Can We Have Winter Back?

The day began with a backpack and a driver’s license on my front lawn. Hmmm. Watson, the needle! I left them there and awaited developments. Twenty minutes later I noticed a police car parked across the street. Then a policeman came walking to the car. I went outside and pointed out the backpack and the license. A clue! Excitement. Somebody get me a meerschaum pipe!  The game’s afoot! It turns out someone had broken into some cars up the street and dropped the backpack as they left the area. Maybe they’d try to take some prints off the license. Maybe not.

But that’s not what this post is about..

When you ride through the winter you have to put up with annoying clothing layers and frozen toes. What you get in return is blissfully empty bike trails. Today was the first spring-like day of the year. All the people who spent their winters binge watching Downton Walking Dead were outside enjoying the weather. Many of them came to the bike trails. A few of them came with athletic fantasies.

After filing my taxes I hopped on Big Nellie and headed out for some blissfully warm riding. I made my way to the Mount Vernon Trail beginning about three miles south of the Beltway. I was surprised that it wasn’t busy at all. I rode through Belle Haven Park which is usually busy with people crossing the trail. No surprise there.

Not wanting to tempt fate, I rode over the Woodrow Wilson Bridge. On the far side I rode down the spiral trail. Spirals are a blast on a recumbent.

Then it was the long slog up Oxon Hill. Hills are not a blast on a

Bikes on houses? Also, windy.

recumbent.You look like Fred Flintstone doing the pee pee dance, spinning your ass off and going nowhere.


Instead of riding back down to the river via Oxon Hill Farm, I took a series of access roads along side Indian Head Highway. I traded scenery for a more direct route. Then I turned off Oxon Hill Road and got lost.

I rode through one low-income housing project after another. So scenic. So damned hilly. At least the people were nice. Anacostia has a very high crime rate but on sunny spring days you’d never know it. Mostly you see people coming and going from church dressed in Sunday best. It helps to be on a recumbent. Little kids go “Wow” and adults get a (usually) silent laugh out of the sight of me.

I rode through Anacostia Park along the Anacostia River to Benning Road then crossed over into a maze of streets, few of which seem to go continuously east. I was headed for Bicycle Space’s K Street NW shop to buy a mirror for Big Nellie. I had $66 of gift card money left over from my birthday so I decided to ride 20 miles to use it up rather than simply buy the same mirror at my local bike store near my house.

I made my way up H Street hoping to spot the new trolley car. I didn’t see it but the rails made me wary of catching a wheel and crashing. Trolley cars are a pain if you are a cyclist. Actually, they are a pain if you are anything but a trolley car rider. I rode the trolley in Boston all the time. I loved it. In most places in Boston, the trolley is physically separated from the cars. Not on H Street.

I survived. I made it to Bicycle Space then made my way home. The Mall was packed with tourists. The streets were packed with wannabe tourists in cars looking for parking spaces. Maybe they could put a trolley along the Mall in a loop. Like they have in downtown Melbourne Australia. (The loop trolley in Melbourne is free too.) This would require taxes and coordination. Things American government doesn’t know how to do. Vote for me. I’ll put a wall around the Mall and make the tourist pay for it.

I made my way up 15th Street which had some traffic lights out of service. Joy. Not.

As I turned onto Maine Avenue near the Tidal Basin, a bicyclists heading the opposite way yelled “Hello.” I waved clumsily as I rode over some irregularities in the road. I learned later that it was Ted, a.k.a. Mr T in DC. He looks nothing like the Mr T from the Rocky movie. I suppose this is a good thing.

As I rode over the 14th Street Bridge it began. A woman was looking out over the river to the right. She was pulling a suitcase. She decided to carry on in the direction of Virginia and immediately headed for the left side of the trail directly into the path of a DC-bound cyclist.

I slowed allowing him to swerve around her. I told her as I rode past, walk on the right. I looked in my mirror. She was still on the left.

