Errandonnee 2019: Take me out to the happy hour

Another day, another errand. The third Thursday of the month hereabouts means that it’s time for another BikeDC happy hour. This one was held on the Dew Drop Inn in northeast DC.

The festivities began at 5 which gave me all day to ponder happiness. What better way to do that than to go to an afternoon baseball game at Nationals Park with my daughter. Our seats were sweet, on the 300 level between home plate and the Nationals dugout.

View from 317

The game lasted 3 hours and the good guys won, but not without some ninth inning drama. No worries, Dr. Doolittle saved the day. After the game, I headed rode north past the Capitol. (Ho hum. Life in the capital of the free world.) I made my way to the Metropolitan Branch Trail which runs along the railroad corridor heading north from Union Station. Using the MBT allows bicyclists to bypass probably a dozen traffic lights. It’s sweet.

The Dew Drop Inn is at the current northern terminus of the MBT. It’s a bar in an small, old industrial building. Fortunately, it serves food. I had beer and a sandwich during the 90 minutes I was there. For all 90 minutes I sat in the direct sun and fried my forehead. Dumb. The picnic tables on the patio where we sat were covered with tree pollen. (We cleaned them off.)

I rode home with progressively less sunlight and seemingly more and more pollen. At times I had to slow to a crawl in order to get the pollen out of my eyes and throat. Once I cross the Potomac River, I added midges to my misery. For 12 miles. At least the weather was enjoyable.

Errand No. 8

Category: Social Call (2nd use)

Place: Third Thursday Happy Hour at the Dew Drop Inn

Observation: The Metropolitan Branch Trail is like a bicycle expressway in the heart of DC. No red lights. Only a couple of stop signs. Relatively flat.

Dew Drop
Photo by Ted Nigrelli

 

Biking with Judd and George

The Friends of the Mount Vernon Trail is a volunteer organization recently started to help the National Park Service with the trail. (The NPS has very little money so it needs all the help it can get.) Today, Judd, one if the group’s founders, led a bike ride from DC to Old Town Alexandria. It being Presidents Day, Judd guided the group to points of interest having to do with George Washington.

I started the day with a CT scan. It took much longer than planned so I didn’t have time to ride 14 miles to the starting point of the ride. With some logistical help from my friend Erin, I rode 12 miles to the 14th Street Bridge and waited for the riders to come across the Potomac from their first stop at the Washington Monument.

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Judd making the turn onto the MVT

There were over 20 of them. They came down the ramp for the bridge and headed south along the MVT. After National Airport they headed west on the Four Mile Run and Washington and Old Dominion Trails. About six miles later they stopped at a marker indicating the northern most point of George Washington’s land. Judd explained how Washington personally took a block of granite and, with his bare hands, tore away chunks of rock to create the marker.

I made that up.

Did you know that George was a dog person? He had a dog named Sweet Lips.

I did not make that up, but its the kind of bizarre info that Judd had discovered in his research.

We backtracked along Four Mile Run, an old trail that meandered along the creek of the same name. I hadn’t ridden this section of trail in over 20 years. It was in surprisingly good condition.

Our route took us to the riverfront near Old Town Alexandria. I missed the turn and tool a few riders about a half mile out of their way. We made it back in time to see the very end of Judd’s remarks.

Judd led us to Christ Church, after some detours caused by the Presidents Day parade in Old Town. Christ Church dates to the 18th century. We went inside and were treated to a presentation by Dell, a church docent. Some of us actually sat in George Washington’s pew (actually, it is a box with a pew facing forward and back). Robert E. Lee also had a pew there. The place just oozed colonial cool. Amazingly none of our group were kicked out for being heathens.

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Heathens in Christ Church

From the church we rode west about a mile to the George Washington Masonic Temple on Shooters Hill. The highlight of the visit was going to the top and walking around the outside. The views were terrific. So was the gale coming from the west.

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Stain glass in the Masonic Memorial

After our tour, we all headed to Whole Foods for beer and food. It’s a good thing because I was starving.

Judd explained how George Washington shopped in this very store.

I made that up.

When I left, I found that my Krytonite U lock refused to open.

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Little Nellie was held hostage

After scores of tries, I gave up and called Mrs. Rootchopper. She brought my spare key to the lock but it didn’t work. So we drove to a hardware store and bought some WD40. I squirted it in the lock. Waited five seconds, inserted the key and rejoiced as I freed Little Nellie! Yay.

