Spoiled for Soccer

I skipped the World Cup this year. Until today’s final. Holy cow. It was one of the best sporting events I’ve ever seen. I saw a couple of textbook plays by Argentina that blew my mind. One was a goal scored on a series of touch passes that looked like a fast break by the Larry Bird Celtics or the Showtime Lakers. Another was a put back by Lionel Messi who was lurking in front of the goal like Phil Esposito of he old Boston Bruins. France should have won but for an absolutely magnificent save by the Argentine goalie near the end of the game. Lordy.

I’ve seen a lot of sporting events in my life but this World Cup final one was definitely one for the ages. Here are a few others.

The Sixth Game: In September 1974, the Red Sox brought up three rookies from their Pawtucket farm team: Burleson, Rice, and Lynn. I told my father about them and said that they were going to be a great team in 1975. He laughed. Game 6 of the 1975 World Series at Fenway Park was the pinnacle. It was credited with reviving the nation’s interest in baseball. I lived in Boston and drove a cab that summer. The Sox were all any of my fares wanted to talk about. It almost didn’t matter that they lost Game 7.

Hagler vs Hearns: Hagler was New England’s greatest boxer since Marciano. Hearns was called the Hit Man. They battled it out for three rounds that had more action than any three entire bouts anybody had ever seen. It was exhausting to watch.

Celtics vs. Phoenix Game 5: This game went three overtimes. Near the end both the players and the fans were utterly spent. I was watching in a bar in southern New Hampshire. The bar was supposed to close but nobody would leave with the game still going on. They closed the bar and locked us in! Celtics won the game and the next to win the championship.

Nationals World Series 2019: Nearly everything they did worked. They lost all three of their home games and still one the series. That never happens.

USA wins gold: The 1980 mens’ Olympic hockey team really should not have been on the same ice as the European teams but they won. I lived on a hockey floor in a dorm during my freshman year in college. One of the freshman players went on to be the 1980 USA team captain. The icing on the cake was that for once a nice guy finished first.

Red Sox 2004: The Sox hadn’t won the World Series since before my father was born. True to form they were punished for three games in the playoffs by the hated Yankees then pulled off the biggest comeback in history. I was jumping up and down on the couch like a madman. My kids thought I had lost my mind. The Sox went on to win it all.

After the 2004 World Series, I couldn’t watch baseball again for years. I just wasn’t interested. Nothing could top that. It probably helped that we didn’t have a bona fide major league baseball team in DC until 2012. I feel the same way about this year’s World Cup final. I’ll just move on from soccer for a year or so before I watch another game. (Okay, I might just peek at the women’s World Cup final next summer. Just for a bit.) In a way, I felt the same after riding my bike across the country in 2018. I walked around in a dream state for weeks afterward. Despite riding through some of the most jaw dropping scenery in the world, I really didn’t enjoy my 2019 tour. It wasn’t until this year that fun came back.

The Colonoscopy Blow by Blow

For those of you wondering how the whole colonoscopy thing went, here’s a recap.

Friday

A regular day except I stopped taking my daily aspirin to allow better blood clotting

Saturday

Ate a “light breakfast” which for me was two Eggos, two eggs over easy, and a banana chased down with four mugs of coffee with skim milk and a glass of water.

After 9 a.m. I could not eat any solid food. I drank two cans of ginger ale, a glass of skim mile with malt powder, a tall glass of lemonade, and beaucoup water.

I went for an easy 30-mile bike ride because I knew I wouldn’t be riding on Sunday and Monday.

At 4 p. m. I took three teeny Dulcolax pills. I figured they wouldn’t do much. I figured wrong. They had roughly the force of three teeny atom bombs. Beginning at around 6, I ran to the bathroom several times. After about 8 p.m. all was calm.

Sunday

Nothing but clear fluid all day. So it was tea with sugar, And lots of water. At 2 p. m. I took three more Dulcolax pills. Within an hour I was doing laps to the bathroom. By this point there was nothing solid left in my digestive track. By 4, all was calm.

Good thing because at 4 I had to drink a quart of Mucolax, a powdered laxative mixed in water. It worked like a charm. At 6 the laxative kicked in and I was back on the track, running to the bathroom. By this time I was feeling worn out. I am pretty sure my electrolytes were all askew. I had a whopper of a headache. (I could have taken Tylenol but decided to ride the headache out.)

After a couple of hours my gut calmed down. Then at 9, I drank my second quart of Mucolax. Lord knows why. I guess some people have stubborn plumbing. The next two hours were pretty rough. More running to the bathroom for about 2 1/2 hours. Nothing but wet.

At midnight I lay down for six or so hours of sleep on the couch. Except I couldn’t sleep. My gut gurgled all night. I couldn’t warm up. From midnight on, I couldn’t eat or drink anything to prepare for the anesthesia.

