Bicycle Listicle

  • Bald eagle sightings have increased hereabouts. Most mornings the Belle Haven nest about 5 miles from my house is overseen by a lone eagle. I’ve never figured out why.The nest is abandoned but for some reason eagles continue to hang out in the tree limbs above it.
  • Yesterday a bike commuter passed me north of the airport. As she did so, she pointed to the sky over the river and said, “Bald eagle!” When I looked I could see a bird about 100 yards away flying toward DC. The bird then banked to the left and I could see its white head. It continued its big turn and landed in a tree along the riverbank next to the trail. My eagle spotter pulled over to take a picture. I would have too but for my squeaky brakes. I didn’t want to scare the eagle. A minute later she came by me again, “That made my day!” Mine too.
  • This morning a bald eagle launched from the Belle Haven nest and flew RIGHT AT ME!!! Top of the food chain, ma! It veered off before tearing my head from my body. Otherwise, well, this blog would be kaput. As would I.
  • Just before the bald eagle attack, I spotted a brand new polyester throw on the trail near Belle Haven Park. I thought it might belong to Running Mom but decided to leave it in case it was someone else’s. A few minutes later here comes Running Mom pushing her son in a jogging stroller. She didn’t seemed to be the least bit upset so I assumed the blanket wasn’t hers. Glad I left it where I saw it. (It was hanging on a trailside sign this evening.)
  • I stopped for a sunrise picture and made it a selfie. I don’t do selfie’s very often, because I look pretty unremarkable and spoil the view. You can’t really see much of the sun. I suck at photography.  Also, I look like I’m 8 feet tall.

sunrise-selfie

  • The morning light was fantastic. I could have taken a dozen pictures. I stopped for this one of the Washington Monument reflected in the Potomac River. (The quality of this picture is proof that even a blind pig finds an acorn now and then.)  I was going to take a picture of the reflections and shadows of the multiple arches of the Memorial Bridge but decided to continue on to work instead. #bikedc friends Jacques and Mary had the same idea and shot the bridge from both sides of the river.

double-pencil

  • Yesterday I didn’t get enough sleep and was riding in a mental fog. There is one bike traffic light on the Mount Vernon Trail for cars coming into and out of Porto Vecchio, an upscale condo on the river, just beyond the Belle Haven nest. I always stop for this light when it’s red and take extreme care when it is yellow (it is never green) to avoid being hit by turning cars. In my haze yesterday morning I rolled the red light. There were cars about to cross the trail. I am lucky I didn’t get hit. It’s the second time this month that I have escaped getting t-boned because I was in a trance. I really have to start paying more attention.
  • Today was supposed to be my co-worker Kelly’s first bike commute of the year. When I got to work her bike wasn’t in the bike parking room. Last night she laid all her bike clothes out. This morning she woke up, got dressed, went out and caught the bus. Only then did she realized that she had forgotten to ride her bike! Apparently Kelly’s early morning trance puts mine to shame.

 

Recovery Bikeabout

I woke up sore and hungry. I immediately took care of the latter. Mrs. Rootchopper prepared a breakfast casserole that tasted like a plate of Denny’s comfort food all smashed up together. Add a heap of salt – because it’s how I roll – and you have the first course. Then I ate a bunch of strawberries. Then some mixed nuts. And a bagel. And OJ and coffee. Feed me Seymour! (1)

Mrs. Rootchopper came downstairs and opened all the windows. It was early May outside. Qu’est ce que le fuck?

With aches like Aunt Blabby (“All over my body”) I hit the road bound for the National Arboretum and its nesting pair of bald eagles. My first stop though was the local hardware store where I took a lawn mower blade to be sharpened. It was my preparation for the Errandonnee 2017. If you are a bicyclists anywhere in the world, you should do this. I will post the link when the Errand Queen starts the clock.

mower-blade

The ride up to DC wasn’t too bad, except for a very slow line of traffic north of Old Town. I am told that patience is a virtue as rewarding as a new love in spring. (2) So I calmly took my time. I was into DC without too much of a delay and rode along the National Mall which was teeming with tourists. There were three lines, each several people wide, lining up to get into the Air and Space Museum. Up Capitol Hill and out Maryland Avenue to Bladensburg Avenue, which must be a cycling death trap at rush hour. This area of DC is scruffy but development is springing up. At this pace, in another 50 years all the old crappy parts of DC will be gone.

