Will I get a discount on Guinness?

So what have I been up to lately? A little reading. Watching a few baseball games. Riding my bike a bit here and there. And procrastinating.

I am eligible for Irish citizenship. In order to get it I have to provide a certified paper trail of my Irish lineage back to my grandmother’s birth on the 25th of May in 1882 in Balla, County Mayo, Ireland. Using this information I will be placed on the Registry of Foreign Births.

I contacted my brother Joe who successfully went through this process 30 years ago. He had copies of several documents, which included a certified copy of my grandmother’s civil marriage certificate.  Joe also provided several non-certified copies of other documents. My brother Bill had a certified copy of my grandmother’s birth certificate from Ireland.

So I was expecting to make short work of the process.

Alas, I learned today that the rules of the game have changed. I need certified copies of civil certificates. Church certificates, even from Catholic churches, are no good. Mary, mother of God, what’s the world coming to?!

The list of papers is long:

  • Grandmother’s birth certificate (have it)
  • Grandmother’s marriage license (have it)
  • My father’s birth certificate
  • Grandmother’s death certificate
  • My father’s marriage license
  • My birth certificate
  • My father’s death certificate
  • My marriage license

My birth certificate actually says that I was legitimate so this means my parents were married. Yet I still need their marriage license.

My grandmother would be 136 years old. If she were still alive, she’d be world news. Yet I still need a death certificate. My father would be 100. Either way, what difference does it make whether they are alive?

Why would Ireland care if I were married anyway? I don’t think my wife’s eligible for citizenship unless they have a cross border agreement with the Cherokee Nation or the State of Illinois.

So I have my work cut out for me. I sent away for a copy of my birth certificate. Then I went to get my parents’ civil marriage certificate. The town where they were married in 1950 keeps records for 50 years. Derp.

I thought being in DC would be helpful. I could go to the Irish Embassy. Then I looked at the website for the Registry of Foreign Births. It says d0 not go to the Embassy. Only the Dublin office deals with this process.

Well, that’s the last time I buy a U2 album.

My friend Lauren just went through this process in Luxemborg. I am pretty sure that she can get free lift tickets and apres ski drinks with her new Lux passport. I might be able to get a seat at the bar at the Dubliner and a free Guinness for my troubles woes.

Don’t tell the office in Dublin but Guinness makes me gag.

 

50 States in a Dayluge

There’s something about riding cross country that changes your perspective on adversity on a bike. Your brain starts talking to you with pearls of wisdom like “You may be hurting but remember how hard Rogers Pass in Montana was?” and “It’s not as wet as Iowa” and “You’ll feel better when you get to North Dakota.”

Your brain can be an idiot, if you know what I mean.

For the uninitiated, the 50 States Ride is a 60-ish mile ride through nearly all the neighborhoods of DC. The route takes riders on all the avenues named for the 50 U. S. states. The ride is the big event for the Washington Area Bicyclists Association. The route is hilly as hell and somehow almost always occurs during bad weather. (WABA has a weather machine.)

The cue sheet for the ride is over 10 pages long and now comes in book format. I am not making this up.

The 50 States ride happens on open-ish streets. There is regular Saturday DC traffic to deal with. This year we also had to ride around several neighborhood block parties and a big fun run.

I met up with a frightful posse of #bikedc friends. Returning to the fold from last year were Michael, Rachel, and Kevin. New to the fold were Jesse (in the Maryland flag jersey and Jeanne to the bottom right).

50 States from Rachel

As you can see Rachel was an official Ride Marshal. This required her to hand out fritters to disabled cyclists. Would I lie about such a thing?

Jeanne was doing the ride for the first time and trusted me, a nine-time participant, to guide her. Poor Jeanne.

Amid temperatures in the mid 70s and high humidity, we took off> In keeping with tradition, I missed the first turn about 100 feet into the course. Hey, they changed the course again. What was I supposed to do?

We corrected my gaffe and were soon rolling through the streets of Northwest DC. We appeared to be having a good time despite a remarkable number of street closures. It turns out that we were riding during DC’s Annual Construction Crane festival. Who knew?

The entrance to the White House plaza on Pennsylvania Avenue was closed to keep out anonymous trolls but I rode around the closure. I was waved back by White House security police. Okay, we’ll ride on Pennsylvania Avenue some other time. (We did. Three times, in fact.)

