Errandonnee No. 7: Beaver, Balls, and Blossoms

Good thing I saw some blossoms today because a blog title “Beaver and Balls” would have attracted a new readership.

On the way to work, I saw a beaver swimming near the beaver bridge (why do you think I call it that) just north of Slaters Lane on the MVT.

It was nice to have a tailwind too. Warm air would be coming on southerly breezes, but it wasn’t here yet.

In the evening I shed a few layers and headed for some cherry blossom therapy. The blooms are clearly below normal peak but they are still a tonic for what ails your weary Friday evening mind. I rode to Hains Point and picked up a golf ball that had settled along the roadside, far from any fairway that I could see. Having contributed a few dozen golf balls to the woods and water features of golf courses back home in my youth, I felt justified in pocketing this beauty.

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Miles: 5 (on top of 29 1/2 getting to and from work)

Category: Non-store Errand.

Observation: When the blossoms are perfect, you could go snow blind walking around the Tidal Basin. I feel for anyone who comes to DC for the first time to see the cherry blossoms like this. Come back next year. They’ll be much better. Whenever you go, try to get to the Tidal Basin about 30 minutes after sunrise. The low angle of the light makes for great pictures. And the crowds are smaller.

There Must Be Some Mistake

After yesterday’s sweatfest, today was sublime. Clearly, the weather gods did not get the memo.

To: Weather Gods

From: Washington DC

Re: July

We will suffer each and every day through impossible heat and humidity. You will give us awesome weather in spring and fall. K? Thx.

I rode Big Nellie to work in shorts. The cool air was blowing up my legs. Eek!  I passed Ed on the way. Ed was going slow because he’s Ed and Ed does that sometimes.

I am pretty sure Chris M. came by with a GoPro camera on his head. It looked pretty silly but I may just be a video star once he edits my belly out of the picture and fills in my bald spot.

Even the drivers in Rosslyn were nice. Okay, nice-ish. I got into the garage at work unscathed only to be nearly vaporized by a massive pick up going way too fast. Big Nellie moved this way and that with aplomb. Okay, maybe aplomb isn’t the right word maybe azucchini.

My co-worker Kelly returned to bike commuting. The recent threat of evening storms scared her off. Of course, you’d be scared too if you were caught in rising water on your second bike commute. 19735364850_a005ed17db_z

At the end of the work day, she boldly slapped on her helmet for the perilous trip down the elevator to the locker room to change.  She also took a water bottle in case the elevator got stuck for more than a day. We haven’t heard from her since she left.  Also, she has a habit of talking to walls but I’m sure this pre-dated her adventures in bike commuting.

I left about an hour later. I stopped to take a picture of the beautiful blossoms covering the Mount Vernon Trail just across the the Washington Monument. I heard somewhere that this tree is a white ash tree. I h19736818498_f0309d11e2_zave not verified this. In fact, I am about as good at tree identification as I am at facial recognition. I took a picture but I got in the way.  I wore a helmet to keep the blossoms off my fusiform gyrus. I think it worked.

As you can see I was in a good mood. I was congratulating myself about giving some advice to a friend. The advice panned out nicely for her. As a result, I figure I  will probably not see her until autumn 2016 or so. I apparently have a talent for this sort of thing. A few years ago I advised someone to quit her job. She moved 12,000 miles away a few weeks later. If only I could work this magic on tech stocks.

I took a dang-it’s-a-nice-evening lap of Hains Point then headed for home. Big Nellie was really cruising along nicely when I ran into Mike and Lisa aboard their purple DaVinci tandem. It has the cool feature that unlike most tandems the captain (up front) pedals independently of the stoker (in back).

Every once in a while, Mike and Lisa ride down the Mount Vernon Trail to explore my neck of the woods and beyond. They have an impressive cruising radius and appear to like riding up steep hills. We chatted for nearly a half hour on the side of the trail. One would think that I’d think to take their picture. One would be wrong.

We did talk about this year’s 50 States Ride. They host one of the rest stops at their home in Tacoma Park. It is the best rest stop ever. In 2013, I pulled up to the house and Mike stood on his porch and yelled “ROOTCHOPPER” repeatedly. Lisa threatened to call 911 and he stopped. In 2014, he put a banner on his house that said, “All Hail ROOTCHOPPER.”  This year’s ride is on September 12. I can’t recommend it enough. I’ve done it seven times including each of the last five years. Be forewarned, it’s a lot harder than it sounds, but it’s a pretty good bet that you will meet some great people along the way. I will be out of town for this year’s event, but I expect a complete report from my #bikedc peeps.

We made our promise to go to a ball game together. We haven’t pulled this off yet but one of these days the stars will align and we’ll get it done.

We went our separate ways. I took the long way home.

The weather gods were pleased.

Wetting My Whistle – The 2014 Hoppy 100

The curse is on us. 

The Hoppy 100 is the invention of John Roche, craft beer enthusiast and bicycling masochist. It was his idea to combine a 100 mile ride with visits to local craft breweries. It worked out pretty well until the monsoon hit. The second Hoppy 100 was toned down a bit. Instead of 100 miles, John designed a route that was 100 kilometers. And instead of a monsoon, we had a steady drizzle. And a medical emergency involving blood. And a Pythonesque trip to a police station. So it was with a mixture of excitement and dread that I threw my helmet into the ring for the third Hoppy 100.

Now this year’s version was designed to be about 45 miles. In order to get it up over 100 kilometers, I decided to ride Little Nellie to the start at the Washington Monument. There I met Casey (@waterfroggie) wearing a bike jersey from a Belgian brewery. Casey had come from Annapolis via bike and Metro to participate. Obviously Casey was hardcore.  Kevin U. (@bicyclebug) showed up to ride his third Hoppy 100. Next came Avery and Kevin-the-Second, a thirsty couple from Arlington (I think).  Our starting group was rounded out by the arrival of Rachel “Don’t Call Me Bob” Cannon (@rachelcannon), Peter (@jopamora) and our main man, John Roche (@dirteng).

