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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

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.



When in Rome

Even with our relatively mild winter (save for one whopper of a snow storm) I grew really sick of winter. I try to console myself by recalling that for the first 28 years of my life I lived in Albany, Boston, and Providence. These cities have about 6 more weeks of winter and it gets much colder there.

DC is a beast in the summer, but it is heaven in the spring and fall. In the spring, we get life. A week ago I saw three small deer around the corner from my house. Birds are returning to the area. The stars of the show are the bald eagles. I’ve seen bald eagle pairs at two of the four nests along my commute route. As much as I like seeing them in person, I find it hard to beat watching the eagle cam that monitors the nest at the National Arboretum.

The National Park Service and other agencies plant thousands and thousands of bulbs. They are everywhere. The Mount Vernon Trail passes through scads of daffodils up near DC.

The star of the show are the cherry blossoms. This is the week when the 25910740231_b4dc02edca_mcherry trees in DC reach peak bloom. When the trees reach peak, you can go snow blind walking around the Tidal Basin. It’s really a spectacular show. This morning on my way to work I crossed over the Potomac to take a walk around the Tidal Basin.  The trees around the FDR Memorial seem to be a bit ahead of the trees nearer the water. Martin Luther King is still waiting for Boba Fett to come take him to Jabba the Hutt. He looks pretty awesome behind all those blooms. As I was finishing my circuit, I was joined by Brian, blogger, columnist, administrator, grad student, poodle lover, and rider of bikes big and small. Like me, he was a bit underwhelmed by the blossoms.

On the way 25923095971_5cd5dac2bb_mhome, I once again rode over to the Tidal Basin. This time though I took the road to Hains Point. It is lined with blooming cherry trees. The ride to the point and back is
about three miles. I did it twice mainly because the tailwind coming back from the point was a blast. Once headed for home it became a headwind. Boo.

As I told a friend today, life is like the eagle cam: sometimes you get fuzzy gray eaglets, sometimes you get dead fish innards. Innards look nasty but they help the eaglets become bald eagles.  Headwinds may suck but they make you into a badass bike rider if you endure.

Here are some more pictures from my ride.


Dang, It’s Spring

Yesterday was opening day in DC. Other than the fact that the Nationals have a shortstop who can’t field for shit early in the season, it went well. So 0-1 means we’ll just have to settle for a 161-1 record.

I went to a get together last night at a brew pub in DC. I am slowly learning that the concept of craft beer and my enjoyment of craft beer are not in sync. I had two beers and neither did much for me. Also my inability to remember names presented itself. When you can’t remember the last name of the person who invited you you’re in seriously deep social yoghurt. So if you see me at a social event and I call you Kate and you’re female don’t take offense. I figure the odds are about 1:3 that I get your name right. Also, if you give me a fritter I am infinitely more likely to remember your name for some mysterious reason. Dr. Pavlov, phone home.

I drove home from last night’s festivities in a good mood despite the memory glitch. I proceeded to get lost and ended up somehow in Trinidad, which is a DC neighborhood not an island in the Caribbean. This does raise the interesting question: Why isn’t there a DC neighborhood named Tobago? I shouldn’t make Trinidad jokes because one of my bestest bike mechanics is from there (the island, not the city). And one of my favorite #bikedc people whose name I recently forgot is from there too (the neighborhood not the island).

I made it home under a full moon unscathed by the scary drivers on 295.

This morning it looked like I might be dealing with rain so Little Nellie got the call. She was feeling forgotten. We rode briskly as I had fresh legs from not riding on Saturday or Monday. (I am participating in the 25 Days of April riding event. It’s lonely but somebody has to do it.) I spotted a young deer, probably a yearling, trotting through a wooded neighborhood park near home. Trees here and there had blossoms. Birds were making a racket. I wore shorts and t-shirts (still layering in fear of a surprise attack from winter). The ride in was pretty damned splendid.

