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, 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.

 

 

Recovery

Dang, that bike tour messed me up. Last year’s bike tour was invigorating. I was a lean, mean machine when I got back to DC. I did several 80 to 100 mile rides and they seemed easy. And it wasn’t just physical. I felt a wonderful mental afterglow. I was totally calm. And it lasted a long time, much longer than the physical benefits. (I wonder if this isn’t the same feeling that people get when they go on long meditation retreats. I’d go on one but I’d get so antsy I’d drive myself nuts.)

I re-read some of my last blog posts and I really didn’t convey how worn out I was when I got to the Sierras. For the better part of two days, I had my head down and was just grinding out the miles. I remarked that when I looked in the mirror I seemed to have lost ten pounds. When I got back to DC I quickly realized that I had lost more than that.

When I started the tour, my pants were snug. I was so heavy that I really worried about being able to tour, let alone being able to handle mountains. After the tour, all those tight clothes fell off me when I put them on. It’s no wonder that for the next three weeks I had an insatiable appetite.

I also was thirsty. Constantly. I tried water, Gatorade, Diet Coke, seltzer water, diluted orange juice, and iced tea. Nothing worked. I guess that part of my thirst was caused by the humidity. After all, DC is incredibly muggy in the summer and I had spent weeks in a low-humidity environment. My body had a tough time adjusting.

I was tired. No surprise there. Even though my body wanted rest, I’d pop awake after six hours so sleep. This was not nearly enough so I took quite a few naps over the last month.

Then there was the mystery stink. For about a week after I got back (although Jessie and Mike or my seatmate on the flight home might beg to differ), I reeked. And it was a very unusual odor. You know it’s bad when you are grossed out by your own BO. It wasn’t associated with sweating either. After a few days, my wife brought it up. I’m sure she noticed it earlier. A few days later, the stench went away.

So basically I stomped on my body for seven weeks and it let me know. I feel fine now. Yesterday I did two bike rides. The first was 30 miles in the early morning to and from Friday Coffee Club. The second was 21 miles in the evening to a happy hour. Today, with lower (although still pretty high) humidity, I did 72 miles. I wasn’t riding fast but I managed to go 50 miles before stopping to eat. That’s not a bad back-to-back showing.

My wonky left knee and hip were all kinds of messed up when I got home. I had done a pretty good job of managing the pain using edibles with some mixture of medicinal marijuana in them. I stopped taking the edibles when I left Nevada. Once the chemicals left my system, the knee and hip started to hurt again. And my left shoulder, in which I had a cortisone shot last spring, joined the pain party.

Lately the hip has calmed down. The knee still barks at me, especially when I ride uphill. The shoulder is a lost cause. The only way to fix it is with surgery and a year of physical therapy. I’ll live with it as is and put up with some pain now and then.

I neglected to mention that while I’ve been recovering from the tour, I’ve had to deal with two stressful situations. One was a simple car repair that took four trips to the dealer to get done properly. After a week and a half, they finally got it right. I bitched up a storm and the dealer, to its credit, refunded my money.

And while that was going on we started a home renovation. We are 1 1/2 weeks into what is supposed to take 8 weeks. We are renovating one level of our four-level split-level home. The renovation includes a new bathroom, a family room with drywall and insulation instead of cheapo 1960s paneling. There will also be lighting and electrical upgrades. My wife is getting a sewing space in the basement. Although the project has hit a few bumps, it far less stressful than the kitchen renovation we did 20-odd years ago with a toddler in the house.

My wife keeps suggesting I go on a short tour or something. I might do that. Complicating things, however, is the fact that, on September 7, I am doing my 11th 50-States Ride in DC. (The 60-mile route meanders all over the city so that you can ride on the avenues named for all 50 states. It’s hilly, takes all day, and ends with pizza and beer.) I am putting together a posse that will ride with ferocious good humor. Scuba Michael, Science Dad, Science Dad’s college friend, and Hiker Cassie. I am hoping to rope in a few more gullible fools enthusiastic friends to round out the team. Watch this space.