By this point the sun was setting and the beer was beering my brain, so I folded up the bike and popped it into the trunk of the car.

We drove home. Our home is on property that was once part of George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate.

I did not make that up.

Twice to the end

A Ride with Heather and Daniel

My friend Heather sent me an email the other day asking if I’d like to do a ride on the Mount Vernon Trail to take advantage of the nice weather and her furlough. And so I found myself riding my Surly Cross Check up to DC to meet her at the Capital Crescent Trail beneath Key Bridge in Georgetown.

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Heather brought her friend Daniel, an ultramarathoner and rider of a 29er (a mountain bike with big wheels and front suspension). Heather rode her aluminium Specialized Sequoia which bears absolutely no resemblance to the Mule, my 1991 steel Specialized Sequoia. (Specialized recycles it’s bike names, apparently.)

We began by walking up stairs to get from the underside of Key Bridge to the roadway atop it. Across the Potomac we rode. I stopped before turning onto the Mount Vernon Trail to point out the Intersection of Doom, the bicycle counter, and the glass and steel ick that is today’s Rosslyn.

Down we rode to the trail and across Trollheim, the sketchy boardwalk under the TR Bridge. We came to the staging area of the Memorial Bridge reconstruction project and were delayed by a tractor trailer backing its load onto a barge in the river.

Down by the airport we stopped to admire the planes landing at National Airport. I broke the news to a dismounting cyclist that the porta potties were padlocked shut thanks to the government shutdown. I explained that in order to keep rapists and drug dealers out of the country park users must pee our pants. The cyclist who was by now doing the pee pee dance hit me with a right cross.

On we rode to Old Town were we stopped to admire the hulk of the decommissioned coal fired power plant.

Further south I explained how the fake arches of the Woodrow Wilson bridge were put together. Then it was down the trail past Porto Vechio were an SUV driver failed to stop at the red light and nearly hit me as she turned right  onto the Parkway. Having been hit here once before under nearly identical circumstances at this intersection, I hit my brakes and STOP!! I do wish Alexandria would change this to a no right on red intersection.

As we rode south I pointed out a bald eagle perched in a tree across the road. We made our way through Belle Haven Park then along the edge of Dyke Marsh where I pointed out the nests on the Haul Road and along the trail just south of Tulane Drive.

The gradual climb up to the stone bridge took us by another nest, this one near Morningside Drive.

We continued on the trail with Daniel taking the lead. Despite having sore feet and knobby tires he set a healthy pace. We came to the nasty switchback hill south of Waynewood Boulevard and everyone slowed to wobble a bit.

The ride to Mount Vernon was pretty and uneventful. We are all pretty tired once we reached the top of the hill at the end of the trail. Heather’s husband Rulon appeared as we were about to lock up our bikes. Heather treated us to lunch at the food court.

After lunch I led the descent back toward DC. As we passed Fort Hunt Park I pointed out the big eagle nest across the Parkway. When we got to the stone bridge, I bid Heather and Daniel good bye and headed for home. I finished with 41 1/2 miles on my odometer, my longest ride since Veterans Day.

The Puzzle from Hell

This year we decided to go low key for Christmas. No tree. No presents (we all cheated a bit). Just a few decorations, a shitload of junk food, some board games, and, a 1,000 piece jigsaw puzzle. The puzzle has been on our dining room table for over a week. I swear it was taunting us in our sleep. Looking at it day after day made me see jigsaw pieces as I rode my bike around.

Jigsaw puzzles make you appreciate how painters take what we see and how our brains translate that vision and distill it into bits of paint. That white dot in the puzzle piece is a headlight. The splash of white on the leaf is the reflection of a street light. The black line is the shadow beneath a piece of trim on a building.

Today I finished the painting. The push to the finish involved re-placing a couple of dozen pieces that had been improperly positioned. I laid 999 pieces together and realized the last piece, on the upper left side of the puzzle, didn’t fit! After 10 minutes of puzzle inspection I found a piece of the right side that was misplaced, switched them, and voila! Done.

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I am doing the puzzle in the middle of the day because I woke up with a head cold. Reason enough to lay about in sweatshirt and sweatpants and eat some chicken soup.

Now to bed….

Any Road Tour – Day 1: who needs a canal anyway?