As I rolled by the Arboretum I looked into the tree tops for a nest. I had no luck and my luck worsened when I turned into the grounds of the Arboretum and encountered the pedestrians only sign. With over 100 miles on my legs in the last 26 hours there was no way I was going to go hiking in search of the next. (I had already passed three or four nests on my way to DC.)

I rode around the interior perimeter of the Arboretum. The place was crawling with people.  I wondered where the hell all these people are the other 364 days of the year.

I took a spin through Trinidad on my way home. This neighborhood was notorious for drug-related violence only a few years ago. It sits on the edge of Gallaudet University, the nation’s (and maybe the world’s) most prestigious college for the deaf. I rode by Klarence’s house.For some stupid reason I don’t have Klarence’s phone number. Klarence responds to DMs and emails with an idiosyncratic two-week lag so there was no way to contact her ahead of time. So I continued on through NoMa, across Capitol Hill. I rode down the hill up Independence Avenue. This was where the main body of the Women’s March had formed. With the road laid out before me, I could only think “WOW”. The march filled this entire avenue and every street near it. I could see where we were standing and there must have been 50,000 people between us and the main gathering.

I passed the opposite side of the Air and Space Museum. Tourists were milling about. I overhead one tell another, “It’s free.” I wonder how much longer that will last.

After dodging dozens of cabs and Ubers, I made it back across the river. I had a nice tailwind for my ride home. Too bad I couldn’t take advantage of it. The Mount Vernon Trail was packed with people from the 14th Street Bridge to beyond National Airport and again into Old Town. I gave up on Union Street after I saw cars back up for two blocks.

The ride home was pleasant. I made it a point to check out each bald eagle nest but I didn’t see any of my feathered friends.

Once at home, I fiddled with my front derailler, made a snack, put some laundry in, and settled on the deck in my shirt sleeves with a cold beer.

41 miles and I am pronounce myself recovered.

Some pictures of my bikeabout can be found on my Flickr page.

If you are wondering what the parenthetic numbers are, they indicate obscure pop culture references from the more than 30 years ago. Anybody want to guess where they are from?

Have a fun Presidents’ Day.

 

 

Eagles Fly, Turtles Lay

As regular readers of this blog already know, I am gaga for bald eagles and snapping turtles. Last night on the way home, I spotted my first turrle. It was off in the grass between the trail and the river about a mile from my office. Since I was away during the first seven days of June I probably missed the trutles laying eggs along the trail this year. I am still hopeful though.

There are (at least) two active bald eagle nests on my commute route. One is located near the Morningside Drive exit of the George Washington Memorial Highway which runs right next to the Mount Vernon Trail. The other is near the Tulane Drive exit. (For locals, these are between 2 and 3 miles south of the beltway.)  They are both very hard to see now that the trees have their full set of leaves.

The trail passes through Dyke Marsh Preseve. The Friends of Dyke Marsh often look for wildlife activity. This week they saw the eaglets being taught to fly. This probably takes place along the river’s edge, away from the trail, but I am going to give it a close look on the way home.

The Friends have a Facebook page (doesn’t everyone?). Here’s a link for those of the nature nuts who read this blog.

 

 

 

Sunday Sight Seeing on the Mount Vernon Trail

On Sunday, two friends from my grad school days came over for brunch. Matt is not athletic. Mike is. Mike was going stir crazy staying with Matt so we agreed that I would take Mike for a bike ride after brunch. Fortunately, Mike is exactly my size so The Mule fit him. I rode my Cross Check.

Mike has a yard sale bike at home in Providence that he rides religiously once or twice a year. So I set a gentle pace. We did a tour of the Mount Vernon Trail bald eagle nests. Along the way Mike told me about how he recently used CitiBikes to ride around New York City. He said he would never have ridden a bike except for the fact that there are separate dedicated bike lanes. He felt totally safe. Mike should be the poster boy for urban bike infrastructure.