Monday

At 6:10 I rollled off the couch groggy, and dressed. Mrs. Rootchopper drove me over to the endoscopy center in Maryland, about ten miles away.

I checked in, signed a mountain of forms, then went into a prep room. My vital signs were taken. Then I was weighed. 188! Unreal. My clothes weigh about the same as what the laxatives took out of me. I had thought my 190 pound weigh in at my GP’s office in November was a fluke or the result of a bad scale. Apparently not.

A nurse gave me a gown and told to take off my shoes and undress below my waste. My clothes and such were put into a plastic bin that would follow me as I was moved about. The gown went on with the back open for obvious reasons. I was also given a disposable sheet across my lap for modesty’s sake.

Next I was taken through a side door to the procedure room, a rudimentary operating room with a cushioned comfy table just for me. I was positioned on the table on my left side, head on a pillow, with knees bent up, butt out at present arms, so to speak. The anesthesiologist came in and explained what he was doing. I was hooked up to some equipment that would monitor my vital signs. The gastroenterologist came in and chatted briefly. Then the anesthesiologist put an IV into my arm and injected a sedative. It was ice cold. I felt it go up my arm.

Next thing I knew I was in the recovery room. Nurses were buzzing about. I felt a hand on my shoulder. It was a nurse making sure I didn’t getting up. Mrs. Rootchopper, who had been waiting outside in the parking lot, was called.

After a brief period (I have no idea how long) I was allowed to stand up. The nurse told me to put my underpants and my pants on while seated. Then I was to put my shoes on and tie them. Finally I was to stand and pull my underpants and pants up. All of this was to avoid bending way over to tie my shoes which would have been both comical and semi-catastrophic given the disoriented state that I was in and that I was utterly unaware of. Sure enough, as soon as I stood up, I wobbled. Yeah, the anesthesia is still in my system.

I was moved to a chair and Mrs. Rootchopper and I met with the doctor. (Having someone present when you get debriefed is a good idea because you’re half loony tunes from the anesthesia.) Everything went well. The prep worked just as intended. He found a bit of hemorrhaging along the colon but no polyps…until the endoscope got to the very end of the large intestine where it connects to the small intestine. There he found a polyp. He took a biopsy which he will send to a lab for review. He seemed confident that it was noncancerous but the lab would determine its specifics. He showed us a couple of pictures he took of the area including an irregular patch where he had burned the polyp. No more polyp.

After another few minutes of waiting to clear my head I wobbled out to the car and went home. I felt anemic and my tummy felt kind of spongy and tight at the same time. I ate a bowl of rice chex and a banana then I took a two hour nap.

I was groggy for a few more hours once I woke up. Then I ate dinner: mini-hamburgers in beef gravy with mashed potatoes. It tasted amazing. It was only after dinner that I realized how messed up my system had been. For the rest of the night, my only discomfort was some gas caused by the use of air during the procedure. (The colon is about six feet long and has irregular walls and there are several bends in it. The air facilitates smooth passage of the endoscope.)

Tuesday

Today was a normal day. Breakfast with coffee and milk. At noon I went for a 30-mile bike ride and rode up a long hill like it wasn’t there. Light as a feather with fresh legs. Not the least bit groggy or fatigued.

Thursday

I can start taking my daily aspirin again.

Post Procedure Observations

I have to say that the prep took more out of me this time than in the past. It turns out that the choice of laxatives was determined by what my insurance would cover. In the past I had used Moviprep, a prescription solution. I think I had to drink a gallon of the stuff. And it tasted like Pedialyte, which is to say, nasty. This time I used a combination of over the counter laxatives: Dulcolax and Mulcolax. Drinking Mulcolax was an improvement. I only had to drink a half gallon and it had no taste at all. The apparent advantage of Moviprep is that it shortens the overall length of the prep.

The only pain I felt was the stab from the IV port. I felt nothing during the procedure itself. The staff and the nurses were great. As were the doctors. I learned that this was my fifth colonoscopy, all with the same doctor. He was a very handsome young man when I first met him 30 years ago. He’s a bit stooped over now with thin gray hair but he has a world-class bedside manner and communicates well. Most important, he has a ton of experience doing colonoscopies and he burns a mean polyp.

I’ll find out about the lab results soon. Unfortunately I’ll probably have to have another colonoscopy in three years, maybe two if the polyp is found to be troublesome. There are worse things in life.

As unpleasant as all this may have sounded, I urge you to follow CDC guidance and get a colonoscopy if you are 50 or older, 40 if you have a family history.

If you are a workaholic or a slave to your daily routine, I advise you to forget about going to the office or trying to do anything remotely normal during the prep. Lordy, don’t schedule a Zoom meeting! (You don’t want to be known as Jeffrey Poobin, do you?) You can’t predict when the laxative will kick in. You want to be as close to your porcelain overlord as possible when it does. In other words, surrender to the voiding.

