Ride my seesaw

I am on a medical seesaw. One week I’m feeling great, the next not so much. The weather has turned here and it’s perfect for riding in t-shirt and shorts. On Saturday, I rode 38 miles. Sunday 23. Monday 64. Tuesday 33. No problem. No pain. Just me and my Crosscheck cruising around the DMV.

Last night I was sitting watching the Nats game, an epic ten-inning come from behind smackdown of the Phillies. Around 11 pm, I noticed that my left shoulder was really sore. I’ve been having troubles with my left shoulder and arm for over a year, but this pain was in a different place: behind and on top of my shoulder.

I took some ibuprofen at bedtime and woke up to more pain and even some swelling. I’m right handed so having pain in the arm that I rarely even use makes no sense at all. I didn’t do anything to cause this. It just is.

Today was perfect riding weather but I had things to do. The morning involved errands. The afternoon was spent powerwashing my deck and patio. None of this activity involved my left shoulder. It’s still tender. I had a cortisone shot in this shoulder on March 1. The doctor said that if the shoulder felt okay after four weeks, I was in the clear. Yesterday was 5 1/2 weeks.

I am going to give it a couple of days to calm down but I am worried.

Apropos of nothing, did you grow up calling them teeter totters or seesaws? Tadpoles or polliwogs?

Pedals and Petals

I spent Sunday morning doing yard work, just cleaning up dead branches and vines and such. At one point I jumped to grab a loose branch hanging to within about nine feet of the ground. I never had much ups and have even less now. Suffice it to say, after three tries the dangling branch continued to dangle. My back, always gimpy anyway, decided to go into spasm.

Ugh.

So I ate some ibuprofen and watched the Nats game on TV. It was nice outside when the game ended so I went for a gentle 22-mile ride. When I finished, I was Quasimodo.

More ibuprofen and eight hours of sleep later, I could stand straight-ish. The weather was perfect outside. A sane person would spend the day resting his back by relaxing on the deck. Well…

I decided to ride 20+ miles to Bethesda Maryland to check out the cherry trees in the Kenwood neighborhood. On the way I passed by the Tidal Basin in DC where the cherry trees were clearly past peak blossom.

A tailwind pushed me further to the northwest. I was about to check my phone map for directions to Kenwood when I spotted three people standing in the middle of the Capital Crescent Trail looking up. They were standing under an absolutely huge cherry tree in full bloom. At the next intersection I took a left into cherry blossom heaven. Each street in Kenwood is lined with cherry trees. It was just past peak bloom and a bit breezy so it was snowing blossoms. Because it was Monday, there was little car traffic, and only a few pedestrians wandering around with wide eyes and big smiles.

I stayed in Kenwood for at least a half hour before heading up the CCT to Bethesda Row and lunch. After a slice of pizza and a chocolate chip cookie (my middle name is “Health”) I took off to the west. Bradley Boulevard was a bit hillier than I remembered but I used my bike tour climbing form to its best effect.

I rode through Potomac Village and over to Great Falls Park where I enjoyed the half mile winding downhill on MacArthur Boulevard. The next 25 miles took me through Glen Echo and Georgetown, and across the river to Rosslyn where I picked up the Mount Vernon Trail for the 14 1/2 mile ride home along the river.

I was sucking wind at the end, due to the 64 miles and 85 degree temperature. I was greeted by our own little weeping cherry, which bloomed while I was riding.

IMG_2348

It was the farthest I’d ridden since late August. And my back didn’t mind a bit.

 

Do it on your bike!

It’s that time again. Mary over at Chasing Mailboxes has announced the 2019 Errandonnee. (2Rs, 2Ns, 2Es – get it write).

Now that warm weather is here, ditch your car and get out and do your errands by bike. 12 days, 12 errands, 9 errand categories. There are rules because the Errandonnee is styled after randonneuring, a long-distance cycling event that includes documentation requirements. Try to also keep in mind that Mary works for the government were documentation is, er, queen. If it floats your boat, you can even write yourself a memo to the file like all the bureaucrats do.

