Okay, technically, I don’t work. But I hear most people do. How convenient because National Bike to Work Day happens every year on the third Friday in May. This year that will be May 15. And registration is now open here in the DC area.
It’s the perfect opportunity to try bike commuting. You can ride alone, with a friend, or in a caravan (or should that be a bikavan?). Along the way you can hit your designated pitstop. That’s where you’ll find your free t-shirt and other free stuff.
Did I mention that Bike to Work Day is free?
And if you’re really rambunctious you can stop at other pitstops and pick up more free stuff. (Pro tip: bring a spare pannier for all your free goodies.)
Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose, right?
You might be late for work. What do you mean your boss doesn’t like it when she’s late to work. Put a Bike to Work Day sign on her door. Then sign her up. Better yet tell your HR manager. Put a sign on his door. Sign him up too.
If you don’t work, invent a job. I am the Chief Executive Officer and President of the Rootchopper Institute. (We’re still working on that all important mission statement.)
After work there are happy hours which is a good thing because you will be happy. Trust me. These aren’t free. You won’t care.
So click the link below and sign up. Act now. Don’t delay. Limited time offer. Restrictions apply. Blah blah blah.
I can’t sleep. All I can think about is the cascade of things that are going wrong with my bike tour and I haven’t even left home yet. From past experience I know that I have to go all mindful and concentrate on the here and now. This will be easier once I am rolling.
The route I am taking keeps changing and troubles keep arising. First I was worried about road construction on the route west from Missoula Montana. Next I discovered that the passes to the central Cascades in Oregon are compromised from last years wildfires. (Can’t wait for this years. Derp.) Then I found out that the route down the Columbia River gorge to Portland Oregon is partially closed because of more forest fires. This would force me to ride along the Washington State side of the river, missing Multnomah Falls in the process. For the last few days torrential rains have been wiping out the 185-mile C & O Canal towpath from near DC to near Williamsport, at Mile 100. Needless to day, the free camping sites are probably a mess too. This morning I learned that a mountain lion killed a mountain biker about 30 miles east of Seattle.
That’s right fires, floods, and lions. Whose idea was this anyway?
The Packing List
So I have busied myself making a packing list. Here’s what I am bringing.
Lightweight sleeping bag
Silk sleeping bag liner
Bear bag (for keeping carnivores away from my food)
Carbiner and nylon rope (to hang the bag)
Sleep mask (for hostels)
Maintenance inhalers (4) (Asthma)
Rescue inhalers (1) (Asthma)
Eye drops (glaucoma)
Aspirin (blood clots)
Back up prescription glasses
Book (maybe 2. Probably ancient Tom Wolfe paperbacks)
Passport (for going into Canada or boarding a flight if I lose my other ID)
Bike shorts (3)
Technical bike shirts (3)
Off -bike shorts
Technical underwear for either on or off bike
1 old t-shirt to use as a rag after it gets worn
iPhone cable and charger
Small back up battery
Head light charger
Taillight belt charger
Camera charging cable
The Mule (1991 Specialized Sequoia touring bike)
Water bottles (2)
Extra water bottle in pannier
Four Ortlieb roll top panniers (2 small for the front, 2 large for the rear)
Ortlieb medium handlebar bad with map case
Folding spare tire
Topeak RoadMorph Pump
Adventure Cycling Association Maps (14)
Rudi’s route to Little Orleans(A cue sheet to circumvent most of the C&O Canal. A very hilly route that I hope not to use.)
The new stuff for this tour is underlined. As you can see I have already crossed out a few items. I wouldn’t know what to do with a cable if I had to do a roadside repair so there’s no point in bringing them. And other than the fact that I can take pictures while riding, the camera is kind of useless. I can use my iPhone for photos, and it will force me to stop to take the pictures which is not a bad thing.
Whether I like it or not, the route is changing as I type. My current thinking is that instead of riding the canal directly west from DC, I use roads to get me about 100 to 110 miles upriver. So on day one will be spent riding on the roads to Fredrick Maryland. I’ll stay in a hotel. This replaces my first C&O Canal day. Day two will involve riding roads west from Fredrick picking up the Canal and the Western Maryland Rail Trail either at Williamsport or beyond and overnighting in Hancock Maryland at mile 125. (The bike shop has a bunkhouse with showers and WiFi and such.) Day three will be 60 miles of mud to Cumberland assuming the the trail is open. If not, the pooch is screwed. But I’ll mix my metaphors and blow up that bridge when I get to it.