After a leisurely breakfast I packed my bike and nearly crippled it by getting the rear wheel all messed up with my cargo net. Ten minutes of cussing later, I base farewell to Mrs. Rootchopper and ride off to points north and west.

About five miles into the ride it occurred to me that I had failed to pack and important doodad, my Fiber Fix spoke. It’s a Kevlar cord that can replace a broken spoke, no tools required. So if I break a spoke I’m screwed. Yeah well….

I also forgot to pack a master link for my chain. This makes putting a broken chain together much easier. (Not that I’ve ever done it.)

I suppose I can stop at a bike shop and pick at least one of these items up.

The first 31 miles were a combination of my old bike commute and the old Vasa ride route to Potomac Maryland. A tailwind made the ride up the Mount Vernon Trail to DC a piece of cake.

I made my way along the river and under the Whitehurst Freeway. I passed a restaurant named Mate Sushi and thought of my Argentinian friend who is nuts about both mate and sushi. I carried on to the Capital Crescent Trail and ever so briefly on the C&O Canal towpath. As expected it was quite muddy. I thought about riding it but then decided to climb up to MacArthur Boulevard and use the roads.

I was dreading this short steep climb but it wasn’t so bad. My granny gear got its first of many uses today.

The rest of the ride to The kayakers put in near Old Anglers Inn was routine. I’ve done this ride scores of times.

I took a potty break. The restrooms have a covered sidewalk in front. When I came out, The Mule was dry as rain started to fall. Then skies opened up. I pulled out my bag of trail mix and munched a few handfuls. I can wait…..

The rain abated and I started the mile long climb to the top of Great Falls Park. Granny helped. The rains returned. My rain jacket and the physical effort were keeping me warm if not completely dry.

A left on River Road brought me to miles of big rolling hills. Big gear. Granny gear. Repeat.

I turned into Partnership Road and things got all kinds of farmy. Moo. Grain. Mud.

At Poolesville I stopped for lunch in the Watershed Cafe. I had a “veggie” sandwich (it had cheese in it) and some panther piss. ‘Twas yummy.

I asked the Google to plot a course for Frederick Maryland and so it did. The Google is good like that.

More farms and a few cute towns. I counted three purple houses. What’s up with that? Somehow the ride seemed downhill for miles and miles. And the route cleverly avoided Sugarloaf Mountain. My knees and back were pleased.

Now it was just a race against the rain. The skies grew darker as I rolled through funky Buckeystown.

Pedal, pedal.

I rode past English Muffin Road where Bimbo’s Bakery (I am not making this up) makes the nooks and crannies. I’d actually been to this area on a business trip a year or two ago.

I started seeking hotels but continued on playing chicken with the approaching storm. As raindrops started falling an Econolodge appeared.

As I rolled my bike into my room thunder roared from the dark clouds above. Timing is everything.

So I’m content with shelter, TV (I hope they have the Nats game), WiFi, and a Sheetz next door for fine dining.

68 miles down. 3,900 or so to go.

Bicycles and Baseball: I Just Can’t Even…

Today was one of those rare weekday afternoon baseball games. The weather was pretty awesome. I decided to ride Little Nellie to the ballpark.

About 8 miles into the ride, a woman flagged me down next to a swampy area along the Mount Vernon Trail, just north of Old Town.

“Do you know how to change a tire?”

I said “Sure” as my brain noticed two things. First, she was an attractive, fit woman who was probably in her mid twenties. Second, when I was young and single, not once did an attractive, fit woman who was probably in her mid twenties ever ask me to help her change a tire. Not once.

I just can’t even…

I hopped off my bike. Two other bike riders stood by to see how tire changing is done. I thought “Don’t screw this up, you old dork.” Flat tire woman, whose name was Susie, already had the rear wheel (it’s always the rear wheel) off. She had used tire levers to remove the tire and tube.

She: “I put a dollar bill in the tire as a boot. Here’s my Road Morph pump.”

Me: “Marry me. You are the woman of my dreams.”

I didn’t ask how she knew the cool trick of covering the hole in the tire casing with a dollar bill. Nor did I ask how she knew had my favorite pump. (It looks like a little frame pump but converts to a miniature floor pump.) In fact, I had the same pump on my bike. She even knew enough not to mess around with lame patch kits when a replacement tube was so much faster and easier.

She had the whole thing down except actually putting the tire back together.

So I filled up the tube with some air. Put it in the tire. I started working the tire onto the rim. She reached for the levers. Her only mistake!

