Don’t Need a Watch to Waste Your Time. A Bike Will Do.

I have a full house for the first time since summer. It’s a bit crowded. I didn’t ride yesterday or Friday and I was starting to get testy.  It’s not about the body; it’s all about the mind. My peeps want to go see the new Hunger Games movie later today so I snuck out for a few miles on Big Nellie.

Little Library

I was going to do a circuit around the Fort Hunt neighborhood but then I noticed a couple of unusal things. First, was the Little Free Library. These are cute little boxes on residential streets. You can take or leave a book, as long as they’ll fit in the box. The libraries are nice statements that say “We value reading” to the world passing by.

Ribbons and Flowers for Hannah

Also, along the way I saw a memorial of sorts to Hannah Graham, the University of Virginia student who was apparently abducted and murdered this fall. She grew up this neighborhood. Very sad.

I spent the rest of the ride mostly riding around the 1 1/4 mile circuit in Fort Hunt Park. It’s an easy ride which is what my sore back needs right now. I am looking forward to tomorrow’s warm temperatures and a 3-day work week.

Cold Car Care

“The car won’t turn when it’s cold outside.”

I’ve been hearing these words from my wife and daughter now for over a year. I took the car in to the dealer who wanted $3,000 to fix the steering. For a ten-year old car. I don’t think so.  I could use this as an excuse to buy a new car but the entire family likes how the old heap drives. And other than a few dents and scrapes from my daughter’s first year of driving, it’s in pretty decent shape.

Bob “Don’t Call Me Rachel” Cannon gave me the name of his mechanic in Arlington to try. So I did. The mechanic has formulated some theories as to what is wrong but can’t test them with temperatures above 40 degrees. Lucky for me it’s supposed to be really cold tomorrow.

So I drove the car to work with Little Nellie in the boot. After work I drove to the mechanic with instructions to check out the car first thing in the morning. If it’s cold enough they should be able to determine if it needs a new power steering pump, hose, o-rings, or (fingers crossed) more. 

Once I dropped the car off, I took off for home on Little Nellie. It was cold. Rain and snow approached. Onward!

I dreaded the ride. I thought I would freeze. Fortunately, I guessed right on my clothing selection and was toasty the entire way. I stopped at the W&OD Trail and Columbia Pike to get a reflective vest and some blinky lights. I intend to give them away to a friend who shall remain anonymous until the next paragraph.

Tomorrow morning will be the coldest morning since early April. I plan to go to Friday Coffee Club early to introduce my friend Flor to some folks, something I have been trying and mostly failing at for seven years. Once she gets to know this motley crew, she may never talk to me again.

Happy Feet

Over the past year I have taken up day hiking as a way to keep myself from getting bored with cycling. When you ride 150 miles per week just getting to and from work, the prospect of a weekend bike ride sometimes just doesn’t float your boat.

Hiking has been a lot of fun with one exception: it leaves my body wrecked. For somebody who used to run 10 miles per day this is a bit hard to accept. I could chalk it up to age since my last marathon was over 25 years ago. I am pretty sure it has more to do with the boots I’ve been wearing.

My old Dunham boots are 10 EE. Even though my feet are very wide, my feet slide aronud in these boots. And the bottoms seem to have no grip at all. Sometimes when I am hiking it feels like I am on ice.

DSCN3533_671So today I drove over to REI to try on some new boots. Actually, they are hiking shoes, a bit of a cross between trail running shoes and lightweight boots. They don’t cover my ankles which I like. These new shoes are 10 1/2 E and fit more snuggly. The soles seem to be grippier. I had hoped to get waterproof boots but they didn’t have any in stock. No worries, I’ll probably not be hiking in the wet anyway.

So for now, I have happy feet. I need to test these bad boys out on a hike soon. Yay!

Coffeeneuring #4: Bittersweet Indeed

I had to go to the bike shop to get a few things so Little Nellie and I took off for Spokes Etc. about 5 miles from home. The shop is extremely bike commuter friendly in that they’ll do simple repairs while you wait. So I frequently forgo the e-commerce route when buying bike stuff. You should too.

Once I had done my bike shop thing, I headed into Old Town Alexandria in search of coffee. I had a hankering for fish and chips but, alas, Eamonn’s does not have coffee on the menu and the Queen of Caffeine does not count Guiness as an appropriate beverage for the Challenge.

So I walked a couple of blocks to Bittersweet Bakery. They were crowded but there were only two customers in line. Somehow they managed to turn a simple purchase of coffee into a 10 to 15 minute annoyance. I noticed they sold Swing’s coffee so I endured the hassle. I had a tall Costa Rica Light coffee. It was fine but tasted very watered down. Most disappointing. After my coffee break I headed home to give my bikes some TLC and to mow the lawn in the brisk fall air.

Cofffeeneuring Scorecard

Date: October 18

Location: BIttersweet Bakery at 823 King Street in Old Town, Alexandria.

Drink: Swings Costa Rica Light. Tasted watery.

Observation: The food at Bittersweet looked quite good. The place was crowded. It took me over 10 minutes to get just a cup of coffee.

Miles: 14.5


Call Me Euthymic

I went to a brand new doctor this week. He gave me a short test to see if I was depressed. In his notes he said I was euthymic. I went to a fancy pants (literally, it was a military school) high school with lots of vocabulary tests. FN, one of my English teachers, would have called euthymic a $1 word. Do you know what it means?

