Little Nellie Cracks 20

For the last month I’ve been riding my Bike Friday New World Tourist nearly every day. I named it Little Nellie after a scene in You Only Live Twice. (It’s easily one of the stupidest dogfight scenes in movie history.)

The bike was designed to mimic the dimensions of The Mule, my Specialized Sequoia touring bike. It’s pretty close except for the little tires which kind of beat me up. My recent binge of lifting weights and doing physical therapy really helped keep me from aching on long rides though.

Today, Little Nellie hit 20,000 miles.

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I bought her in 2007 so that’s a shade under 2,0

00 miles per year. Near the end of my ride I stopped at Spok

es, my local bike shop. I asked Taylor, the service manager, to look it over. It was creaking and popping in ways that suggested trouble was brewing.

Taylor couldn’t find anything wrong in the usual places but he did find a crack in the weld that holds a hinge to the folding seat mast (into which the seatpost slides). I called Bike Friday and they asked me to send them a picture. I think they will replace it under warranty. Good thing it’s the seat mast, which can be replaced without shipping the entire bike to Bike Friday in Oregon.

Two Tailwinds, Two Paisanos

The early afternoon weather in DC was beautiful. 70 degrees with a strong breeze out of the south. As luck would have it, the Washington Nationals were playing a game against the Arizona Diamondbacks at 4 p.m. I bought a ticket and jumped on Little Nellie, my Bike Friday, and rode the tailwind 15 miles to Nationals Park.

It was a lovely ride except for the bit about the big black car nearly hitting me 100 yards from the stadium. The driver’s window was open. I barked at him that he had just done something incredibly dangerous. He seemed not the least bit concerned. Then I jumped off my bike and beat the crap out of him. There was blood everywhere. I beat my chest and howled.

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Not a bad day for a baseball game or a bike ride or a nap in a hammock

Okay, not really. I let it go at words and went in to enjoy the game. I sat down the left field line. My seats were on the field level. I brought my glove for protection. Sadly no foul balls were hit my way but a woman two sections over got clobbered by one and was escorted out for medical attention. The two teenage boys in the row behind me ate their way through the first eight innings. Mom bought them hot dogs and pizza and funnel cake and ice cream. I could sense them growing with each passing inning.

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The giant presidents at the ballpark are very creepy up close. Shortly after I took this picture, Washington ate these two fans.

During the game I had a chat online with my friend Emilia who was sitting across the stadium. Emilia is from Venezuela. She and I keep tabs on the Nationals players from her country. There have been five paisanos in recent years. For the last few weeks there were none. Emilia texted me to let me know that Adrian Sanchez, who was called up from the minors to play third base for the injured Anthony Rendon, was from Venezuela. A short while later she texted that the Diamondbacks David Peralta was also from Venezuela. “I will not root for him,” she said.

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That’s Emilia. Somewhere up there.

As it turns out, we have the lesser paisano. Peralta hit two home runs (he eats the National’s pitchers alive) and the Diamondbacks won in ten innings.

Around the 7th inning the skies grew dark and the wind changed direction. I thought for sure I’d get soaked but rain never came. Instead I was pushed all the way home from the game. Even the clouds of bugs didn’t ruin the ride.

So let’s recap with some maths:

Two Tailwind Ride > Big Black Car + Wrong Paisano + Bugs in My Mouth

And a  final note: Big congratulations to Blissful Britt who finished her last exam for her college degree today. On to grad school. (Just kidding.)

Errandonnee: Past the Halfway Mark

The big news today was we got a spiffy new dishwasher because the old one died. The installed turned it on and we didn’t realize it. This is going to take some getting used to.

Before that though I had time enough to get out on my bike.

Errand No. 7: Personal Care

Destination: Mount Vernon Rec Center

Observation: I can’t figure out how to dress for this weather. I wore three layers including the holey sweater and was overdressed. This could be it for my favorite cycling garment. It’s more holes than sweater now.

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Errand  No. 8: Personal Business

Destination: The Italian Store in Old Town Alexandria

Observation: While Mrs. RC waited for the dishwasher installer to come, I decided to grab some Italian subs for lunch. I had to lock my bike to street sign a block away (the store is the white building with the Italian flag on it). Alexandria needs more bike racks.

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So another day, another exciting errand-running adventure. I did 22 miles during my gym/sub excursion for a total of 80 1/2 miles.

