The Mule’s Still Got It. My Knee Not So Much.

After two days of beautiful weather, The Mule insisted on going for a long ride. The Mule was jealous because I went hiking with friends yesterday. The Mule gets like that sometimes. The Mule would have killed me in my sleep if it had seen this view from the White Rocks overlook on Sugarloaf Mountain in Maryland.

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And so I found myself heading northwest along the Potomac River. For 12 miles I rode into a headwind on the Mount Vernon Trail to DC. I crossed the river on the 14th Street Bridge and headed to Georgetown. Next, I took the Capital Crescent Trail along the north side of the river. I had a choice of routes. Either follow the C&O Canal towpath or switch to the somewhat hilly roads. I chose pavement since the towpath was a mess the last time I rode it.

After 30 miles I reached Potomac Village where gas costs more than top shelf single malt scotch.

I turned left onto River Road and partook of the massive rolling hills, views of stupefying mansions, the tony Bretton Woods Country Club, a Buddhist temple, a one-room schoolhouse, and fields of corn. After over 20 miles I had no choice but to climb Mt. Nebo Road. It goes up steeply, three times. Maybe four. However many times, the last one hurt.

I had a headwind leaving DC but now I could tell the wind direction had changed. I was riding effortlessly, except for the steepest hills. As every cyclist knows this either means you put performance enhancing drugs on your Wheaties or you have a tailwind. Since cinnamon isn’t a PDA, I knew it was the latter.

A few miles later I picked up the towpath, expecting there to be only one mile to get to Whites Ferry, where a privately run cable ferry shuttles travelers across the Potomac River. Somehow the one mile was actually four. Yeah, well. At least the towpath was in excellent condition. I spun along merrily and spooked a couple of deer who were hanging around looking for trouble. They put out their cigs and hightailed it into the woods.

I only had to wait five minutes for the ferry. There were a handful of cars on it coming and going so I was off the boat in under two minutes on the Virginia side of the river.

Did I mention that the weather was nice?

I rode to Leesburg and picked up some snackage. Then headed back home along 35 miles of the Washington and Old Dominion Trail. Into a headwind. Sadly, the snackage contained only chocolate and other sugary delights, not anabolic steroids.

I estimated that the ride would be about 100 miles, but my calculation error on the outbound portion of today’s excursion meant it would be a bit more.

All in all, it was a very pleasant day on the bike, except for the last 20 miles which I did on fumes while trying unsuccessfully to ignore a screaming left knee and shoulder. The left knee has been getting worse by the month and will require some medical intervention this fall. The shoulder has a rotator cuff impingement. (Impingement is a fancy medical term for “messed up”.) I could have surgery on it as well.

Did I mention my sore left hip?

Ugh.

This ride, my longest of the year, was well worth the pain.

Away and home

60 miles a day for days on end while carrying 40 pounds of gear. This is a normal day on tour. At home this would be torture.

I’ve ridden carrying no more than 5 pounds for 17 days in a row. Mostly on flat terrain. I am beat up and tired. I cannot figure it out. Partly, the fatigue has to do with riding Little Nellie. The small wheels on my Bike Friday beat my body up. It’s fun to ride because it’s twitchy and nimble but after a couple of weeks my back starts going into spasm.

I had intended to exploit today’s perfect weather here in DC by going on a monster bike ride. Last night I had a couple of minor back spasms. Then I went to sleep only to wake up with stomach cramps. This turned out to somehow be connected to my ingestion of sour dough bread last evening. I know this  because I had sour dough toast for breakfast and my stomach went nuts.

After lazing about for the entire morning, I set out on The Mule to see if my body would respond favorably. It did. I was riding about 10 percent faster. I could barely feel the tree root bumps in the trail. The weather was perfect. The only negative thought I had was whatever will I do when The Mule dies? It fits me so perfectly.

When I got home, I sat on my deck with a glass a merlot. I did the crossword puzzle while listening to a baseball game (Nats won 7-2 over the Cubs) on the radio I  received for my birthday. Bliss.

Tomorrow is another perfect weather day. Mrs. Rootchopper and I are joining a couple of friends for a morning hike on Sugarloaf Mountain in Maryland. I get to try out one of my birthday presents, a new Osprey backpack. (I tossed my WalMart fall-apart backpack. I hated that thing.) Afterward, I shall retire to the deck for more radio baseball. (Our TV is out of commission as a result of the renovation to the man cave.)

