Cranky Question

I just read the MRI report on my right knee. I find it hard to believe but nothing is torn. I do have some chondromalacia (deterioration of the cartilage under my left knee cap). I ride a bike but I have runner’s knee. Frankly, given my symptoms, I find this a bit hard to believe.

I did some research and found that one way to fix chronic knee pain is to use shorter crank arms on your bike. (This is pretty common in the recumbent world.) The reason is that you have less flex in your leg at the top of the pedal stroke when you push down. (This is exactly when my knee aches.)

All of my bikes use 175mm length cranks which come stock on bikes for people my height.

So I have a question.

Do you use cranks shorter than 175mm?

Random News from the Rootchopper Institute

House Renovation: While I was on my tour, Mrs. Rootchopper hired a contractor to update the lower two levels of our house including my man cave. My man cave consists of the TV corner of the lower level of our house. It has the TV, the modem/router/ a recliner (for me), and a reclining sofa for visiting couch potatoes. It also had a really crappy little bathroom with a shower that I took to using years ago to avoid the early morning traffic jam on the bedroom level.

The new man cave will look pretty much like the old one but the walls will be insulated so that I will be able to sit in my comfy chair during the winter months. The bathroom is about 50 percent bigger and is way too nice for me. Every time I use it, I feel as if I’m in some hotel on a bike tour. I have flashbacks to East Jesus, Missouri.

The basement level has a finished section that will house a monster sewing machine for my wife’s quilting addiction.

My Wonky Knee and Hip: I’ve had a messed up left knee since the Reagan administration. It bothered me now and then during last year’s tour. My left hip had a strange tendency to feel like it was popping out of the joint on long climbs. During this year’s tour both the left hip and knee were very painful. I felt like I was riding with only one leg, especially in the mountains.

Last week my doctor referred me to an orthopedist. The strategy is to work our way up so the knee is being treated first. They took my history and examined my knee. Then they took a bunch of x-rays, all of which looked just fine. The doctor started to talk about sending me for physical therapy. I explained to him that if riding a bike thousands of miles ought to be plenty of physical therapy. He agreed. Then I asked for an MRI. At first the insurance company denied coverage. The doctor persuaded them to cover it and I had my MRI last Friday night. I go back to the doctor for the results on Wednesday.

Deaf from the Neck Up: I have noticed that my hearing, especially in crowded spaces has deteriorated over the last couple of years. So I am going to an hearing specialist to have it tested, also on Wednesday.

Big Nellie Returns:  A couple of weeks ago my lower back started to give me little warnings that it was going into spasm. I decided it was time to bring out my back fixer, my Tour Easy recumbent. I call it Big Nellie. I’ve ridden it about 90 miles in the past three days. My left knee is not amused, but my back is happy.

I Am Not a Muggle: My head wound has nearly healed. Well, the scab has fallen off and the swelling is gone. It still hurts to touch it. I have a small gash just above my left eye. Someone pointed out that it looked a bit like Harry Potter’s scar.

Fall Bicycling Events: Because of my knee situation, I have signed up for only one ride this fall. The Tour de Mt. Vernon is near my house and, for me, it’s free because I won a raffle last year at the finish of the ride. For everyone else it’s $25. It’s on Saturday, October 19 and begins and ends in Lorton, on the grounds of what was once a DC prison. (It’s now an arts space of some sort.) Info and a registration link can be found here.

I skipped the Great Pumpkin Ride in Warrenton last year to ride the Tour de Mt. Vernon. This year the Great Pumpkin Ride is on Saturday, October 27. It’s $70. Details and registration are here.

I am also hoping to do WABA’s 5th Cider Ride. Follows trails along the Anacostia River to the north of DC. It’s November 2. You have to be a WABA member or come as a member’s guest. It’s $45 if you sign up before October 1.

Fall: Daylight is dwindling. I rode to Friday Coffee Club and caught a pretty nice sunrise over Dyke Marsh on the Potomac River.

