It Had to Happen Eventually

A couple of weeks ago I shoveled snow for more than ten hours over the course of several days. I was shocked at how well my back held up. I attributed my good fortune to new exercises I have been doing to strengthen my lateral back muscles.

Yesterday I shoveled five or so inches of snow. And went snowshoeing for an hour. Ever since I have been feeling electrical shocks in my lower right back and hips. I don’t have any muscles spasm yet but it won’t take much to put me in a world of hurt.

Since the roads were an icy mess this morning, I opted to drive to work. Combined with tomorrow’s teleworking day I hope to be back in the saddle on Thursday. Fingers crossed.


Whether the Weather, or Not

I made up my mind after last night’s soaking that I was driving to work this morning. I didn’t bother to pack my panniers because the weatherman said their might be sleet or freezing rain today.

This morning I went out to pick the newspaper up off the end of the driveway and I noticed a distinct lack of rain, or sleet, or freezing rain. And so I said to myself, “Hey, wait a minute.”  I went inside and turned on the weather. The radar showed that there was rain in the area but that my neck of the woods was clear. And so I said to myself, “Hmmmm.”

After breakfast I decided to go for it. I packed my panniers and put on my waterproof gear and headed out the door to only the lightest of sprinkles. I decided to ride The Mule because it would give me the best traction on the wet leaves that cover most of my route to work. The Mule, not being a recumbent, allows me to ride in a head-facing down position. This would keep my glasses dry. The only downside would be if my back seized up while riding in the cold. No guts, no glory. Onward.

The faintest of sprinkles turned into sprinkles turned into light rain turned into steady rain which gave me a frowny face. Water sneaked into the corner of my left eye and made it sting. This gave me a squinty, one-eye-open face. Water began to pool in the insides of my allegedly waterproof gloves. Do I know how to party or what?

I made it to work without a calamity, thanks in large part to the fact that the Mount Vernon Trail was all but deserted. There were a few runners out squishing through the puddles but the bike commuters were few and far between. (This may have been the result of me leaving 15 minutes late due to the fact that I wasn’t packed and ready to go at my usual departure time.) To my surprise my back seemed pretty happy with the ride.

The radar said that the rain had left the area for the ride home. Somebody needs to get the radar fixed. There was a light mist that was just enough wetness to be annoying. My glasses eventually got wet which made riding blind into the headlights of the cars on the GW Parkway. Most trail users were displaying lights. Most except for the guy coming toward me with only a small red light on the front of his bike. And then there was the walked dressed in black with a blue backpack on. In the center of the blue backpack was a small circle of white reflective material. Good thing, too, because I almost certainly would have given him a Schwalbe wedgie.

Visibility issues aside the ride home was a pretty nice cruise. I seem to have my legs back and I was buzzing along at about 12 miles per hour without effort. (I’m willing to bet a tailwind was involved, buy why spoil my moment in the drizzle.)

The good news of the day is my back seemed to tolerate the ride just fine. The bad news of the day was that I spotted a couple of holes in my rain pants. If you all have recommendations, send them along.

Errandonnee #6: Little Nellie Goes to Work

Between oversleeping and a longish yoga session, I was out the door 30 minutes later than normal. I overslept because I took Vitamin I with a sedative before going  to sleep. I hope the I works as good as the zzzz.

The good part about my departure was that it was daylight. The bad part was that The Mule had a flat rear tire. Well, at least it didn’t go flat on me on the road.

My only option was Little Nellie, my Bike Friday. With its little wheels it’s a bit hard on the back. Given my recurring back woes, I wasn’t thrilled at the prospect of riding her. Of course, that didn’t stop me. I hopped on Little Nellie and took off for work.It was in the 40s, too warm for the holey sweater but too cool for shorts.

The ride in was uneventful. I saw a different set of people than usual, except for the Hoppy Runner. I normally pass him as he heads south but today I passed him heading north.  I was pleased to make it all the way to work without any significant stiffening in my back or hips. Taking 600 mgs of Vitamin I may have had something to do with that.

Errandonnee #6: Little Nellie Goes to Work

Throughout the work day I alternated between sitting at my desk and standing. I spent much of the day reading a document about the Internet in 2025.  One of the experts cited was Bob “Don’t Call Me Rachel” Cannon. It never ceases to amaze me that so many people I know are experts. Somehow we got put in charge. Yikes. Does this mean I have to grow up?

The ride home was pretty damned awesome. 70 degrees!!!!  The Mount Vernon Trail was pretty crowded. Nearly everyone was well behaved. One exception was this man, about 55 to 60 degrees who was walking south just past Gravelly Point park. As I rang my bell to pass him, he stopped turned and yelled at me. He did this last week too. I didn’t respond but I am wondering if this guy may be the same person who pushed a cyclist off his bike a few weeks ago.

I stopped on one of the flyover bridges at National Airport to shed some outerwear. Off came the jacket and the skull cap and the glove liners. It felt so good to feel the wind on my arms.