 

Errandonnee Part Deux

Yesterday I took the day off from bicycling to go to the March for Our Lives in DC. We drove and took Metro for a number of reasons and it worked out remarkably well.

Today, I got back in the saddle with an old friend, Little Nellie. Little Nellie is my Bike Friday New World Tourist. She has a hair over 19,000 miles on her. I recently put a new large chainring, cassette, rear wheel, rear tire, rear tube, and chain on her.

Errand No. 5: Non-store Errand, a test ride to make sure all the new stuff was working properly.

Destination: Around the neighborhood

Observation: I was half expecting my rear tire to explode because it was so hard to install and the wire bead was slightly bent. So I rode over a couple of potholes to stress it. To my chagrin, I found that the shifting was messed up. The chain was jumping over the big sprocket and getting jammed between the cassette and the spokes. On the opposite end of the cassette, the chain was making unpleasant noises. Be careful what you wish for; you might end up with something worse.

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So the first errand resulted in a second errand.

Errand No. 6: Store

Destination: Spokes Etc. At Belle View, my local bike shop

Observation: If I ever move, I will make sure I have a good local bike shop nearby. Spokes has been my go to shop for over 25 years. More often than not (like today, for instance), they do minor repairs while you wait. The Spokes mechanic (Sean, I think) figured out what was wrong within seconds. The new hub of my rear wheel is sized for an 11-speed cassette. My cassette has only nine speeds. He installed a proper spacer and tweaked things a little. In five minutes I was on the road again. Bicycles are so much more fun when they are in proper working order.

 

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Spokes Service Area. Note: neither mechanic is Sean. He is bashful. 

The fix was so good that I took off and rode another 16 1/2 miles for a total of  24. Total miles so far in the Errandonnee: 58 1/2

 

Not My Kind of Day

I feel like bitching and moaning.

  • I went to my physical therapy appointment today. For the better part of a month I’ve been rehabbing a nerve problem in my left shoulder and arm. I’ve now gone to nine appointments. I have nearly all my range of motion back but it still hurts when the arm and shoulder bear weight or move in certain ways. Thursday is my last appointment. I think it’s time to try acupuncture again. At least I got a big foam roller that makes my back feel great out of the deal.
  • Today is the first day of the 2018 Errandonnee contest. It was cold and rainy with the possibility of ice accumulation here in the DC area. I can’t risk falling while on blood thinners so I had to forgo riding to physical therapy and lunch which would have easily knocked off two of my twelve errands. We are getting a freak snow storm tomorrow so that knocks that day out as well. And Saturday is out because I am going to a march in DC with Mrs. RC. So I am down to nine days, at most, to complete my 12 errands. I rode Big Nellie in the basement just to keep sane.

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  • A few weeks ago I ordered a new rear wheel, hub, and chain for Little Nellie from the manufacturer, Bike Friday, in Oregon. I have been waiting weeks for this to get here. It took them a week to get around to building the wheel. Only then did they discover that they didn’t have the cassette I ordered in stock. So I had to wait for that to arrive at their shop. So it finally came today. Yay! When I opened the box and pulled out the wheel, I decided to mount a tube and tire to it and get the bike back on the road. Only then did I discover that Schrader tire valve wouldn’t fit through the hole in the wheel rim. This is a first for me in over 40 years of bike riding as an adult. They drilled the rim hole to accept narrower, presta valves which are not readily available on small (406) tubes. When I called them, they suggested I take it to a bike shop and have the hole drilled out. Really? Now I wish I had had the wheel made locally in the first place. Anyway, I told them to ship me three presta valved tubes instead. (They’ll work fine on my old front wheel which has a Schrader sized hole.)
  • My Cross Check and I are not getting along. When I got back from my bike tour on The Mule, the Cross Check didn’t feel right. I was sliding forward on my saddle. So I tilted the nose of the saddle up a couple of weeks ago. My mechanics instantly improved. Unfortunately, after a 51 mile ride, my back started to ache like mad. So I tilted it back and rode 23 miles. No back pain. Go figure. After that ride, I moved the saddle forward just a bit in the hopes of getting the better mechanics back. I’ll fiddle and diddle with it some more over the next couple of weeks. One annoying thing about this bike is that tilting the saddle is very hard to do, much harder on my Bike Friday or The Mule. I actually need a hammer to free up the metal cradle that the seat hardware sits in.
  • Some bike tourists from Arlington are riding north from Jacksonville this week. The plan is to ride all the way to DC. They are riding along the coast, generally following the East Coast Greenway. They report that riding US 17 is not a lot of fun, but they are making good progress. Unfortunately today is crummy weather in South Carolina.