Image may contain: bicycle, sky, tree, motorcycle, outdoor and nature


50-ish States with Nigel Tufnel

Before we begin my overdue recap of this year’s 50 States Ride, let me clarify something about this weekend’s axe incident. I did not hit myself in the head with an axe. Using the axe, I split a piece of wood lying on the ground. Half the wood launched into the air. The spinning mini-log and its jagged end caught me in the forehead right above the eye. I have a small cut and a welt on my forehead. And a headache. I should also point out that if you think this is a good way to get a third eye you would be eligible for a rare Darwin Woo Woo Award.

As for the 50 States Ride, the day started on a down note as it took some members of my posse 45 minutes to get registered. Given that this was at least the 14th time this event has been run, we were not happy campers.

This year was the 11th time I have done this ride so my ride was dedicated to the great Nigel Tufnel. I had lined up an impressive posse: Michael and Kevin returned from the last two years. Sean, husband of Kristin from the 2014 Ride with the Rookies, and his college roommate Alan were riding for the first time. Peter, Chris, Tony, Rachel M., Andrea, and Cassie were all in. Cassie expressed some concern about being able to do the entire ride so she left before any of us got to the start. She managed to ride the entire thing in about the same time as us. Sean and Alan left early because they were worried they’d take all day. (They threw in the towel somewhere around the 50 mile mark, which is not too shabby. A for effort. See you next year.)

We intended to start around 7:45 but didn’t get underway until around 8:30. We were joined at some point by a tall woman, presumably Muslim, dressed from head to toe in black. (She told me her name but my fusiform gyrus ate it.) It being a comfortably pleasant day this did not seem to be much of a comfort issue until the last few miles when temperatures surpassed 80 degrees. It didn’t matter, she was quite a strong rider.

We rode the first 15 miles, how should I say, rather aggressively. At least there were no arrests for traffic infractions. We stopped at the first pit stop for only a few minutes. And in no time we had made our way through downtown, past the White House, and the Capitol Hill complex of granite and marble buildings, Next came a quick spin through Southwest DC before flying by Nationals Park and across the Anacostia River to the second pit stop.

After about 15 minutes we attacked the first hills of the day, the formidable trio of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, Stanton Road, and Alabama Avenue. After roping Texas we moved through Fort Davis. Next came the 0.7 mile downhill on Massachusetts Avenue, SE. Weeee!

Negotiating Minnesota Avenue and its two traffic circles made us lose contact with Andrea. Michael did a quick recon search once we were back across the Anacostia River and couldn’t find her. She had missed a turn but, after the main posse crossed Hill East, we reconnected at the third pit stop at Eastern Market.

PB&J sandwiches and munchies were provided. After about 30 minutes we regrouped joined by Shira and Qudsiya on their tandem. We rode back across Hill East and then through NOMA past Gallaudet University and into industrial Ivy City. Although the gin mill and brewery were tempting, we forged ahead and began the climb up Montana Avenue. This led us to the most traffic-y part of the ride. South Dakota Avenue, Taylor St, and Michigan Avenue in Northeast DC are godawful places to be in a car or on a bike on a Saturday. And the cars let us know it. Michael led the charge into the traffic mess and in ten somewhat messy minutes we were free and clear, riding past Catholic University on John McCormack Drive. A few hundred yards afterward, I spotted an apparently crazy woman in a broad brimmed hat standing in the middle of the road. It was Ursula, fearless leader of WABA’s Trail Ranger’s, giving out high fives to the riders. It was the kind of nice surprise that makes you forget the craptastic car hellscape we had just left. Thanks, Ursula.

As we made out way up a short hill to Hawaii Avenue a cyclist nearly took me out. He was clipped in and didn’t want to wait to get around a car that was parallel parking. He cut me off. I belted him across the neck with my frame pump.

Okay, I didn’t. Violence doesn’t solve anything. I stopped and let him go, even forgoing an f-bomb in my magnanimity. (If he does it again, I’m letting him have it with the bicycle death ray.)