Since I have decided not to have back surgery, barring a calamity, I am done with doctors for 2022. With any kind of luck, next year will be a boring one for me medically. No epidural injections. No endoscopes. Just a follow up skin exam in January, and routine biannual trips to the dentist and eye doctor. Life is good.

Prep School

Right about now I should be on my way to a friend’s holiday open house, an event that I greatly enjoy and haven’t been to since Covid messed everything up. Instead I am at home sitting in the chair nearest the bathroom. Yesterday I started preparing for a colonoscopy tomorrow morning. It’s my sixth or seventh colonoscopy. I’ve been getting them since my early 40s because I have a family history of colon cancer. Thanks, Mom.

The procedure involves threading a camera through your colon and looking for anomalous tissues. If any are found the doctor will remove them. In order to see what’s going on, the colon must be completely empty. To this end (so to speak), the prep used to involved drinking a gallon or two of powerful laxative solution that tasted horrid. Now it involves taking six laxative pills and drinking a gallon of powerful laxative solution that tastes horrid. Medical science marches on.

Yesterday morning I ate breakfast. Eggs and waffles and a banana with four big cups of coffee. That’s the last solid food I can have until after the procedure. Yesterday afternoon I took three tiny orange/red pills. Nothing happened. Then boom the laxative kicked in. I spent the next several hours literally running back and forth to the bathroom. By bedtime all was calm and there appeared to be not one atom of solids left in my gut. All I can say is that Dulcolax packs a mighty punch.

I started today with a scrumptious breakfast of ginger ale, hot tea, and chicken broth. There are pretzels and cereals and Christmas cookies all over the kitchen tempting me. Eat me! Eat me! I can hear them whispering. Nope. Not gonna.

At 2 p.m. I will take three more pills. Then at 4 p.m. I drink a quart of laxative solution. At 9 p.m. I drink another quart. I am guessing things will settle down and I will be able to get to sleep around 2 a.m.

Tomorrow morning I go to the endoscopy center at 7. There, I will be given a gown and sedated. Then I’ll wake up and Bob’s your uncle.

When I first started getting colonoscopies, the results were negative. I was placed on a five-year cycle. During my third or fourth colonoscopy the doctor found and removed polyps, the precursors to cancerous tumors. These were removed and I was placed on a three- year cycle.

As unpleasant as this process is, it’s infinitely preferable to cancer treatments. If you are 50 or older and haven’t had a colonoscopy, get one. All you need is a good doctor, some laxatives and someone to drive you to and from the doctor’s office. People with a family history of colorectal cancer should start getting colonoscopies at 40.

Even a colonoscopy is not 100 percent effective at detecting tumors. An old roommate of mine died from colon cancer even after having one. Nevertheless, colonoscopies are far more likely to detect polyps and tumors than other methods. (One drug is on the market that claims to find 92% of colon cancers. That’s an excellent success rate for free throw shooting in basketball. Alas, cancer ain’t roundball. Go for the scope.)

My friend Tim blogged about his first colonoscopy. He has a gift for cutting through the technical jargon and getting right to the scatological humor.

Ten Years On

I started this blog on WordPress ten years ago. I have been running out of space (more can be acquired at cost) so I deleted all the pre-12/9/2012 material. This includes posts about my wife getting hit by a car, acroyoga, and some other odds and ends. Seems like a century ago. Anyway for the pathetically dedicataed reader that material still exists somehow on rootchopper.blogspot.com.

November 2022 – Crawling through Fall

The leaves are all but gone, save for the dreary brown ones on our oak tree. The helpful trees on the farm next door dropped a blanket on our backyard only after I “finished” raking for the year. Raking leaves beats shoveling snow, I suppose. More to do.

It was a long foliage season around these parts. We now look forward to weeks of gray and dark, and cold winds. Of course, it’s not like Saskatchewan or anything, but the contrast to the oppressive heat and humidity of July and August makes it seem so.

Biking (and Walking)

This month’s miles: I only rode 747.5 miles this month, my first sub 1,000-mile month since April. I took six days off. A couple of days to attend an uncle-in-law’s 70th birthday party in southern West Virginia. This past Sunday and today were rainy and gloomy, good for sleeping in and napping. My mileage for the year broke 10,000 on November 2. A few weeks later I hit 10,000 outdoor miles, a pointless point of pride, riding another 500+ miles to account for my cellar recumbent rides last winter. I’m at 10,713 miles and counting. My Cross Check turned 25,000 miles and The Mule turned 69,000 miles this month. My longest ride, 62 miles, was the day of WABA’s Cider Ride.

The Mule, my 1991 Specialized Cross Check, turned 69.

Fender benders: Somehow during my rides I managed to destroy both fenders on The Mule. The back one went first when I ran over a small fallen tree limb. A week or two later I ran over an even small branch, the kind I’ve ridden over countless times. It got sucked up by my front wheel and that was that.

