Perception > Reality

A friend of mine admonished me last summer for confusing perception with reality. Funny thing is she hates cold weather. I think cold weather is a reality. How you deal with it is all in your head. Okay, clothing has a lot to do with it too. We all have our limits, but simply throwing in the towel when the thermostat drops a bit seems rather defeatist and pathetic. My reality is that riding in the cold for short stretches can actually be surprisingly comfortable and enjoyable.

On Tuesday I rode to work in pretty nasty conditions. The wind chill was 0 Farenheit. (She uses Centigrade. Maybe that’s her problem.)  I took it as an adventure. Not one I’d want to deal with every day but an adventure nonetheless.

One interesting side benefit from “enduring” the cold on Tuesday is that 40 degrees now seems pretty damned comfy. I rode to work today and was having trouble avoiding being too warm. Of course, I stopped off at Friday Coffee Club. The joint was jumping. Even Froggie, now a resident of northern Vermont made an appearance. He gave me a small bottle of maple syrup too. Thanks, Froggie.

Mary was handing out Coffeeneuring patches. They are pretty spiffy. I didn’t get one because I didn’t participate this year. I drink plenty of coffee as it is having added incentive to get all jagged out on caffeine on successive weekends doesn’t work for me. Incidentally, I also don’t participate in Freezing Saddles. This is a friendly competition in which cycling teams ride during the winter. I don’t need an incentive to go out and break my neck on ice and snow. The Mule still bears the damage (slightly bent handlebar, slightly damaged brake lever) from last winter’s icy folly. I’ll likely be back at it for the Errandonnee in a few months.

From Coffee Club, I rode G Street to the TR Bridge. At a red light, I watched in horror as a bike messenger riding a bike with a really long front end  blew the light in heavy cross traffic. He made it across all three lanes but he pissed off all the drivers who had to take evasive action to avoid running him over.

The TR bridge has a stupidly narrow side path. I routinely stop to let DC-bound cyclists pass. Very few of them thank me. People who work in DC are more important than anyone else. Today, a DC-bound cyclists, a woman with her head wrapped like a burrito, said “Thanks. Have a great day.” What a shame this is exceptional.  We need more women on bicycles.

Since I took yesterday off from bike commuting, I had fresh legs on a Friday. This sounds like a bizarre lunch entree, doesn’t it? Well, that’s not what I meant. I was getting out of the saddle and riding with unusual vigor. Vigor at 8 am is really pretty damned alarming.

The ride home was a misty, foggy, dark affair. There’s a joke in there somewhere but I’m not touching it. Ed, who needs a nickname to avoid being confused with the other Ed, rode part of the way home with me. I veered off to go to the bank. There was a bad busker near the ATM. Banking really has gone downhill. It used to be you’d go inside the bank and interact with a human being, often a pretty young lady who was impressed by your massive…demand deposit. Nowadays, you stand in the rain and listen to this dreary busker play bad trumpet then start singing out of key. Perhaps he should take up the guitar to free up his mouth for singing. It worked for Paul McCartney.

The rest of the ride home was much more pleasant than the ATM. That’s the reality. To hell with perception.



I Can’t Believe I Am Getting Used to This

It was 17 degrees when I left the house. Winds were calm. I left late and sunlight was upon me.


After two days, I have the clothing aspect down. Same as yesterday but today I swapped two layered mountain bike shorts for underpants and tights. Also, I swapped to my new Performance rain pants from my Marmot Precip pants. The former is cut for cycling and has thinner material. Perfect.

After my usual 10-minute warm up, I was cooking with gas (nods to my college friend Susan who used to say this all the time back in the day). I stopped at Dyke Marsh as usual, this time where the stream cuts through to the river. Ice and sunrise. Pretty stuff.


The boards of the Dyke Marsh bridge were cover with a crunchy frost which was surprisingly grippy, another benefit of 17 degree weather.

I cruised through Old Town without a care and made it across the two long wooden bridges to the north without slipping. Oncoming bike riders looked pretty tense but I just laid off the brakes and tried to minimize leaning.

How nice it was to break free of the tree cover and not be smacked in the face by a headwind.

