The End and the Beginning

I’ve lived in the DC area for more than half my life. I’ve been to most of the touristy spots multiple times. Like many people, when our kids were little we took them to the Williamsburg area where there is much to see and do. On the historical side, we visited Colonial Williamsburg and Jamestown, but, for some reason we never got around to Yorktown, where the British army surrendered to end the Revolutionary War on October 19, 1781.

On Tuesday, I remedied that omission on two wheels. Starting at the Williamsburg visitor center I rode the Colonial Parkway 13 miles to Yorktown. The roadway surface, composed of aggregate (small stones in concrete), is a bit rough. It is oddly three lanes wide with no lane markings. Distance is measured not with mileposts but with kilometer posts. I can’t recall seeing this anywhere else in the U. S. It was hot and humid but the ample shade kept me comfortable until the parkway reached the banks of the York River.

Colonial Parkway

The river is wide, perhaps a half-mile or more. The parkway, now unshaded, turns to the southeast following the river and passing through marshy areas and by narrow beaches. After a gentle upslope, the parkway ends at the entrance to the Yorktown Battlefield. The visitors’ center was closed, of course. A few people wandered around zombie-like listening to a virtual tour on their phones. To tour the battlefield takes three hours by car. Unless you’re a serious war wonk, you can cut to the chase and head to the Victory Monument.

The 98-foot tall monument was erected in the 1880s. It has a massive base which supports a column topped by a figure of Liberty. (Liberty has twice been damaged by lightning, Make of that what you will.)

There are extensive inscriptions on each side of the base. These writings make clear that the Yorktown battle and siege, to a very great extent, was a French operation. It was the French navy that fought of British ships off the Virginia coast, thereby preventing an evacuation of the British army by river and sea. Of the 17,000 land forces on the American side, 5,000 were French soldiers. Without the French we Americans would spending pounds, drinking warm beer, and singing “God Save the Queen”.

And so the war ended and the new country, no longer under mortal threat from Britain, could begin in earnest.

In 1976, the year of the U. S. bicentennial, the monument became the start and finish of a new tradition of sorts. Bikecentennial was an event that sent small groups of bike tourists across small town America between the Oregon coast and the Yorktown Monument. The route they followed was named the TransAmerica Trail. It traverses over 4,000 miles through Virginia, Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho, Montana and Oregon.

The Mule and The Monument

Fittingly, for some TransAm riders, Yorktown is the beginning. For others, it is the end. For all it is a profound experience. In 1981 I met someone who was in one of the 1976 Bikecentennial groups. Equipped with a ten-speed bike and a whole lot of heart, Anne Meng rode with six other scruffy riders from west to east. I found pictures of her group on Flickr. (Search under TAWK518, the code for their group.) They show snow, fatigue, endless roads, and joy. Oddly, she never mentioned that she crashed and spent a night in hospital in Montana.

Today, the Bikecentennial organization is called Adventure Cycling. They have mapped over 50,000 miles of bike routes in the United States. My 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019 bike tours were nearly all on Adventure Cycling Routes including parts of the New York to Chicago, Great Lakes, Lewis and Clark, TransAm, Northern Tier, Pacific Coast, Western Express, and Atlantic Coast routes. By my count, I’ve done about 9,800 miles of their network.

After returning to Williamsburg, I headed to Jamestown Island, adjacent to the Jamestown settlement, where the ships landed. A tunnel near Jamestown village was closed to bikes, necessitating a detour into the village. It was quaint and uncrowded but for re-enactors of early colonial life and a few tourists. Back on route I rode past the Jamestown Settlement site (which I visited with my family years ago) and onto Jamestown Island. The one-lane, level road through the woods was closed to cars. Yay, pandemic.

The rest of my ride took me in a twelve-mile arc around the western side of the Williamsburg area. This was unremarkable exurban and suburban riding in blistering heat. I stopped at a gas station convenience store for drinks and snacks. Half the people in the store were not wearing masks which made me very uncomfortable and angry. I suppose causing someone to suffocate in their own blood is worth the inconvenience of wear a piece of cloth over your face.