Medical mysteries: I did a follow-up trip to my doctor to see if my dietary changes since my August physical had produced any measurable benefits. To my utter surprise, my blood cholesterol dropped 50 points. My weight dropped eight pounds to 190. I had hoped the weight loss would help with my back problems so I experimented with long walks. For a while my progress seemed promising. I managed to go four miles without back pain. Then, after Thanksgiving dinner, the joined the other overstuffed diners for a post-prandial walk around the hilly neighborhood. I felt completely fine for about 1/3rd of a mile but the second half of the walk was pretty unpleasant. I’ve tried to get a hold of the back surgeon that Dr. Pain recommended back in May but the helpful communications infrastructure at his office has thwarted me. I even looked into a different surgeon, one who practices in the orthopedic clinic down the street from my house. It turns out he is out of network for my insurance. Maybe the gods are trying to tell me something.

Speaking of doctors, I made an appointment for a colonoscopy next month. I’ll post the video next month.

Just kidding.

Next year’s tour?: My mind is already turning to thoughts of a summer tour. I guess my brain has forgotten about all those crappy motels last summer. To add to my motivation, I recently found two long-forgotten poly shirts in my closet. Man, I wish I had them this past summer.

I had planned to ride 400+ miles to my 50th high school reunion in upstate New York in May. Last Spring, I bought tickets to a September 2022 Crowded House concert (probably their last tour). The drummer injured his back (karma, no?) and the concert was rescheduled to the Sunday after the reunion. Ack. Now, instead of riding to the reunion, I face the prospect of driving 800+ miles in two days and missing half the events. It’s all a mess. Regardless, next summer’s tour will start May 23 or thereabouts. DC to Bar Harbor and back. There are many interesting route options.

Plan B is to do New Orleans to DC. That can actually happen next fall as the weather between here and there is likely to be ideal.

Watching and Listening

The Crown: We watched the fifth season. Maybe it’s my familiarity with the events but it was my least favorite season so far. Flashback scenes of Claire Foy as the Queen back in the fifties only reminded me of how much I enjoyed the earlier seasons. Maybe it was the writing but Imelda Staunton’s Queen didn’t hold up to either Foy’s or Olivia Coleman’s. Also, the impending death of Diana made me dread each new episode. (They saved it for season six. Oh, joy.)

Andor: We watched the remaining episodes of Andor, a Star Wars prequel miniseries. I liked it a lot. Diego Luna, Stellan Skarsgard, and Andy Serkis are superb. The good guys are bad. The bad guys are evil. It lacks the cartoonish aspects of all the other Star Wars products. No Yodas, Grokus, light sabers, or wide eyed Jedis-to-be.

Ultra: I finished listening to this podcast. It’s the forgotten history of the politics of white supremacy in the United States in the 30s and 40s and how the Nazis infiltrated American politics. It is not American politicians’ finest hour. Well worth listening to.

Also, I finished watching the World Series. No more sports for me for a few months. Maybe I’ll watch the World Cup final and the Super Bowl.

Reading

The Young Terrorist by Nabil Khouri. This is a (I think) self-published memoir of how a Lebanese boy somewhat miraculously escaped the chaos of the middle east in the 1970s and realized the American dream. He was hardly a terrorist, just a misguided (and often terrified) 11-year-old boy who signed up with a Palestinian militia group in his hometown in Jordan. With a facility with mathematics, dogged persistence, and some lucky breaks, he made it to a college and a peaceful existence in the U. S.

The Road by Cormac McCarthy. I read this a long time ago and just couldn’t get into it. It’s depressing as hell. McCarthy description of a father and son making their way through a post-apocalyptic landscape (presumably American) is chilling. I couldn’t help but picture the barren areas of the U. S. West (particularly the forest burn zones and the high desert of Wyoming) that I’ve ridden through on my last three bike tours as I read McCarthy’s description of the landscape.

The Naked Mule

The Mule seems to be attracting a lot of road debris this year. On my bike tour in Oregon, the rear fender trapped a chunk of truck tire tread. The tread worked into my rear tire and caused my first flat in ages.

Fast forward to autumn. The winds are blowing and tree branches are falling. The smaller stuff seems to end up on the shoulders of roads. Last week I was riding along lost in my typical riding trance when I came upon a small tree branch on the pavement ahead. I had no pavement to my right and cars to my left so I rode over the branch. Just like the tire tread, the branch managed to clear my front wheel without a problem but it became caught up under my rear fender. The force of the impact tore the bottom off my rear fender. I managed to ride with it on for a while but the damage was so extensive I had to remove the fender.

The Mule had a bare bottom for the first time in its life. Eek.