Next week I have nothing planned and some awesome weather. I think I shall take The Mule out to the country for a long stroll.

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.

 

Biking with Judd and George

The Friends of the Mount Vernon Trail is a volunteer organization recently started to help the National Park Service with the trail. (The NPS has very little money so it needs all the help it can get.) Today, Judd, one if the group’s founders, led a bike ride from DC to Old Town Alexandria. It being Presidents Day, Judd guided the group to points of interest having to do with George Washington.

I started the day with a CT scan. It took much longer than planned so I didn’t have time to ride 14 miles to the starting point of the ride. With some logistical help from my friend Erin, I rode 12 miles to the 14th Street Bridge and waited for the riders to come across the Potomac from their first stop at the Washington Monument.

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Judd making the turn onto the MVT

There were over 20 of them. They came down the ramp for the bridge and headed south along the MVT. After National Airport they headed west on the Four Mile Run and Washington and Old Dominion Trails. About six miles later they stopped at a marker indicating the northern most point of George Washington’s land. Judd explained how Washington personally took a block of granite and, with his bare hands, tore away chunks of rock to create the marker.

I made that up.

Did you know that George was a dog person? He had a dog named Sweet Lips.

I did not make that up, but its the kind of bizarre info that Judd had discovered in his research.

We backtracked along Four Mile Run, an old trail that meandered along the creek of the same name. I hadn’t ridden this section of trail in over 20 years. It was in surprisingly good condition.

Our route took us to the riverfront near Old Town Alexandria. I missed the turn and tool a few riders about a half mile out of their way. We made it back in time to see the very end of Judd’s remarks.

Judd led us to Christ Church, after some detours caused by the Presidents Day parade in Old Town. Christ Church dates to the 18th century. We went inside and were treated to a presentation by Dell, a church docent. Some of us actually sat in George Washington’s pew (actually, it is a box with a pew facing forward and back). Robert E. Lee also had a pew there. The place just oozed colonial cool. Amazingly none of our group were kicked out for being heathens.

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Heathens in Christ Church

From the church we rode west about a mile to the George Washington Masonic Temple on Shooters Hill. The highlight of the visit was going to the top and walking around the outside. The views were terrific. So was the gale coming from the west.

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Stain glass in the Masonic Memorial

After our tour, we all headed to Whole Foods for beer and food. It’s a good thing because I was starving.

Judd explained how George Washington shopped in this very store.

I made that up.

When I left, I found that my Krytonite U lock refused to open.

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Little Nellie was held hostage

After scores of tries, I gave up and called Mrs. Rootchopper. She brought my spare key to the lock but it didn’t work. So we drove to a hardware store and bought some WD40. I squirted it in the lock. Waited five seconds, inserted the key and rejoiced as I freed Little Nellie! Yay.

By this point the sun was setting and the beer was beering my brain, so I folded up the bike and popped it into the trunk of the car.

We drove home. Our home is on property that was once part of George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate.

I did not make that up.

Twice to the end

A Ride with Heather and Daniel

My friend Heather sent me an email the other day asking if I’d like to do a ride on the Mount Vernon Trail to take advantage of the nice weather and her furlough. And so I found myself riding my Surly Cross Check up to DC to meet her at the Capital Crescent Trail beneath Key Bridge in Georgetown.

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Heather brought her friend Daniel, an ultramarathoner and rider of a 29er (a mountain bike with big wheels and front suspension). Heather rode her aluminium Specialized Sequoia which bears absolutely no resemblance to the Mule, my 1991 steel Specialized Sequoia. (Specialized recycles it’s bike names, apparently.)

We began by walking up stairs to get from the underside of Key Bridge to the roadway atop it. Across the Potomac we rode. I stopped before turning onto the Mount Vernon Trail to point out the Intersection of Doom, the bicycle counter, and the glass and steel ick that is today’s Rosslyn.

Down we rode to the trail and across Trollheim, the sketchy boardwalk under the TR Bridge. We came to the staging area of the Memorial Bridge reconstruction project and were delayed by a tractor trailer backing its load onto a barge in the river.

Down by the airport we stopped to admire the planes landing at National Airport. I broke the news to a dismounting cyclist that the porta potties were padlocked shut thanks to the government shutdown. I explained that in order to keep rapists and drug dealers out of the country park users must pee our pants. The cyclist who was by now doing the pee pee dance hit me with a right cross.

