I Can’t Believe I Am Getting Used to This

It was 17 degrees when I left the house. Winds were calm. I left late and sunlight was upon me.

Cowabunga!

After two days, I have the clothing aspect down. Same as yesterday but today I swapped two layered mountain bike shorts for underpants and tights. Also, I swapped to my new Performance rain pants from my Marmot Precip pants. The former is cut for cycling and has thinner material. Perfect.

After my usual 10-minute warm up, I was cooking with gas (nods to my college friend Susan who used to say this all the time back in the day). I stopped at Dyke Marsh as usual, this time where the stream cuts through to the river. Ice and sunrise. Pretty stuff.

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The boards of the Dyke Marsh bridge were cover with a crunchy frost which was surprisingly grippy, another benefit of 17 degree weather.

I cruised through Old Town without a care and made it across the two long wooden bridges to the north without slipping. Oncoming bike riders looked pretty tense but I just laid off the brakes and tried to minimize leaning.

How nice it was to break free of the tree cover and not be smacked in the face by a headwind.

Across from the Washington Monument, I stopped to take a picture. Damn, this city is pretty. I never get tired of this place. Funny how I can say that about the last two cities I lived in as well but not about my hometown. I suppose if I lived there now I’d see it in a different light. As Confucius said, “No matter where you go, there you are.”

The ride home was another day in the park. It was actually above freezing but I didn’t notice. It felt no different from the morning. The geese apparently disagreed. They were having a party in the river.

The rest of the ride home was dark. Unlike dying people, I went toward the white light.

Somewhere along the way I passed 100 miles for the year. Woot.

No bike commute tomorrow. I’m going to a high school basketball game after work.

 

 

 

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.

Geese

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.

Welcome Winter

We have had an exceptionally warm winter so far here in the DC area. That ended today. And wouldn’t you know it, today was the first bike commute of the new year.

Nothing says fun like riding into a headwind when it is 28 degrees outside.

And so I did.

After about three miles I was comfortable. I was also protected by trees and short buildings in Old Town Alexandria. After a while my fingertips started feeling cold. And my toes. Then “Hi, John!” It was Linel.

We talked for a while. Or tried to. It’s hard to hold a conversation while riding, with your ears covered, in a headwind.

About that headwind. It got stronger as the tree protection fell away. Linel and I swapped leads. When we came to the exposed area just north of the airport, I took the lead. Oof!

Linel turned off to go across the 14th Street Bridge. I proceeded into the headwind.

Pedal, pedal.

I took the trail bridge across the Parkway. I was about 15 feet up and the headwind was now a cross wind. Whoa! (It turns out that Linel was exposed to this crosswind for about 1/2 mile. Not much fun.)

Damage report. All decks.

I arrived at work with numb toes. The shower I took made them burn.

The ride home was a ride on a tailwind. I didn’t struggle. I just went with the flow. Bikes passed me. Fast. I didn’t care. A tailwind is a terrible thing to waste.

Near the Memorial Bridge, large gaggles (weird word that) of Canada geese were bumbling about on either side of the trail. The trail was covered in geese poo. Lovely. Honk your own self.

It was cold but with the wind at my back I was surprisingly comfortable. And in a good mood. Until I reached Old Town Alexandria.

At the first cross street, a car made a u-turn across the trail as I was riding past. The driver could have continued 100 feet and used the circular turnaround in front of some office buildings. Instead the driver decided to take a chance on running me over. This happens all the time for some reason.

A quarter mile later I was in the bike lane on North Union Street in Old Town. A car was parked perpendicular to the curb completely blocking the bike lane. It was parked at 406 North Union. This is a frequent occurrence. I was cold so I didn’t stop to take a picture or knock on the door. I did note that the license plate was Virginia J 3. This sounds like a well-connected individual. The house is worth well over $1 million. When I got home, I called the Alexandria Police. They took my information and said they’d check it out. In light of the fact that Union Street is patrolled by a parking enforcement person every night, I suspect that the city looks the other way at resident parking scofflaws with deep pockets.  Call me cynical, but I doubt anything will change. Except I will keep complaining to the police, because it’s a bicycle friendly city. It says so on a sign.

The rest of the ride home was uneventful. Cold but uneventful. Tomorrow will be colder still. I will be wearing hiking boots with chemical foot warmers inside. Tights under wind pants. An additional layer up top. A balaclava will complete my stylish look. I hope I can pedal under all the clothing I’ll have on.

Of course, I could drive or work from home.

Except nothing says fun like riding into a headwind when it is 18 degrees outside.

 

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.

 

Recumbents and Vultures and Toros

January 2 is a pretty big disappointment. The day after the New Year is so pathetic sounding. Christmas gets Boxing Day. Thanksgiving gets Black Friday. Even Halloween gets All Saints Day. (Okay, July 5 doesn’t really cause goosebumps but it’s summer time and nobody much cares about goosebumps. Unless you are in Tierra del Fuego. If you are in Tierra del Fuego, you deserve whatever you get.)