Across from the Washington Monument, I stopped to take a picture. Damn, this city is pretty. I never get tired of this place. Funny how I can say that about the last two cities I lived in as well but not about my hometown. I suppose if I lived there now I’d see it in a different light. As Confucius said, “No matter where you go, there you are.”

The ride home was another day in the park. It was actually above freezing but I didn’t notice. It felt no different from the morning. The geese apparently disagreed. They were having a party in the river.

The rest of the ride home was dark. Unlike dying people, I went toward the white light.

Somewhere along the way I passed 100 miles for the year. Woot.

No bike commute tomorrow. I’m going to a high school basketball game after work.




Greetings from Hoth

I couldn’t sleep. I was really worked up about my bike commute today. I turned on the TV at 4:30 am. The weather report said temperatures were 17 degrees colder than yesterday. Wind chill was 0. (That’s Farenheit not your wimpy centigrade wind chill. And what happened to Celsius? Did he get fired?)

I went back to bed because all that’s on TV is ads for herbal penus enhancements. Insomnia and gullibility apparently go hand in hand.

I woke up at 5:50 and went out to get the newspaper. Dang. Twas cold.

After a hearty breakfast of oatmeal and fruit I got dressed. Underpants, tights, socks nearly up to my knees, wind pants, hiking boots with chemical hand warmers inside, long sleeve base layer, t-shirt, holey wool sweater, rain jacket, balaclava, mittens. Now if I could only move my body.

I penguined outside and managed to climb on my bike. I would have taken my tauntaun but it froze to death. So off I went on The Mule.

Twas cold.

Pedal, pedal.

I was so encumbered by my layers on layers that sustaining 10 miles per hour was a challenge. The headwind didn’t help. And there’s always a possibility that The Mule needs some TLC.

I don’t think I broke 20 mph on the Park Terrace descent. Usually, I hit 30 with ease.

I stopped for a sunrise picture at Dyke Marsh. It was too soon. Too soon for the sun. Too soon because 100 yards further along there was beautiful ice in the marsh. I didn’t take a picture of this because…

Twas Cold

Pedal, pedal.

Lots of effort. Very little speed. And I was overheating.  I lowered the zipper on my jacket. In minutes my upper chest was frozen. Yeah, well.

In Old Town the illegally parked car at 406 North Union was gone. It was replaced by another illegally parked car. At least this one wasn’t blocking the bike lane.

An astonishing number of people were riding on the trail. I saw a woman running. She was pushing a stroller. Don’t mess with this family. They are from Hoth. (Hotians?)

Ed, a bike commuter who lives near me, blew by me like I was standing still. As did pretty much every other DC-bound commuter.  Ugh.

As usual the headwinds intensified between the airport and TR Island. I started talking to myself. Mostly cuss words. Slow progress. Pedal harder, mofo. My left eyeball started to feel frozen. Gross.

I found that I had to stand to get up the Rosslyn hill. Something really must be wrong with this bike. Or could it be the 4,000 cookies and 3 cases of beer I ate and drank over the holidays?

I arrived at work. The garage attendant and a maintenance worker congratulated me. All bike commuters should have fans.

It took me another 10 minutes to peel off all the layers. I got to the office 30 minutes late. It was so worth it.

I was looking forward to a tailwind all day. Then I got the news. The winds had calmed but it was a springlike 31 degrees outside.

Arlo Guthrie once referred to a 40 degree day in the Berkshires as New England tanning weather. I was practically ready to break out the sunscreen. Instead I ditched my t-shirt layer.

The ride home was truly lovely. For the first ten minutes it was light out. I warmed up immediately and was perfectly comfortable. Even better I was riding at my normal 11 – 12 miles per hour. Between the TR and Memorial Bridges I came upon hundreds of Canada geese. They posed for a picture then I did my best Charlton Heston and made them part.


Okay, Moses didn’t yell “Yee Haw!!!!” but I did.

The rest of the ride home was geese free. In Old Town, the bike lane was free of parked cars.

I am looking forward to my ride to work. It will be in the 20s with light winds.

I cannot believe I just wrote that.

Christmas Comes Late

My kids bought me a gift certificate to Performance Bikes. So I took advantage of the good weather to ride to their Springfield Virginia store.