The Mount Vernon Trail was absolutely packed with people of all ages. Cyclists, walkers, kids, old people, prams, skateboards. Many folks were walking three abreast creating pinch points for everyone else. Good to see you are having a nice time folks. With uncharacteristic calm and patience (I am a former Boston cabbie so just don’t push me too far okay?) I made my way through the throngs. It was actually pretty nice but for one thing: the fair weather cyclists who decide that today is the day that they will instantaneously get in shape and become Lance Mamilstrong!! Yes, with their amazing cycling skill they’ll ride headlong into the mass of peaceful trail users.Everyone will get out of their way because they are…..Lance Mamilstrong, cyclist in tights!


For the record I didn’t put one pump into the spokes of one passing Lance Mamilstrong (like that mean Italian in Breaking Away. Everybody cheats. I just didn’t know). I didn’t swear. I just went with the flow. Slowly.

I made it home with a smile on my face. Even Lance Mamilstong couldn’t ruin such a fine day.

A few more days like today though and I’ll be praying for a return of cold weather.




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.

Beach Drive
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.

RC from Trestle
Rock Creek View from the Trestle
RCT and CC
The Cross Check Takes a Breather on the Trestle High above Rock Creek Park
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.

Any Excuse for a Ride

I am going hiking tomorrow and have three medical appointments on Wednesday so I figured I might as well take today (Monday) off and get a five day weekend out of the deal.

The shifting on my new Cross Check was sloppy. It was starting to annoy me even though this is expected as the chain stretches. I could have fiddled with the little dial adjuster thingie for a few minutes and fixed it myself, I suppose. That would be rational. That would not be me.

I bought my Cross Check at Bicycle Space in DC. As part of the purchase, they will tweak your bike’s gears and brakes for a year after purchase for free. Good deal. So I hopped on my bike and headed into town along the nearly empty Mount Vernon Trail.

It was a nice ride except for the inferno part. Dang was it hot!

The ride went smoothly. It’s fun to ride a brand new bike over familiar terrain. I was taking it easy and still going significantly faster than when I ride my other bikes. This Cross Check is an animal.

As I suspected from riding with Katie Lee and her Cross Check, this bike shines in traffic. It is so much more agile than my other bikes and it’s wide-ish tires eat up the bumps in the road.

The good mechanic at Bicycle Space on K Street tweaked my gears and showed me a peculiarity of my shifter. We traded names and, true to form, I forgot his within about three blocks. He was a very nice guy. So, thanks Nice Guy.

I decided to meander around town for a bit. My friend Emilia teaches at Mundo Verde, a bi-lingual (Spanish and English) charter school with a focus on sustainability. I decided to go check it out. I should have taken a picture. It was muy bueno. My boss and a co-worker send their kids there. They tell me that the teachers are muy bueno too.

As I rode by, some people were sitting on the lawn in front of the building. It looked like some teachers were getting organized for the coming school year. This must be an exciting time of year to be a teacher.

I circled back and headed west across town on O Street which is a pretty quiet route to take considering it’s only a few blocks from downtown. At 11th Street I turned north. This was another quite street. I guess everyone must be working. What’s up with that?

I took a left on Euclid and rode over to Meridian Hill Park, which was featured on page 1 of the Washington Post today. The park is in two big tiers. The top tier is an open rectangular field with shaded areas along the longer sides. This is where the drum circle is and where circus of slack lining, hula hooping, acroyoga-ing folks hang out on the weekend. From the edge of the top tier, you can look down on the cascading water feature of the low tier. Whoever designed this was a genius. It is just stunning. A public sector thing done amazingly right.

After chilling in the park, I headed down 16th Street. A driver from Virginia nearly sideswiped me about a block before he made a left hand turn from the right lane. Some people simply should not be allowed to drive.

I slalomed through the tourists near the White House with aplomb. Actually, it was with a bike but I don’t get to use the word aplomb often.

