Pictures of the Year 2016

 

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Sunrise on the Mount Vernon Trail

When the sun and my work day cooperate, I stop and take in the sunset over the Potomac River. It rarely disappoints.

The Big Reveal
100,000 Miles

It took me 25 years but I managed to ride 100,000 miles since acquiring The Mule (bottom left) in 1991. In 2002 I bought Big Nellie, a Tour Easy recumbent (top left), and rode it exclusively for several years. In 2009 (or thereabouts) I bought my Bike Friday New World Tourist, a folding travel bike that I call Little Nellie (upper right). Last year I picked up Deets, a Surly Cross Check, that turns out to be a fantastic bike for commuting.

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Drink Up Cowboy (Colonoscopy Prep)

In October, amid a frenzy of bike event riding, I had a colonoscopy. It was my third. I am happy to report that there was no cancer detected. I’ll be back in 2019 for another. Drink up!

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Me in Front of Copenhagen Central Station Bike Racks

I went to Scandinavia with my wife and daughter. I didn’t ride a bike but I saw a few here and there. The cycling infrastructure is so much better than in the U.S. And the road users are all so well behaved. As my friend Finn Quinn once said: “The future is a foreign country.” We can only hope.

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Beer Tent Volunteers at Tour de Fat

I volunteered at the Tour de Fat this year. I had fun despite not being completely recovered from my not so fun trip to the ER a week earlier. We were a well behaved bunch. The only beer we imbibed were the ones the organizers comped us for our efforts on their behalf.

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Friday Coffee Club

You may never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. You certainly won’t find it here because the building where this picture was taken is being renovated. Friday Coffee Club moved across town and, but for one appearance after Thanksgiving, I had to stop going. I miss these scoundrels.

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Michelle Smiles Even When She’s Freezing (Vasa Ride)

Speaking of scoundrels, for the last several years Michelle has been running bike events at the Washington Area Bicyclists Association (WABA). I am convinced that she is trying to kill me. It is widely rumored that she even controls the weather. I am so grateful for all the hard work Michelle (and the other folks at WABA and the volunteers) put in to make #bikedc better every year. (Michelle also has a serious interest in the Beats and Kerouac. Check out her blog.)

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Amy at Great Pumpkin Ride

It was windy and coolish, but Amy was determined to do her first long event ride. This hill during the Great Pumpkin Ride near Warreton Virginia was mighty steep but Amy (with Jody behind her) managed it without apparent difficulty. The leaves on the road were produced by powerful winds that made the day quite a work out. The rest stop after this photo was at a Old Bust Head brewery.

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Sleeping Bear Dunes in Michigan

This picture doesn’t do justice to how steep these dunes are. And this is only about 1/2 of the height. The remaining elevation is obscured by the angle of my shot. Later that day the road I was on went up the dunes just to the south of this one. It made for some tough climbing into a persistent headwind. It was perhaps the physically hardest day of my 11-day solo bike tour. As hard as it was on my body, the tour was a feast of rolling meditation for my mind and soul.

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What Yoopers Eat (Bike Tour)

The people who live on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, the UP, are called Yoopers. They eat white fish and pasties (a kind of meat pie) and have their own candy bar. They (mostly) also talk like all the hockey players from Ontario that I roomed with during my freshman year at college. Eh?

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My Deck Buddy

I was hanging out on my deck one sunny day when I went to open my deck umbrella and found this critter. Cute.

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My Perch in Left Field

The left field grandstand was my perch for about 10 games at Nats Park this year. I became personal friends with Jason Werth. (That’s him in left field.) Okay, that’a s lie.Somewhere up there under the third light stanchion is Klarence keeping score. Hurry spring!

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Darth Paul on the Five Boro Ride

That’s Paul on the left on FDR Drive on the east side of Manhattan. It is cold. It is raining. Paul is not smiling. He had so much fun. We stopped in Astoria, Queens, to stand around and freeze our asses off. Who knew that the Brooklyn Queens Expressway would be even more fun. I have now ridden my bike across the Verrazano Narrows and the Golden Gate. Woot!

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A Section of the AT

The Appalachian Trail is nice enough to come down to I-66 which made for a couple of convenient solo day hikes.

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Veronica Help Us Save a Duckling on the MVT

I found a duckling on the Mount Vernon Trail on the way to work one morning. Mr friend Linel stopped to help and we tried to figure out what do with it. Then Veronica showed up. She took the duckling to her office then to an animal rescue place. This is a decidedly better outcome that the two animal skeletons I saw last year. Just sayin’. Thanks, Veronica.

