Did someone say cider? And doughnuts? And pie? And beer?

What a difference a week makes. The autumn that wasn’t put on a fantastic show today. Reds and yellows and browns and crisp breezes and puffy clouds.

Lucky for me there was a bike event to get me out into the glorious outdoors. The Washington Area Bicyclist Association’s Sixth Cider Ride was today. Somehow, someway the WABA weather curse failed. A storm front moved through the area last night bringing high winds and heavy downpours. A couple of hours before the ride began, the front moved eastward. I had come prepared for rain but made a last minute decision to change from rain gear (rain jacket and long pants) to cool weather gear (shorts with long wool socks, topped off with a pull over fleece). Perfect.

I also decided to raise the saddle on Little Nellie, my Bike Friday folding travel bike. Just a tad. Even minor adjustments can have big benefits or cause big problems. I guessed right, however. I rode about 2-3 miles per hour faster today than yesterday. And my back and knees didn’t bother me at all.

The ride started in Northeast DC just before 9 a.m., and took us on a ramble along the Anacostia River trail system. The trails were covered with wet leaves making the going a bit dicey. One unfortunate rider fell and had to be taken away in an ambulance. Elizabeth, the rider immediately behind him, couldn’t stop and crashed as well suffering a big boo boo on her left thigh.

I knew several of the riders. I rode initially with Leslie but she was riding as a course marshall and had to stop and render assistance to the injured riders. Before the crash we came upon Jesse whose bike had died a hero on the trails. Somehow her rear derailler had fallen off. She was forced to take the Uber of shame. (She had her bike fixed and actually did one of the shorter versions of the ride. She persisted!)

We left the trails and stopped at Proteus Cycles in College Park to partake of warm cider and apple slices. No wait. There’s doughnuts over at the next table. Ixnay on the apple slices. Bring on the junk food!

After achieving sugar nirvana, we headed on roads through the Beltsville agriculture research area. Here my tweak to Little Nellie’ saddle height paid off. I was riding 15-20 miles per hour through fields and stands of colorful trees. Clearly, the tailwind helped a lot but I was feeling very comfortable on the bike for the first time in weeks.

Did I mention that it was gorgeous outside?

I could have stopped dozens of times to take pictures but I figured one would do the trick. Light car traffic, the low angle of light, colorful leaves everywhere, and a road with some bikes receding in the distance. Dang.

The route took up to the Patuxent Research Refuge where we turned around to fight the wind for a few miles. Then we crossed back through the agriculture complex, over a hill,  and into Greenbelt. Here we stopped in a park for warm cider and pie. I went with the apple pie because pumpkin pie makes me gag.

I stayed long enough to hear more about the crash from Elizabeth, who showed me her  bruise. (Elizabeth, Dr. Rootchopper recommends red wine. It won’t help the bruise but you won’t care.) And I got a surprise hug from Laura. I am a fan of the hammy Instagram mini-movies she makes of her bike commutes and other shenanigans.

I left the rest stop and headed back toward DC. This part of the route was different from last year so I stopped frequently to avoid getting lost. I only went about 100 yards off course all day. (I missed the cue “Take a right at the porta potties.”) We rode back to the trail system by way of the College Park Trolley Trail in Berwyn.

Just before getting back on the Anacostia Trails I passed a rest stop where people were yelling at me. I learned later they were yelling “Mead!” I was in a nice flow so I passed up the offer to wet my whistle, choosing instead to make a crossing of a busy highway behind 20 other cyclists. Within minutes I realized I had goofed. This group was doddling along and I was in the mood to motor. After a mile of hanging off the rear, I started passing people. In five minutes I was alone off the front of the group and whizzing down the trail along the river. It was beautiful. The sunlight off the water was the perfect complement to the breeze and the colors.

The change in the course also involved going south along the Anacostia on the east side of the river for about a mile then doubling back on the west side. This portion on the ride featured a strong headwind off the water and was serious work. It appears that most other riders skipped this part. I can’t blame them. Perhaps the highlight was riding past dilapidated RFK Stadium. The stadium was one of many “multiuse” stadiums built in the 1960s. I looks ripe for implosion these days.

The last few miles were across Capitol Hill and up the Metropolitan Branch Trail. I rode most of the second half of the ride much harder than the first so I my legs were ready to call it a day. And soon I arrived at the finish at the Dew Drop Inn. There, after 55 honest miles, I tossed back a couple of Raven lagers and hung out in the sun with friends on the elevated deck.