Acro20651892132_b05724fba0_zss the river and down the MVT rode I. Instead of mindlessly riding straight home, I made my way over to Del Ray where I had had a root beer float at the Dairy Godmother ice cream shop. It was gone within minutes. Darn tasty.

Back on the bike, the heat of the day was starting to wear on me. I rode to Old Town to buy a postcard for the August Post Card Challenge.

On the way home I decided to chow down on some tater tots so I headed to Del Ray Pizzeria‘s Belle Haven location. (I could have simply gone to the Del Ray location. It’s only three shops down from the Dairy Godmother.)  The tater tots were ho20669470851_a12618b5b3_zrs categorie. The pilsner and the koltch were not too shabby either.

The ride ended with a slog up a big hill on Fort Hunt Road and a long glide toward home.

By the time I arrived my lower back was feeling sore. Too many miles and hills on a new bike will do that to you. Good thing one of my Wednesday medical appointments is a massage.

If It Only Had a Name

Anybody who knows me knows that I am an incredibly incompetent consumer. I buy stuff and hold onto it long after its useful life is over. Getting me to the point of buying stuff take Herculean effort.

Today I finally pulled the trigger on a new bike purchase. I drove to Bicycle Space in Adams Morgan and bought a Surly Cross Check. Unlike my other three bikes, the Cross Check is not a touring bike. It is a little lighter, a little more nimble, and a lot more responsive than The Mule or Big Nellie, which are bouth designed for touring. Little Nellie is plenty responsive but her little wheels don’t care much for maintaining a head of steam. The Cross Check does both.

I have lost track of how many people I know own Cross Checks. They all seem to like them a lot, except for Katie Lee who LOVES her Cross Check. (She doesn’t do things half way.)  Every time I see her she shows off her baby called Arrow. She’s like a rolling advert for the damned bike.

I started my bike shopping venture with the idea of buying a new touring bike for my May tour. I was fixated on a Surly Disc Trucker, a long, heavy touring bike with disc brakes. I tried one in a size that is too small and liked it. I wanted to try a bigger frame, but the shop didn’t have one.

Last week, after test riding the Cross Check at Bicycle Space, I learned that Jesse, a Friday Coffee Clubber, was selling his Surly Long Haul Trucker. It’s very similar to the Disc Trucker but with conventional rim brakes.

I test rode Jesse’s bike. It had wide tires and slightly smaller wheels than I am used to. It rode like a bus. A very, very nice bus. I was very tempted to take it off his hands, but I decided to try the Disc Trucker too.

I test rode the Disc Trucker today at Bicycle Space. It wasn’t so bus-like with its 700 wheels. And the brakes are really impressive. Neither the Disc Trucker nor the LHT like to be ridden out of the saddle though. This is not a deal killer for touring but for everyday use it’s a bit off putting. I also had trouble decided whether a new Disc Trucker was worth several hundred dollars more than Jesse’s bike.

So I test rode the Cross Check again. LIKE!

So I bought it. Workin20206603516_08be95011d_zg with Rachel, one of my favorite people in @bikedc, I picked out a lightweight rear rack, a pump, some tubes, a bike computer, a multitool, and a wireless bike computer. (It’s all in her hands on the left.) Tonight I am going to buy a saddle bag from a store in Massachusets to carry my stuff.

When I brought the Cross Check home I had to take it for a spin. I couldn’t go too far from home without stuff to change a flat (which will go in the saddle bag I a20049882689_ac186c0b92_zm buying). It was a fun 5 mile romp around the neighborhood. It’s going to take some tweaking to get the bike and my body to play nice together but I can’t wait to get it out on the road. This is the bike I want to take out on the weekends or on event rides without a lot of crap on it weighing me down. It’s going to get a lot of us.

Many thanks to Rachel for spending so much time with me getting this done. Bicycle Space has a huge inventory of bikes and a gorgeous new store (actually two but I’ve only been to one) which makes it a great place to shop. It also has a large complement of very helpful, knowledgeable, and personable employees which for some reason in bike shop world is unusual.

