One of my favorite things about bicycling in DC is the weekly get together called Friday Coffee Club. Bike commuters would congregate Swings Coffee Roasters at 17th and G Streets NW, across from the Old Executive Office Building, to vent about their workweek, dream of weekend bike adventures, and ponder the magnificence of coffee and fritters. Many friendships were made. Remarkably, even by me.
Then tragedy struck. The building that housed our coffee house was renovated down to the studs. Swings closed. Panic! The coffee club relocated across town near K and 4th Streets NW at A Baked Joint. Despite its fine coffee and yummy breakfast sandwiches, A Baked Joint lacked the three most important things about coffee clubs: location, location, location. (Admit it, you thought I was going to say fritters, fritters, fritters, didn’t you?) Many of the original club participants, including me, stopped going.
This week Swings re-opened. Felkerino, one of the founding members, put out the call via social media. And the old gang re-assembled. Ricky, true to form, arrived first. Mary and Brian, two of the other founding members, were there as were many unfounding folks. Kristen gets bonus points for making a special telework-day trip to the gathering to represent the K (Kristin, Katie, Kate, etc.) sisters. Bob (Don’t Call Me Rachel) Cannon bemoaned the absence of Rachel (Don’t Call Me Bob) Cannon. This brought to mind how truly amazing it is how much they look alike.
Unfortunately, Swings does not yet have fritters for sale. (Oh, the humanity!) Andrea and I improvised by buying over-sized chocolate chip cookies. We touched our cookies together in a celebratory toast of sorts.
The place looks almost exactly as before the renovation. Why mess with a good thing, right? It was actually warm enough to sit outside but the outdoor furniture is not yet in place. So we gathered indoors and conversation flowed around the tall tables. There were so many people that I didn’t get a chance to talk to half of them. Even so, I learned about federal budget injustices and self-administering injections of blood thinner and notice-and-comment proceedings and bike swaps and optimal application of man-made snow, among other things.
After the gang dispersed to make their fortunes in the land of the paper pushers, I rode back to the retirement home. I stopped at the gym and lifted some weights. After that I swung by the local bike shop to have the chain on my Cross Check evaluated for wear. It’s only my second chain on this bike. I thought it would be a good idea to check it since the odometer crossed 8,000 miles on the way home.
In India, Eve teasing is what we call catcalling or public sexual harassment. We do not approve of Eve teasing here at the Rootchopper Institute. We do however get teased by the eve of big events and tonight is one of those.
Tomorrow is the 50 States Ride. It sold out a few hours ago. There is a new rule this year: if you don’t ride the whole thing you can go to the after party but you have to give your beer and pizza to bona fide finishers. (Me.)
I rode to Friday Coffee Club at dawn. The temperature was hovering just above WTF. (It was 51 degrees F when I hit the road.) Now that the sun has moved a bit further south, I can take a sunrise picture at Dyke Marsh. So I did.
Former co-worker Kelly saw this picture and thought I had gone back to work. No. Not gonna happen, Kelly.
Coffee Club was hopping. I signed up Kevin to join Team Rootchopper. Scuba Michael may also be joining us if his ear infection clears up. “Us” so far is Emilia and me. So if you’re coming and riding, we’ll be at the start around 7 am looking for other victims.
It warmed up for the ride home so the jacket came off. The weather has been glorious around here, such a start contrast to the news from the Caribbean. Hang in there Renee and John and Wendy. Based on today’s forecast (a Category 4 or 5 storm running right up the spine of the Florida peninsula), the bike tour to Key West isn’t going to happen. I still have fingers crossed but the Plan B (DC to Erie to Burlington VT or Albany to DC) tour is beginning to look like a real possibility. I have to be mindful that the point of this tour is to do my longest tour and see how my body reacts in preparation for a ride to the west coast next year.
This eve is also the eve of Clinchmas, the day the Washington Nationals clinch the National League East and a spot in the playoffs. The magic number is 4, so the clinch could happen tomorrow.