No worries. It’s meant to be fun. And it is. Ride to the grocery store, the doctor, coffee club, happy hour, the gym, the barber/hair salon. Carry something unusual on your bike. (I once carried a newly sharpened lawn mower blade. I’m super glad I didn’t crash.) Or get creative and surprise Mary, Goddess Errandonneur Supreme.

If running is your game, you can substitute your legs for your bike. As a sexagenerian, I can attest that the legs are indeed the first things to go, so I won’t be jogging to WalMart.

So follow this link and join in.

Bike trip stuff

I’m starting to amass some new stuff for my bike trip. Two new Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires to replace the two I’ve been riding for a year and nearly 5,000 miles. (The old ones are still usable but won’t survive a long tour.)

A new Ottolock will replace my heavy U-lock. I’ll be mostly in rural areas so this should provide ample security. It’s a combination lock so I don’t have to worry about losing my key.

Spray on sunscreen for the ever growing solar panel on the top of my head.

And a pile of Adventure Cycling maps to keep me from getting lost.

I’ve also bought new Koolstop brake pads for my front and back wheels.

I’m going to buy a water filter and maybe a merino wool t-shirt before I leave.

About five or six weeks to lift off. Stay tuned.

Rain, Rest, Motivation, and Maps

Last night I took 2 ibuprofen PMs (ibuprofen with a sedative) to make sure my wonky left knee didn’t wake me. It worked. I overslept Friday Coffee Club.  This was pretty convenient because I would have ridden 15 miles to DC in a cold rain.

I needed the rest. I’ve been pretty disappointed with my body this winter. Sore knee, shoulder, hip, achy back,…., I want my mommie! Self pity won’t get my act together but exercises, new walking shoes, and riding my bike, alternating hard and easy days, will. So, for the last seven days, I rode 207 miles, mostly on my Cross Check. And I did a couple yoga torture sessions, a weight session, and two foam roller super six sessions. Each day included specific stretches for my iliotibial bands in hopes my left hip and knee will heal themselves.

Now that my body is starting to come around, I need to work on my brain. Bike rides and daily meditation are not getting it done. Two things happened the other day that should help. First, the maps for the middle part of my bike tour arrived. They span the gap between Pueblo, Colorado and South Lake Tahoe, California.  The thought of riding this section of the country is intimidating. I will sit down in the next day or three and do a day by day itinerary in the hopes of getting enthused.

The other thing that happened is I stumbled on a video blog about a coast to coast bike tour. Ryan and Ali are two film making fitness people who fell in love. Having been together only three months, Ryan didn’t want to ride across the country solo so Aly agreed to join him, despite her inexperience at bike touring. Being obviously smitten with each other they decided to interview people along the way and ask them the secret to maintaining their relationships with their partners. They called their tour LoveCycles.

To document the trip, Ryan made 37 videos, each about 20 minutes long. To be honest I found the love interviews a bit boring after a while, but the parts documenting the tour are amazing.  He even used drones to capture the spectacular landscapes and the two of them riding through them.

I’ve watched the first twenty videos. I was especially enthused by the first two that documented the Oregon beginning of their trip from Fort Stevens State Park (where I dipped my front wheel in the Pacific last summer) to Portland (where my trip ended).

Their ride through Washington State, eastern Oregon, Nebraska, and Wyoming is really beautiful. So if you want to get a sense of what bike touring is like out West, check their videos out.

There are a few things about their tour that differ from mine. First, they made up their route as they went whereas I use Adventure Cycling maps. It turns out the Google isn’t the best bicycle touring router. Yeah, well. On the plus side, they received great route advice from people along the way.

They also traveled with four panniers between them. How the hell they managed to do this and carry video equipment is beyond me. They each brought about a third the clothes that I do, for a start. Their two-person tent is about half the size (and weight) of mine. They have nothing on their rear racks and no fenders. So their bikes were considerably less heavy than mine. And their engines, lacking belly fat and boobage, were much lighter. (For what it’s worth, my father’s genome provided me with a competitively compact ass.)