We made it to the Belle Haven nest but saw no eagles. As we rode further Mike told me about the  East Bay Bike Trail in Rhode Island. He loves it. I ran this once when it was a railroad line back in 1980 or 1981. It really sounds fantastic but Mike was annoyed that it wasn’t wide enough. Soon we entered Jones Point Park Mike was shocked to see a separate walking lane. (I didn’t have the heart to tell him that most walkers ignore it.)

Under the giant bridge and into Old Town. Then we took the Wilkes Street tunnel and Royal Street back to the Mount Vernon Trail. Continuing south we stopped at the Tulane nest. I could barely make it out with binoculars amid the dense foliage. Mike never saw it. Onward to the osprey (or maybe bald eagle nest) at the fishing hole. No birds, nice view.

Our next stop was the Morningside Nest which I couldn’t find at all amid the leaves. My bald eagle nest tour was becoming a bust.

We continued down the trail to Fort Hunt Park, stopping to admire Fort Washington on the opposite side of the Potomac River. We did a lap in the park then headed for Mount Vernon. About a half mile from the park  I pulled over for one more bald eagle nest. I just could not find it. As I was giving up, I looked up and there it was, right out in the open. Easily the biggest nest of all. Mike saw it too. And just as he focused on it, an eagle flew down and into it. The nest, or actually the outside structure of the nest, is so big that the bird just vanished. I could occasionally spot the bird’s head bopping up and down, probably feeding an eaglet. As we were watching the nest, a second bald eagle flew in circles overhead. Woot!

We started talking with a couple who were walking their dog. Just as we were about to leave they spotted a bizarre looking naval vessel making good time on the river heading toward DC. It had a sort of dazzle camouflage on its sides. Very cool.

I took Mike up to Mount Vernon. He did not much a
ppreciate the last hill. After a brief rest, we continued  beyond the estate for a photo op before heading back home.IMG_0023.JPG

23 1/2 miles, 1 strange boat, 2 bald eagles.Not bad for a lazy Sunday.

After he left things got at tad more interesting, but that’s a tale for another post….

 

It’s Sunday in ‘Merica

Yes, today is a patriotic American Sunday. I bought my tax software yesterday and in about 2 hours finished the first cut at our returns this morning. It looks like we’ll be getting back a little over $300. I think that cuts the withholding to the quick.

After doing taxes, I decided to go for a short bike ride around the Fort Hunt neighborhood. This was a fairly uneventful lolly gag until I worked my way over the the Mount Vernon Trail and started heading north toward Fort Hunt Park. Then I heard a loud screech in the air to my left. I pulled off the trail and looked up and over and saw a bald eagle swooping down into the trees toward the massive Fort Hunt nest. I know of at least four bald eagle nests between Mount Vernon and Old Town and this is by far the biggest. Like all the MVT nests this one is nearly impossible to spot after the trees get their leaves.

My eyes were distracted from the swooping bird by another bald eagle soaring in a tight circle above. I looked back to the nest and spotted the other eagle perched on a large branch in the tree directly behind and above the nest.

The birds were too far away for me to get a picture with my camera phone. So my apologies for not capturing the moment.

The eagles behavior was consistent with this description of mating. So maybe we’ll have some eaglets in a couple of months.

I hopped back on my bike and rode around the Fort Hunt area until my toes became too cold.

I am back home preparing for the Super Bowl. This means taking a shower and carting the beer out to the car for our annual Super Bowl/Paulie’s birthday extravaganza. What better way to celebrate America and the onset of senility than by watching 300 pound men clad in plastic armor smashing into each other.

In concussions we trust.

 

Prepping for the Season Opener

Before we get into today’s events, an update on the migration patterns of the East Coast bicycle tourists. I had previously seen a single northbound bike tourist on the Mount Vernon Trail on two occasions in the last week or so. Friday night I spotted one man, Asian, about 30 years old give or take five years. (Suffice it to say, I stink at guessing people’s ages.)  About a minute later, three more Asian men of about the same age rode by. It’s a sure sign of spring. They looked like they were having a blast.