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Night in the ER

This is me getting a nebulizer treatment in the ER. A few hours earlier I couldn’t move without experiencing a knife-like pain in my upper right chest. (I blame yoga.) The doctors were pretty confident that it wasn’t a heart attack. I had a resting pulse of 46 and my blood pressure was normal. They did some tests and took some x-rays. Then they put this on me. I was recovered enough to do Bike to Work Day, volunteer at Tour de Fat, ride DC Bike Ride, and fly to Stockholm over the next nine days. Do not try this at home. Or anywhere else, for that matter.

Sun Does a Huey

This morning at 5:44 the sun did a huey. I caught it in action. Sort of. It wasn’t moving particularly fast. It was obviously further downriver, south, that it was a month ago. I know colder days lie ahead. I know, somewhat counter intuitively, later sunrises do too. (Something about the tilt of the earth, the sun greed of the Maoris, and voodoo. Trust me, I know science.) Looking on the bright (pun intended) side, opening day is 103 days away.

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So The Mule posed for a picture with the sun just a couple of hours after it changed course.

Facebook sent me the perfect reminder of the winter solstice: a picture of two friends hanging out at a rest stop during my second 50 States Ride in August 2007. Huh? They look pretty good in the picture but the heat soon did Paul in. Flor, who seemed immune to the elements, rode like she had wings. It was one of the hardest bike rides I can remember. It got hotter and more humid as the ride progressed. A rider I met afterward cooled off by jumping in Rock Creek.

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It was good that I looked at the picture before I left for work. It took the edge off a cold December morning.

Latest Sunrise, No – Rise of the Ninjas, Yes

I thought today was the latest sunrise of the year but I got it wrong. We’ve reached the earliest sunset. Sunrises get later until the end of the year. Yeah well. Here’s the picture I took of The Mule at Dyke Marsh on the Mount Vernon Trail.

On the ride home, I nearly hit 5 ninjas – walkers and runners wearing absolutely no reflective or light colored clothing. In addition to it being too dark to see them, they are also backlit by car headlights.Good luck you clueless ninjas. I hope I don’t hurt myself when I clobber one of you.

 

Stressing My Way to Work

  • Yesterday I drove to work for the first time in weeks. I honestly don’t know why anyone would want to use driving a car as a way to get to work. (I understand that many people have no viable option in the short term.) I was STRESSED OUT!!!!
  • On the way in, the waiting and merging and sudden stopping were an assault on my central nervous system. I played relaxing music (Mark Knopfler and Chet Atkins) and this helped some but not nearly enough. They should have meditation rooms in the parking garages around here. Seriously. So you can come down before you go into the office and start throwing coffee cups around.
  • The ride home had its joys too. Driving in the dark is no fun at all. And the 15 minute back up on I-395 felt like it would never ever end. No wonder this country has a depression and anxiety epidemic. I seriously thought about opening a bottle of wine when I got home. Instead I started my evening with 20 minutes of breathing meditation. I followed this up with my daily physical therapy. Instead of rushing through the exercises (most of which are based on yoga asanas) as I too often do, I slowed them way down. I took care paying attention to each stretch, making sure the muscles relaxed. I monitored my breathing. The whole wind down took about 45 minutes.
  • One thing I notice when I do breathing meditation is that I can get my heart and respiratory rates very low. My doctors are constantly freaked when they take my pulse. The last couple of times it was checked it was 44. “Do you exercise?” A couple of years ago my resting pulse was around 60. That’s considered on the low side for most people.  My low pulse is also a little odd when you consider I drink three cups of coffee every day.
  • This morning I jumped on The Mule with fresh legs (and a disturbingly bigger belly from last week’s Mexican food binge). The cold air felt so refreshing. And riding past the stalled traffic back up on the GW Parkway made me feel liberated. I truly felt sorry for all those people grinding their teeth and white knucking their steering wheels.
  • Of course, I also had the opportunity to stop and admire the early morning sun over the Potomac River. Most drivers don’t get to see this. Sucks for them.