As soon as the Nats game is over, I’m going to sleep.
Thursday was a bikes and baseball game. Kristen and Sean invited me to a baseball game. It was an end-of-summer outing for their two school aged girls.
Of course, I rode.
The weather was wonderful. I was about three blocks from the ballpark when an impatient driver pulled out from behind a turning car and came within inches of me. All I could was yell. Fortunately, the passenger side window was opened and the driver heard me and stopped abruptly before hitting me. I turned toward the stadium. The car followed. The driver said, “Sorry.” All I could think of was: let’s change places so you can wet your pants when I swerve into you.
The game was a terrific one. I often see kids at games and they don’t pay attention and drive their parents crazy. As often as not, the family leaves early. Not these folks. The girls had fun with the game and scouted out some healthy food. I mean baseball and dumplings go together like tea and sugar, no?
I managed to ride home unscathed. The game started at 4 so I was riding home as the sun went down. I didn’t stop to put on lights. Just my wee blinkies front and rear. Just me, the river, and a trillion midges. Nothing makes for a lovely ride like riding through clouds of bugs having sex.
Today I rode to Friday Coffee Club. I left at 6:30 around sunrise. I miss the long hours of daylight already. And it was 58 degrees. Just on basic stubbornness I rode in shorts and shirtsleeves. Twas a tad chilly with a steady headwind off the river.
We had our coffee indoors and the conversation was free flowing. I stayed to the end, through three shifts of bike commuters. Another retirement luxury. The ride home featured a brisk tailwind. There’s nothing like a tailwind to make you feel like you’re in great biking shape.
When I got home, I did my usual back exercises, which are mostly yoga asanas. One of my poses is a side plank. Lying on my side on the floor, I extend my left arm and raise my upper body off the floor. Then I extend my right arm up and point it at the ceiling. Typically I teeter a bit as my stomach and back muscles engage, which is the whole point of the enterprise. This time, I wobbled a bit and my lower left back or, maybe my hip, went POP! Dang, it felt like a knife. I lowered myself to the floor and waited for the pain to subside. I have never felt anything quite like it. Hopefully, it is nothing serious. I’ll know when I wake up in the morning, I guess. My advice to you is don’t get old. Your body betrays you.
As luck would have it, the forecast calls for rain tomorrow. So I will be a good boy and rest. Then on Sunday I have to say goodbye to an old friend; I am riding 25 miles to the Rock Creek Trestle. The trestle will be closed on Tuesday. Apparently for good. It was fun while it lasted.
On a final note, in 2014 I rode the 50 States in a group of ten people. Michael, a friend I met at Friday Coffee Club, led. He is doing a ride along the 185 mile length of the C&O Canal. It’s called WABA in the Wild. It raises money for WABA, the Washington Area Bicyclists Association. If you are feeling generous, you can help him reach his fundraising goal by going to his donations page.
I woke up at normal work time, something I have not been able to accomplish since I retired, and rode to Friday Coffee Club. It was an all male affair, which sounds a little more suggestive than I intend, I suppose.
Talk and jave ensued. The men of Friday Coffee Club done themselves proud but come back you FCC women, you are missed.
After the group activity I rolled a few blocks down 5th Street NW to the National Building Museum. This building has a huge rectangular open space in the middle which gets filled each summer with a crowd pleasing display of participatory art. A year or two ago it was filled with ping pong balls, an exhibit called The Beach. This year it was filled with large paper tubes, silver on the outside and fuschia or magenta (reddish purple) on the inside. The windows along the perimeter and some task lighting made the tubes look intriguingly different depending on your angle of view.
It’s the kind of things that’s hard to explain. You just have to be patient and look up at all different angles. And you start saying to yourself “That looks cool” over and over again. At one point it occurred to me that this would be a pretty awesome experience on hallucinogens. (Not that I’ve ever done any. Seriously. It’s on my bucket list.)
I also couldn’t help but wonder what kind of a mind thinks of things like this. Not mine, that’s for sure.
