Brain Squirrels on the Trail

  • Since Monday I’ve ridden 150 miles. Just riding back and forth to work. The Cider Ride is tomorrow. They added a few miles to it. Now it’s over 50 miles. I think I’m gonna need a bigger doughnut.
  • I did my 150th bike commute of 2016 on Tuesday. One of my commutes was done on 4 hours of sleep thanks to the Cubs. I am now prepared for when the Nats win it all next November.
  • I have 300 days to go before I retire. Not that I am counting down the days or anything. When I became eligible to retire a few years ago, I took all the plaques and awards that I had received over my career and threw them away.
  • There are 15o days to go before opening day at Nats Park.
  • A numerologist would wet his pants reading this blog post.
  • The number of sightings of #bikedc commuters  I know is declining. This week only Lawyer Mike and Shawn. I saw Hoppy Runner this morning though.
  • The foliage is pretty awesome this week. I haven’t taken a single picture. Others are doing a much better job of it.
  • I am not riding to work at all next week. This is not a protest. I will be away on business travel.DC to Palo Alto is a little beyond my bike commuting comfort zone.
  • I forgot a password at work. I called our IT help desk. They said, “Just keep guessing.” After some research online, I ended up doing just that. Only when I gave up and guessed my very first computer password (on which most of my subsequent complex passwords are based) did I hit the jackpot. When I retire, I am going to become an IT desk professional.
  • My boss used to use the word “oublier” as a password. It’s French for “to forget.”
  • Nick Hornby is one of my favorite authors. He also reviews books. He once observed that there are well-written books that are not read well. You know the kind that everyone says is the greatest but it doesn’t do a thing for you. For me, The Great Gatsby falls into this not well read category.
  • A friend of mine is like a good book that I don’t read well anymore. The first 7 chapters were a great read. The last 2 not so much. No matter I how much I re-read them, they don’t work for me at all anymore. I was hoping chapter 10 would turn things around. No luck. It’s very discouraging.
  • Friendship is a one-way street in Providence. I am not making this up.
  • I watched a video that claims Donald Trump is illiterate. I disagree. Based on the video and personal experience, I am pretty sure that he is severely dyslexic. As it turns out, many executives are dyslexic. From an early age they learn how to manipulate people to do things on their behalf.

Milestone Number 1

August will prove to be a month of milestones for biking and me. Today is the first of what I hope to be four milestones this month.

Today marks my 100th bike commute of 2016. I have reached 100 faster a few years ago but given the amount of time off from work I took this June and July, I am a bit surprised to get to 1oo in the first week of August.

I worked 131 days so far this year. 10 of those were telework. I drove 21 times, mostly because of ice and snow. The rest of the time I biked.  The commutes were split among three bikes: 28 commutes for Little Nellie, my Bike Friday; 36 times each for The Mule, my 25 year old Specialized Sequoia, and Big Nellie, my Tour Easy recumbent.

I expect the next milestone to occur on Monday. Stay tuned.

May – Or a Reasonable Facsimile Thereof

May is normally a big mileage month. This year my most interesting ride was in the back of an ambulance. This combined with my trip abroad put a real damper on my riding.  Still I managed to bike to work 10 times – including Bike to Work Day, ride the Five Boro Ride in New York City, did a 59 mile day around the DMV, rode in the inaugural DC Bike Ride, rode to a Nats game, and volunteered at the Tour de Fat.

It rained a lot.

Total miles for the month were 485.5. Little Nellie got all the commuting action and the event rides. The Cross Check picked up 96 miles. My other two bikes took the month off.

For the year, I have 2777.5 miles with 69 commutes.

 

Bike to Work Day 2016

I did not feel very good when I woke up but I decided to ride to work anyway. It was Bike to Work Day, after all. Slowly.