People often ask me how I managed to ride across the country alone. After watching these videos you’ll see that spending 24/7 with someone under stressful conditions can be trying. (Much of the stress happens off camera, but they make it clear that the trip wasn’t all rainbows and unicorns.) After over 2,000 miles, I actually welcomed Martin’s fitful companionship as I rode through North Dakota, Montana, and Washington. It added variety to the proceedings. It’s a good thing he’s a nice person though. In general, however, solitude works for me.

So it’s back to the videos, only 17 more to go, then a big time bike planning and itinerary session.

Enjoy the rain.

 

Marching like a sloth

Somehow I’ve managed to ride 1,741 miles so far this year. Last year, while recovering from a collapsed lung and pulmonary embolisms I rode 1,954 miles. Some of the shortfall is the result of going to London in January, but the rest is due to lethargy.  I feel as if I’ve eaten 1,741 doughnuts. On the plus side, I have managed to recover from two or three weeks of mysterious body aches and pains thanks to switching from Little Nellie to standard size bicycles and buying new walking shoes with a ton of cushioning.

I rode 771 miles in March, 506 on my Surly Cross Check. I can tell that I am sick of cold weather riding because even 45 degrees seems intolerable.

My longest ride was 45.5 miles on The Mule. My most spiritually fulfilling ride was Saturday’s ride to Nats Park to see my first baseball game of the year.

April promises more baseball games, a couple of family birthdays, tour planning, and numerous adulting tasks. (It looks like we need to replace the roof, one of our cars, and a 29-year old sump pump. The sucking sound you hear is coming from my bank account.)

And it’s time to start doing long rides.

Spring Arrives in the DMV

Spring is fighting off winter here in the DMV. (The DMV is what all the cool kids call the DC, Maryland, Virginia area.) The weather goes up and down betraying any ability to get comfortable. If you want consistency, move to San Diego.

Friday, I woke up super early and rode to Friday Coffee Club. My plan was to see the famous DC cherry blossoms at sunrise. I timed it wrong and the cherry blossoms were a day shy of peak bloom, but the sunrise over the Potomac didn’t disappoint. I stood on the river bank for a few minutes just to take it in.

Sunrise wow

Not half bad.

The 14th Street Bridge over the Potomac River reaches the DC side right smack dab in the middle of the Tidal Basin, ground zero for cherry blossom tourist madness. I managed to wiggle through cars and buses and work my way around the Tidal Basin, up 15th Street, and around the Washington Monument, enjoying blossoms the whole way. Friday Coffee Club was busier than usual so all is right with the world.

Yesterday, I rode into DC to see my first Nats game of the season. The temperature during the game was perfect. We sat in the shade just below the TV announcers who were sitting in their perch in the press box. We were directly behind home plate which afforded a pretty good view of the pitches. Throughout the game, the plate umpires inclination to call outside strikes (to right handed batters) strikes was obvious. Somehow the Nats batters didn’t seem to clue in.)

NATS view

The fans in our section have a tradition of chanting N-A-T-S NATS NATS NATS WOO!!! for each Nationals score. I’ve never been into such organized things at baseball games. Such displays are better suited to football or hockey.

Every so often pedals from the cherry trees outside the ballpark would drift down on us.

My daughter Lily kept score. She’s getting pretty good at it.

During the seventh inning stretch, the stadium played A Ha’s Take on Me, something that was discontinued a few years ago. It was most welcome but the crowd didn’t seem to get into it. The whole point is to hit the high notes for the line “In a day or two.” I didn’t attempt it, which I am sure Lily appreciated.

As for me, despite the scorekeeping and the pedals and the perfect weather and the great seats and the drifting blossoms and Take on Me, I had a hard time getting into the game. It didn’t help that, for the second game in a row, the Mets didn’t win so much as the Nats lost.

