- The home renovation project is proceeding. We are in Week 4 of having our family room and a chunk of our basement refurbished. Framing and electrical are done. The plumbing awaits the fixtures. Insulation is in. Next week will add more drywall, install a new exterior door, and do more work on the bathroom in the man cave. I think we are past the unpleasant surprises stage. Knock wood.
- I have been collecting golf balls on my athletic excursions for decades now. Yesterday brought the biggest one day haul ever.
- Nine golf balls! They were scattered about on the outside of a golf course fence near a green and its adjacent sand traps. There must have been a parade of rank amateurs recently. Among the balls I found a beat up iPhone. I took it to a local phone store. They found that it was missing its SIM card and concluded that it was stolen and tossed out a car window. Phone thieves are the worst.
- For two years, I have been working on my application for Irish citizenship by birthright. Just before I left for my tour in May, I sent off a request for documents to the New York State Vital Records office. I paid $30 extra for expedited, 60-day treatment. I should have received the documents in July, but it took them a month to cash my checks. So the clock on my expedited treatment didn’t start until mid-June. (Unscrupulous credit card companies use a similar tactic. They sometimes sit on mailed payments then charge late fees. My wife had this stunt played on her twice.) Despite giving themselves a full month leeway, it still took the folks in Albany 2 1/2 months to process my request. I had lost all hope until I checked today’s mail. Bingo!
- With my grandmother’s wedding certificate now in hand, I now had all the necessary documents in support of my application. As I went to mail it, I noticed that the form listed one address in Dublin and the Irish government website listed another. A lovely lady at the Irish embassy in DC told me to use the address on the website and to send the documents with tracking. As I left the house it began to rain as if I was in Castlebar, County Mayo on a dreary winter day. I drove to the nearest FedEx office. They couldn’t deal with the lengthy address. I was beginning to wonder if I’d ever get this thing out of my hands. A competent bloke at a nearby UPS store set things right and my application and documents are now winging their way to Dublin. Now I wait a year. Yes, a year.
- On my way home I was stopped at a stop light. A big silver sedan pulled up behind me and nudged my car. I looked in the rear view mirror and saw a bun of white hair and two eyes peering over a steering wheel in the sedan. The little old lady had a death grip on the handlebars. It’s a good thing that I drove. That nudge would have knocked me ass over kilter had I been on my bike.
- My left knee is really unhappy with me. When I exert force on the pedals, it barks and sends painful electrical signals to my hip which then joins the pain party. When I sit with my leg elevated the knee stiffens up. No bueno. If this doesn’t clear up, I am afraid I will go under the knife this fall. What’s winter without a medical mess to deal with, I say.
- Congrats to
- Ed and Mary, the King and Queen of Caffeine, on completing Paris-Brest-Paris yesterday. They rode their tandem 750-odd miles in under 3 1/2 days. Mon Dieu!
- My friend Chelli and her daughter Shivani. They both climbed Kilimonjaro in Africa. Over 19,000 feet. Chelli is taking some friends, me included, for a hike on Sunday. We are so screwed.
- The French sisters who completed their ride across America in New York City this week. I only talked with them for a few minutes in Boulder, Utah but their energy was inspiring. In the process, they raised over $4,500 for Rose Altitude, a breast cancer charity
- Dan Hurwitz who I met near Sapinero, Colorado. He was scheduled to reach the Atlantic Ocean at Revere Beach, Massachusetts today. He started in San Jose, California over 100 days ago.
- Cassy is riding 50 States with me this year. When I asked her to join me for the ride, she said she was worried that she wouldn’t be able to keep up. Today she passed me on the way to work. Left me in the dust. Suffice it to say, I am going to get my ass kicked in a couple of weeks.
- I hate pathletes. These are bike riders who ride trails as if they are in the Tour de France. They have no regard for anyone else on the trail. With nice weather, they were out in force today. May they die from infected saddle sores.
- I am no big fan of parents who take their kids on the trails either. Yes, I realize it’s a park but little kids have zero situational awareness and run in front of bikes and scooters. I saw several near misses today. (That said, there were so many cute little kids out there today riding their teeny bikes and running on wobbly legs.)
- Weathermen are not floating my boat lately. They’ve over forecasted the temperature two days in a row. I go out thinking it’s going to warm up and end up freezing my butt off. You don’t need a weatherman to know that how fast your noonoos are freezing. Didn’t Bob Dylan say that?
- It took me most of the afternoon to ride 45 1/2 miles from my house in Fort Hunt to Bethesda and back. From DC to Old Town I had nothing in the tank. I rallied for the last six miles though which gives me cause for optimism. It was my longest ride in over four months.
- Before my ride, I spent 45 minutes doing my yoga routine. Some people believe yoga is self love; for me, it is self torture. Whoever invented the side plank deserves a special place in hell.
- I haven’t ridden Little Nellie in over a week. My body is nearly pain free. It may be time to find my Bike Friday a new home.