Spring is really happening now. Dogwoods, lilacs, tulips, and redbuds all in bloom. Soon ducklings and gosslings will make their debuts and tortoises will lay their eggs along the edge of the trail.

Now back to today.

Anybody who knows me knows that I am a baseball fan. When Tony Conigliaro was beaned on my 12th birthday, I became a Red Sox fan living in Yankee country. It wasn’t easy. In 1973 I started college at Boston University. I became a Sawx addict. My sophomore year in a dorm about 1 block from the Citgo sign in Kenmore Square and 3 blocks from Fenway Park’s green monster. I drove a cab in Boston during the summer of 1975. I had to walk past the green monster every day to get to the cab company. During the summer many of the passengers wanted to talk about the Sawx. The Boston Globe had the best sports page EVER.

I learned that baseball is about the arc of the season not about each individual game. I went nuts during the fabled sixth game of the ’75 nWorld Series, and mourned at the feeble end of the seventh. In ’78, I learned Bucky Dent’s middle name. (It begins with F.) In ’86 I yelled at the TV “Where’s Stapleton?” wanting to see first-baseman Bill Buckner’s defensive replacement in the sixth game of the 1986 series against the Mets. My kids watched mesuffer as the Yankees won the 2003 playoffs on an Aaron Boone home run.  And they watched daddy completely lose his mind going “Cowboy Up!” during their amazing come from behind stomping of the evil empire in 2004. And they won the Series to boot. Mercy. The next two pennants were fun but anticlimactic although I think 2013 was some sort of divine intervention after the sickening Boston Marathon bombing.

Now I have turned my attention to my new home.

The Nationals are loaded like Ron White on a bender. Their line up is the Death Star. They remind me of the 1978 Red Sox in that they have thunder in their bats Rooting for the Nats is meant to be. They were once the Montreal Expos. My father took us up to Montreal to see Willie Mays and the Giants play the Expos in Jarry Park. Willie didn’t play that day but I have a fond memory of sitting in the smallest major league park on a lovely August day. And besides the Expos gave Boston Pedro!

Tomorrow I go to my first Nats game of the season. I will try to refrain from yelling “LETS GO EXPOS!” during the game. I will bike the 14 miles to the stadium for the first time since that impossibly sad day last September.

Today I spent the day getting stuff out of the way for tomorrow’s fun. I picked up my holey sweaters at the dry cleaner. After a somber ceremony, they will be put in storage for next winter. Then I washed all my winter bike clothes. My jacket and vest were both disgustingly dirty. I had no hope they’d come clean but I will be damned if they don’t look like new. IMoving outdoors, I removed raised beds from our back yard. They had failed to produce more than a handful of veggies for several years. After an hour plus of digging dirt, I think it’s time for someone to invent a dirt version of the Wovel.

Next I mowed the lawn, learning in the process that it was mighty hot out for mid April. Dehydrated, I decamped to the family room and watched the second half of the Nats game. (They lost. We’ll get them tomorrow.)

After the game I took The Mule out for an easy spin to check the bald eagle nests along the Mount Vernon Trail. I saw one eagle in the massive nest at Fort Hunt Park. I didn’t see any other eagles at the four nests between the stone bridge and Tulane Drive, but I did run into Reba, fellow bike commuter and Friday Coffee Clubber. She was looking for the nests without much luck so I took her on a tour. It’s a good thing she was looking today because in about a week the leaves on the trees will make the nests very hard to find, even if you know where to look. We didn’t see much eagle action but at least Reba knows where they are.

Winter clothing is cleaned. Chores are done. Legs are refreshed.

Okay, Mule, take me out to the ballgame.

Biking on Drugs

What a beautiful day. The weather that is. My back not so much.

After dawdling over the newspaper and eating some a muscle relaxant and an NSAID, I decided to go for a short, gentle bike ride on Big Nellie, my Tour Easy recumbent.

I loosely planned to check out some bald eagle nests along the Mount Vernon Trail, maybe grab some lunch in Old Town Alexandria and head back home.

Getting started hurt. A slight hill near home hurt. Then I loosened up and Big Nellie and I were cruising. My first stop was the nest in Fort Hunt Park. I spotted it from the MVT. In a few days as the trees leaf out, it will be very hard to find. There were no eagles about so I took a picture and then made a note of the landmarks nearby so that I can find the nest again. 