Productive Failure

Today I got up early, left the newspaper on the kitchen table, and rode to a bike advocacy event. When I got to the venue, no one was there. I checked my e-mail. The event is next Saturday.

Doh.

I felt stupid but I didn’t much mind. With snow and rain in the afternoon weather forecast, I might not have ridden outside today but for my calendar screw up.

It was my first time on Little Nellie in many weeks so I took it easy riding to the venue. The bike  seemed to be resisting me the whole way. After realizing my mistake, I took a round about route back toward home.

Since the chain was moving sloppily over the sprockets on the cassette I decided to swing by my local bike shop on the way home to have it checked out. The mechanic put the bike on a repair stand facing away from me. As he checked the chain, the rear wheel turned. It wobbled from side to side. The rim was probably contacting the brake pad with every revolution. Aha!

The mechanic said my chain was long gone. My bike needs a new chain, a new cassette, a new large chain ring, and a rear hub overhaul.

The cassette and rear hub on this bike are of an unusual design that allows for a higher top gear. I don’t recall why I ordered this special hub and gear combination as I rarely use such high gears on this or any other bike. The special design also means that, in order to remover or install a cassette, a special tool is needed. And many bike shops don’t have one. Now that the wheel has 19,000 miles on it, I figure it would be a good time to replace the wheel with a conventional hub and cassette. This will give me a lower low gear and a lower top gear. Since the conventional cassette costs about $50 less, I will finance, in a sense, part of the new wheel’s cost by saving money on the new cassette and forgoing the overhaul on the rear hub.

So despite my scheduling snafu, I managed to beat the storm and diagnose some bike problems. Today’s ride goes in the books as a productive failure.

 

 

Little Nellie Is Growing Up

Today on my last ride of November, Little Nellie celebrated turning 19. In the past I have tended to avoid riding this bike because it beats up my back, but lifting weights has really helped me tolerate the bumps transmitted by Little Nellie’s wee wheels.

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And so I put this bike away for the winter and switch to my other three steeds. They miss me.

A Ride in the Pine Barrens

Over 30 years ago John McPhee wrote about a place that was disappearing. The Pine Barrens are a vast area of southern New Jersey where, back in McPhee’s day,  not much happened. People lived without telephones or electricity. The Barrens were primitive, despite the fact that they are located about an hour east of Philadelphia and 90 minutes from New York City. McPhee wanted to see it before it became modern.

It’s still rather rustic in the Barrens but there are now two-lane highways criss-crossing the area. Vacation tourism was evident here and there. I saw jet skis on the waterways. I should go back and read McPhee to see what it was like back in the day.

I drove down from central New Jersey where I stayed the night. My day began with a visit to my maternal grandparents’ grave and their house, still standing. It was decorated tastefully and the porch was fixed up a bit, but it was still an old, old frame house. The side yard once had a garage and decrepit barn. Both are gone, replaced by a modern middle-class home. There is no arbor on the side of the house, no grape vines hanging from it. The big vegetable garden is gone too. My grandmother died when I was ten, during a summer that also took my paternal grandmother and godmother. My funeral suit got a lot of use that summer.  It was weird getting birthday presents at one of the wakes. I just wanted it to end and to go back to the routine of school. My grandfather lived for another 15 or so years. He died in his bed in the house.

The starting point of my ride was Batsto Village State Park. Batsto was once a thriving  a close knit community built around an iron furnace, mills, and such. People lived in orderly two-story, unpainted frame houses. The folks who lived here had to get along; there was nobody else around. The village is in the middle of hundreds of acres of sandy soil and trees, mostly pine trees.

On the drive to Batsto, I stopped for breakfast at a New Jersey diner. Diners are New Jersey. The food was starchy and hot and creamy and filling. The coffee gave me a jolt. After gorging, I drove on to Batsto passing a few miles from Lakehurst, the site of the Hindenberg disaster. My mom told me that when she was a little girl she waved at dirigible passengers as they passed overhead. She probably didn’t wave at the Hindenberg that night on account of a tragically violent thunderstorm.