We scrambled up hill and down across Northeast DC. Most of the posse went to Rachel’s house in Petworth for mid-ride beers. Kevin and I forged ahead. I was starting to feel my age at this point. Sometimes sobriety is your friend.

We pulled into the Tacoma pit stop at the top of the DC diamond. This stop is at the home of friends Mike and Lisa. Mike is a bit deranged and Lisa isn’t so they match up well. And they are incredibly nice, not just because they let hundreds of sweaty strangers into their house. They collect Nats bobbleheads. I think this is because Mike wants to be one when he grows up.

As Kevin and I were about to leave, the posse showed up. So we waited a few minutes and all took off for the final eight miles. We rode west to Alaska where Patti Heck stood on the corner and took pictures of us. In a previous year I yelled “Hey, Patti” which caused her to look up and miss taking my picture. I called well in advance this year. She got me.

A mile later we descended into Rock Creek Park. The route took us up a nasty, paved trail on the far side of the canyon. It was steep-ish and bumpy. Several people chose to walk. This was wise. I, of course, didn’t. No way was I walking up another hill after Colorado, Utah, Nevada, and California this  summer.

On the far side we crossed but did not ride on Oregon Avenue. I don’t know why the route didn’t go down Oregon. These things are mysterious. So technically this was a 49 State ride. Sue me.

We rode the next few miles in Chevy Chase and not one person made an SNL, Fletch, or Community joke. Strange.

After climbing an insulting little hill we rode past Fort Reno. The posse took off while I stopped at the last pit stop to say hello to Colin. Hi, Colin.

Back on the road, I couldn’t see the posse. Dang. Climbing up Wisconsin Avenue I was blocked by two clusters of riders, a bus, and some chunks of metal with people in them. I followed the bike as they made their way onto Nebraska Avenue. They were chatting but I had a posse to catch. I stepped on the gas, or The Mule as it were, and passed them as we cruised by American University.

The ride down Loughboro Road and Arizona Avenue was rather rapid. Not quite as fearsome as the Hogback but not bad for DC. I figured somebody in the posse would find it intimidating. Wrong. The posse abides.

Now came the dreaded climb over Cathedral Heights. First, a short warm up climb on Ashby Street followed by a flat ride half mile on 49th Street. Then came Garfield Street. Oh, how I hate this street. Straight up. No posse in sight. Dang.

I shifted into my granny and let The Mule do the rest. I must have passed ten people on the way up. The hill was not giving them bike joy. There was lots of grumbling. Not by me though; I was too focused on spinning my legs off.

Over the top then down a ways working my way back to Wisconsin. There, right next to Cactus Cantina, I could see the posse waiting at the traffic light at Wisconsin.

I sped up and made the light, and caught the posse a half mile later. I do believe mid-ride beers may be a thing.

We jumped onto Connecticut Avenue, our last state. Connecticut is not for the faint of heart. Here. at Peter’s suggestion we turned off a couple of blocks early, and took the new counterflow bike lanes on Woodley Place.

Onto Calvert Street, across the Duke Ellington Bridge into Adams Morgan. A half mile past the start we finished at Mellow Mushroom where pizza, beer, and t-shirts were acquired.

Many thanks to the posse for getting this aging road warrior through the hills of DC without a scratch.  I had a great time. On a scale of 1 to 10, this one went to 11.



I shoulda stuck to rootchopping

Well, you see, there was this tree. A weeping cherry tree. It has s secondary trunk that was diseased and needed to be removed. It was about the thickness of a fungo bat and 12 – 15 feet long.

I sawed it off with a pruning saw then went about cutting it up so I could put it out with the trash. I was down to one last section of the trunk. It was about six feet long. I laid it on the grass and hit it several times with an axe. The last whack split it in two.

One half of the log flew up, spinning end over end, and smacked me in the forehead. There was blood. Lots of blood.