No Name Tour: Aftermath In SF

Friday night Jessie and Mike took me to the neighborhood Puerto Rican restaurant In Haight Ashbury and we stuffed ourselves. How do you say gut bomb in Spanish?

Yesterday we took The Mule to Bespoke, a bike shop across town. The owner used to work at my local bike shop in Mt. Vernon. He’ll ship my baby home later this week.

I rode a Jump bike back from the bike shop. It was my first time on an electric assist bike. It’s two-wheeled crack.

We had breakfast al fresco at a restaurant on the Wiggle, a bike route that weaves through the streets of this section of the city, avoiding big hills. It’s painted green and includes a counterflow section.

I bought a massive duffle bag Friday. It had straps on it so I can wear it like a backpack. I could wipe out every passenger on a BART train with this baby. Bwa ha ha.

Last night we had phenomenal tacos at a Mexican place before imbibing a huge bowl of punch at a bar. Not much of an improvement on my bike touring diet I must say but it felt considerably less painful.

I’m staying with Jessie and Mike until Monday morning when the duffle and I will relocate to a hotel near the Oakland airport for Tuesday’s flight home. I’ve already scheduled two happy hours for next week. Unfortunately they are for the same evening.

I looked up some descriptive statistics on the Western Express yesterday. Between Pueblo CO and San Francisco I did more than 98,000 feet of climbing.

And today to prove that this tour has traumatized me, I signed up for my 11th 50 States Ride on Sept 7. Nigel Tufnel would be pleased.

Team Rootchopper assemble!

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.

 

500 States in 10 Days

Mrs. Rootchopper says that a good definition of amnesia is going through a second pregnancy. I have a definition of dementia. On September 8, I will ride the 50 States Ride in DC for the tenth time.

That’s right, 500 States!

Last year I rode with a fabulous group of friends who made me feel old and feeble. Of course, riding with pulmonary embolisms might have had something to do with that.

This year I hope to be healthier. And I want some good company again. Today I already registered myself and my friend Emilia, who will be joining me for the third time since 2014. (Emilia es muy loca.) So join us.

If you are a WABA member you’ve already received an email with registration details. If you’re not a WABA member, you can ride as a guest of a registered member. Or become a member and register.

In any case, I need someone to keep Emilia and me from riding off course – AGAIN!

And you won’t even have to tow me over Cathedral Heights because Emilia said she’d do that,

Also, I agree not to skip the 18 states that I’ve actually ridden in since last year’s ride. (I mean, I’ve really had my fill of Montana!)

So sign up. Then send me a message to let me know you’re joining the 500-States Posse!

A Night at the Races

For a month in late winter/early spring, bike races take place in a parking garage in Crystal City, a neighborhood in Arlington County, Virginia. The usual line up is an open race for all comers, a women’s race, and a men’s race.

Last night was the final race event of the year. The categories were a bit different. There was an open race, a government employees vs. contractor race, an anything-goes race, a tandem and cargo bike race, and a fixed gear race.

The anything-goes event included unicycles (including my friend Steve O. wearing a cow costume), a  bike with bouncing rear wheel, several trikes, an inline skater, a couple of skateboarders, long tail bikes with kids on back, bike pulling kids in trailers, and my friend Judd riding the Bike in Bloom, the pink Capital Bikeshare bike that is deployed only during the Cherry Blossom Festival.

The event is full of socializing. I met my fourth #bikedc Rachel during a break in the racing. Her daughter is trying to decide what college to go to in the fall. She wants to do some studying abroad and wasn’t sure she’d be able to if she attended James Madison University. As luck would have it, I had invited my former co-worker Jessica, a JMU grad who studied abroad. So the two of them had a long conversation.

Jessica, who doesn’t ride, seemed to really have fun. She kept wondering what anybody would ride a trike, a bike with a bouncing rear wheel, or any one of a number of the goofy contraptions on display. I have to work on her some more.