Before I reveal the answer to today’s quiz, I’ll tell you a little story. My father was an ophthalmologist. Every morning, before I dragged my lazy butt out of bed, he was at the hospital doing rounds. One morning he walked by a patient’s room. She was asleep. Not wanting to disturb her he asked a nurse exiting the room, “How’s she doing this morning?” The nurse replied, “Quite well. She’s vocalizing.”

My father asked the nurse if it was show tunes or opera. The nurse didn’t get it.

Today, was a weird day. I kept seeing Facebook messages from extremes and it was driving me. One minute a post would pop up paying tribute to my friend’s friend who died suddenly last week. The next, a picture would appear showing one of my #bikedc friends having a blast as a member of a wedding party. Sadness. Glee. Sadness. Glee.

On my ride home, I saw this scene which made my day

Cobble Bride

Now back to our quiz. Euthymic means that I was in a normal, run-of-the-mill good mood. Medicine would be cheaper if they used 25 cents words instead of $1.

Despite his use of arcane language, my new doctor is a real find. He is my third doctor (the other two are eye doctors) who rides a bike. He also does yoga and urged me to do a 60 to 90 minute session at least once a week. He even tried to demonstrate a balancing position before teetering into the examination table. So we’re going to get along fine.

Global Lore Love

My recent post about Lorena and our mutual friend Florencia has received far more readership than any previous post on this blog. Normally, this blog is about my bicycle escapades and is read by a modest audience in a handful of countries in any given week. In three days, the Lorena story has been accessed by hundreds of people in over 25 countries on six continents (come on, Antarctica, we’re waiting for you!) around the world. What a testimony to the power of love and friendship.

Most of the readers, I am sure, don’t know me from Adam. (Romania? Nepal? Malaysia?) They came here from seeing a link on Florencia’s Facebook page or from her cross-posting the link to the We Love Lore Memorial Facebook page. My hats off to the geeks who figured out this Internet thing. As my late father would say: you done good.

Over the last several days I have gotten to know more about Lorena through the testimonials on the Memorial page. My previous post simply did not do her justice. She was a force of nature. An indomitable spirit. And deeply beloved by so, so many people.

I am grateful to be able to spread the word through this crummy little blog of mine. Most importantly, many of these readers made a donation to Lorena’s memorial fund. Many, many thanks to you all. For those who might still want to contribute, here is the link again:

Finally, when I wrote the first post, I tried to think of an song that would honor Lorena’s memory. I hope this one does it. For Lorena, She Goes On.

Turn Left at Greenland

During the press conference scene in “A Hard Days Night,” a reporter asks the Beatles “How did you find America?” John Lennon replied, “Turn left at Greenland.” I was curious as to how people find my blog. Lucky for me the WordPress software provides a list of search terms.  Here are a few choice ones:

Racher Godshave (What I would be called if I were a Game of Thrones character)

Feel shy when I moan boy (Must have been an interesting night or my next hit single)

Queen no more rack (The b side)

Where can you buy bicycle spokes in Sweden (Turn left at Malmo)

Why does my blockhead have wheels above her head (My blockhead would be a she, now, wouldn’t she?)

Speeding turtle (okay, this one is pretty descriptive of my riding style)

Neil Finn dyslexia (His new CD? Features the song “Dream Don’t Over It”)

Kirsten Holin Vernon (Possibly the best supergroup ever)

Name of the slowest bike in the world (Now wait a minute!)

Shy Naked Caged Woman (I’m speechless)

and, perhaps, the title of my next post:

Mount Vernon Man Blows Trail





August Recap

As is usually the case, the month of August is a bit of an off month for bike riding. There just seem to be too many other things that crop up. In the middle of the month we spent five days driving to/hanging out/driving home from Indiana. I managed to squeeze in a 34 mile ride among the corn and soy.

Early in the month I spent a day exploring the trails in Rock Creek Park. The distance was something like 11 miles and I have to say it was a bit beyond my comfort level. I am eager to do more hiking. I sure wish I had some footwear that was more appropriate to the task though.

I commuted by bike all 16 days that I went to the office. Many of these were short commutes from car mechanics in North Arlington. It gives my legs a rest to do these 4 to 6 milers instead of my usual 28 to 32 milers. Also, the car mechanics are infinitely better than the ones near my home.

Thirteen of the bike commutes were aboard Little Nellie, partly because it’s easier to fold her up and plop her in the trunk of the car when going to the mechanic. The other three were aboard Big Nellie, my cushy recumbent. All that commuting added up to 379 miles.

I tacked on another 280 miles doing fun rides and errands on the weekends. I did a 37 mile ride into the city on Big Nellie but the rest was aboard Little Nellie which passed 13,000 miles and is starting to show signs of fatigue. The long ride was a 70-miler that included the third Hoppy 100. did two 64-mile rides. One was a repeat of the Vasa ride plus a side trip to Meridian Hill Park with Flor. Saturday’s ride with Kirstin among the farms of the Piedmont added another 64 miles.

For the year, I’ve racked up 5,203 miles including 108 bike commutes. Little Nellie leads the pack with 54 bike commutes, twice as many as Big Nellie and the Mule which each clocked in 27 commutes. Little Nellie has 2,405 miles this year which is remarkable especially in light of all my back problems in the spring. Those little wheels can be hell on my back but somehow I’ve become dialed in to the ride. I really like the fast accelerations and the quick handling. The pothole jolts not so much. Big Nellie accounted for 1,694 miles. The Mule has been all but ignored (by me at least, my son has been riding it) this summer but still has 1,104 miles, mostly in the cold of winter.

The month of September promises to hold lots of miles. I have signed up for two rides: the 60+ mile Fifty States Ride and the Backroads Century. I may also throw in the Southern Maryland 100 next weekend.