In 30 minutes I had reached the end of my 60-mile adventure.

Minding the W&OD

“Everything is walking distance if you have the time.” Steven Wright

Q: “What’s the secret to a long marriage?”

A: “Don’t get divorced?” Olivia Harrison

After a rather ambitious week of riding (252 miles), I decided it was time to up my game. I had intended to ride the Whites Ferry Loop on Saturday but I got underway a bit late and decided to abandon the effort about 28 miles from home. The resulting 57-mile excursion left me wanting something more better.

And so I launched Big Nellie intending to ride the big beast to Purcellville. About 1/4 mile from home, its rear shifter cable snapped in two, so I returned home for The Mule. While changing out of my recumbent clothes (regular street clothes) into biking gear I had an asthma attack.

My asthma diagnosis is mild persistent asthma. It manifests itself not in wheezing episodes but in labored breathing and a fog of depression. One puff of a rescue inhaler (albuterol sulfate) and my lungs settled down. I hopped on The Mule ready to rumble.

The out-and-back route involves three miles on suburban streets to the Mount Vernon Trail. The trail takes me north along the Potomac River about six miles to the Four Mile Run Trail at National Airport. After another three miles the FMRT ends in Shirlington where I pick up the Washington and Old Dominion rail trail which goes 44 1/2 miles all the way to Purcellville at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

I’ve probably done this ride ten times. It’s a good test of riding endurance and the ride (except for one hill on the way back about 2 1/2 miles from home) seems virtually flat. I said “seems” because ride gains elevation then gives it up, resulting in about 1,400 of gross elevation gain.

The scale of the chart is deceptive; each gain in elevation is gradual, but for a handful of abrupt rollers from time to time. The biggish hill from mile 32 to mile 39 is mostly uninterrupted. The one from mile 1 to mile 9 has several cross streets and traffic lights making it hard to take advantage of the favorable grade on the return.

Along the way the trail passes through Arlington, Falls Church, Dunn Loring, Vienna, Reston, Herndon, Sterling, Ashburn, Leesburg, Clarks Gap (the high point), Paeonian Springs, and Hamilton Station before ending in Purcellville.

It always seems like a long slog on the way out. Mostly I attribute this to the gradual elevation gain. There’s also a psychological element that I’ve never been able to get my head around. Going places somehow seems much longer than returning, regardless of your mode of transport.

The density of trail users fluctuated as I passed through more heavily populated areas. If you’re into beer, you can stop at several mircobrewies along the way. (I didn’t.) Many years ago the area near Dulles Airport was farmland but nowadays it’s suburban sprawl. From Ashburn to Leesburg is less developed. You can check out a quarry if rocks are your thing. From Leesburg to Purcellville is a tunnel of green bliss, easily my favorite part of the trail.

My odometer is rather sketchy but it read 56.36 miles when I reached Purcellville. I took a selfie with one of the Purcellville signs (the other had too many bikes under it so I had to go small.

Bikey mask courtesy of Mrs. Rootchopper

There’s an old saying among marathoners. The race is 26.2 miles long. The halfway point is around 20 miles. That’s when the bear jumps on your back.

I expected the same from this ride. I had about five hours of daylight left so I was definitely in Steven Wright mode. The way to ride over 100 miles is, like Olivia Harrison says, is to keep on going.

And there I was bombing down the long grade from Clarks Gap at 20 miles per hour. The downhill grade and the mental aspect of having already seen the sights put my mind at ease. I’ll get there when I get there.

On the way out I ate a bagel with peanut butter on it. At Purcellville I snarfed some trail mix. I stopped in Leesburg on the return for more snacks. A gatorade and some cookies got my energy back up.

The gentle rise in the trail just west of Vienna started to mess with my head. It’s a false flat; it looks level but it’s not. When I finished with it, I stopped at the Vienna railroad station (long ago made inactive) and ate a Snickers bar.

23 miles to go. No guts, no glory.