On we rode to Old Town were we stopped to admire the hulk of the decommissioned coal fired power plant.

Further south I explained how the fake arches of the Woodrow Wilson bridge were put together. Then it was down the trail past Porto Vechio were an SUV driver failed to stop at the red light and nearly hit me as she turned right  onto the Parkway. Having been hit here once before under nearly identical circumstances at this intersection, I hit my brakes and STOP!! I do wish Alexandria would change this to a no right on red intersection.

As we rode south I pointed out a bald eagle perched in a tree across the road. We made our way through Belle Haven Park then along the edge of Dyke Marsh where I pointed out the nests on the Haul Road and along the trail just south of Tulane Drive.

The gradual climb up to the stone bridge took us by another nest, this one near Morningside Drive.

We continued on the trail with Daniel taking the lead. Despite having sore feet and knobby tires he set a healthy pace. We came to the nasty switchback hill south of Waynewood Boulevard and everyone slowed to wobble a bit.

The ride to Mount Vernon was pretty and uneventful. We are all pretty tired once we reached the top of the hill at the end of the trail. Heather’s husband Rulon appeared as we were about to lock up our bikes. Heather treated us to lunch at the food court.

After lunch I led the descent back toward DC. As we passed Fort Hunt Park I pointed out the big eagle nest across the Parkway. When we got to the stone bridge, I bid Heather and Daniel good bye and headed for home. I finished with 41 1/2 miles on my odometer, my longest ride since Veterans Day.

The Puzzle from Hell

This year we decided to go low key for Christmas. No tree. No presents (we all cheated a bit). Just a few decorations, a shitload of junk food, some board games, and, a 1,000 piece jigsaw puzzle. The puzzle has been on our dining room table for over a week. I swear it was taunting us in our sleep. Looking at it day after day made me see jigsaw pieces as I rode my bike around.

Jigsaw puzzles make you appreciate how painters take what we see and how our brains translate that vision and distill it into bits of paint. That white dot in the puzzle piece is a headlight. The splash of white on the leaf is the reflection of a street light. The black line is the shadow beneath a piece of trim on a building.

Today I finished the painting. The push to the finish involved re-placing a couple of dozen pieces that had been improperly positioned. I laid 999 pieces together and realized the last piece, on the upper left side of the puzzle, didn’t fit! After 10 minutes of puzzle inspection I found a piece of the right side that was misplaced, switched them, and voila! Done.

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I am doing the puzzle in the middle of the day because I woke up with a head cold. Reason enough to lay about in sweatshirt and sweatpants and eat some chicken soup.

Now to bed….

Hazy, Hot, Humid, and High

No I did not drop acid.

With lousy air quality in the forecast for yesterday, I jumped in my car and drove 2 1/2 hours  to the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it town of Rice, Virginia. This is one of the handful of parking places along the High Bridge Trail, a rail trail that runs about 31 miles from, well, nowhere to, well, no place. Before it gets there, it passes through the cute town of Farmville and goes over the High Bridge.

Trail users are required to pay a user fee of $4 per car. (Bring ones.) You have to pay more for parking with a trailer or if you are riding a horse. Although I did not spot a horse, I saw evidence of their presence. I suppose the higher fee covers clean up costs.

The trail has a firm crushed limestone surface that is on a par with the GAP Trail and much better than the C & O Canal towpath. It was dry and had been baking in the sun for a few days so it was almost as firm a surface as asphalt. Pretty much any commuting bike would work just fine.

The Rice trailhead is 7 miles from the eastern end of the trail. I headed east for my 14 mile warm up. The trail passes through farmland and woods. As with most rail trails, the view is obscured by trees and/or a berm running parallel. No worries. It’s still pretty.

Every few miles there are bathrooms. I didn’t use them but they looked like pit toilets. There is no water along the trail because heat stroke is the unofficial pass time of central Virginia.

After seven miles, the trail ends without much fanfare. I turned around and headed back to the car. Then kept going until reached the High Bridge 4 miles later. The bridge was an engineering masterpiece back in the mid 1800s. In addition to being long and high, it had two tiers. The top tier was for trains and there was a lower tier for people on foot or horse. The rail trail uses the top level.

Lee’s army used the bridge on its retreat from the relentless pursuit of the Army of Northern Virginia after Richmond fell. Lee’s troops tried to burn the bridge but the northerners were too fast and made it across using the lower level, eventually catching the rebels at Appomattox Court House about 35 miles to the west.