Today I was riding through a park on the Mount Vernon Trail when I came upon what looked to be a small tree branch no more than a few inches long. Alas, it was just long enough to get sucked up under my front fender. Can you say instant replay? Well, I was going to have to buy a new fender set anyway so it’s not much of a loss. The Mule is now naked front and rear.

Second fender trashed in a week. The Mule is naked.
Front wheel of The Mule with removed broken front fender.

I suppose it could have been worse. Neither fender incident resulted in damage to the wheels or the tires. Speaking of tires, the Schwalbe Marathon Plus Tour tire in the picture above has well over 5,000 miles on it. I suspect it will last at least another 3,000 miles.

Medical Mendoza

Mario Mendoza was baseball player about a generation ago. He embodied the description “Good field, no hit.” In nine seasons, the light-hitting shortstop failed to bat above .200 five times. The number 200 has been known ever since as the Mendoza line.

When I had my physical back in early August, I discovered that my weight had fallen below the Mendoza line. I weighed in at 198 pounds, a result of riding 3,500 hilly miles during my bike tour during the previous two months. Unfortunately there is another Mendoza line for total blood cholesterol. My cholesterol level came in at 277, far above any previous test result.

My doctor told me to come back in three months and he’d re-test me. In the meantime I was to eat certain foods known to lower cholesterol including salmon twice a week. I am no fan of salmon so that wasn’t going to happen but I did cut out lots of other bad stuff. I substituted nuts (especially almonds) for chips. I ate less red meat. I cut out cookies and ice cream. And had fewer than ten alcoholic drinks. I call this my SEC (Stop Eating Crap) diet. In the week before my re-test, I started eating Brazil nuts (just three or four a day) as they are supposedly the bees knees when it comes to lowering cholesterol.

When I went into the doctor’s office this week I had two expectations: higher weight and not much difference in cholesterol. Weight gain is all but inevitable after a tour ends. Cholesterol is notoriously difficult to reduce because 80 percent of your cholesterol level supposedly is determined by genetics.

I stepped on the scale in the examination room with trepidation. I fully expected to weight 205 or more. Was I ever shocked. 190! I haven’t weighed 190 since my son was born 31 years ago. I thought the scale was wrong. Today I tried on some clothing that had fit rather snugly recently. They fit with room to spare. My son bought me a cycling kit (jersey and matching shorts) for Christmas many years ago. The jersey and shorts were laughably far too small so I put them in a drawer and forgot about them. Today I tried them on. They are still rather snug but I got them on. I’d wear them to ride but I look like a balloon about to pop, such are the sartorial limitations of 67 year-olds.

The lower weight also helped with my lower back problems. I managed to do several walks around home last week without leg pain. My back isn’t close to 100 percent but at least I can walk a mile without crippling leg pain.

Today, I got the results of my blood test. I was surprised to see that my cholesterol level dropped to 229. a decline of 18 percent. (My LDL – the so-called bad cholesterol – also dropped 18 percent.) I wonder if the 277 result had been skewed by my bike tour diet which was heavily dependent on gas station food. Or maybe there was some sort of metabolic trauma from riding so much for two months.

My medical journey continues next month with my sixth or seventh colonoscopy. It’ll be like Fantastic Voyage, alas without Raquel Welch.

Cider Ride 2022 – Celery and Donuts

Last Saturday was the final event of my bicycling year, the 60-mile Cider Ride. This event is run annually by the Washington Area Bicyclists Association (WABA). I’ve ridden all six Cider Rides.. The first two were held on suburban roads in December. Riding in 40-degree weather on roads with impatient Maryland drivers did not make for a fun time. The second Cider Ride also featured rain. Woo boy. Thankfully my friend Reba’s chain broke about 13 miles into the event. We spent about a half hour in the cold rain trying in vain to fix it but we had neither the parts nor the expertise to get her rolling again. Cold and wet, we called for the WABA sag wagon and Gina picked us up in her blissfully warm van.

Ever since that lovely day, the event has been held in early November. This year’s event featured light breezes and 75 degree temperatures.

I rode in a group of ten riders. Michael, Kevin, and Chris and I have been doing WABA events together for several years. We rode the 50 States ride together in September. Chuck, Catherine, Jonah, and Sara who were also part of our 2022 50 States posse joined us for this ride as well. Our 50 States alums welcomed Jean and Domitille. It was a coincidence that they are both French. I seem to be making a habit of meeting French bicyclists after chatting with the French sisters in Boulder, Utah in 2018 and to two separate French riders in close succession this summer near the Oxbow, Oregon this summer.

Domitille only recently moved to DC so she was not at all familiar with where we were going. And she expressed uncertainty about her ability to make it beyond 30 miles. Little did she know that we at the Rootchopper Institute specialize in the care and support of newbies – such as Chris and Katie (Cider Ride), and Shane, Veronica, Richard, Tito, Jeremy, Emilia, Larraine, Jeannie, Elizabeth, Lisa, and Kristen (50 States Ride).

