Rolling Isolation

I tested positive for the Covid virus about 72 hours ago. I still have no symptoms other than those from my seasonal allergies. It seems that every lawn crew around is spreading shredded bark mulch which causes my sinuses much distress. I found out the hard way by spreading it in my garden years ago. A good snout-ful makes me seriously sick. I am also allergic to tree pollen, specifically pine and cedar. It’s a bit ironic that my childhood home was down the street from Pine Tree Lane and that I moved to Mount Vernon which is full of cedar trees.

In any case, I have been vaccinated five times, have had Covid once already (a very mild case), and I am taking Paxlovid. I must have antibodies out the wazoo.

Other than the allergies, I feel fine. So I took The Mule for a ride to DC to take in the cherry blossoms on Wednesday. It was a day before full peak bloom and the Tidal Basin area was packed. I had masked up on the Virginia side of the river and was otherwise careful to hold my breath whenever I passed or was passed by someone on the trail.

Even though I was masked I avoided the throngs at the Tidal Basin, surfed through the cars in East Potomac Park and made my way to Hains Point which had surprisingly few people. After returning to the Tidal Basin area I made my way away from the crowds to the National Mall. On the north side of the mall, with fewer people around, I rode west to the Lincoln Memorial and then home. A 36 1/2 mile jaunt. Not bad for having a supposedly deadly disease.

For what it’s worth the best time to see the blossoms at the Tidal Basin is at sunrise when there are few people and slanting rays bouncing off the blooms and the water. Of course, the best way to get there is by bike. I am not just saying this because I ride. The area becomes an epic car sewer as the day progresses. (Walk around the basin (never ride on the sidewalk.)

Yesterday I rode to the Kenwood neighborhood of Bethesda, Maryland. All the streets in this stately old slice of suburban heaven are lined with cherry trees, mostly quite ancient, in full bloom. WOW. It is really much nicer than the Tidal Basin. There were very few cars and just some folks rolling and strolling beneath the canopy of white. It is incredibly peaceful and beautiful. It is easily accessible off the Capital Crescent Trail which runs from Bethesda Row to the Georgetown waterfront on the Potomac River. (Turn off on Dorsey Road, midway between River Road and Bethesda Row.)

After my half hour of zen, I stopped for a snack along the Capital Crescent Trail, once again away from others. Then I rode the trails home. Another 46 1/2 miles in the books on The Mule.

The only down side to the day was the lousy shifting on The Mule, caused most likely by stretching shifter cables. I will deal with this in a day or two.

On the way home I received a text that my wife’s car battery had died. When I got home I tried a few tricks to get it started. I scraped some corrosion off the battery’s negative pole. Then I turned off all the accessories in the car. I turned the key in the ignition. Click. No luck. Dead battery.

This morning instead of riding to Friday Coffee Club, I jumped the battery using my car. It’s a bit of a hassle getting the cars to line up and to figure out the proper positioning of the cables. I took off my mask to read the instructions on the cables. The instructions were ambiguous. As I was futzing around with the cables my helpful neighbor Ted saw me struggling an came over to help, looking up the proper procedure on his phone. He then walked me through it standing a few feet away, the cars awkwardly angled between us.

Success. Then the perils of being asymptomatic struck. I went to thank Ted and as I shook his hand I suddenly realized “Oh no. I have Covid.” Derp. He went inside his house to wash his hands. Being outdoors I doubt I infected him but it was a reminded that I need to be more careful.

We next drove to the mechanic. I had the windows in my car open and my wife drove her car. I masked and stayed outside, well away from the mechanic. I drove my wife home, she being masked and recently recovered from Covid herself.

This illness would be a lot easier to navigate if I was actually, well, ill.

I contacted my bike mechanic to let them know I won’t be picking my bike up until late next week.

According to the CDC I should be in the clear by Sunday and non-infectious by next Friday or Saturday.

Cherry trees at peak in Kenwood
Kenwood – note the temporary pink no-parking signs.

Top Ten for 2022

This year turned out to be a relief, mostly a relief from the pandemic. It was also rather uneventful.

