Pedals and Petals

I spent Sunday morning doing yard work, just cleaning up dead branches and vines and such. At one point I jumped to grab a loose branch hanging to within about nine feet of the ground. I never had much ups and have even less now. Suffice it to say, after three tries the dangling branch continued to dangle. My back, always gimpy anyway, decided to go into spasm.

Ugh.

So I ate some ibuprofen and watched the Nats game on TV. It was nice outside when the game ended so I went for a gentle 22-mile ride. When I finished, I was Quasimodo.

More ibuprofen and eight hours of sleep later, I could stand straight-ish. The weather was perfect outside. A sane person would spend the day resting his back by relaxing on the deck. Well…

I decided to ride 20+ miles to Bethesda Maryland to check out the cherry trees in the Kenwood neighborhood. On the way I passed by the Tidal Basin in DC where the cherry trees were clearly past peak blossom.

A tailwind pushed me further to the northwest. I was about to check my phone map for directions to Kenwood when I spotted three people standing in the middle of the Capital Crescent Trail looking up. They were standing under an absolutely huge cherry tree in full bloom. At the next intersection I took a left into cherry blossom heaven. Each street in Kenwood is lined with cherry trees. It was just past peak bloom and a bit breezy so it was snowing blossoms. Because it was Monday, there was little car traffic, and only a few pedestrians wandering around with wide eyes and big smiles.

I stayed in Kenwood for at least a half hour before heading up the CCT to Bethesda Row and lunch. After a slice of pizza and a chocolate chip cookie (my middle name is “Health”) I took off to the west. Bradley Boulevard was a bit hillier than I remembered but I used my bike tour climbing form to its best effect.

I rode through Potomac Village and over to Great Falls Park where I enjoyed the half mile winding downhill on MacArthur Boulevard. The next 25 miles took me through Glen Echo and Georgetown, and across the river to Rosslyn where I picked up the Mount Vernon Trail for the 14 1/2 mile ride home along the river.

I was sucking wind at the end, due to the 64 miles and 85 degree temperature. I was greeted by our own little weeping cherry, which bloomed while I was riding.

IMG_2348

It was the farthest I’d ridden since late August. And my back didn’t mind a bit.

 

Spring Arrives in the DMV

Spring is fighting off winter here in the DMV. (The DMV is what all the cool kids call the DC, Maryland, Virginia area.) The weather goes up and down betraying any ability to get comfortable. If you want consistency, move to San Diego.

Friday, I woke up super early and rode to Friday Coffee Club. My plan was to see the famous DC cherry blossoms at sunrise. I timed it wrong and the cherry blossoms were a day shy of peak bloom, but the sunrise over the Potomac didn’t disappoint. I stood on the river bank for a few minutes just to take it in.

Sunrise wow

Not half bad.

The 14th Street Bridge over the Potomac River reaches the DC side right smack dab in the middle of the Tidal Basin, ground zero for cherry blossom tourist madness. I managed to wiggle through cars and buses and work my way around the Tidal Basin, up 15th Street, and around the Washington Monument, enjoying blossoms the whole way. Friday Coffee Club was busier than usual so all is right with the world.

Yesterday, I rode into DC to see my first Nats game of the season. The temperature during the game was perfect. We sat in the shade just below the TV announcers who were sitting in their perch in the press box. We were directly behind home plate which afforded a pretty good view of the pitches. Throughout the game, the plate umpires inclination to call outside strikes (to right handed batters) strikes was obvious. Somehow the Nats batters didn’t seem to clue in.)

NATS view

The fans in our section have a tradition of chanting N-A-T-S NATS NATS NATS WOO!!! for each Nationals score. I’ve never been into such organized things at baseball games. Such displays are better suited to football or hockey.

Every so often pedals from the cherry trees outside the ballpark would drift down on us.

My daughter Lily kept score. She’s getting pretty good at it.

During the seventh inning stretch, the stadium played A Ha’s Take on Me, something that was discontinued a few years ago. It was most welcome but the crowd didn’t seem to get into it. The whole point is to hit the high notes for the line “In a day or two.” I didn’t attempt it, which I am sure Lily appreciated.

As for me, despite the scorekeeping and the pedals and the perfect weather and the great seats and the drifting blossoms and Take on Me, I had a hard time getting into the game. It didn’t help that, for the second game in a row, the Mets didn’t win so much as the Nats lost.

In the Friday’s game, rookie center fielder Victor Robles was caught in a rundown trying to score from third base. He thus committed the Nat’s first TOOTBLAN of the season. (TOOTBLAN means “thrown out on the bases like a nincompoop.” ) Beating yourself appears to be a Nats forte. Robles, the centerfielder, also seems to enjoy overthrowing the cut off man, perhaps so we won’t miss Bryce Harper so much.