As I plowed along, body parts started to complain. My thighs. My lower back. My left shoulder. To ease my discomfort, I stretched as I rode. I got out of the saddle for the short climbs, anything to distribute the fatigue. (Sadly, you can’t do this in marathons. You’re body goes all wonky and you just have to run through it which is rather depressing when you can’t lift your thighs.)

Three miles from home I decided to climb a short steep hill to avoid adding a bit of distance to the trip. It was the only time I used my granny gear. My knees were thankful.

20 minutes before sunset, I rolled into my yard. 113 miles, my longest ride since June 2018, and only my third century since then.

Anything is biking distance if you have the time and don’t quit.

Let’s Make a Deal

One of the limiting factors in my bike riding during the pandemic has been the availability of restrooms. As a male I can get by for number 1 but number 2 is fraught with peril. Today I discovered that Maryland gas stations with convenience stores have opened their restrooms. Ahhh.

Today I drove nearly three hours to Princess Anne, Maryland on the Eastern Shore. It’s a lovely little town with many old brick buildings and many more rather run down frame houses. At one end of town is an old home with a boxwood garden in front. The boxwoods haven’t been trimmed in a while but it’s still a lovely sight. I am biased because the perimeter of my backyard when I was a kid was a boxwood hedge. We had seven kids and a dog. We gave those boxwoods a beating and they held their own.

The ride I did was from Princess Anne to Deal Island on the Chesapeake Bay. It was a straight shot along highway 363. The road has rumble strips about three feet from the edge of the pavement for the first seven miles. I managed to avoid hitting them but they definitely detracted from the riding experience.

After some farms and woods, I rode through salt marsh with plenty of bird life. Red wing black birds and ospreys protested loudly as I passed them. Egrets and herons flew silently way. Turtles seem to be losing the battle with big metal things. I saw one living turtle on the road and three who had been gruesomely crushed by passing cars.

Once through the Deal Island Wildlife Management Area, the road winds through the towns of Dames Quarter and Chance before crossing over to the island and it’s historic district. A mile later the road ends at Wenona. In Winona there are stacks of crab pots and boats to charter for fishing trips on the bay. These towns look like working and middle class towns; there is little sign of the kind of moneyed living you see farther north on the Delmarva Penninsula.

Wenona was nearly deserted and rather underwhelming. I rode half way back to Princess Anne before turning off the highway to take some backroads through farmland. The land here is so flat and the weather so agreeable that the 39-miles I rode was effortless.

Here are some pix.

The harbor at Wenona
Trolling and chumming. I think I’ll pass.
The water table is so high that the graves are not buried.
The highway through the salt marsh.
More salt marsh
Poultry is big on the Eastern Shore.
Back roads through some woods
Spacious skies and amber waves of grain.

Round and Round in the Park

Today we’ve returned to typical DC summer weather. Hot and humid.

I checked the website for Prince William Forest Park, a national park that is oddly situated right next to I-95 about 30 miles south of my house. The website said the park was open so I put the CrossCheck on the back of my car and headed south.

Upon arrival I could see a barricade across the access road into the park. Hmmm. The website said the park was open. There were no signs restricting parking on the highway so I parked my car on the shoulder. I rode around the barricade and was soon surrounded by green.

My plan was to ride the park’s scenic drive which I recalled as being a 17- mile loop. As it turned out it was more like seven miles. No worries, Instead of two or three laps I would do four or more.

You ride uphill then down to get to the scenic drive. Riding in a counterclockwise direction, I started climbing as I entered the circuit. At one point the road has a cycletrack on it. (See the picture above.)

Since the park entry was blocked off, the roads were car free but for a couple of Park Service trucks going about their business. All the trees acted as a sound barrier; I couldn’t hear I-95 which was less than a mile away. No cars. Birds singing. Smooth pavement.

Bliss.

I saw about 15 people in total. Two on recumbent trikes, two on road bikes, and the rest on foot.