And tonight we set the clocks back one hour. The extra hour of sleep is exactly what my tired legs need.

 

Top Ten of 2016

As is so often the case, my top ten list goes to 11. Hey, it’s my blog and I make the rules.

Yooper for a Week
After 11 years I finally did another solo bike tour. I drove 13+ hours to Ludington Michigan. After a ferry ride across Lake Michigan, I rode The Mule fully loaded with gear into the north woods of Wisconsin. On July 4, I had breakfast in Freedom. After a few days I turned east and crossed the UP, the upper peninsula of Michigan. After the UP, I visited car-free Mackinac Island on a quiet Sunday morning. Other than a two-hour scary thunderstorm and three hilly days of headwinds near the end of the tour, the weather could not have been better. And I managed three ferry rides without getting sick. I rode 832 miles in 11 days. It was a wonderful combination of hard work and rolling meditation. I proved to myself that even at 60 years old I still got it. Okay, maybe not all of it but enough of it to get the job done. I can’t wait to do another.

An Eventful Spring
Prior to my tour I warmed up my legs by riding some bike events. I kicked the year off with the Vasa Ride, co-sponsored by the Washington Area Bicyclists Association and the Swedish embassy. It was a bit of a disappointment because this is normally a social ride but I rode it alone and didn’t do much socializing at the embassy reception afterwards. Next came the Five Boro ride in New York City. The Five Boro Ride has always been on my to do list but conflicted with work, parenting responsibilities, and personal lethargy. I convinced Paul to join me (with Amy along for moral support). Paul and I rode the 40+ mile ride in a cold rain at the start of May. It wasn’t all that much fun, but touring Manhattan the day before in splendid weather with the wonderful guidance of my BU friend Susan made up for riding the Brooklyn Queens Expressway in a driving rain.

At the end of May, I rode the new DC Bike Ride. Not to be outdone by NYC, we had cold rain for that one too.

Scary Night
In May, I woke up in the middle of the night with severe chest pains. After a few hours of increasing pain, Mrs. RC called for an ambulance. The ride to the hospital ½ mile away took 20 minutes but I was well taken care of. What I feared was a heart attack turned out to be a respiratory infection. Fortunately, a nebulizer treatment in the ER and antibiotics fixed me up over the next week. An earworm of the Neil Finn song Anytime played for days. “I could go at anytime. There’s nothing safe about this life.” Words to live by.

At the end of the week, I dragged myself out of bed and rode my bike on Bike to Work Day. I was still under the weather but I now know I can ride to work with one lung tied behind my back.

Pulling Beers Like a Boss
I have been lax in volunteering at local bike events, basically forever. This year, with my respiratory problems more or less behind me, I volunteered at the Tour de Fat in DC. This is a fundraiser for bike advocacy groups (WABA being one of many) and I was determined to help out. It rained. It was cold-ish. I pulled beers nonstop for two hours. Instead of hanging around for the rest of the day, I went home and went to bed. (Every party has a pooper that’s why we invited you.) Next year I hope to be around to volunteer again. And to socialize afterward.

Call Me Lars
Our daughter finished up her year abroad with a semester in Sweden. A few days after Tour de Fat, Mrs. Rootchopper and I flew over and toured parts of Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and Iceland. It was an exhausting two weeks and fun to re-visit Copenhagen after over 15 years. Although I was in bicycle heaven for most of the trip, I didn’t ride at all. If you ask me what my favorite place was my answer would be “Yes.”

Ain’t Baseball Great
I went to 19 Nats games this year. The last time I went to this many games was when I lived in Boston. I rode my bike to about 15 games. How convenient of them to locate the ballpark 16 miles from home. As a bonus, it was great seeing so many friends at the bike valet before and after the games. The rest of the games involved driving the kids, including my niece Irene for one game. One exhausting game lasted 16 innings and the good guys won on a walk-off home run. I even managed to see two playoff games. Despite (or perhaps because of) the fact that the Nats lost their last game of the season, I can’t wait until April!