  1. The year began with the receipt of paperwork making me an Irish citizen. I immediately sent away for a passport which arrived in early May. I don’t really need a second passport but it is my understanding that it’s good for a discount at the Guinness brewery in Baltimore.
  2. January brought a whopper of a snowstorm, the first in many years. The magnificent maple tree next door split near its base and landed an impressive tree chunk inches from Mrs. Rootchopper’s car. A few weeks later, the neighbors had the tree removed. We missed its blazing colors this fall. On the plus side, we now have a sunny kitchen.
  3. We travelled to St. Charles, Missouri to attend my niece Irene’s wedding. After the wedding the bridal party came down with Covid. We were spared. For the next two months I managed to avoid the virus despite travelling among the great unmasked out West. Alas, my luck ran out when I got back home. I came down with Covid and had strange symptoms. My ears were stuffed up for a week. Otherwise, I had a very mild case and, with the help of four Pfizer vaccinations and Paxlovid, I recovered in a few days.
  4. After a two-year hiatus thanks to the pandemic, I launched on another bike tour. This one began in St. Charles, Missouri and ended nearly 3,500 miles later in Portland, Oregon. The first half was solo and included an epic day fighting 50-mile per hour crosswinds in Kansas. In Canon City, Colorado I hooked up with Corey and Mark, whom I met on my 2019 bike tour, for the second half. The highlight of the trip was the final mountain climb up and over McKenzie Pass in Oregon. Definitely one of the top ten rides of my life. I managed to intercept Keith Adams, whom I met on my first 50 States Ride, in Eastern Oregon (or maybe western Idaho, it’s all a blur). Keith was riding from Bend, OR to Cody, WY. A few days later I met up with Rachel Cannon, another 50 States posse alum, and consumed talk, nachos, and beer in Redmond, OR.
  5. When I got home from my bike tour, I found that all my pants fell off whenever I put them on. My first physical in three or four years confirmed that my weight had dropped over 20 pounds on the trip. Thankfully, I have some stretchy belts to keep me from flashing the neighbors.
  6. My physical included some blood work results that were rather upsetting. I started eating more sensibly, avoiding junk food, eating less red meat, and such. I also started eating almonds and Brazil nuts which are supposed to lower cholesterol. My cholesterol fell from the 270s to the 220s in three months. My weight also fell another eight pounds. Dang. In retrospect, having all my slacks altered in the spring was not such a great idea.
  7. For the 14th time, I gathered a posse of friends old and new and rode the 50 States Ride in DC in September. We had a stellar time and I only fell once. (I got a boo boo on my elbow.)
  8. Most of the posse returned for the Cider Ride in November, during which I learned that celery is a bodacious dentrifice. This info will come in handy whenever I need to brush my teeth at the farmer’s market,
  9. Earlier this year I couldn’t walk a half mile without back pain. At the end of the bike tour, I needed to walk around Portland and found that I could walk a mile without pain. Alas, schlepping my baggage through National Airport brought the pain back. After much hemming and hawing, I decided that rather than have surgery, I’ll live with the pain and accept that I am now officially old.
  10. Tickets to Washington Nationals baseball games were dirt cheap. This had something to do with them trading away Juan Soto, their last star player, and others, and ending the year with the worst record in baseball. On the plus side, we attended a minor league game at The Dunk, Dunkin’ Donuts Park in Hartford.
  11. I managed to ride 11,355 miles, my fifth 10,000-mile year in a row.


My friends seem to be travelling like there’s no tomorrow. Sweden was the destination of choice for Brittany. Katie and her husband went to the Baltics and Sweden. Chris went to Italian wine country. Alan and his wife are spending a month in Italy. Gina and her husband are toottling around Naples. Susana and her husband did Greece and Italy. Rulon and Heather did Peru. Not to be outdone, Tim and Michelle are done with Peru and heading for Ecuador as we speak. Rachel and Kate went to Crater Lake (which I missed after I cut short my 2019 bike tour).