At about 9:15 we were off. The ride took us through middle-class, residential Northeast DC into Mt. Rainier, Maryland. There we jumped on a succession of bike trails along the Anacostia River and it’s northeastern tributary. Occasionally we’d ride under a canopy of trees with leaves floating down like giant puffy orange snowflakes. Near College Park we passed through a running event. Here I was surprised as I passed my old biking friend Lisa running in the opposite direction. Hi Lisa

Around the University of Maryland campus and the College Park airport we spun. Michael who knows these trails and the course by heart, led the way, keeping a steady 12 mile per hour pace. We arrived at the first pit stop at Proteus Bicycles in College Park. Warm cider and donuts! Yes!

Domitille pulled out a bag of personal healthful snacks and pulled out a stalk of celery. Domitille, you got some learnin’ to do. The truth is that the food table included healthful things like bananas and apples but they were right next to the icing-covered chocolate donuts. Mon Dieu!

In her defense, Domitille did explain to us how celery, in addition to being nutritionally beneficial, is every bit as good at cleaning your teeth as a toothbrush and toothpaste. Oh, give me some of that dental goodness! On my next event ride I’ll be sure to pack some Colgate.

All kidding aside, she was holding up quite well and having a good time so who am I to deny her such utterly healthy habits.

With full tummies and clean teeth, we headed off towards the Greenbelt USDA research farmlands. At the pit stop, I had assured Domitille that there was only one bad hill on the entire course. Sadly, I had forgotten about the four miles of rollers along Beaver Dam Road. It’s a wonder she didn’t whack me with a celery stalk.

Once clear of the farm land we rode into the Patuxent Research Refuge. It was a lovely three miles out and back through the woods. The turnaround had a pit stop of sorts: no food, just bathrooms. As we rode back toward the farm area we split off to the right, riding a big circle through a suburban neighborhood. I somehow caught my stride and sped clear of the group. They reeled me in after a mile or so. Back at the farmland we used Research Road to cross our outbound path. Now we had a noticeable headwind just in time for the day’s big climb. (At this point I was hoping that Domitille did not have a knife in her food bag.)

We all made it up the hill and around a couple of annoying gates designed to keep drivers from cutting through the Greenbelt neighborhood ahead. A mile of so later we arrived at Buddy Attucks Park and our second pit stop. There was more cider. More donuts. Snacks. And pie! Pumpkin or apple. Or, as Sara was to discover, BOTH! Also, there were lots of bees buzzing about. I made sure to check my cider cup before drinking.

By now we had gone about 35 miles. Domitille was holding up fine. Maybe there’s something to that celery thing after all. We headed back toward DC. Our route took us around Lake Artemsia which we had skirted a few hours earlier. Down the Northeast Branch of the Anacostia, the route took some streets through Hyattsville to ride the Trolley Trail. It was hard not to stop at the gastropubs along the trail but somehow we managed. (Did you know that IPA makes an excellent mouthwash?)

Back to the NE Branch Trail we crossed the Anacostia at Bladensburg and stopped for our last rest stop. I ate an apple. Domitille ate a donut. Will wonders never cease?

The next ten miles involved a ride down the river on the Anacostia River Trail (ART). We rode past an athletic field where a high school cross country race was underway. I must say some of the runners look quite unhappy with the heat and humidity. At Eleventh Street, we crossed back over the river and headed north to the RFK Stadium complex. We rode around the hulking decrepit concrete hulk, Joe and I reminisced about separately attending the Tibetan Freedom concert where lightning struck a young woman. (It was in my seating section. I was getting some liquid refreshment on the concourse above when I heard the BOOM.)

D to 14th to C Streets Northeast took us to and around Lincoln Park. After a brief spin along Massachusetts Avenue we rode around Columbus Circle and up the 1st Street cycle track to M Street. M took us to the Metropolitan Branch Trail which we rode a mile or so back to the finish at MetroBar.

We celebrated with a group picture and some snacks and liquids. We all made it in great shape. Celery and donuts for the win!

Kevin, Jean, and Domitille on the ART in DC during the 2022 Cider RIde
Kevin and Domitille following Jean on the Northeast Branch Trail
Me on Beaver Dam Road during the 2022 Cider Ride
Me, powered by donuts on Beaver Dam Road.
Catherine leading along the ART on the 2022 Cider Ride
Catherine leading Domatille on the ART
Jonah bringing up the rear on the ART during the 2022 Cider Ride
Kevin, Me, Michael, Jean, and Jacob on the ART
At the FInish: Our 2022 Cider Ride Crew minus Chuck plus Monica
Chris, Kevin, Jean, Michael, Monica (our finish line greeter), Me, Jonah. Domitille, Sara, Catherine and Joe. All smiles after nearly 60 miles of riding. Not pictured: Chuck (who finished as well, see below).
Chuck capturing us re-hydrating at the 2022 Cider Ride finish at Metro Bar
L-R: Chuck, Me, Micael, Domitlle, Joe, Sara, Kevin, and Jonah at Metrobar after the ride

Riding and Rutting

The weather around the mid-Atlantic has been unreal lately. Warm. Gently breezy. Not at all typical of early November. The good weather resulted in an extended fall foliage season, a real feast for the eyeballs.