To see a bunch of pictures I took (it’s hard to stop) you can check out the “The Hive” album on my Flickr page.
The Hive will be removed after next week so go if you can. I went when the museum opened and managed to avoid most of the 10:30 influx of toddlers with their moms.
Friday Coffee Club made my week. I love how DC has so many interesting clever people.
For the second week in a row, I got all turned around getting to A Baked Joint, but I made a rather splendid recovery and avoided riding on sidewalks or through nearby construction zones.
Friday Coffee Club is best when it is about tales told well. Michael B. was in fine form telling us all what it was like to scuba dive in the Philippines among whale sharks. Their tales look so smooth swooshing slowly back and forth. This, combined with the sheer mass of the fish, makes it look like the shark is moving slowly. Quite the opposite, so divers beware. Also, if the tail hits you, you’re chum, dude.
Andrea then weighed in on tales of bike touring and RAGBRAI. She and her husband concocted a three-month cross country tour. For comfort, and to be in harmony with her bent hubby, she bought a Tour Easy, the same recumbent as Big Nellie. She went to pick it up two weeks before the tour only to find out that the wrong size had been order. Ack! After some phone calls to a competing bike shop, she scored a bike in the right size and color two days before the tour. I can’t imagine jumping on a recumbent for the first time and riding 4,000+ miles. Dang.
Next Andrea told us about her recent participation in the annual cross-Iowa bike event called RAGBRAI. The ride starts on the banks of the Missouri River on the west border of Iowa and heads to the Mississippi River on the east side. She flew to Minot SD only to learn that her bus to the ride start had been canceled. Within minutes she had hitched a ride on a converted school bus designed around a Blue Oyster Cult theme. This never happens to me. Ken Kesey phone home.
RAGBRAI is also a rolling party with pie and alcohol and other ingestible goodies. Being somehow in possession of numerous airplane sized liquor bottles, she needed a way to carry them. So she acquired a bandolier from a hunter friend and put the bottles in the shell holders. Genius! We don’t need no stinking glasses.
It doesn’t take much to be a thoughtful friend.
We sometimes forget to stay in touch with friends. And when we do, the communication can be somewhat perfunctory. I am heartened to know that there are people who I don’t often see but who go to the bother to let me know they are thinking about me.
Today, Rando Mike sent me a message out of the blue congratulating me on my retirement. You are two weeks early, my friend. No worries, I’ll stop by your house (an official rest stop) during the 50 States Ride before heading off to Key West. Mike has been trying to talk me into riding somewhere else. He won’t succeed.
From time to time, when I haven’t heard from her, I send Klarence an email just to make sure she is doing okay. I’m sure she’s fine, but it doesn’t hurt to check on a friend who did me a massive good turn two years ago. A few hours after Mike’s tweet, Klarence sent me an response to my most recent “Are you okay?” email. She has been busy stalking her favorite jam band, working her ass off, and moving so it has been a while since our paths have crossed. Somewhere in all that chaos she quietly kept tabs on me via social media, liking this tweet and that Instagram picture, a sort of electronic way of waving. Regardless, I have no reason to believe she has any idea what’s going on in my life. So she ends her email: “Ready for retirement??” And you wonder why I am ever grateful, Klarence.
My co-workers are busy trying to squeeze some fun out of my imminent departure for Seizure World. Their glee is palpable. They’ve already scheduled chips and quac during an afternoon in the office. My co-workers vastly prefer chips and quac to actual work. Or to me, for that matter. There also will be a happy hour of sorts. Kelly, who once ran her sorority in college, is losing her mind. She’ll be away for all this social stuff. Of course, she couldn’t care less about me. She’s just a maniac for parties.
Co-worker Amanda returned from her vacation, a birthday recon trip to Key West. She reports that Key West is chock-a-block full of good restaurants and saloons. She sampled them all. Well done, my young apprentice. I may need you to scout out west coast destinations for my cross country bike tour next summer. Your mission, should you decide to accept it, is to travel to San Diego, San Francisco, Astoria Oregon, and Seattle. Eat, drink, and take notes.