We hit the first rest stop at City Center (which was once my favorite dirt parking lot in the city). There we met Friday Coffee Club charter member Brian and his lovely wife Nicole. Nicole was staffing the health food table where I managed to score some cheese puffs. Well, played Nicole!

Experience does actually count for something in this ride. We made it through the confusing maze of streets from downtown around the Capitol and over to Southwest DC. The course then took us to Ohio Drive but not down to Hains Point as in recent years, thus shaving 3 miles from the route. Next up was a roll past the new DC Wharf development and down a long stretch of M Street where the Nats were preparing for a double header with hours of rain delays. (Ain’t baseball great?)

We rode over the Anacostia River to Anacostia Park in Anacostia. (We looked for hobgoblins with little minds but saw none.) We did all enjoy the new path connecting the bridge directly to the park. It’s short and sweet.

On the flat road to the rest stop in the park I started to feel faint. I had no strength in my legs and the group faded into the distance. Uh oh. I guess those chills that woke me at 4 a.m. weren’t caused by a glitch in the house thermostat.

Fortunately the rest stop had plenty of food like bananas, Doritos, pretzels, potato chips, and, thank god in heaven, cheese balls. The assault on my gut biome must have smothered whatever was going wrong with my body and I was ready to roll once more.

We took off into the hills of Anacostia. I must say that our group did a truly laudable job of the climbs. Last year these climbs were extremely difficult for me. It may have been the result of pulmonary embolisms that ultimately put me in the hospital in December. This year I did okay. I weigh less, my bike has lower gears, and I am much stronger owing to my bike tour.

After bombing down the long Massachusetts Avenue hill, we rode through a series of traffic circles where I got out ahead of the group and lost contact. I think Rachel had to hand out some fritters. Anyway, I continued on with a couple of other riders through Capitol Hill east to Eastern Market for lunch.

The lunch was $10, pre-payed, and was rather disappointing. Just a small bowl of veggies. I almost went up to the food tent and said in a child like English accent, “May I have some more please?” To make matters worse, there were no cheese balls. WTF!

While waiting for the posse to arrive, I ran into Jeff and Tara. Jeff met in the fall of 2007 and have done many rides together, including at least two 50 States. Jeff and Tara were doing the new Route 66 version of the ride which is a bit shorter and goes into a few neighborhoods missed by the main route.

My crew showed up and began to refuel. Rachel ran to a coffee shop for life sustaining caffeine. She returned looking like a vampire after a good neck draining. Then we were back on the road headed east to pick off Oklahoma. There were no winds sweeping down the plains so we doubled back through Trinidad and past Gallaudet University on West Virginia Avenue. Our groups’ returning members and I were pleased to see that this year’s course did not ride up Mt. Olivet Street, a tough hill. Sadly, we rode up Montana Avenue instead, which is just as nasty.

On South Dakota Avenue we rode behind a car with South Dakota license plates. What are the odds? South Dakota Avenue brings out the mania in DC drivers. So what better time for the rain to start falling.

As we made our way past the Catholic complex in Northeast DC, we lost contact with Rachel and Jeanne. I think Rachel helped someone with a flat tire.

Michael, Jesse, Kevin and I rode to Rachel M.’s house in Petworth where she had set up an unofficial pit stop. We hung out there waiting for our Rachel and Jeanne. After 20 minutes we took off and made it about 200 yards before Michael got a flat. He changed it in about five minutes in the rain. At the very end as he was putting his Camelback on, his bite valve bounced off and we all watched as it took one…two….three…four bounces on the pavement then down a storm drain.

It’s not like Michael was going to notice waterdripping down his shirt, because it was now raining pretty hard. And I was once again feeling faint. I blame a cheese ball deficiency.

I was soaking wet and cold, because, as we later learned, temperatures had fallen into the low 60s. I sent a message to Rachel and learned that she and Jeanne has skipped Rachel M.’s pit stop and were 30 minutes ahead of us! (Actually somewhere along the way Jeanne abandoned the last few miles for the warmth and comfort of the after party. I can’t blame her. I think she rode about 10 miles more than she expected to.)

I was also pretty much riding blind. My glasses were covered with rain drops and smears from me trying to clear the water off.