Here’s a tip for bike store companies: try locating your store in a bike friendly place. To get from my house to the store, I rode across US 1, over to South Kings Highway through some neighborhoods. South King’s highway is hilly and has no shoulder (way to go VDOT) even though there is ample room for one. Riding up a hill on Big Nellie, my recumbent, with cars zooming past at 40 miles per hour is not a lot of fun.

Once over the hill I picked up Telegraph Road which has a bike lane for all of 200 yards. In that 200 yards the bike lane gets spliced by a turn lane. Just a totally stupid design.

Next came hilly Kingstowne. Lovely name. Sounds so regal. It has side paths with are asphalt sidewalks so I rode in the shoulderless street. The roads in Kingstowne feed into the Fairfax County Parkway, I-95 and the Springfield Mall area. There is beaucoup traffic. A very unpleasant place to ride a bike. As I crossed Beulah Street I actually picked up a wide paved shoulder (I knew you could do it VDOT). After a turn this took me all the way to the store which is located in a strip mall with very cramped car parking and no bike parking.

In the store I bought some rain pants because my old Marmot Precip rain pants were shredding. The Precip pants are intended for hiking so it’s not surprising that they wear out when confronted with the friction of a saddle (on a regular bike) and a chain (on a recumbent). I also picked up some chain lube and a bell which will probably go on my Cross Check.

For the ride home I made my way back to Beulah Road and took its bike lane south, around most of Kingstowne and the vast Huntley Meadows Park. (Well worth a visit for a leisurely stroll in the woods and out through a marsh on a wooden deck.) When I picked up Telegraph Road I was now two miles or so south of where I rode earlier. Here the road has been redesigned with bike lanes on both sides. After riding up a hill, I let Big Nellie take off on the downhill. About halfway down the hill I took a right on the new Jeff Todd Way. There is a wide side path but at the speed I was going getting on the sidepath would have required a 90 degree right turn through a curb cut. Instead I maintained my speed and stayed in the street.  Jeff Todd goes up and down. On the downs I was going 30 miles per hour, nearly the speed of the cars. On the ups, I was crawling. The right lane seems to be wider than usual and the passing cars gave me plenty of room.

The rest of my ride involved re-crossing US 1, riding to Mount Vernon, and then home via the Mount Vernon Trail.

So my little errand covered 22 1/2 miles. Just the thing for my last day of staycation. Tomorrow it’s bike commute number 1 for 2016.


Recumbents and Vultures and Toros

January 2 is a pretty big disappointment. The day after the New Year is so pathetic sounding. Christmas gets Boxing Day. Thanksgiving gets Black Friday. Even Halloween gets All Saints Day. (Okay, July 5 doesn’t really cause goosebumps but it’s summer time and nobody much cares about goosebumps. Unless you are in Tierra del Fuego. If you are in Tierra del Fuego, you deserve whatever you get.)

Bored and wanting just to get out of the house, I took a spin on my long neglected recumbent, Big Nellie. I had no where to go and wasn’t in a hurry to get there. I decided to ride up toward National Airport and see how the new 50 yard stretch of the Mount Vernon Trail was sizing up.

In Belle Haven Park, three vultures circled in the sky above. Were they expecting me to die? (No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to RIDE.)

As for the trail repair at the airport, it’s wider than before. Straighter than before. And bumpier than before. I guess they haven’t de-bumped it yet. Can’t wait. I was getting sick of the detour through the mulch.

I didn’t see anyone I knew and my feet were starting to get cold (it was in the mid-40s) so I rode home on the new Potomac Yard bike trail. This trail is nice and wide but it merges with a sidewalk at haphazard intervals. An old man in a sweatsuit doddered across the trail/sidewalk directly in front of me. Good thing I have the reflexes of a 60-year old so I could avoid him. (You politely use terms like “old man” and “dodder” when you ride a recumbent. It says so in the user’s manual.)

About two miles from home, as I approached the stone bridge, I heard an ominous, horrifying noise from behind a wooden fence. It was a lawn mower. Are you effing kidding me? I was feeling very mindful and peaceful and stuff so I let the fool do his yard work in peace.

So there you have it. My exciting first ride of the year. You should take a nap now. That’s what I’m going to do.

