It’s a new year. Normally I start the new year with an easy hike, but I did one the other day so I decided to take my Cross Check for a spin. I rode the Tour of Arlington, which is a loop around Arlington County entirely on paved trails. Instead of riding from Rosslyn to Alexandria directly, I took the Key Bridge into Georgetown. Riding down M Street and then around Washington Circle is always a bit nerve wracking. Good thing Washington Circle has an ER just in case.
I took a brief detour to check out the progress at 17th and G Streets. This is where Friday Coffee Club used to convene before somebody decided to renovate the building. I wanted to see if the outdoor seating area was still intact. It was. The sign outside said the project will end on 5/12/2017. This is a Friday so I am marking my calendar for a return to Friday Coffee Club.
Next I rode across White House Plaza, the section of Pennsylvania Avenue that goes past the front of the White House. The review stand for the Inaugural Parade was nearing completion. There are police and guards all over the place. And fences. I found the whole thing depressing to be honest. I haven’t been this depressed about a president since Nixon.
From there it was down the 15th Street Cycletrack, dodging the tourists from back home who didn’t get that a cycle track was for bicycles not for standing and wondering where Ford’s Theater is.
For giggles and kicks I rode a lap around Hains Point. I was getting pretty tired because breakfast was about five hours earlier and I didn’t bring any health Christmas cookies with me (except those stored in the rolls of fat around my waist). On the way toward the point, Grace pulled up alongside me. We follow each other on Twitter. She slowed down to chat with me for a lap before I veered off for home.
The ride down the Mount Vernon Trail was automatic. Just south of the airport I stopped to celebrate reaching 4,000 miles on my Cross Check. As soon as the winter is over, I am riding this bike nonstop.
At the north end of Old Town Alexandria, a sign was posted next to the trail. A small dog had bolted from its owners during the New Years Eve fireworks display. The dog looked distressingly like that of a friend of mine. I kept my eyes peeled for the dog for the next mile. No luck. On the south end of Old Town a notice was posted. It said that a bicyclist had been bitten by a dog while riding on the trail just south of the Beltway. The dog was on a leash! The Notice was a BOLO. (My daughter and I were binge watching NCIS this week. They say BOLO all the time on that show. Just don’t call me Jethro.) Police are looking for the dog and its owner. It’s the first time I’ve heard of a bite and run.
I slogged the final six miles home. Nobody’s dog bit me.
The best part is I can now truthfully say that I have ridden 42 miles everyday in 2017. At least until tomorrow night.
It was a great month for riding and I took full advantage. I rode 916 miles, all of it on Deets, my Surly Cross Check. I rode to work 18 times for 505 miles. I did the Indian Head 100, the 50 States Ride, and the Backroads Century. I also rode to three baseball games. Yay bike valet! I had one blow out. Boo, bad tires. I didn’t do any hiking (sad face) but there’s only so much activity my body can take in a month.
For the year, I’ve ridden 6,155 miles and ridden to work 133 times.
I’m looking forward to the Seagull Century next weekend. And the Great Pumpkin Ride later in the month.
I am also starting to think about next summer’s tour. If my plans pan out, it will be my biggest tour ever.
Every bike ride this month was on Deets, my Surly Cross Check. It has been a terrific machine. Then today happened.
I was riding to work this morning. The Mount Vernon Trail was flooded near Dyke Marsh so I took my feet off the pedals and glided through the waters like a little kid. Wheee!
I rode down Union Street and saw more flooding at the intersection with King Street. Wheee!
isn’t it great how bike commuting can make you a carefree kid again.
Just past the Washington Marina at Daingerfield Island:
My back tire blew out. This is, I think, my first flat tire of 2016. When I took the wheel off I could see that I was not going anywhere on my back tire.My exploding tube had blasted the rubber from the tire off the wire bead that holds the tire to the rim. I could have put in a new tube but the odds of having another blow out were very high.
So I started walking. I got to National Airport and walked to the bike parking area. As it turns out the area is open-air which is not good on a rainy day. Worse still, one of the bikes (the yellow one) locked there had had its rear wheel removed. There was no way I was going to leave Deets there.
It was too early to put my bike on Metro (they allow bikes at 10 am, after the morning rush). So I resigned myself to walking to Rosslyn, 5 miles away. After a mile, I came upon the parking lot at Gravelly Point . There were several taxi cabs parked there including a minivan.