Oh, and one other thing. Bicycle Space gives a discount on bikes and accessories to WABA members. The discounts I received today paid for my membership for many years to come.

I keep calling the bike “it” because it does not yet have a name. I have five names in mind so far. I won’t tell them. Feel free to offer suggestions of your own in the comments.

Riding to Test Ride

It was high time that I got off the couch and rode into the city to test ride some bikes. My current stable includes a 12 year old recumbent with 38,400 miles on it, a 24 year old touring bike with 38,400 miles on it, and an 8 year old travel bike with 15,000 miles on it. So?  I wanna new bike. I’ve been good. Waaa!

I took The Mule, my touring bike, and rolled out to the city. Wrapped up in thoughts, I missed a turn in a neighborhood called Waynewood that has curvy roads instead of a grid. (I actually have heard it referred to as Whitewood, because there are so few people of color living there.)

Once back on track I took East Boulevard Drive to the Mount Vernon Trail. East Boulevard runs parallel to the GW Parkway and was once lined with small houses, cottages really from back in the day when a trolley line ran down the middle of the Parkway. The Washington area is filled with neighborhoods like this where people with money once escaped the heat of the city. Over the past decade, many of the small houses and undeveloped land have been cleared for massive egoboxes that are triple the size that any rational person would need. This week several cottage houses and trees were bulldozed to make way for more mega-homes. Sad.

The trail was busy, as it always is on a nice Sunday morning in the summer. I managed not to get mad at the long clusters of families riding slowly. They will stash their bikes in the garage soon enough, probably once the temperature falls below 70 degrees.

Once in Alexandria, I took the Woodrow Wilson Bridge across the Potomac River to Maryland. The path is wide but two walkers managed to take up 3/4ths of the width with their bodies. They really needed the walk.

On the Maryland side I slogged up to Oxon Hill Road. It’s not a difficult climb but there is no shade and it goes on forever. The massive lot on the hillside was once empty. It is now the site of the construction of a casino. What a shame that all that effort isn’t going into something that produces something beneficial and lasting.

Once at the top of the hill I had to deal with the fact that MDOT can’t figure out how to build a bike lane to the Oxon Hill Farm. I rode against traffic for a few hundred yards in silent protest to MDOT’s stupidity. (They recently made changes that made this situation worse, making the left turn into Oxon Hill Farm illegal.)

A rather beat up road goes around the farm and back down the hill to Oxon Cove Park. The path through this park sucks. It’s all weeds and potholes. A deer bounded across my path to take my mind off how this route could be made so much nicer for not a lot of money.

Once out of the park I rode the steep uphill on Blue Plains Drive to Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. (Are you following all the ups and downs? You’d think MDOT would build a bike trail along the river. You’d think wrong.) A left at the top of the hill took me through some of the poorest parts of Anacostia. There were groups of men sitting in the shade every 100 yards or so. They didn’t look very happy. I rode past the old Saint Elizabeth’s hospital. This was what Karl Childers in Sling Blade called a nervous hospital. For a minute I imagined what a godawful place this must have been back in the day. It’s closed now. Old red brick buildings behing walls and chain link fences slowly giving in to the passage of time. Why can’t they bulldoze this mess instead of those cottages?

After riding through an uninspiring commercial neighborhood, I turned into Anacostia Park. As I made my way northeast along the river I stopped to refill my water bottle. The first two water fountains I tried were not working. On a humid 90 degree day. Go DC!

I finally found a fountain that worked near a roller skating facility. Shortly thereafter I left the park and headed across the Anacostia River, northwest up busy Benning Road. Most BikeDC people I know leave the city to get away from their daily battle with cars. Every so often I go into town to play with the beasts.

I rode through the gentrifying areas of Northeast DC then into Northwest. After a million traffic lights I arrived at the new Bicycle Space mother ship in Adams Morgan. This bike store is NICE! And there are beaucoup bikes on display. So many bikes. I want them all. Just what I needed.

