When you get to a fork in the road, break it

This last week or so I’ve been getting out and about, almost like the before times. My daughter and I took in our first Nats baseball game since September 2019. The Nats were kind enough to reward our presence with a win.

On Wednesday, I returned to the ballyard alone for a day game. They won again. My seats were less than ideal. Half the stands were in shade. Sadly, I was not and my legs were fried by the strong summer sun even though temperatures stayed quite comfortable. My sunburn was not for naught; the Nats won again.

Section 317, Row A.

Thursday began with my first trip to a diner in over a year. Later in the day, I attended my first post-pandemic #bikedc social event with the return of Third Thursday Happy Hour. In an exchange on social media, my friend Miles mocked my recumbent. Big Nellie was offended and insisted on being ridden to the get-together. About 20 people assembled at the snack bar at the golf course in East Potomac Park. I haven’t seen so many golfers in one place in my entire life. It was crazy.

The bike crowd was in a good mood and the conversation flowed along with the beer. I did not partake of the brews because of last Saturday’s tummy issues. After a couple of hours I rode home.

All was going splendidly. About seven miles into the ride, the Mount Vernon Trail has a small curve to go around a wooded wet area next to the river. At the peak of the curve, on a slight incline, all was well. I banked Big Nellie to the left to continue down the incline. As my front wheel hit a sizeable bump from a tree root, I began my lean to the right to negotiate the next turn.

And then I crashed.

It happened before I could react. I realized before my right side hit the pavement that my hands, still on the handlebar grips, were in an odd place, off to the left instead of directly in front of me. I landed on the pavement. Ow. My right shoulder, hip, and elbow took the force of the fall. (Just scrapes. No broken bones.) I managed to scoot myself off the trail and onto the grass to avoid being run over.

The pain seemed to intensify as I stood and tried to upright my bike. Then I realized what had happened; both blades of my fork had incurred catastrophic failure. I had to drag the bike to the grass because the front wheel would no longer roll.

No bueno. Over 43,000 miles of wear and tear.

A runner saw the crash and came along to see if I was okay. I said “I want my mommy.”

Okay, I lied about that.

His name was Rob and he carried my bike about 200 yards to a parking area. Thanks, Rob.

Rob. Dead Bike Carrier Extraordinaire

My wife and daughter came to my aid and we drove the last 8 miles home.

I posted pix on the Internet and tagged Bikes@Vienna, the shop where I bought the bike, hoping rather desperately that he could help with a repair. The bike’s manufacturer is no longer in business and the fork is a rather exotic part. It has unusually long trail, which means it situates the front wheel well in front of the frame.

To my astonishment, Tim, the owner of the shop, texted me back saying that he may have a replacement fork.

This morning I rode The Mule to my first Friday Coffee Club since March 2020. My motivation was to see my friend Lis who has been overseas for most of the last couple of years. Lis and I didn’t get to talk much but I did manage to chat with several other people. The weather cooperated splendidly, dry and slightly warm with a soft, cool breeze.

On the ride home I managed to negotiate the curve of doom without incident. The Mule abides.

This afternoon I took Big Nellie out to Bikes@Vienna. Dr. TIm and his able assistant Igor (actually she’s Beth and somewhat disappointingly doesn’t have a hunchback) will take things apart and see what can be done.

My fingers are crossed that Big Nellie can be saved from the recumbent graveyard.

A Friend Is Gone

This morning a reckless driver killed a bicyclist on Florida Avenue, NE in Washington DC. The early news reports said the victim was “an elderly gentleman.” I don’t know any elderly people in that area of town. It couldn’t have been anyone I knew.

And yet it was.

Dave Salovesh was 54 years old. He was a wonderful man full of life and love. You could tell every time you saw him with his partner Jean that he loved her to the moon and back. I laughed so many times as he described the travails of being the parent of Kid O, his now teen-aged daughter. Being a parent is hard but, God, did he love her, too.

I’ve known Dave for over five years. Every interaction was a joy.

He was a passionate advocate for bicycling in DC. In 2015 he helped organize a protest on Pennsylvania Avenue, to get the city to install small barriers to keep cars from making u-turns across the cycle track in the middle of the road. We made a temporary barrier with people and pool noodles strung together. The protest succeeded and we had a ton of fun in the process.

At the end of the event Dave gathered up the pool noodles and we all went out for a beer down the street.

19566313641_cc7b5aa8c7_z

I am gutted.

God, I’m going to miss him. What a great guy.

My deepest condolences to Jean and O.

Love you Dave.

Ear Bud Coffee Ninja Tuesday

Yesterday on the Mount Vernon Trail was Butt Cheek Monday. My thanks, once again, to the designers of skin tight running shorts for women. Today was Ear Bud Coffee Ninja Tuesday.

