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.

Bike Tour Prep in the Age of Covid

Preparations for the tour continue. I heard from Mark of the team of Mark and Corey yesterday. He said we’ll see each other in 5 1/2 weeks “hopefully”.

A lot can happen in 5 1/2 weeks. And a lot can happen during a bike tour. I’ve been very lucky so far on the usual bad stuff like crashes, tornados, snow, robberies, and such. Of more immediate concern, of course, is Covid.

I’ve been using cloth masks since the start of the pandemic. I’ve also been careful to avoid enclosed spaces and crowds. Last night I took my wife out for dinner where we ate inside.

Despite a few exceptions such as this dinner, I’ve been a virtual hermit during the pandemic. As far as I know I haven’t contacted Covid yet. (Nor has my wife or daughter.) One interesting benefit of this isolation is that I also have had almost no other illnesses for two years. And I’ve learned that masking is a pretty effective way to avoid pollen-related allergy symptoms. (The DC area is particularly brutal for pollen sufferers.)

The tour will take away from my DC area bubble where people are still using masks to a significant extent. In the last few months mask usage even here tree has declined. And Covid cases are on the rise once again.

I’m heading into areas where mask usage is low. I intend to continue masking because a Covid infection could be disasterous. I imagine having breathing difficulties at 9,000 feet without a hospital anywhere nearby. (Hello, Wyoming!) I decided to buy a couple of N95 masks as a precaution.

I rode to the drug store and began an aisle-by-aisle search. I could only find cheap disposable cloth masks on display. Discouraged I started to leave the store when a message came over the store PA system. “Customers, you can get free N95 masks at the check out. Three per customer.” The check out clerk happened to be standing nearby so I asked him for some. He led me instead to a large stack of cardboard boxes in the entryway of the store. I had walked past them without a glance on the way in.

The boxes were filled with large bunches of disposable N95 masks in plastic bags. I was about to take three when the clerk said “Here. take a bag. Give them out to your friends.” I was flabbergasted. I came home with about 25 masks. I tried one on. These babies rock. They fit tight to your face and they are not at all restrictive of breathing. They are a bit awkward to wear so I expect I’ll only use them in hotels and food stores.

Be prepared.

I am down to only a handful of tasks.

  • Acquire new camp towel (old one is nasty and small)
  • Buy a small squeeze bottle for my liquid soap (so I can carry 8 ounces instead of 16)
  • Test my panniers for leaks. Patch with duct tape when necessary.
  • Put my bike rack on our SUV to make sure it will carry my bike without issues
  • Reconfigure The Mule and do a fully loaded test ride around the neighborhood.