“Don’t use them to put the tire on. They puncture the tube.”

One tire bead went on. The other went on except for the last, stubborn little bit. I showed her how to push the tire on the far side of the rim into the well of the rim. Then I used the bottoms of the palms of my hands to nudge the last bit of bead over. She pumped it up a bit more. We checked to see if the tube was not sneaking out from beneath the bead. Nope. She filled it up noting that the gauge on the pump was kind of useless. I said “Use your fingers. Just pump until it’s hard to squeeze the tire.” Done.

And off I rode.

About three minutes later Susie blasted past me. “Thanks, again.”

I felt old. Again.

I just can’t even…

So I rode to the game. I sat along the first baseline just beyond the Nationals’ dugout. My seat was on the aisle in row T, about 20 rows up from the field. The sun was shining. The humidity was low. The wind was blowing out. The section I was in was getting a nice breeze from the big gap in the upper decks of the stadium behind us.

Two men were behind me drinking beer and making funny remarks. I had my official Alex Rodriquez glove on my left hand. Unlike ARod I was not taking performance enhancing drugs. Perhaps this was a mistake.

Anyway, life was good. Then. along about the third or fourth inning, Trey Turner, a right handed batter, came to the plate. Right-handed batters stand on the left side of home plate. (This just occurred to me after 62 years. Weird.) They tend to foul balls to the right side of the field. In other words, in our direction.

Turner hit a high fly ball. Foul. Over the Nationals dugout. Over the sections to our left. Over our heads. Then it came, improbably, straight down. The three of us stood. Looking up. I’ll be damned it’s going to land right. Here.

It grazed the front of the man behind me as he stood in the aisle next to us. He flinched to protect his beer. And the ball hit the concrete and bounced over his head about 10 rows behind us.

I just can’t even…

It never once occurred to me to stick the glove out and catch the damned ball. All around me I could hear fans say “He had a glove on!”

Translation: “LOSER!!!”

Complete humiliation.

I felt a strange kinship with my friend and fellow blogger Tim Jones. Tim and I went to school together for six years. He actually played sports in high school. He had and has no vices. (Except perhaps microdosing LSD, but that’s just a rumor.) I, on the other hand, spent my years of military high school incarceration taking PE classes and channeling Bluto Blutarski, who had yet to be invented.  These days, Tim is a comically horrific athlete. He sucks at racquetball. And, remarkably, he was a slower marathon runner than me.

In stark contrast, I am an inept fan. I just can’t even…

Recently, my vegan friend Klarence, who is a baseball fanatic of the first order, acquired a leather glove to catch foul balls. This was a major philosophical concession on her part. She rationalized that the glove was previously owned by a friend from West Virginia. It’s probably covered in coal dust from the mahns. It’s seriously used. Then it occurred to me, the ball is covered with horsehide.

I just can’t even…

 

 

 

Friday Double Header in Shorts

Spring finally arrived for a few days on Friday. It was shorts weather at the break of dawn so I rode to DC to attend Friday Coffee Club properly attired. The ride featured a warm tailwind, the best kind. Little Nellie’s wee wheels were rolling just fine.

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@edbikes’s apple fritter and coffee

After hanging out with the cool kids at Swings House of Caffeine, I headed back home. Of course, I took another walking lap around the Tidal Basin and a spin down to Hains Point to absorb all the cherry blossom goodness.

Inebriated on all the pinky whiteness, I rode home into the aforementioned wind which was decidedly less than joyous but I had shorts on and I didn’t care.

After a few hours at home, I rode back to DC for some baseball watching. My route back glanced off the cherry blossoms at the Tidal Basin again. (If you don’t do cherry blossoms and bald eagles, you might as well not live around here.)

I met Kevin U. at The Wharf, DC’s newest, absurdly overdone development on the water. What it replaced was utterly forgettable, but the excess of this place is just inane. Kevin and I ran into Ted and his mother and her friend Bert. I think this is the first time I have seen Ted without cycling clothes on. Now that I think of it, it may be his mom’s first time seeing him with cycling clothes on too.

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I parked Little Nellie in here. It’s the best thing ever.

