I met Martin Arnold in the Honey Pot in Gackle, North Dakota. Actually, I woke him up after midnight. Martin had begun his bike tour two months before mine in Brunnen, Switzerland.
For the next month we met time and again as we both made our way to Anacortes, Washington. Martin had a video camera and has made this edited account of his ride. The section of his ride in Europe is new to me. Although we didn’t see each other, our routes actually overlapped somewhat from DC to Indiana and again from Minneapolis to Gackle.
I got a good laugh out of the pictures from the Northern Cascades in Washington state. He’s going fast one second then crawling the next. Just as I remember it. Except that the crawling lasted all morning and the speedy descents lasted a few blissful hours in the afternoon.
At the end of the video is his blog address. The blog is in German but contains many more pictures including one of the two of us when we briefly rode together near Colville National Forest.
Yesterday’ weather was fantastic. Good weather for goofing off is also good weather for getting stuff done around the house. Sorry to disappoint you, my friends, but I chose responsibility over slacking.
I mowed the lawn and painted the shed. Most of the painting had already been done by Mrs. Rootchopper during the week but I took on the tedious chore of painting the trim. Four plus hours of pure fun. Not. When I was done I reloaded the shed with all the stuff. It’s good to be back to normal, but my efforts were rewarded with lower back pains.
So I started the today with my usual noga (My wife says it’s yoga, I say it’s back exercises so let’s just call it noga, okay?). After that I languished on my deck reading the Sunday paper. Had I stuck around it would have been tea and buttered scones but I decided to go on a recon ride to DC. I am riding my ninth 50 States Ride in a month and need to find a parking spot near the start. (It’s not too late to sign up. You have to be a WABA member, or come as the guest of one. )
So off I rode to DC on the Mount Vernon Trail. It was busy, mostly with tourists on rental bikes. You can tell because they gape at all the stuff I see every day. On the Dyke Marsh bridge I caught up to a bike tourist. We had a ten second chat from which I learned that he is riding around the perimeter of the 48 contiguous states. He started in Minnesota and is riding counterclockwise. So he’s already been from midnight to three o’clock. The ride will take him 14 months. Go dude! (I found his journal when I got home over on Crazyguyonabike.com. The journal notes say that he also took a side trip to Hawaii and dropped down into Mexico for a few days.)
After ten miles of weaving around the rent-a-bikers, I made it into DC and headed for Rock Creek Park. Along the way, I spotted a cricket match because this is DC and DC is eclectic as fuck.
The weather was nearly as good as yesterday. The park side trail is being refurbished and looks great for most of the way from Georgetown to Military Road. At one point, people were gathering along the trail to look into the creek. Five bucks were making their way across the creek. The road crossing had all us bystanders holding our breath. I think they made it across without incident. (The picture shows only the southbound half of the road just after a merge to the left out of frame. The grassy median is wooded and wide. They had to make it across another two lanes of northbound traffic after that.)
I made it to the new Klingle Valley trail which I had ridden downhill recently. Today, I slogged up the hill. I kept my breathing and effort constant and had no trouble making the climb. Of course, neither would you at 7 miles per hour.
Once i reached the top, I check out some of the local streets for parking. As long as you are willing to ride a mile (or less) to the start of the ride, you’ll have no trouble finding a place for your metal fart barge (Colin made me say that.)
After the recon was over, I rode to Meridian Hill Park for no other reason than it’s one of my favorite places in DC. The water cascade was dry earlier this summer but it is now flowing in all its glory. The park is built into a hill. Looking down from the top (near the swordless statue of Joan of Arc) the cascade is pretty. Looking up from the base of the park, it is just WOW! And it sounds so soothing you could sit beside it all day canoodling with your canoodle-ee.
I thought it would spoil the vibe if I started canoodling with myself so I made my way home down the 15 Street cycletrack. This was a mistake. It took a really long time. I could have been bombing down 16th Street instead. Riding in a cycletrack in DC feels like you’re in a video game. People, ubers, delivery vans, dogs, and other random stuff seem to appear. You’ll never score enough points if you don’t pay attention.