At Gravelly Point I stopped to help a bike commuter with a flat. He’d been riding on the rim for several hundred yards. If you are a bike commuter and do not look like Kate Upton, you should carry a tube and a pump. (Kate Upton is followed by horny men in lycra who will buy her a new bike if she has a flat or even when she doesn’t.) You might also think about buying a new tire every decade or so. Spring for the kind with a kevlar belt so you get only one or two flats every 5,000 miles. Since Little Nellie’s tires are, well, little and Mr Flat’s tires were big, I didn’t have a tube I could give him. We tried pumping up his tire but the leak was so big that the outflow from the tire exceeded the inflow from the pump. Mr Flat said he only had a half mile to go so I decided not to waste 20 minutes messing with a patch. I hope you had a nice walk, Mr. Flat.

The evening bike ride was pretty darn splendid too. I took the 14th Street bridge into DC to check out the cherry blossoms. They were not yet at peak but a worthwhile show nonetheless. After two laps of the Hains Point circuit I headed for home.


On the way home I decided to leave the Mount Vernon Trail and take Fort Hunt Road instead. I made a left turn onto Fort Hunt interrupting a steady stream of right hand turning cars. I had no choice really. I was stuck in the intersection when the light turned red. One of the cars that I cut in front of was driven by a nice young lady who gave me the finger. It must suck to be her.

Even such rude behavior could not ruin such a lovely ride home, however. With fresh legs I rode up three hills on the way home with no difficulty at all. Spring will do that to you.

Busy Weekend

Friday began with a splendid bike commute aboard Big Nellie. My back is feeling better but it is still not quite free of the two-month long stiffness. As usual, I stopped at Friday Coffee Club in DC for some bike commuter chat. It was great to see that everyone was sitting outside!! And Jacques brought Hugo (and Elmo the Muppet). I had quite a good time goofing around with Hugo who likes to giggle at goofy grown ups. 

After a day of IT headaches at work, I rode home along the river with temperatures in the 70s. Did it really snow a few weeks back?

For dinner I took Mrs. Rootchopper out to Legal Seafoods in Crystal City. I had high expectations since I have been hearing about this restaurant since my days at BU, but we were both underwhelmed. The food was fine. The service was pretty good. The ambiance was meh. At home we celebrated with dyslexic chocolate fudge birthday cake. Daughter Lily phoned in a fine rendition of “Happy Birthday” from Indianapolis. We will return the favor in a couple of days.  Son Eamonn called Mom earlier for his rendition of the song.

Saturday was a near perfect day for bike riding but, having knocked off something like 137 miles in the previous four days I instead devoted the day to lawn work. First, I drove to Sears to get a new mower. The old mower had wobbly wheels and a leveling mechanism held together with zip ties. It gave me 10 years or so of use so no complaints. I had to use up the gas in its tank so I mowed the back lawn with it. It sounded like it was straining to cut even the shortest grass. Then I put together the new mower and fired it up. Yowsa!  It had noticeably more power. I could actually hear the blade zipping around inside. 

With the yard work done, we set out to see my favorite performer, Neil Finn, at the Lincoln Theater in DC. For the uniformed, Neil Finn is a singer/songwriter/guitarist/pianist from New Zealand. He’s been the force behind Split Enz, Crowded House, three solo albums, two albums with his brother Tim, and two ensemble productions with the likes of Johnny Marr, Eddie Vedder, KT Tunstall, and members of Wilco and Radiohead. His most well known song is “Don’t Dream It’s Over” but he has written scores of songs, many every bit as good. His show at the Lincoln lasted nearly three hours and exceeded my already high expectations. I am pretty sure that he could put on another show, every bit as good, with songs that he did not perform last night. I once saw Sting play Constitution Hall when he was in his early 50s. Perfect voice. Perfect band. Perfect perfromance. Same thing last night with Neil Finn. So here goes my all time favorite performances:

Neil Finn last night, Sting, Elbow at Club 930 last year, Orchestra Baobab at the Birchmere, Raffi (yes, that Raffi) at GWU, Johnny Clegg and Savuka at Georgetown, Andy Narell at Blues Alley, Los Lobos and Buddy Guy at Wolf Trap, the National Dance Company of Senegal, John Mayer with Michael Franti and Spearhead at Verizon Center.

Today was another perfect weather day. I had a date with Big Nellie. We began by checking out the Morningside bald eagle nest on the Mount Vernon Trail. There was one eagle in the nest and another apparently out and about. I do believe there will be little ones in the days ahead.