Image may contain: bicycle, outdoor and nature

I was plodding along going up a slight rise in the trail. The base of the rise is where I was nearly shuffled off my mortal coil by the driver of an SUV a couple of weeks ago.  As I made my way past the bus stop, a man came off a staircase to my right and walked directly in front of me. He was in ear bud heaven and his left hand held a cup of joe at about the level of my head. If I had hit him it would have been a literal hot mess.

I froze, proving that meditation can get you only so far in bike crash world. I swerved left and came to a stop avoiding making a four-ten split of some more folks waiting for the bus doors to open. (Why the heck do all these people have to stand when the bus is just sitting there with its doors shut?)

I said something exclamatory that did not include the letter f, shook my head, and rode away. Ear bud coffee ninja didn’t say a word.

I have ridden past this bus stop thousands of times. This is the first time I nearly crashed into someone. Maybe all my past caution has given me a big balance in the karma bank.

Today was cool with rain and wind. By Saturday, it will be 90F degrees. Bring it on. I am torn between riding 16 miles to the Climate March or riding 16 miles to the Nationals baseball game. (They are both in DC, about a mile apart.) Everybody knows that saving the planet is roughly as important as winning the NL East.

 

Making Nelle’s Hit List (Errandonnee No.12)

It had already rained over an inch. Skies were gray, but the Washington Nationals had not yet canceled their exhibition game with the Boston Red Sox. Three co-workers and I had a block of tickets. They were driving from the office. I left the house at 1:15 on Little Nellie, my Bike Friday with wee wheels.

Speaking of Nelle, my friend Nelle, the Deputy Director of the Washington Area Bicyclists Association (of which I am a member), posted a note on social media the other day saying she knew over 20 people, mostly bicyclists, who had been hit by a motor vehicle. After a day or two her other friends spoke up and the number rose to 65.

An intermittent light rain was falling. I made it to the Mount Vernon Trail with little difficulty. Traffic was light on the GW Parkway which runs parallel to the trail. After nearly five miles, I came to the only place on the trail that has a traffic light for trail users. It is at the entrance to Porto Vecchio, an upscale condominium on the Potomac River. There is also a traffic signal to control traffic on the Parkway.

A decorative wall, perhaps eight feet tall, blocks the view of the trail from the condominium parking lot as the trail approaches the crossing. I could see that the trail light was amber (it never turns green) indicating that I had the right of way and that cross traffic had a red light. I looked across the Parkway. There were two cars waiting for a green light. I thought “They’ll trip the light.” I looked back at my light. Still amber. I was already going only about 10 miles per hour and started to make my way across the entrance to the condo.

What happened next took only two seconds.

A black SUV came flying out from behind the wall.

Oh no.

My hands were on the cross bar. I didn’t have time to reach the brakes.

It’s going to hit me.

I turned my little front wheel. I just missed t-boning the SUV, but I could not avoid its front right fender. I hit it with my right thigh. My right hand somehow had come off the handlebar and stiff armed the top of the fender.

My momentum was carrying me in front of the SUV.

This is going to hurt. Big time. At the same second I thought of my wife’s description of the split second when she was hit by an SUV. And I thought of my friend’s friend who was hit by a bus.

I saw the grill of the SUV. I was falling in front of the SUV.

It stopped.

Somehow.

But I was still on my way down. My right arm, still extended, was pointing straight down. My eyes spotted the pavement.

And with some kind of calm I thought

“No.”

I consciously shifted the weight of my torso over the left front brake hood. The shift and the wonders of physics caused the bike to right itself. Then I pulled my right arm back up. And came to a controlled, upright stop.

I calmly looked over my left shoulder to verify that the SUV had run a red light. Then I turned around. The driver had opened her car door and was standing between it and the driver’s seat.

“I’m so sorry.” Over and over again.

“The light was red. You could have put me in an ambulance. What the hell is wrong with you? SLOW DOWN!” (Mostly this was not in anger. I simply wanted to get it into her head that this could have been a really, really bad crash.)

“I’m so sorry.”

And I rode off for a cold beer at the ballpark.

A couple of miles later I stopped to check my messages. The game had been cancelled.

I turned around and rode home.

Number 66 on Nelle’s list.

Errandonnee Stuff:

Miles: 15.5

Category: Arts and Entertainment (seriously)

Observations: I managed to get through the crash thanks to several things. First, the driver stopped. Second, I didn’t hit my brakes, but bounced off the car and stayed upright. Third, the little wheels on Little Nellie kept my front wheel from contacting the SUV.  Fourth, I managed to stay calm. You can say what you want about meditation but there is not doubt in my mind that it helped me stay focused and not panic. It was almost as if I was observing it as a bystander. Fifth: The amount of information your brain processes in a situation like this is flabbergasting. Sixth: I am one fucking lucky son of a bitch. Seventh: I need a beer.