At least a quarter of the fans present were Mets fans. A throng of them in the left field bleachers chanted LETS GO METS throughout the game. This seemed pointless since it is pretty much indistinguishable from LETS GO NATS. Late in the game as the Mets scored several runs,  a few Mets fans in our section M-E-T-S METS METS METS WOO!!! Well played, dudes.

The ride home featured a fifteen minute delay getting to the Tidal Basin as I duckwalked my bike amid tourists headed for the Tidal Basin. The sidewalks around the basin were absolutely packed with tourists. The roads were packed with cars. Nobody seemed to be having much fun.

I escaped the madness and stopped at the Crystal City garage bicycle races on the way home. I watched a couple of laps of the Anything Goes race. It’s fun to see people, some in costumes riding unicycles, cargo bikes, tandems, fixies, and other assorted contraptions.

I rode home at twilight wearing a t-shirt.

Spring is here.

 

 

Extra Innings by Bike

One of the benefits of retirement is you get to go to baseball games whenever you want. Today’s Nationals vs. Braves game started at 1 p.m. All during breakfast and my hour of physical therapy at home I checked the weather. I didn’t want to go and freeze my butt off.

I checked ticket prices. I found a seat in the front row of the left field grandstand about 20 feet to the fair side of the foul pole. For $10. I figured, if it gets too cold, I’m only out ten bucks so what the hell.

Little Nellie and I took our time during the 15+ miles to the game. As I passed the Tidal Basin, I could see that it was still peak bloom for the cherry blossoms. One tree in particular just gobsmacked me. So I took it’s picture.

 

IMG_1029
No words

My seat was perfect. My friend Katie Lee who is a baseball fanatic sent me a message asking if I had brought my glove. I laughed and said no.

IMG_1035
Caution: Baseballs are closer than they appear

I looked up and there was that foul pole. In the first inning, the second batter, a former National named Kurt Suzuki, hit a home run that hit the pole (the foul pole is in fair ground) about 20 feet above my head. BONG!

IMG_1032
It’s hollow

Maybe Katie was on to something.

The game was entertaining with some strange things that made it notable. The Braves tried to steal home plate late in the game and nearly got away with it. It was one of several plays in which the Nationals’ players seem to fall asleep mentally. On another a Braves batter managed to get a double because no Nationals fielder bothered to cover second base on a bloop hit. Derp. The Nationals had a runner on first base late in the game. The next batter hit the ball hard with a resounding WHACK and his bat shattered sending the top two thirds like a spear down the third baseline. The ball made it to the third baseman who threw out the batter to end the inning. If that bat had stayed intact I might have had another home run come my way.

The Nationals tied the game with a homer in the bottom of the ninth. Extra innings. For ten bucks. (I actually paid as much for a soda as I did for my seat. Normally I drink water but the water vendors who set up outside the park were not there today.)

The sun was in and out of the clouds all day. In the first inning I wore two layers topped with my hooded jacket. After the sun dropped below the stadium roof line, I put on a wool sweater and put my hood up.

Did I say something about another home run. Well, Kurt Suzuki hit another home run. It was coming right at me. Holy crap. My brain said “If I catch it with my bear hand the blood thinners will turn my hand into a black blob.” I turned to watch it come and went to stood up. At this point I realized that my now four layers of clothing had turned me into a hooded, immobile mass. A virtual Charlie Brown in the dead of winter. The man sitting in the row behind me three rows to my left “fielded” (more like shielded, I guess) the ball off his oversized scorebook. It bounced to the row behind him.

I thought again of Katie, who keeps score at every game she attends. She’d have made the catch if only to protect her scorebook. She would give a rats ass about my blood thinned hands. (JK, KL.)

There is a video summary of the game on Facebook. You can clearly see me dressed like the Unabomber in the front row.

In the 12th inning the Braves prevailed. Sad face.

I’d have ridden straight home, but the cherry blossoms called my soul. I did another lap of Hains Point. I saw two trees without blossoms. But the rest were just stunning. I just had to take another walk around the Tidal Basin. I was surprised to see that the sidewalk wasn’t very crowded.

IMG_1037
I’m drunk on cherry blossoms

After feeding my addiction one last time, I started the long slog home into a steady headwind.

I’m going to Friday night’s game. It will be in the 80s during the day. No more Unabomber outfits for me. And maybe I’ll bring a glove. Or a scorebook.

