Impending DOOM

Tonight, at approximately zero dark thirty, the Washington DC metro will become paralyzed with a dusting of snow. That’s right, supermarkets have been stripped of toilet paper, milk, and cilantro in advance of this cataclismic climatic event.

So I went for a bike ride.

(Truth be told, we should get a couple of inches over the next two days. Since the National Park Service refuses to treat the Mount Vernon Trail this will mean I won’t be riding until Wednesday. Hence the desire to get my two-wheeled ya-ya’s out.)

I took off on The Mule. I rode to my local bike store, Spokes Etc.  Unlike this blog they are not shy of a full set of spokes, or of bike knowledge. I asked them to look at the seatpost on The Mule and tell me if it is a setback seatpost. I have a Brooks leather saddle on The Mule and its rails, like all Brooks saddles, are short. This means I can’t push my saddle back farther which is, I thought, necessary for me to get ideal pedalling position. Not only do I already have a setback seat post but the store manager took one look at me on the bike and said, “You actually should be riding a bigger bike, but a simpler short term solution would be to raise your saddle because it is way too low.”

Doh.

So we raised the saddle about a centimeter (which is metric for “a little bit”). The saddle is connected to the seatpost which in turn is connected to seat tube. The seat tube is angled back. This means that raising the saddle also has the effect of moving the seat back. Genius.

Then I went for a 25 mile test ride. On the way I ran into Mr. TinDC of #bikedc social media renown. He was riding the Mount Vernon Trail with Rachel whom I had never met. We stopped to talk long enough to get cold. Then went our separate ways. My way took me over the Potomac River on the Wilson Bridge. I rode through National Harbor which continues to be the ugliest development I have seen in decades.  Then I rode up the long hill to Oxon Hill Road. The half mile+ ride was along side a massive construction site for a new casino. Personally I think it would be more usedful to have a giant Costco filled only with TP, milk, and cilantro but what do I know.

Once at the top of the hill, I turned around and rode back down because when it comes to designing lollygagging rides I am Mr. Creative.

Back over the river and through Old Town I rode. By this point I noticed that my left knee was not barking at me as usual. My arms were a little tense but otherwise the new saddle position seemed to be working out okay.

I made it to Four Mile Run and crossed over to Commonweath Ave. I rode through Alexandria and made my way back to the Fort Hunt area of Fairfax County where I live on the incredibly coincidentally named Fort Hunt Road.

When I arrived home I was quite wet from perspiration. I checked the thermometer. It was 51 degrees. Not half bad for late January.

The skies are cloudy. The air is still. I await the doom.

Sleet and Other Gifts

Today was one of those days that everything seemed to lift me. A picture on Facebook of a friend who recently passed away was posted by her widower. She was dressed in winter clothes and smiling her signature radiant smile. A gift from the beyond.

I left the house ready to greet the day with the smile in my mind’s eye. The day had yet to break. The Mule and I rode off in the dark thankful that the 26 degree air was calm. Within a mile I was completely comfy in my layers of pathetic looking winter gear. If I wasn’t on a bike, I am pretty sure passers-by would give me money for a hot meal.

I arrived at the Mount Vernon Trail still before sunrise. About 1 1/2 miles into the ride, the predawn sky was an hallucination. I stopped to admire it and take a picture. A gift for the eyes.

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The rest of the ride just flowed. Without effort, I reached the 14th Street Bridge. Dawn had broken. The monuments, cathedral, and other DC buildings were reflected in the calm river. A gift on the water. I paused to admire the tableau then climbed the ramp to the bridge and headed into DC.

Riders coming towards me were bundled up so much that I could see only part of their eyes and noses. They all looked unhappy. Cheer up people it’s awesome out here!

I arrived at Swings House of Caffeine and bikes were parked everywhere. It was the third anniversary of Friday Coffee Club. The joint was packed with bike commuters. Coffee Club co-founder Ed had brought a cake and was handing out slices to the throng. Aside from Ed there was Lisa (who hasn’t been to Coffee Club in months) and Kirstin and Kristen and Reba and Chris and Ricky and Lawyer Mike and Michael and Ted and Brook and Jesse and Ryan and Jacques and Mary and Jeff and Sam and on and on. I even met a first time attendee, Jessica who commutes most days by bike from Capitol Hill. And so I enjoyed the gift of friends, old and new.

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The gift of cake for breakfast
Ricky with the 8-ball helmet and Jacques behind him
Ricky with the 8-ball helmet and Jacques behind him

The ride to work back across the Potomac was  serene. The river was ice free and I spotted a magnificent great blue heron wading next to the river bank on the Virginia side. A gift from the skies.