Kevin, my compadre from Friday Coffee Club, some mountain bike rides, and the 2017 50 States Ride showed up. We hung out for the second half of the evening. He encouraged me by praising my crappy iPhone pictures. Maybe someday I’ll do what he does and bring a digital SLR.

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Erin’s bike rocks the pink
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Judd with the Bike in Bloom
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Steve O. before donning his cow costume

As I was talking to Kevin, a man walking past caught my eye. He joined a woman with two toeheaded toddlers. Could it be? The woman was Shane, a friend I hadn’t seen in ages. She and I met doing the 2007 Fifty States Ride. It was hot as Hades and she suffered mightily. After about 50 miles, we stopped in Rock Creek Park where she rested her aching back by lying in the shade of a massive old tree. She was one hurting unit. She got up and forged ahead though. At American University, she went into a building where we thought the ride organizers had set up some refreshments. She found some on a table in a hallway on the first floor and took some snacks. Well, the refreshments were actually on the second floor; she had just pilfered her goodies from a seminar. Oops. We hightailed it out of there and made it to the finish before the authorities could track us down.

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The mysterious Adam stands by as Shane contemplates death in Rock Creek Park during the 2007 50 States Ride.
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Luke on the winner’s wheel with one lap to go

This was my third time at the garage bike races. There is a DJ/announcer wearing a skating cap that I thought looked a lot like my friend Megan’s husband Nate. Nate seemed to me to be a rather laid back guy, but the DJ/announcer was animated and LOUD. I learned today that it was indeed Nate. So my apologies to him for not saying hello.

 

 

 

Fifty States with a Six Pack

For the last couple of days, I had nothing in my legs. I’d pedal and it felt like my legs were just lifeless. This is what happens when I ride 6 days in a row for 210 miles. So did I take the day off before the hilly, 62-mile 50-States Ride? Surely you jest.

For the uninitiated, the 50 States Ride is the main event for the Washington Area Bicyclists Association. It is held annually for at least the last 12 years (I did it in 2006 and it had been held before that). The route traverses the entire city as bicyclists ride on the streets named for the 50 States. After about 20 miles of warm up, the ride also appears to seek out every hill in town.

The day broke with clouds and a beautiful sunrise over the Lincoln Memorial as I drove to the start. I arrived at around 7 a.m. just in time to see Brian (@sharrowsdc a.k.a Gear Prudence) heading out alone. I begged him to stay and ride with me to no avail. Celebrities don’t ride with the little people.

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I took my disappointment to the start where I somehow managed to put together a fantastic team of riders:

  • Rachel (Don’t call me “Bob”‘): Rachel and I met several years ago at Friday Coffee Club. When she worked in a DC bike shop, she sold me my bike du jour, a Surly Cross Check. I have sung her praises before in this blog more than once. Despite our cycling connection, we had never ridden together.
  • Miss Emilia: Emilia was one of the five rookies that I rode with on the 2014 50-States Ride.  With her constant smile, deep voice, and Venezuelan accent, she lifted my spirits during the heat and rain and hills three years ago. As I noted recently, she is a much stronger rider now, pedaling slowly but powerfully.
  • Scuba Michael: Michael, another Friday Coffee Clubber, was one of the co-leaders of our 2015. Nothing bothers Michael, probably because he literally swims with sharks. Seriously. He’s a powerful rider who takes mercy on old dogs like me.
  • One-bag Kevin: Kevin moved to DC last fall. We met at Friday Coffee Club a few weeks ago. He rode the ride with one Ortlieb roll top pannier filled with an assortment of foods including a jar filled with mystery glop.
  • VIP Steve: Without Brian’s celebrity we needed to upgrade our group’s status. Steve payed the big bucks for VIP status. He wore the VIP 50 States cycling cap, which cost about $1 per state. Steve is a man with sartorial priorities and strong cycling legs.
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Lesly, a course marshal and the voice of #bikedc, with Rachel and Emilia at the start

We rolled away around 7: 50, closely following Kitty’s Club. Kitty (real name Grace) was marshaling the ride and had a bunch of friends in tow. Big groups move a bit more slowly than our six pack.  The temperature was in the high 50Fs with a gentle breeze. Ahhh.