My anxiety woke me up at 5 a.m. I have to ride 45 miles round trip to Vienna Virginia to return Bike to Work Day materials. I had volunteered to staff a pit stop 1 1/2 miles from my house. What I didn’t know was that I was responsible for picking up and dropping off Bike to Work Day materials for the Fairfax Advocates for Better Bicycling (FABB), our suburban advocacy group, 23 miles away. This easy volunteering effort ballooned from a 3 hour commitment to about 12 hours. Suffice it to say, I’ll choose my volunteering events more carefully next time. On the plus side, I get to do a shake down ride on The Mule.
When I get home, I’ll watch the Nats game, do some laundry, and go a concert in DC. Hopefully, I can sleep in tomorrow.
I woke up early. I was having leg cramps. Not good. The dinner concert we went to last night did not serve free water, so we drank beer. Dumb on all counts.
After walking around a bit and drinking a pint of watered down orange juice, my cramps subsided and I was off about 1/2 hour ahead of schedule on my last Bike to Work Day. (Please note the capitalization. I am still biking to work for another three months. Y’all can’t get rid of me that easily.)
My ride to work is about 15 miles. I decided to take the long way and stopped 1 1/2 miles from home at my first pit stop of the day. This one was located near the Mount Vernon Trail and was staffed by a couple of guys from my local bike shop, Spokes Etc.‘s Belle View location. At the pit stop, I ran into Nancy Duley who lives near me. We had a good chat. Having already eaten breakfast, I turned down the free muffins and bananas and other goodies and headed toward Alexandria. Along the way I stopped to take in the sun rising over the river. (Wanna know why I bike to work. The picture tells it all.)
In Old Town I stopped at my designated pit stop. (I had switched at the last minute to avoid the long lines in Rosslyn. ) Good move. The lines were short. I picked up a t-shirt and a water bottle. Then I popped two donut holes in my mouth. They were from the aptly named Sugar Shack. Big Ed was also there and the two of us rode with massive sucrose buzzes to Crystal City.
Once I dismounted I came to realize the the relative humidity was somewhere north of New Orleans in August. Dang.
The Crystal City pit stop was very well attended. I saw several people I knew including Kathy and Sam (that’s her on the left below). Once again I passed up the free food and coffee. Hot coffee was not looking really appealing as the sweat poured off me.
I left Ed to his socializing and headed to Rosslyn. Rather than cut back over to the Mount Vernon Trail, which I assumed would be chock-a-block full of bike commuters, I rode the streets through Crystal City, past Long Bridge Park, and around the Pentagon. I picked up Route 110 with its highway traffic and rode its broad paved shoulder until I exited at Arlington Cemetery.
There was nobody on the path around Arlington Cemetery which made for swift passage to Rosslyn. The streets of Rosslyn were packed with cars but I managed to weave through them. I decide to check out the Rosslyn pit stop conveniently located in the Intersection of Doom which was made more better by construction on the nearby bike trail.
The Rosslyn pit stop was packed. There must have been over 100 bikes parked and many, many more in the hands of their owners meandering about. I was glad I switched stops, even though Rosslyn had the best swag of all four that I visited.
I ran into Lawyer Mike, who, like Big Ed, I know from Friday Coffee Club. But for passes on the trail during commutes, I hadn’t seen him in ages. So it was good to catch up.
I took off for work. When I got to the office I gathered up my co-workers who had ridden to work. There were five of us, but only four because one of my co-workers who is new to this bike to work thing, missed her pit stop. That’s them in the picture at the top of the blog.
The picture does not include our boss who rode his kids to school (as he does every day) and a former co-worker who works on another floor. So my office did itself proud today.
The interview I did yesterday ran on WAMU (a local NPR station) today. I was included in the text but did not make the audio version. There’s good reason. Ian, yet another Friday Coffee Clubber, was the lead subject. He commutes almost twice as far as I do. I can’t even….
After work I rode to Adams Morgan in DC for a Bike to Work Day party hosted by WABA. They mentioned something about free beer and pizza and I was a goner. I arrived under threatening skies. As I went to lock my bike, rain fell. Cold rain. It cut through the humidity splendidly.