 

Seven to Seven

I’ve don’t like being idle so today was my kind of day. I was running around and doing stuff from 7 am to 7 pm. After breakfast and reading the newspaper I did this:

  • 15 minutes of physical therapy exercises
  • A visit to the pulmonologist. She has pretty much decided to let the hematologist determine whether I should stay on blood thinners indefinitely. This was quite a surprise to me. This assumes that my lower leg is free of the deep vein thrombosis that dispatched the clots to my lungs. When I get back from my bike tour, she’s going to experiment with lowering the dosage of my asthma medicine.
  • Checked out patio furniture at Home Despot. It looked crappy.
  • Took my car to a state inspection station to find out if it would pass inspection with a ding in the windshield. He said “yes”.
  • Bought bird seed coated with hot pepper powder. (Alas the neighbor’s squirrel appears to be adapting to the stuff.)
  • Got my haircut so that I don’t look like I am undergoing electric shock therapy
  • Meditated for 30 minutes
  • Ate lunch
  • Rode Little Nellie to DC for one last look at the cherry blossoms. Okay, I might go tomorrow and Friday buy this is peak bloom and there’s no telling when it will end. The Tidal Basin was crowded so I skipped it and rode through the tunnel of blossoms in East Potomac Park instead. If you still plan to go this year, tomorrow or Friday before work would be best. Walk around the Tidal Basin and go snow blind. Then take a bikeshare bike (the dock was full when I was there) to ride the tunnel.

    IMG_1024
    To be honest, this picture doesn’t do the road to Hains Point in East Potomac Park justice.
  • Rode to the gym to lift weights lamely. I tried some free weights today.
  • Rode home feeling tired.
  • Ate dinner
  • Turned on the Nats game right about now

 

 

Errandonee: Peaceful Everyday Actions

Being retired, I am practically specializing in peaceful everyday actions. My intent today was to take advantage of the fact that it was actually spring like outside and the season opening away game for my team (the Washington Nationals) was postponed to tomorrow.

I rode to DC to check out the cherry blossoms. If you want to max out your peaceful experience, it is best to go at dawn when the trees are in full bloom. Alas, it was after 1 p.m. when I arrived and the blooms were well short of full.

I rode Ohio Drive to Hains Point in the lame hope of seeing the trees along the roadway showing off their snowy blossom best. No dice.

Undeterred I headed back over to Virginia where I rode the bike trails around Arlington County. On my way back home, I took the Mount Vernon Trail. In the marsh near Daingerfield Island I spotted an immense snowy egret perched in a tree like a character from a Dr. Seuss book.

He was hard to miss being at a distance and at approximate eye level. I am so spoiled that I often forget to check out the bald eagle nests further south on the trail. Today I paid deliberate attention and was rewarded with quite a sight. A large bald eagle was perched above the nest near Tulane Drive. I pulled over and just took the sight in for 15 minutes. Although I was conspicuous in my eagle gazing, none of the passing trail users stopped to see what I was looking up at. Their loss.

bald eagle tulane.jpg

I left the eagle to his sentry duty and rolled home. I was pretty tired, a result of the warmer, moister air and riding 98 miles in two days.

Errand No. 11:  Peaceful Everyday Action – Eagle Gazing

Destination: The Tulane Bald Eagle Nest

Observation: The cherry blossoms aren’t the only thing in bloom around here. The wildlife population is about to explode. In the last two days I’ve seen egrets, ospreys, herons, an owl, and bald eagles. And last night I heard spring peepers. Sadly, the explosion of clueless tourists is also upon us. Treat them with kindness. They’ll be gone soon enough.

My distance today was 41 miles. Bringing my total to 168.5.

Some Mondays Ain’t Half Bad

I was zonked all day Sunday. No energy at all. I was a sloth. Today I woke up and jumped on Little Nellie for the ride to work. My legs had pop for the first time in weeks. Off we went into dense fog. We stopped at Dyke Marsh where I take my pictures of the sunset over the river. Today, not so much.

IMG_0509

There’s a river out there. I just know it.

The ride to work was terrific. The temperature was about 50 degrees and I was underdressed and the fog was condensing on everything I had on. Except for the fact that I couldn’t see through the condensation on my glasses I didn’t much care.

Opposite the Washington Monument I looked east to see what my kids called The Pencil. Um, it wasn’t there. Mostly nothing was.

IMG_0510

I swear the fog had gotten even denser.

I heard some noise out on the river. Voices. Loud voices. Then from the left I saw them. The crew teams were out practicing. The eights. Coaches were on small motor boats shouting instructions. Coxswains were yelling whatever it is they yell. One after another they emerged then plunged back into the pea soup. It reminded me of the dense fog off Newport RI where I once taught. All that was missing was the ominous outline of The Breakers and the lonesome fog horn in the distance.