I poked along, coughing fits one mile, calm breathing the next. I rolled into the Alexandria Pir Stop at City Hall Plaza in Old Town. I saw Reba, Ed #1, and Kathy chatting and took their picture. Jonathan was reading off raffle winners. And Reba won something, something

26853838620_69404e4fd0_m
Ed, Reba, and Kathy
Monaco. Holy cow! Then we heard him repeat the prize:  one night at the Hotel Monaco in Old Town. So Reba’s dreams of being a Bond girl went up in smoke. Truth be told, it’s a pretty darn nice prize.

Onward to Rosslyn. I was a bit surprised that the bike commuter traffic was so normal. Then at the north end of Old Town, I convoy of women on bikes, suspiciously without panniers or backpacks made a turn across my path. I followed them. In the course of a short conversation with one of the riders, I learned it was a tour group of ten women, aged 50 and above, who started riding in St. Augustine, Florida. They were taking a couple of rest days to see the DC sights before continuing on: destination Bar Harbor, Maine. They were traveling with a company called Women Tours.

DSCN4881
Bike Train to Maine
Soon they left me behind and I continued northward. On one of the flyover bridges at National Airport an on coming cyclists caught my eye. Short blazing red hair and distinctive panniers with a pattern on them and pronounced handles sticking straight up. It was Ultrarunnergirl, who never seems to come to Virginia on her bike. I started waving like and idiot and she went to give me a high five but, me having absolutely no cool, didn’t even make a decent attempt.

Fail.

On I rode to Rosslyn as the volume of bike commuters picked up (i.e. blew by me). Two Lance Mamilots came roaring down the trail swerving among the bike commuters, many of whom may have been first timers. My only words to the Lances is that you are self absorb asses and it’s riders like you that put off people who want to ride to work safely.

I somehow made it up the Rosslyn hill into the Rosslyn pit stop. There I ran I

27095751436_ff0b59233c_m
Nelle
nto WABA‘s Nelle (she’s the awesome Deputy Director) and ever jovial Dana who gave me my BTWD shirt. I won a water bottle then grabbed another from a couple of other tables. One was from Bruce Deming who specializes in personal injury cases involving bicyclists. I talked about two cases involving contributory negligence, one that allowed the victim to make a claim, the other (a fatality) that left the victim’s survivors with nothing but memories.

I had three cups of Java Shack coffee, the first coffee I had had since Sunday. They made me feel euphoric. I rode the sidewalk to the office and in my hyper attentive state avoided being hit by a red light runner at 19th and Lynn. I yelled at him to no avail.

The bike room at work had 2 bikes when I arrived. Lame. Two co-workers came in a few minutes later, but didn’t sign up for Bike to Work Day. Seriously. If free and convenient is not enough, I don’t know what is.

At 11 am the coffee wore off and I powered down like the robot on Lost in Space. Thud. Another cup had little effect. Lunch revived me somewhat and, after work, I headed to NE DC to pick up my packet for Sunday’s DC Bike Ride. I met Ed #1 again. He gets around. Then Nelle, again. We’ve run into each other four times in the last two weeks. People are starting to talk. (“Nelle, who is that creepy old dude?” People can be mean.)

I ran into Charmaine who I haven’t seen since our North Carolina bike adventure two years ago. We sat and chatted for over a half hour allowing me to recover from the 18 or so miles I had already ridden.

I also briefly ran into Ed #2, and Ted and Jean, who are Friday Coffee Clubbers.

I had a token for a free beer but nobody wanted it, even a stranger I approached. All my beer drinking #bikedc friends were probably at BTWD happy hours.

I left at 6:30 headed for home, deliberately going so slow I was annoying myself. I made it home after 8 pm through dozens of clouds of midges. I was covered with the darn things.

Tomorrow I get up and work the East Beer booth at the Tour de Fat event. Unfortunately the weather forecast calls for rain. I will do my best to present a cheery face. Instead of riding to the event, I’ll be driving to my wife’s office a mile away and ride from there.

Super big thanks to all the people who got up early and worked on behalf of #bikedc. You done good. Special thanks to Nelle who put in a monster day, working two events.