I went to the doctor.

Yep. Aren’t you jealous?

I started with a fine case of Covid-19. My symptoms were mild but I was put on Paxlovid and told to keep away from people for 10 days. I fully recovered in a matter of days.

My doctor noticed that I hadn’t had a physical in several years. So I did that. My blood work came back with problems. Going for a physical is like getting your oil changed. Once the mechanic gets a look under the hood, you’re screwed. Well, in my case, my blood work showed elevated glucose levels, borderline pre-diabetic, in fact. The doctor told me to lay off drinking sugary sodas and fruit juices and eating carbs (of the non-whole-grain sort). I have complied pretty faithfully.

Alas, my blood work also showed elevated and rising cholesterol, and my LDL – the especially worrisome component – was way high. He told me to try changes to my diet, including eating salmon twice a week. Ok, just shoot me now.

So I’ve been doing some research, which is to say I’ve been watching two funny Canadian doctors on YouTube. I no longer drink OJ at breakfast. I have had about six cookies since early August. I feel really guilty whenever I eat red meat. Or oil. Or butter. Or eggs. (None of which I eat to excess anyway, but still.). The Canadian docs mentioned an odd study of ten people that found that Brazil nuts are almost as good as statins for lowering cholesterol. Damned if I can find any. Almonds will have to do. Also, eating lots of fruits and veggies is supposedly helpful but too many fruits can spike my blood sugar. I am doomed.

According to the Canadian docs, your cholesterol level is 80 percent genetics. So even if I ate salmon and Brazil nuts and oatmeal for every meal, I’d still have crappy blood cholesterol. Long story short, I go back for follow up blood tests in November. After the sure-to-be disappointing results, I’ll finally go on a statin and celebrate my genetic misfortune with a pepperoni pizza and some egg nog.

(On the plus side, my hemoglobin levels were still somewhat high, a benefit of riding at altitude for a month. Also, my weight – even now – remains well below my pre-tour porkitude.)

If you think my insides are bad, you should take a look at my outsides. My doctor did and referred me to a dermatologist. I booked an appointment for early October.

Since I was at the doctor anyway, I had my pandemic-delayed second pneumonia shot and my first shingles vaccine shot. I felt a bit like the family dog. Woof.

After the physical and the vaccines, I needed some good medical news so I went to my ophthalmologist. (If your insurance will pay for an ophthalmologist you should go to one instead of an optometrist. That way, you won’t have to find an eye surgeon when your retina detaches or your lenses fog over. Ask me how I know.) My intraocular pressure is under control thanks to my daily eye drops. And my optic nerve is in tip top shape.

Confident of not going blind, I decided to go to the dentist. I love my dentist but this visit he took a panaromic x-ray of my teeth. Surely he’d find all kinds of nasty dental disasters, right? Nope! Perfection! Okay, when you have as much hardware in your mouth as I do, perfection is a term of art. But not one tooth, crown, or cavity is on the verge of falling out.

On the way home I took a trip to the pharmacy and had a flu shot. It’s a good thing that vaccines don’t make you smell bad because otherwise I’d be reeking.

After a few weeks of relative medical calm, I went to the dermatologist. He apparently was having a sale on liquid nitrogen because he froze 21 lesions off my face and ears. Are we having fun yet? I thought I should get a prize or something but all he did was send me home with another prescription, for anti-dandruff shampoo, to be used on my face. My face has dandruff. Will wonders never cease?

In a couple of weeks, I’m going to get my bivalent Covid booster which has been delayed because I had Covid in late July. After that, it’s time for my blood to be re-tested and for my second shingles shot. Then comes the real fun.

In early December I’ll be having a colonoscopy. Don’t you wish you were me? I’m pretty sure NASA could learn a thing or two about propulsion from the folks that make the colonoscopy cleansing medication. I’m not looking forward to this procedure but it’s not my first rotorooter rodeo. (Come to think of it, the effect of the cleansing medication kind of looks like riding the mechanical bull in Urban Cowboy. Just try not to get thrown. Eww.) I think it’s my seventh or eighth time taking the fantastic voyage.

