The 8th Day of Furloughmas: Coffeeneuring in Alexandria

Today marked the 8th day of the federal government shut down. As much as not working is starting to get to me, seeing my 401K take a major hit from all this budget gridlock is really starting to piss me off.  Time for a cold Yuengling.

This morning began with a quick trip to the drug store for asthma meds. I took The Mule. I like the little strip mall in Hollin Hall but I do wish they’d add some decent bike parking. Yet another reason why cycling in Fairfax County is a pain.

After watching the HVAC folks put a new humidifier on my furnace, I took Big Nellie out for a Coffeeneuring run to Buzz at the north end of Old Town Alexandria. The riding was slow as my leg muscles are still a little sore from this weekend’s riding. I had a medium house blend and a cinnamon muffin. The coffee was nothing to write home about but it carried a caffeine wallop. The cinnamon bun looked far better than it tasted. It was surprisingly chewy and flavorless.

Getting my Buzz on.
Getting my Buzz on.

In anticipation of picking up the Millennium Falcon (our Mitsubishi Lancer) from the body shop, I headed home. The tailwind was nice. The flat rear tire wasn’t. I put a Panaracer Pasella tire on a month or so ago. It is supposed to have a Kevlar belt in it. They must have skipped that step because a small piece of glass cut right through the tire. Re-installing a tire on the Tour Easy is something of a struggle. As I was getting the chain onto the cassette, the bike flopped over breaking the mirror in the process. Then I learned that the neoprene grommet that holds the head of my pump onto the tire valve stem was not gripping the valve properly. And the rear brake was rubbing. If I had a gun, I’d have shot the damn thing right then and there!

Lacking firearms, I rode to Wheel Nuts bike shop about a half mile away and used their floor pump and bought a new mirror. I rode to City Hall and decided to prop the bike up on the low wall of a planter and work on my rubbing brake. After 15 minutes I got the tire rotating freely, but now the brakes squeal.

The tailwind helped make the ride home quite pleasant. When I got there I learned that the car would not be ready until tomorrow.  Something tells me this is just not my day. To reward myself for the little frustrations of the day, I did some online shopping, including ordering replacement parts for my pump.

Shopping is almost as therapeutic as drinking a cold beer or going for a bike ride. I’ve already done the latter so I do believe I’ll do the former now.

Ahhhh. Hits the spot.

Coffeeneuring No. 3: Buzz in Alexandria

Drink: House roast. Not the best but it gave me a buzz

Eats: Cinnamon bun. Meh

Miles:17.5  (not counting the 2.5 ride to the drug store)

Observations: You can have a tire that gives a nice ride or a tire that won’t easily puncture but you can’t have both. Skar was right. Life’s not fair.

Coffeeneuring Number 2: Metric Coffee Ride

Something odd is happening. For the last two months, despite riding Big Nellie, my Tour Easy recumbent, almost every day, I haven’t been able to get the bike moving satisfactorily. Every ride has been a frustrating struggle. Yesterday that changed. Riding my recumbent was effortless. After 51 miles I wanted to ride a lot more.

So, today I did. And the riding was even better. With temps in the high 80s, you cannot complain about the weather. It took me a while to get started though. I spent the first half hour of my ride doing maintenance on The Mule, my 20-year-old Specialized Sequoia. I put a 700×35 tire on the front to match the width of my new back tire. Then I took it for a quick test ride. The Mule likes wider tires. No doubt about it. My test ride did surface a problem: really squeaky rear brakes. So I fiddled with them for a few minutes.

Once General Bike Hospital was over with, Big Nellie and I hit the road. We cruised through some neighborhood streets before hooking up with the Mount Vernon Trail near the stone bridge. I had a noticeable tailwind so I knew that the easy of riding was not all my doing.

In about an hour, I pulled into Saint Elmo’s Coffee Pub in Del Ray for my second Coffeeneuring stop. The coffee was much better than yesterday’s and the blueberry and banana muffin was moist and tasty. I brought a book with me so I could linger over my brew.

I was still hungry so I dropped into the Dairy Godmother, an ice cream store two doors down from St. Elmo’s. I had one of their root beer floats. Ahhhh. Perfection!

Root beer floats should be allowed in the Coffeeneuring Challenge. Root beer is brewed, right?
Root beer floats should be allowed in the Coffeeneuring Challenge. Root beer is brewed, right?

Now that my diet had been shot to hell, I hit the road in earnest. In about two miles I was heading west on the Four Mile Run trail heading for the W&OD trail. I took that to the Custis trail and headed back toward DC along I 66. Just I was getting my kicks, I turned off the trail and worked my way through hilly North Arlington. My destination was Glebe Road which drops like a ski slope down to the Potomac River. Big Nellie loves street luge. Weeee!!!!

Once down the hill I headed northwest on the C&O Canal towpath. Big Nellie’s long wheel base does a wonderful job of absorbing the bumps which are pretty much continuous. I was bombing along at 15 miles per hour passing mountain bikers who must have been wondering how such a strange bike could handle the rough trail.

At Great Falls Park I turned off the trail and rode up a long, long hill. Unlike my experience at the Backroads Century the hills didn’t much bother me. At the top of the hill I mashed on the pedals. I could hear the rear tire digging into the pavement. Down the other side we went. I love doing downhills on my bent. It would have been epic had a car with a kayak on its roof not pulled out in front of me from a parking lot at the bottom of the luge run.

The ride back along MacArthur Boulevard was into the wind, but I didn’t much notice. I was cruising along at 15 miles per hour – about three miles per hour above my commuting speed – with very little effort. I turned off MacArthur and rode Reservoir Road and some alphabet streets across Georgetown.  The streets were rather quiet so I rode down 17th Street straight to the Tidal Basin. I caught a bunch of lights and zipped across the Kutz Bridge, normally a nail biter of ride.

I was across the 14th Street bridge in no time and headed into the wind on the MVT going 17 miles per hour. The sun was setting and it seemed to be doing so rather quickly. I was wearing sunglasses so I knew I’d have to stop soon to switch to my regular glasses. I was having such a blast riding that I didn’t stop until Old Town Alexandria 3 1/2 miles later. There I put my light on my helmet and activated my red blinky lights.

The helmet light did a fine job of illuminating all the bike riders without lights heading my way on the dark section of the MVT south of Old Town. The light also helped give me some early warning about the clouds of gnats hanging intermittently over the trail.

I arrived home in the dark after 64 miles. Unlike yesterday, I actually felt somewhat tired. I definitely could have ridden more though.

I really think it’s unfair for my cycling fitness to peak just as the cold weather comes around. If the furlough continues, maybe I should just ride to Cuba. I’ll bet Raul could use a cycling economist. He might even find me essential.