 

 

 

 

 

April in the Books

Another 15 bike commutes and another 661 1/2 miles are in the books. I switched back to Big Nellie for 10 of my commutes. (I am getting closer to another big mileage milestone.) Little Nellie came in handy for 4 other rainy commutes as well as a bimodal one. I rode to the office in the morning, then to my wife’s office in the evening. Little Nellie folded up into the trunk of her car and we spent the night watching Carlos Santana do his guitar tricks.

My long ride for the month came on the Cross Check. It was 69 miles. I also used the Cross Check to ride to two Nationals games. Both were wins, the second one lasting 16 innings allowing me to ride home in the dark.

For the year to date, I have ridden to work 59 times for a total of 1,744.5 miles. Errands and fun rides accounted for another 547.5 miles for a total of 2,292 miles. The Mule has the most miles (967.5)  by far but I didn’t ride it at all in April.

I threw in my first hike of the year, an easy one on the AT just off I-66. As soon as the ground dries I need to get out there and do another.

I have been struggling with my riding for most of the winter. I just couldn’t get into a flow, my mechanics were a mess. In the last week of April, this started to change. I’ve noticed a big difference this week. I am riding much faster than I have since last summer.  I hope I can build on this so that I can have a fun tour later this summer.

 

 

Bittersweet Friday

Today was a bittersweet Friday.

I had a two-tailwind commute. That’s pretty sweet.

In the morning, I rode past the Tidal Basin with the cherry trees in peak bloom and there were hardly any tourists. (I think the forecast of rain that held off until later scared people away.) That’s pretty sweet.

In the evening, I rode through a tunnel of blossoms to Hains Point and back. That’s pretty sweet.

I arrived at Friday Coffee Club and it was packed. Everybody seemed to be in a good mood. That’s pretty sweet.

And it was my last one. That’s a bitter cup of joe.

Friday Coffee Club started a little over four years ago as a get together with five bike commuting friends: Ed, Mary, Brian, Lane, and Lisa. Soon, like me, others joined. Ages ranged from one to 62. (I’ll never tell.) It became a thing. I became fascinated with the almost bizarre diversity of the crowd. Journalists, writers, editors, economists, lawyers, IT professionals, college administrators, grad students, librarians, Congressional staffers, candidates for public office, chemists (okay, just one), world travelers, randonneurs, marathon runners, bike shop owners, musicians, engineers, and on and on. If you couldn’t find someone interesting to talk with, you were probably dead from the neck up.

I heard about people visiting places like Afghanistan and McMurdo Station at the South Pole.  How often do you have coffee with someone who argued a case before the Supreme Court the day before?  It was at Friday Coffee Club I learned about how you deal with seasickness when scuba diving. (Don’t ask.) The last time I read Green Eggs and Ham was at Friday Coffee Club.

Maybe what has been even more interesting is how nice these people are.

Okay, everyone except Brian.

Just kidding.

M.E. Swings at 17th and G Streets Northwest has been the home of Friday Coffee Club since its inception. The Swings building is being renovated and Swings will close for 14 months. A new venue called A Baked Joint has been chosen. It’s on the far side of downtown which makes it too far from my office to attend.

Friday’s are going to be tough.

 

February in the Books

Looks like I am off to a pretty good start this year. I rode to work 15 times in February and managed to cover 506 miles in the month. Most of my riding was on The Mule which hit 40,000 miles last week. I switched over to Big Nellie for a few days, but barely rode my other two bikes at all (10 miles).  For the year I have ridden 953 miles. That’s not half bad considering that snow kept me off the bike for several days.

I’m 100+ miles ahead of 2015 and have ridden to work 8 more times, although I had a leap commute this year.

Warm days with over 11 hours of daylight make me look forward to long bike rides in the country in only a month or so.