Home is where the chores are
The contractors finished the refurbishment of the 8 x 14 shed we call the Rootchopper Institute’s Headquarters. We are dumping the forest green color scheme and matching the shed colors to the house: gray with white trim. Mrs. Rootchopper has taken over the painting. The particle board is sucking up paint like a sponge. It’s taking as long to paint the thing as it did to rebuild it. So it goes. Looks great though.
The contract called for all kinds of extra payments for additional work. Despite doing quite a bit of extra tweaking to the framing, the bill arrived with no additional payments on it.
My car did not fare so well. I took it in for an inspection and after replacing the front brakes and doing an alignment (as well as other assorted maintenance), I walked away $600 poorer. Andrea, got any of those bottles left?
Last night Katie Bolton. (a member of the raucous band of BikeDC Katies including Katies Harris, Lee, and Fignewton – don’t ask) asked if Rachel (Don’t Call Me Bob) Cannon and I were going to Friday Coffee Club. I don’t normally go to FCC these days because it is hard to get to and hard to get to work from. I am, however, three weeks from retirement so, in terms of arriving at work at a specific time, I am all out of fucks to give. And I am a complete sucker for Katies on two wheels. And off I rode.
The weather forecast called for ark-worthy rain but there was no precipitation when I left home at 6:15. The ride was pleasant until I got lost within a quarter mile of A Baked Joint, the interim home of FCC. I have ridden every street in the area dozens of times but I can’t help but end up going the wrong way or, as I did today, overshooting the city block I was looking for.
When I finally arrived, there were several folks I knew there. Yay!
Jeff, Jacques, Ricky, and Leslie were already getting their caffeine fix on. I ordered a mocha and it was delish.
I joined the group and we soon added Scuba Michael and Mr. T. It was like an old Friday Coffee Club reunion without the young women. So naturally the newly married Megan and her newly married husband Nate. We chatted about their honeymoon in France which they Instagrammed the bejesus out of.
Holy crap, the young ‘uns from Friday Coffee Club are getting hitched!
Now that I think of it, there are several second generation FCCers who were born in the years since Mary, Ed, Brian, Lane, and Lisa started this shindig.
And then Ed walked in. And walked out. He sat with a cycling friend (who’s name escapes me) outside in the muggy morning air. Ed just came back from a tour in the Rockies. He must be craving humidity. DC rarely disappoints.
Alas, the only disappointment was that Katie and Rachel didn’t come. Sad face.
At work my telecommuting co-worker Kelly sent me an email “You didn’t ride to work today, did you?” Kelly was nearly swept away by a flash flood during one of her first bike commutes. She freaks out over weather. I try to remain calm but all day my phone erupted in flash flood warnings.
The rains did arrive in late morning. There were very much ark-worthy. I rode home in a deluge that lasted for about half the ride. Streams and runoff crossing the Mount Vernon Trail were filled with very fast running water. Eek! There were big puddles on the trail. Eek eek! The geese were really happy. Honk! I rode right past. Splash! Ding!
There was no thunder or lightning. There was no wind. So I just basically got wet. No big deal. At the half way point (roughly 7 1/2 miles) at the power plant north of Old Town Alexandria, the rain stopped. There was intermittent light rain for the rest of the commute. I though maybe I should jump in a creek and get a selfie of me hanging on to a bridge for dear life. It would have made Kelly happy.
When I arrived home, I learned that Lawyer Mike had successfully ridden his 100 mile charity ride. As of this writing, I have not heard from my friend Emilia who did the 70 mile version of the ride. Emilia started two or three hours later than Mike and rides quite a bit slower. I do hope she is okay.
When the sun and my work day cooperate, I stop and take in the sunset over the Potomac River. It rarely disappoints.