Image
Bald Eagle Nest in Fort Hunt Park

I started up again. Ow. Once underway the pain subsided. I took the trail with all its curves and bridges and ups and downs all the way to the Morningside nest. The new bridges on the trail along this stretch are a terrific improvement over the cheap ones they replaced. 

At the Morningside nest I struck up a conversation with a photographer. It turns out that she is the same photographer that told me where the Fort Hunt Park nest is last summer. She’s a real bald eagle addict. She told me that both the Fort Hunt and the Morningside nests have eaglets. Three other nests, one along Spout Run in North Arlington, one south of Mount Vernon on Ferry Landing Road and the one at the Belle Haven country club, have been abandoned by bald eagles. The Belle Haven nest has been taken over by ospreys. She was going to Alaska for a cruise this summer. I mentioned that she’d be seeing a ton of bald eagles on her trip. She mentioned that she will be stopping in Haines. I told her to stop at the museum and say high to Rachel, one of my #bikedc friends who will be working there this summer.

After our talk, I headed north to Old Town. The traffic on the trail was pretty busy. The usual asshat MAMILs (middle aged men in lycra) were indulging their athletic fantasies by riding way too fast. One woman walker yelled at a close passing cyclist to slow down. He had it coming.

Under the Woodrow Wilson Bridge two little boys were showing off their bicycling skills for their moms. The rode their itty bitty two wheelers in tight circles, all the while having a blast. 

I rode through Old Town. Not yet hungry I decided to ride over to Del Ray to see if any food looked good. All the restaurants along Mount Vernon Boulevard had people eating outdoors. I was tempted by a couple of Mexican places but rode on.

I kept heading north through Arlandria, Crystal City, and Long Bridge Park, past the vast Pentagon parking lots and into DC across the Memorial Bridge. The tourists were out in droves. I resisted the urge to run them over. 

On a whim I made my way to Carpe Diem, the little used bookstore that Rachel had been working in.  I had a specific book in mind but,alas, it was too old and obscure. 

Next up was a side trip to Mount Vernon Square to check out the building that collapsed the other day. Only a few years ago, the streets of this neighborhood were lined with two and three story buildings. Now, most of them are gone, replaced by modern mixed use buildings. The streets were alive with young adults milling about. The collapsed building and the ones next to it looked utterly out of place among all the new buildings, one of which housed a “gentleman’s club.”

Image
Collapsed Building in DC

Having satisfied my curiosity I worked my way back to Virginia. During my time in DC I saw literally dozens of women walking the streets carry yoga mats. You could make a decent living selling yoga mats around here.

Once in Virginia I turned south on the MVT. Normally on such a nice day, the trail is packed with runners, bladers, cyclists, and walkers. Today it was crowded but not enough to slow me down. South of the airport I saw a women on skates heading toward me. These weren’t rollerblades or traditional roller skates. Instead they had big skateboard style wheels, four to a skate. Must be a new thing.

Many of the cyclists were riding CaBi bikeshare bikes. In Old Town and for the next couple of miles I got stuck behind three groups of Bike and Roll customers riding their rental bikes south. The first two clusters of renta-riders had about ten people in them. Under the Wilson Bridge I encountered a line of close to 20 bikes. They were going slowly and Big Nellie (and my back) were feeling fine so I passed them in one go. This never happens, by the way.

Image
Long Line of Rental Bikes under the WWB

The last three miles were a bit of a slog. I think my muscle relaxant was wearing off, but I made it home without any pain. The walk into the house reminded me of my back woes. I look like an 80-year old with osteoporosis.

So my little jaunt lasted 39 miles. Success through chemistry. 

 

Chips and Queso, Ceteris Non Paribus

Saturday brought the last ride on Little Nellie for a while. I rode to my daughter’s last high school lacrosse game. She played goalie. As a parent I had mixed feelings. Most of the shots she would stop would hit flesh and turn into ugly bruises after the game. You want her to play well, but you hate to see the consequences. Ironically, this is the first season of high school sports that she played injury free, despite having to wear ice bags every night.