The driver agreed to take me. As I was putting my bike in the taxi I discovered that I did not have my wallet with me. I had test driven Mrs. Rootchopper’s car last night and left my wallet in my pants that were hanging on my bedpost at home. I could borrow the cab fare from a co-worker but the rest of the day would be a total hassle without my wallet. So I had the cabbie drive me home. This cost me $36. Oof.
People who know me well will be surprised to learn that at no point during all this did I lose my temper. I just laughed it off. I guess meditation is worth something after all.
Some people I know believe that the universe has a plan for each of us. We may think we are in control but it is an illusion. We control nothing. So you just go with the flow that the universe has created for you.
Or you can look at things another way. A former colleague of mine says: Life is a shit sandwich and everyday we take a bite.
Today I took two bites.
Afterword: I went to District Taco for lunch today. I always order a veggie burrito bowl and eat inside the restaurant. It normally takes 5 minutes to get your food. Today, I waited 25 minutes for my order Finally, I gave up and tracked down the manager. My food was ready. It was packaged to-go. They had tried to find me in the scrum of take-out customers and gave up.
As shit sandwiches go, it tasted pretty good, despite the wait. .
I bought Deets, my Surly Cross Check, this time last year. I really haven’t ridden it much, if you can call 1,500 miles not much. Today that changed. I rode it to work for the first time.
It was the fastest commute of the year. I can’t tell if it was the adrenaline of riding my newish bike or the bike itself. Deets has different gearing than my other bikes. Instead of three chainrings (the gears in front) and eight or nine cogs (the gears in the back), it has two chainrings and ten cogs. This set up is called a compact double. It is zoomier, because the gears are more bigger (and maybe because it weighs less than my other tanks, er, bikes). My old legs don’t like big gears but seeing as how they had no choice in the matter they turned the bigger gears which made me more faster.
Something about the geometry of this bike makes it easier to ride standing up. This comes in handy when short hills are in the way .So I stood up a few times and the little hills seemed to disappear.
I was a little concerned that the climb up to Rosslyn would be nasty on my knees but I zoomed up that too. (Okay, I zoomed relative to my normal climbing speed. I still climb like a sloth. No bike can fix that.)
The ride home was equally zoomy, despite a hot, muggy headwind. I think I cut five minutes off my normal commuting time.
This was fortunate because dark clouds were forming overhead. Yay, speed.
I rode to the Nationals game after work Friday night. It was suffocatingly hot. The Nats lost to the lowly Braves. I went alone. I had a great time.
An usher ejected a fan for heckling the Braves left fielder. The fan got his money’s worth. He certainly gave me a few laughs. Well played, dude.
An Atlanta player hit a home run that landed about four seats away from me in the row behind mine. It bounced off a fan and the rebound went to a guy in my row about six seats away.
A mom brought three kids to the game. They were sitting in the row in front of me. She went to the concession stand. When she came back and found out that a home run landed two seats behind her she couldn’t believe her bad luck. The kids thought it was pretty funny though.
I had the seat at the end of the row. Home run guy and his buddies wore me out with their pee runs. Never buy seat 1 or seat 20.
Another home run landed in the seats a section to my left. The fan caught it on the fly. Barehanded.
I almost caught a t-shirt during the t-shirt toss promotion but another fan got two hands on it just as it was about to hit my hand. She paid for the shirt: her chest hit the railing in the middle of the aisle. Ow.
The ride home was aided by post-game fireworks. Less car traffic means better biking. Boom!
The ride through Old Town Alexandria at 11:30 pm was scary. The sidewalks were full of loud, drunken idiots. I assumed that drivers were similarly inebriated. I was extremely careful and am thankful that I made it through in one piece. Of course, the Alexandria police (who spend their time ticketing early morning bike commuters) were nowhere to be found.
I have decided to call the Cross Check Deets. After Joshua Deets, the scout for the Lonesome Dove cattle drive. He is described by Capt Augustus McCrae as “Cheerful in all weathers. Never shirked a task. Splendid behavior.” I hope my Deets is as noble.
After a year of light riding, I will be using Deets for commuting starting tomorrow. The rack has bigger tubes than the racks on my other three bikes so I had to adjust the hardware on my panniers. I test rode the bike with panniers for the first time. My heels had plenty of clearance so tomorrow’s commute should be sweet.