In the Friday’s game, rookie center fielder Victor Robles was caught in a rundown trying to score from third base. He thus committed the Nat’s first TOOTBLAN of the season. (TOOTBLAN means “thrown out on the bases like a nincompoop.” ) Beating yourself appears to be a Nats forte. Robles, the centerfielder, also seems to enjoy overthrowing the cut off man, perhaps so we won’t miss Bryce Harper so much.

At least a quarter of the fans present were Mets fans. A throng of them in the left field bleachers chanted LETS GO METS throughout the game. This seemed pointless since it is pretty much indistinguishable from LETS GO NATS. Late in the game as the Mets scored several runs,  a few Mets fans in our section M-E-T-S METS METS METS WOO!!! Well played, dudes.

The ride home featured a fifteen minute delay getting to the Tidal Basin as I duckwalked my bike amid tourists headed for the Tidal Basin. The sidewalks around the basin were absolutely packed with tourists. The roads were packed with cars. Nobody seemed to be having much fun.

I escaped the madness and stopped at the Crystal City garage bicycle races on the way home. I watched a couple of laps of the Anything Goes race. It’s fun to see people, some in costumes riding unicycles, cargo bikes, tandems, fixies, and other assorted contraptions.

I rode home at twilight wearing a t-shirt.

Spring is here.

 

 

Imposter Syndrome, Nightmares, Eagles, and Maps

When I retired, I finally could say good bye to imposter syndrome. an intense, irrational feeling of inadequacy.  To some extent it served as motivation. Six months after riding solo across the country, I am doubting my ability to do a long tour. It makes not the slightest bit of sense but there it is.

For decades I have had nightmares about being in grad school. Typically, this involves forgetting to go to class (I missed only a handful of classes in college and grad school) or getting lost on campus. Last night I had a very disturbing nightmare about statistics, of all things. In my dream I had forgotten everything I knew about statistics. I felt utterly useless and defeated. I was rattled by the dream for a couple of hours after I woke up. This is totally stupid because I took statistics in high school, college, and grad school. I taught statistics at a college in Rhode Island. And statistics played a major role in my professional life.

A couple of hours after I woke up, I found a very woo woo guided meditation online. I just shut off my skeptic and went with it. It was recorded live and featured the sound of rain from a passing shower. After 25 minutes the lingering anxiety from the nightmare was gone.

Having restored my sanity, I went for a ride. I did 41 1/2 miles yesterday in shorts so I wanted to do a fairly easy 30 today.  I was meandering through suburban neighborhoods when I decided to go down a dead end street to take a look at the Potomac River. The street was lined with McMansions that go for well over $1 million. As I passed one of the last houses before the turn around, I spotted something in a pine tree. A big nest. And right above it was a bald eagle. I am guessing that he may have been guarding a brooding mama eagle.

Eagle backyard

Before my ride I called Adventure Cycling about some maps I need for my tour. The maps that would guide me across Utah and Nevada were out of stock last week. It turns out new maps will be available on Friday. So I ordered all the other maps I need. Later in the day, a couple of packages arrived. One contained a pair of hiking poles. I intend to put them to use in April and later in the summer. The other package had new tires for The Mule and a lightweight lock, which I will use instead of a heavy U-lock.

Speaking of weight, I have noticed that The Mule’s engine has added some mass in recent weeks. Time to dial back the beer and chips. Oink.

Exploding bike pumps and the tree of certain doom

Yesterday I saw yet another sign of spring: the first bike tourist of 2019 on the Mount Vernon Trail. He was heading south. Not a bad plan.

Yesterday I went for a bike ride. It was supposed to be 25 miles but I am feeling so good lately that I extended it to 31. Dropping the seat on my Cross Check has transformed the bike. I’m loving it.

During the ride, I came upon a cyclists who was looking forlorn. He told me that the CO2 cartridge thingie he was using had failed and he needed a pump. I told him I had one. I pulled it out of my saddle bag. It was missing seven parts! I found them strewn about in the bag. I didn’t hear an explosion so I think my bike pump may be cursed. I managed to figure out how the parts all fit into the pump and we got the tires pumped. It took about 15 minutes though.