The ride home was a breeze. Literally. I took a side trip through Del Ray for a change of pace. After 40 miles, I didn’t feel the slightest bit tired. I’m ready for my tour, Mr. DeMille.
After riding to the Nationals game on Saturday in the rain, I couldn’t pass up riding to the Sunday game when the forecast called for perfect baseball weather. So I hopped on the Cross Check at around 11 and headed to DC.
The ride in was just a little on the chilly side but the skies were blue and the trees had leaves. Spring rocks.
As I approached Jones Point Park, I noticed a cyclists standing next to a loaded bike. Seriously loaded. It was a cargo bike with six panniers, a handlebar bag, and a solar panel on the rear rack. The cyclist was looking at a map and seemed confused. I stopped and helped him by leading him through the streets of Old Town Alexandria. When we got to the Washington Sailing Marina between Old Town and National Airport we stopped to talk. Charles started this ride in the Pacific Northwest. He rode down the west coast, hung a louie at San Diego and another at Saint Augustine. His tour had taken him over 5,000 miles so far. He spent last year riding coast to coast across the northern part of the US. He was planning on taking a break in DC. To buy a boat. And store it at the marina. Or some such thing. I couldn’t follow the logistics, probably because I couldn’t understand how he could afford to spend his life on a bike. And buy a boat.
I left Charles to his nautical aspirations and rode into DC. I absolutely love riding to the ballpark because I get to ride by the parking lots that get progressively more expensive as I get nearer to the park. The bike valet – really just a secure bike parking facility under the watchful eyes of two attendants – is inside the ballpark itself. It is free (except for the tip which you give to the attendants at check out).
I took my seat out in the stands beyond left field with the warm sun shining down on me. I had forgotten to bring sunscreen but I figured I would be okay for a couple of hours. I ate a sandwich that I brought instead of the expensive junk food at the park. Then I settled in for a nice game against a weak opponent, the Minnesota Twins.
As usually happens the people that I sat among became friends for the day. There was a mom and her ten-ish year old daughter in front of me. Daughter had a small baseball glove. (“You’re going to save me if a baseball comes our way, right?”) There were two dudes to my right manspreading and drinking beers. (I moved over a seat and got into the slouchy vibe.
The guy to my right scoffed at the Nats leadoff hitter, Matt den Dekker. “He can field but the Mets got rid of him because he can’t hit.” I retorted “He’s got some power for a little guy.” And so den Dekker homered to make me look like a baseball genius. Later, he made several brilliant catches in the outfield so my bro was also vindicated.
Our section had plenty of Minnesota fans. So there was good natured teasing going on throughout the game. Our fearless pitcher Stephen Strasburg pitched for seven innings after over 100 pitches he becomes mortal, but the bullpen was tired so the manager left him in. In a flash he gave up a three-run home run which landed about ten seats to my right. Down 4-1 it looked like the game was lost. People started to leave.
It was 4-3 in the bottom of the ninth. More people started to leave.
Our manager, Dusty Baker, had decided to rest the 2015 MVP, a fellow by the name of Bryce Harper, for the day. Baker actually told Harper before the game that he would only use him in a situation that would make him look like a hero. So Harper comes up to pinch hit and powers the second pitch he sees into the stand beyond center field. Tie game! The crowd goes nuts!
And so we went into extra innings. After four innings the Nationals have a comical race among six “presidents” who are men with giant heads. They run around the wa.rning track to a finish line tape near the Nats dugout. It is utterly stupid and funny as hell. Our game was running so long that they ran a second presidents race.
We were getting slap happy in the stands. The game dragged on. 10, 11, 12 innings.
The Nationals ran out of position players. They used a pitcher to pinch hit. He got a single. No lie.
Fans starting joking about being held hostage. All I could think of were the lyrics to “Band on the Run”:
If we ever get out of here
Thought of giving it all away
To registered charity
All I need is a pint a day
If we ever get out of here
If we ever get out of here
I moved down to the front row overlooking the left fielders. I yelled down to Werth, “Hey, Jason. Want some coffee?”