Once I get the colonoscopy scheduled, I will be setting up an appointment with a back surgeon. My spinal stenosis has steadily worsened since I came home from my tour. I suspect the epidural I had in April has worn off. I’m not in constant pain but, unless I am bent forward, I can’t do anything on my feet without discomfort. If the surgery and post-op rehab goes well, I’ll be all set to jump on my bike and do a tour in the spring.

Maybe I should have my head examined.

Bike Tour 2022 – Loose Ends

Some interesting things happened since I returned home. The day after I arrived I couldn’t hear anything and my sinuses were stuffed. I thought it was from sitting close to the engine on three flights. And maybe jet lag was playing a role. After a day of this, I decided to take a Covid test. Positive. I took another. Positive again. Dang. I called my doctor and we did a remote consult. He put me on Paxlovid. Within 36 hours I was back to normal. I coughed a lot but that was part of the process of my sinuses clearing.

Another annoying thing happened. My pants kept falling off. I had to tighten my belt to absurd lengths to keep them on. My beltless bike shorts (they go over my bike tights) were snug when I left home in May. Now I put them on and they’d fall straight to my ankles. To keep them on, I resorted to rolling the waist band,

After I recovered from Covid, The Mule arrived home. (It was packed flawlessly by West End Bikes of Portland.) So there I am in my bike pants trying to unbox and re-assemble The Mule. I had the frame out of the box. Every tube was wrapped in either heavy cardboard or styrofoam tubing. The styrofoam was affixed to the bike using zip ties. I pulled out my trusty Swiss army knife. It was super sharp because I have only used it a couple of times since I bought it in May. As I went to cut a tie, my hand slipped and I put a deep gash into my left thumb.

There was blood everywhere. I tried to continue with the bike but it was pointless. So I put my thumb in my mouth and walked around the house to go inside and bandage it. Except my pants kept falling down. There I am sucking my thumb, bleeding from one hand and holding my pants up with the other. Thankfully my kids and wife weren’t around to laugh their asses off at me.

The thumb is healing slowly, and The Mule is back on the road.

Today I went to my doctor for my first physical in three years. The doctor’s assistant weighed me. 198 pounds. I am below the Mendoza line for the first time in four years (when I came back from the 2018 tour.) This means that, when I came back from Portland two weeks ago, I probably weighed around 195 because I have been eating more and biking less. I must have weighed north of 215 pounds at the start of the tour. No wonder my pants are falling down.

As readers may recall, while riding down the highway along the Lochsa River in Idaho, Mark was given a traffic citation for failing to ride as far to the right as is safe. That’s what Idaho law calls for. A driver had passed Mark on a blind curve and nearly hit an oncoming vehicle,. which happened to be a Sheriff’s car. The car was driven by a chubby cheeked deputy who looked all of 22 years old. The deputy pulled a uey and gave chase. He pulled over the offending driver. The driver explained that he had no choice but to pass Mark because he came on Mark so suddenly. And that Mark was in his way. The deputy let the driver go and gave Mark a ticket. The next day we rode to the county magistrate’s office in Grangeville, the county seat. Mark arranged for a hearing via Zoom to contest the ticket. Today, Mark had his hearing. Barney didn’t appear. The ticket was dismissed. Justice was served.

Bike Tour 2022 – Update and Pictures

My Covid symptoms are milder by the day. I am taking Paxlovid and staying indoors which has given me plenty of time to get most of my tour business done. (I still need to make my Cycleblaze journal but that will take a few days.) I expect to be released – masked for the first five days – on Saturday as long as I have no symptoms. Right now my worst symptoms (minor though they are) seem to be side effects of the Paxlovid.

While I’ve been lolling about I’ve read two books, The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien, a memoir/novel about a platoon of soldiers in Vietnam. It won a Pulitzer Prize back in the early 90s. I bought it more or less on impulse after reading a couple of pages. It is extraordinarily well written. Today, I finished Larry McMurtry’s first novel, Horseman, Pass By about a family in turmoil in north Texas in the 1950s. It was the basis for the movie, Hud. I liked it a lot as well.