Fall Bike Frenzy
In the fall I did the Indian Head, Backroads, and Seagull Centuries (100 miles each), the 44-mile Great Pumpkin Ride (with Paul, Amy, and Jody), the 53-mile Cider Ride and, for the eighth time, the 62-mile 50 States Ride. I was already on fumes near the end of this madness, when an old friend asked me to ride with her to Harpers Ferry and back over two days. Given the fact that I had a colonoscopy (with the associated fasting and anesthesia) two days before we would have left, I declined. One ambulance ride a year is plenty.

Deets Provides a Surly Surge
A year ago I bought a new bike, a Surly Cross Check. Mostly, it hung on a hook in my shed, used only for the occasional weekend ride. This summer I started commuting on it. What a great commuter bike it is. I also did all my fall events on it. I named it Deets after the scout in the miniseries Lonesome Dove. Deets was said to be “cheerful in all weathers, never shirked a task, splendid behavior.” My Deets served me well until his back tire exploded on the way to work. Aye god, Woodrow.

Hiking Light
Unlike last year, I didn’t get much hiking done this year. I did the Billy Goat B and C trails on New Years Day which is becoming something of a tradition. Realizing that I-66 cuts right across the Appalachian Trail, I hiked it north (Manassas Gap) and south (Trumbo Hollow) of the highway. I also headed out to Shenandoah National Park to hike the Hogback Mountain trail. In late November I hiked the Potomac Highlands Trail from Turkey Run Park to the American Legion Bridge and back. A surprisingly nice hike so close to DC. Just before the year ended I did a meandering hike in Great Falls Park in Maryland.

Living Small
We had our wood floors redone in the spring. We hired a couple of amazing movers to relocate all our belongings from the top two floors down to the family room and basement where we lived among the piles of stuff for two weeks. It was quite a project. The floors turned out great. I came to realize that most of the crap that I have accumulated over the course of 25+ years in a house, I can live without.

Going Long
Coincident with my 61st birthday, my four bikes gave me a big present. I’ve been keeping track of the mileage on my bikes for 25 years and with an empty nest surge in recent years I finally made it to 100,000 miles. I also set my one-year personal mileage record of 8,167 miles.

That’s it for 2016. No mas. Thanks for reading. I am taking 2017 one day at a time. Love this life. It’s the only one you get.

The Cider Ride: Fourth Time Is a Charm

Yesterday was the fourth annual Cider Ride, the last ride of the year for WABA, the Washington Area Bicyclist Association. The Cider Ride was the creation of Michelle Cleveland whose mission in life is to see me die of exhaustion, nasty weather, and other calamities while on a bike. I am happy to report that she failed again.

Michelle handed the reins for this ride over to Nick Russo. Every so often, a really good baseball team gets a new manager. Success is defined by not screwing a good thing up. Nick succeeded. This is partly because he went into the basement of WABA’s World Headquarters and disabled the WABA weather machine which is notorious for dialing up hurricanes, freezing rain, swamp heat, and tsunamis.

The first Cider Ride took us to the wilds of Prince Georges County, Maryland in early December. It was cold. The roads were bumpy and the drivers were somewhat impatient. One of them ran over a friend of mine. So it was decided to move the ride to Montgomery County, Maryland. This ride was colder than the previous ride plus it had wind and rain. Most people cut their rides short. I took the sag wagon. (Thanks Gina!)

Then somebody got the great idea to move the ride up a month to November and to make use of all the trails running through the Anacostia River watershed. Genius! Pretty fall foliage plus minimal car traffic made for a vastly improved experience. It also imported a tradition from WABA’s 50 States Ride: the impossibly complicated cue sheet. WABA’s  motto: “Getting lost is part of the fun!”

(Actual cue written by Michelle Cleveland: “Just after the little intersection but before the traffic light, take a right on the sidewalk. Avoid the light poles, loose concrete, and accumulated sand while you thread your way under the darkest overpass ever constructed until you take a right to take a left at a the Walker Road traffic light. May god have mercy on your soul.” Michelle’s motto: “I have nothing to offer but my own confusion.”)

Last year’s ride was mighty fine. I got lost. I had fun. And donuts. And pie. And I got a mug. This year’s ride was the same except that in the weeks before the ride, a new section of the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail opened up. So the route was revised adding 5 more miles of complexity and confusion. Brilliant!!!

With no rain, calmish winds, and temperatures holding in the 50s the ride was a pleasant meander. Riders stopped to adjust their clothing. The cool air was just that sort of in between temperature that gives autumn bike commuters fits. The discomfort was minor. The foliage was major! Peak!