This morning I went for a short ride down to Woodlawn by way of Mount Vernon on Deets. Every time I stopped the oppressive heat and humidity sucked the sweat out of every pore in my skin. It was gross. There will be better days for weekend excursions. Maybe a hike next weekend. It’s been too long.
The plan was to put two new tires on The Mule. Then I walked outside. It was MUGGY. Then I looked at the old tires on The Mule. They looked acceptable. Sort of.
Then I jumped on my neglected Cross Check and headed to Great Falls Park in Maryland.
The first 13 miles was essentially my commute route, the Mount Vernon Trail and the 14th Street Bridge, to DC. Ohio Drive and some sidewalks masquerading as bike trails took me to K Street in Georgetown. I survived the half mile traffic gauntlet and made it to the Capital Crescent Trail.
I was making pretty decent time. This is attributable to three factors: a light tailwind, fresh legs, and, well, I’m a badass.
I switched over to the C&O Canal towpath at mile 18. The Cross Check loves the towpath. After a couple of miles, I had some solitude and it was bliss. Sweaty bliss but bliss nonetheless.
I rode past Widewater, a section of the canal just downriver from Great Falls. There were about 8 women sitting on stand up paddle boards in the canal. They were finishing, I am not making this up, a yoga class. Floating yoga? Really?
I stopped to check out the rapids at Great Falls. It rained heavily yesterday and the rapids were muddy and raging. If you’ve never been to DC, make sure you put Great Falls on your to do list. (I prefer the Maryland side because it has the towpath, a trail out through the rapids, and several really good hiking trails.)
After watching the water show, I headed out of the park on the access road. It’s a long up hill that leads to what is normally a fun, curving downhill. Unfortunately, the road surface is choppy and, even on the Cross Check, not a road I want to ride over 30 miles per hour on.
I survived the descent.
The ride back was a familiar one along MacArthur Boulevard to Resevoir Road, back to the canal. From there I retraced my ride out with the exception of using a new bike path through the park on the Georgetown waterfront. The path is nice enough, but on an oppressively hot day the pedestrians and tourists on bikes were annoying. They’d just stop and chat in the middle of the path.
I had the following conversation a half dozen times:
I have the patience of a Swede.
The ride home was uneventful. There were no Lance Mamilots to irritate me. Despite encountering plenty of families with little ones riding tentatively on the trail, I remained civil.
When I woke up it was a perfect summer day. The second in a row. There was just one thing to do.
I rode my bike.
You saw that coming, didn’t you.
After all, I could have spent my day doing something truly exciting like dry toasting some quinoa. (Or driving a funicular railcar. I actually know people who did these things today.)
But I rode my bike.
I chose the Cross Check for my adventure. The first ten miles were unremarkable which is remarkable for a Sunday on the Mount Vernon Trail. Normally, the MVT is a zoo on a nice weekend days but today it was less busy than a weekday evening. I rode it all the way to DC. Unmolested.
I made it to trail along the Potomac on the DC side before disaster almost struck. I was patiently following two tentative riders as they made their way through the narrow underpass of the TR Bridge. There was stream of bikes coming our way then a runner. Just as Tentative Rider number 1 came upon the runner a stream of Lance Mamilots came around the bling corner on the other end of the underpass. Two got past the runner but the third nearly hit her. The tentative riders somehow managed not to find themselves in a big pile up. As did I. The runner was rightfully pissed. I yelled something non-obscene at Lance.
Another mile went by. As I approached K Street, I was following a rider on a very Eurpoean-style city bike. She was riding very slowly and came to a stop a the turn off for K Street. Somehow she fell sideways into a small patch of grass. She was more embarrassed than hurt. So I turned onto K and headed toward the Capital Crescent Trail. The CCT was busy and a few impatient riders nearly caused head on collisions. I just moseyed along and kept a positive attitude. It was just too nice a day to get upset.
Approaching Bethesda, I was passed by another Lance. He was headed straight for an on-coming walker. Oncoming walker was an unassuming looking, thin woman, perhaps in her late 60s, with thinning brown hair. In a vaguely eastern European accident she shouted: “Get on the other side of the trail, ASSHOLE!”
I could not stop laughing. For miles.
In Bethesda Row, I stopped at Bethesda Bagels (I love places with creative names) and bought a bagel sandwich. I rode to the trestle over Rock Creek Park and ate half of it there, looking out from the treetops to the creek far below.
And to think I could have been dry toasting my quinoa.