Kevin and I walked to the ballpark. He wouldn’t accept payment for the seat he gave me so we agreed that I would buy him some nachos. At the nacho booth, the server was being a bit stingy with the portions in the chicken nachos for the customer in front of us. The server’s co-worker started kidding her about it. Then I got into the act as a joke. Stingy server moved down the line of ingredients and Co-worker waited on me. The co-worker put his finger to his lips to keep me quiet as he made a HUMONGOUS bowl of chicken nachos for Kevin. We all had a good laugh when Kevin hefted the thing.

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Here’s Kevin, slim and trim before eating his nachos
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The Nacho Bomb: Kevin’s gonna need bigger pants

Back at our seats I pulled out my food from home and Kevin dove into his nachos. In the spirit of the thing, he did his best to eat as much as he could but it was a titanic calorie bomb. I brought a glove to catch foul balls (our seats were down the first-base line). Good thing too, because the nachos had rendered Kevin immobile.

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The view from our seats. Note the nets put up to protect fans during batting practice. They take them down for the game.
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I brought my son’s glove for protection. Note that it is an ARod model. As a former resident of Boston, I felt a sense of intestinal distress putting it on.

The game was a bit of a yawner. The Nats played poorly and lost 2-1. During a pitching change, the stadium played some dance music and hidden cameras panned the stands for people dancing. A woman in the row behind me was dancing up a storm. That’s how I, standing with my arms crossed looking bored, ended up on the Jumbotron. (It was my second time on the big screen. The previous time was under similar circumstances as the cameras spotted the large couple in front of me wearing Virginia Tech clothing on Virginia Tech Day.)

Well, I didn’t catch a foul ball, but Kevin and I had a good time. Kevin’s gastroenterologist, however, will probably not be amused.

As always, my favorite part of riding to night games is the ride home in the dark. Even the headwind didn’t spoil the fun. I made it home at midnight.

I awoke late on Saturday. At 10:30 a.m. I found out that the Nats were playing at 1 p.m. I could go! Sadly, I was too pooped to pedal. Double headers are hard.

My thanks to Kevin for a fun evening.

 

Errandonee: Peaceful Everyday Actions

Being retired, I am practically specializing in peaceful everyday actions. My intent today was to take advantage of the fact that it was actually spring like outside and the season opening away game for my team (the Washington Nationals) was postponed to tomorrow.

I rode to DC to check out the cherry blossoms. If you want to max out your peaceful experience, it is best to go at dawn when the trees are in full bloom. Alas, it was after 1 p.m. when I arrived and the blooms were well short of full.

I rode Ohio Drive to Hains Point in the lame hope of seeing the trees along the roadway showing off their snowy blossom best. No dice.

Undeterred I headed back over to Virginia where I rode the bike trails around Arlington County. On my way back home, I took the Mount Vernon Trail. In the marsh near Daingerfield Island I spotted an immense snowy egret perched in a tree like a character from a Dr. Seuss book.

He was hard to miss being at a distance and at approximate eye level. I am so spoiled that I often forget to check out the bald eagle nests further south on the trail. Today I paid deliberate attention and was rewarded with quite a sight. A large bald eagle was perched above the nest near Tulane Drive. I pulled over and just took the sight in for 15 minutes. Although I was conspicuous in my eagle gazing, none of the passing trail users stopped to see what I was looking up at. Their loss.

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I left the eagle to his sentry duty and rolled home. I was pretty tired, a result of the warmer, moister air and riding 98 miles in two days.

Errand No. 11:  Peaceful Everyday Action – Eagle Gazing

Destination: The Tulane Bald Eagle Nest

Observation: The cherry blossoms aren’t the only thing in bloom around here. The wildlife population is about to explode. In the last two days I’ve seen egrets, ospreys, herons, an owl, and bald eagles. And last night I heard spring peepers. Sadly, the explosion of clueless tourists is also upon us. Treat them with kindness. They’ll be gone soon enough.

My distance today was 41 miles. Bringing my total to 168.5.

Be Careful Out There

Last week a cyclists from out of town took a bike ride through Old Town Alexandria. He was headed for the southern part of the Mount Vernon Trail. His ride ended in an ambulance. He is in a local hospital in critical condition.

When the Woodrow Wilson bridge was being replaced, I bitched up a storm about the detours and the design of the trails that went beneath it. Both reflected a complete lack of understanding of bicycling. I focused on bollards that were painted black. And I described treacherous detours that changed by the week. One week there was gravel. Then next asphalt that gave way under the weight of a bike. There were sharp 90 degree turns in the dark. And on and on.