Luckily I had a clean paper towel in my pocket. I applied pressure to the wound and got it to stop bleeding after ten minutes.

It turned out that the cut was small. To be on the safe side I drove to the ER which is 1/2 mile from my house.

I’m fine. I have a headache. And a boo boo. They closed it with glue.

It could have been a lot worse.

I think I’ll go for a ride tomorrow. It’s safer.

Jumping on the Medical Hampster Wheel

Normally I wait until some mysterious affliction puts me in the hospital, thereby threatening to kill me or, worse, ruin my riding season. This year will be different.

I went to an orthopedist today to discuss my wonky left knee and hip. We began from the bottom up. He took my running, volleyball, bike crash, fall off the porch, and ride across the country stories. Then he looked at my thighs. My left thigh isn’t as big as my right. Hmmm.

Then he took xrays of my right knee. They came back normal. No obvious signs of damage. WTF. He suggested sending me to physical therapy. I pointed out that if 10,000 miles of cycling a year didn’t build up my thigh muscles, physical therapy wasn’t likely to do much.

He agreed. Then I gently persuaded him to send me for an MRI. Assuming  my insurance will pay for it, I’m getting one on Saturday. Only 34 1/2 years after my knee went POP while playing volleyball. Stay tuned. The insurance company may turn it down.

As for my hip, he did a cursory exam and listened to me explain the odd mechanics I’ve been dealing with and said that, for now, we’ll assume it’s iliotibial band tightness. I can’t very much argue; my body is as flexible as a steel I-beam.

So next week I’ll try to get in to see him with pictures in hand.

Also, in two weeks I go to an ear specialist to find out why happy hours have recently been exercises in lip reading.

Just before this started, a friend asked if I was interested in hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Pichu. The tour company needs names and deposits quickly in order to line up the necessary permits.


Trail Tales

I went for a leisurely ride on the Mount Vernon Trail today. When I arrived at the access point on Northdown Road, I came upon a truck that was parked illegally and completely blocking the trail.

It takes a certain amount of chutzpah to park like this. There is usuakky a flex post in the middle of the trail at this entry point but somebody must have removed it.

After scrambling around the truck in the bushes, I took this picture. Then I called the Park Police to report it. The officer answering the phone did not know where Northdown Road was. So I told him it’s parallel to the GW Parkway. That didn’t help him. Do you know where Alexandria Avenue and the stone bridge are? Yes. Just north of there. Okay, I’ll send someone out.

He probably knows where Alexandria Avenue is because two of his colleagues are executed a man a half mile up the street. (It was caught on video.)

It’s a good thing the trail is so nice this time of year. Within a few minutes I reached the Dyke Marsh bridge. The marsh took all my frustration away.

Back to the couch

Well, it had to happen sooner or later. I can’t remember the last time my back went into spasm. Considering the effort involved in riding my bike across the country, it’s a wonder I can even stand these days. Last week I rode over 300 miles. Today, emptying the dishwasher was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

It was a minor muscle spasm in my lower back. Not a big deal. I started doing the runner’s stretch. The one where you lean against a vertical object and stretch your calves and your hamstrings. (The psoas muscle is what you really need to stretch but not while your back is out.)

The stretch calmed the spasm down but I decided not to ride to the baseball game today. Instead I spent an hour mowing the lawn. I rationalized that walking my bike up mountains out west didn’t cause me any trouble so mowing my lawn wouldn’t either. And it didn’t.

I spent the rest of the day in a recliner and on the couch listening to the game. (The Nats lost; glad I didn’t go.) Then I read some of Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything. It’s a humbling book. He studied every kind of science that I can think of and barfed it up into a humorous tome. The big take away is we, you and me, are insignificant in the grand scheme of things. And one of these days we will be wiped out in a flash from one of a number of ugly catastrophic events. (A volcano eruption that would make Mount Saint Helens look like a suppressed burp. A lethal microbe that passes from one person to the next. A rock from space that we never see coming. A humongous solar flare. Just to name of few. Sweet dreams, baby.)