With my tank topped off, I headed outbound on Beach Drive. I had some company, mostly on bikes. At Garret Park I turned around. I had a bit of a head wind and put my head down for a moment. When I looked up, I nearly rode into a fawn. There were two in the road. So cute.
Back to DC, staying in, mostly car free, Rock Creek Park. Lord, was it nice. Warm, breezy. The soothing sound of the creek rushing past only a few yards to the side of the road.
I climbed out of the park on Park Road and made my way to Columbia Heights. Normally this hill is difficult for me. Not today. I rode the bike lane straight up Irving Street, passing a long stream of cars waiting in line for the short light at the top of the hill. Sucks for them, I thought.
Soon I was sitting on a bench in the shade in Meridian Hill Park. The rest of my sandwich didn’t have a chance.
For some reason, riding down 16th Street on the way home has become a favorite of mine. There are so many interesting buildings and people. Unfortunately, it ends with a ride through the touroids near the White House. I managed to get behind a tour group on Segways clogging the 15th Street cycletrack.
Riding a bike behind Segways is only marginally more enjoyable than dry toasting quinoa.
I survived. Nobody killed me as I rode out of DC. The MVT was once again not half bad. The last ten miles were not the easiest. I have to remember to drink more water while I am riding during my tour next week.
I rode all winter, all through a cold, wet spring. Today’s beautiful 63 1/2 miles was payback.
After riding to the Nationals game on Saturday in the rain, I couldn’t pass up riding to the Sunday game when the forecast called for perfect baseball weather. So I hopped on the Cross Check at around 11 and headed to DC.
The ride in was just a little on the chilly side but the skies were blue and the trees had leaves. Spring rocks.
As I approached Jones Point Park, I noticed a cyclists standing next to a loaded bike. Seriously loaded. It was a cargo bike with six panniers, a handlebar bag, and a solar panel on the rear rack. The cyclist was looking at a map and seemed confused. I stopped and helped him by leading him through the streets of Old Town Alexandria. When we got to the Washington Sailing Marina between Old Town and National Airport we stopped to talk. Charles started this ride in the Pacific Northwest. He rode down the west coast, hung a louie at San Diego and another at Saint Augustine. His tour had taken him over 5,000 miles so far. He spent last year riding coast to coast across the northern part of the US. He was planning on taking a break in DC. To buy a boat. And store it at the marina. Or some such thing. I couldn’t follow the logistics, probably because I couldn’t understand how he could afford to spend his life on a bike. And buy a boat.
I left Charles to his nautical aspirations and rode into DC. I absolutely love riding to the ballpark because I get to ride by the parking lots that get progressively more expensive as I get nearer to the park. The bike valet – really just a secure bike parking facility under the watchful eyes of two attendants – is inside the ballpark itself. It is free (except for the tip which you give to the attendants at check out).
I took my seat out in the stands beyond left field with the warm sun shining down on me. I had forgotten to bring sunscreen but I figured I would be okay for a couple of hours. I ate a sandwich that I brought instead of the expensive junk food at the park. Then I settled in for a nice game against a weak opponent, the Minnesota Twins.
As usually happens the people that I sat among became friends for the day. There was a mom and her ten-ish year old daughter in front of me. Daughter had a small baseball glove. (“You’re going to save me if a baseball comes our way, right?”) There were two dudes to my right manspreading and drinking beers. (I moved over a seat and got into the slouchy vibe.
The guy to my right scoffed at the Nats leadoff hitter, Matt den Dekker. “He can field but the Mets got rid of him because he can’t hit.” I retorted “He’s got some power for a little guy.” And so den Dekker homered to make me look like a baseball genius. Later, he made several brilliant catches in the outfield so my bro was also vindicated.
Our section had plenty of Minnesota fans. So there was good natured teasing going on throughout the game. Our fearless pitcher Stephen Strasburg pitched for seven innings after over 100 pitches he becomes mortal, but the bullpen was tired so the manager left him in. In a flash he gave up a three-run home run which landed about ten seats to my right. Down 4-1 it looked like the game was lost. People started to leave.
It was 4-3 in the bottom of the ninth. More people started to leave.
Our manager, Dusty Baker, had decided to rest the 2015 MVP, a fellow by the name of Bryce Harper, for the day. Baker actually told Harper before the game that he would only use him in a situation that would make him look like a hero. So Harper comes up to pinch hit and powers the second pitch he sees into the stand beyond center field. Tie game! The crowd goes nuts!
