Emilia and the Red Caboose

Yetserday, I rode the Great Pumpkin Ride in Fauquier County, Virginia with my friend Emilia. This was our fourth ride together. Our first ride together was the 2014 50 States Ride. She had a rough time. We did it again in 2017 and this time I had a rough time and she, despite missing several climbing gears, flew up the hills. She weighs about half what I do so it was reasonable to assume would bury my sorry old ass on a sod farm in the hilly Virginia Piedmont.

Lucky for me, the last ride she did was the New York City Century back in early September. Unlike me she skipped breakfast. So on an empty stomach and with legs that hadn’t spun a pedal in seven weeks, she insisted on riding the long, 67-mile route yesterday. She’s pretty tough.

We lined up next to the red caboose at the start/finish line. Soon we were off down a rail trail then onto country roads where we were treated to rolling hills, 60 degrees, calm winds, cloudy skies, and the occasional sprinkle as we cruised through the rolling terrain at between 12 and 13 miles per hour. The foliage was close to peak and every so often we oohed and aahed at natures show. The lifestock in the fields seemed utterly (pun intended) uninterested in our passing. I explained that during my ride across the northern plains last year, I could get cattle and horses to stampede. Their Virginia cousins were having nothing of it.

The police warned us not to ride side by side so Emilia followed close behind me for most of the ride. She rides a bit closer to the edge of the road than I prefer so there was little chance that we’d overlap wheels.

Emilia’s native language is Spanish. I take advantage by quizzing her about useful phrases that I typically forget. Mostly we just rode and listened to the voices inside our heads. It’s nice to have a riding partner who appreciates that.

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Just trees and hills and fresh air

 

Thanks to her layoff, we rode at exactly the same pace for nearly the entire ride. She’s a vegetarian and needed no prodding when we came to the first rest stop 19 miles into the ride. There she gorged herself on a thin slice of cinnamon bread and half of a banana. I noticed she had barely touched her water bottle. I thought “no bueno” but she was perfectly happy with her food and water intake.

 

We rode another 22 hilly miles before finding the next rest stop.  She was laboring a bit at this point so she gorged herself with a thin slice of pumpkin pie and a wee bag of potato chips. Then off we went.

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Emilia after pumpkin pie

The next thirteen miles were a bit hillier. I noticed at mile 50 she was laboring up a hill. Her thigh muscles were cramping. Her water bottle remained nearly untouched. No bueno. We slowed a bit and forged ahead. At an intersection with a busy highway she had trouble unclipping from her pedals and wobbled into the cross road. Fortunately no cars were coming but she knew that the little incident could have been bad news. I could see on her face that the layoff since early September was taking its toll. She was pretty tired.

The route to the final rest stop is out-and-back for about 2 1/2 miles. We saw riders returning from the rest stop turning toward the finish. Emilia did not have a cue sheet in front of her and got rather animated about following them. I briefly considered skipping the rest stop. That would have risked seeing her bonk all the way to the finish so I explained we needed to get some food in her and forged ahead to the rest stop at the Old Bust Head brewery.

Once there, she had pie, three small cheese quesadillas, a small portion of tater tots, a cup of pumpkin soup, and two cups of Gatorade. Smiles.

“Ok, John, I’m ready.”

Crisis averted. As we rode I counted down the next few miles.

12!

11!

Only tell me the single digits.

How do you say nine in Spanish?

Nieve!

Ocho!

She fell back on a hill, caught up, then fell back again.

Are we at seven?

No. Cinco!

You’re kidding.

No.

Big smile.

A few more hills and we found ourselves on the rail trail back into town. It always seems longer that it actually is. Emilia started looking for the caboose.

And there it was after 67 hilly miles.

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Emilia, her steed, and the caboose

Tired but todo sonrisas.

We hope to ride again next Saturday at the shorter and flatter Cider Ride in DC. There will be no caboose but the donuts and cider and pie will make up for it.

Riding My Life Away

I haven’t been doing much biking these days. Well, by my standards anyway.

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It’s Fall, y’all

I rode 15 miles to the start of the Tour de Mt Vernon, a local ride sponsored by our district supervisor, Dan Storck. (Roughly speaking, he’s the mayor of Mt Vernon.) He an avid cyclist. I also have a state senator, Scott Surovell, who rode his bike across the country either before or after law school. It’s nice to have elected officials who treat bicycling seriously.