The loop road goes uphill for about a mile then seems to plateau for five miles or so. Then it descends and the road curves this way and that. I hit 40 miles per hour, an especially sweet experience without big metal things to worry about.

After the big descent the inevitable climb begins in three stages. The first two stages come at the end of the loop. These were hard and had me huffing and puffing. After the second stage comes another brief descent to the end of the loop. The third uphill stage is the start of the next time around the loop.

I did four loops. By this point I was running low on water and decided to ride out of the park. As I cleared the park, I emerged from the shade. My car was sitting in an inferno. I’m sure glad I picked a shady place to ride today.

Heroes, Piedmont, and Walking Naked

For 13 days in a row I rode my bike. Sometimes long, sometimes short. Sometimes level, sometimes hilly. Sometimes flat, sometimes pumped up.

Yesterday I pulled another cue sheet from a ride in the Virginia Piedmont, the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. I’d done this ride and portions of it before. I know it is hilly but it is also scenic so why not.

The area I rode in is just west and south of the ride I did a few days ago in Hunt country. In fact, there’s a three or four mile overlap. I started in the town of Marshall and rode south on curvy, hilly country roads to Waterloo. Then I turned on to Leeds Manor Road and headed north through Orlean, Hume, and over Naked Mountain.

I rode past Sky Meadows State Park and east on US 50 (can’t get away from the damned thing) to Upperville. The last 10 miles went through Rectortown (part of the Hunt ride) back to Marshall. 55 miles in all.

The ride started with a bike equipment tragedy. My Zefal XP frame pump slipped off the hood of my car in the parking lot in Marshall. After hitting the pavement it would no longer contract enough to fit to the frame of my bike. I think the tensioning spring must have broken. I’ve had this pump for over 20 years. It died a hero.

While I am on the subject of equipment, I want to mention the bicycle computer I recently bought for The Mule. It’s a Cateye Padrone. It meets my two primary requirements for a bike computer. First, it displays 6 digits, allowing me to keep up to 99,999.9 miles on it. (The Mule is currently over 57,000 miles.) Second, it allows me to enter my mileage in from my old odometer.

This would be great if the damned thing was the slightest bit accurate. I have looked down at my computer while rolling and seen 0 mph displayed. I’ve also seen it tick of miles while I am at a stop light. Finally, the Maximum speed function usually displays something above 60 mph. All that said, it’s distance function is accurate withing about 3 percent. It recorded yesterday’s distance at 53.6 when the cue sheet says 55.2. So I upped the diameter of the bike wheel in the computer buy three percent to compensate.

The best part about the ride was the fact that the countryside is totally verdant. Through the winter months I long for green and now I have it. Ahhh.

The low light of the ride was Naked Mountain. I did this beast once on Big Nellie. How I made it to the top I’ll never know. It’s steep and bumpy and lung busting. The last time I did it I had to stop a few times. Yesterday I stopped at the base of the mountain to have a snack and some water. Then I started the long grind. I made it about half way before my lungs were tapped out. After a short rest I started again. In a few hundred yards my lungs were gone. So were my calf muscles.

I walked the rest of the mountain. Even that hurt my legs. Other than last summer’s sufferfest, it’s the first time I’ve walked my bike up a hill in 30 years.

Thankfully, for every climb there is a descent. The Mule abides.

I didn’t take many pictures yesterday bit these will give you an idea of the landscape.

The Blue Ridge Mountains in the distance
The Mile stops to take in the view near Hume
Near Rectortown at the end of the ride.

I’ve done 462 miles in the last 13 days. There’s one thing I can’t understand: on a bike tour, carrying 40 pounds of gear, I do 462 miles in a week and I’m not tired. Must be the gas station food.

After five miles doing errands, I have put my bikes away and am taking the rest of today off.

Zzzzz.

The Oxford Oops

I seem to be screwing up day rides a lot lately. I miss turns or lose track of my cue sheet. Today, I did the Oxford Loop ride on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. It goes in a 33-mile circle from Easton to Oxford to St Michaels to Easton. Between Oxford and St Michaels, a ferry crosses the Tred Avon River. Or used to. Before the pandemic. I rode to Oxford never once seeing a sign indicating the ferry was not operating. (There were multiple signs near St. Michaels, for what it’s worth.)