We endured the blinding colors.

After riding the streets of Northeast DC we hopped on the older Anacostia trails and headed north along the river. In College Park we stopped at Proteus Bikes where hot cider and doughnuts awaited. Next, we passed through the low traffic roads of the Agricultural Research complex and the National Wildlife Federation facility near Beltsville Maryland.

We headed back south and toured Greenbelt Maryland, a planned community dating to the New Deal. At a rest stop in a Greenbelt park we inhaled pie and hot cocoa. Also, a yellowjacket stung my right middle finger. It swelled up so much it was useless against obnoxious drivers for the rest of the day. (Actually, it didn’t swell up and I abstained from using my BSL, bicyclist sign language, for the duration of the ride.)

Somewhere on the return through Riverdale Maryland I lost my cue sheet. This was Michelle’s fault because I blame her for everything. Actually, I had lost my cue sheet holder thingie and forgot to bring a binder clip. So I was pulling the cue sheet out of my vest pocket throughout the ride until I apparently missed when I went to put it back in. Derp.

I followed the slowest group that ever remained upright on bicycles to another rest stop at a bakery where I hooked up with another more faster group that I hoped was going my way. It was.

We made our way to the brand spanking new section of the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail. Bravo to WABA for adding this to the route. This trail rivals the Mount Vernon Trail and the W &OD Trail west of Leesburg for scenery. Fortunately the riders ahead of me knew where to get off the trail (Benning Road) so that we could make our way to the finish. I overheard one of them say “C Street” before they rode away. No worries. I decided to take C to the 1st Street cycletrack to the Metropolitan Branch Trail. Two riders who were unsure of the route gave me their cue sheet and it confirmed that my route exactly matched the official route.

And so we rode the last few miles together.

I arrived at the finish at the Dew Drop Inn rather exhausted. Here’s why:

  • Monday and Tuesday – 30 mile commutes
  • Wednesday – fast, as in no food, 30 mile commute
  • Thursday – colonoscopy
  • Friday – 30 mile commute
  • Saturday – 36 mile ride
  • Sunday – 26 mile ride
  • Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday – 30 mile commutes
  • Cider Ride.

Suffice it to say that my legs were dead throughout the ride. But I still had a good time. And I got to see several #bikedc friends during the ride and at the after party at the Dew Drop.

After four years, the Cider Ride has really hit its stride. It’s an excellent addition to the Vasa Ride in March and the 50 States Ride in September.

Many thanks to the the volunteers, the providers of snackage and cider and cocoa. Special thanks to Nick for his hard work. And to Michelle, the Ginsberg of cue sheets, who I kid relentlessly and admire intensely.

 

 

Brain Squirrels on the Trail

  • Since Monday I’ve ridden 150 miles. Just riding back and forth to work. The Cider Ride is tomorrow. They added a few miles to it. Now it’s over 50 miles. I think I’m gonna need a bigger doughnut.
  • I did my 150th bike commute of 2016 on Tuesday. One of my commutes was done on 4 hours of sleep thanks to the Cubs. I am now prepared for when the Nats win it all next November.
  • I have 300 days to go before I retire. Not that I am counting down the days or anything. When I became eligible to retire a few years ago, I took all the plaques and awards that I had received over my career and threw them away.
  • There are 15o days to go before opening day at Nats Park.
  • A numerologist would wet his pants reading this blog post.
  • The number of sightings of #bikedc commuters  I know is declining. This week only Lawyer Mike and Shawn. I saw Hoppy Runner this morning though.
  • The foliage is pretty awesome this week. I haven’t taken a single picture. Others are doing a much better job of it.
  • I am not riding to work at all next week. This is not a protest. I will be away on business travel.DC to Palo Alto is a little beyond my bike commuting comfort zone.
  • I forgot a password at work. I called our IT help desk. They said, “Just keep guessing.” After some research online, I ended up doing just that. Only when I gave up and guessed my very first computer password (on which most of my subsequent complex passwords are based) did I hit the jackpot. When I retire, I am going to become an IT desk professional.
  • My boss used to use the word “oublier” as a password. It’s French for “to forget.”
  • Nick Hornby is one of my favorite authors. He also reviews books. He once observed that there are well-written books that are not read well. You know the kind that everyone says is the greatest but it doesn’t do a thing for you. For me, The Great Gatsby falls into this not well read category.
  • A friend of mine is like a good book that I don’t read well anymore. The first 7 chapters were a great read. The last 2 not so much. No matter I how much I re-read them, they don’t work for me at all anymore. I was hoping chapter 10 would turn things around. No luck. It’s very discouraging.
  • Friendship is a one-way street in Providence. I am not making this up.
  • I watched a video that claims Donald Trump is illiterate. I disagree. Based on the video and personal experience, I am pretty sure that he is severely dyslexic. As it turns out, many executives are dyslexic. From an early age they learn how to manipulate people to do things on their behalf.