At the Tacoma rest stop we refueled and I put on my rain jacket. l started feeling better. Being soggy, I neglected to go inside the house to thank my friends Mike and Lisa for hosting this pit stop. They are awesome to do this every year.

Our route was now near the northern most neighborhoods in DC and we started heading across town to Chevy Chase. We had to cross Rock Creek Park to get there. The cue sheet was rather confusing, a situation made worse by the fact that a critical street sign was obscured by a large shrub hanging over with the weight of the rain.

Flying down busy 16th Street we blasted past our turn. By this point we were joined by Shira who was piloting a tandem with a blind stoker. (I have forgotten her name. My bad.) We back tracked on the sidewalk and did our best to follow the route. We ended up right where we were supposed to be somehow after climbing a long hill on Military Road in the rain. Oregon Avenue was closed so we followed the detour, getting credit for the state in the process.

We were getting a bit testy as we rode through Chevy Chase looking for Linnean St. We found it and rode uphill past Fort Reno to Wisconsin Avenue. With pizza and beer on our minds, we skipped the last pit stop at a coffee shop and rode through Tenley Circle and past American University.

A steady rain was falling as we made our way along Nebraska Avenue. I heard a CRUNCH and looked to my left to see a car and an SUV colliding at low speed.

Down we rode all the way to MacArthur Boulevard. It must have been about a mile and we enjoyed the fun while it lasted. Soon we’d pay the price by riding back up to Cathedral Heights on Garfield Street. This is where my body completely failed me last year. This year, riding The Mule with its low gears, I made it up the hill without distress.

We made short work of the remainder of the ride. The rain kept coming and we kept riding. On busy Connecticut Avenue I darted ahead riding with the cars for a few blocks.

The ride to the finish at Mellow Mushroom in Adams Morgan was a relief. This had been a tough ride. It always is. And I always forget. But riding with a crew of truly nice people made it much easier. We assembled for pizza and beer and t-shirts, basking in the glory of our soggy feet, er,…I mean feat.

Thank you Marshal Rachel, Kevin, Michael, Jesse, and Jeanne. You made my tenth, and final (I’ve said this before), 50 States Ride a day worth remembering.

Special thanks to all the WABA staff, pit stop hosts, and volunteers.  See you at the Cider Ride in November.

 

Welcome to the herd, Amanda

For my few years, I worked with Amanda. Amanda lived for a while in Del Ray Alexandria. And like all DC area residents she complained about her commute. I told her how easy it would be to commute by bike. She thought it was an interesting idea but she didn’t own and bike and wasn’t motivated to get one.

Over time, Amanda’s commuting frustrations grew. The last two years Amanda asked me where she could buy an inexpensive bike to commute on.  For whatever reason, she never followed through. She moved to DC and her commuting woes intensified. (Thanks Metro!) This week she finally surrendered. She started bike commuting!

On her first day she rode in the gross, super humid weather we are having. She didn’t complain. (Maybe because she’s from the deep South.) On the ride home today her baptism in the bike commuting cult happened. She got caught in an epic downpour. (She sent me a post ride picture. We should all look so good soaked to the bone.)  I was tempted to say “Go with the flow” but thought she might not find those words amusing. Despite a tough first week, I think Amanda’s going to stick with it. Wait until we get some beautiful fall weather to ride in.

Congratulations Amanda and welcome to the herd.

Gross!!!!

Summer in DC is notoriously hot and muggy. I lucked out this year by spending the first half of the summer in the comfortable Great Plains and Pacific Northwest. Once I came home, I knew I was in for a difficult transition.

I have tried denial. This involves riding my bike very long distances in the hope that all those bike tour miles would make me impervious to the mid-Atlantic sauna. This was a total fail. I’ve mowed my lawn a few time since coming home. I’m only outside about one hour but I am soaked from head to toe when I’m done.

My pulmonologist warned me to stay hydrated but it’s next to impossible to do that here. I find myself spending a couple of hours each day sitting inside drinking fluids just to get my body back to where I started.

Then today’s ride upped the disgustingness. (This should be a word. I bet it is in German.) I waited until 5:30 then rode Big Nellie, my Tour Easy recumbent, along the Mount Vernon Trail to DC. Then I rode home. No hills. Moderate speed. No big deal. I was soaked for most of the ride.