Despite the faux ferry, I had a good time riding through farm fields and puttering about Oxford and St. Michaels, two colonial era towns. St. Michaels is called the town that fooled the British. In the War of 1812, the British fired on the town from ships in the bay. Townspeople hung lanterns in the trees and dimmed the lights in the town. The British, for the most part, overshot the town.

Without the ferry, the 33-mile ride turned into a 44-mile one. No worries. What’s 11 miles when it’s hot as Hades out.

I actually didn’t mind but I must say that I appreciated the little fountain near my parked car back in Easton. I took my helmet off and gave my head a good, cold soak.

Creepy house in a farmer’s field
Oxford marina
Old hotel in Oxford
Hall of Famer, Hometown Hero
Marina in St Michaels
I hear it all happened here
Typical lane in St. Michaels.

A Fine Day for a Wrong Turn

The weather here in the DC area is about as close to perfect as it can get. 70 degrees. Nice breeze. Low humidity. Even the pollen seems to be down. Where’s my hammock?

I went for a ride to close out the month and get away from the nonstop stress machines of TV and Twitter. I chose Charles County, Maryland because it is only a half hour from home by car and pleasantly rural.

The ride I did is called the Portside Pacer and traces a figure 8 through the Port Tobacco and La Plata areas. A few days ago I did a different ride in this area. Today’s ride did not involve the Indian Head Rail Trail or a climb up Rose Hill. Instead, I stayed entirely on roads and rode down Rose Hill. When I got to the bottom I got confused ending up on the wrong side of the Port Tobacco River. I rode about 3 1/2 miles before I clued in. (I should be heading east, shouldn’t I? Dang.)

No worries. The weather was so amazing that I didn’t mind the extra distance.

The ride does involved several short climbs but I was on The Mule with it’s ultra low granny gear. I didn’t really need it but, by using it, I can be assured that my left knee won’t wake me up at 3 a.m.

The short climbs also mean some short descents. The smooth, curvy roads made these joyful.

Of course, I did have to return to the start but the route goes more or less around Rose Hill so instead of climbing straight up I had a long gradual roll.

One thing I have noticed in recent days is how my body is almost completely healed after over a year of aches and pains. My pedaling is much, much stronger than it has been since my 2018 cross-country trip. My hip doesn’t hur893.t any more. I can get on and off my bike without feeling like my leg is giving way. I still have some soreness under my left kneecap but it’s not nearly as bad as a month ago. Unfortunately, my back still refuses to let me walk long distances but I am hopeful that it will calm down over time.

So I closed out May with a 40-mile jaunt. That brought my monthly mileage to 893, my biggest month since August 2019. (It’s nearly 500 miles less than last May, but I’m not on tour this year thanks to the pandemic. I’ve ridden 3,799 miles so far in 2020. If the news continues to be stressful, I may double that by September.

Stay safe. Deep breaths. Wear a mask. Call your momma.

Flat is not a dirty word

According to Ed, a very accomplished cycling friend of mine, using the word “flat” to describe terrain on a bike ride will doom you to a puncture. Yesterday I rode in Dorchester County on the Eastern Shore Maryland. If an area can be more than flat, this is it. Over the course of four or five hours on the bike, I think I climbed less than 100 feet, and never more than ten feet in any one place.

Many years ago I did an early spring ride with my friend Heather. It was a shorter alternative to the Six Pillars Century. The six pillars refer to the six pillars of character. I can never remember them so I suppose one of the pillars is “recollection.” I used the map of the 56-mile Eagleman triathlon course as my guide.

The ride begins and ends in Cambridge Maryland, a small town on the Choptank River. The route makes a 56-mile loop mostly through Whitewater Wildlife Refuge.

Within a mile or two of town, I was pedaling past farmers fields. The farms reminded me of the Midwest, huge flat spaces with alternating crops. Most of the fields had yet to be planted though.

