Super Monday

The day after Easter is called Easter Monday. Don’t ask me why. As far as I know not much happened on Easter Monday. Maybe Jesus bit the ears off some chocolate bunnies. But I digress.

Not really, I haven’t even started yet.

Stop arguing with yourself.

I rode to work on 6 hours of post Super Bowl sleep. Who won? Sydney, our Super Bowl party hosts’ Australian Labradoodle. Sydney is the most well behaved puppy I have ever seen. I think Sydney is actually some sort of animatronic muppet. Sydney was infinitely more interesting than the game. And not nearly as bizarre as the numerous LSD-influenced commercials.

So I rode to work on The Mule, back on the Mount Vernon Trail for the nonce. (24266061624_4058a63836_mDid he just say “nonce?” I’ll bet he drinks Dew and eats Doritos.)

I left just a few minutes before dawn. By the time I got to Dyke Marsh the sunrise got the jump on me but I took its picture anyway. My camera was not up to the task though.

The squirrels in my head have been especially busy lately. So I tried to concentrate on nothing during the ride. If that seems contradictory, it kinda is. Which is why it didn’t work very well. So the squirrels won.

I looked for signs of spring on the wispy branches of the willow trees along the trail opposite the Washington Monument. No luck. No buds. We’ll have to wait a few more weeks.

I turned left at the Intersection of Doom and fell in behind a lycra clad cyclist with a spiffy racing bike. He was going suspiciously slowly. Then I noticed that he was holding his left crank arm in his hand. Dude, that’s not how it works!

I’ll put up with squirrels in my head any day over pedaling with only one leg. (This is actually really hard to do but is supposed to smooth out your pedal stroke.)

The ride home was a bit of a slog. The 6-hours of sleep was not enough. The squirrels had gone to bed so I fell into my commute trance. This ended when I nearly ran over a walker who was coming toward me on my side of the trail. (Walk on the right people!!)

She was not a ninja because it was light outside. It stayed light for the first 7 or 8 miles of my ride home. I could get used to this.

In the dark the curvy last two miles of the trail to the stone bridge confuse me. I lose track of where I am in the sequence of turns. Did I cross the long bridge yet or just the two short ones? Did I pass the fishing hole?

All was revealed when I spotted the mansion with the Spanish roof tiles near the top of the gradual climb to Northdown Road. A VDOT plower whimsically left a pile of plowed snow in the middle of the street. Fortunately I was out of my trance by then.

At the intersection of Fort Hunt and Shenandoah Roads a rather ominous cluster of snowplows stood in wait for the approaching Dusting to 3 Inch storm of the century.

All this means is I will probably drive to work tomorrow.

The squirrels in my head don’t like ice.

 

 

It’s Sunday in ‘Merica

Yes, today is a patriotic American Sunday. I bought my tax software yesterday and in about 2 hours finished the first cut at our returns this morning. It looks like we’ll be getting back a little over $300. I think that cuts the withholding to the quick.

After doing taxes, I decided to go for a short bike ride around the Fort Hunt neighborhood. This was a fairly uneventful lolly gag until I worked my way over the the Mount Vernon Trail and started heading north toward Fort Hunt Park. Then I heard a loud screech in the air to my left. I pulled off the trail and looked up and over and saw a bald eagle swooping down into the trees toward the massive Fort Hunt nest. I know of at least four bald eagle nests between Mount Vernon and Old Town and this is by far the biggest. Like all the MVT nests this one is nearly impossible to spot after the trees get their leaves.

My eyes were distracted from the swooping bird by another bald eagle soaring in a tight circle above. I looked back to the nest and spotted the other eagle perched on a large branch in the tree directly behind and above the nest.

The birds were too far away for me to get a picture with my camera phone. So my apologies for not capturing the moment.

The eagles behavior was consistent with this description of mating. So maybe we’ll have some eaglets in a couple of months.

I hopped back on my bike and rode around the Fort Hunt area until my toes became too cold.

I am back home preparing for the Super Bowl. This means taking a shower and carting the beer out to the car for our annual Super Bowl/Paulie’s birthday extravaganza. What better way to celebrate America and the onset of senility than by watching 300 pound men clad in plastic armor smashing into each other.

In concussions we trust.

 

Just Another Fed Up Boy on the MVT

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

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

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

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

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

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The MVT in the Rain

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Inlandia

Another day, another icy mess on the Mount Vernon Trail. Thanks National Park Service. You’re swell.

I left a few minutes late. It was light out. We’re SAVED!!!!

The first 30 minutes of my ride home were also in daylight. Thank you Copernicus.

The trail is actually getting clearer by the day but since I fell on one of the wooden bridges last winter, there’s no way I am going to use it until someone I trust says they are clear. This does not include Big Ed who I am convinced will ride on a skating rink if you give him the opportunity.

So today I took the inland route again. Two things became apparent. Yesterday’s commute benefited from an uncanny ability to hit green lights. Today’s not so much. And, riding in the grit on the side of the road will turn your chain into a crunchy mess.

