Cherry blossoms and social distancing

Since it’s cherry blossom time and today is peak bloom, I decided to ride to DC to see the show. I did my best to stay as far from people as possible. If someone on the trail stopped, I stopped ten feet behind them. If I passed someone (or someone passed me), I held my breath until I was beyond them. (I even adjusted this for wind speed and direction.)

When I got to National Airport I was amazed at how empty the economy parking lot was. There were fewer cars than yesterday.

Out of frame to the right was yet more empty parking spots.

Rather than take the 14th Street Bridge directly to the Tidal Basin and the crowds, I decided to ride another mile to the Memorial Bridge and skip the Tidal Basin entirely. I did a big loop, thanks in part to very like vehicular traffic, and ended up in East Potomac Park where the main road, Ohio Drive is lined with cherry trees.

I rode to Hains Point along Ohio Drive. The road had very light traffic.

There’s a golf course to the right of this picture. I spotted a ball in the grass and passed it by. After a minute of thought, I decided to ride to Hains Point a second time and retrieve the ball. I know it’s been there for a few days and its been rained on so the odds of it carrying the virus were small. Still, I touched it like it might explode and placed it in the side pocket of my saddle bag. I rinsed my fingertips off with my water bottle. (And washed my hands with degreaser and with soap and water when I got home. Paranoia strikes deep.)

During the second trip to the point, rain began falling. Temperatures and the humidity felt more like mid May than mid March so the rain felt good. An added benefit was that it cleared out most of the tourists near the Tidal Basin. This allowed me to take the 14th Street Bridge back to Virginia.

I must say that people seem to be doing a great job of social distancing. I only saw one cluster of people with more than three or four people in it.

Finally, I learned just before leaving for my ride that one of my nieces and her boyfriend are sick. They live locally and are in their twenties. He interacted with someone who tested positive when he was at a party out of town. So presumably they are both infected with the coronavirus.

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Return to Dr. Pain and other adventures

Yesterday, in anticipation of my appointment with Dr. Pain, I walked 3 1/2 miles. I experienced some discomfort in my left leg but it never amounted to much. In fact, several times I stopped using the trekking poles. I also found that I am no longer walking on the balls of my feet, which is really awkward. Oddly, I seem unable to walk slowly. My body is full of mystery.

I had a minor, split second twinge of pain in my lower back when I was taking off my shoes but I haven’t had any symptoms of nerve pain shooting across my lower back for a week.

I almost cancelled the appointment out of an abundance of caution about the coronavirus but decided to go and be super careful. No one was in the waiting room. I used hand sanitizer three times while in the office.

After a short wait in an examining room, Dr. Pain came in and sat as far from me as physically possible. We discussed what I’ve been doing (e.g., riding a bike like a boss, walking more than a mile, physical therapy exercises twice a day) and she said that she wasn’t giving me any more shots for now. “That first shot has allowed your body to heal itself. Don’t stop what you’re doing.”

The plan going forward is for me to come back to see her in early May, but only if I have pain. Otherwise I am good to go on my annual bike tour, coronavirus willing. One thing is very clear, I am riding much stronger than I have since my 2018 tour.

After the doctor’s visit, I went to the drug store to secure some shaving stuff and paper products. They had a few shaving things. I decided to buy the expensive stuff thinking the cheap stuff was more like to have been handled by virus vectors. (Great name for a sports team!) There were no paper products. Big surprise.

When I checked out, I didn’t let the clerk (who was wearing gloves) to touch my items. It pays to be paranoid.

Then I took off for parts north. I rode the Mount Vernon Trail 15 miles to Rosslyn and crossed the Key Bridge into Georgetown. Traffic on the adjacent GW Parkway was light as it was on the bridge. Georgetown lacked its usual chaos. Mostly, the people I saw were alone or in groups of two or three. I rode past the White House and made my way through Lafayette Park. There I encountered three teenage boys on scooters as I entered the west side of the park. When I prepared to use a curb cut to leave the east side of the park, the scooter boys cut in front of me. No problem. Then I let three people on Segways, a guide and two tourists, also go in front of me. As the third person started down the curb cut she turned and sneezed over her shoulder.

I had been keeping my distance and I am glad I did. Still I waited a few seconds before proceeding into her germ cloud. I saw no point in lecturing her about her hygiene as I was pretty sure she sneezed as she did to avoid losing control of the Segway on the curb cut.

I rode the 15th Street cycletrack back toward the Potomac River. At the Pennsylvania Avenue entrance to the Ellipse I saw a group of at least 25 tourists walking across the street. Normally there would be dozens of similarly sized groups all over the tourist areas but today they were the only big group.

At the Washington Monument, DC’s famous cherry blossoms were starting to put on their show. A few trees at the Tidal Basin were also putting in a decent effort. Here’s a view looking back toward the Washington Monument across the Tidal Basin.

As I began crossing the Potomac on the 14th Street Bridge I spotted a whopper of a cherry tree in bloom. This tree is quite old and, for some reason, seems to be the first to reach peak bloom. The ramp to the bridge puts you right on top of the tree. You could go snow blind looking at it.

The ride home was uneventful. When I got home I put my clothes in the washing machine just in case Madam Segway was packing coronaheat.

Pictures of the Year 2019

Well, once again I wasted untold hours posting this inane blog. In for a penny, in for a pound. So here goes with the pictures of 2019. With one, regrettably from a few years ago.

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I finally made it to the Kenwood neighborhood in Bethesda. Cherry blossoms are one of the best things about DC in the spring.

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The bike valet at Nationals Park is the best. My bikes spent a lot of time here this year

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Nothing says bike touring fun quite like two weeks of thunderstorms.

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Springfield, Illinois just around the corner from the grave of the Corn Dog King

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Mark, Corey, and me taking shelter from a storm in a church in Kansas

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Kansas was an ordeal. Little did we know that the Rockies would be brutal. The sign was pretty neat though.

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Electrically equipped apartments in Pueblo, CO

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Flooding in western Missouri and eastern Kansas on the way west

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Part of a farm building that was obliterated by a tornado near Golden City, Missouri. Three people died here.

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I rode to the top of this beast. The ride down was epic.

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Indomitable French sisters in Boulder, Utah

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Rocks out west

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Stupidest sign of the year

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More rocks near Bryce Canyon

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Hoodoos in the Amphitheater at Bryce Canyon

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The Mule poses next to the Cedar Break National Monument snow bank in late June

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Survival indeed

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Gio and Christina from Italy in Eureka, Nevada

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I thought these climbs would never end

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Downhill through California wineries

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Salt flats in Nevada

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Morning view from my motel room – Caples Lake, California in the Sierras

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Hiking Sugarloaf, Maryland

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Lotus blossoms at the Anacostia Botanical Gardens

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Apollo 50 on the National Mall

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The Mule comes home

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They won the whole damned thing. Unreal.

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Tired? Not me. Emilia at the Great Pumpkin Ride

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Autumn in Fort Hunt Park near home

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A stellar human being killed by an out-of-control driver. Still hard to believe Miss you Dave.

 

 

 

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.

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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.

 

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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    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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.