The Tour route went into Fort Belvoir. The base security folks demanded that we provide them with our social security number and drivers license numbers as well as our date of birth. I found this to be obnoxious. The base used to be open to the public with just a valid government issued ID, but base security was amped up to Defcon ∞ in recent years. God knows, two wheeled evil doers must be everywhere.

On the way to the ride The Google was drunk and guided me onto a mountain bike trail. It was a fun little ride but took me in a big circle. The ride began at a former prison that now holds artists’ studios. The first riders were horrible escapees, taking a wrong turn after 0.1 miles. Because of my privacy protest, I rode about 27 miles of the 32 mile route. It was very hilly.  Down to the river or the bay back up. Repeat. For the ride home, I relied on my own bikey instincts. It all made for a 57 mile day.

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Love in the morning
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Guard tower for escaping cyclists

A couple of days later I came down with a sore throat which morphed into a head and chest cold. You know, a cold. Still, I stayed up late to watch two World Series games and rode to a physical therapy appointment. I also did a few rides just to keep my sanity. There were pretty leaves too.

Yesterday I rode to the Kennedy Center to check out The Reach, a new set of performance and practice spaces connected to a couple of bike trails. There was a dance rehearsal going on outside. It was modern dance. I understand modern dance about as well as understand poetry which is to say not at all. There’s also public art.

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Playful art at The Reach
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More art at The Reach

Today I rode to Friday Coffee Club. We sat outside because we are stubborn. I froze. Kathy showed up for the first time in ages. She’s a federal retiree like me. She told me about the ins and outs of retirement funds distributions and Medicare. Since I turn 65 next year I got some financial calculations to do. (I may have to take a bunch of money out of my retirement fund earlier than planned. Life is hard. Then you die.)

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On the way to Friday Coffee Club along the Potomac River

 

 

Raw Thoughts

  • I had pancakes and bacon for breakfast today. It reminded me of a great Calvin and Hobbes cartoon.  When you think about it, pancakes and bacon are pretty barbaric. Let’s see, I’ll mix some flour with cow squeezings then drop in an chicken egg embryo. Swirl it all around and throw it on a skillet. Then I’ll fry thin strips of pork belly and have that on the side. Eww.Image result for calvin and hobbes milk
  • Sometimes it’s best not to think too much about these things. I once had eye surgery while I was awake. Wanna hear about it? First, the surgeon sticks a needle in your eye….What? Okay, I’ll stop.
  • For lunch I had a tuna fish sandwich. When you open up a can of tuna, it’s like a mystery substance. It doesn’t look like it could possibly be part of an actual animal. Just in case somebody might happen to identify it, we mix it up with mayo (more chicken embryos) and some random bits of veggies. We’d probably eat a lot less tuna if there was a tuna eye in the can. Ewww.
  • I have no idea what made me think of these things. I blame the weather. The temperature dropped over 20 degrees last night. I went out for a bike ride to beat the approaching rain. I lost the race. It rained for the last seven miles of a 23-mile zig-zag ride through Fort Hunt, Virginia. I was pretty comfortable except for my toes. They were cold and wet. After over 50 years of bicycling, I still have no cure for cold wet toes.
  • I saw my friend Nancy. She was out walking with Mr. Nancy. It was before the rain started. They were wearing shorts. Climactic optimists. Nancy was wearing one of those knit skating caps with a ball on top. She’s ambiclimactic.
  • I saw a family watching a tree being removed from their backyard. It was a majestic old tree. It must have been 100 years old. I’ll bet it was magnificent. When I rode by it was nothing more than a thick 30-foot wood pole. Maybe they needed space for a new addition to their house. I’ll bet the addition isn’t half as awesome as the tree was. These people are barbarians.
  • Cold, wet weather is described as raw. Our brains can’t handle raw weather. We forget about it. Then it’s here and we are surprised. In the northeast, they don’t have autumn; they have raw. There are few things more miserable than watching a football game in the raw. Maybe that’s where the RAW RAW RAW cheer came from. (Sorry. Stole that from Firesign Theater.)
  • How raw is it? It’s so raw that I didn’t go out to buy a box of toe warmers for the days ahead. Tomorrow will be rawer. Is rawer a word? Go outside and say rawer three times real fast. The folks in the white coats will come and get you soon. You should probably go inside now.
  • The saddest part of raw is the leaves. They are all coming down. Our next door neighbors have a gigantic maple tree in their front yard. It always puts on a great show. Show’s over. Nothing to see here. Move along.

Fall in Mount Vernon

After an early morning recon ride in the car with Mrs. Rootchopper, I went back on my bike to take some pictures of the local fall foliage. Fort Hunt Park has several maples that put on a show for about a week every autumn.

