It stopped me in my tracks on the Dyke Marsh boardwalk on the Mount Vernon Trail.

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Despite temperatures in the 20s and a headwind I made it to work very comfortably. We were released early for the holiday and the ride home in daylight was a treat.

It’s days like these that I so appreciate my commutes along the Potomac River. I am so lucky to have such a beautiful commute. My commute is my time alone. Sometimes my mind drifts. Other times I have a conversation with myself, often aloud to the amusement of commuters riding past. Call it meditation or therapy, I’d be lost without it.

I’m not one for making New Year’s resolutions. I’ll ride a lot doing my utmost to avoid big metal things.  Hopefully, I will hike a lot more. And, of course, root for the Nats. I do hope that my friends in the DC area join me on these adventures, as so many did in 2014. I intend to give 2015 everything I’ve got. You should too. Happy New Year and thanks for reading.

2014 in Pictures

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

Icy Sunrise over Dyke Marsh - 1/9/2014

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

Woveling

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

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

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

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

SharrowsDC: The Ogremeister

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

She's Like a Rainbow

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

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

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

Emilia Shows Off Her Trophy
Emilia Shows Off Her Trophy

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

Flor Tending to Sundance

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

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

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

In Memoriam

Brother Mike and Me

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

Lore and Flor

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

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

Sunrise – Dyke Marsh

The boardwalk over Dyke Marsh was slippery from rain and fallen leaves. Big Nellie, my Tour Easy recumbent, has a skewed weight distribution making it prone to having the front wheel slide out. When I saw the sunrise over the hills of Prince Georges County, Maryland I risked a crash and very slowly braked to a stop. Yeah, it was worth it.

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