I met a half dozen people at the party. My fusiform gyrus was given a major work out. I still remember Rachel, Lisa, Grace, Eric, and, I think,…, well, I forgot the other guy. And I know I’ve met him before. Ack.
The highlight of the event was the ovation we gave Nelle Pierson, who had just finished her last day on the job with the Washington Area Bicyclists Association. Suffice it to say, there was an awful lot of love and admiration in the room.
I finished the evening with a ride home under threatening skies. Jeanne who was at the Crystal City pit stop and I rode back to Virginia together. Once on the south side of the Potomac, we found ourselves riding through clouds of flying bugs. Jeanne veered off north of Old Town. As I made my way through Belle Haven Park the clouds of bugs intensified. It was totally gross for about 1/2 mile. Then the swarms cleared and all that was left was the circle of light ahead of my bike. Four miles of riding in the night with a few flashes of heat lightning for good effect.
Bike to work day. 14 hours from start to finish. My last one. Well played BikeDC. Well played.
Many, many thanks to all the volunteers and staff who worked on this event. Also, thanks to the sponsors for donating all the goodies.
Tomorrow is Bike to Work Day. It’s always interesting to ride to work with convoys and stop for freebies at a pit stop. I need to add to my t-shirt collection too. I’ve been posting pix of my BTWD shirts all week. I have many more: two kelly greens, one each dirty green, red and blue. I think my red one is in Thailand. Don’t ask.
Anyway, I am planning on riding to the Old Town Pit Stop for a t-shirt and other goodies. Then on to work. I will probably bypass the Rosslyn stop altogether even though it’s two blocks from work. I may even take an alternate route to work to avoid the work zone congestion at the pit stop which is located ironically at the Intersection of Doom.
After work I will probably ride into the city to celebrate with WABA. Tomorrow is Nelle Pierson’s last day as WABA’s Deputy Director. This is huge because she is awesome.
This morning I gave a brief BTWD interview to a Mikaela Lefrak from WAMU, a local NPR station. I don’t know if she will use any of it but it was fun to do.
It’s about 90F degrees outside, the perfect July evening for a May ride home. Time to roll.
On the way to work I spotted my first bike commute ducklings of the year. There must have been 12 of them. I stopped my bike and frantically opened my handlebar bag. Where’s my damned phone? Ayy! Then I realized it was in the back pocket of my vest. I put it there so it would be easily accessible in case I saw something good to take a picture of on the way to work. My middle name is mindfulness.So I pulled out the phone and turned to see the ducklings following momma into the tall grass.
Maybe I should bring a proper camera. Earlier in the ride I saw an osprey flying overhead. It was banking toward the Belle Haven nest with a branch in its mouth. Looks like the abandoned bald eagle nest is a fish hawk fixer upper.
The ride home was work. I had a head wind. What I didn’t realize was that the temperature in the direct sun was near 100 degrees. That’s not the official temperature, but the thermometer on my deck read 100.9F. I decided not to mow the lawn tonight.
Bike to Work Day approaches. We have at least five people in my office participating. I don’t think my boss signed up but he’ll ride his cargo bike to work as well.
Hopefully, this will be my final Bike to Work Day. My original plan was to retire today and ride to the west coast after picking up my Bike to Work Day t-shirt. But I decided to work through the summer for financial reasons. (I am greedy.)
I think all my office mates will be going to the Rosslyn pit stop location. I’ll be going to the Old Town Alexandria location. Both are on my line of travel. After work I hope to ride to a happy hour. There are several of them. The one being run by WABA is free. I like free. I might even ride through a thunderstorm to get free.
It’s Bike to Work Week which culminates with Bike to Work Day on Friday. Bike to Work Day is to year-round bike commuters as New Years Eve was to W. C. Fields. If people like me are going to get through the week, we have to chill. We have to have extra patience. We have to be extra aware of every minute of our ride to and from work.
This morning’s ride to work was surprisingly normal. There were plenty of new bike commuters but they all rode predictably and sanely. Despite a cool headwind it was an enjoyable ride.
The ride home was a different matter. It was like being in a video game. I had a strong tailwind and the temperature was in the low 70Fs. Speeds were a bit higher. People were looking around. Leafed out trees and bushes were obstructing sight lines.
On the ride down to the bike trail, I made my way around two young women with two dogs taking up the entire trail. Ding! They moved. I hit the chicane and there were three people arrayed across the width of the path. The one on my side of the path jumped to the side and said “Sorry!”