The workday was uneventful. Just before I left work a friend who had recently left DC  posted a short video of her feeding baby goats some milk. It was the first time I had heard her laugh in months. A gift for the ears.

The ride home began in a cold, light rain. The path downhill to the Mount Vernon Trail had been sprayed with brine. The Trail itself is never treated. Could I make it home if the rain started to freeze? The rain shone like tinsel in my headlight. Then sleet came down, stinging my face. I stuck out my tongue to feel the icy cold pellets. A gift for the senses.

As I rode along a cyclist approached. It appeared to be a woman but her face was covered in a scarf. She said something to me in passing. Someone I knew? No way to tell. [I subsequently learned it was Sam who was not getting this whole gift of sleet idea.]

I gingerly made my way home, taking what route the elements allowed. I stayed off the busier streets and arrived home intact, grateful for the gift of shelter from the elements.

Chill

I have said it many times before but I love my commute. It allows me time to think or to just shut my mind off. I do more of the former than the latter these days. It doesn’t much matter what I am thinking about. Mostly stuff that may be annoying me. I often talk to myself, sometimes out loud. These days you can get away with that sort of thing because people assume you are on your phone.

This time of year I often get a bonus on the ride to work. If the weather and my departure from home align I get to see the sun rise over the Potomac River. More often than not I stop to take a picture from the Dyke Marsh boardwalk on the Mount Vernon Trail. This morning the boards were covered with rime but I managed to come to a stop without slipping. After the picture I took a moment just to take the colors in. I guess this is what causes me, as @sharrowsdc once said, to be “chill”.

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I also like to take in the view of Washington National Cathedral, standing tall above the city as I make my way along the river between the airport and Rosslyn. It is such a beautiful structure. I used to gawk at  it when my kids went to school up in Woodley Park.

In the evening, my ride home usually coincides with nightfall. The monuments of DC are lit up, either by artificial lights or by the colors of the setting sun.

I suppose you can see these things from a car, but you really can’t appreciate them at a glance. Too often we are consumed with the goal of getting to our destination rather than enjoying the ride. That sentiment is a rarity when I commute by bike. I think we’d all be better off if we took some time to chill on the way to and from work.

It’s Not the Cold, It’s the Mileage

Something is terribly wrong. For the second day in a row, I looked forward to riding to work in sub-freezing temperatures. This morning I left well before daybreak to arrive at Friday Coffee Club at a reasonable time. I was mighty cold for the first mile but warmed up and settled into a rhythm following the white circle that my headlight makes. It’s a bit like following the bouncing ball from those old sing-a-longs on TV from before the dawn of time.

The roads and trails appeared to have an ever-so-thin patina of ice on them but I only slipped once and that was on a patch of slush that I decided to ride through. The patches of ice on the trail that were there yesterday morning were gone taking away those moments of indecision and nail biting (nail biting while riding with lobster gloves on is an art, let me tell you). I crossed over the Potomac River on the 14th Street Bridge which is actually named for a man (no his name is not 14th Street) on the Air Florida plane that crashed into the icy river on takeoff some 33 years ago. He gave up the rescue line so that others could be saved. He ended up at the bottom of the river.

I digress. The river had frozen into sheets of ice that had buckled. They overlapped haphazardly. So I took a picture.


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On the DC side the curb cuts and other smooth bits of sidewalk looked like sheets of ice but my tires held their line. I made my way to Swings House of Caffeine unimpeded by big metal things. Just before arriving Aaron pulled up alongside me on his massive cargo bike. I think he is overcompensating for something.

At Swings cyclists were just beginning to arrive. I can’t remember the last time I arrived so early.  Last year at this time I recall arriving and being part of a grumpy quintet of frozen male bike commuters. Not today. Within 20 minutes there were more than 20 bicycle commuters, including six or seven women. Nobody, male or female, seemed the least bit grumpy. Except perhaps for Aaron, but, as I said, he has issues.

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The ride to work involved the usual re-crossing of the river on the TR Bridge. A gaggle of geese took off from the river and began to form a V as they passed overhead. One lone goose remained on a small sheet of ice in midstream. I wonder if his feet were frozen to the ice.

When I left the office it was 20 degrees warmer and I had a tailwind. By contrast with the morning it felt like July. I was tempted to pull over and bask in the sun but thought better of it.

When I arrived home, I checked the odometer on The Mule. It said this:

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As Indiana Jones said, “It’s not the age, it’s the mileage.”