Some Ride/Hike Ideas for 2016

About a year ago I was admonished by a friend for sounding wishy washy regarding my 2015 vacation plans. “Stop planning. All we have is today” was her way of saying don’t plan, DO!  Irony alert: in January 2014 she told me of her plans to obtain certification to teach in DC schools and to open a business. She followed through on none of it, eventually leaving town. Even so, she had a point.

I suck at advance planning. Somehow I managed to do a bike tour, a non-bike trip around the world, nearly a dozen day hikes, half a dozen bicycling events, and take in a bunch of Nationals games. So with that in mind I began thinking about things to do in 2016.

I anticipate one non-biking vacation (to Sweden and thereabouts) to visit my daughter.  (A return to Thailand in the dry season would be nice but I can’t face the 18 hours of flying right now. Maybe 2017.) That will leave plenty of vacation time. So here are some ideas I am tossing around in my head.

Hiking: there are still many, many hikes to do in the Shenandoah National Park. Also, I have barely scratched the surface of hiking in nearby Maryland and Pennsylvania along the Appalachian Trail. One possibility is to gear up and do some overnights. I have never done this and it would be an interesting extension of my day hikes (not to mention save on driving home after a day’s worth of hiking).

Biking Events: WABA swears that it’s going to offer a century ride this year.  If it works into my schedule, I’ll definitely do it. Then there are the usual events: Vasa, Cider, 50 States, Backroads, and Great Pumpkin. I’ve done all of these several times, but the Backroads course was moved to West Virginia this year. I was in Australia and missed it. I can’t wait to do the new version. Two more that I keep threatening to do are RAGBRAI and the Five Boro Ride in New York City. Both of them are cattle drives. Both offer logistical challenges. Some of what follows are a lot easier to do.

Bike Trails: There are all kinds of cool trails around here that I haven’t ridden. Here’s a list of Virginia trails:

  • The Virginia Capital Trail goes between Williamsburg and Richmond. This could be a fun 2-day deal or a long single day ride.
  • High Bridge State Park down near Farmville and Appomattox looks really cool with a long, high bridge.
  • The Virginia Creeper Trail is a bit of a drive from DC. It’s only 34 miles but could be a beast of an out and back ride.
  • The New River Trail is a 57-mile trail that looks really promising with 30 trestles and bridges and two tunnels. This is a two-day ride with camping I think.

In Pennsylvania the Pine Creek Rail Trail runs 63 miles through the Grand Canyon of the East. Looks like a good overnight camping round trip to me.

Bike Tours: Right now I have eight possibilities on my list. All in the Eastern U.S.