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The bridge deck is above all but a few tree tops. And it’s a long way down (125 feet) to the Appomattox River. It’s also quite long as you can see (2,400 feet).

A few miles beyond the bridge the trail passes through the town of Farmville, home of Longwood University and Greenfront Furniture.

I stopped at a gas station for some food. I actually bought real food: two apples, and a banana. Of course, I also picked up a candy bar, because I am without shame. More importantly, I bought 40 ounces of water. 20 went into my water bottles. The other 20 went into me. I had only ridden about 21 miles so far but I was zonked from the oppressive heat and humidity.

Being a bear of very little brain, I rode on. After another 15 miles the trail ends unceremoniously near the town of Pamplin. I think it is slightly uphill heading west because my riding speed was around 10 miles per hour heading west and 13-14 miles per hour on the return.

There isn’t much to see except trees, a deer or three, a groundhog, a bunny rabbit, some pretty impressive kudzu, a small logging operation, and a burnt out school bus. I suppose that’s the point. Even on a hot day, the High Bridge trail will take you away from your spreadsheets and meetings and bring your chill out.

When I arrived back at the car, I dismounted and was surprised by a gentle breeze. The car dash board told me it was 88 degrees. It was approximately as muggy as Baton Rouge in April. (Been there. Done that. Sweated through my suit.) This pretty much tells me that my 63-mile ride had left me roasted and toasted.

There was some discussion at home that the car I was driving had a faulty air conditioner. I am pleased to report that it worked just fine. In fact, I had to turn it down. I was frozen by the time I got home. When I opened the door of the car in my driveway, the disgusting swamp air of DC came crashing in. My windshield immediately fogged up. Gross.

If you decide to do this ride, I recommend keeping an eye out for peak foliage time (and cooler temperatures) in October. Instead of riding the eastern 14 miles, use that time to linger on the bridge and have lunch in Farmville.

Oh, and I forgot to mention that there is a craft brewery on the trail in Farmville. Because beer.

 

Willis Carrier is a god

It’s not the heat. It’s not the humidity. It’s BOTH.

I have been trying to adapt to the heat and humidity here in DC for the last month. I was totally spoiled by warm, dry days in the Pacific northwest for the better part of a month.

Yesterday, I decided to get my yayas out and did a ride I do every year. It’s the Whites Ferry century. I leave from my house and ride to Whites Ferry Maryland about 35 miles up the C&O Canal then take a cable ferry across the Potomac River. I pick up the W&OD trail in Lessburg Virginia and ride home. It’s flat but the 33 miles on the C&O towpath are unpaved. This means you use the same muscles for the entire ride.

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When I left it was actually comfortably warm outside. Withing two hours the heat and humidity increased. By the time I left the shade along the canal, I could tell it was getting mighty uncomfortable. I stopped in Leesburg to have lunch in an air conditioned bar, opting for Diet Coke over beer. The bartender must have refilled my glass ten times. Well, done, my good man.

I was pretty much gassed after 90 miles but made it home on fumes. 101 miles in total.

Today’s plan was to mow the lawn, then work on my bikes (including cleaning off the towpath dirt off my CrossCheck). I walked out the front door and it felt as if I were hit by a hot, wet towel. I hadn’t mowed half the lawn and my clothes were drenched with sweat. It only took a little over and hour but I looked like I had jumped in a swimming pool when I was done. I wish!

I gave up on the idea of doing work on the bikes. Suffice it to say that Willis Carrier is my favorite inventor.

In a few hours I was in a movie theater watching “Juliet, Naked”. No it’s not a porno. It’s based on the novel of the same name by one of my favorite authors, Nick Hornby. I ate all the salted pop corn and drank a “regular” soda. (Regular means a quart these days, apparently.) The movie was shown in a new theater with comfy seats. Bliss.

I lived my first 28 years in the northeast. Up there you go to the movies in the daytime when it’s too cold or nasty to do anything outside. DC stands the year on its head.

With a day off the bike today, I should have fresh legs tomorrow. I’m driving to central Virginia to do a 62 mile ride on a rail trail. The heat index (what it supposedly feels like) will be over 100 degrees.

Willis, whatchu talkin’ about.

Winter Weather or Not

Nine years ago today, a 32-year-old bike commuting friend of mine posted these words on my Facebook page:

“I just could not feel my body in the cold. So I damaged it without noticing it!”