On the way home I passed an old friend just before I hit the TRUMP (Teddy Roosevelt Uber Mulch Pit). We disengaged a couple of years ago. There have been some awkward failed attempts to reboot. As she rolled past she scowled. Was it at me? No matter. Life goes on.

And so did I. I crossed over the river to take in the famous cherry blossoms which reached peak bloom on Saturday. I had already tried twice to take in the show but both times only a few blooms could be seen. I had few hopes for today but was pleasantly surprised by how many blossoms survived the cold snap last week. In years past the blooms were just other worldly. This year they were merely excellent. No complaints from this blossom lover. I walked Little Nellie around the Tidal Basin. Everyone, including me, was smiling.

IMG_0516

After a 3-mile spin down to Hains Point and back to view more cherry trees, I headed for home. The 10 -15 mile per hour headwind didn’t phase me in the least. The air was warm and the trail was mostly empty.

As Monday’s go, this one could not be beat.

Errandonnees No. 10 and 11 – Blossoms and Mouthwash

Hey, I run out of clever titles sometimes. Shoot me.

My first errand of the day was for a near peak viewing of the fabled DC cherry blossoms. I had already made two attempts to have the blossoms soothe my soul but was disappointed by the lackluster bloomage. Yesterday, I was in Old Town Alexandria and parked under a cherry tree in full bloom. Then I saw this beauty in Rosslyn near work.

IMG_0512

So I had to go back to the Tidal Basin for another look. Today was a different story. Far more of the trees were in bloom than I expected. It was quite a show. Little Nellie stopped for a photo with some blossoms and the Jefferson Memorial.

IMG_0517

After this I rode to Hains Point for more blossom goodness.

Errand No. 10

Category: Wild Card

Miles; 6

Observation: I was in a good mood when I left work. On the way to the Tidal Basin I passed a friend who had a scowl on her face. We were once close but haven’t talked in over a year. I wondered if the scowl was meant for me. What a drag. Then I spent a half hour among the blossoms. Good mood restored.

My second errand of the day was a top at the drug store for some mouthwash. Pretty lame but it’s only 1/8th of a mile off route from my ride home. That is unless you forget to take a picture and have to double back.

IMG_0520

Errand No. 11

Category: A store.

Miles: 1/2

Observation: This is Rite Aid’s busiest pharmacy because so many old people live in my neighborhood. We get a discount because we buy more drugs than most junkies. Asthma and glaucoma do have their upside after all.

Errandonnee No. 7: Beaver, Balls, and Blossoms

Good thing I saw some blossoms today because a blog title “Beaver and Balls” would have attracted a new readership.

On the way to work, I saw a beaver swimming near the beaver bridge (why do you think I call it that) just north of Slaters Lane on the MVT.

It was nice to have a tailwind too. Warm air would be coming on southerly breezes, but it wasn’t here yet.

In the evening I shed a few layers and headed for some cherry blossom therapy. The blooms are clearly below normal peak but they are still a tonic for what ails your weary Friday evening mind. I rode to Hains Point and picked up a golf ball that had settled along the roadside, far from any fairway that I could see. Having contributed a few dozen golf balls to the woods and water features of golf courses back home in my youth, I felt justified in pocketing this beauty.

IMG_0504

Miles: 5 (on top of 29 1/2 getting to and from work)

Category: Non-store Errand.

Observation: When the blossoms are perfect, you could go snow blind walking around the Tidal Basin. I feel for anyone who comes to DC for the first time to see the cherry blossoms like this. Come back next year. They’ll be much better. Whenever you go, try to get to the Tidal Basin about 30 minutes after sunrise. The low angle of the light makes for great pictures. And the crowds are smaller.

Pre-peak Cherry Blossom Ride

Winter has returned. It was in the 30s with a northwest wind. A snowstorm looms in the days ahead. DC’s famous cherry blossoms are in jeopardy. So I went up to DC today to check out what was in bloom. Short answer: not much.

I parked at Gravelly Point Park near the airport across the river. This was a good idea because the highways heading into the city were jammed with traffic. The 1 1/2 mile ride was pleasant enough. Blue skies and puffy white clouds practically commanded me to look up. So I did. Here’s one from the back side of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial.

DSCN5784

There were only a handful of trees in anything close to peak bloom. And the wind picked up as I walked and rode among them. Even without peak bloom the blues skies and the trees and the monuments made for pretty views. Deets couldn’t resist striking a pose.