  • Skyline Drive and Blue Ridge Parkway: This is a monster tour, 578 miles from Front Royal, Virginia to Cherokee, North Carolina. How the hell I’d get back is anybody’s guess. It’s also super hilly so I figure I’d be lucky to average 45 miles per day, 13  days of riding. This could be beyond my physical abilities. (Never stopped me before.)
  • The Natchez Trace: This 444 mile road is truck free. Tack on another 90 miles or so and the route would go from Nashville to New Orleans. Logistics on this one is a bit pricey (two bike flights). Bike Friday to the rescue?
  • Figure 8 in Vermont, New Hampshire, and New York: Adventure Cycling has two routes that form a figure 8. One loops around Lake Champlain, the other does a lap of the Adirondack Park. This one would be logistically pretty easy as I have family in the Albany area where the Adirondack route begins. The total distance exceeds 700 miles. The riding in Vermont and upstate New York is incredibly nice. Also weather up yonder is pretty much perfect for cycling in June – August.
  • La Route Verte: There are over 5,000 kilometers of marked bike routes in Quebec. The possibilities are endless. Then there is the interesting prospect of conversing in my horrid, mostly forgotten high school French. The idea of cycling to Quebec City, which I have never seen, or around Montreal is pretty intriguing. Getting there is a bit of a haul, but c’est la vie.
  • A New Kind of Rail Trail – North: Amtrak now has roll on bike service on the East Coast. Theoretically (relying on Amtrak is always an iffy proposition) I could take my bike on a trail and ride to Brunswick Maine, then ride up to Acadia National Park and ride all or part way home.
  • A New Kind of Rail Trail – South: Alternatively, I could take the train to Florida, ride to Key West, ferry to Tampa and ride across the state to Amtrak in Miami. Or just ride home.
  • Around Lake Michigan: This one starts in Monroeville, Indiana, one of the most bike touring friendly small towns in the US. It heads north through lower Michigan into the Upper Peninsula. Then across to Wisconsin and returns by crossing Lake Michigan on a ferry.  It’s 1,100 miles. Logistics would be simplified by using my in-laws house in north central IN as an alternative starting point.

In the increasingly likely (yet still somewhat improbable) possibility that I retire there is this:

  • The Trans Am/Western Express/Northern Tier Cross Country Ride: There remains a faint possibility that I might retire this year. If so, adios, amigos! I don’t know which route I’d take but the possibilities are numerous. The Trans Am is the classic route from Yorktown to the Oregon coast through Yellowstone. The Western Express shortens the Trans Am by taking a b-line across Utah and Nevada for California. The Northern Tier goes close to the US-Canada border.

Once I find out when the WABA Century and the Sweden trip will happen, I’ll pick two of the tours and as many events and hikes as my aging bones can handle.

 

 

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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We paid a visit to Big Buddha. He was aptly named.

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Lily made friends with a baby elephant.

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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.

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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.

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Sunrise: The year is nearly over but I am pretty sure that the new one will start something like this. Thanks for reading.

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November by the Numbers

On the whole, November turned out to be a pretty decent month. The weather was unseasonably warm, except for a few days when I froze my ass off. I rode to work 15 times. My long ride was a 55 1/2 mile cavort through DC to Bethesda and back.

The Cider Ride turned out to be quite a lot of fun. It was especially good to see so many people I knew at the afterparty at the Dew Drop Inn.

With the exception of a single commute on The Mule, I rode only two bikes this month. Little Nellie took care of the rest of the commutes. My Cross Check handled weekend duties.

For the year I now have ridden 6,908 miles. Of that, 4,556 miles were just getting to and from work. About 1/2 the commuting miles were on The Mule. A third were on Little Nellie. A sixth were on my increasingly little used Big Nellie.  Since August, practically all my fun rides have been done on my Cross Check.

I did a long solo hike near Harper’s Ferry.  The views were fantastic.

I have had very few injuries this year. A back spasm now and then. And a numb foot that is mostly trouble free these days. All the biking and hiking (plus some therapeutic conversations with friends and meditation) have rid me of the depression that dogged me last winter and spring.

Let’s see if I can finish strong and break through the 7,000 mile barrier before the snows come.

47 Miles for a Cup of Cider

The WABA Cider Ride is one of the last DC bike events of the year. In its first two years it was held in early December. From where I sit, holding a bike ride in December in DC is like holding World Series games in November in Boston. You’re just asking for trouble. Last year trouble arrived in the form of cold temperatures and rain. Even before the ride began I was feeling plenty depressed which only made a bad day suck more. Let’s just say it was not a whole lot of fun. I swore I’d never ride the Cider Ride again. (I also said this after the 2010 50-States Ride and then went on to ride the event four more times.)

Then someone at WABA got a pretty darn great idea: they decided to move the ride up to mid-November. So I signed up to ride the 47-mile option.

The ride began (and ended) at the Dew Drop Inn. This bar is located along the Metropolitan Branch Trail and immediately next to railroad tracks. It is an old building with a shipping container attached. I think one could say it has character.

I arrived about 40 minutes early thanks to non-existent traffic. Michele, the WABA events coordinator, was working with a scruffy crew of unscruffy women (including Sarah, another WABA employee, and volunteers Leslie and Sam) getting the ride’s check in area set up. I helped a little, got my cue sheet and headed out.