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And with the river, the foliage, and the angled sunlight, the Mount Vernon trail is simply beautiful.

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There are a few more on Flickr.

Weighty Things

My plan was to get up early to go to the gym and life weights. The Astros and the Dodgers had other things in mind. Game 5 of the World Series was supposed to be a tidy pitchers’ duel. Instead it was a slug fest. Houston won 13 – 12 in 10 long innings. I pretty sure there were at least four standing 8 counts. You could almost hear the players saying, “Yeah, Well…TAKE THAT!” as they exchanged home runs. Big fun.

Long story short, I woke up a tad later than planned. As it turned out, this was not entirely a bad thing because temperatures dropped about 20 degrees from yesterday. And it was windy. Fall has arrived and, boy, does it feel great.

I managed to make the four-mile ride to the gym into eight miles. I let the breeze push me down the Mount Vernon Trail before turning back. Then I had to face it. The dreaded weight room. I know, I know. Weight bearing exercise is good for you. It especially good for people like me who do little more than non-weight-bearing exercise and who have ripened a bit.

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The Chamber of Pain

I did one circuit through the machines, mostly to figure out how to set them up. It was pretty funny that one some machines I wasn’t sure which way to face, toward or away from the machine. And there was one work station without any weights at all that had no instructions. I had no idea what the heck to do with that.

After my first go round, I did another circuit. I made sure to use less weight than I might normally and to move the weight very slowly. I hope I don’t ache tomorrow. Even with low weight, I had the same result I usually have from weight lifting: I felt like throwing up when I was done.

The good news is my ribs didn’t hurt. The bad news is my left tricep is messed up. It wasn’t the weights. My father had rotator cuff problems beginning at about my age. Thanks Dad.

After the weights, I went for what I planned to be a 22-mile ride. One thing led to another and I found myself riding The Mule all over the place: across the Potomac on the Woodrow Wilson Bridge, up Oxon Hill past the casino, back down to the river at Oxon Hill Farm, back up the hill to Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. I took MLK to Howard Road. Then I got on the Anacostia River Trail. I rode a few miles north then crossed the river and came south all the way to the soccer stadium being built at Buzzards Point.

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Swift Progress on the Soccer Pitch

Then I made my way to The Wharf where I rested in a swing and took in the sights on a perfect fall day.

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Swings on a Pier

The ride home on the Mount Vernon Trail was a breeze.

When I arrived a package greeted me.

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The package also included a book (Britt Maire Was Here by Fredrik Backman) and another CD, Little Fictions by Elbow (I am going to their DC concert on Saturday).

 

The Cold, The Deer and The BMW

Dang it was cold this morning. On with the tights. On with the long sleeve shirts. On with the wool socks. On with the vest. On with the lobster gloves.

I am such a weather wimp. It was in the high 40s but I was prepping for 40 below. And I was still cold for the first five miles.

Once I warmed up, I began to notice what an absolutely awesome fall day it was. The sun reflecting off the Potomac.A great blue heron perched on a log waiting to strike a fish amid the hydrilla. A passenger jet taking off over the Mount Vernon Trail at unusually low altitude. The Washington Monument. Not half bad.

My re-set odometer and over did it. It was a half mile farther to work. Oops.

The ride home was pretty sweet. 60s. Sunny skies. A puffy white cloud here and there. It still felt cold but I think it was all in my head.

South of the beltway I admired the beginning of fall colors. Then a deer darted in front of me. A young fawn. Just as I was about to pass behind her, a second deer bounded across my path. She wasn’t all that big either but it was a good thing I kept my head up otherwise I’d have been clobbered.

Emerging from the trail onto Northbound Road, I spotted a BMW making its way toward me with the intent of turning onto the George Washington Memorial Parkway to my right, the driver’s left. Instead of coming down the right lane, the driver took the left lane, my lane. Quelle le fuck?

I wagged my finger at the idjit behind the wheel.

For the last two miles nothing tried to run me over.

You have to be thankful for the little things.

 

It’s Clinchmas!