My Right Foot #6 – Huge Improvement

I laid off the bike for over a week hoping it might make a difference in my numb right foot. Nada.

So I rode to work yesterday braving the black ice.The ride in involved temperatures in the mid-30s and a stiff headwind. I managed not to slip once. Much thanks to the southbound riders who warned me of icy spots ahead. #bikedc people are the best. It took me a while but The Mule would not be stopped.

It was about 30 for the ride home but I had a tailwind which meant I was comfortable. And, wonder of wonders, it was light out for nearly one-third of my ride. We’ve added 17 minutes of daylight, mostly in the evening, since the solstice. It feels wonderful. There was quite a bit more ice but I knew where to look for it so I had no worries and not a single slip. Along the way I could feel the tendon that goes into the numb area of my foot snapping like it was a string on McCartney’s Hoffner. It feels totally strange but doesn’t hurt.

Today I drove to work listening to Los Lobos’s Kiko. If you can’t bike commute, you should at least have the proper cartunes. In the afternoon, I went to a new neurologist for the numbness in my left foot. I had gone to a neurologist a month ago but he was a disheveled old man who gave me the creeps. He didn’t examine me or look at the MRI disk I brought. I decided to switch.

My new neurologist took a thorough history of my back and nerve problems, looked at my MRI from last May and showed me the area of concern, and gave my feet, legs, and lower back a careful, methodical examination. She was really interested in my tendon too. And the acupuncture. And the orthotics. She told me my case matches her medical training to a T and was genuinely interested in my symptoms and me. I had trouble suppressing a smile through the entire visit. She is soooooooooo much better than Dr. Creepy.

And, not that it matters to my medical situation, she’s gorgeous. So’s my dermatologist. I can’t help it if I’m lucky.

And for the 8th day in a row, I practiced meditation. Why didn’t I do this before?

It’s going to be 29 degrees tomorrow when I get up. Sounds like a good day for a bike commute, don’t you think?

Shorts in January!

It’s been kind of depressing around here. Cold rain for a day and a half. I spent an hour doing yoga and tweaked my back in the process. Around noon, the rain stopped and I walked outside into 60 degree air. Damned nice for January 4.

I was out of the house in no time, wearing a compromise of my rain jacket and mountain bike shorts. Shorts!  Yay!

Shorts on Jan 4

I had no place to go and I wasn’t in a hurry to get there so I took my time on The Mule. As usual, I ended up on the Mount Vernon Trail headed north toward Old Town. For such a nice day, the trail had very few people on it. Near Belle Haven Park I spotted an osprey in a tree. They look imposing until you see one beside a bald eagle.

I rode through Old Town and re-connected with the MVT. North of Daingerfield Island I stopped to chat with Ryan. He was riding his Salsa Vaya which made me jealous. Disc brakes. Nice fenders (instead of the crappy old ones on The Mule). I want one. Sadly it would be redundant.

Ryan Sigworth on the MVT

After chatting I made my way over to Del Ray and cruised Mount Vernon Avenue. Del Ray was a dump when I first moved here now it’s rejuvenated.

Instead of yet another ride on the MVT I chose to ride Fort Hunt Road. It’s hills didn’t bother me in the least. My back was doing great. As I rode a black Honda Civic passed going the opposite way and beeped at me twice. I have no idea who it was.

I cruised home despite the warm weather. Time to get together with my daughter on her last night home from college. Tomorrow the nest will be empty and work gets real again.

2014 Wrap Up

I finished the year with a relatively light month. I rode my bike to work 12 times for 365.5 miles in December. I added another 127 miles scattered across 6 rides. My total for the month was 483.5 miles.

For the year I hit 7,590.5 miles. 3,268.5 miles were ridden on Little Nellie, my Bike Friday New World Tourist. I have never ridden it so much. It ended the year with a frozen headset. The runner up was Big Nellie, my Tour Easy recumbent, which I rode 2,794.5 miles. The Mule, my old Specialized Sequoia, brought up the rear with 1,527.5 miles.

I rode Little Nellie to work 70 times. Big Nellie went to work 60 times. The Mule went to work, mostly in winter, 39 times.

I have no goals for 2015 just as I didn’t have any for 2013 or 2014.  Okay, maybe one: Don’t worry. Be happy.

Flor Is a Way Better Photographer than I

A Beautiful Ending

One of the joys of riding my bike to work is seeing the sun rise over the Potomac River. This morning’s did not disappoint. It stopped me in my tracks on the Dyke Marsh boardwalk on the Mount Vernon Trail.