I said hello to my friend Rachel (Don’t Call Me Bob) Cannon who conveniently works for Bicycle Space. What a coincidence! I promptly had me test riding an All City bike. I took it on a loop that included a hill. Riding it out of saddle up the hill was not to my liking so I went back to the shop. where Rachel was prepping a Surly Cross Check for me. Ryan, from the No Wrong Plan tour, came into the shop while the Cross Checvl was being adjusted. He told Rachel and me that despite the fact that he really liked a particular Salsa Warbird bike, he couldn’t buy it because it would cost him too much in divorce lawyer fees.

He joined me aboard the Warbird for one of two test rides on the Cross Check. We were coming to a stop at a traffic light when Susan, Ryan’s wife, saw us and said (I kid you not), “Ryan, no more bikes!”

The Cross Check is a tweener bike, not quite for touring, not quite for road riding. I really liked it a whole bunch, but this whole bike buying thing was really about getting a new touring bike, a Surly Disc Trucker. So Rachel ordered me up one in my size and I will go back in next weekend to do a ride-off. Stay tuned.

Before I left, Rachel told me that her friend Kate is returning to the east coast, because the correct number of Kates to have is N+1. Rachel and Kate are like Mary and Rhoda to me because listening to them talk is like sitting in on a sitcom. Kate and Rachel did the Great Pumpkin ride a few years ago (I joined them for a post-ride beer). It looks like they’ll be back for a repeat. We’ll have to figure out some logistics because a car is needed to get to the ride and they are both car-free.

After the bike shop I picked up some food at a 7-11 and rode to Meridian Hill Park to sit in the shade and read. All was great until a man doing a Humans of DC knock off came by and started talking to the barechested, dreadlocked man of about my age sitting on the bench next to me. I couldn’t listen for all the chatter so I packed up The Mule and rode for home.

At Lafayette Park near the White House swarms of disoriented tourists were obstructing every possible pathway. Once clear of them, I had to deal with the tourists who stood in the 15th Street cycle track as they took in their surroundings. Next came the rent-a-bike tourists riding blindly across the cycle track nearly causing a bicycle pile-up. You probably didn’t know this but Washingtonland is a theme park. We should have funny people in costumes milling about. Oh, I forgot, we do. They’re called politicians.

A few minutes later I was riding past tourists on the Mount Vernon Trail at Gravelly Point Park. Look, Ma. Pavement! Let’s walk four abreast so that all these bikes have to stop or ride across the grass through all the other tourists.

Anabolic touroids. Must not kill.

Thankfully, the rest of the ride home was uneventful. The Mule felt slow, however. I thought to myself, “Wouldn’t that Cross Check be nice right about now?”

After 43 miles I arrived home. It was HOT. I put The Mule away in the Old Bike’s Home. and returned to the couch.

Neither Rain, Nor Saddle Will Stay This Coffeeneur from the Swift Completion of His Caffeine Addiction

I check the weather. It was 58 degrees, a bit breezy, with a touch of mist in the air. Basically, it’s impossible to dress for this kind of crap. So I put on my shorts, a wicking shirt, and some wool socks, and topped it off with my Marmot Precip rain jacket and headed out to get The Mule.

At the last coffee club, Ed, founder of the coffee club and King of Espresso, took a hold of the top of my saddle and wiggled it. It sounded like it was about to fall apart.  What a shame. It’s a Brooks Flyer, a leather saddle with suspension springs. The leather is broken in like a well worn baseball glove. Unfortunately, the saddle is sagging in the middle, and the tensioning bolt is stripped. It’s kaput.

So the mission was to ride to Bicycle Space, a bike shop in DC that carries Brooks saddles.  No sooner had I put my feet on the pedals than the rain started. No longer mist, this was a steady soaking rain, great for lawns, lousy for fall bike rides.