Crossing 1,000

MG over at Chasing Mailboxes recently decided to put in as surge of running to get to 1,000 miles for the year. I thought this was not such a great idea because it reminded me of my running days when I discovered what I called junk miles. Junk miles are miles you run for reasons other than fitness. I wanted to run 3,000 miles one year (I biked a whole lot less in those days). So I was running lots of 70 mile weeks. Do the math. Mostly this meant that I spent a lot of time nursing injuries. After the year was over, I discovered that 60 miles per week worked every bit as well so I dumped about 10 junk miles off the weekly running schedule.

So what does this have to do with biking? Shortly after commenting to MG about the concept of junk miles, I noticed that I had about 900 miles on the odometer of my Cross Check. Hypocrisy be damned, I went for it.

After many miles of riding flat neighborhood streets I decided to put the 100-mile challenge to better use. I started seeking out hills. I hate hills. So I tackled Oxon Hill (twice), Mason Hill near my home (twice today), Beacon Hill (once is plenty), and assorted other hills leading from the GW Parkway near the river up the hill that runs roughly parallel.

To my surprise, I actually got better. Even today when I forgot to take my asthma medicine. Of course, I had help. El Nino and climate change have conspired to bring us unseasonably warm weather with generally light winds.

After doing my hills, I headed up the Mount Vernon Trail. On Union Street in Old Town Alexandria I came upon an old friend who I hadn’t seen in nearly a decade. I could tell because he was cycling with his son who was now 13. The last time I saw the boy he was a rugrat.

As we were talking, a co-worker of mine ran past. He’s pretty fast. Every time I see a runner with good form I feel a twinge of jealousy.

After the chat I did a loop north to Four Mile Run and back to my neighborhood.

I pulled into the driveway to record this picture:


Mission accomplished.

See you next year….

Active Rest

After climbing hills for a couple of days, I wanted to give my legs some rest. I toyed with the idea of an easy hike but went for a gentle ride instead. My plan was to avoid anything that looked like a hill and I think I succeeded. The Cross Check and I rolled around the Fort Hunt neighborhood, never exceeding 20 miles per hour and reaching that for only a minute or two.

This kind of thing is called active rest. I intended to take pictures but that rarely pans out for some reason. I did, however, return to the scene of the house demolition to see how it is progressing. Basically the middle half of the house, except for the chimney is gone. There is a garage to the right and the remnants of what might have been an addition on the left. It’s as if some giant came along and took a bit out of the middle of the house.


I spent the rest of my ride doing laps around Fort Hunt Park. As if to prove I was taking it easy  a rollerblader passed me and proceeded to leave me in his dust going up hill. After three or four laps a mist started falling, the perfect excuse to head for home.

After showering I ran some errands. One involved purchasing some beer so rather than risk tragic breakage I drove. I could feel a bounce in my step as I shopped. Looks like the active rest day did its thing.

Tomorrow I hope to do a last ride of the year. Nothing special. There is at least one hill nearby that I haven’t climbed this week.

My Ride to the Star Destroyer

It was supposed to be a flat recovery ride. I got a bit carried away. Within a mile and a half I was riding up the hill on Sherwood Hall Lane. Then I rode up the grade on Fort Hunt Road, descended and rode another hill past the golf course to the Beltway.

Okay, I’ll be good. I’ll ride the new Alexandria bike trail all the way to Crystal City.

It was flat. So I continued on to the Pentagon.

It, too, was flat.

I worked my way over to the Mount Vernon Trail and the Humpback Bridge, mostly because the Humpback Bridge sounds cool.

Over the river on the 14th Street Bridge and up Maine Avenue past the incredibly big Wharf construction project. First phase set to open in 2017. Yes, it’s that big.

M Street took me to the 11th Street Bridge across the Anacostia. Whoever decided to put a bike path on this thing is a frickin’ genius. (Is “frickin'” even a word?)

Now the fun begins: the long slog up Martin Luther King Junior Boulevard. If this is junior, I don’t want to know about senior. I had multiple flashbacks to my seven 50 States Rides during which I admired the fit behinds of all the riders who can climb faster than me. Which is to say every entrant ever!

One thing I noticed during my climb, it matters what pants you wear. Pants that are tight around the hips make it harder to climb. Today I wore loose mountain bike shorts under baggy wind pants. Claudio Chiapucci I ain’t but the climbing was not so bad.