On the way home the sun went down. The last few miles of the trail are along the river. At this time of year, clouds of small bugs swarm along the river bank at sunset. I’ve dealt with this before. Typically, you ride along in peace then you hit a cloud of the bugs, swallow a dozen, rub them out of your eyes, then continue on. Until you hit the next cloud a mile later.

Tonight, I hit one continuous cloud of bugs for about three or four miles. I was already hot. I had sweated through all my clothing. And now I was engulfed in millions of bugs. I had to put one hand over my face to keep them out of my nose and mouth. I was wearing a baseball cap instead of a helmet. This kept the bugs out of my hair.

When I got home and went inside, I could see black dots all over my legs and arms. I could feel bugs crawling on my shoulders. Ayyyyy!

GROSS!!!!

I can’t wait until I can bitch about cold toes again.

August by the Numbers

August was my fourth consecutive month with riding mileage above 1,000 miles. I hit 1,030.5 this month, even though I took six days off. I did two rides over 100 miles and one 92 miler.

For the year, I’ve ridden 8,767.5 miles. As most of you know, pulmonary embolisms caused me to fall short of 10,000 miles in 2017. I had a little over a week to go and over 9,900 miles ridden. Of course, when you’re in the hospital dealing with a collapsed lung and a potentially life threatening illness, mileage goals get put in their place.

It does look like I should break the 10,000 mile barrier by the end of October this year. I’ve never done this before so I am pretty psyched about it. A long, long time ago I set a running mileage goal of 3,000 miles. I hit it on December 30.

I had to talk to my car insurance agent today. As you might expect, I get a discount for driving low mileage. I am certain that I have ridden more miles than I have driven this year. It’s probably true of last year too. My agent thinks this is pretty amusing.

On the way to 10,000 miles, I hope to do three event rides: the 50 States, the Boundary Stone, and the Cider Rides. It looks like I will have at least four people riding with me on the 50 States. The Boundary Stone is supposed to be pretty hilly. There is beer at the end though. The Cider Ride is the unofficial end of riding season for me and it has the best after party.

I plan to install V-brakes on The Mule in the hopes of actually being able to stop the beast. The brakes that I have been test riding for 51,000 miles stink. I am concerned, however, that changing brake levers will alter my seating position. Right now The Mule fits me like a glove. So I am proceeding with caution.

Off the bike I am busy with car maintenance, passport renewals, and getting on the registry of foreign births for Irish citizenship. I also need to take my daughter to at least one baseball game before the end of the season.

I am still thinking about the next big tour. The Grand Canyon is calling me. To ride there then up into Utah would be pretty epic. If I start in mid-March I could ride for three or four months. Who knows what characters I will meet. Rolfers and plant nerds and elevator installers, oh my!

I’ve lost my mind.

But whenever it gets quiet, my thoughts turn to riding the Great Plains and the northern Cascade Mountains. A calm descends. And I feel the urge to hit the road.

Furthur.

Hazy, Hot, Humid, and High

No I did not drop acid.

With lousy air quality in the forecast for yesterday, I jumped in my car and drove 2 1/2 hours  to the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it town of Rice, Virginia. This is one of the handful of parking places along the High Bridge Trail, a rail trail that runs about 31 miles from, well, nowhere to, well, no place. Before it gets there, it passes through the cute town of Farmville and goes over the High Bridge.

Trail users are required to pay a user fee of $4 per car. (Bring ones.) You have to pay more for parking with a trailer or if you are riding a horse. Although I did not spot a horse, I saw evidence of their presence. I suppose the higher fee covers clean up costs.

The trail has a firm crushed limestone surface that is on a par with the GAP Trail and much better than the C & O Canal towpath. It was dry and had been baking in the sun for a few days so it was almost as firm a surface as asphalt. Pretty much any commuting bike would work just fine.

The Rice trailhead is 7 miles from the eastern end of the trail. I headed east for my 14 mile warm up. The trail passes through farmland and woods. As with most rail trails, the view is obscured by trees and/or a berm running parallel. No worries. It’s still pretty.

Every few miles there are bathrooms. I didn’t use them but they looked like pit toilets. There is no water along the trail because heat stroke is the unofficial pass time of central Virginia.

