Pedals and Petals

I spent Sunday morning doing yard work, just cleaning up dead branches and vines and such. At one point I jumped to grab a loose branch hanging to within about nine feet of the ground. I never had much ups and have even less now. Suffice it to say, after three tries the dangling branch continued to dangle. My back, always gimpy anyway, decided to go into spasm.

Ugh.

So I ate some ibuprofen and watched the Nats game on TV. It was nice outside when the game ended so I went for a gentle 22-mile ride. When I finished, I was Quasimodo.

More ibuprofen and eight hours of sleep later, I could stand straight-ish. The weather was perfect outside. A sane person would spend the day resting his back by relaxing on the deck. Well…

I decided to ride 20+ miles to Bethesda Maryland to check out the cherry trees in the Kenwood neighborhood. On the way I passed by the Tidal Basin in DC where the cherry trees were clearly past peak blossom.

A tailwind pushed me further to the northwest. I was about to check my phone map for directions to Kenwood when I spotted three people standing in the middle of the Capital Crescent Trail looking up. They were standing under an absolutely huge cherry tree in full bloom. At the next intersection I took a left into cherry blossom heaven. Each street in Kenwood is lined with cherry trees. It was just past peak bloom and a bit breezy so it was snowing blossoms. Because it was Monday, there was little car traffic, and only a few pedestrians wandering around with wide eyes and big smiles.

I stayed in Kenwood for at least a half hour before heading up the CCT to Bethesda Row and lunch. After a slice of pizza and a chocolate chip cookie (my middle name is “Health”) I took off to the west. Bradley Boulevard was a bit hillier than I remembered but I used my bike tour climbing form to its best effect.

I rode through Potomac Village and over to Great Falls Park where I enjoyed the half mile winding downhill on MacArthur Boulevard. The next 25 miles took me through Glen Echo and Georgetown, and across the river to Rosslyn where I picked up the Mount Vernon Trail for the 14 1/2 mile ride home along the river.

I was sucking wind at the end, due to the 64 miles and 85 degree temperature. I was greeted by our own little weeping cherry, which bloomed while I was riding.

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It was the farthest I’d ridden since late August. And my back didn’t mind a bit.

 

Bulldogs and Bicycles on a March Sunday

Well the day began with the loss of our adopted college basketball team in the NCAA tournament. My daughter went to Butler University so we adopted the Bulldogs. The game itself is only mildly interesting to me. Watching Mrs. Rootchopper lose her mind and yell at the TV greatly adds to the fun. She was raised in Indiana so it must be in her blood.

After the game I took off on my Cross Check despite a stiff back. I am king of ailments these days, aren’t I? I had nowhere to go and a little under five hours of daylight to get there. So I went. Up river into a light wind. Temperatures were in the high 50Fs.

Of course, the Mount Vernon Trail was crowded. I am always amused when I pass under an eagle nest and I am the only one who knows to look up. I didn’t see any action at the Morningside nest but there were two adults in the Tulane nest. I could only glimpse their white heads but I’ll bet they have an egg or two to tend. Photos from the third nest in Dyke March along what is called the haul road show two adults. One of them appeared to be feeding eaglets chunks of fish.

The ride north was really pretty splendid. I stopped to check out the monuments across the river in DC.

Not half bad. Did I mention the skies were blue?

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I rode up to Rosslyn where I used to work and crossed the Key Bridge into Georgetown. The sidewalks were absolutely packed with people. And M Street was packed with cars. I made my way down to Water Street and took that to the Capital Crescent Trail. Cars that were turning around were clogging up the entrance. I made it past them unscathed and took my time grinding up the trail to Bethesda. I saw three massive trees that had been blown down by our recent wind storm. I’ll bet the ground shook when they landed. Along the trail I saw several cherry trees in near bloom. They were pink and just waiting to explode in white. Sorry trees, but there’s a snow storm coming.