What a difference nine years makes! Today was almost summer-like in DC. I saw a roadside sign that indicated it was 78F degrees at 3:30.

Of course, I saw this sign while out on my bike.

I didn’t get started until just before midday. I had spent the morning eating diner food and going to the library with Mrs. Rootchopper.  With my belly and brain satisfied, I was off on my Cross Check for a jaunt up the Anacostia River.

I began my ride on the Mount Vernon Trail. I crossed the Potomac River on the Woodrow Wilson Bridge Trail. Once in Maryland, I made the long slog up to Oxon Hill Road. The climb goes right past a massive MGM casino. The ginormous electronic sign indicated that Cher was performing there this month. I don’t gamble and I don’t Cher so let’s just say the whole casino thing is lost on me. I think the complex looks like the Imperial Star Destroyer from Star Wars. I prefer Mos Eisley bars to casinos.

Having reached Oxon Hill Road I made my way to Oxon Hill Farm and proceeded to ride right back down the hill to the river. Somebody’s got some explaining to do.

The Oxon Cove Trail winds its way to a enclave of public buildings including a police training facility, a city bus maintenance yard, some Smithsonian greenhouses and a vocational training complex. After perusing all these fine public sector facilities, I rode right back up the hill to Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue.

MLK Jr. Ave is not exactly where it’s at. I think maybe it’s were it might have been at about 80 years ago. It’s actually kind of depressing. My ride north took me past the grounds of St. Elizabeth’s nervous hospital. The complex is being taken over by the Department of Homeland Security which probably says something snarky about DHS.

The ride through Congress Heights and Anacostia was interesting. Drivers in this part of DC use the freestyle method of motoring. Random u-turns, lane changes, horn honking are the rule. I waved a thank you to a driver for not cutting me off and he laid on his horn. De nada, dude.

Suffice it to say, my rather precarious medical condition made me apprehensive for this part of the ride. I was happy to see the Anacostia River Trail which runs rather appropriately along the Anacostia River. And so, like a Yogi Berra malapropism, I took it. North. The scenery was still the grays and browns of winter but the temperature told me it was late spring.

I rolled along the trail past the garbage consolidation facility (helps with the sinuses don’t you know), past the Aquatic Gardens (the flower show happens much later in the year), through assorted fields, both natural and athletic, and around a cement plant to Bladensburg. As I crossed over the Anacostia, I passed about five priests (or, more likely, seminarians as they all looked pretty young). We waved at each other. I said “Mea Culpa” three times for good measure. (I was a altar boy who had to learn the Latin Mass and the English Mass, a biographical fact that dates the crap out of me. )

I am kidding about the Mea Culpas, by the way.

Once across the river I consulted the Google for advice on how to ride home without retracing my steps. I rode up the river until the trail split into the Northeast and Northwest Branch Trails. I took the latter and spotted a cupcake shop, a landmark from the Cider Ride last November. I didn’t stop. (I know, what a fool.) But I did find a trail that would take me back toward DC.

After a few miles I bailed on the trail It would have taken me to Queens Chapel Road which I am familiar with. Basically, it’s a bicycle death trap. So I started riding neighborhood streets and following the sun. I found myself back in DC riding a straight street to the west. In these parts “straight” almost always translates into “hilly”. As I slogged up one long hill, I passed an old man doddering around his front yard. He looked at me and remarked, “Better you than me.”

I love it when I’m mocked.

Soon I was in familiar territory. Monroe Street leads to 8th Street which leads to the Metropolitan Branch Trail. How nice of someone to put a trail with very few cross streets right in the middle of a city. The trail took me back southward and after a wiggle and waggle I was on a cycletrack that took me right past the incomparably boring Bureau of Labor Statistics.

I rode past a scrum of photographers at a courthouse. They were waiting to take a picture of a Trump associate who was being charged with treason or money laundering or some such offense. (I can’t keep it all straight, to be honest.)

Soon thereafter I was riding along the National Mall pretending I was in the Olympic tourist dodge event. I was pretty proud that I didn’t hit a single one.

After the podium ceremony, I rode around the tidal basin and over the 14th Street Bridge to the Mount Vernon Trail. The 12-mile ride from the bridge to my house was interrupted by a stop at the gym, because nothing improves a 48 1/2 mile bike ride quite like lifting weights.