The downtown section of the ride was changed this year but we were not fooled one bit. Wyoming, California, New Hampshire, Vermont, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, and New York were conquered without a fight. Once I we hit New Jersey, the next few states fell like dominos with little more than a glance on the 12-page cue sheet. Louisiana, Delaware, Maryland, and Washington. A police road block put Virginia in jeopardy but we picked up the 600 block without a bit of trouble.

Once clear of downtown we cruised down to Hains Point on Ohio Drive. The breeze off the river was refreshing. We negotiated the construction zone at the Wharf project on Maine Avenue. A long stretch down M Street led us eventually to an alley that plopped us on the sidewalk across the Sousa Bridge on Pennsylvania Avenue across the Anacostia River. The sidewalk leads to a shaded side path down to Anacostia Drive along the river. The shade obscured some truly nasty tree roots. Nobody crashed and good dental work kept our fillings intact.

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Emilia, Todo Sonrisas, in East Potomac Park before the Hills

My dead legs were already in evidence on the flat terrain. Now, after a rest stop break, we headed into the dreaded hills of Anacostia. These are overrated. There are many more and harder hills yet to come. Bwa ha ha. My dead legs didn’t much care. Dead is dead.

Before starting the climb, I took a wrong turn. Oops. We quickly corrected the mistake and headed up. A fortuitous red light on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard broke up the first long climb. No problem. We descended to Mississippi and enjoyed the flat cruise alongside parkland. All good things must come to a hill. Up Stanton Road we rode. Bye y’all. The five left me in their wake and I huffed and puffed all the way to Alabama. I rejoined the group at a red light and we proceeded to climb further to the eastern top of the city. This climb (and the many others to follow) were MUCH easier in the pleasant temperatures and low humidity of this early September day.

We rode down Pennsylvania to Texas, an ironically small side street. After doing a quick circuit through a residential neighborhood we made our way along peaceful, downhill Fort Davis Drive to Massachusetts. The descent back toward the Anacostia River is one of the highlights of the ride. The sensible members of our group rode cautiously. It was fun passing them. Yee haw!

The downhill ends at a dead stop at a traffic circle. Around the circle and along Minnesota Avenue which led to another traffic circle. And lots of traffic.

Soon we were back on Anacostia Drive along the river. The riders in front of us were making a wrong turn en masse onto the south side of Pennsylvania Avenue. Having made this mistake a couple of times, I yelled “No turn. Go Straight.” The clipped in riders started wobbling and falling. Temporary chaos. No fatalities. On to the turn to the north side of Pennsylvania which took us back across the river to Kentucky and South Carolina on the east side of Capitol Hill.  We missed the turn to the lunch stop (the turn wasn’t indicated on the cue sheet) but recovered after a little tour of tree lined streets and lovely townhouses.

After a burrito and some other munching and libations, we headed off on North Carolina into Hill East. Tennessee led to Oklahoma. Sooner (sorry) we were headed back across NoMa to pick up Florida and West Virginia in the Trinidad neighborhood past Gallaudet University. At Mount Olivet Street, Michael peeled off for home. We were grateful that he gave us 36 good miles and we were left to fend for ourselves as a quintet.

Mt. Olivet goes UP. I was dropped again. I caught and passed the group on the 9th Street Bridge over the railroad yard into Brentwood. I led the group up another hill and over to Montana Avenue. We rolled downhill to South Dakota, with its heavy traffic. I hate this road. It just feels unsafe. We escaped intact when we turned left onto Taylor Street. This led us to Michigan which is nearly as awful as South Dakota.

We crossed back over the railroad tracks. This time I took the sidewalk and the rest of the group took the road. Dropped again. Dead legs.