And so we went into extra innings. After four innings the Nationals have a comical race among six “presidents” who are men with giant heads. They run around the wa.rning track to a finish line tape near the Nats dugout. It is utterly stupid and funny as hell. Our game was running so long that they ran a second presidents race.
We were getting slap happy in the stands. The game dragged on. 10, 11, 12 innings.
The Nationals ran out of position players. They used a pitcher to pinch hit. He got a single. No lie.
Fans starting joking about being held hostage. All I could think of were the lyrics to “Band on the Run”:
If we ever get out of here
Thought of giving it all away
To registered charity
All I need is a pint a day
If we ever get out of here
If we ever get out of here
I moved down to the front row overlooking the left fielders. I yelled down to Werth, “Hey, Jason. Want some coffee?”
In the middle of the 14th inning we had a second seventh inning stretch. I kid you not.
The Twins left fielder, Eddie Rosario, had littered the grass with pieces of yellow paper. The Nats left fielder, Jason Werth, picked them up and
methodically arranged them in a neat row. A guy sitting behind me joked that Werth was trying to get enough paper to spell out SOS on the grass. Another guy said, “Hey, we are literally trash talking.”
The Twins went ahead by a run in the top of the 15th. All hope was lost. Rosario made a mess of Werth’s paper pile. The fans in left field started yelling “Pick it up Eddie.” Rosario laughed. I yelled at him: “It’s karma, Eddie. You’ll pay for this.”
The Nationals got a man on first base. The Twins ignored him and he advanced to second. The next batter up was Oliver Perez, a pitcher who hadn’t batted since 2010. The Twins unbelievably brought in another reliever to face him.
All was lost. Until Perez dropped a bunt that the catcher fielded. Perez was out by a mile, except that the catcher threw the ball about six feet over the first baseman’s head. Tie game.
Karma, Eddie. Karma.
We moved to the 16th. Werth came out and repaired his pile of paper. The Twins didn’t score. The Nationals came to bat and their right fielder, Chris Heisey, launched a home run over the Twins bullpen. The place went completely nuts. Delirium.
Dusty Baker later called it a twilight zone game.
By this point, nearly six hours after the game started a chill was in the air. I was an odd combination of warm and cold. Six hours of sun on had given me a sunburn on the right side of my body. I wore a jacket to keep the left side of my body warm.
The by now thin crowd left with ear to ear grins. At the bike valet I ran into a friend I hadn’t seen since December. We celebrated our mini reunion and the exhausting victory with a huge hug.
And then I was off. As I crossed the Potomac into Virginia I stopped to admire an amazing sunset skyscape. Even with swarms of gnats (how appropriate) along the way, the ride home in the cool spring evening was perfect.
I waited for the temperature to rise. I didn’t want to ruin a good spring ride by freezing my toes off. At 11:00 I leaped into action. Sort of. I kept misplacing things. After 45 frustrating minutes I head out on the Cross Check for a bagel. In Bethesda. Over 25 miles from home.
The Cross Check still doesn’t feel right but rather than mess with the set up I decided to ride it a ways. After six miles I stopped and slid the saddle back. I was feeling cramped and too upright. Afterwards I felt more comfortable. I breezed through Old Town with its abundance of well dressed church goers. (My church has two wheels, by god.)
North of Old Town the Mount Vernon Trail started getting crowded. The crowds didn’t bother me but the impatient riders passing with bike oncoming did. Some of these were Lance Mamilstrongs. Others were new to riding on busy, narrow trails. Thankfully, I managed not to get hit. I crossed over to DC and rode Ohio Drive and its pathetically designed side paths up to Rock Creek Park. The side path in Rock Creek Park improves somewhat. After a couple of miles of mediocre, it becomes downright horrible. Tree roots, 90 degree turns, pinch points, blind, low descents under overpasses. People with dogs obstructing the entire path as they admired each others pooches. Must not kill.
I finally made it to Beach Drive which is closed to cars. It was apparently open to every grade school kid in a 100 miles radius today. They were swarming like gnats. It took a while to get clear of them. Once I did, I found myself cruising up the gradual incline at 14 1/2 miles per hour. I wasn’t straining at all. The Cross Check was just getting it done.