It goes up and up. Then it goes down conveniently stopping at South Capitol Street so that all that downhill momentum is lost. Then up some more for a while until I plunge down the steep hill to the Police Academy complex. Every time I see the sign for Police Academy I think of the dreadful movie. At least it had Bubba Smith in it.

Of course at the bottom of the hill there was a stop sign. I stopped. A police cruiser noticed and gave me a friendly toot on the horn. (Take note Alexandria Virginia Police!! You don’t have to treat cyclists like criminals.)

What goes down must go up. After a meander through the messed up Oxon Cove Park I confronted the beast. I don’t mean this apparent imperial star destroyer under construction. (It’s a trap!)


Side note: Oxon Cove Park could be a local jewel. It has the misfortune of being located in a poor, out of the way section of Prince Georges County Maryland. The few people who live near it rarely use it. What a shame.

The beast was the long, ever steepening climb at Oxon Hill Farm. I HATE this hill. It starts with the indignity of a false flat. Then a true hill emerges in front of you. And emerges and emerges.

I made it to the top without calling for my mommy.

Across the Beltway on Oxon Hill Road and down the side path to the river. Up the spiral ramp (I love this spiral) to the deck and back across the Beltway. Somehow I now had legs and rode over the Wilson Bridge actually accelerating as I made the climb.

I headed home on the Mount Vernon Trail but after a few miles I bailed out to take on one more hill: Westgrove Boulevard, as suburban street that also steepens as it rises.


Okay, I made it. In pretty decent fettle. I made my way back home once again riding up the Sherwood Hall Lane hill. For the life of me I can’t figure out why riding up the steeper part going west is so easy. I just thrash it every time.

So 31 1/2 miles. On a rest day. When I couldn’t help myself. If it rains tomorrow, I spy a museum. (If I get out of bed.)

Pictures of the Year 2015

Pool Noodles for the Win: Sam got us organized. We were going to occupy the Pennsylvania bike lanes to get barriers installed between 13th and 15th Street to keep cars from making illegal u-turns. Somebody got the idea of using pool noodles as props, to indicate where the barriers would go. Afterward, Dave carried them off. I think they took him to the nervous hospital later.


We all had a blast. Human bollards come in many shapes and sizes. Here’s the Katie Lee model. It’s generally impervious to u-turning cars, but can be moved aside with tickets to Packers games and Phish concerts.


Here’s Sam, the mad genius behind #biketivismdc. It’s funny what getting run over by a car does for your determination to make streets safer.


Kelly Biked to Work!: Kelly sits across from me at work. She had hip surgery which meant she couldn’t run for weeks. So she took up bike commuting. The smile means it was a success.


To her credit she really got into the bike commuting thing. Here she poses at an underpass on the Four Mile Run Trail. A few days before rising water during a downpour caused her to abandon shelter and head into the maelstrom. She survived and added a snorkel to her bike commuting gear.


Like Father Like Daughter: I went to a bunch of baseball games this year. Katie Lee and I attended a couple of games together. She is a meticulous genius at scorekeeping, an art she learned from her late father. At one game, there were two little boys in the row in front of us attending their first baseball game. They were trying to figure out how to keep score. Katie moved down and gave them a game long tutorial. It was an act of kindness that just knocked me out. Somewhere her dad is smiling.


Posh Bike Parking: For some inexplicable reason, our office building started getting all environmentally conscious this fall. Without telling anyone, they replaced their absolutely crappy bike racks with a pretty awesome, secure bike room. Combined with the gym and showers one floor above, it’s a pretty darn bike friendly place to work.

Here’s the before shot.

Bike parking

Here’s the after.

Bike Room

No Wrong Plan: Ryan, Kevin, and I rode from Pittsburgh to DC. It was my first bike tour in a decade. Here we pose in Georgetown’s Waterfront Park at the end of our trek. Any resemblance of me to Hoss Cartwright is entirely coincidental.


In Williamsport, Maryland, we stopped at the Desert Rose Cafe for breakfast. They made us sandwiches for lunch. Inside the bags they included napkins. Each one had a personal message. Such nice people. Such good food. Eat there. (They speak veggie and vegan too!).