It took me 25 years but I managed to ride 100,000 miles since acquiring The Mule (bottom left) in 1991. In 2002 I bought Big Nellie, a Tour Easy recumbent (top left), and rode it exclusively for several years. In 2009 (or thereabouts) I bought my Bike Friday New World Tourist, a folding travel bike that I call Little Nellie (upper right). Last year I picked up Deets, a Surly Cross Check, that turns out to be a fantastic bike for commuting.
In October, amid a frenzy of bike event riding, I had a colonoscopy. It was my third. I am happy to report that there was no cancer detected. I’ll be back in 2019 for another. Drink up!
I went to Scandinavia with my wife and daughter. I didn’t ride a bike but I saw a few here and there. The cycling infrastructure is so much better than in the U.S. And the road users are all so well behaved. As my friend Finn Quinn once said: “The future is a foreign country.” We can only hope.
I volunteered at the Tour de Fat this year. I had fun despite not being completely recovered from my not so fun trip to the ER a week earlier. We were a well behaved bunch. The only beer we imbibed were the ones the organizers comped us for our efforts on their behalf.
You may never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. You certainly won’t find it here because the building where this picture was taken is being renovated. Friday Coffee Club moved across town and, but for one appearance after Thanksgiving, I had to stop going. I miss these scoundrels.
Speaking of scoundrels, for the last several years Michelle has been running bike events at the Washington Area Bicyclists Association (WABA). I am convinced that she is trying to kill me. It is widely rumored that she even controls the weather. I am so grateful for all the hard work Michelle (and the other folks at WABA and the volunteers) put in to make #bikedc better every year. (Michelle also has a serious interest in the Beats and Kerouac. Check out her blog.)
It was windy and coolish, but Amy was determined to do her first long event ride. This hill during the Great Pumpkin Ride near Warreton Virginia was mighty steep but Amy (with Jody behind her) managed it without apparent difficulty. The leaves on the road were produced by powerful winds that made the day quite a work out. The rest stop after this photo was at a Old Bust Head brewery.
This picture doesn’t do justice to how steep these dunes are. And this is only about 1/2 of the height. The remaining elevation is obscured by the angle of my shot. Later that day the road I was on went up the dunes just to the south of this one. It made for some tough climbing into a persistent headwind. It was perhaps the physically hardest day of my 11-day solo bike tour. As hard as it was on my body, the tour was a feast of rolling meditation for my mind and soul.
The people who live on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, the UP, are called Yoopers. They eat white fish and pasties (a kind of meat pie) and have their own candy bar. They (mostly) also talk like all the hockey players from Ontario that I roomed with during my freshman year at college. Eh?
I was hanging out on my deck one sunny day when I went to open my deck umbrella and found this critter. Cute.
The left field grandstand was my perch for about 10 games at Nats Park this year. I became personal friends with Jason Werth. (That’s him in left field.) Okay, that’a s lie.Somewhere up there under the third light stanchion is Klarence keeping score. Hurry spring!
That’s Paul on the left on FDR Drive on the east side of Manhattan. It is cold. It is raining. Paul is not smiling. He had so much fun. We stopped in Astoria, Queens, to stand around and freeze our asses off. Who knew that the Brooklyn Queens Expressway would be even more fun. I have now ridden my bike across the Verrazano Narrows and the Golden Gate. Woot!
The Appalachian Trail is nice enough to come down to I-66 which made for a couple of convenient solo day hikes.
I found a duckling on the Mount Vernon Trail on the way to work one morning. Mr friend Linel stopped to help and we tried to figure out what do with it. Then Veronica showed up. She took the duckling to her office then to an animal rescue place. This is a decidedly better outcome that the two animal skeletons I saw last year. Just sayin’. Thanks, Veronica.
This is me getting a nebulizer treatment in the ER. A few hours earlier I couldn’t move without experiencing a knife-like pain in my upper right chest. (I blame yoga.) The doctors were pretty confident that it wasn’t a heart attack. I had a resting pulse of 46 and my blood pressure was normal. They did some tests and took some x-rays. Then they put this on me. I was recovered enough to do Bike to Work Day, volunteer at Tour de Fat, ride DC Bike Ride, and fly to Stockholm over the next nine days. Do not try this at home. Or anywhere else, for that matter.