- I do my best thinking on my bike. Today, for instance, I figured out when I hurt my left rotator cuff. On my 2017 bike tour of Wisconsin and Michigan, I took a ton of pictures with a point and shoot camera while I was riding. Being right handed this meant that I had to control my loaded touring bike with only my left hand. When I was done, I noticed how sore my left triceps was.
- I destroyed the map case on my old Ortlieb handlebar bag during last summer’s tour. My bag lid closes with metal snaps. The more recent design of the bag closes with magnets. It also uses a redesigned map case. Last night, I stumbled on a website that carries the old map cases. So I guess I won’t have to buy a new bag.
- My friend Charmaine found $52 on the street while riding her bike. She’s buying.
- I follow someone on Twitter who likes bicycling and Neil Finn, and named her dog Lily (which is my daughter’s name). This has all the makings of a horror movie. Cue the Bernard Hermann strings….
For a year that started out rather boring, 2017 did a fine job of recovering. In no particular order, here’s my top ten.
- Hey Bulldog – Daughter Lily grabbed her diploma with departmental honors from Butler University. The way she maxed out her college years put me to shame.
- An entire junior year abroad split between Sydney, Australia and Stockholm, Sweden.
- A double major and a minor, taking classes in the summer to make it all work.
- An internship in the county DA’s office, working on student government, making community service trips out of spring breaks, and displaying infinite patience as an RA for two years.
- Traveling to Russia, Finland, Norway, Denmark, Iceland, the UK (London and Scotland), France, Belgium, Germany, Czechia, Poland, Latvia, Greece, Turkey, Cyprus, Italy, Vatican City. Monaco, Spain, Thailand, New Zealand, and undoubtedly a few more.
- She’s now in London for grad school. Her passport must have burn marks on it.
- Call Me Johnny Paycheck – Mrs. Rootchopper threw in the towel on the work-a-day world in the spring. She immediately adapted to the new normal. I waited until my August birthday to get a 10 percent bonus on my pension. We are both very happy with our decisions. If, however, you want to pay us big money to quilt or ride bikes, we’d be interested in your financial offer.
- I’ll Take 50 States, a Century, and Break Some Cider, Hon – I rode only five event rides this year.
- I traveled to Charm City to do the Tour Dem Parks, Hon ride and visit with Mr. Hoppy 100, John Roche, and his daughter Eleanor. (I think she’s swell.)
- Carrie Ross is on the board of a local charity that helps homeless people get back on their feet. She’s also married to Greg Billing, WABA’s Executive Director. In a page right out of Mickey Rooney/Judy Garland movies, they put on a bike ride for the charity. Sadly, there was no tap dancing. Anyway, I rode it. Pretty darn good for a first time event. Not to rest on their laurels, Carrie and Greg brought a baby boy into this world a few months later. Congrats Mom and Dad.
- In the late summer, I rode the Reston Century. I failed to understand that hilly rides are a bad idea unless you have itty bitty gears. I believe I was lanterne rouge.
- This explains why, a couple of weeks later, I nearly died climbing to Cathedral Heights during my ninth 50 States Ride. I was aided and abetted by a great posse of #bikedc’s finest including Stephen, Rachel C., Kevin W., and my 2014 50 States Ride buddies Michael and Emilia. Ellos eran muy buenos.
- In November I did the Cider Ride for the fifth time. It was cool, literally. I missed a few turns, but used the Google to get back on course. For the second year in a row, I was stung by a bee at the second pit stop. It was all worth it because the after party, as usual, was a winner.
- In December I rode around in circles for 44 miles with something like 600 other people in support of WABA’s Women and Bicycles program at the Hains Point 100. It was an impressive turn out considering the fact that most people have crazy schedules this time of year.
- Let Me Help You with That – For the longest time, I have avoided volunteering. I’m such a jerk. This year I volunteered at WABA five times. I learned that stuffing envelopes in the office is more comfortable than standing around in the cold at the start/finish of the Vasa Ride. Do the math: free beer + pizza > hot blooberry soup. I also tried my ineffectual, introverted hand at bike advocacy by attending three events.
- March! – I attended some rather large marches in DC. The Women’s March was really the yoogest. I could not see the edge of the crowd I was in. When I got home and saw pictures of the throng I was shocked. There were at least a three dozen people I knew there. I didn’t see any of them. My guess is the crowd was at least 500,000. The Science March seemed inane. We’ve stooped this low in this country that we have to march to support science? I hung with the folks at WABA for the Climate March. I went to the Immigration Ban protest and left before it became a march down Pennsylvania Avenue.
- Riding to the End of the Road – Without a job to constrain me, I took off on a solo, unsupported bike tour. With cool weather approaching I decided to avoid the chill and head straight south — into a hurricane zone. I called it the No Way So Hey Tour. After hundreds of miles of rural poverty, cotton and peanut farms, friends old and new, and gale force winds pelting me with sand and rain, I rode through the hurricane ravaged Florida Keys. What a great feeling to stand next to the storm-damaged Southernmost Point buoy in Key West. I followed it up by riding Alligator Alley through the Everglades across central Florida. Along the way, I took side trips to Charleston, the Okeefenokee Swamp, and Savannah.