I took the Georgetown Branch Trail to the Rock Creek Trestle. I love hanging out in the treetops over Rock Creek. A woman was sitting in the bumpout on the opposite side of the trail. She was speaking on her phone in a Spanish accent. Next to her was a copy of Nick Hornby’s latest book. I love Nick Hornby. I passed up the opportunity to strike up a conversation with her because my tummy was having a conversation with my head. FEED ME!
I backtracked on the GBT to Bethesda Row where I bought a drink and a bagel. I sat and ate and watched the people stroll by. This street is really good for people watching. And dog watching too. A golden retriever with waves of flowing red hair was laid out on the sidewalk next to my bench. What a beautiful creature. (Full disclosure: I grew up with a golden retriever. They are the best dogs. Dumb as dirt but they will let you use them as a pillow when you watch TV. And they will defend you to the death.) I want to be a golden retriever in my next life.
After my snack, I headed over to Bradley Boulevard. I rode through Bethesda amid azaleas and dogwoods in bloom. The temperature was perfect for riding. The traffic was light. Yay spring!
Bradley to Kentsdale to Newbridge to Democracy to Falls. I was cruising among the megamansions of Potomac. I hear they have real housewives here.
A left onto Falls took me through Potomac Village and all the way to Great Falls Park. Cars were parked illegally everywhere. I took a right to ride down to the C&O Canal on the access road. After a fun half mile glide, I came upon a half mile line of cars waiting to get parking in the parking lot. I rode past the cars and made it to the admissions booth. I was waved in. It was National Parks Day. Admission was free. “Free” sounds like a good idea. Sometimes it’s not. I rode very slowly through the throngs for at least 15 minutes. It was like riding on the sidewalk in Manhattan. Nothing ruins nature quite like tens of thousands of well meaning people.
After the falls the crowds thinned a bit and I could get up to about 10 miles per hour. Carefully, I avoided spooking the strollers near Widewater, easily one of the best parts of the entire 185 mile long park.
I finally cleared the swarm and brought my bike up to a 13.6 mile per hour cruising speed. Why 13.6? I don’t know. I just locked into that speed.
I am happy to report that the Cross Check loves the towpath. I can see many gravel rides in the future. (North Central Rail Trail? Anybody? Bueller?)
I was on autopilot all the way back to Georgetown. I switched over the paved Capital Crescent Trail at Fletchers Boat House. It has way too many tree roots until you get to the last mile which has been recently paved. Zoom.
K Street under the Whitehurst Freeway was a parking lot. I think we need to just ban cars in certain places on Sundays. They are just too big and clumsy. We could pile them up and burn them. We could invite all kinds of latter day hippies, techies, and spiritual whack jobs. Maybe we could do this in the desert. Rosslyn on a Sunday would work. We could call it “Burning Car”. Maybe we could get the drum circle from Meridian Hill Park to come and not keep a beat.
The ride home retraced my northbound journey. The trails were not as busy as before. Behind the power plant near Old Town, the MVT goes through some blind curves. As I approached I rode my brakes. Sure enough a rider came around the curve on my side of the path. I avoided a head on collision for sure. The rider seemed shocked that passing two pedestrians on a blind curve might not work out so well. I do hope she doesn’t drive a school bus for a living.
I rolled south on Union Street in Old Town. A police cruiser pulled out in front of me. I followed it to the intersection with Gibbon Street. This is where Alexandria police ticket cyclists for rolling through the stop sign. So I watched as patrol car 1414 rolled through the very same stop sign. It was the third such incident this week. The League of American Cyclists will soon designate Alexandria as a Bicycle Hypocritical City at the Silver level.
I rolled home with my lungs burning. The pollen and towpath dust had caught up to me and my asthma was really giving me a hard time. I made it home in a bit of discomfort with 69 miles on the odometer. This was easily my longest ride of the year. But for the asthma attack I could have kept going. Let’s see if I wake up with any back issues tomorrow morning.
The year began with a paper lantern rising in the post-midnight sky over Old Town Alexandria. I hoped it was a sign of good things to come. Here in no particular order are the highlights of what followed:
Around the World in 19 Days: When your kids move to the other side of the world, you have a perfectly good excuse to go visit them. We flew via LAX to Sydney to meet up with our daughter who was studying abroad at Macquarie University. We explored Sydney, Uluru, and Melbourne in Australia and Rotorua in New Zealand. Then we flew to Thailand where our son now lives, teaching English at a school in Phuket. We flew back via Abu Dhabi and JFK, completing our trip around the world. Speaking of travel….