Bored and wanting just to get out of the house, I took a spin on my long neglected recumbent, Big Nellie. I had no where to go and wasn’t in a hurry to get there. I decided to ride up toward National Airport and see how the new 50 yard stretch of the Mount Vernon Trail was sizing up.

In Belle Haven Park, three vultures circled in the sky above. Were they expecting me to die? (No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to RIDE.)

As for the trail repair at the airport, it’s wider than before. Straighter than before. And bumpier than before. I guess they haven’t de-bumped it yet. Can’t wait. I was getting sick of the detour through the mulch.

I didn’t see anyone I knew and my feet were starting to get cold (it was in the mid-40s) so I rode home on the new Potomac Yard bike trail. This trail is nice and wide but it merges with a sidewalk at haphazard intervals. An old man in a sweatsuit doddered across the trail/sidewalk directly in front of me. Good thing I have the reflexes of a 60-year old so I could avoid him. (You politely use terms like “old man” and “dodder” when you ride a recumbent. It says so in the user’s manual.)

About two miles from home, as I approached the stone bridge, I heard an ominous, horrifying noise from behind a wooden fence. It was a lawn mower. Are you effing kidding me? I was feeling very mindful and peaceful and stuff so I let the fool do his yard work in peace.

So there you have it. My exciting first ride of the year. You should take a nap now. That’s what I’m going to do.

A Year Well Ridden

For a guy who spent three weeks on a bike-free vacation and the better part of the winter waiting for a thaw, I rode a whole bunch in 2015.

For the year I clocked 7,518.5 miles. Nearly two thirds of this total was from riding my bikes to work 162 times. Pro tip: if you want to boost your annual miles, get a job farther from home. The remaining 2,601 miles was on various weekend and bike touring excursions. The No Wrong Plan Bike Tour was about 370 miles including riding to the shuttle at the start and riding home on Bike to Work Day at the finish.

The tour made May my biggest mileage month at 951. September, usually a big month, was my lowest mileage month at only 296.5 miles. I spent nearly three weeks on vacation and didn’t touch a bike despite the fact that I could have laid claim to riding in Asia and Australia and New Zealand. Oh, well.

The Mule, my oldest bike, got the most use, 3,342 miles, including exactly half of my bike commutes. The least mileage went to my new bike, a Surly Cross Check, at 1,000 miles. Of course, I only had this bike for four and half months. None of these miles was from commuting.

I rode indoors on Big Nellie, my Tour Easy recumbent six times for the equivalent of 99 miles. Otherwise, Big Nellie fell into disuse. I rode it only 86 miles since August. Over the course of the year, I rode it to work 25 times. Its total mileage for the year was 1,289.

Little Nellie got much more use than I expected. It is a Bike Friday folding travel bike but I didn’t travel with it. Instead I just rode it a lot locally. I did 56 rides to work and 1,887.5 miles overall. Being able to stash it in the trunk of the car came in handy many, many times.

My longest ride of the year was exactly 100 miles from my house to Whites Ferry and back on Big Nellie. The second longest ride of the year was the 18 mile ride home from the Tour de Fat event. I find riding a bike after a beer or two not to be problematic. Riding a bike after drinking beer in the hot sun for five hours, is considerably more challenging. Next year I will volunteer so as to remain sane. (Of course, I say this every year and rarely get around to volunteering. Bows his head in shame…) Another rather long bike ride was my bike commute the day after returning from Thailand. I was jet lagged out of my mind. It was not a lot of fun.

Other than the tour, the rides I liked best usually involved baseball games at Nats Park. The Nationals’ bike valet service is just about the best thing going.  Every ballpark, major or minor league, should do this.  A couple of times I had the pleasure of riding with Katie Lee to the Capitol and watching her do a victory lap – riding around in circles, hands free, head back, with an ear-to-ear smile. Pure bike joy. And then there’s always the fun of a ride home after a night game. I love riding home in the dark on a warm summer night.

The last ride home on the bike tour on the C&O Canal was special. Ryan intercepted us on his way to Brunswick. Then Rudy gave us a full escort from Great Falls. Near Fletcher’s Boat House, Mary came out to escort us. Somewhere along the line Chris showed up. We rode to Glen’s near Dupont Circle for a celebration where we were joined by even more #bikedc friends. I was escorted on my ride home against the Bike to Work Day flow on the 15th Street cycletrack and down the Mount Vernon Trail  by Mount Vernon resident Ed. This day was in stark contrast to the last day of my other tours when I was greeted with a ho-hum from non-biking relatives. (This is why I made it a point to meet Linel in Belle Haven Park at the end of her C&O Canal tow this year.)