The trail ends at Bethesda Row, a neighborhood of shops and shoppers. I checked my phone and figured out how to ride to Rock Creek Park. Until recently, you could take the unpaved Georgetown Branch Trail, but it’s closed. As it turned out I made it to the park with only one turn. I also probably climbed every hill in Chevy Chase Maryland in the process. I am pleased to report that my lungs and legs did just fine.

Most of Beach Drive, the main drag through Rock Creek Park, is closed to motor vehicles on Sundays. I plodded along riding the slight downhill back toward downtown DC. The road is actually at the base of a canyon which is a pretty darn cool thing to have smack dab in the middle of a city. Alas, road construction diverted me out of the canyon. I rode uphill on busy Military Road. And my lungs and legs didn’t complain at all. Once at the top, I turned back into the park and rode all the way back down. If I wasn’t afraid of falling and dying, I’d have opened it up on the descent. My new life motto is YODO and I am not ready to shuffle off this mortal coil just yet.

The rest of the ride through the park was uneventful and pleasant. I followed the trail past the zoo and a graveyard and the end of the C&O Canal and the Watergate complex. I made it over the Kennedy Center washboard without losing a single filing. Beach volleyball, Lincoln Memorial, polo field, softball field, cricket pitch, Tidal Basin, Jefferson Memorial. And back over to Virginia on the 14th Street bridge.

The slight tail wind aided my return home. I rolled into the driveway at sunset. 51 miles of bicycle goodness.

We might have lost the game but we won the day.

 

February Bikabout

I expected to wake up sore and tired after yesterday’s combo of long bike ride, weight lifting, and physical therapy. Nope. I felt fine. So after breakfast I dropped off the car at a mechanic and walked two miles back home. I still felt fine so I filled up my tank with calories galore and headed out on the Cross Check. I wore shorts and a t-shirt because it’s February. And the temperature was already in the mid-60s at 10 a.m.

Crazy.

I rode bike trails 23 miles to Bethesda where I checked out Modern Market, a shop for which I have three gift cards. The place looked pretty good but my tummy was still holding the calories from back home so I headed back home the way I came.

The ride from Bethesda to Georgetown is a gentle downhill. This pretty much negated the effect of the stiff headwind. Once back to the river I had to fight the wind for about 12 miles. I I would have complained but it was well over 70 degrees.

I tacked on a few miles in the neighborhoods near home for an even 50 miles. The 98.5 miles over the last two days is by far the most I’ve ridden since the end of my bike tour in Florida back in October. Take that blood clots!

Oh, and, speaking of my medical misadventures, I just received a call from my endocrinologist. The lab tests say that the adenoma on my adrenal gland is innocuous. That’s one medical specialist I don’t have to see again.

And the foam roller arrived so that I can do my physical therapy exercises properly at home. The therapy is for rehabbing my shoulder but lying on this foam roller makes my back feel amazing.

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The Potomac River at the Kennedy Center with Theodore Roosevelt Island on the right.
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A depressing sign on the Capital Crescent Trail near the Potomac River.
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In the center rear of this picture was once a building with a tunnel through which the Georgetown Branch Trail passed.
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Dyke Marsh on the Mount Vernon Trail.
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It’s Wednesday so I had to wear my WABA socks. These legs haven’t seen sunlight in months.

 

 

To the Trestle and Back

Today I had the day off for Veterans Day. I still kind of like the original name, Armistice Day, the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, and all that.  It’s a decent Paul Simon song too. No disrespect to Veterans, mind you. My father was an amused Veteran. He used to tell the story that medical school students were drafted and left in school. The army would take them out to a base on Long Island and march them around. My father said they were pathetic, skinny, pale, uncoordinated. Gomer Pyles but with brains. My father stayed in the reserves through the Korean War. All this was before my time.

Having the day off, I decided to do one of my favorite rides, from my home in Mount Vernon Virginia to Bethesda, Maryland with a stop at Rock Creek Trestle. The temperature was in the mid-50s when I left with a strong northwest breeze, a headwind. You don’t get many windy days in the DC area when its warm so the breeze was a portent of many cold windy days to come.

