Thanks for the HBDs

I heard from people from every part of my life yesterday. It was pretty cool. Family, high school, college, grad school, work, my bicycling friends, readers. It’s nice to be in your thoughts. Thanks. For the rest of you who blew my birthday off, please drop dead.

Just kidding. Let’s do it again next year.

(Knocks wood.)

Extra Innings

The idea was to celebrate my 64th (god that sounds terrible) birthday by riding 64 miles but things got a bit complicated.

My daughter Lily decided that we should go to a Nationals baseball game for my birthday so last night I met her at the bike valet (I biked; she took Metro) and went inside the ballpark to watch the Nats take on the Milwaukee Brewers.

We bought two beers each at the center field bar’s happy hour and some fries and headed to our perch in Section 318. The extra beers were a money saving venture that backfired as the second beers became warm in the oppressive sauna of the Washington summer night.

beers and friesDinner view

The contest was entertaining. Lots of home runs. Just when you thought the Nationals were done for they came roaring back. They led by three runs into the ninth inning. I thought I’d get home by midnight (the ride takes about 1:20). The Nationals brought in their closer who was shelled like an oyster. Three home runs and the Brewers were ahead by one run. The Nats tied the score in the bottom of the night but stranded the winning run in scoring position.

They stayed tied until the Brewers took another lead only to surrender it. Again the Nats tied the game but left runners in scoring position. In the 14th inning the Brewers scored twice and the Nats scored once. End of game. It was now today. I had aged a year in 14 innings.

The 14 1/2 mile ride home was pretty great. A near full moon made up for the still, muggy air. I arrived home at 2:30, showered, and surrendered to the sandman at 3.

I awoke about 5 1/2 hours later and lazed around the house until 11:30. It was once again hazy, hot, and humid outside. This, combined with my bleary, sleepy head, made me dread the idea of riding 64 miles, one mile for each year. But wait! I already had 14 1/2 miles in the bank because the ride home occurred well after midnight.

I climbed aboard Little Nellie and we rode to Bethesda and back, taking a lap of Hains Point for good measure. 50 miles done. Mission accomplished.

I need a nap.



Well I’ve done it now.  I retired. Threw in the towel. Jumped the shark. Rode off into the sunset. No reason to worry about impostor syndrome anymore. Fooled them all for 33 years.

By design it was a two-fer. My birthday and retirement day all in one. Once you ;e 62 your federal pension increases by 10 percent. Bueno. Also, I get to cash out my vacation days. Muy bueno. I had beaucoup vacation days because I only took 3 or 4 days off this year and, until recently, rarely took long vacations. I could have used them to take the summer off and ride cross country but I decided to work instead and do the cross country ride next year. With a fat wallet.

I have a friend who would object. Do it now, she says, the future may not come. Setting aside the fact that she has put off seeing me into the future at least six times in the last 2 1/2 years, I disagree. If I can’t do it next year, it will be because I am dead.  I won’t care a whole lot about riding a bike.

I rode to Friday Coffee Club with a tailwind. Thank you bike gods. The conversation was pretty interesting with lots of congratulations sprinkled in. I rode to work with Lawyer Mike.  We had a 13- or 14-block conversation while riding in the M Street cycletrack. After Mike peeled off, I continued on to work through a surprisingly empty Georgetown.

As I rode across Key Bridge, an on-coming bike commuter made eye contact with me. She gave me a big smile. I may be old, but I still got it. (For me, “it” is a bad case of lumbago, but whadda ya want?)

At work, the IT staff had already left me a message. They wanted my computer and iPhone. Dang. Even vultures let the body die before they pick it clean. I put them off for a few hours, did about 10 minutes of work, said goodbye to people and called the IT folks. Okay. Come rip the technology from my cold dead hands.

And they did. And I left. Will a big smile on my face.

I rode off with a big smile on my face. For about a block a sense of melancholy came upon me. I cleared the Intersection of Doom turned down the hill to the river and a stupid grin came over my face.

I decided to use my early departure to find some eclipse glasses. I visited about 8 or 9 places for naught. Then I decided to ride to Fort Washington, Maryland to buy my National Park senior pass. $10 for lifetime admission to national parks. (An annual pass for young folk is $80.)