Sunday I did 48 minutes of yoga-ish workout. There’s yoga and planks and side planks and ITB stretches and fuuuug. Basically, I started with a yoga book. Then anytime I see another stretch that I can do, I add it to the routine. The routine started out taking 30 minutes. And it wasn’t that bad. Now it’s exhausting but I feel better after it’s over. The feel better part probably has more to do with the post workout snacks.

During yesterday’s ride I stopped at the gym for self abuse. I hate lifting weights but I am old and weights are good for slowing the aging process. Or so I am told. I saw a guy doing yet another stretch so I’ll add it to my routine. Now you know why I go on bike tours. They are easier on my body than these workouts.

I’ve been adulting when I am not torturing myself or out riding. Yesterday, I moved my money to a new bank and had the screen cover on my iPhone replaced. Today, I dealt with the power company. A tree that is starting to come down into our yard. Fortunately, it is hanging over the power lines. The fortunate part is that it is also hanging over my shed. The power company will remove it. Yay.

I also called AARP to get a new card. I lost mine. It’s with my keys.

In a few minutes I will go for a bike ride. Then I get to do PT for my back on a foam roller.

Tomorrow I will investigate what bugs have been eating my wool sweaters. And get the lawn mower prepped for the season. And maybe some yard work.  If I survive the yoga…

Retirement is hard.

Getting Back in Shape

My body has had a tough winter. For a few weeks I was really falling apart. I couldn’t stand up straight. I walked with a pronounced limp with pain in my left knee and hip.

Setting Aside Little Nellie

It occurred to me that my back pain was probably caused by the impact shocks I get while riding Little Nellie. Those little wheels don’t absorb much of the hit from countless tree roots on the Mount Vernon Trail. (The National Park Service is starved for money and their maintenance has really gone south in the last two or three years.)

I switched first to The Mule, then to my Cross Check, both of which have normal sized wheels (700c x 35 for the bike nerds). My back responded almost instantly to the softer ride on The Mule. When I switched the Cross Check some new back and knee problems cropped up. I re-measured the seat height and the distance from the saddle to the handlebars. The seat was about 1/2 inch higher than The Mule’s. After I adjusted it, I took off. The Cross Check’s bigger gears were just what my legs needed. I feel like my old self again.

I rode it to Friday Coffee Club today. The strong, persistent tailwind made me feel like a bike god. The ride home was a bit challenging but I actually enjoyed fighting the wind. I am back to my old commuting mileages. My last 8 days were: 30, 23.5, 45.5, 28, 31, 32, 32, and 30 miles (252 total). A couple more weeks like that should put me in decent touring shape.

Cross Check at Dyke Marsh
The Cross Check at Dyke Marsh on the Mount Vernon Trail

 

Working Out Off the Bike

I am also doing on alternate days: yoga, weight lifting, and physical therapy exercises including some with a foam roller. I don’t much care for any of these but you gotta do what you gotta do.

Shopping

My pre-tour shopping spree has begun. I’ve bought mountain bike shorts, glasses (clear and polarized, both progressive for map reading while on the bike), Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires, Croakies, Koolstop brake pads, and a combination lock. (I am trading off weight for some security but I can’t recall ever having someone try to steal The Mule while on tour.)

The other night I attended a presentation by Jim Sayer, the Executive Director of  Adventure Cycling. Adventure Cycling makes the maps that I use. Jim’s presentation really helped get my head back in the game. Jim talked up La Route Verte, the bike touring network in Quebec. This is definitely going on my to do list. The website is amazing. (And it’s in both English and French, of course.) I need to do a key word search for “black flies” though.

And just to add to the preparations, spring arrived in DC. It may be temporary but two 70 degree days are just the tonic. I rode in shorts and a t-shirt today and it was bliss.