The parking lot of the diner was filled with bicyclists getting ready for a ride. I overheard the diner owner saying he expected about ten of them to come in without a reservation disrupting his quiet Sunday morning. Oh the temerity.

As I drove I passed large groups of cyclists riding in and out of the dappled shade of the woods on either side of the road. Some miles further on, I passed cranberry bogs.

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After parking I began a 43 mile loop ride on Little Nellie through the Barrens. The roads were high speed but the traffic was light and the pavement smooth and free of debris. And flat. Pool table flat.

I rode past blueberry farms. Miles of them. Billions of sweet little blue berries. Kerplink, kerplank, kerplunk! 

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Trees rather scrawny, the result of the never ending sandy soil. The road frequently crossed streams and inlets.  Some of the smaller roads had wooden deck bridges.

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I spotted an osprey nest on a pole next to the road. Two ospreys were clearly visible making a racket. One flew off as I approached. It had a critter of some sort in its talons. The remaining bird stayed at the nest squawking. The flying osprey circled the nest as I rode by as if to say “Look at me!” My guess is the nest had young ‘uns in it.

A few of the turns on my map were unsigned. So naturally I missed a turn. Fortunately, I discovered my mistake at a point where a brand new road doubled back toward the route.

I didn’t bring enough water so I was starting to flag after only 30 miles. With temperatures in the low 80s, low-ish humidity, and light winds, I felt a bit like a wimp.

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Pedal, pedal.

Did I mention it was flat.

More sand. More trees. A canoe with a man and woman came toward the road as I crossed a creek. They were framed by overhanging trees. It looked perfect.

Unpaved pathways intersected with the roads. Some were hiking trails. Some were more like sandy roads.

A mile later a doe and her fawn stood on the side of the road. They regarded me with caution then started to meander away. How many deer must there be in this place?

About a mile from Batsto, I looked down a sandy road to my left. Two wild turkeys were walking along. They looked like they might be talking to each other. Of course, when I tried to get a picture they turned and walked away from me. Don’t you just hate antisocial turkeys?

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My ride ended back at the car. I don’t recall ever riding a bike at my grandparents’ house when I was little so this was my first-ever ride in the state of New Jersey. It’s my 18th state. (The others: New York, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, California, Maryland, Virginia, Hawaii, West Virginia, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Ohio, Indiana, North Carolina, Michigan, and Wisconsin. As well as the District of Columbia.)

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I placed a bunch of pictures on Flickr.

 

Why Run? The East Bay Bike Path

Back in the Reagan administration, I was a marathon runner. At the end of one of my years in grad school we had a picnic to celebrate. It was in Colt State Park about 15 miles southeast of Providence on Narragansett Bay. I figured I’d kill two birds with one stone by running to the picnic. Much of the run was on an old rail line.  That rail line is now the East Bay Bike Path.

The path begins in India Point Park at the head of the bay in Providence.  The path crosses the Seekonk River leaving Providence. Although it sounds awful, this section of the path is alongside I-195. I hardly noticed the cars because the path was separated from the road by a short wall with a tall metal fence on top. Walkers had nothing to worry about. They had their own path on the opposite side of the path.

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After riding a few blocks on side streets in East Providence, the path begins again. Mostly it runs along the edge of the bay. From time to time it moves away from the bay to pass a town or some private homes.

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The path has some shortcomings. It crosses scores of mostly small streets which gets annoying, For about a mile there are small expansion gaps across the trail that jolted me on Little Nellie with its little wheels. And in other spots surface tree roots gave me some jolts. These are quibbles. It’s a beautiful path. Which leads to my last complaint: it’s crowded!!

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The views are pretty darn spectacular. Whether you’re looking at the bay, the gorgeous houses, the inlets, or the occasional picture postcard towns of  Barrington, Warren, and Bristol.

My side trip through Colt State Park was delightful. From time to time, the smell of the place reminded me of Phillip Island near Melbourne, Australia. No wallabies here though. I rode around the perimeter of the park ending up riding along the bay for a half mile or so.

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On the way back to Providence I stopped for a frozen lemonade at Del’s. This is a Rhode Island institution. If you drink one too fast, you’ll get a wikkid brain freeze. I did. Stand up and bend over. Lick the roof of your mouth. Slow down.