  • If you look closely you can see that my pedals don’t match. This is a hold over from my bike tour this summer when my left pedal disintegrated. What you can’t see is that the chain is stretched beyond hope. So I am getting a new chain and cassette this weekend.
  • I mentioned the cold. As you can see from the picture, the bridges on the Mount Vernon Trail are decked with wood. They frost over. Shaded areas are icy. As I was approaching the beaver bridge (between Old Town and National Airport), an approaching jogger yelled a warning to me, “The bridge is really slippery.” It was slippery on the left hand side (where she had run) but not along the right edge. The left side was still in the shade. Just a couple of degrees makes all the difference. There were fresh gashes in the wood from where bicyclists’ pedals had made a mark during falls.
  • In a few days a cold front comes through with honest to god wintery weather. The battle begins. The holey sweater awaits. The mittens are ready. The chemical foot warmers are beside my shoes. My hair (what little there is) will stand on end as the head coverings draw all the oil out of it. My skin will dry up where the base layers and Buff and wool socks contact it.

 

IWBTWD – Catchy, no?

Today was International Winter Bike to Work Day. I think it’s really for some sort of demented  bragging rights. Also for stupidly long hashtagging. Actually, it’s International Northern Hemisphere Winter Bike to Work Day because what’s the point of bragging about riding to work in Perth when it’s 80 degrees outside.

Yesterday was a telework day. The only bike related thing I did all day was to attend a 24966240255_e9de876daa_mWABA happy hour. This was 2 miles from my office which would have been easy to ride to had I not been teleworking. I drove instead because there isn’t a whole lot happy about riding a bike 17 miles in the freezing cold, having a beer, and riding the bike 17 miles in the freezing colder. Bike to happy hour is best done in the summer when you can have a beer outdoors while Colin Powell poses for a picture nearby.
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This morning the thermometer read 22. I was prepared to wear tights under my bike shorts under my rain pants. The lack of wind convinced me to downgrade the tights to wicking briefs (that is underpants made of non-cotton farbic). In a mile I knew I had nailed my winter biking attire. I was perfectly comfortable all the way to Friday Coffee Club. Along the way I stopped to admire the heavenly smile of daybreak at Dyke Marsh.

I was intent on getting to Coffee Club with time enough to enjoy myself. I rode as fast as my three layers of clothing with hiking boots and 25 pounds of pannier stuff would allow. I focused on my pedaling and breathing which pretty much put me in the trance mode for several miles.

Along the way my front wheel acted up. Every time I hit my front brake, the brake would bite the rim once during each wheel revolution. I couldn’t find a bump in the rim but this was not a good development.

I made it by 8:05 and could take my time conversing. Felkerino managed to inadvertently flip a saucer into the air where it knocked over my water glass sending ice water onto my head gear. It was a stunt that would have made Rube Goldberg proud. My buff – which covers my face in winter – was wet but I managed to get everything else out of harm’s way. Need less to say, the two mile, buffless ride to the office was eye opening.

During the day I managed to dry my buff (now doesn’t that sound interesting?) so I was all set to ride home. The ride home featured a headwind which was a bit annoying. My brake problem was not annoying because it had disappeared. Also not annoying was the fact that I rode more than halfway home without turning my headlight on.

Hurry spring.

 

 

 

 

The No Squish Bike Commute

It’s astonishing how much more comfortable bike commuting can be when your boots are not filled wit24309316603_3da4d74d9c_mh ice cold Potomac River water.

And so today’s bike commute into a cold headwind was rather nice. I stopped for a sunrise picture made less risey by the fact that I left late and the sun is coming up earlier.

The wooden bridges on the Mount Vernon Trail had a slight coating of ice, which is to be expected when it is near freezing. It turns out those road signs are right: bridges do freeze before roadways. Who knew?

I know of one person who knows. The worst of the ice was on the Trollheim, the boardwalk beneath the Teddy Roosevelt Bridge about 1/2 mile from my office. Legend has it that a troll lives beneath the boardwalk and, on cold or wet days, the troll reaches up and grabs bike commuters causing them to crash. I was making my way gingerly across the icy boards when I spotted a big smush mark in the ever so thin dusting of snow on top of the boards to my left. This is a sure sign that a bike went down.

The ride home was a blustery affair. I had a tailwind most of the way. Every so often the wind would abruptly change direction and slap me upside the face. Wake up, dude! I even caught a 20 mile per hour gust broadside that nearly knock me off the trail.

Tomorrow I work from home so I will miss out on one of the COLDEST DAYS OF THE YEAR!!! Actually by the standards of where I lived for the first 28 years of my life, these “brutally cold” days are pretty much the winter norm. Everything is relative. Except ice cold river water in your shoes, of course. That absolutely sucks.