In the middle of the 14th inning we had a second seventh inning stretch. I kid you not.
The Twins left fielder, Eddie Rosario, had littered the grass with pieces of yellow paper. The Nats left fielder, Jason Werth, picked them up and
methodically arranged them in a neat row. A guy sitting behind me joked that Werth was trying to get enough paper to spell out SOS on the grass. Another guy said, “Hey, we are literally trash talking.”
The Twins went ahead by a run in the top of the 15th. All hope was lost. Rosario made a mess of Werth’s paper pile. The fans in left field started yelling “Pick it up Eddie.” Rosario laughed. I yelled at him: “It’s karma, Eddie. You’ll pay for this.”
The Nationals got a man on first base. The Twins ignored him and he advanced to second. The next batter up was Oliver Perez, a pitcher who hadn’t batted since 2010. The Twins unbelievably brought in another reliever to face him.
All was lost. Until Perez dropped a bunt that the catcher fielded. Perez was out by a mile, except that the catcher threw the ball about six feet over the first baseman’s head. Tie game.
Karma, Eddie. Karma.
We moved to the 16th. Werth came out and repaired his pile of paper. The Twins didn’t score. The Nationals came to bat and their right fielder, Chris Heisey, launched a home run over the Twins bullpen. The place went completely nuts. Delirium.
Dusty Baker later called it a twilight zone game.
By this point, nearly six hours after the game started a chill was in the air. I was an odd combination of warm and cold. Six hours of sun on had given me a sunburn on the right side of my body. I wore a jacket to keep the left side of my body warm.
The by now thin crowd left with ear to ear grins. At the bike valet I ran into a friend I hadn’t seen since December. We celebrated our mini reunion and the exhausting victory with a huge hug.
And then I was off. As I crossed the Potomac into Virginia I stopped to admire an amazing sunset skyscape. Even with swarms of gnats (how appropriate) along the way, the ride home in the cool spring evening was perfect.
It was 50 degrees at 7 am. On January 10. Go figure.
I decided to take Big Nellie for a spin. I got side tracked by bike maintenance. It’s hard to do bike maintenance when it is cold outside. So I cleaned and lubed the chains on three of my four bikes. It’s a bit like getting your teeth cleaned at the dentists. The chains are all shiny now.
Big Nellie was very patient. Off we rode to the Mount Vernon Trail. By this time it was about 60 degrees and windy. There were serious waves on the river. I spotted a guy in a wet suit leaning against his car to my left. To my right was his sailboard. Dude, it’s January.
As I approached Fort Hunt Park I spotted a man with a fully loaded bicycle at the water fountain along the trail. (It’s January 10 and they haven’t turned off the water yet? Go figure.)
Ivan is from China. His English is perfect so we had a pretty extensive conversation. He’s been riding across the US for the last 12 months. He started in Washington State then rode through Oregon, Idaho, Utah,….,the Katy Trail in Missouri. I’d have remembered all the places he has ridden but I was thinking about how much cold weather this dude has been riding in. Dang. He said he did 30 – 35 miles on short days and 60 – 65 on long days. I suppose he’s had lots of practice. He’s staying with a friend in Arlington, selling his bike, going to Boston then back home to China. If you want a fully equipped Chinese touring bike, keep you eyes open. The model is, I kid you not, “World Traveler.” After trying out the seat of Big Nellie, Ivan headed off toward DC. Nice guy.
I did a lap around Fort Hunt Park. There were all kinds of bicyclists and a tadpole trike rider doing laps. I peeled off and headed for Old Town. I made it back to the MVT and, sure enough, passed Ivan who was getting a MAMIL escort.
I rode up Union Street to make sure that Ivan wasn’t going to get harassed by the Alexandria police. They were not having a bicycle stop sign stake out so I kept rolling to the north.
At Four Mile Run I headed over to Arlandria and from there back toward home.
The wind was in my face but it didn’t much matter. When I got back to the MVT, I was passed by a faired recumbent with a body sock. It looked something like this. It went by me like I was standing still.