I rode my Cross Check on the Mount Vernon Trail to Old Town Alexandria. The trail was covered in leaves and I was fearful of slipping and falling so I was extra careful. Once in Old Town I decided to leave the Mount Vernon Trail and head through most of Alexandria on a couple of newer bike trails. I picked the first trail up just off of West Street and rode it to the Braddock Road Metro station. There I zigzagged to get on the new trail that runs several miles, nearly all the way to Crystal City in Arlington. No lights. No stop signs. No obnoxious ticketing by Alexandria Police.

I rode through Crystal City and hit every traffic light on the green. This NEVER happens. My route took me on Boundary Channel Drive along side acres of Pentagon parking. Then I rode through Lady Bird Johnson Park, under the GW Parkway, up and over the Humpback Bridge, onto the 14th Street Bridge and across the Potomac River.

During this part of the ride the rear fender of the Cross Check became disengaged from its frame mount for what must have been the 20th time. I re-attached it and decided it was time for a permanent fix.

Once in the city, I rode the the K Street Bicycle Space store where a mechanic did what mechanics do and soon I had a fender that would not fall off. Knock wood. During the repair, I noticed that Paul, the mechanic most likely to play Doc Brown in Back to the Future IV, was working on an HP Velotechnik Street Machine. This is a recumbent to die for. The owner and I talked about the bike. He bought it from a Canadian for $1,500 Canadian. New this bike costs 2 – 3 times as much. The owner, who looked to be in my age cohort, rode it across the country. Dang! Bike envy!!!

Another customer came in to get her bike ready for Saturday’s Cider Ride. I didn’t have a chance to talk to her but maybe I’ll see her during the ride.

From Bicycle Space I headed up Sixth Street to check out the church whose congregation is upset by the possibility of having to share the street with a protected bike lane. Sixth Street is WIDE. I don’t see the problem here other than selfishness.

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Beach Drive in Rock Creek Park

I wended my way through town and up the protected 15th Street bike lane at Meridian Hill. This short hill is quite a bitch, I must say. I recovered by doing a slow lap in the park. On weekends the park is a hive of activity but today it was nearly deserted. I checked out the view of the water cascade and then headed through Adams Morgan to Rock Creek Park.

On weekends and holidays, Beach Drive, the main drag in the park, has limited car access. I rode north on the windy road, wind in my face, sun on my shoulders. It was a mighty fine ride. I made my way to the Georgetown Branch Trail and to the Rock Creek Trestle. The view from above the treetops is one of my favorites.

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Rock Creek View from the Trestle
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The Cross Check Takes a Breather on the Trestle High above Rock Creek Park
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Georgetown Branch Trail Heading West from the Trestle

After taking some pictures I headed west on the trail to Bethesda. I could tell that my body was not feeling it today. I still haven’t recovered from Sunday’s hike. I slogged on stopping only to refill my water bottles when I should have stopped to eat.

In Bethesda I picked up the mostly downhill Capital Crescent Trail and a tailwind. Ahhh.

Normally I be bombing along this trail at 20+ miles per hour but not today. I was suffering from insufficient junk food syndrome or IJFS. Don’t get this. Eat you donuts, people!!!

On the way home I rode past the Lincoln Memorial. I expected the place to be mobbed with Veterans checking out the nearby Vietnam, Korean, and WWII Memorials. There were plenty of people, many obviously veterans, milling about but I think whatever festivities there were had concluded hours earlier.

I made my way to the 14th Street Bridge and retraced my route to the south end of Old Town. Not wanting to ride the Mount Vernon Trail for the 400th time this year (a guess, but not too far off), I took Fort Hunt Road and Sherwood Hall Lane home. This is a pretty hilly route and I had nothing left in my legs so the going was slow.

Long story short:I managed to ride 55 1/2 miles on a sunny November Day. Not half bad.

Could It Really Be Spring?