A line of bikes approached me on the super nice new trail at the TR Island parking lot. One of them decided to pass the others and came right at me. Good thing the new path is wider. I made some snide remark at the pathlete and rode on.
The next few miles were cool. As I rode I directed traffic like a quarterback point out the coverage in the defensive backfield. You go. Keep coming I’ll wait. Pointing my passes out. Hike!
Approaching the beaver bridge north of Slaters Lane, two short old-ish women dressed for February were having a conversation. One on the left side of the path, the other on the right. They created a pinch point. DING! I slowed and threaded the needle without incident.
I came around the blind curve at the Slaters Lane apartments and there were people on either side of the trail. One stepped back realizing they were positioned dangerously. She said “Sorry!”
After the power plant comes a right followed by a left that takes the trail along the railroad tracks. A grandpa, a grandma, and a toddler were standing along the trail. Grandpa crossed the trail. I rang my bell. Toddler followed Grandpa. Grandma followed Toddler across the trail without holding Toddler’s hand. Grandma didn’t react to my bell at all so I slowed to a near stop. She never looked at any of the other people approaching her on the trail either. Grandma needs to see an audiologist.
I made it through Old Town without incident allowing a bus to run interference for me through the pedestrian throngs.
Under the Wilson Bridge I was cruising along when a girl on a skateboard came sailing toward me from an access path to my right. I yelled “Hey” and she stopped with a smile on her face as if to say “My bad.”
On the climb to Washington Street, I caught up to Big Ed, who was fighting gravity and losing. Ed and I rode together for the next several miles. We crossed the Cameron Run bridge. A Hispanic mom, dad, and daughter were fishing from the bridge. As I approached, mom and daughter back pedaled in front of me. I said “Hello” and veered around them. They didn’t react. Next time I’ll try “Hola.”
The rest of the ride was a slalom run around pedestrians. Lots of pedestrians.
We didn’t hit a single one. We are professionals.
I didn’t drop a single f-bomb. Ed cursed a blue streak. (Okay, I’m kidding. About Ed.)
My hope is that heat and humidity will keep the number of evening strollers down as the week progresses and the number of bike commuters increases.
After two months of dithering, I have finally started to sketch out my battle plan for 2017. I have only a couple of solid commitments to deal with and the rest is flexible.
Volunteering – because every time I see Michelle (WABA’s event manager) I feel guilty.
Vasa Ride – I’ve done this ride several times during the event and on my own or with others during the summer and fall. It’s well worth doing and you should give it a go. I mean when was the last time you had warm blueberry soup?
Tour de Fat – I am a trained beer puller. I have two hours of Tour de Fat beer pulling expertise. It would be a shame to let my skills evaporate like beer suds.
Holy cow, my daughter’s graduating from Butler University. Woot! (This one is not at all flexible.)
Family reunion – this is in the middle of July.
This is a much shorter list than usual but has two new (to me) rides.
Car-Free Skyline Drive – I just heard about this today. It’s a brutally hilly road but, well, no cars! Also, I totally suck at hill climbing.
Bike to Work Day – probably my last one. Not because I don’t like the ride but because I am retiring in August.
Tour dem Parks – A ride around Charm City (Baltimore) that has very good word-of-mouth reviews. Also I might get to meet Eleanor (who was a bun in the oven the last time I was in Baltimore) because I hear she is swell.
So far, I have committed to an exhibition game against the Red Sox on March 31 and an Orioles v Red Sox game in April in Baltimore. I blocked out on my calendar all the weekends that the Nationals are at home. If you want to go to a game with me, I am tolerable company. I can provide references. Also, I will shamelessly accept any tickets you get comped or otherwise stuck with. Also, there are two road series against Philadelphia. I might drive up for a day game just for the hell of it. Wanna ride shotgun?
When the Nats are not playing I have free weekends. So these are all potential hiking days. My white board list of hikes is pretty similar to last year because I failed miserably at hiking last year. Doh.
Potomac Heritage from Turkey Run to Chain Bridge and back
Thompson Hollow Loop
Buck Hollow/Mary’s Rock
Double Bear Rocks
Stairway to Heaven
Broad Hollow/Pine Hill Gap
Loudon Heights/Split Rock
Jones Run/Doyle River
Mostly these are in the mountains to the west. If you live in the DC area and don’t mind getting up at the crack of dawn, feel free to come with. As with biking, I may be old but I am slow.