After a brief reprieve near Catholic University, we climbed up Hawaii Avenue to more ups near the Soldiers Home Cemetery. We rode downhill to Upshur. This is a slight change from prior years so we missed the ensuing turn onto Illinois Avenue. No worries, we back tracked into Grant Circle and picked up the route on Illinois headed northwest. To Kansas back toward the southwest. The turn on Iowa sent us northward to Arkansas and a northwest heading. A turn on Georgia took us north so that we could turn left and left again to Colorado headed northwest to Missouri to the southeast. And you wonder why people get lost!

After some side streets we headed back to the northwest on North Dakota. We nearly missed a turn at 3rd Avenue (my bad) but recovered again. Soon we were in the Tacoma Park neighborhood and arrived at the fourth pit stop at the home of Crazy Rando Mike and Lisa. (Lisa’s not crazy, just Mike.)

After a chat with our cheerful hosts, we headed north to Alaska. Works for me. Alaska heads down to 16th Street then onto Sherill Drive into Rock Creek Park. If there were fewer cyclists and an open gate into the park this would an awesome descent. Even so, it was a blast. It led to the closed Bingham Road. We rode on a hilly, windy sidepath to another hilly, windy side path along Oregon Avenue. The terrain kept us from reading our cue sheet and we rode past our turn off the path. When we realized the mistake we walked through some weeds to Oregon and backtracked. Then it was up Beech on my legs which were starting to show signs of rigor mortis. Needless to say I got dropped again.

Utah, Nevada, and Nebraska were conquered without a fuss.

I rejoined the group and Emilia told me that she was having trouble getting her lowest gears to work. She was kicking my ass on the hills and spotting me three gears. She really is La Terminadora!

Up we rode on Fessenden Street. Actually up they rode as I was dropped again. Hello morgue, you have my legs.

After a brief rest stop we climbed Wisconsin to Tenleytown where we picked up Nebraska past American University, Rachel’s alma mater. Nebraska becomes Loughboro and descends. Arizona is a left hand turn at a stop sign. I confess I blew through the sign. In front of a DC patrol car. Oops. The police officer must have sensed my legger mortis and did not pursue me for arrest and incarceration. The other four in our group actually stopped. I feel so ashamed.

So, once they caught up to me (I waited), I missed the turn to go back up the hill on Ashby. I believe my legs had affected my brain. After a reprieve on 49th Street, we faced the climb up Garfield, the dreaded worstest hill on the entire ride. Some sicko added this beast to the course in 2014. Emilia, not knowing it was coming, was not amused. A detour put us instead on Dexter.  My faint hope of topographical forbearance from Mr. Dexter was dashed as soon as I turned and looked UP. DANG!

Up went Steve. Up went Kevin. Up went Rachel. Up – without her lowest gears no less – went Emilia. I wanted to cry. Not. Gonna. Walk. Dammit. And I didn’t.

Over the top to a series of rolling hills. New Mexico was conquered without a shot. Once we reached Idaho the cue sheet went away. We rode crested Cathedral Heights and cruised down to busy Connecticut Avenue. With Connecticut traffic stopped at a red light, we took the left lane and made it to the left hand turn onto Calvert Street. And the triumphant final half mile to the after party at Mellow Mushroom in Adams Morgan.

When we walked into the bar, I raised my hands and yelled “NINE!!!!” Then Emilia posed for a re-creation of her 2014 t-shirt photo,

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Missing gears. No problem! Way to go Emilia. Let’s do it again.

Next, Rachel took a shot of the two of is together. Note how I have helmet hair and she doesn’t. Dos Sonrisas.

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I can’t imagine doing this ride without my lowest gears. Emilia didn’t complain. She just found a way and buried me on every hill. Awesome.

After a big and well deserved un fuerte abrazo, Emilia hit the road and the remaining gang of four headed to the roof for pizza and drinks. Thanks for the pie, Rachel. How good to finally ride with you.