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With the temperatures in the 70s and light breezes coming off the bay, I never felt the slightest bit uncomfortable.

My Flickr page has lots of pictures.

 

Opera, Deer, and the Bat Shit Crazy

  • Last night on the way home from work I stopped to listen to the opera busker at the Torpedo Factory in Old Town.
  • This morning on the way to work I was riding along the underside of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge when a doe and two fawns came jaunting across the trail about 50 yards ahead of me.
  • A few days ago my friend Emilia (who is not bat shit crazy) took an Instagram video as she rode across the boardwalk at Dyke Marsh on the Mount Vernon Trail three miles from my house. I found the video mesmerizing, watching it over and over. So much of nature’s beauty captured in ten seconds. The funny thing is: I ride that same boardwalk every day.
  • Didn’t I tell you I have the best commute ever!?
  • To (sort of) thank Emilia I sent her a notice about a casting call for people to appear as a model in promotional material for Bike Arlington. It pays $200 for a few hours of work. In order to apply you need to submit photos of yourself. I found several pictures of  Emilia from the 50 States Ride we did together. Like so many others before her, she had no idea how hard the ride was going to be. Heat! Rain! Hills! 62 miles! Her triumphant victory photo at the post-ride party was one of my favorite pictures of the year. No automatic alt text available.
  • It’s been a long time since I’ve seen an in-line skater on the Mount Vernon Trail. They were all the rage about a decade ago. I even tried them, and I can’t skate worth beans. I would go to Fort Hunt Park and skate around in circles. I learned how not to fall too often. What eventually led me to give it up was not the falling so much as the fact that I have very wide feet. My feet would be all blisters and blood after I went skating.
  • The other night I saw a skater on the trail. He was heading north from Belle Haven Park. The trail is canted toward the river his right, my left as I was heading south on my ride home from work. I saw him drift toward the edge of the trail. His left arm started carwheeling, then his right, then his left, then he was off the trail and falling. He landed on his tailbone on the edge of the asphalt. Ow. He was more embarrassed than hurt. I gave him a 5.6 for style, but had to deduct points for going off the trail.
  • Yesterday I came to the conclusion that one of my Facebook friends is bat shit crazy. I mentioned this on twitter without naming names. Ricky tried to claim the honor. I then upped the count to two bat shit crazy people. To be honest, Ricky is not even close to as crazy as the other.
  • A couple of friends have tried to help me with my bike tour planning. “When you get to Miami, you can take a train.” Um, if I’m going to take a train, why ride there in the first place?
  • Larry McMurtry once wrote
    • A woman’s love is like the morning dew; it’s just as apt to settle on a horse turd as it is on a rose.
    • I think it’s a sickness to grieve too much for those who never cared a fig for you. [Particularly if they are bat shit crazy.]
  • The father of a former co-worker died of pancreatic cancer the other day. He was diagnosed only a few weeks ago. She went home to see him before he died but dang. Then I learned on Tuesday that an old grad school roommate of mine died of cancer Monday night. We knew that he had been dealing with cancer based on the note in his Christmas card but we had no idea he was as sick as he was. Mrs. Rootchopper summed it up, “He was the nicest guy in the world.” Word. Amen.
  • On Monday I threw my back out getting my Bike Friday into the trunk of my daughter’s subcompact car. I was taking her car to a mechanic for an oil change. A few days later I read a tweet that mentioned a 50% off deal for a year’s $85 membership in Capital Bikeshare. For $42.50 a year I can save big money on physical therapy!
  • In 49 days I am retiring. I am still relatively young and want to do a few things before my body completely rebels against my mega mileage shenanigans. I am noticably slower this year than last. i also weigh 10 pounds more.
  • I have been riding Big Nellie, my recumbent, for about a month now. A couple of years ago this would have caused my right foot to go completely numb. I almost sold the bike but this spring I took off the clipless pedals I was using and put on old school platform pedals with PowerGrips (leather straps that cross the pedals on a diagonal). I have been wearing Teva sandals and riding to work. No pain. No numbness.
  • I really like biking in sandals. I am thinking about putting the same kinds of pedals on my CrossCheck, at least until fall.
  • I have stopped wearing a helmet. Life is too short not to feel the wind in your hair. If I haven’t hit my head in 55+ years of bike riding, I like my odds.
  • Even when people are  bat shit crazy, you can still miss them. A lot.