I must have had a tailwind. I was going 2 to 3 miles per hour faster than usual. I seemed to actually have my mechanics back after so many weeks of fighting with my back and hips. Yoga is making me much more comfortable on the bike, too.

Just south of Dyke Marsh I came upon a man standing next to the trail. He seemed to be buttoning up his dress shirt. He was ratty looking. I don’t often see homeless people this far south. He had gray hair and a messy short beard. It occurred to me that he vaguely resembled the sketch of this Alexandria homicide suspect. Except the suspect looks well groomed. The more I look at the sketch the more I think I’ve seen this person before. The twist in his lip and the eyes remind me of someone. Creepy.

A few hundred yards later, just before the Morningside nest,  I came up a large limb across the trail. I dismounted and started to remove it when another cyclist hopped off his bike and grabbed the opposite end. We had it off the trail in a matter of seconds. I later learned from Nancy “Two Sheds” Duley that the disheveled man had been spotted throwing debris onto the trail.

Speaking of the Morningside nest, I spotted a picture on a Flickr page from a local photographer. A bald eagle has returned to the nest. Soon breeding season will begin.

After arriving at home, I started to change to tire on The Mule. I could not find a leak. I pumped the tube up until it looked like an inner  tube but it wasn’t leaking. Maybe the valve is bad. I decided to put the tube back in the tire, remount it, and check again in the morning. Since it was so nice out, I did some maintenance work on Little Nellie, too.

Tomorrow is supposed to be another warm day. With thunder storms. March is tempermental.

Errandonnee #6

Category: Work

Miles: 30

Observation: I was pretty pleased that the new fair weather commuters were all well behaved today. No one buzzed me too closely. Except for the two loonies, people were smiling.

Driving Little Nellie

Yesterday, while doing day two of yoga, I felt my back pop. It felt like one of my vertebrae went back into place. It felt pretty good. After my back surgery and eight weeks of misery many years ago, I was lying on the floor and each one of my vertebrae clicked into place. It had never happened before and hasn’t happened since. It was a totally surreal and relaxing moment. So having just one pop was a nice reminder. 

Today was yoga day number three. My flexibility is still pretty sad. During one exercise my neck started making crunchy noises as I turned my head. A little oil, please Dorothy.

Instead of riding to work, I put Little Nellie, my Bike Friday, in the trunk of our 2004 Accord and drove it to a dealer in North Arlington for some TLC. I was a bit worried about lifting the bike and getting it in and out of the trunk but my back tolerated it just fine. The second test was riding the 3+ miles to my office on the Custis Trail. Bike Friday’s are tough on the back. My back didn’t mind at all. In fact, it felt pretty darn good.

My back did stiffen slightly during the afternoon but loosened up when I walked around a bit. The ride back to the dealer featured a nasty headwind and the big hill out of Rosslyn on the Custis but my back was okay.

When I got home, I pulled Little Nellie out of the trunk of the car. The chain got all discombobulated from folding the bike. I wrestled with the bike to free the chain from where it had gotten hung up between the chainrings and a folding joint. This all should have hurt my back but I didn’t even get a twinge. 

My back finally went on protest after dinner. Sitting in the hard chairs in the kitchen seem to really aggravate my lower spine. A little walking around loosened things up again.

I seem to be getting better at last. The question is the yoga helping or would I have gotten better anyway. 

Tomorrow is yet another test: a full 29+ mile commute in the cold. 

No guts, no glory.

Time to Stop Messing Around

I am really, really, really getting sick of this back thing. It is definitely better than a week ago but I still can’t stand up straight after sitting in a chair. 

This morning I broke out the big gun. 



I’ve done this program in the past with Mrs. Rootchopper. It’s not easy. The first day is just a short warm up with three exercises. Each one of the first day’s exercises involves a back bend. Dang, am I stiff. Even with my limited range of motion, I could feel my back loosening up. About an hour later. I was standing tall and straight and my back felt fine.

Sadly, this lasted only about 20 minutes.

I spent the rest of the morning dealing with some small tasks around the house, killing time as the temperature outside rose. When it broke 60, I hit the road. 

I didn’t have anywhere to go so I rode around the Fort Hunt neighborhood near my home. I took the Mount Vernon Trail down to Mount Vernon then rode the streets of Woodlawn. During the ride I came upon this cool house with two giant windmills on the roof. A few years ago, a man in a Tesla waved me down while I was riding Big Nellie, my long wheel base recumbent. He was an engineer who was interested in energy saving machines, designs and devices. When we parted, he told me he was building a house near Mount Vernon that would produce more energy than it consumed. Perhaps the windmill house was his.


I rode to the west side of US 1. A new road is under construction that will connect US 1 to Telegraph Road. This will be a welcome addition to the street network. I hope it has bicycle lanes on it.

The ride home was very flat and boring. Just what my back needed. I managed to ride a little over 30 miles. It felt like 50 thanks to my gimpy back. The dismount at home was not a pretty sight. 

Tomorrow is day 2 of the yoga program and the last warm day of February. I’m riding whether my back likes it or not.