A Proper, if Reluctant, Recovery

After totally botching a recovery ride yesterday, I decided to give it my all today. It being a national holiday, the last one for many weeks (a stretch of the calendar that I call The Long March as if it is comparable to Bataan), I slept in. Then I did what most old farts do, I ate a slow and methodical breakfast and read the dead tree edition of the newspaper. The good folks at the Washington Post had the decency to load up the sports page with baseball stories causing me to cry tears of joy in my Rice Chex.

Next came some web surfing. This is normally utterly unproductive, especially when accompanied by solitaire playing. Today was an exception. I learned (and saw with my own eyes) that the bald eagles at the National Arboretum have produced one egg. You can watch the entire process of egg sitting on the webcams that the U.S Department of Agriculture set up. This is a phenomenal time killer as not much happens for days. It is oddly addictive, however.

Interspersed with eagle watching and solitaire playing, I read some of Bill Bryson’s In a Sunburned Country. It is a funny travelogue about Australia, which I happened to have visited a couple of years ago.

At about 1 pm, I tired of my sloth and jumped aboard Deets for a ride to my local bike shop to have my front derailler looked at. It started throwing the chain to the inside a couple of days ago and I couldn’t get the appropriate adjustment screw to adjust.

Lucky for me there appears to me a time warp going on in DC. It feels like April. Flowers are coming up. Pollen is dusting cars windshields. The sun is warming bicyclists in shorts.

I expected there to be a long line at the bike shop and was delighted to see there was none at all. The mechanic on duty made quick work of the adjustment advising me to put the chain in the biggest gear before fiddling with the adjustment screw. I knew there had to be a trick. The adjustment was free (thanks Spokes Etc.) and I was on the road in no time.

I stopped at the scenic jersey barriers at the Belle Haven Marina for a photo op. Pay no attention to the ugly developments on the far side of the river.deets-at-marina

I rolled into Old Town and could see that the Presidents’ Day parade was still going on. I took the Wilkes Street tunnel from Union Street to check out the proceedings. The air in the tunnel was about 10 degrees warmer than on the street. It was also dark owing to the fact that I was wearing sunglasses.

A walker said hello and used my name. It was Bruce who I worked with until recently. He was dressed in white. Immediately behind him was a group of four or five people including his wife Paula – with whom I still work – dressed in her mandatory black. They looked a bit like Spy vs. Spy from Mad magazine.

I stopped to take in the parade. I couldn’t for the life of me get my phone to work properly to take a decent picture in the glare of the sun. I saw some bagpipers and what looked like Mummers driving itty bitty cars.

Having marched in parades for six years during my military school days I can only tolerate them in small doses. I hopped back on my steed for a slog along the perimeter of the parade and its crowds.

Once I found a street that would take me back home across  the parade route I took it. Slowly. The idea was to recover from the last two days. I took the hilly route home, mostly to test out the derailer. It worked fine.

After 17 miles, I dropped off my bike and drove to Huntley Meadows Park for a quite stroll in the woods. As I drove down the entrance road, I passed dozens of cars parked, an overflow from the normally empty parking lot. So much for solitude. Now I know what there was nobody at the bike shop.

So I bagged the idea of a walk in the woods and came home.

Sometimes recovery happens. Sometimes it is thrust upon me.


Errands and Bunnies

I don’t feel good. I think the emergence of pollen has caused major bodily malfunction. I will feel fine in a week. Until then I will be moving around in a daze and my tummy will hurt.

All of which is no excuse to skip running errands on my bike.

I began the day driving to the bike store (not a qualifying errand) to pick up The Mule after its 40,000 mile maintenance. It feels like a new bike. The wheels and pedals turn freely. The brakes make it stop. Bring The Mule home gave me a happy face. Thanks to the folks at Spokes Etc. in Belle Haven, my local bike shop, for taking care of my baby.

Once I got home and put all the bags and doodads back on The Mule, I took off on Little Nellie to buy some drugs. I bought some awesome windowpane and som25234599180_7aca9ab239_me truly righteous weed from my local dealer named Cosmo.

Actually, that’s a lie. I rode Little Nellie 1 1/2 miles to the Rite Aid to buy my asthma medicine. So much for my exciting life. Lungs gotta breathe. I nearly had a heart attack when the pharmacist charged me $200. All last year, inexplicably, the same medicine had been free. I honestly don’t mind paying but the inconsistency adds yet another layer to my bewilderment with the health care and health insurance industries in this country.