The ride was brutal. My tank had a (super high calorie) doughnut, some orange juice, a banana, and a mocha java. All from several hours earlier. Caffeine and sugar fumes. The heat and humidity was truly oppressive. The headwind didn’t help a whole lot either. add in some pretty nasty hills and you’ve got yourself a hurtin’ unit. But the pass was only $10! (Online it costs $20 so the ride really wasn’t necessary.  You want rational, go somewhere else.)

The ride back featured a gloriously breezy 1-mile ride downhill from Oxon Hill to the Potomac River. Once at the river, it was sauna all over again. I rode home on fumes. Then Mrs. Rootchopper and I drove to an outdoor happy hour in Crystal City, near National Airport. They were giving away eclipse glasses so we got some. And some beer and some pizza. We were joined by my daughter and her college friend who was visiting. And then we were joined by torrential rains. We got soaked. I was actually getting chilled. The rain let up. More beer. More pizza. Then the rains returned. The vendors said no mas and we were drove home.

At home I watched a Neil Finn concert from Roundhead Studios in Auckland. It was recorded live at about 3 a.m. DC time. My favorite musician. On my Retirebirthday! Yes! And what better song to play but “Taking the Rest of the Day Off.” Perfect.

After that we had cake and ice cream. I got underwear! (No lie.) A pair of socks. (No lie!) Some bug spray. (No lie!) A sleeping bag liner (redundant since I ordered one a few days before!) And the piece de resistence, a Montreal Expos baseball cap. YES!!! Not the multicolored one either. The dignified dark blue one. So cool. I’m not taking it off. Ever. Bon anniversaire!

Image may contain: 1 person, hat, sunglasses and closeup

My first official day of retirement was pretty mundane. I read the paper and did a heap of puzzles. Returned the sleeping bag liner and bought two new tires (Schwalbe Marathon Plus), citrus degreaser, wax lube in a small bottle, and a new helmet. Tour shopping. (My new panniers are on the way with the sleeping bag liner.)

I went to dinner with friends from grad school. Birthday dinners have been a thing for us for about 30 years. It’s a pretty cool tradition. When we got home, my wife and I talked to our son on Facetime. He was calling us at 9:30 am Sunday from Phuket Thailand. What a treat! He is a teacher and classes start in a couple of days. He seems pretty upbeat.

Today, I put the tires on The Mule. Then I took it for a 16-mile test ride in search of brake pads for the rear wheel. The three bike shops I visited were mobbed so I gave up. I’ll pick them up on the way to my volunteering gig on Tuesday night.

Next up was painting. I repainted the trim on the refurbished shed. Then I mowed the lawn. Oh, and there was laundry.

Ain’t retirement great!?

In all seriousness, thanks to everyone for their well wishes on this blog, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and, can you believe it, in person.







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.



Running Quilt

Most people think of me as a bicyclist or, maybe a hiker. That’s because they weren’t around when I was a runner. After losing 70 pounds and quiting a two-pack-a-day cigarette habit, I had energy to burn. I bought a bike. Soon the days shortened and my bike without a light became dangerous to ride. So, I switched to running.

My first run lasted all of a quarter mile until I stopped gasping for air. Day by day, I added distance and speed. It helped that I was living in Providence RI and, for a summer, Berkeley CA. The weather in both places is ideal for running. More than half a lifetime ago, I ran my first marathon, the Ocean State Marathon in Newport RI. 3:10:18. Lord was it hard!

A couple of years later I ran a 3:04:29 in Troy NY. Then, I played a volleyball game and my left knee popped. I tried and tried to continue with running but my body no longer wanted any part of it.

The irony is that distance running, as hard as it is to do physically, is really not about the body at all. It’s all about the mind. Any meditation teacher will tell you that meditation is about calming the mind. Clearing out thoughts and mental restlessness. Getting rid of the monkeys (or squirrels) in your head. This is what happened to me on every long distance run. Once I trained my body to handle the task, my body would go on auto pilot and my brain would calm. I missed this aspect of it terribly.

The only thing left from my running days are a drawer full of t-shirts.  In the early years of our marriage, Mrs. Rootchopper took up quilting. We talked about creating a quilt out of my old running t-shirts but scores of other quilting projects took over, including quilts for Project Linus.

Night after night she quilts away at the dining room table. It’s such a common sight that I don’t pay attention and try not to interrupt her. This is pretty much what happened over the last month or so.

Little did I know that she was crafting the running quilt all that time. Here it is presented to me as the best 60th birthday present. What an incredible surprise.