Fug.

I arrived home exhausted but still had some physical therapy exercises to do. I am doing these because my left shoulder is on the blink.

Despite trying really hard, I did not damage my body. I guess you need cold weather to do that.

 

 

A Winter Retirement Day by the Book

My schedule for a winter retirement day is pretty simple. In no particular order: eat breakfast, read the paper, ride my bike (or go for a hike), do either physical therapy (a.k.a. yoga) or go to the gym to lift weights, read a book or magazine, meditate, and do one adult thing.

So today I began with a half mile walk to the hospital where I had a CT scan on my lungs and an echocardiogram. I’ll count these as one adult thing. After an administrative snafu I got signed in and escorted to the CT scan room. There I was passed under the machine once. Then I was injected with a dye and passed through again as the dye sent eerie warmth through my chest and head. (I really should do this stoned at least once.) Done. It only took five minutes.

The CT tech took me to ultrasound where I was given my echocardiogram. I was positioned on my left side allowing me to watch the screen as the exam took place. The tech told me my blood pressure which was well within the normal range (as usual). She also told me my resting heart rate was 45. This is the first time since my DVT/pulmonary embolism crisis that it has been below 65. To me this is great news because my pulse is normally in the 40s. As I watched I could see the line for my heart going boing…thud……..boing…thud and so on. At one point there was audio. My heart sounds pretty cool. DOO…duh…..DOO…duh. I am pretty sure that my former co-worker Kelly would confirm that this is the only part of my body that has good rhythm.

The tech cheated a bit and told me that  my heart looked and functioned normally during my December echocardiogram. She was not surprised that it still did. That’s one organ less to worry about as far as I am concerned.

I walked home in a cold wind and ate breakfast and read the paper. There was ample coverage of the Super Bowl which I thought was great even though my team lost. We can now move on to the winter Olympics and make a smooth seque into Spring Training. Yes, yes, yesyesyes.

After my repast, I headed back out into the cold wind for a bike ride. I had on my normal winter bike commuting stuff: skating cap, heavy-weight neck gaiter, base layer, holey sweater, rain pants, and neoprene overboots. I was comfortable within a mile.

I headed south past Mount Vernon and Fort Belvoir. I used the bike lane on US 1, a busy four-lane highway. I wanted to see how my mirror would work. It did fine. There were literally no surprises in that I saw every car, truck, and bus well before it was close to me. I turned north on Telegraph Road, the kind of totally inane roadway that Fairfax County is known for. Lanes come and go seemingly without rhyme or reason. Bike lanes also come and go. I came flying down a hill at 35 miles per hour in a bike lane. It was a good thing I came to a red light because 100 yards beyond the light, the bike lane disappeared.

I rode all the way to the Beltway, took a right to go east on Huntington Avenue, and headed south on Fort Hunt Road where I stopped after 25 miles to go to the gym. For some reason my left arm is unhappy. It shoots sharp pains whenever I lift a weight above my head or push one away from me. Even though I use very light weight on two machines that move in this manner, my arm still hurts. I’ll bring this up with my doctor during my physical later this week.

Finally, I rode 4 miles home into the cold wind. It was nearing 4 p.m. but the sun was still well above the horizon. We are now getting about the same amount of daylight as in early November. Works for me.

When I arrived home, I had a snack and a shower. Then I sat down to meditate. And the phone rang again and again. It was Verizon calling with an offer for its mindfulness long distance plan. (I made that up.)

All that’s left is some filing of medical stuff including beaucoup CDs and DVDs of my scans. Then I can read and eat dinner and call it a successful retirement day.

And one more thing. My wife told me about this really cool National Geographic travel package. It takes you all around the world to Machu Pichu and the Holy Land and Burma and Paris and everywhere in between. On a private jet. Just $99,000 per person.

Spit take.

 

A Bike Ride in America 2018

The weatherman called for temperatures in the high 50Fs so there was just one thing to do: go for a ride. I had originally planned on spending the day at the Women’s March in DC. Last year Mrs. Rootchopper and I went to the Women’s March. We stood unable to move for hours in a throng of at least a half million people. I hadn’t heard much about this year’s march. I had committed to a volunteer event that was cancelled by the government shutdown. Mrs. Rootchopper was committed to doing a volunteer event that wasn’t cancelled, so I decided that, rather than commit my whole day to the march, I’d ride up to the Lincoln Memorial and check things out instead.