  • Tonight, if the Mets lose and the Nats win, the Nationals win their division and qualify for the playoffs. YAY! This has been a foregone conclusion for a couple of weeks but longtime Red Sox sufferers like me know that nothing in baseball is to be taken for granted. You could look it up. Of google “Bucky Fucking Dent” or “Bill Buckner and Mookie Wilson.”
  • Baseball quiz: who scored the winning run on the Buckner/Wilson play? Answer: Ray Knight, the Nats announcer.
  • Summer is officially over. In the last week, I’ve seen two bicyclists fall on the Mount Vernon Trail. That’s why I prefer the word “autumn” to “fall”
  • Felkerino once told me it is bad luck to refer to terrain as “flat” during a bike ride. It’s a four-letter f-word. Use “level” instead.
  • I am nearly recovered from riding the Backroads Century on Sunday. It had a lot of hills. My body was not happy this week. First, my back gave me a spasm on Tuesday morning. It lasted only a second and I managed to avoid turning into Quasimodo for a week. My legs have been dead for a few days. This morning they sprang to life. I hit 18 mph on the MVT. Must have been a tailwind.
  • The last two days I woke up at 5 am. I waited for daybreak (around 7) yesterday before heading to work. Today I left in the dark, with lights on my helmet and wearing a reflective vest. I am experimenting with strapping my battery to my helmet. I wouldn’t want to do this for hours at a time but it seems to be better than having a battery shoved down the back of my shorts. Note to Light and Motion, make me a Stella lamp with a shorter cord please.
  • It wasn’t until I was practically at work that I thought of going to Friday Coffee Club. I would have had to backtrack four miles. Not gonna happen.
  • One thing that never ceases to amuse me is how I know dozens of bike commuters but rarely see anybody I know. The person I see the most often, Chris M., is somebody I seem pathologically unable to recognize. Weird. Every once in a while somebody says hello as they go by. I typically respond “Blerfg.” I’m either half asleep or in a trance.
  • I signed up for another autumn ride: the Great Pumpkin Ride. I’ll probably be doing it with Ultrarunnergirl.
  • A friend of a friend runs several web-enabled freelance businesses. I can’t quite sort them all out but she is obviously a fan of yoga/mindfulness. When she lapses into yoga lingo on her business videos she says, “Sorry, went a little ‘woo woo’ there.” I have been looking for a word to describe this jargon and now I have it. People who are into yoga and mindfulness will henceforth be the Woowoos on this blog.
  • It’s suppposed to be a perfect weekend. All I want to do is let my body recover. So my plan is:
    • Mow the lawn
    • Swab the deck
    • Do a very gentle and short bit of cycling
    • Read my book about genetics. It is cleverly entitled The Gene.
    • Watch the Nationals clinch on TV!

Tell Tale Signs

The tell tale sign of Christmas is the arrival of Christmas decorations. There’s a house down the street from me that lit up, albeit in purple, one of its trees in October. I’ve seen outdoor trees on display elsewhere. Then there was that Corona Beer Christmas ad on TV last night. Nothing says Christmas like beer that tastes like skunk pee.

The tell tale sign that the good weather days are behind us is a cold, rainy day. I grew up in upstate New York when cold rainy days were the norm in October and November. There’s no way to sugar coat it, cold rainy days suck. Unless you have the right clothing.

I have the right clothing. (You knew I was going to say that, didn’t you?)

So out I went at 7:10 on Little Nellie. I was quite comfortable under my Marmot Precip rain gear. Over the weekend I bought some neoprene covers for the front of my shoes. Somewhat unexpectedly they kept my shoes dry. I dug out my old Novara (the REI house brand) rain gloves. These suckers are long, they go well up my forearm and have a cinching cord in the wrist. The rain was even kind enough not to turn into a deluge for the commute. My only problem was seeing. Water on my glasses made navigation a bit of an annoyance. Lucky for me, there was hardly anybody else on the Mount Vernon Trail.

Tonight I expected less of the same, the rain having supposedly moved through the area. A brisk tailwind made the ride a, forgive the expression, breeze. It wasn’t a breeze for a bike commuter on the boardwalk at the TR Bridge. He was coming down from the bridge when he hit his brakes to avoid a turning cyclist. Thud. He was down on his side in a split second. He popped up and started walking his bike. He said he was okay so I pedaled homeward. It was seriously dark the whole way. In Belle Haven Park I saw two lights in the leaves next to the trail. Next thing I knew a racoon was running across the trail in front of me. He bounded up onto a tree trunk and scurried up the tree. The rest of the ride home involved not falling on the wet leaves. I succeeded.

Tomorrow is a whole ‘nother story. The forecast is calling for temperatures in the low to mid 20s with strong headwinds. This is the kind of weather we get in late January. I am prepared to wear everything I’ve got for the ride. I’m going all Charlie Brown. If I fall off my bike, I’ll just lie there on the ground like a felled tree.

Or I’ll drive.