The course took us on city streets through middle-class Northeast Washington and into neighboring Mount Rainier, Maryland. Soon we were on the Northwest Branch Trail which follows the northwest branch of the Anacostia river. We traveled north-ish. I had my fingers crossed. Every other time I’ve ridden this trail system I’ve gotten lost. Thanks to many, many well-placed arrow signs, I managed to get only mildly confused a couple of times. One of these befuddlements came because a sign had been blown down. Did I mention it was windy. Well, now you know.

We followed the trail and the arrows. It was not encouraging that course marshalls were stopping to get their bearings. It wasn’t their fault. The directions are almost comical:”Bear left up big hill. Over bridge. Through the woods. Bang a left at Grandma’s house.” At times I was expecting to turn the page and see “HA HA!”

But I didn’t.

We kept following the trail  and the occasional road mostly through College Park until we were all dropped on the outskirts of Greenbelt Maryland. There are hundreds of acres of agricultural land used for research purposes by the Department of Agriculture. The roads are pretty darned nice for cycling. So we cycled.

We rode into the National Wildlife Federation property for a two mile loop through the woods with hardly any auto traffic. This was sweet. We returned through the Ag complex and into Greenbelt. From Greenbelt we wended our way back to College Park for a short ride on the very nice Trolley Trail. Next up was my big goof of the day. After the Trolley Trail we jumped on Route 1 and I took a right onto the Northwest Branch Trail instead of a left. After about 1/2 mile I came upon a course marshal. He told me I was off course and led me back to the point of my mistake and soon I (and the dozen other people who also goofed) was on my way to majestic snow covered Mount Rainier Maryland. (Just kidding. No snow. Just can’t figure out why this town has such a peculiar name.) The rest of the ride was an approximate retracing of the first four miles of the route.

The Cider Ride route is almost as complex and mysterious as the 50-States Ride. This is an incredible achievement made possible only by WABA’s proprietary RRGS (random route generation software). I have heard that NASA is considering using it for a mission to Mars.

There were two pit stops along the route. The first stop was at the 12 mile mark outside Proteus Bicycles in College Park They had warm cider and a ludicrous amount of granola bars and donuts. I felt health conscious and had a cup of cider and a Boston cream donut as I walked to Nelle from WABA. Nelle was in her usual good spirits despite the fact that the wind was threatening to blow her entire pit stop away. She reminded me as I parted that getting lost on a ride this complex is inevitable. You just have to go with the flow.

The second stop was at a park in Greenbelt. Here I selected the healthful choice of hot cocoa and apple pie. I spent a few minutes talking with Colin another WABA staff person. Colin’s bike is an touring bike that seems to have been set up by Dr Frankenstein. Or, considering its ability to carry thermoses, Juan Valdez.

The circuitous route made it hard to tell when you were going to get a tailwind, headwind or crosswind. I assumed that anytime I was going more than 20 miles per hour it was because of a tailwind. I assumed that because my legs were dead right from the start. They were the only legs I had so I did the best I could.

There was an after party at the Dew Drop Inn. There was beer. I drank some. There were chips. I ate them. There was a burrito. I ate it. There were many people I knew from #bikedc. I didn’t eat them.

Just before entering the bar, a young man with a clipboard asked me if my name was on “the list.” I was somewhat surprised to learn that it was. What was this list, I thought? It was the list of people who were given this really nifty mug.

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So another Cider Ride is in the books. Many thanks to WABA’s Greg Billing, Nelle Pierson, Colin Browne, and Sarah Katz-Hyman for a great event. Thanks also to the many volunteers who helped out along the course.

Extra special thanks to WABA’s Michelle Cleveland. These events take a ton of time to set up and pull off. As my father said when he was particularly impressed or proud of one of his kids: “You done good.”

Sixty Miles for Some Cider

Today was the inaugural Cider Ride put on by the Washington Area Bicyclists Association (WABA). In the tradition of the Vasa ride held in early March, this ride was all about riding in the cold in order to partake of a warm, sweet beverage. Despite the fact that December in DC is not exactly or even remotely warm, the event sold out. There were three rides named after apples. I rode on the Honeycrisp ride which was 60 miles long. Another ride was 47 miles. The third ride was 15 miles. (They didn’t get any cider on the 15-miler. They were first in line for quiche though.)