At one point on the ride to the game, I spent a half mile dodging several dozen runners who clogged the Rock Creek Trail. They were running side by side, hopping unpredictably to avoid puddles, refusing to move over to let me pass and generally being a pain in the ass. I was pretty impressed that I didn’t collide with any of them. This sort of thing is sadly not all that unusual in the summers around these parts. Soon it will be hot and muggy and these folks will be on treadmills until September.

The ride home was pleasant enough. The skies never carried out their threat to rain like a bitch.

Sunday was devoted to bike maintenance. Little Nellie barely made it up to Calvert Street from Rock Creek Trail. Her chain was skipping across the cogs at unpredictable intervals. I managed to maintain forward momentum all the way up the hill, and the subsequent ride up 29th Street. I installed a new Capreo cassette myself. Then took the bike to my local bike shop for a bunch of other repairs including a new chain, two new sprockets (front gears), three new cables and housings, a headset adjustment, re-lubing of the bottom bracket, and new front brake pads.

After the maintenance was taken care of, I sat down to watch sports on TV with my son. We watched a Nationals game and a Capitals game. This was hard work so we ate chips and queso dip to keep our strength up.

This morning I felt like a sumo wrestler. I wobbled out to the shed and mounted Big Nellie. I swear she groaned. I used to eat anything I wanted and lost weight. Of course, I was running 70 miles per week at the time. That’s the caloric equivalent of about 280 miles of riding. Ain’t gonna happen, folks. Gotta stop snacking with the homeboy.

The ride to work was less than vigorous. I saw two of my regulars, Hoppy Runner and Hardware Store Man, on the way to work. Some bike commuters had the audacity to pass Big Nellie near the south end of the airport. Big Nellie does not like such rudeness. Suffice it to say, that Big Nellie put the hammer down.  Street luge in the cool of the morning will put hair on your fairing.

An amazing thing happened at the Rosslyn Circle of Death. I have to cross the I-66 off ramp where it intersects North Lynn Street at a traffic light. They never stop when the light turns red. Today, they did. I felt like getting off my bike and congratulating the drivers. Such is life in the zone of certain death.

After leaving the office, I stopped to chat with Bob (Don’t Call Me Rachel) Cannon of the FCC and the FCC. Over the last year a Hispanic man had set up home in the brush along the trail near the Rosslyn Circle of Death. He had meticulously built a home of sorts by lashing together a lattice work of sticks and other materials. It was pretty ingenious. He occasionally played a violin while sitting on a bench next to the trail. Somebody decided that his squatting was not to be and they bulldozed his home of sticks. I hope he finds someplace to live. He added character to the trail.

On the Mount Vernon Trail I was passed by Eric the Nine Hour Lawyer. Eric works at my former office and rides to work during the spring, summer and fall. I figure he works nine hours because I only see him riding home.

During both legs of my commute, I checked out the trunks of trees along the way. No cicadas yet. We are only days away from a spectacular invasion of a few bazillion creepy flying bugs.

Just as I passed the secondary runway at National Airport, a jet took off over the trail behind me. For a moment, I thought that the roar was chips and queso hitting the afterburners on Big Nellie’s engine.

South of Old Town, I spotted a massive motorcade of police vehicles. It was the escort of a pack of bicyclists riding the Police Unity Tour. Kate, a fellow #bikedc blogger, and DC police officer also rode in the event as she did last year. It raises awareness of police officers killed in the line of duty and for a memorial and museum in their honor.

DSCN2268

A few miles later I pulled over to check out the Morningside bald eagle nest. It is almost completely obscured now by the leaves on the trees. I waited for a few minutes and then I saw the flapping of wings from a large bald eagle in the nest. It was probably feeding its eaglets.

I moved on and heard a strange sounding bird flying overhead. It was a large osprey, with a bright white underbelly, flying in swoops over the Parkway. It was putting on quite a show.

The ride home was effortless. Could it be that chips and queso are miracle bicycling food? That would be awesome. Sadly, ceteris was not paribus. My easy ride home was attributable to a strong tailwind, the kind that turns in Big Nellie’s fairing into a sail.

Latin spoils everything.