After riding 25235709060_4e25063c91_mhome, I changed into my hiking boots and rode Little Nellie to Spokes for some TLC. I was expecting to walk home, but Chris, the mechanic at Spokes had other ideas. Little Nellie’s rear shifting sucks. It has sucked for a couple of years. I replaced the cable and housing a few months ago to no avail. So I was all set to buy a new derailleur and shifters. Chris said that my derailleur worked fine but my shifter was toast. He looked up shifters on their on-line catalogue and could only find expensive Shimano Dura-Ace shifters to work with my 9 speed cassette. Then he found a part that cost $10 that might solve the problem. We agreed that I would swing by on my way home from work and they’d swap the part out.

Instead of hiking home I rode. I was not feeling well at all. My belly feels like its going to explode and my head felt like I was stoned. I made the ride home in o24912322314_c12863a9d5_mne piece.

Then I took a two hour nap.

I woke up just before nightfall. Mrs. Rootchopper and I drove into DC to check out the giant inflatable bunny rabbits in Yards Park. All I can say is artists sure have strange minds. Judging from the smiles of all the people milling about I’d say we could use some more of this whimsicality in our lives. Here are some bunny pictures.

Errandonnee Control Card Entries

Errand No. 2

Category: Personal Care

Miles: 3

Observation: Why is health care such a confusing mess in this country?

Errand No.3

Category: Bike Shop

Miles: 8 1/2

Observation: I am so grateful to have a good bike shop (Spokes Etc.) near my home, There are many more (Papillon, Bicycle Space, Wheel Nuts, CityBikes to name a few) within a 20 mile radius). If you want to have nice things like a good local bike shop, you need to give them your patronage.





Carl and Little Nellie

As I posted the other day, Little Nellie, my Bike Friday New World Tourist, was in the shop for a new chain and new bar tape. I also needed some help getting a tire mounted on the front rim. When I left the bike the folks at Spokes Etc. told me that they’d have the bike back to me on Thursday.

Imagine my delight when I received an email telling me the bike was ready today. Yay!.

Imagine my befuddlement when they also told me that the front tire was flat.

What a weird email.

I tried and trued to get the tire on. It was a new Schwalbe Marathon and the Alex rims on my bike are unusually tall. The combination makes mounting tires extremely difficult. It is never a good idea to use tire levers to get the tire on because you stand a very good chance of puncturing the tube.

After over an hour of frustration and quite a lot of lost skin, I resorted to my metal tire levers to no avail. So I took the bike to Spokes and waved a white flag. Carlos tried to get the tire on and couldn’t do it so he pulled out some thin plastic levers and popped the tire on. He then pumped it up and rolled the bike into their repair queue.

So, long story short, we don’t know who punctured the tube. Wanting to get the thing fixed today, I told them to go ahead and put a new tube in. After all, I still don’t have any skin on my thumbs.

When I picked the bike up, Carl had just finished mounting the tire. With his bare hands. I asked, “How did you do this?” He explained that he pushed the wire bead of the tire into the well of the rim and, in short order, he had the tire on.

Carl’s secret is that he has tons of experience dealing with Bike Fridays and recumbents. He’s dealt with this problem scores of times. In point of fact, I tried to do what he did and I just couldn’t get the tire on.

While he had my bike, he looked it over and told me about all sorts of issues the bike has or will soon have. The rear derailer is on its last legs. He recommended a different derailer, one for mountain bikes (Deore) instead of road bikes (105), because, unlike the road derailer, the mountain bike derailer is designed to work with a wide range of gears such as Little Nellie has. He also pointed out that the cable feeding the derailer had been installed incorrectly with a zip tie. This interfered with the proper operation of the derailer. He removed the zip tie and set things right. He then pointed out that the indexing on my rear derailer shifter was about to die. This is no big deal because with a twist of a nut the shifter will work just fine in friction mode. Finally, he told me that the long cable housings on folding bikes trap water and that the next time I have work done on my bike, it would be a good idea to replace the cables and housings.

Bike Fridays are odd ducks. So are Tour Easy recumbents which have similar cable and housing issues. I consider myself pretty lucky to have Carl working just three miles from my house.

For those of you thinking that this tire mounting thing is peculiar, check out this video that describes the trick Carl used.

Much thanks to Carl for showing me the ins and outs of the drive train on my nearly 8-year old bike. Next winter, I’ll take it in for some of the work Carl recommends.