With a forecasted high temperature in the high 70s I was planning on driving away from the city and doing a long-ish ride, maybe on the C&O Canal or on the eastern shore of Maryland. I turned on the TV to confirm the forecast. It was then I learned that the cable TV remote wasn’t working properly, which is to say at all. No bueno.

So I contacted tech support at the cable company. There is probably a way to get a knowledgeable human on the phone but I couldn’t find it on the Cox Communications website. So I used the company’s online chat feature. This involved two minute lags between questions and responses that dragged on for an hour, at which point the technical support person advised me that my remote was kaput. (This all could have been done in ten minutes on the phone but that’s so 1990s!)

The hour that I spent “chatting” would have been spent driving somewhere bucolic but, thanks to Cox Communications, that idea was dead and gone, kind of like my remote. So what’s a bicyclists to do? Ride to the cable store!

The closest retail store to my house is in a development called Kingstowne. This area was designed and built about 20 years ago. The roads have no shoulders and no bike lanes. There are paths meant for an evening spin around the townhouse developments but there are no wayfaring signs on them. On the way I had to ride on South Kings Highway, a car sewer with two steep hills. The county bicycling master plan had included a flat trail on the perimeter a wildlife preserve that would have allowed me to avoid this hellscape. Alas, the trail – which would have followed an existing utility easement – was removed from the plan at the last moment because it supposedly would have disrupted the wildlife. (If you want to go to this pristine environmental area you have to drive. Wildlife just love oil, gas, and other toxic fluids, Who knew? Welcome to Fairfax County, Virginia.)

So, I made it to the cable company office without being run over by a big metal thing and headed home. On the way I stopped at a big box hardware store to pick up some paper bags for leaf disposal. They were all out. It seems that our super nice fall weather caused a community-wide rake-o-rama.

Another mile or so later across the car rapids of U. S. 1, I arrived home. To my surprise the new remote worked so I wouldn’t have to go back through car hell to get another. Yay.

Noon time. I snarfed down a PB&J. Then I headed out on the CrossCheck for some more miles in my neck of the woods. After about eight more miles the CrossCheck turned 25. Woot!

My CrossCheck turned 25 today
Happy birthday to my CrossCheck

I headed for Fort Hunt Park. This park has a loop road lined with trees that, up until this weekend, were a riot of fall colors. There is a half-mile bulb out along the loop road on which cars are prohibited. It’s a favorite of walkers. I took the bulb out and came upon a few people walking their Fidos. One of them said “Look at that buck! He’s an eight pointer!” I stopped and after a while and with some help from the Deer Spotter I saw the buck about 50 yards into the woods off the pavement. Wow. “There’s another. And another. And another.” Deer Spotter had great eyes because these deer were seriously camouflaged. Only when they moved could I see them. The eight-pointer was the boss. He was shooing the other three buckaroos to the right. Deer Spotter said that there were some does lying in a swale to the left. Only their heads were visible but I couldn’t see them. This time of year is mating season, the rut, for deer around here. Eight Pointer was having himself an orgy.

If I had gone out into the boonies on my bike I’d might have missed quite a show close to home. As I write this I can hear through an open window a fox barking outside. It’s a jungle out there.

Ready for the Rut in Fort Hunt Park
Mr. Big.

Tomorrow promises more abnormally good weather. After I pick up the leaf bags (a new shipment arrives at the hardware store tonight) I’ll see about going somewhere with fewer cars and big horny critters.

October 2022 – In the Book

Another madcap month of riding, reading, listening, and watching has passed and I did my level best at three out of the four.

Riding

I managed to pull off my sixth straight month of 1,000 miles or more on my bikes. October clocked in at 1,041 miles. I took five days off for the sake of sanity. I did rides of 50 or more miles six times, which might sound impressive but that’s called loafing by bike touring standards. (It still strikes me as odd that I can do 55 miles a day carrying 40+ pounds of gear over mountains or into stiff headwinds and feel energized on a tour, but feel whipped after three days of unweighted local riding in the flat terrain around home. Let that be a lesson to you aspiring bike tourists.)

I rode my CrossCheck most often only because it was whining that I had neglected it for most of the summer. (My bikes can talk. If only the CrossCheck would tell me its proper name. Someday, I suppose.)