Going Up: I did quite a lot of day hiking this year branching out to Shenandoah National Park for several exceptional hikes. All my hikes were solo except for this one with Ultrarunnergirl. She kicked my ass all the way up to Little Hawksbill, the highest point in the park. Then the mountain kicked my ass all the way back down.


On my 60th birthday, I hiked Old Rag. It was a tough hike and convinced me that rock scrambles are for the young and frisky. Also, the thin.


Glory Days: Mrs. RC is a very talented quilter. When I had to quit running about 25 years ago we talked about using my race t-shirts to make a quilt. Nothing came of it until she made the quilt as a surprise for my 60th birthday. What an amazing gift. Oh how I wish I could run like that again.


Around the World in 19 Days: My kids were living in Sydney, Australia and Phuket, Thailand. We decided to go visit them. While in Australia, Mrs. RC and our daughter Lily went to Uluru for dinner under the stars. Here we enjoy a drink just before sunset.


After trips to Melbourne and the north island of New Zealand, we headed for Phuket. The island is very hilly so everyone rides a motorbike like this one my son Eamonn uses.


We paid a visit to Big Buddha. He was aptly named.


Lily made friends with a baby elephant.


Cookies and Cider: I did a bunch of event rides this year. The Cookie Ride had a good hook. Cookies at every rest stop. Here I pose with a human cookie along with Paris and Lisa.


I missed my two favorite rides of the year, the Backroads Century and the 50 States Ride, which both occurred while I was traveling. I swore off the Cider Ride last year but decided to give it a go after they moved it into November. Finishers got this cool mug. Thanks to Michelle for her event magic on behalf of WABA.


Sunrise: The year is nearly over but I am pretty sure that the new one will start something like this. Thanks for reading.



The Office Bike Commuting Matrix

I work in an office of about 25 to 30 people. Several of us ride our bikes to work.

As readers of this blog know, I ride to work nearly full time. I don’t ride with ice on the roads, jet lag, or unavoidable conflicts. So far this year I have ridden one of my bikes to work over 150 times.

My boss is Mohammad. He recently upgraded from a garage sale Schwinn to a Yuba Mundo cargo bike. He uses it to take his kids to school in DC. He’s an everyday commuter.

During her recovery from hip surgery, Kelly needed to get some exercise or she was going to go insane. (Not that anyone would notice.) This summer she began bike commuting. She’s currently on bike commuting hiatus but seems on the verge of starting up again.

Kirk is a fair weather bike commuter. He rides incredibly fast for a man who is retirement eligible. A few years ago a runner on the Mount Vernon Trail did a crazy Ivan maneuver (known in football as a button hook).  He turned right into Kirk’s path. There was blood and pain. He’s now fully recovered from the crash and presumably more careful.

Charlie is a once a week bike commuter. He plans his commute meticulously and avoids riding in the dark. We try not calling him a wuss.

There is a white board outside of Mohammad’s office that has news of the day for staff.  For example, at the top it tells us the day of the week because some of the staff are, well, challenged chronologically.

Every morning a conversation evolves around who rode to work. Invariably somebody complains about something. So Mohammad and Rebecca his administrative assistant cooked up the bike commuter matrix to keep tabs. She is the commissioner.

23529133352_b4ff772f33_z The commissioner adds graphics to make things interesting. That’s actually Mohammad and his kids on the Mundo in the upper right. That’s not Kelly in the lower left. A more recent picture showed Kelly being pursued by a chainsaw murderer. There have been two homicides on her route so she has suspended bike commuting until the killer(s) have been brought to justice. What a wimp.


You either did or didn’t ride and you either did or didn’t complain. I recently was tagged for complaining (see above) after I merely observed that it was foggy. I wasn’t complaining. I was simply stating meteorological fact. Still I was recorded as complaining. I filed an appeal with the commissioner and she ruled against me. I’d appeal to a higher authority (not that there is one) but the commissioner erased that matrix the next day.

You may notice something at the bottom of the frame. It says “D.U.S.T. =   XX days.” This has nothing to do with bike commuting. DUST means Days Until Spring Training. Rebecca looked this up on the Yankees website.  I was going to protest as a member of Red Sox Nation but I felt badly. She grew up in Albany (which I can assure you is punishment enough, says this native Albanian) and hasn’t been sent for proper deprogramming yet. We’re working on it.