17264121_10210274520932162_3619050867144740935_n

Here are a few more over on my Flickr page.

 

Navigating the Blossom Borg

Yesterday I rode my bike to the Adams Morgan neighborhood of DC.  I was going to a get together for my friend Ricky who was hit by  a car a couple of weeks ago. He was also celebrating his 50th birthday. Under the circumstances, he’s probably grateful to be 50 instead of pushing up the daisies.

My trip took me through Old Town Alexandria where I did some business at the UPS Store. Then I rode the inland route, the alternate to the Mount Vernon Trail, all the way to Lady Bird Johnson Park opposite the monuments in DC. There I crossed back over to the MVT. There were an unusual number of walkers on the Virginia side of the Potomac so I knew it would be crowded at the Tidal Basin directly across the river.

As I took the ramp to the 14th Street Bridge, I waved a family group of bicyclists to go before me. There were perhaps 15 people in the group. Their ages ranged from 10 to 50. They took their time and were very careful to avoid crashing into each other or into other trail users. Nicely done folks.

On the bridge I could get a closer view of the crowds around the Tidal Basin. It was insane. When I arrived at the Jefferson Memorial at the DC end of the bridge it was an absolute zoo. Suffice it to say, “On your left” doesn’t work with a busload of disoriented tourists from Japan.

After my bicycle escort veered off to park, I rode through the tourist hordes. I tried to use pavement but it was pointless so I rode on the grass and eventually found a clear path on the sidewalk that follows the approach to the bridge to the east of the Memorial.

The sidewalk curves back to merge with the cherry tree lined sidewalk that goes around the perimeter of the basin. It was a sea of humanity. Moving ever so slowly through a pinch point on a bridge over the inlet that connects the basin to Washington Channel. It must have looked like a swarm of ants from above.

You could almost hear the voice in their collective hive mind:

Must. See. Blossoms.

Must. See/ Blossoms.

Resistance is futile.

I crossed the street to get around the swarm. At 15th and Maine, I waited for  a red light. Pedestrians who were waiting to cross Maine were so thick they spilled from the sidewalk and blocked my way.

The light turned green and the swarm moved as one. As I rode up to Independence Avenue, the swarm moved on the sidewalks to either side of me. At Independence, the swarm swallowed a crosswalk. Two traffic control officers tried in vain to maintain order. The swarm would not be denied. It swallowed them. After half a light cycle, an opening appeared and I carefully slipped through. Now I only had to deal with the swarm of cars moving so slowly.

DSCN4716.JPG
The Touroid Borg at 15th and Independence. If you look closely, you can see one of the traffic cops. 

A turning tour bus blocked 15th at Pennsylvania allowing me to get onto the 15th Street cycletrack where I was joined by a woman riding alone. She seemed uneasy with riding in such conditions so she told me she was going to follow my lead. She had an accent, and, as it turns out, was German. Having lived on Capitol Hill for the last year, she discovered that riding a bike was the best way to get around town. Especially on days like today. Once we escaped the White House area the crowds dissipated and we made good time. She peeled off at P Street while I forged ahead.

I reached Meridian Hill Park and did a victory lap. The water cascade had not been turned on but otherwise it was a normal Saturday in the park. No swarm of tourists. Just local folk doing local folk park things.

I made it to the get together at a pool hall in AdMo. Ricky looked to be in great shape. He seems to be recovering nicely. He may even start going to work next week full time. It will be a lot longer before he can ride a bike again however.

The get together featured a bunch of BikeDC folks from Friday Coffee Club so it was a reunion one day after the finale.  I stayed way too long. Twilight was descending as I emerged on the street. The effects of the beer were made evident by the fact that The Mule seemed like a bucking bronco.

No guts, no glory.

(Do not try this at home. Really. Riding through traffic at twilight after drinking beer is just not a good idea. )

I rode back down to the swarm, touching cars here and there at stop lights to get my low speed balance in check. The swarm was smaller. Perhaps touroids calm down like hornets when the air cools.

The river crossing was almost normal. As was the ride down the trail to my house.

Today was the first day this spring that The Mule and I seemed to be in sync. After tweaking my handlebars and saddle, I finally found the sweet spot where pedaling seemed effortless. This gives me hope for the spring riding season and my tour planned for early July.

The day really zonked me. I fell asleep working a crossword puzzle at the kitchen table. When I awoke, I lied down on the couch in our family room. Then the spasms in my legs began. First, my left thigh, then my right calf, then my right thigh, then both  my thighs. On and on into the night.

Apparently beer is not the best electrolyte drink.

I drank some water and lemonade and hoped for the best. Then I slept like a log from a cherry tree.