 

Just Another Fed Up Boy on the MVT

I rode my inland route to work today. I was going to work from home but the lack of rain in the morning suckered me in. I took this route because the National Park Service refuses to plow my regular route, the Mount Vernon Trail. The inland route makes us of 3 bike trails in Alexandria City as well as a a trail that runs along the edge of Arlington National Cemetery. All of these trails were plowed and are in good shape.

As usual the ride in was fun. I especially like passing the big back ups of cars at traffic lights and stop signs. (I am careful to keep an eye out for opening car doors and abrupt lane changes when I do so.)

A funny thing happened as I waited for a red light at West and Duke Streets in Alexandria. I was on West street facing north. A bike commuter rode to the west on Duke Street through the green light. This exact same bike commuter rode through the light as I was waiting on Monday and Tuesday. What are the odds of that happening?

I made it to work with a smile on my face. I didn’t even mind climbing that last annoying hill near the Netherlands Carillon.

In the evening it was raining. I didn’t feel like fighting traffic in Rosslyn to get to my inland route so I headed to the Mount Vernon Trail. It was finally cl

24434432159_89f1f8ae08_m
The MVT in the Rain

ear all the way home. This is not because the National Park Service, which maintains the trail, shoveled it. It is because nearly all the 20 odd inches of snow melted. This took over a week. Furthermore, one short section of the trail was still clogged with snow except for a narrow path shoveled by a couple of bike commuters.

I made it home without incident but decided that waiting eight days for snow to melt is unacceptable. The Mount Vernon Trail is a major commuter route for hundreds of people. So I wrote to my three members of Congress:

“The Mount Vernon Trail is used by hundreds of bicyclists as a commuter route in the DC area. I have been using it to get to work for over a decade. The National Park Service maintains the trail, but, unlike other local jurisdictions, refuses to plow the trail after snow events. The bicycling community has complained for as long as I can remember and still the Park Service has not lifted a shovel. This past week some bike commuters actually took shovels to the trail to clear spots with particularly large piles of snow. I would like you to please contact the Park Service and tell them to stop making excuses and start maintaining the trail during the winter.

I greatly appreciate the fact that the Park Service does an outstanding job of clearing downed trees and fixing damaged bridges on the trail after non-winter weather events. So it is especially troubling to see the Park Service neglect the trail after snowfalls. Your intervention in this matter would be greatly appreciated.”

Today the Park Service announced that it is willing to sit down with stakeholders and begin discussions on how to clear the trail next winter. I have a better idea: National Park Service get off your asses and clear the trail this winter. Just as you clear the GW Parkway that runs right alongside it. No more excuses. No more delays. The status quo is simply unacceptable.

If you are a bike commuter in DC, especially if you use the Mount Vernon Trail, please write your members of Congress.

 

Not a Bad Start

For all the time I spent shoveling snow, I am surprised that I covered as much ground as I did this January.

  • 10+ hours of snow shoveling, including 15 minutes today to liberate my bikes
  • 1 hike on the Billy Goat B and C trails to start the year right
  • 446 miles of bike riding
    • 10 on Little Nellie
    • 105 on Big Nellie
    • 331 on The Mule
    • The Cross Check took the month off
  • 10 bike commutes for 301 miles
    • 9 on The Mule
    • 1 on Big Nellie

I probably gained 10 pounds because of beer and junk food. It felt like it yesterday when every mile felt like and ordeal, but today’s 26 mile jaunt was much easier.

On my ride today, I found a new pizza and beer place. To celebrate the end of January, Mrs. RC and I will check it out. It’s tough work but somebody has to do it.

 

A Year Well Ridden

For a guy who spent three weeks on a bike-free vacation and the better part of the winter waiting for a thaw, I rode a whole bunch in 2015.

For the year I clocked 7,518.5 miles. Nearly two thirds of this total was from riding my bikes to work 162 times. Pro tip: if you want to boost your annual miles, get a job farther from home. The remaining 2,601 miles was on various weekend and bike touring excursions. The No Wrong Plan Bike Tour was about 370 miles including riding to the shuttle at the start and riding home on Bike to Work Day at the finish.