Then I listened to an Offcamera interview with William H. Macy. (Go to The hour-long interviews with artists are pretty terrific.) It was filled with wisdom and laughs. One insight about playing bad people: even the biggest asshole you know thinks they are the hero of their own life. That’s how decent people can play evil characters. (Just think of Macy in Fargo and it makes sense.)

I plan to take it relatively easy this week so that I don’t die with my cycling shoes on during the 50 States Ride on Saturday.


Murals of Alexandria Ride

My friend Josephine puts together theme rides occasionally. She did one all about George Washington earlier in the year. Today’s ride wended its way around Alexandria Virginia in a tour of the city’s murals. These things are intended to be intimate but this one caught on. The participants were split into four groups. I started with the third group and ended up with the second group.


The last time I knew this many people at a bicycling related event, we were mourning the death of a friend. It was pretty nice to see people without tears for a change. I ended up riding with Yasmeen, a friend from social media that I met for the first time at last week’s Friday Coffee Club, and Emilia, a native Venezuelan who rode the 50 States Ride with me in 2014 and 2017.

Because of the large turn out, the ride began late. The narrow streets of Old Town kept the pace to a crawl. At each mural, I had Emilia pose for a picture. I didn’t realize until I got home that she was posing in character for each one.

Once through Old Town we made our way to the artsy Del Ray neighborhood. It’s thick with murals, on businesses, houses and public buildings. Along the way, and despite riding at 7 miles per hour, we got ahead of our group. So we tagged along the back of the group in front of us.

After Del Ray the ride goes about six miles to the West End of the city for one last super long mural. It was nice to stretch my legs out. I love riding with Emilia but a recurring theme of our rides is my ignorance of Spanish. My friend Chris who is fluent in Spanish pulled up along side her and the two had a yak fest in Spanish.

After the West End mural we rode a couple more miles to Port City Brewing where the ride ended and the bike and beer crowd could wet their whistles. Many of my friends don’t drink much if at all so they took off. I had a beer last night at the ball game then rode home in the dark. This resulted in a late bed time. A beer a little afternoon would have been the death of me. So I rode the 7+ miles home. Ate lunch. Turned the ballgame on the radio and fell fast asleep in my comfy chair.

Not a bad way to spend a Labor Day Sunday.

Thanks to Josephine and all the volunteers who made this happen. Thanks also to my riding buddies Yasmeen and Emilia.

As a reward for posing, I gave Emilia the camo shirt I picked up at the game last night. I don’t think it goes with the Kermit shirt though.


A full set of my Emilia and the Murals pix can be found on my Flickr site.

August – Dis id nad a bike toor

For a guy who’s not on tour, I sure rode a lot in August.

I rode 29 out of 31 days for a total of 1,105.5 miles.

Dang. My long ride was 104.5. I did 306 miles on Little Nellie, my Bike Friday with the little wheels that beat my body up. When it got too much for my back I switched the Mule and rode 324.5 miles in seven days. All but 35 of the remaining miles was on my CrossCheck.

The only other months this year in which I exceeded 1,000 miles were May and June when I was riding across the country.

I blew by 7,000 miles for the year. I’m at 7,551 so far. I doubt I’ll top 11,000 like I did last year, but I’ve got a decent shot at 10,000 miles.

My Crosscheck reached 13,000 miles and The Mule topped 54,000.

For the last two days, my left knee has not been sore. No wonder I’ve been gazing at the Adventure Cycling interactive map of US bike routes.

How many states can I pick off in 2020?



Double Double Nickels

A double nickel is 55. The first time I heard this expression was when Jimmy Carter imposed a national 55 mile per hour speed limit during an “energy crisis.” Back in the 70s an energy crisis existed when you couldn’t find gas for your tank. Driving 55 on a wide open highway clearly designed for speeds of 70 or 75 miles per hour is enough to make you crazy. I once got a ticket for going 65 on I-66 in Virginia. The very same highway now has a 70 mile per hour speed limit. I should ask for a refund.