Today, I went through my pictures from the trip. Some were uploaded to this blog. Others were put on Instagram or sent to friends. I tried to find all of them but I am sure I missed a few shots trails and roads and rocks. I sorted them by date so you can take a quick 3,449 mile bike trip across the country by accessing my Bike Tour 2022 album on Flickr.

Bike Tour 2022 – The Journey Home

About a week before I expected to finish my bike tour, I booked a flight home from Portland on Southwest Airlines. I chose Southwest because I had enough points on my Southwest account that I could fly for free. I chose a flight between 10 and 11 on Saturday morning. All the other flights left before 6 am. I also chose this flight because it had only one stop, Chicago’s Midway airport.

I was about to call a cab to go to the airport when I received a notice from Southwest that my Portland to Chicago flight had been canceled. Southwest re-routed me on a two-stop flight leaving Portland at 5:40 am on Sunday. UGH!

After much agonizing about getting a hotel, I decided to extend my stay at the hostel. I did some laundry, read a book, and took a walk. At 10 pm I went to sleep for five hours.

My cab arrived at 3:30. 20 minutes and $50 later I was at the airport. I tried to use a kiosk to check in but the software wouldn’t let me. So I got in the long line to see an agent at the check in counter. The line moved fast. I explained calmly to the agent that I had been rebooked. She immediately gave me preboarding status on all three flights. This was a courtesy I was later to learn was extended to others who had been re-scheduled.

When I lined up for my first flight and saw all the people waiting to board, I was feeling burnt out and a little angry, despite my preboarding status. I started chatting with a woman standing next to me. She was traveling with her family to DC to attend a conference about disabled people. She, her husband, and younger son were traveling with her elder son who was obviously disabled; he could walk but needed to much assistance and persuasion to board the flight.

To make matters worse, the family had missed the first day of the conference.

So much for my personal pity party.

When I left the plane at Denver, I was met by a woman with a wheelchair. I turned it down, of course. It gave me a good laugh, though.

The next two flights, Denver to Dallas and Dallas to DC, had more disabled people in the preboarding line. This included five people in wheelchairs in addition to the family I met in line in Portland.

During the descent to Dallas my ears plugged up and became very painful. The pain went away but the “plugging up” worsened. By the time I arrived in DC, I couldn’t hear a thing. I attributed the hearing loss to sitting next to one of the plane’s engines.

With two connections, I assumed my bags would be delayed or lost. In fact, I had only a five minute wait for them once I arrived at baggage claim.

I hefted my tent bag and my duffle and headed outside for a cab. There were none. I took an airport shuttle to the main terminal where the shuttle driver dropped us about 150 yards from the taxi line.

For the previous two weeks my back and legs had shown little sign of my stenosis problems. Hauling those bags around at the airport brought my stenosis symptoms back.

Once I arrived home, I realized I could not hear our whole house air conditioner running. I did some laundry and couldn’t hear the machines working. I had a stuffed up head and felt tired. I attributed this to jet lag.

Today I went to the pharmacy to get a prescription refilled. While waiting I went to the barbershop. I returned home with my medicine and some ear drops to unplug my ears. Curiously, I was now coughing up drainage from my sinuses.

After tending to post-ride business, I took a nap. After dinner I decided to test myself for Covid. Knock me down with a feather, I’m positive. After two months on the road, I finally caught the disease. I had previously made an appointment with my primary car doctor for tomorrow so I’ll probably be zooming with him.

We have a winner! I tested myself twice. So far it feels like I have a cold in my nose. Luckily I have a doctor appointment tomorrow anyway
Might as well test myself twice, right?

I am four times vaxxed and eligible for Paxlovid. No worries.

Fun with Vaccines

A couple of months ago I registered with the Virginia Health Department to get the Covid-19 vaccine. Then I began a long wait. During my wait, the rules of the game kept changing. First, I became eligible because the age limit for vaccination was lowered. Then the federal government set up a separate vaccine network through pharmacies.

