The Snowman and the Mule

My back bothered me all day yesterday.Nevertheless, I decided to give bike commuting a try this morning. Dressing wasn’t a whole lot of fun but I got out the door bundled up for the 22 degree start. Once I got on the Mule I was fine.

I was a little concerned about ice on the Mount Vernon Trail so I walked the first icy patch on the Dyke Marsh bridge. I could have ridden it as it turns out. Just before re-mounting I spotted a little snow man perched on one of the posts on the boardwalk.


Whenever I have to deal with extreme cold or rain or wind, I approach the ride with a sense of dread. Far more often than not the ride ends up being just as much fun as on a nice day. Today was no different. Once I was back underway, I fell into my usual morning bike commute trance.

I modified my route to avoid some icy spots. It wasn’t until I reached the 14th Street Bridge 12 miles from home that I encountered one that looked troublesome. I rode it without trouble, but just seeing the ice made me tense up. Just south of the Memorial Bridge I came upon about 50 yards of serious ice. I tried riding past it on the grass but my wheels sunk in. Dismounting was pretty painful.

There was quite a bit of ice on the TR Bridge boardwalk. I rode the entire thing trying not to tense up as I did.

I used a head pad on my back during the day. This seemed to loosen things up.

After work I went to the new Heavy Seas Ale House to have a drink with fellow bike blogger Tinlizzie. The beer was good and the conversation even better. She pointed out Bike Arlington’s Tim Kelley and I introduced myself. Later, I met Suzie, who works with TInLizzie. Suzie wants to start bike commuting from Alexandria to Rosslyn. Allow me to be of service!

We talked a lot about what bike she should buy. What route to take. What things to avoid (aggressive gearing). What she would need (lock, method of carrying stuff). I neglected to mention the Circle of Death. (Everything in its proper place.)

After two pints of beer on an empty stomach, I began the long journey home. As soon as I left the garage I was hit by a powerful wind. Dang. And I was in the middle of a traffic jam. Dang again. And the wind was swirling. Dang dang dang.

Once I cleared the high rises and made it to the Mount Vernon Trail the wind straightened out and gave me a nice, steady tailwind. Most of the ice from the morning was gone. I was a little wobbly for the first 7 or 8 miles but I steadied for the second half of the commute. And my back felt fine the entire way home. Go figure

My only regret about riding home was that I had my back to a meteor in the night sky.

One Step Back

I woke up with very little stiffness. I hopped on The Mule and headed for Friday Coffee Club. When I dismounted outside Swings House of Caffeine, my back was really stiff. Ow.

I straightened up after a few seconds. Inside Swings, the joint was jumpin’, I got to tell my tale of back woe several times. Sympathy is good medicine. @ultrarunnergirl urged me to try Bikram yoga. She says it saved her back. Lawyer Mike told us about visiting a senator with a client while he (Mike) had a ruptured disc. (“Help my client for god’s sake so I can get the hell out of here!!!)

Jacques held Hugo, who is now an inquisitive toddler, as he talked with @bobbieshaftoe looking very stylish in her waterproof Gore jacket. Good thing she was properly attired. With no warning, Hugo let rip an impressive sneeze. He nailed her. She laughed it off because she is Ubermom. I’m sure she’s encountered worse with her kids. I sure have with mine.

I enjoyed riding part way to my office along side Jacques and Hugo. Hugo’s not nearly as talkative as his dad. This probably has something to do with the fact that he is just now learning to talk. He got a rise out of a school bus parked on the side of the street. “SkooBus” was my son’s first word. (He said it over and over and over again. Good thing he was impossibly cute.)

The ride to work was uneventful but the dismount in the garage hurt quite a bit. I gingerly made it to the locker room and eventually to my office. 

A co-worker had spilled something on his shirt and needed an emergency replacement. Fortunately, he’s about the same size as me and I, like all experienced bike commuters and boy scouts, keep a spare change of clothes in a filing cabinet in my office. Yet another reason why employees should be encouraged to ride to work. 

The ride home was a bit of a slog despite the warm (50!) temperature. Between staying up until midnight to watch the Olympics and fighting back pain for days on end, I was pooped. I could barely maintain an 11 mile per hour pace. I made it home in one piece but the dismount at home was bad news. Owie. Once I went inside, I looked at myself in the mirror. I was listing to starboard. My spasm was back. 

It’s going to be 70 degrees outside tomorrow. Normally I’d go for a long ride but I think I will do the smart thing and take it easy. There will be plenty more nice days soon.


Back Out, Day 10: A Wovely Day

It snowed last night. At daybreak we had about 6 inches of snow on the ground. The bottom inch was very wet so this was particularly heavy stuff. As readers of this blog know, I’ve been having back spasms for about ten days now. I was little worried that my back would not be up to clearing all the snow. So I bought a Wovel.

Today, I put my contraption to the test.

Madman with Wovel
Madman with Wovel

Damned if it didn’t work like a charm. 

It took a while to get used to, but after about 15 minutes I was shoveling like a maniac. Of course, I looked a bit like a maniac but if I gave a damn about appearances I wouldn’t ride a recumbent bike. The important thing is shoveling with my Wovel didn’t hurt my back at all. My triceps and legs got a bit of a work out though.

Mrs. Rootchopper used a conventional shovel to clear the steps in front of the house and remove snow from around the perimeter of the cars. A neighbor came by and cleared a path on the sidewalk across the street with a small snow plow. I cleared the sidewalk on my side of the street with the Wovel. It probably takes twice as long to clear snow with a Wovel than my neighbor’s snow plow. (My Wovel is quieter and  won’t run out of gas.) It’s at least twice as fast as using a conventional snow shovel.

I’ll have to go back out later today and have another go when the second wave of snow comes through, but I am actually kind of looking forward to it.

Wovel on!

Here are some more pix.