The ride departed from Canal Park in Near Southeast DC. This park which also has a tavern, site of the after-party and an outdoor ice rink, is on M Street near Nationals Park and the Navy Yard.  We headed out for a farm somewhere near Bowie MD to the east northeast of the start at 8:30. There was a fair contingent of people from Friday Coffee Club including new-ish Dad Justin, Ryan, and Ed and Mary on their scary big tandem (which does not yet appear to have a name. Dave, a veteran of this year’s version of the Hoppy 100, was working the registration desk. Nelle from WABA was also there working. (One of the ironic things about working for WABA is that you rarely get to do the rides!)

Off we went to the east, over the new 11 Street bridge into Anacostia where we took the first left and started climbing away from the Anacostia River. The Coffeeneurs were in a pack until gravity grabbed Little Nellie and me. Bye, everybody. I was fell in with a back of young women who were kind enough to suppress their snickers at the sight of a big guy on a clown bike. After about a mile we were on roads that I’ve never ridden on before. We were soon in Prince Georges County MD. Inside the beltway PG County is not exactly Shangrila, but it does have paved roads which were useful for this sort of ride.

We rode by the federal complex in Suitland MD. I pity the weather service and Census workers that work in that place. It looks like a maximum security prison.

On we rode, turning this way and that. I became separated from the ladies and fell in with a couple of ride marshals (volunteers who help the riders fix flats, find their way, etc.). My ride marshals soon missed a turn. I think we all thought someone else was paying attention to the directions. We got sorted out and back on course. The course itself had lots of rolling hills which kept us honest. Not having a map with me, I was utterly lost.

We crossed over the beltway and suddenly some of the roads started to look familiar. I think I rode on these on the way to Annapolis about ten years ago. We popped into subdivisions then back out onto mostly two-lane roads. Then we crossed the busy Crane Highway (US 301) and, as if by a snap of the fingers, we were are two-lane country roads. We passed fallow farmers’ fields, creeks, woods, and the occasional misplaced McMansion  and soon found ourselves at the rest stop at the halfway point. Here I enjoyed some warm cider, some junky snacks (tasted great), and a brief conversation with Megan from WABA. I think the last time I saw her at an event like this was at the halfway rest stop at the Vasa ride in March. Megan is from Florida so cold is not her thing but she had four layers on today. As for me, the only part of my body that was cold was my toes. Before leaving, I slipped some toe warmers into my shoes. Ahhh.

We took a mostly different route back. It seemed to have few turns so the navigation was a lot easier. One road was a rutted mess. My back, already beaten up by the morning’s ride not to mention 150 miles of bike commuting this week was really unhappy. I survived. Somehow I was now in a group with three course marshals. How nice of WABA to provide such personal service. After a while a couple of the marshals peeled off to assist other rides and Chris one of the marshals that had been with me for the last 40 miles and I soldiered on. We made pretty respectable time too. Chris knows how to ride in traffic so we really didn’t have to worry about each other.

Somewhere around 45 miles we saw a lone rider about 1/4 mile ahead of us. We caught up to Katie, an American University student, and rode the rest of the way in. The return route included a ride-by of FedEx field (what a monstrosity!) and an unexpected climb up Southern Avenue on DC’s border. When we got to the top, we were treated with a long downhill back toward the Anacostia on Massachusetts Avenue. This downhill is part of the 50 States Ride so I knew it was coming but Katie and Chris didn’t. I’m sure they had a gas flying down the hill.

We made our way back over the 11th Street bridge and went to the after party at the Park Tavern in Canal Park. Pizza and hot spiked cider. Perfecto.

For a brand new ride, I thought this one went pretty well. It’s always fun to explore new territory on a bike, even if it is right next store. The downsides to the ride were few. It was cold and a bit windy but not nearly as cold as the Vasa ride or most of my winter commutes. A few drivers came very close to Chris and me. I think these close passes were intentional. PG County probably doesn’t see this many cyclists in one day very often. A couple of the roads could have used some re-paving some time ago, like maybe, 1974. These nasty parts were only about a mile in total length.

My thanks to Chris for riding most of the ride with me. And with Katie who lifted our spirits for the last ten miles. And special thanks to all the WABA people and volunteers who helped out.

I only took a few pix. They’re on my Flickr page. And some from others are on the WABA Flickr page, too.