The ride featured a helpful tailwind. I slalomed through the people on the Mount Vernon Trail and stopped after 11 miles to take a picture of a jet landing at National Airport.

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I rode into the city on the Memorial Bridge. There was quite a bit of foot traffic coming away from the city. Since the government had shutdown all the Smithsonian museums and public restrooms were closed. I suspect that many of these folks were not having a very good time.

As I arrived at the east-facing side of the Lincoln Memorial I could hear speeches and cheers. Then I saw it. Tens of thousands of people lining the reflecting pool. The crowd was significantly smaller than last year but much, much larger than I was expecting.

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If you look really closely you can see my friends Joe and Veronica and Justin. Okay, maybe not. They were there though. I am sure there were other people I knew too.

As I passed in front of the memorial (to the left in the photo) I saw counter protesters with anti-abortion signs. It seemed that every one of them had a smiling Women’s March participant standing right in front of them holding a sign or wearing a t-shirt with a pro-choice message. Many of these counter-counter protesters were carrying Planned Parenthood signs. Somehow despite their differences of opinion, they seemed to be showing mutual respect. Whadda ya know about that!

I made my way down Constitution Avenue, amazed at the throngs coming and going from the Mall. I took the road around the Ellipse, a park situated between the White House and the Washington Monument, so I could get to the pedestrian plaza on the opposite side of the White House. I decided to stop and take a picture of the White House on the near side. I had taken the Ellipse road counterclockwise. It is a one-way street going clockwise so I was expecting to pull off if I encountered any cars.

The White House grounds is bound by a tall black metal fence. The security perimeter is further extended near the Ellipse by a jersey barrier that cuts off half the roadway I was on. I was inching my way along the remaining traffic lane. I could have gone onto the sidewalk but it was packed with tourists taking photos of the White House. I stopped in the road and reached into my handlebar bag. I pulled out my phone when I heard a man say “MOVE ALONG.” There was no “sir” at the end of the command. This was clearly meant to intimidate me. I turned and saw a Secret Service man (If it’s secret why did he have the words SECRET SERVICE in big white letters on his shirt? Maybe he should get one that says OBVIOUS SERVICE. Just a thought.) He was perhaps in his late twenties. He had on body armor of some sort and was holding an automatic (or semiautomatic) weapon in his left hand. It was pointed at the ground.

My brain went to work. Do I look like an evil doer? A desperado? Do assassins kill with cell phones while holding a bicycle between their legs? Why the hell does he have a weapon that could wipe out me and everyone within 20 feet of me? Why does he have it out?

Then my mouth went to work. I put my phone away and looked Mr. Secret Service in the eye and said “This is America.” I left off “You fucking Nazi.” Call me Mr. Restraint.

I went on the sidewalk and took my picture. In retrospect I wish I had taken a picture of him. I have a bad feeling that I’ll be reading about him in the paper someday when he uses that weapon against a harmless tourist from Des Moines.

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After this pleasant encounter I made my way up the 15th Street cycletrack to the other side of the White House. Pennsylvania Avenue is closed to motor vehicles. Today it was occupied by a hundred or so people expressing their support for the Dreamers. There were plenty of police around. None of them seemed to think they needed to bark at people or hold an uzi in plain sight. This made me feel a little better.

I made my way back down the cycletrack to the Pennsylvania Avenue cycletrack At 4th Street I took a right to head toward the waterfront and the bustling new development called The Wharf. At a stop light I heard a voice coming from my left. A bike had just pulled up along side me. I turned and saw Rachel M. I know you! She hadn’t recognized me. She was just making idle chatter. So we rode side by side to M Street. She turned left to explore the Anacostia River Trail. I turned right for the Wharf.

When I got there, I stopped to check my phone. When I got off my bike my middle and upper back went into spasm. Since an apparent back spasm a month ago had been the rather unpleasant first symptom of pulmonary embolisms, I decided that it would be wise to head for home. Slowly.

After a couple of miles, my back loosened up. I rode down the trail, weaving in and out of the humanity. Feeling better I diverted away from the river to ride through the Del Ray neighborhood. Everyone was smiling. People were drinking coffee outside. It felt like April (except there was no baseball).

I arrived home without any lingering pain. It’s pretty pathetic when you consider it a good day when your body doesn’t reject you.

But it was a good day. I even managed to get a little tan on my face. In January.

Play ball. This is America after all.