I don’t recall how many times I rode to Friday Coffee Club, but it’s a thing and it’s fun.

I went to several bike events: WABA’s Vasa and Cider rides and holiday bash, the Great Pumpkin ride, the Tour de Fat, the kinetic sculpture race in Baltimore, the Cookie ride, and the #biketivismdc protest on Pennsylvania Avenue.

I hiked a bunch too. I honestly can’t say which trail was my favorite. They all have their distinct characteristics. I learned that I don’t much care for rock scrambles or crossing steams on slippery logs. In my running days I was a pretty darn good downhill runner. I am a pretty lousy downhill hiker.

I am not much of a massage fan but I had three massages this year. The last and only other time I had a massage was after a century in 1991. I liked the oil massage in Thailand the best. It was outdoors under a shelter in the rain. The next best was a Thai massage from a friend in McLean Virginia. This was relaxing and nothing like any of the other massages I’ve had. The reiki at the end was also pretty cool. The sports massage I had near my home was rather vigorous. I was sore for days afterward. I am still not much of a massage fan. I’m just not into pampering, I guess.

Enough with looking back already. It’s 2016. Let’s get on with it!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Crossing 1,000

MG over at Chasing Mailboxes recently decided to put in as surge of running to get to 1,000 miles for the year. I thought this was not such a great idea because it reminded me of my running days when I discovered what I called junk miles. Junk miles are miles you run for reasons other than fitness. I wanted to run 3,000 miles one year (I biked a whole lot less in those days). So I was running lots of 70 mile weeks. Do the math. Mostly this meant that I spent a lot of time nursing injuries. After the year was over, I discovered that 60 miles per week worked every bit as well so I dumped about 10 junk miles off the weekly running schedule.

So what does this have to do with biking? Shortly after commenting to MG about the concept of junk miles, I noticed that I had about 900 miles on the odometer of my Cross Check. Hypocrisy be damned, I went for it.

After many miles of riding flat neighborhood streets I decided to put the 100-mile challenge to better use. I started seeking out hills. I hate hills. So I tackled Oxon Hill (twice), Mason Hill near my home (twice today), Beacon Hill (once is plenty), and assorted other hills leading from the GW Parkway near the river up the hill that runs roughly parallel.

To my surprise, I actually got better. Even today when I forgot to take my asthma medicine. Of course, I had help. El Nino and climate change have conspired to bring us unseasonably warm weather with generally light winds.

After doing my hills, I headed up the Mount Vernon Trail. On Union Street in Old Town Alexandria I came upon an old friend who I hadn’t seen in nearly a decade. I could tell because he was cycling with his son who was now 13. The last time I saw the boy he was a rugrat.

As we were talking, a co-worker of mine ran past. He’s pretty fast. Every time I see a runner with good form I feel a twinge of jealousy.

After the chat I did a loop north to Four Mile Run and back to my neighborhood.

I pulled into the driveway to record this picture:

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Mission accomplished.

See you next year….

The Last Bike Commute

Today was the last day of autumn. At 11:49 tonight DC goes into winter. Tomorrow there has less than one second of daylight than today. Wednesday we pull on the rope and say “Screw you, South America” and pull the sun back.

Or something like that.

I am working from home or taking vacation days until 2016 so I am done with bike commuting for the year. Unofficially, I’ve ridden to work 160 times this year. Not half bad considering I took more vacation and teleworked more than ever before. So this was the year that I drove to work the least since I moved to Fairfax County in 1989.

As I left for work, I momentarily panicked. I couldn’t find the battery for my headlight. Then I remembered that my new headlight also can be run off the battery for my old headlight. Yessss!

The morning was comfortably cold. As the sun rose the temperature followed and my base layer became noticeably wet. Traffic on the Parkway and the Mount Vernon Trail was predictably light. I cut a little off my commute by taking Royal Street through Old Town. I could do this safely because St. Mary’s School of the Holy SUV was closed so I didn’t have to deal with its drop off line.

The willow trees across from the Washington Monument are losing their now yellow leaves. Yellow and gray.

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It was a nice ride so I didn’t complain. The office bike commuter matrix was all full of non-complainers. (Of course, Kelly was out of town so that may be why.)

Today's office #bikecommute matrix. No complaints. #dust = 59!

The ride home was much warmer. I took my time. My bike commute is so nice I really wanted to milk the last one for all it was worth. The trail work on the Mount Vernon Trail is really taking shape. Pavement went down today. It is only a matter of a few more days before the detours are removed and we get to ride on the new, straighter and wider trail.

Pavement #mvt #bikedc #bikeva

I moseyed on down to Old Town where the trail meets the city streets. The stop sign where the trail meets the street had a new addition.