- Making the Most of a Sad Situation – Through Facebook, I learned of the death of one of my grad school roommates. Jim Burgess, whom we called Chet, was, as Mrs. Rootchopper said, “The nicest guy in the world.” He died of colon cancer. I drove to Providence for the wake and funeral. Afterward I went for a bike ride along Narragansett Bay. On the way home I stopped to ride Little Nellie around the New Jersey Pine Barrens.
- Why Life Nearly Doesn’t Begin on Opening Day – At the end of March, I was riding in the rain to a Nationals exhibition game when an SUV came out from behind a wall and hit me. How in the world I managed to get out of it without a scratch is beyond me. About 100 yards later, I learned that the game was cancelled.
- Lazarus in an Expos Hat – After surviving the exhibition demolition derby season, I attended about a dozen games. I even went to Baltimore with some co-workers for a Saux game. It was so wikkid we did it again at Nationals Park. I drove to a few more Nats games with Lily who likes the pregame happy hour about as much as the game itself. I also did a game with @BobbieShaftoe and her family. March 29, 2018 can’t come quickly enough.
- Take a Walk – As usual, I didn’t do nearly as much hiking as I intended to. I managed to finish the Potomac Heritage Trail. In a planning blunder, I did the Ashby Hollow hike again. The hike to Raven Rocks was probably the best though. I have a fear of heights so there’s nothing like a hike to a cliff to keep things interesting. And in the spirit of Nigel Tufnel,
- Full House – Last night we had a full house for the first time in two years. Mrs. Rootchopper spent days making fudge and baking cookies in anticipation. Daughter Lily flew in from London and son Eamonn came around the world from Phuket, Thailand. My hope is they both remember to drive on the right.
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 somehow managed to salvage a respectable amount of riding in June. I rode 594 miles, 78 percent of which was riding 16 times to and from work (and the car garage and Nats games). 131 miles were from weekend rides, all but 1 1/2 miles of which was on my Cross Check. I commuted to work three times on Big Nellie. Most of my rides were intentionally on upright bikes, to prepare for the July tour of Wisconsin and Michigan.
For the first half of the year I rode 3,371 miles. 2,517 came from 85 bike commutes. My oldest bikes still get the most work. I’ve ridden The Mule 1,216 miles. Big Nellie had 923 miles.
I also hiked up Hogback Mountain. Only one hike. I’ll get on that soon.
On the whole, November turned out to be a pretty decent month. The weather was unseasonably warm, except for a few days when I froze my ass off. I rode to work 15 times. My long ride was a 55 1/2 mile cavort through DC to Bethesda and back.
The Cider Ride turned out to be quite a lot of fun. It was especially good to see so many people I knew at the afterparty at the Dew Drop Inn.
With the exception of a single commute on The Mule, I rode only two bikes this month. Little Nellie took care of the rest of the commutes. My Cross Check handled weekend duties.
For the year I now have ridden 6,908 miles. Of that, 4,556 miles were just getting to and from work. About 1/2 the commuting miles were on The Mule. A third were on Little Nellie. A sixth were on my increasingly little used Big Nellie. Since August, practically all my fun rides have been done on my Cross Check.
I did a long solo hike near Harper’s Ferry. The views were fantastic.
I have had very few injuries this year. A back spasm now and then. And a numb foot that is mostly trouble free these days. All the biking and hiking (plus some therapeutic conversations with friends and meditation) have rid me of the depression that dogged me last winter and spring.
Let’s see if I can finish strong and break through the 7,000 mile barrier before the snows come.
March is over. FINALLY!
It wasn’t a very productive month for cycling, mostly for family-related reasons. Also, I wimped out when I thought that the Mount Vernon Trail would be too slippery for safe riding.
I rode 434 miles, 312 on Big Nellie, my Tour Easy recumbent. The remaining 122 were on Little Nellie, my Bike Friday New World Tourist. I have yet to ride The Mule this year. The Mule is tanned, rested and ready.
I only did 15 rides this month. Ten were commutes (8 on Big Nellie and 2 on Little Nellie). The remaining rides ranged from a short 2 ½ mile trip to the hardware store and a 56 ½ mile to the bagel store (in Bethesda). We could really use a decent bagel store in Mount Vernon. Of course, even with a bagel store, we wouldn’t have a railroad trestle above an urban canyon to hang out on while we ate, but you can’t have everything.
The big highlight of the month was the Vasa ride on Saint Patrick’s Day. (Did you know that Saint Patrick drove all the snakes out of Stockholm?) I did most of that ride with Lisa, who has become a regular ride partner these days.
Big Nellie reached a milestone late in the month, hitting 32,000 miles on the odometer. Little Nellie will probably never catch her two siblings who are slugging it out to reach 33,000 miles this year. I expect to hit 10,000 miles on Little Nellie later this spring so that’s not half bad.
My mileage for the year is 1515, or 505 miles per month. April will be another month of intermittent commuting. I have a bunch of lacrosse games to attend and a school musical. (My daughter is a busy second-semester senior in high school.)
The highlight of April will almost certainly come this week when the cherry blossoms finally bloom. And there is no better way to see them than on a bike.