The Washington Area Bicyclists Association and folks from the Alexandria Bike Pedestrian Advisory Committee gathered officials from a number of agencies who were responsible for various aspects of the project. These included Alexandria city, the National Park Service, VDOT, and DHS. They walked these officials through the project and pointed out safety concerns and discussed design changes. Many changes were made including painting the bollards bright yellow and putting reflective material on them.

The bollards are part of an extensive security perimeter that is designed to keep vehicle bombs from blowing up the bridge. The bridge carries I-95 and the Beltway across the Potomac River so this perimeter is obviously justified. (The old bridge had no such protection. ) Other features of the perimeter include huge boulders, stout fences, significantly, a movable gate across the southern end of South Royal Street.

The gate is a metal bar that spans the width of the street. When a driver wants access, he enters a code into a keypad at the gate. The metal bar then descends into a metal slot in the pavement. Both the top and bottom of the gate and the area along the slot are painted yellow. When the vehicle has crossed the gap, the metal bar rises to block further access.

That’s how it’s supposed to work. After they installed the gate, it was often out of commission. Crews worked on it on and off. Every so often I’d see the gate was open and I’d ride through it. The alternative is a 20-yard-long side path that has three bollards across it. Why got through a narrow path when you don’t have to?

The cyclist from out of town rode toward the bridge. He saw an open gate. He rode through it. Either the bar was sitting above the slot or it was rising as he reached it, perhaps visually obscured by the yellow paint of the bar and the slot. And potentially shaded by the bridge or two large trees to either side of the street.

He hit the bar and went flying. He broke two vertebrae in his neck. As of this morning, a week later, he was still in critical condition at a local hospital. His wife was following him. She also hit the bar and fell but her injuries were not as severe.

Note that there are no warnings to cyclists that the open gate is a road hazard. No paint on the road surface or signs direct cyclists to the side path. Long story short, you might want to use the side path.

I hope the cyclist recovers.

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The security gate as seen from a south bound cyclist on South Royal Street.

 

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The security gate looking north.

How Do You say “Sandbagging” in Spanish

To recover from yesterday’s 55 mile meander I decided to do a 36 mile meander on Big Nellie. I mean why not meander while the meandering is good? Again, unbelievably, the weather was absolutely perfect for riding a bike.

Off I rode to do the Tour of Arlington, a loop around Arlington County Virginia entirely on bike trails.

I headed north on the Mount Vernon Trail. I stopped after a half mile to buy lemonade from a little boy and his mom. They were giving the proceeds to a  hurricane Harvey charity.

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Apparently the word got out that the trail is a nifty place to ride on a holiday with perfect weather because it was CROWDED!!!! Once I cleared Belle Haven Park I was enveloped with the scent of honeysuckle so I stopped to smell the flowers.

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I took my time and rode into Old Town Alexandria. The streets were CROWDED!!!! I made it through unscathed and approached the warehouses at the north end of Old Town. I spotted a woman riding up ahead and thought it might be Emilia. Sure enough it was. She didn’t recognize me apparently because I was on my unobtrusive long wheel base recumbent.

Once I said her name and waved she said “Hi John. Is that Nellie?” All was right once more. Big Nellie was flattered to be recognized. If a bike could blush, she would have.

I rode behind a friend of Emilia. They seemed intent on making good time. Emilia and I tried to talk but the one-behind-the-other thing didn’t work. I rushed ahead to get a decent photo of them but they flew by before I could get my phone ready. Then about 10 other bikes rolled by. Soon I was faced with the task of getting past all these people and dealing with heavy on-coming traffic. This is harder on Big Nellie for two reasons: (1) Big Nellie does not accelerate fast and (2) Big Nellie is low to the ground so I can’t see what is coming and what is coming can’t see me. I think I kind of pissed off some people but I managed to get around the crowd and caught up to Emilia and her friends. Her friends went north on the trail at the airport; I followed Emilia west on the Four Mile Run trail. Now when I tried to talk to her, Emilia was on her phone. Oh well.

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I sagged back a bit so as not to intrude on her conversation. That it was in Spanish meant that I had no idea what she was talking anyway, but I wanted to be polite. I kept pace and looked down. Emilia, riding a hybrid with wide tires and chatting on the phone, was cruising along effortlessly at 13 – 14 miles per hour.

I signed Emilia up for the 50 States Ride this year. Ever since she has been sending me messages that she is slow, that she is out of shape, and that I should be nice and wait for her during the ride. She repeated this today during our brief chat.  The reality will be rather different, I fear.