I stopped, put my hood up underneath my helmet and pedaled away. The Mount Vernon Trail was slick with wet leaves so the going was slow and methodical. The rain let up, but the leaves still meant no quick stops or turns or there would be a quick fall. On the Dyke Marsh bridge, a 50-something cyclists on a road bike was peeling himself off the decking. He was okay; he just felt stupid for riding too fast on the slick boards. In Belle Haven Park, crocuses were in bloom. All this cold rain fooled them into thinking it was spring.

Along the trail just north of Old Town, a middle aged couple was walking, he on the right, she on the left. The came to an intersection and crossed. A bollard was situated in the middle of the trail in front of them. She steps to the left of the bollard directly into my path. I had my finger on my bell but he tugged her to the right side of the trail. I rolled past and heard him say, “Say something” to me. So I said, “Walk on the right” a decent enough retort as I didn’t use more colorful language or confront him.

The planes were taking off to the north meaning I had a head wind. So I ground away at 10 miles per hour, just right for rolling over the wet leaves and keeping the rubber side down. In the city I rode up 7th Street hitting red light after red light. Um, DC, it’s Sunday and the mall area is deserted. Set the lights to blinking, please.

I rode through Chinatown looking for Chinatown Coffee for my coffeeneuring fix. I couldn’t find it and did not have my smartphone to help me (it’s government issue and I am forbidden from using it). I continued on to Bicycle Space and bought the saddle. With a new saddle and its recently installed, The Mule has a completely different feel.

After my shopping stop, I rode over to Eastern Market and sat down for a cup of coffee and a scone. The coffee at Peregrine Espresso  was as good as I’ve had so far and the scone was delish. Back on the bike, I rode back to the MVT and headed for home. I ran into Ed, a friend from work, who is also furloughed. After the chat is was on to home with a ten mile ride around the perimeter of the Fort Hunt neighborhood and a stop at Sherwood Hall Gourmet for a Garry’s Lunchbox sammich.

At the end of the ride, I was left with one question: why does Peregrine spell it’s name with a schwa?

Coffee, Scone, and Schwa
Coffee, Scone, and Schwa

Coffeeneur No. 4:

Place: Peregrine Espresso at Eastern Market

Drink: House blend (Mexican) and a scone

Miles: 43

Paul to the Rescue Again

I took a day off yesterday after a  hilly 57-mile ride on Thursday and a 109-mile ride on Friday, both in hot and humid conditions. What I should have done was gone for a short, easy ride, but I mowed the lawn in oppressively swampy weather and took a chill pill for the rest of the day. As a result of this semi-off day, my legs felt tight and sore. Walking down stairs was a little difficult, not unlike the day after running a marathon. (Been there, done that, had to walk downstairs backwards back in the day.)

My plan for today was to go for a nice easy spin on Big Nellie and see where the bent gods took me. As I made my way into Old Town Alexandria, my legs loosened up considerably. I decided to hit a few bike shops to see if they could fix a problem with one of my pedals. On my recumbent I wear sandals and use PowerGrips. These are straps that go across the pedal diagonally. Normally I use toe clips (I am not a fan of clipless pedals) but nerve problems in my left foot led me to try PowerGrips in search of relief. They work reasonably well except that the strap on my right pedal is at a steep angle, and rubs against my toes. The one on my left pedal fits properly, only touching the outside of my pinkie toe. The reason for the discrepancy is that the pedals attached to a metal plate. The left plate looks like an old bottle opener, flat with a bend at the end. The right plate as a second bend in the middle causing it to extend out too far from the pedal.

I stopped at Wheel Nuts in north Old Town but they were closed. Seven miles down. I decided to try the Velocity bicycle co-op in Del Ray a few miles away. They had all kinds of junk parts (just what I thought I needed) but no plates for PowerGrips.

Twenty years ago, The Mule, my Specialized Sequoia, had a recurring problem: it’s headset (the part that the handlebars attach to) kept coming loose. NOBODY could fix it. After giving many mechanics a crack at the problem, I took the bike to Papillion Bicycles on Columbia Pike in Arlington. Bailey, the owner, couldn’t figure it out but he said try Paul at City Bikes. I called Paul and before I could finish my description of the problem he knew what was wrong. And he did. It needed a ten-cent washer that he happened to have among his two bazillion bike parts.