The weather report called for temperatures in the low seventies. I prepared by taking yesterday off the bike, mowing the lawn and doing a number of chores. I waited until I saw a 5 and a 0 on the digital thermometer in our house.

Off I rode on Little Nellie and felt very strong. It was obvious that I had a tailwind. About three miles from home, I passed the Morningside nest and spotted a white head. Hopefully, we’ll have some eaglets soon (if we don’t have them already). A mile further on I looked left as I crossed the Dyke Marsh boardwalk.  The pair of geese I saw earlier in the week were still waddling about. It was a bit troubling that papa goose was on the far side of the Parkway. It would suck if he became roadkill.  (My wife and I once saw a black SUV mow down a mama duck and a few of her ducklings as they tried to cross the Parkway. The surviving ducklings were a sad sight, waddling around in a panic.)

The Mount Vernon Trail was very crowded, which is typical of a warm, sunny weekend day. The tailwind made passing easy. I cruised to the city with surprisingly little difficulty. At Gravelly Point, a plane came in for a landing. A man transfixed by the plane wandered directly in front of me looking up. “YO!” He came back to reality and hopped out of the way.

The tailwind became obvious when the trail curved along the river bank. Little Nellie was a happy camper.

I turned to ride up the ramp to the 14th Street Bridge. Now with the wind in my face, it was time to work a little. Bikes were coming down the ramp in a long line. There was a fence on the left and a highway ramp on the right. There were three bikes in front of me. They stopped. No warning. The two women in front were having a conversation. The guy in the back said nothing. I veered to the left (thankfully there was a little room) and stopped with my front wheel next to his rear wheel. For some reason I blurted out “What the fuck are you doing?” It was louder than intended, perhaps because my expectations of a smooth ride to DC had been dashed. The guy turns to me, objects to my remark and starts explaining the situation (as if it wasn’t self-evident) . While he’s jabbering, I look up and two cyclists are coming down the hill, passing the long line of bikes, straight at me. I turn to my new personal friend and yell, “Move your god damned bike NOW!”

I think this blows my chances at the Cherry Blossom Festival Mr.Congeniality award. And I am sure he thought I am a total asshole. He has a point. I don’t care. Safety comes first.

On the DC side of the bridge, chaos. I weaved through the buses and tourists. I could see that the trees along the Tidal Basin were nowhere near full bloom so I headed for East Potomac Park. Into the wind.

I saw a few nice trees but the whole experience left me frustrated. If I hadn’t lived here for decades I’d swear that this whole cherry blossom thing is a hoax.

A Lonely Bloomer on Hains Point

I rode upriver to the Lincoln Memorial, crossing Constitution Avenue through one epic traffic jam. I spotted a Park Service employee helping people cross the street. He just laughed. It was so bad that there’s nothing he could do.

I back tracked on the opposite side of the Mall and past the White House. Pennsylvania Avenue was not very crowded. Cherry Blossoms, even disappointing ones, trump the leader of the free world.

I don’t much like cycletracks but on this sunny day it seemed like the most civilized way to ride through town. All but one turning car yielded to me so I felt safe. At Meridian Hill Park, here were no drums to be heard and no acroyogis or hula hoopers to watch so I plodded up the hill and kept on keeping on. The cycletrack dies out at 16th Street so I took for a ways. At a four way stop, a car behind me went through the intersection out of turn. The car that had been slighted laid on his horn and followed the offender up 16th, passing me. He stayed on his horn for a block until he pulled up next to the offenders who were obviously lost. They exchanged words. The offenders turned onto a side street out of which came a DC police cruiser. The cop pulled over the SUV driver, apparently for making a public nuisance out of himself. I felt bad for him. He won’t win Mr. Congeniality either.

I turned off 16th and found 14th with a bike lane. It ended at a T on Aspen Street. A left turn and soon I was cruising down a series of S curves into Rock Creek Park. This road is part of the 50 States Ride so I have ridden it several times. It is the bestest.

At the bottom of the hill I turned right and headed for Chevy Chase (the neighborhood not the actor). I spent a few minutes on Rock Creek Trestle The creek is way down there.