Swing and a Miss at a Disc Trucker

I began the day by riding a couple of miles to the stone bridge on the George Washington Memorial Parkway to watch the annual 10 mile road race. I didn’t properly know anybody running. I knew a friend of a friend was running. That was it. The spectators on the bridge with me were cheering and yelling at the runners.  I didn’t see the friend of a friend. I doubt she recognized me. I did see one of my regulars from my bike commute. She’s a runner that recently had a baby. She was MOVING! I yelled, “GO MOM!” I don’t think she knew I was yelling at her though. After the race I learned that @ultrarunnergirls running buddy Teresa had run. Never saw her either.


I rode home after most of the runners had gone past.

Then I put The Mule on the car and drove to Spokes to buy the Surly Disc Trucker. After I posted yesterday about my buying excursion, I received tweets from several people who are really happy with their Surly bikes.

The reason for bringing The Mule was to compare dimensions with the new bike and to cannibalize parts. As soon as I put the bikes side by side I saw a problem. The Disc Trucker was the same size as The Mule, 56 cm. I test rode it two times. With the saddle that came with the bike, it was a pretty nice ride, especially after we raised the handlabrs a touch. Past experience says that my bottom only wants to ride on leather. When I put my Brooks Flyer leather saddle on it, the ride became uncomfortable. I could not get the Flyer’s seat back far enough. This is exactly the problem I’ve had for 24 years with The Mule. After trying to tweak things to make the bike work for me, we gave up. Both the sales clerk and a mechanic agreed that the bike was a tad too small. They will try to locate a 58 cm bike. In the meantine I’ll be riding The Mule from Pittsburgh to DC.

Suffice it to say, I am really frustrated and disappointed. Never the less, it’s worth it to take a few weeks to make sure I can get a better fit with a slightly larger frame. Lord willin’, I’ll be riding this bike for a decade or more.

The Incompetent Consumer Shops for a Bike

I have been meaning to but deck furniture for two years. And lamps for the house. And new furniture for the familty room and the kitchen. Everything I look at looks ugly. I can’t convince myself to but anything. About 13 years ago I went shopping for a touring bike. I couldn’t pull the trigger on one. I did end up with a nice recumbent though. And a few years later I bought my Bike Friday. But no touring bike.

Today I decided to test ride a new touring bike. Again. The cold weather kept me indoors until 1. I called Bicycle Space to see if they had a Surly Disc Trucker in my size available to ride but they didn’t. My local bike shop, Spokes Etc., is also a Surly dealer but I rarely see Surly touring bikes on display. I checked REI.com for its Safari bike, also with disc brakes, and it said there were none in stock locally. Really?

I decided to go try my luck at the Bailey’s Crossroads REI shop anyway. They indeed had a Safari in my size ready to test ride. After some annoying paperwork absolving REI from liability and putting all the risk (however minute) of a test ride on me, I took off for a ride. In their alley and parking lot. The bike was very nice. It had wide tires and itty bitty gears for climbing the steep hill behind the store. It had handlebars that looked a bit like an infinity symbol. They looked cool but I really didn’t much like them. The brakes were located on the horizontal part closest to me which I found awkward, which is not a good thing. You want to have the brakes at hand when big metal things get in your way. The curves in the bars were bent in a strange way so that what looked super comfortable was actually ergonomically unfriendly. So I took a pass.

On the way home, just for the heck of it, I swung by my local Spokes. I was shocked to see exactly the right Disc Trucker hanging in the display area. Without signing a liability waiver (thank you Spokes) I took off around the neighborhood. There was serious like. I returned to the shop and put my Brooks Flyer leather saddle on it.

While the saddle was going on, a man about my age came in with his Disc Trucker. “Buy that bike. You’ll love it.” He commutes on the Mount Vernon Trail on his. That’s a pretty good recommendation. The salesperson started to talk abou the bike. Then I told him that I have several friends with Surly bikes and they are all happy with their purchases.

With the Flyer on, I went for another test ride. There was love. Dang this baby is smooth. I was a little put off by the fact that my feet felt like theyr were too far forward on the pedals. They were platform pedals, without toe clips. It’s been ages since I rode a bike with these kinds of pedals. Even with this minor annoyance, I was loving this bike.

I decided to sleep on the purchase but it has now been two hours and I know what I am doing tomorrow. I’m going back to buy me a new bike. First one in eight years. This bike will replace The Mule, which will become my winter/rainy day bike. I might even put snow tires on it.

It’s going to be weird having an odometer that says 00000.

23 Degrees and Grateful

23 degrees in the shade. Except it was dark. I took off aboard The Mule well before sunrise to make a 7:30 physical therapy appointment on the way to work. I got about a mile from home when the fruits of last night’s gusting winds became evident:


I briefly considered walking around the tree on the lawn to the right. Then I saw the wires and cables near the curb and thought better of it. I backtracked about a half mile and began my trek anew.