Every time I tried to put some effort into pedaling I heard this awful crunchy sound. I was expecting my chain to break. Of course, the reason all this crap is on the edge of the road is because cars are equipped with grit repellent.  It’s true. You could look it up.

When I got home I cleaned my chain. I was surprised at how quickly the grit came off. Still I think a few more weeks of this stuff will grind my drivetrain to bits. The Mule was due for a new chain and cassette anyway.

I do miss my river views but I am enjoying the Potomac Yard Trail. The cars on the adjacent road have stop signs and traffic lights. The trail doesn’t. Sucks for you drivers.

Also, I get to bypass all those cars lined up at red lights and stop signs. Excuse me. Sorry. Pardon me. Coming through.

I haven’t seen many bike commuters on this route. There was a guy tonight on a Trek 1200 (I think). He was faster than me so I only got a glimpse of him. I saw a woman commuter coming and going. She was the real deal. Could have robbed a bank on her way home. I have no idea what she looks like.

On my way to work I have to climb the hill going to Fort Myer. This is not nice. It goes up, then down, then up again. On the way home I get to do the two hills on Fort Hunt Road. By the time I crest the second one, my legs are not happy.

Tomorrow is a toss up. It’s supposed to rain all day. I could work from home if it’s too unpleasant. My legs could use the rest. I don’t like working from home. I miss my commute.

 

Taking the Inland Route

Nearly all of my bike commutes make use of the Mount Vernon Trail. Unfortunately after significant snowfalls the lack of plowing by the National Park Service turns the trail into a linear glacier. I don’t like falling down (which I did last year) so I decided to take the alternate route, inland.

For the first mile and a half the ride is the same. Instead of crossing Fort Hunt Road to make my way to the trail, I stayed on Fort Hunt Road. This road like all crappy roads in Virginia often has no  shoulder. It is also a main route to US 1 and the Beltway. It gets a steady stream of motor vehicle traffic.

The four-ish mile ride to the Beltway was uneventful. At the Beltway I took the connector trail to Washington Street. I had to walk ten feet because of snow and ice. Not too bad.

At Washington I took a left to stay on the sidewalk. Once across the Beltway I made a series of lefts and rights until I was on West Street in Old Town. I was probably 13 blocks west of my normal route. I continued on West to Braddock. A left on Braddock led to the Potomac Yard Trail. This trail was surprisingly crowded with people walking dogs, walking to the subway, riding bikes and such. It also has no traffic lights and is flat for two miles. Bike commute heaven.

The trail isn’t finished yet so I jogged over to Potomac Avenue, a new and mostly undiscovered road that runs between US 1 and the GW Parkway. This took me to Crystal City.

I took Crystal Drive and its bike lane straight through managing to make nearly every traffic light.

At the north end of Crystal City I picked up Long Bridge Drive. Flat and smooth. Long Bridge leads to Boundary Channel Drive. Bumpy and rough.

Boundary Channel took my past a breathtaking Pentagon parking lot. It’s not a scenic route but there was no ice to deal with so you take your victories where you can find them.

Boundary Channel led to Jefferson Davis Highway, a high speed divided road with a rare paved shoulder. About a quarter mile later I was on Memorial Drive and that led to a trail that runs along the edge of Arlington Memorial Cemetery. The graves still had the wreaths that were place on each one by volunteers in December.

The trail took me to North Marshall Drive which goes up and down and up. At the entrance to Fort Myer, I banged a right and headed down North Meade Street which splits and becomes North Lynn Street. My bike allowed me to roll right past all the cars waiting at a traffic light.

I arrived at work only a couple of minutes late. My odometer said that the trip was actually about a quarter of a mile shorter than my usual ride along the Potomac River.

The ride home involved some improvising. I headed uphill from my office and turned left on North Moore Street. This took me back to the cemetery and Memorial Drive. I could have taken Jefferson Davis Highway but I would have been riding against the traffic. I didn’t feel like dying so I took Memorial Drive to the Mount Vernon Trail which was clear.  After less than 100 yards I took a right and rode up Washington Boulevard on the sidewalk. This took me back to the Pentagon parking lot. From there I simply rode my morning commute in reverse. The only difference was that it was dark and intensely foggy.

I put my headlight on low to keep from being blinded. The ride back home was again uneventful. So my first inland bike commute was success.

Tomorrow I’ll probably do this route again. After that the Mount Vernon Trail should be clear.

A few minutes ago I signed up for DC Bike Ride. It’s a 17 mile ride on closed streets. It was once called Bike DC. It’s not intended to be a serious ride, more like a meander. I meander like a boss.

Not a Bad Start

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

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

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

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

 

Shamu’s Test Commute

I haven’t been on a bike since the Snowzilla storm. So today I went for a ride to see what my commute will be like next week. The day began with an impressive amount of black ice in my driveway. My solution was to do puzzles all morning. I managed to get all but the Scrabblegram which Mrs. RC and I have taken to doing. (Worst part is finding out that answers often include completely bogus words)

I used The Mule because it is my bad weather bike. I had to roll it through some snow in the back yard but that took all of three minutes.

Every street along my normal route to the Mount Vernon Trail was clear with the only problem areas where homeowners had shoveled snow into the street earlier in the day. Why people do this when they have a front lawn to throw the snow on is beyond me.