Paul is now the head mechanic at Bicycle Space in DC, so I decided to let him have a go at the pedal problem. Several miles later, Dr. Paul examined the patieDSCN2387nt. “You don’t need a new part. It looks like you bent this one in an accident.” Paul is also psychic. I did indeed crash the bike a year ago and came down on the right side!

He took the right pedal off, walked into a back room with a hammer in his hand and  began the operation. I was a little troubled by the hammer and the fact that he did not sterilize his hands before surgery. After a minute, he came back out, hammer in hand, took a look at the left pedal, and went back to the OR. A few whacks later  he came out and the pedal was exactly right. Dang,


With a smile on my face, I headed for home. Not wanting to go back the way I came, I decided to ride back via Anacostia. I picked rode east to 11th Street Northeast and took a right. I rode over the Anacostia River on the wicked awesome new 11th Street Bridge (such a clever name, no?). In Anacostia, 11th Street becomes Martin Luther King Junior Boulevard. The MLK (very L.A. sounding, don’t you think) is an interesting ride. There are signs of gentrification with new restaurants, cafes, condos and such. And there are the depressing signs of DC’s poorest neighborhoods with housing projects, job training places, and people handing out on the street corners. Along the way, I glanced at an electric sign outside a church. 104 degrees!!!

After the first hill, the MLK descends to cross busy South Capitol Street. Here the road surface becomes a washboard. At 25 miles per hour, it’s downright hairy. (DC needs to up its game with some serious roadwork on the MLK.) Once you get up a good head of steam, you are greeted by a red light at the bottom of the next hill. Argh!

From a dead stop, I climbed the next hill, slowly. At Blue Plains Drive I banged a right and headed down a steep hill, breaking the speed limit in front of the DC Police Academy in the process. I am a brazen scofflaw.

After a couple of left turns, I was on the Oxon Cove Trail. Park maintenance has gone by the wayside this year. Tufts of grass four or five inches tall protrude from all the cracks in the pavement. Grass on either side of the trail is two feet tall.

The trail and the park were completely empty. As I rode next to the cove, I spotted the remnants of an large bird of prey, either an eagle or a hawk. There were some big feathers and some bones but not much else; it had been picked clean.

The trail enters the grounds of Oxon Hill Farm DSCN2389where it turns away from the water and climbs, gradually at first, but steeper and steeper all the way to the top. I think this is the toughest hill in the area. On the way up I saw what looked like the hoof and lower leg from a young deer. Yikes!  A little further on, I spotted a beautiful feather, from a hawk or eagle. I stopped and put it in the flag slot on my Arkel seat back bag.


The steepest part of the hill remained so I yelled “Get ’em up, Scout” and started to ride. (I didn’t actually say that, but I am pissed that Johnny Depp has screwed with Tonto. Tarzan is Johnny Weissmuller. Avery Brooks is Hawk. Jay Silverheels is Tonto. That’s it. Don’t mess with my childhood icons. Okay, the new Star Trek actors are infinitely better than the old ones, but that’s an anomaly.)

After the monster climb, I got to ride down the crazy fun downhill toward National Harbor, then up the corkscrew hill to the bike path bridge over the beltway. (This corkscrew design is brilliant.)

Next I rode over the Woodrow Wilson Bridge (a good place to watch the fireworks in Old Town next Saturday night, by the way) and onto the Mount Vernon Trail. Then, for reasons that escape me, I rode up another nasty hill on Westgrove Boulevard. After a stop for a Gary’s Lunchbox sammich at Sherwood Hall Gourmet, I rode home.

What started as an easy spin evolved into a 37-mile hill fest. So much for my plan. At least, I got my pedal fixed. Thanks to Paul and Bicycle Space. It was worth the effort.