Once the party broke up, I drove up town to Petworth to see Alex Baca, my favorite bike ride stalker. We met because she spotted a SharrowsDC pin on my saddle bag on a bike ride in Baltimore several years ago. Brian sold the pins to raise money for WABA. She just celebrated a birthday and is still recovering from a nasty crash that resulted in a broken jaw. I am happy to report she looks great and seems in good spirits. And, to bring the day full circle, Brian and his wife Nikki (married all of three weeks) walked in. Brian, a solo rookie, finished the ride too.

Many, many thanks to:

  • the volunteers and staff of WABA, many of whom got up well before sunrise to run the pit stops, take our picture, and keep us safe
  • Laura Miller who was the WABA staffer in charge. Not a bad debut! You can handle the WABA weather machine any time you want
  • the course marshals, particularly Kitty who’s group we road with on and off throughout the day
  • the  folks at District Taco and Mellow Mushroom who fueled our two-wheeled foolishness
  • all the other sponsors including Signal Financial, the lead sponsor of the ride.
  • the people of DC, who once again supported us with smiles and shouts, all day. What a change from 2006 when drivers cussed me out!

And big, big thanks to my team six pack. You guys were so much fun to ride with.

 

Eve Teasing

In India, Eve teasing is what we call catcalling or public sexual harassment. We do not approve of Eve teasing here at the Rootchopper Institute. We do however get teased by the eve of big events and tonight is one of those.

Tomorrow is the 50 States Ride. It sold out a few hours ago. There is a new rule this year: if you don’t ride the whole thing you can go to the after party but you have to give your beer and pizza to bona fide finishers.  (Me.)

I rode to Friday Coffee Club at dawn. The temperature was hovering just above WTF. (It was 51 degrees F when I hit the road.) Now that the sun has moved a bit further south, I can take a sunrise picture at Dyke Marsh. So I did.

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Former co-worker Kelly saw this picture and thought I had gone back to work. No. Not gonna happen, Kelly.

Coffee Club was hopping. I signed up Kevin to join Team Rootchopper. Scuba Michael may also be joining us if his ear infection clears up. “Us” so far is Emilia and me. So if you’re coming and riding, we’ll be at the start around 7 am looking for other victims.

It warmed up for the ride home so the jacket came off. The weather has been glorious around here, such a start contrast to the news from the Caribbean. Hang in there Renee and John and Wendy. Based on today’s forecast (a Category 4 or 5 storm running right up the spine of the Florida peninsula), the bike tour to Key West isn’t going to happen. I still have fingers crossed but the Plan B (DC to Erie to Burlington VT or Albany to DC) tour is beginning to look like a real possibility. I have to be mindful that the point of this tour is to do my longest tour and see how my body reacts in preparation for a ride to the west coast next year.

This eve is also the eve of Clinchmas, the day the Washington Nationals clinch the National League East and a spot in the playoffs. The magic number is 4, so the clinch could happen tomorrow.

As soon as the Nats game is over, I’m going to sleep.

Volunteering for Ducks

It rained all day here in DC. I knew I was volunteering at WABA tonight so I didn’t bother to go out in the gloom and wet. At around 4 pm I headed to DC in rain jacket and pants. It was only about 62 degrees. i warmed up in a half mile. The ride was not half bad except for the 10 minute wait for a school bus to unload grade school kids in a downpour. I was okay with them taking their time but some of the kids went back on the bus to fetch things they had forgot. Must not kill.

I took the 15th Street cycletrack about 10 blocks north. The cycletrack is supposed to encourage bike commuters but I find it really unnerving especially when visibility is impaired by rain. I lived. End of story.

I arrived at WABA world headquarters. Volunteers were already at work at 6 pm. We were helping WABA staff get ready for Saturday’s 50 States Ride. (As of this writing the ride is not sold out but it probably will in the next day or two.)  I spent the first 90 minutes moving stuff out of storage to staging areas for the pit stops. Tables, banners, food, pens, zip ties, id labels for people staffing the stops, scissors, tape, binder clips, tents, a cooler, powdered sports drink, etc. When that had run its course, I helped put together the 12-page cue sheets. The 50 States Ride route is notoriously complicated. It’s part of the fun.