I made it to the Dyke Marsh bridge just as the sun was rising. My name is Rootchopper and I am a sunrise addict.

Daybreak and Sequoia - Dyke Marsh 2-4-15

I stopped again under the Wilson Bridge to admire a lift being used to diddle around with the underside of the I95 roadway far above. The lift completely blocked the trail. Nobody bothered to direct traffic because I was pretty much all the traffic that there was to direct. I stopped and took a picture for the hell of it:

Maintenance at the Wilson Bridge

All this stopping and gawking was eating up time. So I boogeyed on up the trail to the physical therapist, located conveniently right on the trail just north of Old Town.

My therapist gave me an extensive exam, ruling out causes for my numb right foot. He gave me a couple of PT exercises to do and we set up a schedule for follow up visits. One of the exercises is the standard runner’s lean to stretch the calf muscle. The other uses a belt to stretch the hamstrings. Looks like the acupuncturist and the PT man are on the same page.

The rest of the ride to work was cold but uneventful. I managed to avoid some black ice here and there. North of the airport I waved to @bilsko as he headed southward. Next I tried to get Mrs. Rootchopper’s attention as she sat in a long line of cars headed for the 14th Street bridge. She didn’t see me. She didn’t look very happy. I was cold but at least I was smiling – and moving.

Temperatures had climbed into the 30s for the ride home. Winds were light. And I was feeling pretty darn good after a low stress day at the office. To be honest, it was just about the nicest ride home I’ve had in a long time. I took in the monuments. They never get old. Every so often a bird flew across the trail. Some Canada geese flew over the river. There were no hills to slow me. When I feel like this, the ride becomes rolling meditation. My mind just ignores the stresses of life and goes on a vacation. I sing (badly). (“Fall at Your Feet” by Crowded House/Neil Finn has been my earworm for three days now.)

As I made my way south of Old Town, the full moon shone above the far bank of the river. It cast a perfect moonbeam on the water. I’d have taken a picture, but it would not have done it justice. It was jaw-droppingly beautiful. I am sooo grateful for my commute route.

Black ice kept appearing in front of me and I just sailed around it. There was no way I was going down tonight. Just not going to happen.

I arrived home to see a small box on my doorstep. My repaired headset had arrived from Chris King. Wanting not to push my cycling luck, I hopped in the car and drove to Spokes Etc. Belle View store where Little Nellie had been stashed during the repair. They should have my steed back to me tomorrow. I’ve missed you Little Nellie.

Beautiful sunrise, full moon, meditative ride, and repaired bike. Not a bad day.


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.”


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.

Working a List

I took the day off from work, my second four-day weekend in a row. I decided to get some things done rather than goof off. I started out by sleeping in. Considering how much trouble I have been having sleeping these last few weeks, this was actually an accomplishment. My first task of the day was to go through my closet and pull out all the clothing that I haven’t worn in over a year. I filled a tall kitchen garbage bag.


One of the upgrades I bought when I ordered Little Nellie from Bike Friday was a Chris King headset. The other morning the handlebars would barely turn. So off I drove Little Nellie to Spokes Etc., my local bike shop, in the Belle View shopping center. As I walked the bike into the store it was clear that the steering mechanism was catching. It would not smoothly turn left or right or even go straight. Chris the mechanic said that it was kaput. I called Bike Friday and they said the headset had a 12-year warranty. My bike is seven years old so it looks like I’m in luck. So on Monday I need to call Bike Friday when they have service people in the shop to arrange for a replacement.

Next up, I dropped the bag in a Goodwill collection box.

Then it was off to the barbershop to get rid of my Professor Irwin Corey look. Then I hit the bank. Well, let’s rephrase that. I went to the bank.

After that I took Big Nellie out for a ride. The other day I tried the orthotics on Big Nellie and they really messed up my feet. Today, I used the insoles that came with my shoes and had no problems. So my conclusion is that for weight bearing activities the orthotics are great, for other applications, not so much. I know I am jinxing myself by saying this but these orthotics are really doing wonders for my back. No twinges. No aches. So 2015 is off to a good start.

I rode my bike around the Fort Hunt neighborhood, then down to Mount Vernon on the Mount Vernon Trail. Then I rode beyond Mount Vernon in an area I think is called Woodlawn. Whatever it is called it has miles and miles of lightly traveled suburban streets. It’s a good place to ride for riding’s sake. Along the way I was this:

Serious TP Job

I’d say it was the work of professionals. I’d love to see the look on the homeowner’s face when he sees this.

After nearly 25 miles I called the day a success.