The tour made May my biggest mileage month at 951. September, usually a big month, was my lowest mileage month at only 296.5 miles. I spent nearly three weeks on vacation and didn’t touch a bike despite the fact that I could have laid claim to riding in Asia and Australia and New Zealand. Oh, well.

The Mule, my oldest bike, got the most use, 3,342 miles, including exactly half of my bike commutes. The least mileage went to my new bike, a Surly Cross Check, at 1,000 miles. Of course, I only had this bike for four and half months. None of these miles was from commuting.

I rode indoors on Big Nellie, my Tour Easy recumbent six times for the equivalent of 99 miles. Otherwise, Big Nellie fell into disuse. I rode it only 86 miles since August. Over the course of the year, I rode it to work 25 times. Its total mileage for the year was 1,289.

Little Nellie got much more use than I expected. It is a Bike Friday folding travel bike but I didn’t travel with it. Instead I just rode it a lot locally. I did 56 rides to work and 1,887.5 miles overall. Being able to stash it in the trunk of the car came in handy many, many times.

My longest ride of the year was exactly 100 miles from my house to Whites Ferry and back on Big Nellie. The second longest ride of the year was the 18 mile ride home from the Tour de Fat event. I find riding a bike after a beer or two not to be problematic. Riding a bike after drinking beer in the hot sun for five hours, is considerably more challenging. Next year I will volunteer so as to remain sane. (Of course, I say this every year and rarely get around to volunteering. Bows his head in shame…) Another rather long bike ride was my bike commute the day after returning from Thailand. I was jet lagged out of my mind. It was not a lot of fun.

Other than the tour, the rides I liked best usually involved baseball games at Nats Park. The Nationals’ bike valet service is just about the best thing going.  Every ballpark, major or minor league, should do this.  A couple of times I had the pleasure of riding with Katie Lee to the Capitol and watching her do a victory lap – riding around in circles, hands free, head back, with an ear-to-ear smile. Pure bike joy. And then there’s always the fun of a ride home after a night game. I love riding home in the dark on a warm summer night.

The last ride home on the bike tour on the C&O Canal was special. Ryan intercepted us on his way to Brunswick. Then Rudy gave us a full escort from Great Falls. Near Fletcher’s Boat House, Mary came out to escort us. Somewhere along the line Chris showed up. We rode to Glen’s near Dupont Circle for a celebration where we were joined by even more #bikedc friends. I was escorted on my ride home against the Bike to Work Day flow on the 15th Street cycletrack and down the Mount Vernon Trail  by Mount Vernon resident Ed. This day was in stark contrast to the last day of my other tours when I was greeted with a ho-hum from non-biking relatives. (This is why I made it a point to meet Linel in Belle Haven Park at the end of her C&O Canal tow this year.)

I don’t recall how many times I rode to Friday Coffee Club, but it’s a thing and it’s fun.

I went to several bike events: WABA’s Vasa and Cider rides and holiday bash, the Great Pumpkin ride, the Tour de Fat, the kinetic sculpture race in Baltimore, the Cookie ride, and the #biketivismdc protest on Pennsylvania Avenue.

I hiked a bunch too. I honestly can’t say which trail was my favorite. They all have their distinct characteristics. I learned that I don’t much care for rock scrambles or crossing steams on slippery logs. In my running days I was a pretty darn good downhill runner. I am a pretty lousy downhill hiker.

I am not much of a massage fan but I had three massages this year. The last and only other time I had a massage was after a century in 1991. I liked the oil massage in Thailand the best. It was outdoors under a shelter in the rain. The next best was a Thai massage from a friend in McLean Virginia. This was relaxing and nothing like any of the other massages I’ve had. The reiki at the end was also pretty cool. The sports massage I had near my home was rather vigorous. I was sore for days afterward. I am still not much of a massage fan. I’m just not into pampering, I guess.

Enough with looking back already. It’s 2016. Let’s get on with it!