I started searching for a vaccine site at Safeway, CVS, and Walgreens. Each morning I’d log on and each morning I’d get the same messages. Either the retail outlet had not yet begun giving vaccines to the public or the appointments were all booked.

Then, one morning I tried Safeway and they had a full slate of appointments available at my local store. I signed myself up. These appointments were only available to people who met the age limit. Being old has its privileges.

First dose: On February 18, I received my first dose of the Pfizer vaccine at Safeway. I was third in line so the process took about five minutes. Then I had to wait around for 15 minutes to make sure I didn’t go in to anaphylactic shock. (I didn’t.) Meanwhile my wife did some grocery shopping. When she was done we checked out. Safeway gave vaccine recipients a 10 percent off coupon for groceries. (I did not get a “I Got Jabbed” sticker however.) When I was done with my shot, the pharmacist gave me a small card with my vaccine info and the date and time of the appointment for my second shot.

Other than soreness in my arm at the injection site I had no side effects at all.

A couple of days later, my wife and daughter were notified that they could make appointments. My wife got her 1st Pfizer dose last week at the county government center located conveniently (sarcasm alert) 25 miles away. The massive complex seemed to be dedicated to vaccinations. You waited in your car until the vaccine folks texted you. Then you walked into the building following yellow arrows on the ground outside and on the floor inside. We waited five minutes then her number was called and she walked into the vaccination room where about 10 people were giving shots.

After her shot she followed the yellow areas to a huge waiting room. When 15 minutes had passed, she received a text telling her she could leave.

She too had no side effects other than arm pain.

My daughter was next. I drove her to the Kaiser Permanente facility in McLean Virginia, about 20 miles from home. I was not allowed into the building. She was done in about 25 minutes. No side effects.

Second dose: A couple of days ago I received my second jab. I had a different stabber this time. The first stabber was a man who was all business. The second stabber was a chipper woman who seemed pretty excited about jabbing me. There was no line so the entire process took about two minutes. She gave me the rundown about side effects, acetaminophen for pain as necessary, etc. I didn’t have to hang around because I was obviously not allergic to the vaccine.

Today is day 3 post-vaccine. My arm hurts a little, just like the first time. The day of the jab I took a nap instead of going for my usual bike ride. I could have ridden but I was a bit sleepy and decided to be cautious. The next day my arm still hurt and so did the teeth the upper right side of my mouth. I attributed this to the usual sinus woes and took some Flonase. Problem solved. I rode the equivalent of 21 miles in the basement. Today, I feel exactly as I did yesterday. Same arm pain. Same tooth pain. Flonase to the rescue again. I went for a 30 mile ride to DC in the hopes of seeing some spring blossoms. I only saw one tree and some forsythia bushes in bloom. The bike trails were crowded. MAMILs (middle aged men in tights) and eBikers were being obnoxious. Tomorrow I’ll avoid the trails because it will be warmer and they will be packed.

One other thing. The CDC sends vaccinated people a daily survey about side effects. It takes less than a minute. I can see them getting plenty of useful data from this. (The survey ended one week after my first shot and started up again the day of my second shot.) When you get your shot, do the survey. We’re all in this together.

Get the Shot: If you are contemplating not getting the shot, all I can say is DON’T BE A PUTZ! Getting the vaccine is safer than driving to the grocery store.

The Astra/Zeneca vaccine is all over the news as causing blood clots. In 0.0002% of the people who got the shot. This is actually a lower rate of clots than in the non-vaccinated population so don’t panic. I’ve had blood clots in my lungs. They are no fun. Even with my medical history, if I hadn’t been vaccinated already and someone offered me the A/Z vaccine, I’d take it in a heartbeat.

The real estate side effect. Within the last week, five people I know have announced home purchases or sales. The real estate market seems rather impervious to the virus.


It’s been a very mild winter here in DC. We haven’t had any snow in two years. This is about to change,

The last couple have days the temperatures have been in the low 30s with gale force winds.