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Volunteers Hard at Work

If you are doing the ride, you’ll be stopping a lot. Don’t get frustrated. Go Just with it. Say hello to the people at the stop light or stop sign. The secret sauce of the 50 States Ride is that it is a social event that even introverts will love.

After a couple of hours, the evening’s activities came to a close. Cue sheets were still being run off the office printer. I suspect someone will be feeding it paper for another hour or so.

I rode home in the rain. It was dark. I was concerned about visibility so I wore a bright yellow belt that lit up from within.  I also had my Stella headlight blazing away. With raindrops on my glasses I couldn’t see very well but drivers would have to be blind not to see me. My wet glasses made it extremely hard to see when I was facing headlights. So I rode very slowly. The ride home took nearly 2 hours.

 

Ten Year Almond Anniversary

In a weird coincidence Pearls before Swine ran this strip yesterday.

So why is it a coincidence? Exactly ten years ago today, I had a similar conversation with a cyclist. (Somehow she has friends.)
Paul and I were riding the 50 States Ride in DC. For the uninitiated, this ride traverses the entire city so that participants can ride on streets named after the 50 States. It’s hard. It’s hilly and there are scores of stop signs and red lights. The route covers about 62 miles (depending on whether you get lost).
Nowadays the ride is held in September but back in 2007 it was held in August. August 24, 2007 was a hot and humid day in DC. Paul, his friend from Chicago Jane, and I were suffering. We had not yet hit a single hill and had ridden only about 15 miles. It was taking forever when one of us spotted an Asian woman a few hundred yards ahead. We decided to catch her.
Wimps that we are we only managed to catch her at the rest stop in Anacostia. There we met the not-Asian Florencia munching almonds from a bag. Paul pulled out his gorp and conversation ensued.
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Soon we were riding up the hills of Anacostia. Paul and Jane decided on an early lunch at an air conditioned restaurant at the highest point in Anacostia. (Showing an astounding amount of common sense they quit the ride.)  Florencia and I soldiered on, sort of. She rode ahead and I caught her at stop lights and stop signs.
After another ten miles or so, we stopped at a 7-11. Flor only bought water. I bought the entire snack aisle and gallons of sports drinks. When we came out Shane was lying on the grass in the shade next to our bikes. She did not look like a happy camper. Adam was standing nearby. He was not looking really please either.
We rode off, the four of us, into the hills of Northeast DC. It got hotter. And muggier. Time and again Flor pulled away, often with Adam in tow. (For some reason I thought they knew each other or were a couple, but it was just the way the group fell out.)
We descended into Rock Creek Park and stopped to rest under a big shade tree. Shane looked like she was dying. I thought she was getting heat exhaustion. Adam looked very unhappy.
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Flor munched more almonds. (I managed to take the worst picture ever of her as she ate.) She was bullet proof. She didn’t even seem to be sweating.
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Impatience got the best of her and Flor rode off alone. Adam, Shane and I continued for a few miles as a trio before Adam went home to eat some cold quiche.
Shane and I rolled on. We got to the rest area at American University. Shane went inside to get snacks. She came out with a handful of goodies. Only then did we realize that she had inadvertently stolen them from a seminar. Oops.
We continued on. I was aiding and abetting a snack thief’s getaway. The police didn’t pursue and we finished somewhere near Dupont Circle. Shane laid down on the sidewalk. Her problem wasn’t the heat, it was an ill-fitting bike.
She asked me to go to a bar nearby where survivors of the ride were celebrating. I took a pass to get home to daddy duties. At the bar Shane met Jeff (no relation to the guy in the comic strip, just another coincidence).
Jeff, Shane, and I did a ride in Baltimore a few weeks later.
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For a while I was doing rides with these characters on a semi-regular basis but then life intervened. Sad face.
Happy anniversary to the Paul, Shane, Jeff, and Flor. It was epic, wasn’t it?