Death and Life on the Mount Vernon Trail

Seeing wildlife up close on my bike ride to work is such an interesting part of the whole bike commuting thing. It’s not all sunshine and lollypops though. Sometimes I get a grim reminder that our animal friends live in a heartless world. Today, near Gravelley Point park I saw a male mallard in the grass near the trail. It was facing the trail and not moving. As I passed I saw lying in the dirt along the edge of the trail a female mallard. Her dusky colored feathers camoflaged her a bit. She was on her side, inert. I circled back and the male waddled a few feet further away. Alas, the female had waddled off her mortal coil. Some of her feathers were strewn across the trail. I am certain she was hit by a passing bicycle.

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I have to say that it was both heart breaking and heart warming to see the male duck standing guard over his mate.

I rode on. Two miles later I came upon some Canada geese. Amongs the adults were a bunch of fuzzy gosslings. They were wandering through the grass at random, a bit like the plastic football players on the old electric football game we used to have (and break) at Christmas. (They were animated by the vibration of the field.)

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The gosling made me feel better. They always do.

Almost as if on order, Klarence posted a selfie. The literal picture of one of my favorite people. Kind. Compassionate. Rowdy. Prideful. It made my day.

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.

When the Going Gets Weird….

Yesterday’s bike commute ended with a white snake on my front doorstep. In January. What could be weirder than that? Be careful what you ask.

It was warmer today. These things are relative. It was 36 degrees. The weather gods could not leave well enough along and added a 15 mile per hour headwind. To make matter worse I over slept. I was going to be late. For Friday Coffee Club. Eek.

Pedal. Pedal.

The bridges on the Mount Vernon Trail were icy but rideable. The pavement was clear. But for the relentless headwind The Mule and I would have made decent time. Then we encountered the flyover bridges at the airport. Ice, ice baby. I made it over the first one without slippage. I said three quick “Hail Marys” and forged ahead. As I approached the second bridge an oncoming runner warned of ice. Just as I reached the icy part, a recumbent rider blew past me. My recumbent is useless on ice because it has very little weight over the front wheel. His was a different design and his weight was more evenly distributed. Still I expected to see him skidding on his side in no time.

Nope. He just flew across the ice. My brain said. “It’s a trap!” and I slowed to a crawl as another runner approached looking very concerned. I pulled my left foot off its pedal and touched the ground. Solid ice. Somehow I kept rolling forward without slipping. Once I cleared the ice I expected a panel of judges to give me scores, knocking me down 0.5 to 1.0 points for my foot tap. I’ll bet the judge from the Netherlands screws me over. He always does.

The rest of the ride was blustery but, if anything, I was overdressed for the occasion. I arrived at Friday Coffee Club to find a decent sized gathering. I advised Sam, who had to brave the same flyover bridges after coffee, that she was in for an interesting ride.

Caffienated, I headed for Rosslyn. I took the TR bridge which empties out on the Virginia side of the Potomac onto an icy boardwalk. Somehow I made it across the ice field without slipping. (I am sure that I will pay for my good fortune someday down the road.)

The workday was pretty slow. I had a 90 minute meeting after lunch. When the meeting was over, I walked into my office. My boss followed me and said, “Go home now.”  I looked at him like he had two heads. “There has been a threat against the building. Leave.”

Dang.  My brain said, “Yay, I get to ride home in sunlight.” Then my brain said, “If something really nasty doesn’t kill me first.” I can handle snakes on my doorsteps. Threats to life and limb are a bit above my pay grade. As the late Hunter S. Thompson once said, “When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.”

I closed my door and changed like Superman in a phone booth.

The ride home was actually pretty nice. I had a 25 mile per hour tailwind.There was no ice at all left on the trail. In fact the only slippert stuff on the trail was an abundance of geese poop. Apparently Canada geese have begun their northern migration. This was taken about half way into this particular gaggle of geese.