One curious thing about the ride is that nearly every road is bordered by a draining ditch. In the past they’ve been filled with croaking frogs but on this day the ditches were quiet. Sadly, they seem to be collection points of trash like beer cans (Natural Light seems to be a local favorite) and fast food soda cups.

Winds were light so I was pretty much under my own power for the entirety of the ride. Without hills to shake things up, I sat for the entire ride. After three hours of being in the same position, my buttocks began to complain. That’s the only bad thing I can say about this ride. It seems strange to say this but this was an easy 56-mile ride, quite a contrast to my recent 44 1/2 mile hillfest in Virginia.

The refuge is vast, allowing the waterfowl to spread out. I typically see more waterfowl on the Mount Vernon Trail than I did here. There were some noisy birds lurking near the road to keep me entertained. I disturbed one snowy egret in the ditch along the road. It rewarded me by taking off and flying back and forth across the road in front of me.

Along the way I saw a small red pickup truck on the side of the road. It was next to a ride on lawn mower. The driver of the pickup was talking to the rider of the mower as the driver tried to push the pick up, which was oriented perpendicular to the edge of the roadway. The driver was awkwardly positioned, pushing on the open door of the cab. He was perhaps 60 years old, round, in overalls, is white hair making a circle around his bald spot. He was not exactly the kind of person one would expect to be pushing a pick up truck, at least not with any success. Not surprisingly, as I approached, I could see the driver struggling as the pickup began to roll backward. In a few seconds the rear of the truck dropped into the roadside ditch as mower person looked on. As I rode past, another pickup came from the opposite direction and pulled over to help out the ditched pick up. Dorchester County, where excitement lives.

I brought along some munchies and snacked as I rode. I never once felt strain in my legs. When my mind drifted I’d drop down to 10 miles per hour, but mostly I was cruising along at 13 mph with very little effort.

As I came back into town, retracing the first few miles of the route, I decided to push the pace. I increased my pedaling tempo as farms gave way to houses. I was having such a good time that I missed my turn. Doh!

Missing the turn gave me the chance to meander through a residential section of town. It looked like Anytown, Indiana. Small, level lots with one-story houses.

When I finished, I was tired but not the least bit sore. This ride was just what my body was looking for: lots of miles and the reassurance that my old bones weren’t done with this bicycling thing yet.

Some impressively dense woods along the road
There were scores of inlets like this along the road
Swamp road
Look to the right to see the egret I spooked
Fields of yellow outside of Cambridge MD

I am happy to report no tires were punctured in the making of this bike ride and blog post.

Back to Hunt Country

After screwing up my ride in hunt country earlier this week, I decided to go back out and finish the job.

I rode The Mule, partly because two of my bikes are out of commission. Another reason is that The Mule has a granny gear (a wee gear that makes grinding up hills a bit easier to take, especially on the knees). And the granny gear is super low after I had it replaced in Salida, Colorado last summer.

Unlike my recent attempt which started in Middleburg, I switched my ride start to The Plains. The reason was that I knew that the route from The Plains to Middleburg climbs Bull Run Mountain. It made sense to get the hard part out of the way while my legs were fresh.

And so I ride a few rolling miles before turning up the mountain. The ride up wasn’t so bad. The overcast kept me from overheating and the views of the farms and estates diverted my attention away from the huffing and puffing.

I turned and started to descent. The pavement had a thin layer of loose gravel on it. As I sped downhill trying my best to avoid the gravel, the rush of cool air brought tears to my eyes. Everything was a blur. The road was bunpy. The ride down was downright scary. I feathered my brakes hoping not to skid at 30 miles per hour.

Of course, it wasn’t a straight downhill. The road climbed back up the hill a few times. Then back down. Then back up. The ups were rather steep so I called granny and she helped me out.