Reversing course, I made for Bethesda Row and its fine array of eateries. After crossing a busy street the trail makes a hard left turn. The woman cyclist in front of me was wearing the full bike rider kit (matching lycra top and bottom). She clipped into her pedals and seemed to be going at a snail’s pace. As I was about to pass her, she waved me by with her left hand. In her hand was a lit cigarette. Carbon makes bikes go faster, or so they say.

I ate at Bethesda Bagels because it’s good and I am boring. I always eat there when I bike to Bethesda.

Instead of dealing with the Capital Crescent Trail crowds I headed out on the quiet side streets of Bethesda. A right hand turn put me on Bradley Boulevard, normally a busy road but not I had PEDs in my pedals. After passing through Avenel I picked up Falls Road. A left on MacArthur Boulevard had me descending through the woods of Great Falls Park, The windy road is flawed only slightly by the bumpy pavement, otherwise this one rivals the downhill into Rock Creek Park.

I was headed into the wind but the descent made me unaware. At the Old Anglers Inn, I jumped on the C & O Canal towpath for the ride back to DC. Now that I had slowed down, the headwind was annoying. Little Nellie’s short wheel base does not make for a comfortable ride on rough surfaces. I bounced along slaloming among the walkers and runners. I spotted a big great blue heron standing still on a log over the canal. Even with the bumps, the ride on the C & O Canal is a thing of beauty, Except for the gnats swarms. For about four miles I encountered clouds of flying black bugs They don’t bite but they get into everything, your mouth, eyes, hair, ears.  And your whole body gets covered in them. Ick.

After switching over to the paved Capital Crescent Trail, I looked at the Seussian Cormorants perched in the trees along the Potomac. They do this every year, feeding on the fish swimming up river to spawn.

Back in the city, I decided to avoid the cherry blossom scene and the Mount Vernon Trail, I took the Teddy Roosevelt Bridge to the MVT for about a mile then crossed over to the Pentagon. With a stifling headwind, I followed roads past the vast Pentagon parking lots and Long Bridge Park, through Crystal City and Potomac Yards. In Old Town Alexandria I followed Columbus Street, several blocks from the touristy madness. After waiting at a stop light, I started pedaling when it turned green. The car opposite me starting coming through the intersection too. A green taxi coming from the cross street blew through the light. I think the light must have been back lit for the driver. If I had had a tailwind instead of a headwind, I’d have been roadkill. The taxi missed us both.

South of Alexandria, the Mount Vernon Trail wasn’t crowded so I hopped on it and slogged into the wind.

At home, I took inventory: my hands hurt. my back hurt. my arms hurt. my knees hurt. My face and thighs burned.

Spring is here.

For some pix check out my Flickr page here.

Of Foxes and Bagels

We’d heard the sound before, a growliing, barking, bleating sound. We could never figure out what it was.  This morning before sunrise we heard it again. We had already lost an hour of sleep to the shift to daylight savings time so Mrs. Rootchopper and I were not amused. We sprang from the bed to see what was the matter (with appologies to Clement Moore).  In the dim pre-dawn light my wife spotted the culprit, a fox on the lawn beneath our bedroom window.

Well, now that I was awake, I stayed awake. I did the usual Sunday morning things and bided my time until the temperature was well into the 40s. Then I jumped on BIg Nellie and headed out.

I took the Mount Vernon Tral heading towards DC. I expected it to be crowded but I was surprised to see it was not. The worst of the crowding usually occurs between Old Town Alexandria and DC so on the north side of Old Town I changed course, picking up the parallel route through the old rail yard (now a massive mixed use development), Crystal City and the edge of the Pentagon parking lots.

I entered DC on the Memorial Bridge and rode carefully through the hoards of tourists visiting Abe. A school kids’ band played the national anthem as I rode past.  My travels took me north into Rock Creek Park. The trail in Rock Creek Park is crappy on just about every level you can think of. At Pierce Mill I left the trail and rode on Beach Drive which is closed to vehocular traffic on the weekends. The ride north is gradually uphill but i didn’t care because even with no leaves on the trees, Rock Creek Park is a thing of beauty.