According to the app on my phone it feels like it’s in the teens out there.

Of course, the App people don’t bother to factor in that when you’re riding a bike into the wind it feels even colder.

For some reason my body tolerated the cold yesterday. I managed to ride 30 miles comfortably. Today was a different story. I began by riding about a mile to check out Bernie. He looked a whole lot warmer than I felt. Note the double decker Buff I have on. It thick on the bottom to protect my neck. On top, it’s thin for breathability. I doubled the top over to avoid infecting the Bern.

After my Bernie moment, I decided to ride up a side street. “Up” being the operative word here. It was a steep climb then a chilly descent then another climb to the top of Mason Hill. Under my blue wind jacket I had on a short sleeve base layer, a long sleeve base layer and a holey wool sweater. Somehow the sweat from the climb didn’t wick very well. The descent from the Mason Hill was frigid. Ugh.

I kept plodding along. I passed through New Alexandria, a cute neighborhood just outside the DC Beltway. One of the residents puts up a road sign now and then. Mrs. Rootchopper appreciated this snarky one.

I never did warm up so I decided to pack it in after 21 miles. One more day of riding before we get hit with our first snowstorm in ages. Before I went inside, I made sure the Wovel was ready for action.

Today I learned that my local hardware store has closed because an employee has Covid. The people in the store have been very sloppy about wearing masks. When I shop there, I go in and out as fast as I can to limit my exposure. In any case, I haven’t been in there for a week so I hope I am virus free.

Covid appears to have an interesting side effect. I recently heard that there is a nationwide decline in the birth rate during the pandemic. My circle of friends are bucking the trend. Claire (whom I have known since infancy – hers, not mine) welcomed Della few weeks ago. I met Megan at the pit stop on the first Cider Ride outside DC. She, a self-described Florida girl, was freezing her ass off. A little over a week ago Megan gave birth to Wesley (her first). About that time, my friend Jacques announced that his wife Liz was due any day and, well, she delivered Lucille a few days later. And Melina, who we met as a three-year-old at our son’s preschool, posted a picture from the delivery room earlier today. The baby will be her first. Congrats to all. Maybe I should put together a tour du diapers.

“We had to do something.”

The ongoing tragedy of the Covid-19 pandemic is overwhelming. We hear statistics day after day. Over 200,000 dead. Millions infected. They numb our conscience. So Bethesda, Maryland artists Suzanne Brennan Firstenberg acted. I asked her why and she said “We had to do something.”

So she designed an art project called In America. In a swath of grass 20 blocks east of the Capitol, she is planting row after row of white flags, one for each covid-19 death in the United States. She expects there to be about 240,000 of them from today until November 6.

A volunteer uses a template to place flags.

The orderly flags remind me of the white headstones in military cemeteries like Arlington and Colleville-sur-Mer. So clean. So white. So much death. How could this happen in America?

To drive home the point, on the western front of the installation is a set of over 300 white flags. To the side are 26 more. The 26 flags represent the total covid-19 deaths in New Zealand. The 300+ flags show the covid-19 deaths that New Zealand would have had if it had followed the haphazard response that occurred in the United States.

If only we had responded as New Zealand did

There is something about this particular part of DC that draws the sad and the bizzarre. The last time I had ridden a bike to this space was to participate in a BikeDC event shortly after the attacks of September 2001. A massive crowd of bicyclists stood somberly. We were there to show that no matter what we would carry on. We sang God Bless America then rolled off en masse.

Three years before that I attended the Tibetan Freedom concert in RFK Stadium across the street to the east of the flags. In the middle of the concert I went to the concession stand. I heard a loud BANG. Lightning had struck a person some 20 rows or so below my seat. (She survived.) The concert was stopped and the massive crowd was told to leave the stadium in the middle of a raging thunderstorm.

And so here I was again observing another sad and bizzare moment in history.

Volunteers are welcome to come and install flags. Sadly, there will be about 1,000 new flags every day for the duration of the display. Wear a mask and observe social distancing, of course. Or just come and bear witness.