 

Super Monday

The day after Easter is called Easter Monday. Don’t ask me why. As far as I know not much happened on Easter Monday. Maybe Jesus bit the ears off some chocolate bunnies. But I digress.

Not really, I haven’t even started yet.

Stop arguing with yourself.

I rode to work on 6 hours of post Super Bowl sleep. Who won? Sydney, our Super Bowl party hosts’ Australian Labradoodle. Sydney is the most well behaved puppy I have ever seen. I think Sydney is actually some sort of animatronic muppet. Sydney was infinitely more interesting than the game. And not nearly as bizarre as the numerous LSD-influenced commercials.

So I rode to work on The Mule, back on the Mount Vernon Trail for the nonce. (24266061624_4058a63836_mDid he just say “nonce?” I’ll bet he drinks Dew and eats Doritos.)

I left just a few minutes before dawn. By the time I got to Dyke Marsh the sunrise got the jump on me but I took its picture anyway. My camera was not up to the task though.

The squirrels in my head have been especially busy lately. So I tried to concentrate on nothing during the ride. If that seems contradictory, it kinda is. Which is why it didn’t work very well. So the squirrels won.

I looked for signs of spring on the wispy branches of the willow trees along the trail opposite the Washington Monument. No luck. No buds. We’ll have to wait a few more weeks.

I turned left at the Intersection of Doom and fell in behind a lycra clad cyclist with a spiffy racing bike. He was going suspiciously slowly. Then I noticed that he was holding his left crank arm in his hand. Dude, that’s not how it works!

I’ll put up with squirrels in my head any day over pedaling with only one leg. (This is actually really hard to do but is supposed to smooth out your pedal stroke.)

The ride home was a bit of a slog. The 6-hours of sleep was not enough. The squirrels had gone to bed so I fell into my commute trance. This ended when I nearly ran over a walker who was coming toward me on my side of the trail. (Walk on the right people!!)

She was not a ninja because it was light outside. It stayed light for the first 7 or 8 miles of my ride home. I could get used to this.

In the dark the curvy last two miles of the trail to the stone bridge confuse me. I lose track of where I am in the sequence of turns. Did I cross the long bridge yet or just the two short ones? Did I pass the fishing hole?

All was revealed when I spotted the mansion with the Spanish roof tiles near the top of the gradual climb to Northdown Road. A VDOT plower whimsically left a pile of plowed snow in the middle of the street. Fortunately I was out of my trance by then.

At the intersection of Fort Hunt and Shenandoah Roads a rather ominous cluster of snowplows stood in wait for the approaching Dusting to 3 Inch storm of the century.

All this means is I will probably drive to work tomorrow.

The squirrels in my head don’t like ice.

 

 

Riding to Daylight

I hadn’t ridden to work since Friday. So today’s bike commute, four days later, had a nice surprise: daylight! We had 6 minutes more daylight today than Frida23872236113_82eb6ba061_zy. On a bike you are more in touch with your surroundings so you notice these sorts of things.  I stopped on the Dyke Marsh boardwalk just before sunrise for a picture. I wonder if it is coincidence that the Spanish word for smile is sonrisa? Sunrise is the first smile of the day.

 

I used chemical hand warmers in my shoes today. The left one must have slipped to the rear because the toes on my left foot were frozen when I arrived at the office. When I jumped in the shower, the toes screamed with pain. Yet another reason why I don’t miss living up north.

People think I am crazy for riding to work on a day like today. Maybe I am but I consider these kinds of bike commutes an adventure. Is it crazy to start the day with an adventure or with a frustrating drive in bumper to bumper traffic? If you live in the moment, choose the moment that gives you a few minutes of happiness. Even if your toes freeze.

It felt like it was 10 degrees warmer for the ride home. I certainly appreciated the daylight for the first few miles. I was greeted by a snow squall for the last 6 miles of the commute. The snow was reflecting my headlight back into my eyes. I was riding blind. At one point my rear tire skidded after hitting a gum ball (not the candy, the seed ball from a gum tree). I remembered Bri’s advice to keep my upper body loose and go with it. The snow started sticking. It was getting slippery. Stay loose. I made it home without any more skidding. I had fun but I suspect this thin layer of snow will turn to ice overnight. This will mean no biking to work for me.

The current weather forecast calls for up to two feet of snow for Friday and Saturday. With any kind of luck it will be melted in a few days. I will probably be off the bike for a week afterwards because the National Park Service doesn’t plow the Mount Vernon Trail.

 

 

 

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.