I rode one bike event, the Great Pumpkin Ride. It takes place in rural Fauquier (don’t ask how it’s pronounced) County, Virginia. It was one of many leaf peeping jaunts this month. I have to say the foliage has been pretty darned awesome around here this year. And there hasn’t been a truly nasty storm to put an end to the festivities so I expect I’ll get a few more days of reds and golds and browns yet.

I have less than 50 miles to go to reach 10,000 miles for the fifth year in a row. That is, assuming a calamity (pulmonary embolisms anyone?).

Reading

Cloud Cuckoo Land: Yes, this month is by the book (singular) because I only read one. Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr. This one was a bit of a challenge as the plot is split among multiple plot lines across centuries. The separate plot lines are linked by an ancient Greek text. (Doerr’s mind works in strange ways.) Doerr does manage to tie things together at the end but by page 400 I was getting whiplash from going from the distant future to the 16th Century and back to present day Idaho.

Listening

Ultra: A few years ago I got into podcasts in a big way. Over time I fell out of the habit but this month I found a whopper. Rachel Maddow Presents Ultra is the absolutely riveting tale of how white supremacists and the Nazis nearly took over American politics in the run up to World War II. The whole story starts with the deadliest plane crash to date in U. S. history. The crash took place near Lovettsville, Virginia. Lovettsville is separated from the upper Shenandoah Valley by a mountain ridge into which the plane, carrying a sitting U.S. senator, two FBI agents, and a federal prosecutor, collided. That’s episode one. It gets better and better.

Ghost Stories: Ultra uses some audio from the 30s and 40s which brought to mind a repressed memory from my childhood. For some reason during a bike ride my brain coughed up a story about a squirrel. (It’s a bit ironic. One friend once called my bike rides my meditation practice. Another friend refers to having squirrels running around in her head when she meditates.) A few miles later the name Clarence came to the surface. Then I recalled that the squirrel could talk. When I got home I did some searching of the interwebs to find that these memories were fragments of a story contained on a 1962 spoken word LP called Alfred Hitchcock Presents Ghost Stories for Young People. I listened to the entire record and only recalled the squirrel story, for good reason. It’s about a ten-year-old boy named Johnny who is playing in a house that is under construction, something that I (same first name) used to do when I was about the same age. On a dare, the boy decides to stay in the house overnight. A squirrel comes into the house. Then another bigger than the first. And they start talking. They have names, one of which is Clarence. Then another still bigger squirrel comes in. And, well, go listen to it for yourself.

Revolver: At the end of the month, reconstructed recordings of the Beatles album Revolver came out. These new recordings use an advanced audio technique developed for the Get Back documentary. On Revolver, the Beatles used one track for the band playing live: guitar, bass, drums, piano, and such. The other three tracks were for vocals, instrumental add ons, and sound effects. Applying the new audio techniques allowed the live track to be deconstructed as if each instrument and vocal and sound effect had been separately recorded. The fruits of this show most clearly in the new mix of Taxman. The rhythm guitar and drums practically jump into your ears. The mix of Eleanor Rigby actually sounds worse to me as you can hear the scratchiness of McCartney’s voice. It sounds as if he just woke up. In contrast, his vocals for Here, There and Everywhere and For No One are smooth as glass.

There are a few treats such as a Yellow Submarine outtake that shows that this bouncy children’s song grew out of a somber germ of a song idea from Lennon. Paperback Writer and Rain, without all the technical slight of hand, are straightforward rockers. Rain was played at much faster speed then slowed down in the final version. Paperback Writer without the dominating heavy jazzy bass, reveals a tight band playing their brains out. Getting a peek at the creative process is always fascinating to me.

Watching

I didn’t go to any baseball games because the weather at the beginning of the month was cold and rainy. The Nats were the worst team in baseball so nothing lost. Wait til next year. Nowhere to go but up.

The playoffs have been quite entertaining. It’s nice to see major league baseball played well, something that’s been missing hereabouts for a few years. One painful aspect though is seeing so many former Washington Nationals playing for other teams. Harper, Scherzer, Turner, Schwarzer, Soto, Bell, and Hand. Oof. Two certain future Hall of Famers and perhaps two more.

Away from the ballgames, I watched Andor, the latest Star Wars miniseries. It’s so well done. Much better than anything else from Star Wars since, well, Rogue One, to which Andor is a prequel. Diego Luna is great as are Stellan Skarsgard and Fiona Shaw.

I finished watching SheHulk, Attorney at Law. It was dreadful. I kept hoping each new episode would get better. Nope.

Finally, I watched Anxious People, a Swedish miniseries based on the book of the same name by Fredrik Bachman. It took a few episodes to get into but I enjoyed it as much as I did the book. Mrs. Rootchopper did too and shed a few tears at the end. I am looking forward to the release later this year of A Man Called Otto, based on Bachman’s book A Man Called Ove. (It was already made into a movie in Swedish which I recommend.) In this American version, Otto is played by Tom Hanks.