I could also use these non-Nats weekends for bike trips. Maybe an out and back between Williamsburg and Richmond on the new-ish rail trail.
Foreign (?) Travel
My daughter is thinking about going overseas for grad school so this would be an excellent excuse for a trip. If she goes to school in the US, this will require a college move-in road trip. Also, my son may still be in Thailand next winter. I wouldn’t mind seeing the place when it’s not pouring rain.
Since I am retiring in August, I am saving up my annual leave for a big check. Once I get the 50 States out of the way, I think I might ride somewhere warm. Key West sounds like a good destination. The rough plan is to take the Adventure Cycling Atlantic Coast Route about 1,500 miles to Key West, take a ferry to Tampa, ride across Florida to Miami and take Amtrak home. I figure this will take about a month to do. This would be the warm up for the big one in 2018 which will probably involve riding to the Pacific Northwest.
Also between my birthday and the 50 States Ride I may have time for a short tour. I have no idea what that might entail. Maybe a road trip to rail trails in Virginia. Or the Grand Canyon of the East.
As is so often the case, my top ten list goes to 11. Hey, it’s my blog and I make the rules.
Yooper for a Week
After 11 years I finally did another solo bike tour. I drove 13+ hours to Ludington Michigan. After a ferry ride across Lake Michigan, I rode The Mule fully loaded with gear into the north woods of Wisconsin. On July 4, I had breakfast in Freedom. After a few days I turned east and crossed the UP, the upper peninsula of Michigan. After the UP, I visited car-free Mackinac Island on a quiet Sunday morning. Other than a two-hour scary thunderstorm and three hilly days of headwinds near the end of the tour, the weather could not have been better. And I managed three ferry rides without getting sick. I rode 832 miles in 11 days. It was a wonderful combination of hard work and rolling meditation. I proved to myself that even at 60 years old I still got it. Okay, maybe not all of it but enough of it to get the job done. I can’t wait to do another.
An Eventful Spring
Prior to my tour I warmed up my legs by riding some bike events. I kicked the year off with the Vasa Ride, co-sponsored by the Washington Area Bicyclists Association and the Swedish embassy. It was a bit of a disappointment because this is normally a social ride but I rode it alone and didn’t do much socializing at the embassy reception afterwards. Next came the Five Boro ride in New York City. The Five Boro Ride has always been on my to do list but conflicted with work, parenting responsibilities, and personal lethargy. I convinced Paul to join me (with Amy along for moral support). Paul and I rode the 40+ mile ride in a cold rain at the start of May. It wasn’t all that much fun, but touring Manhattan the day before in splendid weather with the wonderful guidance of my BU friend Susan made up for riding the Brooklyn Queens Expressway in a driving rain.
At the end of May, I rode the new DC Bike Ride. Not to be outdone by NYC, we had cold rain for that one too.
In May, I woke up in the middle of the night with severe chest pains. After a few hours of increasing pain, Mrs. RC called for an ambulance. The ride to the hospital ½ mile away took 20 minutes but I was well taken care of. What I feared was a heart attack turned out to be a respiratory infection. Fortunately, a nebulizer treatment in the ER and antibiotics fixed me up over the next week. An earworm of the Neil Finn song Anytime played for days. “I could go at anytime. There’s nothing safe about this life.” Words to live by.
At the end of the week, I dragged myself out of bed and rode my bike on Bike to Work Day. I was still under the weather but I now know I can ride to work with one lung tied behind my back.
Pulling Beers Like a Boss
I have been lax in volunteering at local bike events, basically forever. This year, with my respiratory problems more or less behind me, I volunteered at the Tour de Fat in DC. This is a fundraiser for bike advocacy groups (WABA being one of many) and I was determined to help out. It rained. It was cold-ish. I pulled beers nonstop for two hours. Instead of hanging around for the rest of the day, I went home and went to bed. (Every party has a pooper that’s why we invited you.) Next year I hope to be around to volunteer again. And to socialize afterward.
Call Me Lars
Our daughter finished up her year abroad with a semester in Sweden. A few days after Tour de Fat, Mrs. Rootchopper and I flew over and toured parts of Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and Iceland. It was an exhausting two weeks and fun to re-visit Copenhagen after over 15 years. Although I was in bicycle heaven for most of the trip, I didn’t ride at all. If you ask me what my favorite place was my answer would be “Yes.”