Six Days without a Plan: I did my first bike tour in ten years, riding 370 miles from Pittsburgh to home, nearly entirely off road in six days. Kevin and Ryan made for good company. The Meth Man not so much. Earl and Anne, two friends from my years in Boston, met up with us for Mothers Day brunch. And we saw the Pirates execute a triple play at PNC Park in Pittsburgh. Speaking of baseball….
Where’s My Ring?: I pretty much went all in as a Washington Nationals fan this year. I attended 8 or 9 games (one was a rainout) and watched dozens more on the tube. In the process I discovered the wonderful bike valet service at the ballpark, bottles of ice water (mostly ice) sold outside the stadium, and SeatGeek, a web service for cheap seats. Sadly, the Nats completely fell apart in August and September ending with the sad display of a bad apple reliever choking the eventual league Most Valuable Player. Speaking of things surly…
Getting Surly: My bikes were getting old. And so was I. So I decided to buy a new one, just for riding events and such. I bought a Surly Cross Check on the enthusiastic recommendation of a half dozen friends who own one or wish they did. I’m still working on giving it a name. My fleet of now four bikes carried me over 7,000 miles this year. Speaking of mileage….
Turning the Odometer: I hit 60 in August. My brain still can’t believe it but my body does. Denial only gets you so far in life. I celebrated by hiking Old Rag. My advice is to do this hike long before your 60th birthday. Mrs RC made me with a quilt from my old running t-shirts. This totally surprised me with it even though she made the thing right in front of me. Still, turning 60 was inescapably depressing. Speaking of depressing…
Goodbye Blue Mondays: I started the year dealing with rather severe depression, not the “I’m sad” kind but the clinical kind. It’s a drag just thinking about it. I forced myself to socialize (see below), ate vitamin D supplements (I had a severe deficiency), and began daily meditation at the repeated suggestion of a friend. You could say that when it was over I had become comfortably numb. Speaking of numbness…
My Right Foot: I also started the year with a mysteriously numb right foot. I saw a neurologist who was incredibly enthusiastic, competent, and beautiful about my case. She sent me to a physical therapist who gave me a set of exercises including bird dogs, side planks, and nerve flossing that I still do every other day. On a whim, I went for a Thai massage. It didn’t do a thing for my foot but it was just about the most relaxing 90 minutes I can recall. “Use your third eye, John.” I also went to an acupuncturist who didn’t do a thing for my foot either. He did fix a pain in my upper arm and recommended some orthotics for my shoes. Speaking of shoes….
Ramping Up My Hiking: After each of my hikes last year, my back and knees were killing me. The second I put the orthotics in my shoes, my back felt better. I did ten hikes this year, most of them in Shenandoah National Park and a little further north on the Appalachian Trail. All but one were solo hikes. The exception came when Ultrarunnergirl kicked my ass all the way to the top of SNP and back. My knees and back hardly protested. Speaking of protests…
What’s a Park It?: Bike riders in DC had been getting hit by cars turning illegally through the Pennsylvania Avenue bike lanes. I attended a protest that was designed to bring awareness to the fact that new barriers called Park Its had not been installed on two blocks of the avenue. The protest was successful (the Park Its were installed a few months later) and was a great opportunity to get together with friends old and new. Speaking of new friends…
Do I Even Have a Fusiform Gyrus?: Three months after apparently meeting me at a December 2014 holiday party, a woman walked up at a post-ride reception and said “Hi John.” I had no idea who she was. She later said I needed to have my fusiform gyrus checked out. So began my improbable friendship with Katie Lee. A few days later we spent four hours in a booth in a downtown tavern. Two peas in a pod, pod people you might say, engaged in an incredibly intense conversation. I felt as if I had caught lightning in a bottle of Shiner Bock. On my way home for the first time in months the fog of my depression had lifted. Like a paper lantern. I know a sign when I see one. Thanks for showing me the score, KL.
Encore, you say?….
Sitting in the Lap of the North Wind: A year or so ago, Mrs RC bought me a CD of celtic sounding music by a Quebec folk group called Le Vent du Nord. As luck would have it, they played very small venues near DC twice this year. We were in the second row for both performances, practically in the lap of the foot drumming, song singing, fiddle player. Even though I studied French in high school and college I can’t really follow their lyrics but I have no trouble enjoying their hurdy gurdy fueled music. Tres bon.