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All Smile on Hains Point

After introductions we were off in search of brunch. To warm up a bit, we took a ride down to Hains Point, a spit of land along the Potomac River opposite National Airport. It became immediately clear that this was a chatty bunch in no need of beer to loosen our tongues. We crossed over the river on the 14th Street bridge and took the Mount Vernon Trail to the Four Mile Run Trail south of the airport. About a mile later we came upon a barrier forbidding our passage. This was literally as sign that this Hoppy 100 would go just about as smoothly as the first two. Uh oh.

 

Being very familiar with the trails in these parts, I routed us without delay across Four Mile Run via the US 1 bridge to a parrallel trail. After re-crossing the Run about a mile later (and encountering a man dancing rather erratically to his own jam in the middle of the bridge) we reconnected with the Four Mile Run Trail and sped hungrily to Shirlington. In Shirlington, we encounted a street festival of sorts but the assorted crafters and dog people were no match for our hunger and thirst. We met up with Kathy (@arlingtonrider) who conveniently lives in Shirlington and reserved brunch accomodations at Busboys and Poets. We were joined by Bob “Don’t Call Me Rachel” Cannon (@Rcannon100) and his wife Elizabeth. 

We ate and talked and talked and ate. Rachel, just back from a summer interning at a museum in Alaska, told many tales about the resourceful and eccentric residents of Haines. She is still adjusting to life in the lower 48, particularly when it comes to prices of food. She could be the only person I have ever heard say, “Food is so inexpensive in DC!!!” (When we first moved to DC, whenever we drove out of town, my wife and I would buy groceries there because food is so costly here.)

Stuffed and caffeinated, we headed out on the Washington and Old Dominion Trail. A light drizzle began to fall but we were not deterred. We knew that in just a few miles we would be tasting a fine pint of beer. Ahh.

Elizabeth bid us godspeed and with Bob in the fold we left the W&OD and began our ride through North Arlington. We rode up. And up. And up. And up.  There were a few downs in between but the ups won out. The crew did itself proud on the hills with Peter easily taking the King of the Mountains. (I suck at hills. How much do I suck? Rachel hadn’t ridden a bike in three months and she whupped my ass.) At Glebe Road, the high point of our time in Arlington, Kathy turned around and headed back to Shirlington.

After another mile of spining  we found ourselves looking down at a narrow switchback that gave way to a scary steep side street that took us to Chain Bridge. All this hill is missing is the slalom poles and some snow. We were but one brake failure from certain death. Rachel’s front brake was not working so we all stood by and cheered as she plunged to her doom.

I just made that up so that her parents would freak out. (She’s fine. Really. Just some surface wounds and a mild concussion.)

We made it safely to the bridge and across the Potomac River. The skies were gray and depressing. 

We took the unpaved C&O Canal Towpath to the Capital Crescent Trail. The CCT was our route up to Bethesda. Normally, the CCT is thick with exercisers but not on this misty, gray day. After some confusion in Bethesda Row, we found the unpaved Georgetown Branch Trail. The rain had turned the GBT into a slippery mess, and Little Nellie’s wee tires were not very happy skidding this way and that. Helpfully, the rain intensified a bit. 

In Silver Spring Maryland we went through a maze of streets until we found Denizen’s Brewery. It was 2 o’clock. Denizen’s didn’t open until 3. Fail.

Peter and Casey headed for their respective homes. The rest of us decided to ride on and, leading the way without a clue, I took a wrong turn. We stopped to regroup and the skies opened up. We huddled under an awning and comiserated, with the emphasis on miserated. We decided to ride a few blocks to the Fire Station restaurant and seek refuge from the deluge. 

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Note Rachel and Avery Are Freezing. We Were Wet and Sitting under a Ceiling Fan

The service was slow but they had beer. Yay. And hot soup. YAY! We ate and talked and checked the radar on our smartphones and talked etc. After 3, we decided to backtrack to Denizen’s where we found Peter hanging out with his wife and kids. They were on their way to get ice cream because nothing slays a gray, drizzly summer day like ice cream

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In Which We Learn that It’s Not Open

Except beer. The folks at  Denizen’s were exceptionally nice and so was their beer. We huddled in a non-air conditioned corner drying our outsides out and wetting our insides. I should point out that we only had a couple of drinks at each bar so we weren’t getting drunk. Except for Rachel who was useless after her 8th pint. (I totally made that up. Sorry Mr. and Mrs. Cannon.)

After an hour of hanging out, the rain turned into a light drizzle. Avery and Kevin-the-Second headed off to the Metro. Bob reversed course to head back to his home in North Arlington. John, Rachel, Kevin, and I headed back into DC. We decided to skip the last two breweries since the evening was nearly uponus. We took the Metropolitan Branch Trail. For about half it’s distance, the MBT is just some signs on streets. During this bit, Kevin U. veered off for home. Near Catholic University the MBT becomes and honest-to-Jesus bike trail. (Was the Pope in on this?)  It is gradually downhill, the rain had stopped, and we had a tailwind. Bike joy was had.

Rachel turned off to head for a dinner date with friends. John and I rode to the end of the trial and parted company. 

From there, I headed home. Once across the Potomac I was treated to an empty Mount Vernon Trail and a persistent tailwind. I arrived home just before nightfall with 70 miles on the odometer.

Many thanks to John Roche for designing the route and recruiting such a fine crew. 

Here are some more pix from the ride.