I went to Friday Coffee Club for the first time since March yesterday. Friday Coffee Club is a gathering a bike commuters in DC. Friday Coffee Club embodies why I love living in DC. It has so many interesting people from so many different walks of life. In it’s early days, a number of attendees were 20-s0mething women, some in grad school, some just getting started in the workaday world. Laura was one of them.
When I first met her, Laura was a working graphic artist. This led somehow to a job as a vice president at an Internet-based marketing firm. The grind ultimately left her ground down. Six months ago she threw in the towel on office life and made the rather brave jump to becoming a full-time artist.
Today she had some of her works on exhibit at Latela gallery in the Brookland Art Walk. Mrs. Rootchopper, our daughter, and I drove up to DC to check it out.
I haven’t seen Laura in many months but she, with her green highlighted hair, welcomed me with open arms. (Why didn’t I take a picture? I am a moron. The picture on the right is from her website.)
We talked about her work, how she has to balance her artistic muse with commercial concerns. Marketing. Websites. Balancing what formats sell with the cost of investing in materials and equipment. Being an artist is a lot more complicated than I realized.
Laura is obviously so talented. I don’t have the artist’s gene so I am in awe of anybody who can create like she can. More importantly, she seems pretty happy.
In addition to artworks she makes of her own choosing, Laura creates works on commission. Do you have a mute wall that needs to speak? Is a friend or family member getting married or moving into a new place? Check out Laura’s website for details.
I had a two-tailwind commute. That’s pretty sweet.
In the morning, I rode past the Tidal Basin with the cherry trees in peak bloom and there were hardly any tourists. (I think the forecast of rain that held off until later scared people away.) That’s pretty sweet.
In the evening, I rode through a tunnel of blossoms to Hains Point and back. That’s pretty sweet.
I arrived at Friday Coffee Club and it was packed. Everybody seemed to be in a good mood. That’s pretty sweet.
And it was my last one. That’s a bitter cup of joe.
Friday Coffee Club started a little over four years ago as a get together with five bike commuting friends: Ed, Mary, Brian, Lane, and Lisa. Soon, like me, others joined. Ages ranged from one to 62. (I’ll never tell.) It became a thing. I became fascinated with the almost bizarre diversity of the crowd. Journalists, writers, editors, economists, lawyers, IT professionals, college administrators, grad students, librarians, Congressional staffers, candidates for public office, chemists (okay, just one), world travelers, randonneurs, marathon runners, bike shop owners, musicians, engineers, and on and on. If you couldn’t find someone interesting to talk with, you were probably dead from the neck up.
I heard about people visiting places like Afghanistan and McMurdo Station at the South Pole. How often do you have coffee with someone who argued a case before the Supreme Court the day before? It was at Friday Coffee Club I learned about how you deal with seasickness when scuba diving. (Don’t ask.) The last time I read Green Eggs and Ham was at Friday Coffee Club.
Friday Coffee Club
Maybe what has been even more interesting is how nice these people are.
Okay, everyone except Brian.
M.E. Swings at 17th and G Streets Northwest has been the home of Friday Coffee Club since its inception. The Swings building is being renovated and Swings will close for 14 months. A new venue called A Baked Joint has been chosen. It’s on the far side of downtown which makes it too far from my office to attend.
It was Friday. So I rode to Friday Coffee Club. It was warm so the clubbers were outside. The place was mobbed. At the end of the month, Swings House of Caffeine, the only home Friday Coffee Club has ever known, is closing for a year while the building is being renovated. The temporary interim site is a bit too far afield for me. So my days of going to Friday Coffee Club are numbered.
Observation: Friday Coffee Club has been such as success that I don’t know half the people who go these days. And it is so crowded that I often don’t get a chance to talk to the people I do know. What a complainer. I think I need a cup of coffee.