I New sign #mvt #oldtownalexandria Passive aggressive citywas happy to see this because it proves my point that the city is biased against bicyclists. I have never seen a sign that shows a picture of a car with the words “must obey all <STOP sign>”.

As I rode the length of Union Street through Old Town I counted the cars at stop signs. Sure enough, 7 of 8 rolled through the stop signs.

After another five miles, I pulled into my yard. Another year of bike commuting under my belt. One of these days I’m going to ride to work and then not stop. Just keep going until I hit the blue Pacific waters. Could that happen in 2016?

Hmmmm……

 

And People Say I’m Crazy?

Almost without fail, when the weather is bad, a non-bike commuter will look at me in my bike commuting get up and say, “You’re crazy.’ Just like “Watchin’ the Wheels.” I expect them to “give me all kinds of advice to save me from ruin.”

It’s raining today. I drove to work. My mode choice had to do with an after work social commitment in the city. (Irony alert: it’s the Washington Area Bicyclists Association’s holiday party.)  It was just me an tens of thousands of other worker bees driving to work alone in their cars. On a Sunday, driving the 15 miles to my office takes between 20 and 25 minutes. Today it took an hour. Mostly I spent the time stopped in traffic looking at the tailgate of a humongous Ford pick up truck. When I got bored with that I looked over at the Mount Vernon Trail and watched the bike commuters go zipping along.

No wonder bicyclists generate so much anger from motorists. How dare they actually enjoy their commute. You should have to sit here like the rest of the world and rage at the traffic gods. (It’s not my fault that there is so much traffic. It’s the other drivers’ fault. If only they’d get out of my way!)

Traffic is a sure sign that Americans are dumb as stumps. How else could so many people be sucked in by such BS as “See the USA in a Chevrolet” and “Zoom, Zoom” and “Farfegnugen” and “Fine German Motorcar?”

My bike has “Farfignewton.” It has “Pedal, Pedal.”

The only advantage to driving to work that I can see is I get to listen to music. Today’s car tunes are Le Vent du Nord’s Les Amants du Saint Laurent and The Notting Hillbillies’ Missing… Presumed Having a Good Time. 

To paraphrase the Beatles: “Beep, Beep, Beep, Beep, NO!”

 

 

 

The Office Bike Commuting Matrix

I work in an office of about 25 to 30 people. Several of us ride our bikes to work.

As readers of this blog know, I ride to work nearly full time. I don’t ride with ice on the roads, jet lag, or unavoidable conflicts. So far this year I have ridden one of my bikes to work over 150 times.

My boss is Mohammad. He recently upgraded from a garage sale Schwinn to a Yuba Mundo cargo bike. He uses it to take his kids to school in DC. He’s an everyday commuter.

During her recovery from hip surgery, Kelly needed to get some exercise or she was going to go insane. (Not that anyone would notice.) This summer she began bike commuting. She’s currently on bike commuting hiatus but seems on the verge of starting up again.

Kirk is a fair weather bike commuter. He rides incredibly fast for a man who is retirement eligible. A few years ago a runner on the Mount Vernon Trail did a crazy Ivan maneuver (known in football as a button hook).  He turned right into Kirk’s path. There was blood and pain. He’s now fully recovered from the crash and presumably more careful.

Charlie is a once a week bike commuter. He plans his commute meticulously and avoids riding in the dark. We try not calling him a wuss.

There is a white board outside of Mohammad’s office that has news of the day for staff.  For example, at the top it tells us the day of the week because some of the staff are, well, challenged chronologically.

Every morning a conversation evolves around who rode to work. Invariably somebody complains about something. So Mohammad and Rebecca his administrative assistant cooked up the bike commuter matrix to keep tabs. She is the commissioner.

23529133352_b4ff772f33_z The commissioner adds graphics to make things interesting. That’s actually Mohammad and his kids on the Mundo in the upper right. That’s not Kelly in the lower left. A more recent picture showed Kelly being pursued by a chainsaw murderer. There have been two homicides on her route so she has suspended bike commuting until the killer(s) have been brought to justice. What a wimp.

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You either did or didn’t ride and you either did or didn’t complain. I recently was tagged for complaining (see above) after I merely observed that it was foggy. I wasn’t complaining. I was simply stating meteorological fact. Still I was recorded as complaining. I filed an appeal with the commissioner and she ruled against me. I’d appeal to a higher authority (not that there is one) but the commissioner erased that matrix the next day.

You may notice something at the bottom of the frame. It says “D.U.S.T. =   XX days.” This has nothing to do with bike commuting. DUST means Days Until Spring Training. Rebecca looked this up on the Yankees website.  I was going to protest as a member of Red Sox Nation but I felt badly. She grew up in Albany (which I can assure you is punishment enough, says this native Albanian) and hasn’t been sent for proper deprogramming yet. We’re working on it.