Christmas Comes Late

My kids bought me a gift certificate to Performance Bikes. So I took advantage of the good weather to ride to their Springfield Virginia store.

Here’s a tip for bike store companies: try locating your store in a bike friendly place. To get from my house to the store, I rode across US 1, over to South Kings Highway through some neighborhoods. South King’s highway is hilly and has no shoulder (way to go VDOT) even though there is ample room for one. Riding up a hill on Big Nellie, my recumbent, with cars zooming past at 40 miles per hour is not a lot of fun.

Once over the hill I picked up Telegraph Road which has a bike lane for all of 200 yards. In that 200 yards the bike lane gets spliced by a turn lane. Just a totally stupid design.

Next came hilly Kingstowne. Lovely name. Sounds so regal. It has side paths with are asphalt sidewalks so I rode in the shoulderless street. The roads in Kingstowne feed into the Fairfax County Parkway, I-95 and the Springfield Mall area. There is beaucoup traffic. A very unpleasant place to ride a bike. As I crossed Beulah Street I actually picked up a wide paved shoulder (I knew you could do it VDOT). After a turn this took me all the way to the store which is located in a strip mall with very cramped car parking and no bike parking.

In the store I bought some rain pants because my old Marmot Precip rain pants were shredding. The Precip pants are intended for hiking so it’s not surprising that they wear out when confronted with the friction of a saddle (on a regular bike) and a chain (on a recumbent). I also picked up some chain lube and a bell which will probably go on my Cross Check.

For the ride home I made my way back to Beulah Road and took its bike lane south, around most of Kingstowne and the vast Huntley Meadows Park. (Well worth a visit for a leisurely stroll in the woods and out through a marsh on a wooden deck.) When I picked up Telegraph Road I was now two miles or so south of where I rode earlier. Here the road has been redesigned with bike lanes on both sides. After riding up a hill, I let Big Nellie take off on the downhill. About halfway down the hill I took a right on the new Jeff Todd Way. There is a wide side path but at the speed I was going getting on the sidepath would have required a 90 degree right turn through a curb cut. Instead I maintained my speed and stayed in the street.  Jeff Todd goes up and down. On the downs I was going 30 miles per hour, nearly the speed of the cars. On the ups, I was crawling. The right lane seems to be wider than usual and the passing cars gave me plenty of room.

The rest of my ride involved re-crossing US 1, riding to Mount Vernon, and then home via the Mount Vernon Trail.

So my little errand covered 22 1/2 miles. Just the thing for my last day of staycation. Tomorrow it’s bike commute number 1 for 2016.


Surrender Winter

Having survived a couple of atypically stressful days of bike commuting, I was looking forward to doing some errands by bike today. Mother nature was not on board.

Shortly after waking, I did my 45 minute yoga routine (doctor’s orders) and 15 minutes of less than fruitful meditation. Yoga and meditation are supposed to go hand in hand but I spend so much effort concentrating on my form and my breathing while doing yoga that I have nothing left for the sedentary portion of the program.

I am getting a bit better at balancing which is not saying a whole lot. My routine ends with one pose that involves sitting on your lower legs and leaning back. This is supposed to lead to the reclining warrior pose. The reclining warrior involves leaning all the way back until your head and shoulders rest on the floor. Very relaxing. That is of course if you don’t have bicycle quads and bad knees. I am lucky if I can get to a 45 degree angle before my knees start chanting, “Fuck yoga, Fuck you.” Be one with your cartilage is my mantra.

Suffice it to say, I do only as much as I can. The can’t poses all involved stressing the quads or doing a headstand. It still amazes me that at one time in my life I could actually do a free standing head stand. It is also true that at one time in my life I drank heavily. Coincidence? I think not.

Having endured my weekly self abuse session, I decided that the howling wind and 23 degree temperature was not bike friendly. I drove to Huntley Meadows Park for a walk in the woods. Please don’t tell anyone but Huntley Meadows is an oasis of calm in a sea of suburban ick. A trail through the park makes something of a figure eight. About 1/3 of the trail is a boardwalk out into a wetland.

As a kid I spent many a summer day on Dead Man’s Pond in Albany. Big sections of tree trunks made for awesome rafts that we would pole across the scum-covered water. To my nine year old eyes, Dead Man’s was enormous. In reality, it was probably smaller than an acre in size. Not true of the wetlands at Huntley Meadows.

IMG_20150131_114645 IMG_20150131_115045 IMG_20150131_115350 IMG_20150131_120255

The recent decision to allow beavers to do their thing has greatly expanded the wetlands. Only a few years ago, the swamp would drain completely during parts of the year. Now the waters go well into what was once woodland. Beaver lodges are all over the place. I think the most interesting thing about the wetlands is that it never looks the same from visit to visit. Today it was iced over. A couple of times my weight on the boardwalk put stress on the ice and it made a surreal creaking sound. The wind kept my time on the boardwalk to a minimum. Thankfully, only a few other people were in the park. Once I made it back into the woods all I could hear was the sound of the wind, the groaning the trees, and the occasional chirp of a chickadee.

I did two laps through the park, warming as I went. On my final circuit a couple with three young boys stopped and pointed into the woods. A small deer was about 100 yards away munching something on the ground.

I drove home and figured the animal portion of the day was over. As I pulled into the driveway, I spotted six robins bounding on my front lawn. An hour later, Mrs. Rootchopper, camera in hand, woke me from a brief nap. A fox was hanging out in the backyard. It’s the first fox sighting we’ve had since last spring.

Spring. It has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?

Surrender winter.