The road ended in Middleburg where I picked up the ride from where I started last time. After a few minutes on busy US 50 (yes, the same one that’s called the Loneliest Road in America out in Nevada). I turned on to Zulla Road. Rolling hills through horsey country made me smile. Stone walls, nearly all in pristine condition lined the road. Sometimes they were replaced or accompanied by brown board fences.

I turned right onto Frogtown Road, a truly great road name if you ask me. Three and a half miles of mostly downhill led me to Rectortown Road. I stopped at the T for a snack of pretzels and nuts. Refueled, I headed north through Rectortown, an old 18th century town. After that came a curvey ride through grassy, rolling hills.

At Rokeby Road I stopped for more snackage as the energy bump from my previous nosh had expired. Onward I rode over hill and dale. Fences and fields and stone walls. Then a deceptively long uphill. As I climbed I spotted a woman running up the hill near the top. She seemed strong. After about five minutes I passed her. She didn’t seem to be working all that hard. Tough stuff!

At US 50 (again), I headed east for a couple of miles before turning off at Atoka where I spotted this odd sign, perhaps erected by fans of Get Smart.

Foxes and hounds and horseys, oh my.

Atoka Road took my back, nearly to Rectortown. Oddly, it seemed nowhere near as hilly as Rokeby Road despite running parallel to it.

Along the road I spotted a huge vulture in the road. It looked to be almost the size of a dog. As I approached it didn’t even flinch, too busy tearing at a possum carcass. Another vulture was perched on an adjacent rock wall. A car passed me and the road vulture launched. He barely cleared the front of the car and banked high into a tree.

Once Atoka Road gave out, I was backtracking for about five and a half miles. It turns out that Frogtown Road is mostly a hill. From this angle, the road descends to the base. As I was flying down the hill, a silver, two-seater Mercedes pulled up along side me. I was having trouble seeing because my eyes were tearing up so I really didn’t need a car riding next to me at nearly 30 miles per hour. The passenger side window was down and the driver was asking me something. The wind in my ears made hearing him an impossibility. He dropped back then came forward again. I waved him away. He dropped back and tried again. WTF! Finally, I yelled, “I can’t hear you!” and motioned rather demonstrably for him to pass. At last, he roared ahead. I recall that he had a handicapped vanity plate. I have no idea what he was after but I was glad he was gone.

I started the climb and, after 10 minutes, spotted a man in a wool cap walking a dog on my side of the road. I moved to the far side of the road, nodded, and the man smiled and said in a refined British accent, “Almost to the top.”

Liar. It was another mile of climbing but I appreciated his optimism.

At the end of Frogtown I turned south. Four more huge vultures awaited. They didn’t bother me as they were feasting on a small deer lying quite dead on the side of the road.

I turned onto Milestone Road, another beauty. A shiny, beign antique truck was parked inside a small garage made of weathered wood. It looked like a painting.

I continued on with one more hill to climb. My legs were beat. I cussed them then looked up to see a gray haired lady walking her dog. Sorry for the profanity.

Soon I arrived at highway 55 with its welcome smooth pavement. This took me one more mile into The Plains where my car awaited my return.

I’ve done this ride every few years for the last 25 years or so. The hills appear to be getting longer and steeper. I can’t imagine why.

I think my next long day ride will be on the mercifully flat Eastern Shore of Maryland.

Jinx

Last week, I changed the tires on The Mule. The next day I inflated the front tire and it exploded. Okay, so I made a wee little mistake installing the new tube.

Yesterday, I misplaced a cue sheet during a bike ride on my Cross Check. I ended up only riding 28 miles instead of my planned 44 mile route. During the ride, I noticed that the right shifter cable had begun to fray where the cable exits the shifter.

Today, I rode Big Nellie. I was tired from mowing the lawn so I rode in circles in a park close to home. Eight miles into my ride my front shifter cable split in two. Obviously it had started to fray a long time ago but I didn’t notice.

Lucky for me my local bike shop burned down last year and is still closed.

My back up bike shop won’t answer the phone. I am not making this up.

I have one more bike that is still intact. I dare not touch it.

Clearly, the bike gods want me to take a nap.