After seven miles, the trail ends without much fanfare. I turned around and headed back to the car. Then kept going until reached the High Bridge 4 miles later. The bridge was an engineering masterpiece back in the mid 1800s. In addition to being long and high, it had two tiers. The top tier was for trains and there was a lower tier for people on foot or horse. The rail trail uses the top level.

Lee’s army used the bridge on its retreat from the relentless pursuit of the Army of Northern Virginia after Richmond fell. Lee’s troops tried to burn the bridge but the northerners were too fast and made it across using the lower level, eventually catching the rebels at Appomattox Court House about 35 miles to the west.

Image may contain: sky, bridge, plant, tree, grass, outdoor and nature

Image may contain: sky, bridge and outdoor

The bridge deck is above all but a few tree tops. And it’s a long way down (125 feet) to the Appomattox River. It’s also quite long as you can see (2,400 feet).

A few miles beyond the bridge the trail passes through the town of Farmville, home of Longwood University and Greenfront Furniture.

I stopped at a gas station for some food. I actually bought real food: two apples, and a banana. Of course, I also picked up a candy bar, because I am without shame. More importantly, I bought 40 ounces of water. 20 went into my water bottles. The other 20 went into me. I had only ridden about 21 miles so far but I was zonked from the oppressive heat and humidity.

Being a bear of very little brain, I rode on. After another 15 miles the trail ends unceremoniously near the town of Pamplin. I think it is slightly uphill heading west because my riding speed was around 10 miles per hour heading west and 13-14 miles per hour on the return.

There isn’t much to see except trees, a deer or three, a groundhog, a bunny rabbit, some pretty impressive kudzu, a small logging operation, and a burnt out school bus. I suppose that’s the point. Even on a hot day, the High Bridge trail will take you away from your spreadsheets and meetings and bring your chill out.

When I arrived back at the car, I dismounted and was surprised by a gentle breeze. The car dash board told me it was 88 degrees. It was approximately as muggy as Baton Rouge in April. (Been there. Done that. Sweated through my suit.) This pretty much tells me that my 63-mile ride had left me roasted and toasted.

There was some discussion at home that the car I was driving had a faulty air conditioner. I am pleased to report that it worked just fine. In fact, I had to turn it down. I was frozen by the time I got home. When I opened the door of the car in my driveway, the disgusting swamp air of DC came crashing in. My windshield immediately fogged up. Gross.

If you decide to do this ride, I recommend keeping an eye out for peak foliage time (and cooler temperatures) in October. Instead of riding the eastern 14 miles, use that time to linger on the bridge and have lunch in Farmville.

Oh, and I forgot to mention that there is a craft brewery on the trail in Farmville. Because beer.

 

Willis Carrier is a god

It’s not the heat. It’s not the humidity. It’s BOTH.

I have been trying to adapt to the heat and humidity here in DC for the last month. I was totally spoiled by warm, dry days in the Pacific northwest for the better part of a month.

Yesterday, I decided to get my yayas out and did a ride I do every year. It’s the Whites Ferry century. I leave from my house and ride to Whites Ferry Maryland about 35 miles up the C&O Canal then take a cable ferry across the Potomac River. I pick up the W&OD trail in Lessburg Virginia and ride home. It’s flat but the 33 miles on the C&O towpath are unpaved. This means you use the same muscles for the entire ride.

Image may contain: sky, tree, plant, mountain, outdoor, nature and water

Image may contain: sky and outdoor

When I left it was actually comfortably warm outside. Withing two hours the heat and humidity increased. By the time I left the shade along the canal, I could tell it was getting mighty uncomfortable. I stopped in Leesburg to have lunch in an air conditioned bar, opting for Diet Coke over beer. The bartender must have refilled my glass ten times. Well, done, my good man.

I was pretty much gassed after 90 miles but made it home on fumes. 101 miles in total.

Today’s plan was to mow the lawn, then work on my bikes (including cleaning off the towpath dirt off my CrossCheck). I walked out the front door and it felt as if I were hit by a hot, wet towel. I hadn’t mowed half the lawn and my clothes were drenched with sweat. It only took a little over and hour but I looked like I had jumped in a swimming pool when I was done. I wish!