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Despite temperatures in the 20s and a headwind I made it to work very comfortably. We were released early for the holiday and the ride home in daylight was a treat.

It’s days like these that I so appreciate my commutes along the Potomac River. I am so lucky to have such a beautiful commute. My commute is my time alone. Sometimes my mind drifts. Other times I have a conversation with myself, often aloud to the amusement of commuters riding past. Call it meditation or therapy, I’d be lost without it.

I’m not one for making New Year’s resolutions. I’ll ride a lot doing my utmost to avoid big metal things.  Hopefully, I will hike a lot more. And, of course, root for the Nats. I do hope that my friends in the DC area join me on these adventures, as so many did in 2014. I intend to give 2015 everything I’ve got. You should too. Happy New Year and thanks for reading.

Whether the Weather, or Not

I made up my mind after last night’s soaking that I was driving to work this morning. I didn’t bother to pack my panniers because the weatherman said their might be sleet or freezing rain today.

This morning I went out to pick the newspaper up off the end of the driveway and I noticed a distinct lack of rain, or sleet, or freezing rain. And so I said to myself, “Hey, wait a minute.”  I went inside and turned on the weather. The radar showed that there was rain in the area but that my neck of the woods was clear. And so I said to myself, “Hmmmm.”

After breakfast I decided to go for it. I packed my panniers and put on my waterproof gear and headed out the door to only the lightest of sprinkles. I decided to ride The Mule because it would give me the best traction on the wet leaves that cover most of my route to work. The Mule, not being a recumbent, allows me to ride in a head-facing down position. This would keep my glasses dry. The only downside would be if my back seized up while riding in the cold. No guts, no glory. Onward.

The faintest of sprinkles turned into sprinkles turned into light rain turned into steady rain which gave me a frowny face. Water sneaked into the corner of my left eye and made it sting. This gave me a squinty, one-eye-open face. Water began to pool in the insides of my allegedly waterproof gloves. Do I know how to party or what?

I made it to work without a calamity, thanks in large part to the fact that the Mount Vernon Trail was all but deserted. There were a few runners out squishing through the puddles but the bike commuters were few and far between. (This may have been the result of me leaving 15 minutes late due to the fact that I wasn’t packed and ready to go at my usual departure time.) To my surprise my back seemed pretty happy with the ride.

The radar said that the rain had left the area for the ride home. Somebody needs to get the radar fixed. There was a light mist that was just enough wetness to be annoying. My glasses eventually got wet which made riding blind into the headlights of the cars on the GW Parkway. Most trail users were displaying lights. Most except for the guy coming toward me with only a small red light on the front of his bike. And then there was the walked dressed in black with a blue backpack on. In the center of the blue backpack was a small circle of white reflective material. Good thing, too, because I almost certainly would have given him a Schwalbe wedgie.

Visibility issues aside the ride home was a pretty nice cruise. I seem to have my legs back and I was buzzing along at about 12 miles per hour without effort. (I’m willing to bet a tailwind was involved, buy why spoil my moment in the drizzle.)

The good news of the day is my back seemed to tolerate the ride just fine. The bad news of the day was that I spotted a couple of holes in my rain pants. If you all have recommendations, send them along.

September by the Numbers

I made a pretty good show of it in September on my three bikes. Yes, three. The Mule, my now ancient Specialized Sequoia, came out of the shed for an epic bike commute on the last Friday of the month. I finally got around to using the bike valet at Nationals Park. It was my first commute on the Mule since late May. I mostly rode Big Nellie, my Tour Easy recumbent, to work and Little Nellie, my Bike Friday New World Tourist, for events. Here’s how it stacked up.

19 commutes for 573.5 miles. 16 were on Big Nellie.

3 event rides all on Little Nellie including an abbreviated 46-mile ride at Indian Head, Maryland with Ultrarunnergirl. Next came the 50 States Ride with the rookies. The last ride was my first full Backroads Century, again with Ultrarunnergirl.

Total miles for the month was 793.

Many thanks to all those folks who rode with me, or waved as they sped past me on my rides to work or during events. I may be fat but I’m slow. Extra thanks to Ultrarunnergirl who endured my company for nearly 150 miles. And extra, extra thanks to the 50-States rookies and the official rookie support team. And to Mike Ross and Lisa Eaker who make riding to the rest stop at their house the highlight of the ride.

Hail Rootchopper!

So far this year, I’ve ridden to work 127 times. My total commuting mileage is 3661. Including all other rides, I’ve gone 5,996.5 miles.