Last weekend Emilia and some friends rode to Harpers Ferry (and back) along the C&O Canal. The distance including the ride from her house to the start was about 65 miles each way. Nearly all of it on unpaved surfaces, some of it muddy. When I saw a picture of her in Harpers Ferry on Saturday I thought “Wow, they must have left early.” I thought this because Emilia looked like she had showered and changed clothes. I was wrong. She had just finished the ride. She looked completely relaxed and composed.

The same was true today. She just cruises along. No effort. Today she told me she no longer drinks alcohol or eats sugar. I’ve got a bad feeling about this.

Como se dice “sandbagging” en Espanol?

Anyway, when she got to the end of the Four Mile Run Trail she turned left to go home and I turned right to continue on the Washington and Old Dominion Trail.

After a few more miles I turned right onto the Custis Trail that heads back to the river. The trail has a series of rolling hills. Big Nellie started hill hopping, flying down one hill and up the next. This was why god invented bicycles. Fortunately, this trail was not at all crowded. Wheee!

Back at the river the trail was once again CROWDED!!!! I took my time and pedaled onward. I stopped at Gravelly Point to take some pictures.

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I arrived in Old Town to find it even more CROWDED than before. I think it had reached peak tourist. The intersection of King and Union was absolutely gridlocked with cars and walkers. I rolled to the front of a long line of cars waiting at the stop sign at King Street. A huge pick up truck was stuck in the middle of the intersection unable to move because of all the pedestrians. When a gap in the pedestrians opened up, I slowly rolled past the rear of the pickup, waited for a gap in the pedestrians crossing in the next cross walk and rolled free. Alexandria really needs to ban cars in Old Town on days like today. They serve no reasonable purpose.

A few blocks further on, I spotted  a massive line of people winding along the sidewalk from the left and turning down the sidewalk along Union Street. The line was 3 or 4 people wide. It turned out that all these people were there to see a tall ship that had docked this morning.

I cleared the mass of humanity and headed for home amid the breezes and the warm sun and the smell of the honeysuckle.

 

 

 

Goodbye in the Sky

It would hard to come up with a nicer day to ride a bike than today. So off I went aboard the Cross Check for Chevy Chase. Not the comedian but the neighborhood on the top side of DC.

Just before leaving I put a message on social media about my plans and Ricky responded. He said he’d meet me at the trestle.

Riding the Mount Vernon Trail on a nice weekend day is an exercise in patience. When I wasn’t dawdling behind some tourists I was going uncharacteristically fast, thanks to a day completely off the bike. My lower back/hip issue was still in evidence but it clearly wasn’t slowing me down.

I stopped just north of Old Town Alexandria when I saw a big snowy egret right next to the trail. I hope you like the picture because I nearly was run over by a half dozen cyclists while I took it.

Snowy Egret

I rode along the river on the Virginia side until the 14th Street bridge then switched to the DC side. I slalomed through the crowds all the way to Water Street in Georgetown. Water runs upstream to the Capital Crescent Trail and so I flowed. I wore my bell out passing trail users of all types of humanity.

The Capital Crescent connects to the Georgetown Branch Trail in downtown Bethesda. The GBT is scheduled to be shut down on Tuesday for 4 – 5 years as a light rail line is constructed along the right of way.

I rolled onto the trestle and Ricky was there talking with some other cyclists. I posed for pictures among the tree tops and high above the creek.

Then we rode off to Ryan’s house to take care of his cat. And drink some of his beer.

Ryan has a pretty terrific man cave. Basically it’s a bike mechanic shop. I want one.

After the beer, we rolled back to the GBT and went our separate ways. I headed down into Rock Creek Park and headed for home.  Road work has a section of Beach Drive, the main drag through the park, closed. Ryan told me to take a right at the detour and a left onto Ross Dr. I missed the turn onto Ross and ended up climbing a big hill on Military Road. I knew I had screwed up but there was no easy way to fix what I done broke so I kept spinning. It was a long way up but the road back down was a breeze, literally and figuratively.

The rest of the ride was the usual cruise along the river. With puffy white clouds above. And a steady breeze from the south.

As I rode south of the airport I noticed some trees beginning to change to red and yellow.

I may not have the trestle to ride to but fall days offer plenty of terrific riding in the weeks ahead.