Ain’t Baseball Great
I went to 19 Nats games this year. The last time I went to this many games was when I lived in Boston. I rode my bike to about 15 games. How convenient of them to locate the ballpark 16 miles from home. As a bonus, it was great seeing so many friends at the bike valet before and after the games. The rest of the games involved driving the kids, including my niece Irene for one game. One exhausting game lasted 16 innings and the good guys won on a walk-off home run. I even managed to see two playoff games. Despite (or perhaps because of) the fact that the Nats lost their last game of the season, I can’t wait until April!
Fall Bike Frenzy
In the fall I did the Indian Head, Backroads, and Seagull Centuries (100 miles each), the 44-mile Great Pumpkin Ride (with Paul, Amy, and Jody), the 53-mile Cider Ride and, for the eighth time, the 62-mile 50 States Ride. I was already on fumes near the end of this madness, when an old friend asked me to ride with her to Harpers Ferry and back over two days. Given the fact that I had a colonoscopy (with the associated fasting and anesthesia) two days before we would have left, I declined. One ambulance ride a year is plenty.
Deets Provides a Surly Surge
A year ago I bought a new bike, a Surly Cross Check. Mostly, it hung on a hook in my shed, used only for the occasional weekend ride. This summer I started commuting on it. What a great commuter bike it is. I also did all my fall events on it. I named it Deets after the scout in the miniseries Lonesome Dove. Deets was said to be “cheerful in all weathers, never shirked a task, splendid behavior.” My Deets served me well until his back tire exploded on the way to work. Aye god, Woodrow.
Unlike last year, I didn’t get much hiking done this year. I did the Billy Goat B and C trails on New Years Day which is becoming something of a tradition. Realizing that I-66 cuts right across the Appalachian Trail, I hiked it north (Manassas Gap) and south (Trumbo Hollow) of the highway. I also headed out to Shenandoah National Park to hike the Hogback Mountain trail. In late November I hiked the Potomac Highlands Trail from Turkey Run Park to the American Legion Bridge and back. A surprisingly nice hike so close to DC. Just before the year ended I did a meandering hike in Great Falls Park in Maryland.
We had our wood floors redone in the spring. We hired a couple of amazing movers to relocate all our belongings from the top two floors down to the family room and basement where we lived among the piles of stuff for two weeks. It was quite a project. The floors turned out great. I came to realize that most of the crap that I have accumulated over the course of 25+ years in a house, I can live without.
Coincident with my 61st birthday, my four bikes gave me a big present. I’ve been keeping track of the mileage on my bikes for 25 years and with an empty nest surge in recent years I finally made it to 100,000 miles. I also set my one-year personal mileage record of 8,167 miles.
That’s it for 2016. No mas. Thanks for reading. I am taking 2017 one day at a time. Love this life. It’s the only one you get.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
The weather report was perfect. I had to work. Despite the fact that I didn’t get home from a business trip on Thursday until 10 p.m., I decided to ride to work for the 61st time this year on Friday. 14,600+ people decided to give it a go as well. Friday was Bike to Work Day here in DC.
Little Nellie was in the shop. Big Nellie would be hard to park if my colleagues participated in the festivities of the day. The Mule got the call.
As soon as I pulled it down from its hook, I could tell the headset was loose. I only had one headset wrench so I snugged it up and hoped for the best. The steering felt off but it worked. Onward! (Nothing says Bike to Work Day like a good crash, I always say.) Instead of taking the 3-mile bee line, a diagonal route to the Mount Vernon Trail, I took the 4-mile route, straight to the MVT and then a 90 degree turn toward DC. Shortly after making the turn I spotted a group of people under a canopy. It was the good folks from Spokes Etc., my local bike store, staffing a pit stop. I had registered for the Rosslyn pit stop was near my office, but I pulled in to say hello and asked them to check my headset.
After thanking them, I was off headed northwest on the MVT. No bald eagles could be seen,but the warm weather and the green canopy made for a perfect ride. In Old Town, I took South Royal Street, which I don’t normally do, so that I could swing by the Old Town pit stop at Royal and East King Streets in front of City Hall. It was hopping at a little after 7. Rather than get caught up in the festivities, I took a couple of pix and headed out again. I only had so much room in my panniers for free handouts after all.