As usual, I made my way to the Georgetown Branch Trail that crosses the park on an old railroad trestle. I love it up there above the tree tops with the creek and the miniature runners and bicyclists on the rail far below.

Big Nellie on Rock Creek Trestle

After a brief respite, Big Nellie decided I was hungry so we rode the Georgetown Branch Trail to Bethesda Row.  The trail is unpaved. Usually, this time of year it’s an icy and muddy mess but today it was in excellent shape.

I parked Big Nellie next to an amazing cargo bike. The frame said Bicycle Maximus on it. I bought an everything bagel with veggie cream cheese and a coffee and chilled on a bench and watched the Bethesdans do their Bethesdings.

Big Bikes at Bethesda Bagels

Refreshed, refueled and caffeinated, we took off down the Capital Crescent Trail. The first two miles were a slalom course around walkers, dogs, cyclists, runners, one fish, two fish=, red fish, blue fish.

The best way to ride a long wheel base recumbent is down a long, smooth, gradual hill. As luck would have it, that’s exactly what the Capital Crescent Trail has to offer. We cruised at high-ish speeds making sure not to freak the other trail users out. (All day today, i saw little kids stare with open mouths at Big Nellie. “Awwwwesommme.” )

Instead of heading back on the Mount Vernon Trail I took Water Stereet to K Street and rode straight across downtown DC. I picked up Mass Ave and took that past Union Station into Capitol Hill. I took a right and picked up the bike lane on 11th Street and rode that straight to the Anacostia River. The 11th STreet Bridge is being reconfigured. The renovation gives 11th Street a river crossing separated from freeway traffic. Even with a mess of construction it was a pretty sweet crossing. The bridge drops 11th Street directlu onlt Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

MLK brings a series of long uphill slogs. Even thoughg it is hilly and bum[y and goes through some of the poorest areas of DC, MLK is riot of activity on Sundays. At South Capitol Street I took a left and headed toward the Wilson Bridge. South Capitol becomes Indian Head Highway in Maryland. A new access road has been built that makes for a more direct route to the bridge.  After yet another long climb I came to the top of a hilland turned right for a high speed descent on near virgin pavement.

The trail to the bridge and across the river was busy but we had no troubles weaving among the folks out enjoying the warm sunny day.

In Virginia I headed into the throngs on the Mount Vernon Trail through Belle Haven Park. Two junior high aged kids were taking up the entire trail while going so slow i had to ride my brakes. Suddenly, they both stopped in the middle of the trail. I barked something at them. “Sorry.”

The next mile was slow going. Mom, Dad, and daughter were out on their bikes for what was probably the first time. For the second time in a mile, dead stop in the middle of the trail. I can count on one hand the number of times this has happened to me in the last year but today it happened twice in a quarter of a mile. Argh.

A few hundred yards later a litle girl on what had to be her Christmas bike all pink and tassled veered directly into my path. All I could think of was what happens when she meets Mom, Dad, and daughter or the two middle schoolers. It won’t be pretty. (Digression: if you have a kid who is still learning to ride a bike, DON”T TAKE THEM ON A BUSY BIKE TRAIL.  They can’t handle it. They endanger themselves and others. I know the trail is there for everyone’s use but you don’t take a new driver on the beltway at rush hour. They don’t want to ride point to point anyway. They want to ride in circles and off the pavement into the grass and such.  Take them to a parking lot like the one underneath the Wilson Bridge.)

The kids I could handle but my asthma kicked in around this time. I think the tree pollen triggered it. I was only four miles from home so I didn’t bother with my inhaler.

I rolled into home after 56 1/2 miles of smooth sailing. My windpipe was a mess and my left knee was pretty unhappy but the rest of me was all smiles. I finished my longest ride of the year on a fabulous early spring day. And there’s still plenty of light left.