You know the drill. It was Friday morning. Once I get out that door, I’m good. Drink some OJ. Eat a banana. Boogie.
I left early to maximize my Friday Coffee Club time. Big Nellie was on autopilot. I don’t think I passed any regulars. Frankly, I could have passed the Preservation Hall Jazz Band and I wouldn’t have noticed.
Into the city and around the Jefferson Memorial. I passed two runners and out of the corner of my eye I recognized one. Of course, her name is Kate (the first of three today). She was talking intensely (when your running in swamp air it’s hard to look anything but intense) so she didn’t see me on my rolling lawn chair. Gypsybug says to ride like your invisible. I apparently am.
In the 15th Street cycle track, Kel came flying by, riding downhill to my uphill. She had to leave Friday Coffee Club early. She had to be to work by 8. Poor Kel
At Swing’s, Reba and the aforementioned Gyspybug were keeping a dozen guys entertained. They looked grumpy. (The guys, not Reba and Gypsybug. They always look smashing.) Okay, only Aaron looked grumpy, but this is his natural state. Next Jon showed up with his two little girls in a bike trailer. They are beyond CUTE! And very well behaved.
Two big girls, Katie and Kate (the second and third Kates of the day) showed up. Katie just finished a minibike tour. And Kate is soon to leave us for grad school. (Sad face.)
Then the star of the day showed up. Nicole was riding her bike from Minnesota to Massachusetts. One of the Coffee Clubbers ran into her near the C&O Canal and invited her to join us. She got a round of applause and fit right in to the group. I am beginning to think that Swing’s spikes their drinks with nice juice.
Around 9 we all went our separate ways. Hi ho! Hi ho!
Eight-ish hours later the skies opened up. Every bike commuter in DC had the radar on his computer at work. I missed my first chance at a dry escape around 4:30. A half hour later, a cap in the storm appeared. Hiyo, Nellie. Away!
I got about a mile before it started raining lightly. I rode very gently because Big Nellie’s front wheel has a bad habit of sliding out on wet pavement. This is not a lot of fun for yours truly and I have plenty of scars to prove it.
I looked over at the city and could see distinct areas of heavy downpours. The downpours didn’t look like much fun. Near the 14th Street Bridge underpass an old regular came by. She’s literally old, gray hair, maybe in her 60s. Her mouth is usually open. She’s been riding to and from my neighborhood for at least ten years; I seem to recall seeing her in Mount Vernon Hospital. Ironically, despite her experience, she wears her helmet back on her head. For all the miles she’s put in, she can wear her helmet however she pleases.
I could see a line of clouds rolling in as I biked past the airport. Every so often I would get a little rain from the front edge of the storm. Pedal, pedal.
A commuter rode by. He asked me a couple of weeks ago if I liked my waterproof Ortlieb panniers. I highly recommended them. He took my advice and bought a pair.
Another commuter passed me and said, “Nice shirt.” I was wearing a Backroads Century t-shirt. He was wear a Backroads cycling jersey. Monday is Bike DC t-shirt day. Please make a note of it.
I started thinking about places to seek cover in case of lightning or high winds. There are buildings with overhangs in Old Town Alexandria. The Wilkes Street tunnel. The underside of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge. No need. Of course, as soon as all the good cover spots were behind me the clouds opened up. For the next 3 miles it poured. After a mile, it hardly mattered. I was making squishy noises with each pedal stroke. Big Nellie’s seat stayed dry because I had covered it with a white kitchen trash bag. (No, I was never a boy scout.)
At Northdown Road, the rain stopped. A cyclists stopped in the middle of the road to clear some fallen limbs. We rode together on the east side of the GW Parkway. The road had a fresh later of asphalt. Sooo nice.
The last 1 1/2 miles of my commute puts me on Collingwood Road. Dark clouds were ahead. I reached back and turned on my red blinky light. As I approached a red light at Fort Hunt Road, lightning flashed a couple of miles to my right. I rarely run red lights but GET ME OUT OF HERE!!!! Pedal, pedal.
I made it home and got in the house just as the clouds opened up. It didn’t much matter. I was already wet.