From Alexandria to DC, I found myself in one cluster of riders after another. Mostly they were newbies. I could tell this because regular riders are usually faster than me and I was doing a lot of passing. Everyone was having a good time and riding with care except for two impatient riders on racing bikes who sped past me without warning. One did this as I was passing a rider nearly forcing me to crash. I yelled out at him, “You know better!” I wanted to say more, using words and phrases that began with “F” but I didn’t. (Next Monday, I’m letting the F dogs run!)
Along the way I saw the French Braid Girl and the Hardware Store Guy. It’s nice to see that my regulars were not deterred by the crowds. I expected to find a back up at the one lane underpass at the Memorial Bridge, but it was a only ten-second wait to get through.
Unlike last year, the Rosslyn pit stop had few people that I knew. Many of my #bikedc associates were at Freedom Plaza in DC or Friday Coffee Club. I did run into Mark (@dismalscientist) and Shawn (@Shawnofthedread). Also, Bob (Don’t Call Me Rachel) Cannon (@rcannon100) was there volunteering at the swag table. Good to see them all.
Instead of heading for home after work, I headed up a long hill on Wisconsin Avenue to Cathedral Heights where my daughter goes to high school. Her final choral concert started at 7. With time to kill and a belly to fill, I ate some pizza and beer at 2 Amys. I would have gone elsewhere, but I didn’t want to end up riding back up the hill and getting all sweaty. Mrs. Rootchopper (not to mention the rest of the audience) might not approve.
After supper, I glided all the way to the school. Weee. I locked up my bike, changed into my new dark blue Bike to Work Day 2013 t-shirt and went in to enjoy the show. The show was terrific as usual. I nearly caused my daughter to laugh mid-song as she caught me laughing. at something. (I looked away for the rest of the number until she got her composure back.) Following school tradition, the various choral groups all took the stage together with non-chorus seniors and alumni. They sang Bruce Springsteen’s My City of Ruins. Near the end my daughter started to cry. This being the senior’s last concert, of course, all the other senior girls near her started in with the tears too. Awww.
After the show, I dropped a pannier in the trunk of Mrs. Rootchopper’s car and headed for home. I rolled down 29th and Calvert Streets, about a mile with only a couple of pedal rotations. Weee.
I continued my downhill folly into Rock Creek Park on the park’s trail A runner coming up the hill from the park was running on my side of the trail causing me to brake until he stepped aside. Dude, it’s not London, don’t go messing with my roll.
Into the park in the dark I sped. I had no trouble with hunger, because every five seconds I rode into a swarm of gnats. It was so bad I held my breath and had to pick them out of my eyes. I heard a splash to my right. A yearling deer was clumsily running through the creek. On I rode, passing a couple of oncoming bikes that were without headlights. Newbies, don’t learn the hard way, spring for a light. $35 bucks is cheaper than an ER bill.
I followed the river to the 14th Street bridge dancing with the tour buses and blasting through more gnat clouds. Once over the river, the gnats thinned out a pit. I plucked them out of my eye lids, eye brows, teeth, and nose. Ick.
Heading for home on the MVT, there were ninjas all over the place, some near the airport were toddlers. Sadly, if brains are acquired genetically, they will not be Mensa members, because their parents are idiots. I was glad I didn’t ride my recumbent because on The Mule my head is facing down, allowing me to use the visor on my helmet to shield my eyes from the car headlights when the MVT runs next to the GW Parkway.
I was riding into a headwind both ways today but didn’t much notice or care. Some of this was from adrenaline from seeing so many, many people riding today. When I could see I was clipping along at 15 miles per hour, not bad for an old fart on a Mule.
South of Old Town the trail gets mighty dark. Four men walked across the trail in front of me in Belle Haven Park. They were wearing white shirts that lit up when my headlight landed on them. A hundred yards later, I rode around a bend in the trail and saw two bright lights ahead. The lights were some sort of critter who quickly darted into the underbrush along the side of the trail. I hoped it wasn’t a skunk. Thankfully, it wasn’t.
Once past the critter, I went on autopilot. It was such a beautiful night for a ride. I really should ride at night more often.
I pulled in to home at 10, bug-covered, but happy. Another loverly ride to work. I really should do this more often, don’t you think. How about Monday? Don’t mind if I do.
My heartfelt thanks to the people who got up way before dawn to set up the pit stops and support all the riders.
To see the pix I took, take a look over on my Flickr page.