I arrived at the Mount Vernon Trail, took one look and gave up. It is a glacier. Just like it is every year. Thanks to the National Park Service, the only trail owner that doesn’t even try to plow or treat area trails. (They own significant real estate in the city. They don’t plow there either.)

I climbed up the hill to Fort Hunt Road, the only alternative to the trail. This took me to US 1. A trail connects US 1 to Washington Street in Old Town Alexandria. The first 100 yards of the trail were covered in plow residue. VDOT or Fairfax County couldn’t be bothered to clear the trail, I guess.

If you think that is too much to ask, you are wrong. Once the trail crosses into Alexandria city, it is totally clear. I tag on Alexandria a lot about being hostile to bicyclists but whoever is in charge of plowing did a great job here.

I took the streets through the western part of Old Town. I crossed over the rail line at Slaters Lane and US 1. The sidewalk here is also a bike lane. It was cleared quite adequately. Another round of applause for Alexandria.

I rode Monroe Street (kind of a melting mess) to Mount Vernon Avenue, the main drag through the Del Ray neighborhood. No problems. I made my way to the trail along Four Mile Run. The trail on the Alexandria side was impassible because of a creatively crappy plow job that ended in a snow bank.

I walked around this mess and hooked up with the Four Mile Run Trail on the Arlington side of Four Mile Run. Arlington done good.

Here I bailed out on the trails. I had gone 10 miles and I was tired. I spent the last week shoveling and eating. I feel like a whale and my shoulder muscles are still incredibly tight.

I headed back to Old Town via Potomac Avenue and its new side trail. All was clear sailing. Alexandria. I retraced my path to Fort Hunt Road and slogged my way up two hills trying hard to stay out of the sand and salt that had accumulated on the edge of the asphalt. Most roads in Virginia lack a paved shoulder so you can pretty much count on wrecking your drive train if you bike around here in the winter.

I made it home, a total of 20 1/2 miles. Not bad for my first day back. Tomorrow is supposed to be a 60 degree day. That should take care of the problem areas I discovered today. It will take a week of warm temperatures or a responsive and responsible Park Service to clear the Mount Vernon Trail. Alas, the smart money is on the weatherman.

 

 

Riding to Daylight

I hadn’t ridden to work since Friday. So today’s bike commute, four days later, had a nice surprise: daylight! We had 6 minutes more daylight today than Frida23872236113_82eb6ba061_zy. On a bike you are more in touch with your surroundings so you notice these sorts of things.  I stopped on the Dyke Marsh boardwalk just before sunrise for a picture. I wonder if it is coincidence that the Spanish word for smile is sonrisa? Sunrise is the first smile of the day.

 

I used chemical hand warmers in my shoes today. The left one must have slipped to the rear because the toes on my left foot were frozen when I arrived at the office. When I jumped in the shower, the toes screamed with pain. Yet another reason why I don’t miss living up north.

People think I am crazy for riding to work on a day like today. Maybe I am but I consider these kinds of bike commutes an adventure. Is it crazy to start the day with an adventure or with a frustrating drive in bumper to bumper traffic? If you live in the moment, choose the moment that gives you a few minutes of happiness. Even if your toes freeze.

It felt like it was 10 degrees warmer for the ride home. I certainly appreciated the daylight for the first few miles. I was greeted by a snow squall for the last 6 miles of the commute. The snow was reflecting my headlight back into my eyes. I was riding blind. At one point my rear tire skidded after hitting a gum ball (not the candy, the seed ball from a gum tree). I remembered Bri’s advice to keep my upper body loose and go with it. The snow started sticking. It was getting slippery. Stay loose. I made it home without any more skidding. I had fun but I suspect this thin layer of snow will turn to ice overnight. This will mean no biking to work for me.

The current weather forecast calls for up to two feet of snow for Friday and Saturday. With any kind of luck it will be melted in a few days. I will probably be off the bike for a week afterwards because the National Park Service doesn’t plow the Mount Vernon Trail.

 

 

 

Cold Monday, Big Rides

Winter came back. I thought we had this thing licked. Apparently not.

I chose to ride Big Nellie to work. I haven’t ridden the Big one to work in many months. I left early. It was dark. And cold. No worries. I just pedaled my ass off until I warmed up.

I was pleased that the wooden bridges had no frost on them. The whole way to DC.

On the asphalt north of the Memorial Bridge black ice coated the trail in a few spots. No guts, no glory. I rode straight across the ice. Each section was maybe 10 feet long.

At work I parked Big Nellie next to my boss’s Yuba Mundo. That was a lot of bikeage.

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Having ridden to work early I was looking forward to riding home in the daylight. Alas, work ran long and I left after dark. I’ll get even with the daylight gods soon. In about a month or two. Just wait.

It was about 10 degrees warmer for the ride home. No black ice. Just a shocking number of bike commuters. Go #bikedc!!!!

 

It’s January? Go Figure.

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 thinkin24215142381_fd843fc327_zg 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.

It started to rain so I headed home.

So ended  a 150-mile week to open the new year.

Go figure.