Zoom in to see the bald eagle in the nest

I took the Woodrow Wilson Bridge over to Maryland and spun up the long hill to Oxon Hill Road. My intention was to take a left and head to DC but I took the Frostian road less traveled to the right and ended up doing a 15 mile loop through suburban Prince Georges County. It’s not a pretty place to ride but the roads were not very crowded. After the loop I did another couple of loops nearer to DC. Suffice it to say that signage is not PG’s strong suit. 

I eventually made my way to the Anacostia River Trail for some flat spinning along the river. I crossed over the river on the Benning Road bridge. I worked my way to Florida Avenue which heads rather laboriously through Northeast DC and ultimately to the Lincoln Theater. Since Neil Finn was long gone, I stopped for some food and water at a 7-11. Sadly it lived down to my expectations. 

I rode over to Meridian Hill Park which was packed with people enjoying the weather and listening to the drum circle. After dining al fresco on my Turkey and cheese sammich and three oatmeal raisin cookies, I headed back home. I spent 20 minutes getting through the amazing throngs of cars and pedestrians near the Tidal Basin where the cherry blossoms were now past peak. 

The ride home into a stiff headwind kept me honest. During the ride I pondered a set list of Neil Finn songs that he did not perform last night. I’d pay good money to hear him sing them.

Funny thing is with the perfect weather this weekend his last song last night was called “Weather with You” which includes the line: Julius Caesar and the Roman Empire couldn’t conquer the blue skies.”


Drunk on Blossoms

Drunk on Blossoms

Riding Big Nellie, my recumbent, is great for sight seeing because I am sitting upright. On the way to work I spotted a bald eagle in a tree along the river next to the Woodrow Wilson Bridge. I heard that today was peak bloom for DC’s cherry blossoms. So I had to swing by East Potomac Park and ride under the blooms for a few miles. What can I say? Blossoms make me happy. Somehow they also seem to make my nose bigger. Go figure.

I added eight pix to my set on Flickr.

What’s August Going to Be Like?


It was t-shirt and shorts day. No need for layers since it was already 65 degrees outside when I left the house. I have been so obsessed with the cherry blossoms in DC that I forgot about the one on the front lawn. It’s a weeping cherry and Little Nellie thinks it looks fine.

The ride in was as splendid as a bike ride could be. My only problem was the fact that I got only 5 hours of sleep last night because it was 80 degrees in our house. We are experiencing a bit of a heat wave here in DC.  The thermometer hit 90 today which broke the record. Fortunately the humidity was low, so there were no dead bodies along the Mount Vernon Trail.

Unfortunately, the lovely weather has brought out the Lancelots, cyclists who think its reasonable to buzz past you without warning at 25 miles per hour. I will not cry when I see one of them under a BMW.

On the way home I diverted into DC for a final ride by the cherry blossoms. It seemed a good ten degrees cooler in DC. There were people everywhere. I rode two laps around East Potomac Park, meeting up with Dana from the Friday Coffee Club. We continued on through the epic traffic jam, on to the 14th Street bridge, and south on the MVT.  I mentioned that it seemed significantly hotter on this side of the river. Dana said, “That’s because we’re in the south.” He should be a meteorologist.

We had a fierce headwind. Dana tucked in behind me and was kind enough not to rear end me when I came to a near stop several times. At the south end of the airport, Dana turned off on the Four Mile Run trail. I continued into the wind.

Near the power plant two passing runners looked like they were having seizures. I heard one of them say “bugs”. A second later I was in one of those spring time bug clouds. Ack!

The rest of the ride was honest work. I didn’t see any interesting waterfowl. Or raptors. My recent regulars weren’t around, but I did see Hardware Store Guy. He owns the hardware store near my house. He rides a red Serotta up and down the MVT in the morning.

Tomorrow I get the day off. My daughter has a lacrosse game and my wife turns 37 again.

Snowblind in Springtime

Shorts were the order of the day. Yeah, baby.

Little Nellie appeared to get the worst of yesterday’s ride. She was making making more noises than my joints which has me a little worried. I isolated one noise: my rear fender was rubbing against my rear tire. Fixed.