I gave up on the idea of doing work on the bikes. Suffice it to say that Willis Carrier is my favorite inventor.

In a few hours I was in a movie theater watching “Juliet, Naked”. No it’s not a porno. It’s based on the novel of the same name by one of my favorite authors, Nick Hornby. I ate all the salted pop corn and drank a “regular” soda. (Regular means a quart these days, apparently.) The movie was shown in a new theater with comfy seats. Bliss.

I lived my first 28 years in the northeast. Up there you go to the movies in the daytime when it’s too cold or nasty to do anything outside. DC stands the year on its head.

With a day off the bike today, I should have fresh legs tomorrow. I’m driving to central Virginia to do a 62 mile ride on a rail trail. The heat index (what it supposedly feels like) will be over 100 degrees.

Willis, whatchu talkin’ about.

Getting back to “work”

Okay so my last post about being adrift got some serious attention from friends and family. As I see it, my situation is not unlike riding a bike tour. If I think about the entire retirement thing, I become overwhelmed. The solution is to start doing things. It doesn’t matter what they are just get at it.

So here’s a list of things I did today:

  • Woke up before sunrise and rode Big Nellie to DC Image may contain: bicycle, sky, outdoor and nature
  • Hang out with the gang at Friday Coffee Club
  • Ride home. Stop in the park to read the sports section of the paper and meditate
  • Eat lunch
  • Read the rest of the paper and my book on the deck
  • Order Neil and Liam Finn CD (released today) and some old Brandi Carlile CDs.
  • Order new bike light from REI
  • Watch Nats game on TV

So for the next several weeks I have a menu of stuff to choose from

  • Listen to Hamilton twice
  • See Hamilton in DC
  • Brunch with my grad school peeps
  • See some Nats games live (with my daughter!) and on TV
  • Do the 50 States Ride
  • Do the Boundary Stones Ride
  • Waterproof the underside of my shed (the floor gets wet when it rains)
  • See Juliet, Naked; a new movie based on the Nick Hornby novel
  • Re-read the novel
  • Ride the Whites Ferry loop (100-miles)
  • Ride the High Bridge Trail
  • Go to Friday Coffee Club and #bikedc happy hours
  • Pick up and drop off family members at IAD and BWI
  • Get vital records from New York State for my application to be placed on the Registry of Foreign Births. (This is the first step of my Irish passport application process.)
  • Plan next bike tour. Yeah, I’m already starting to get the itch again.
  • Re-establish non-bike activities including weight lifting, meditating, hiking and maybe even skating and swimming

That ought to keep me plenty busy. Or kill me.

 

Am I Back?

I am stealing the title of this post from a friend that I once knew. She came back to DC after living abroad for a couple of years. She felt oddly out of place. She struggled for over a year and a half to feel like she belonged here, but the ground had shifted under her somehow.  She gave up and moved back home for good. After a few months away, something happened and she regained her foothold here.

Like her, I feel ungrounded. I have the open road on constant replay in my head. I have filled the last few weeks with bike repairs and baseball games, a protest and a happy hour. And despite all this I feel like I don’t fit anymore. I am not the person I was a year ago. I have been humbled and more than a little bewildered by piles of hurricane debris and blood clots and mountain passes and social serendipity.

Am I back?

What do I do now?

Beats the hell out of me.

I’m riding to the game tonight. Section 105 in left field. I doubt I’ll find any answers there.

New Blogs I Follow

Along the side of my posts is a list of blogs I follow. Some I follow more closely than others. Some have gone the way of the Monte Python parrot.

I’m pretty excited about two new blogs. Both are about travel. Neither involve bikes (but there is always hope).

Still a Tourist is written by my daughter Lily who seems hell bent on visiting everything and everywhere. Canada, England, Scotland, Spain, France, Monaco, Italy, Vatican City, Greece, Cyprus, Turkey, Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, The Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, the Balkans, the Baltics, and Scandinavia. She’s currently finishing grad school in London.

It’s Not about the Destination, It’s about the Journey is the brand new travel blog from my friend and former co-worker Jessica. Like Lily she attended grad school in Europe and traveled extensively there. She recently quit her job, sold all her stuff, and took off to teach English in the Chilean desert. Although I know other people who have done this sort of thing, I am stunned every time someone I know does such a thing.