The energy crisis also introduced us to right on red. I am willing to bet that thousands of bicyclists and pedestrians have been mowed down by cars that don’t both to stop when making a right on red. It happened to me when I was on a bike trail.

I wonder if the lives saved from the double nickel exceeded the lives lost from right on red. Personally, I think these two changes began the erosion of the public’s regard for traffic laws. We got rid of the 55 mile per hour speed limit decades ago. We should do the same with right on red.

Screed over.

The contractors working on our house were not nearly as noisy as usual but their choice of overwrought oldie latin ballads on their boombox was getting pretty irritating. How long is this singer going to hold the vibratto note on “quiero”? Fortunately today was an absolutely perfect day for a bike ride.

I hit the road with the intent of riding to Bethesda for some pizza for lunch. Bethesda is about 25 miles from home so in my mind this makes sense. Your sanity may vary. I rode the Mount Vernon Trail to Crystal City. Then rode by a scenic and vast Pentagon parking lot before cruising around the north wall of Arlington Cemetery. I circled around the Iwo Jim Memorial (forever fixed in my mind by a nincompoop radio news reader who called it the Statue of the Two Jimas). Next I took Lynn Street through Rosslyn and the Intersection of Doom which is doomier thanks to construction. (I cannot even begin to describe the Intersection of Doom other than to say a bunch of roads, trails, and on and off ramps to I-66 and the GW Parkway all converging  at one end of the Key Bridge over the Potomac River into Georgetown. Look up “hot mess” in the dictionary. You’ll se a picture of the Intersection of Doom.)

Over the Key Bridge then up a side street into Georgetown where students meandered with big smiles on their faces, a sure sign that classes aren’t underway yet. I managed to miss a turn but soon found myself headed west-ish on Reservoir Road past Georgetown Hospital (and more construction) and the Bauhaus-y German Embassy.

Reservoir took me to MacArthur Boulevard which I planned to take to Persimmon Tree Road then up to downtown Bethesda. By the time I got to Persimmon Tree Road, I had already clocked 24 miles. Downtown Bethesda seemed a bit too far away so I decided to continue on MacArthur to the Old Anglers Inn where I could get something to eat.

Did I mention it was a perfect day for riding a bike? Well, it was. I got to the Old Anglers and I didn’t want to stop. So I refilled my water bottles and cut over to the C & O Canal towpath and headed back home. The towpath was bumpy in parts but after about a mile things smoothed out and I was cruising along with a tailwind.

There was plenty of evidence that this has been a hard year for the towpath. The towpath was narrow where it runs along the top of a huge wall near Carderock. (It’s a long way down.) The Billy Goat B Trail was closed. And crews were out clearing large trees that had fallen across the towpath.

After a mile of repairs the canal became blissful. Low humidity. Warm temps. A tailwind. Shade. The crunch of tires on the towpath. Ahhhh…..


My bliss was interrupted by an ominous sign. It’s a good thing the sign is there because this part of the river looked really inviting.



No skinny dipping for me.

Other than being all kinds of messed up under the Beltway, the towpath was in pretty good condition. About three miles before the end of the canal, I cut over to the Capital Crescent Trail. This took me to a protected cycletrack on K Street along the Georgetown waterfront.

Next I took the side path along the Rock Creek and Potomac Parkway and Ohio Drive past the Watergate, the Kennedy Center, the Lincoln Memorial, and the Jefferson Memorial. (For you out of towners, this is pretty typical of DC. You can’t go a mile without seeing some famous building or other.)

I crossed the Potomac on the 14th Street Bridge and headed home on the Mount Vernon Trail. About five miles from my house the first double nickel happened. The Mule turned 55.


Dang, The Mule abides.

I pulled into my driveway with the second double nickel. I had ridden 55 miles.

Did I mention that it is perfect weather for a nap?