Yesterday a clicking sound appeared during the last hour of my ride. It was worse today, maybe because I didn’t have a 20-mile-per-hour headwind to mask the sound. It only clicks when I pedal. So this is either a bottom bracket bearing gone bad, a pedal in need of a dab of lube, a seat post or saddle rail problem. I can deal with the pedal easily enough, but the other three could mean big trouble. Of course, since Little Nellie is a folding bike, it could be that one of the half dozen oddball parts on the bike is misbehaving. Time will tell.

Little Nellie is overdue for some TLC anyway so I hope to get her to 10,000 miles before she disintegrates.

The tailwind on the Mount Vernon Trail was most appreciated after yesterday’s long ride. I looked to see if my Dyke Marsh Canada geese were parents yet. Overnight Mother Goose gave birth to three retired men with fishing poles. They were lined up like See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil, sitting on their folding lawn chains in the narrow grass  strip between the water and the Parkway. I hope they don’t make it a habit of fishing there.

In Belle Haven Park the Hoppy Runner came cruising by, with nothing on his head and shorts on his bottom. This is perfect running weather, and he looked pretty happy.

The Belle Haven nest was empty but in a tree next to the MVT there was a sentinel. An osprey high up in the tree was positioned so that he could see both the river and the nest. He looked serious. I wasn’t going to mess with him.

By the time I hit the halfway mark of my commute near the power plant, the clicking from my bike was really getting on my nerves. North of Old Town, traffic on the Parkway was all gummed up because of a collision. I do believe the Prius is kaput.

French Braid Girl came rolling by. She’s sporting some Annie Hall sunglasses. Stylish.

A virtual Cossellian plethora of cyclists passed me on the way to work today. I felt old and pathetic. Then again, they will get to work early and I will still be out here enjoying the splendid weather. Ah, ‘tis good to be the tortoise.

I have a new regular. He’s John Roche Clone. John rides with black rimmed glasses and a wool cycling cap. So does JRC. I have waved to the clone three times now, each time wondering what he must be thinking.  Shortly after passing JRC, I saw Bob (Don’t Call Me Rachel) Cannon coming by. He didn’t see me. He was in a morning trance. Or maybe he has a clone too.

The ride home began with another encounter with tourists lacking situational awareness. A huddle of seven or eight Asian people, probably Japanese tourists on the hunt for Cherry Blossoms, had completely blocked the Mount Vernon Trail. On the right of the scrum was a rock wall and the GW Parkway. On the left of the huddle was the front of a line of parked cars. I rang my bell and slowed to a crawl. After a few seconds somebody called an audible and they awkwardly dispersed, but only enough to let me squeeze by. As I was about to clear the group two bikes coming from the opposite direction closed in on me swerving to cut speed as the huddle re-formed behind me. I nearly hit the second bike. I turned and yelled, “GET OFF THE TRAIL!!!”  I think by this point, having nearly been hit by three cyclists, they may have gotten the hint.

Truth be told, I feel sorry for people like this. They are disoriented by their surroundings, trying to get their group organized, and getting yelled at by the locals. From now on, whenever I go abroad, I will make it a point to obstruct the locals whenever possible, just to even the score.

I made the executive decision to take my life in my hands and ride over to DC to take in the cherry blossoms. I’d say they were about 90 percent of the way to peak. I rode the Hains Point loop in the hopes of seeing some of my cycling friends. None were to be found. I decided to walk around the perimeter. Instead of locking Little Nellie, I decided to walk her around. At first I followed a wheelchair. This made for plenty of room for my bike and me. When the wheelchair pusher ran out of steam, I had to fend for myself. I took about an hour to get all the way around. I had to stop dozens of times so that I wouldn’t photobomb the tourists getting their picture taken with the blossoms. Everyone was very civil. It’s hard to be in a bad mood when you’re going snowblind from blossoms.

Cherry Blossoms
Cherry Blossoms

The ride home was into a strong headwind. I didn’t much mind. It was actually warm out. What a strange feeling after five months of being all bundled up. South of the airport French Braid Girl came by. She looked happier. Maybe it was the tailwind that was pushing her along.

I arrived home after dark. 37 miles in shorts. Not too bad.

For pictures of the blossoms, check this out.