Ticket Edited

I Shoulda Known Better

Today’s title comes from one of John Lennon’s songs in A Hard Days Night. It’s been one of my favorites for a long time. It also describes how I felt about 40 minutes into my ride to work.

On the up side, I didn’t need to use a headlight today. Props to Copernicus.

It was cold. I had a headwind. Most importantly it had rained and sleeted and snowed a bit overnight. My lawn had a dusting of white. The streets were perfectly rideable. So I headed out on The Mule.

The three miles to the Mount Vernon Trail were uneventful, but for the fact that getting warm was a bit of a problem. As most of my readers already know, the National Park Service owns the Mount Vernon Trail. They do not treat it or shovel it in winter. This morning the asphalt parts were fine, but every wooden bridge was icy. The Dyke Marsh bridge is a couple hundred yards long. I didn’t slip at all as I rode across it. There were no signs of crashes in the this white layer that sat on top of its wooded deck. A very short wooden bridge near Belle Haven Park was also not a problem.

I made it to the bricks on the Washington Street deck. I expected to see ice but it was clear.  My next challenge was along the trail near the river just north of Fords Landing. This too was snow and ice covered but I could see tire tracks had made it through this section successfully. I rolled right on through.

My next challenge came from the concrete bridge that skirts the power plant. A cyclists was walking his single speed bike up the hill from the bridge. Not a good sign. I rolled across the bridge and around its tight turn without incident, but I took note of the icy mud in the middle of the turn.

I figured that the farther north I rode, the lower the ambient air temperature and the higher the chance that one of these bridges would be bad news. I figured right.

The next bridge is a wooden deck that skirts the Slaters Lane apartment building. It takes a leftward 90 degree turn midway. The first half was rideable, but I spotted a smear mark in the thin layer of ice and snow on the boards. Someone had crashed. I made it through the turn in good shape despite several more smear marks. Then with out warning my rear tire began to slide sidewards. I gradually tried to steer out of it. Then down I went in a pretty decent imitation of an albatross landing. Somehow I ended up lying flat across the bike’s frame with my upper body and left ribs landing on the downtube (the diagonal one from the handlebars to the pedals) and my legs smacking the top tube (the one from the seat to the handlebars.

Oof! Am I hurt? Nope. Then I untangled myself from The Mule. Ow. Ribs hurt a bit. I stood the bike up. It slid. I was going to take a picture of my smear but the bike would not stay upright. So I walked off the bridge. As I did I could barely get traction. I made it off the bridge, straightened the handlebars and brake hood and rode away thankful that all my personal parts were working. I credit my not getting hurt to the fact that the bike frame cushioned the blow and the bike and I slid on contact.

100 yards further on was the beaver bridge, a similar wood bridge notorious for crashes. I decided to walk this one. Smears were all over the place. A walker was practically skating as she approached. I made it around the curve and went down. Walking! That’s how slippery it was. I carefully got up and pulled The Mule up and we started sliding backwards with the slant of the bridge! I arrested the slide and ever so gradually made my way to the side of the bridge where I grabbed the chain that acts as a sort of guardrail. Just as I grabbed hold I heard a thump. A rider fell 20 yards behind me. “I’m alright. Planned for it!”

He got right up and walked with me to the end of the bridge.

We both mounted our bikes. He sped off into what had become a pretty strong headwind. We’re having fun now!

As I approached the Humpback Bridge a rider coming toward me warned that the wooden Trollheim Bridge (the boardwalk beneath the TR Bridge) was covered in ice. I decided I’d had enough fun for one morning and turned off the MVT and toward Arlington Cemetery. I rode the path around the cemetery to the gate at Fort Myer, banged a right and rolled straight to the office.  While I showered I looked down and saw a pretty impressive imprint of my top tube across my right knee.

Today's crash results. Owie!!!

Funny thing is, last winter at just about this time, I fell riding Little Nellie on the glazed streets near my home. You’d think I’d learn.

Tree Down, Man Down

DSCN3175_329

 

Summer brings overnight storms. They sometimes knock trees down along the Mount Vernon Trail. I was riding down the serpentine path from the Old Stone Bridge when I came around a corner to see the cyclists in the white shirt holding his hands up telling me to stop because a tree had fallen across the trail. The speedy bike commuter behind me, possibly screened by me, saw the warning too late. He hit is brakes and fishtailed. Then his front wheel slipped on the yellow stripe in the center of the trail and down he went. He didn’t stick, sliding instead. I think he was more mad at himself than hurt. He didn’t seem to have a scratch on him and his shorts were intact.

When I arrived at work I sent an email to the National Park Service office in charge of the trail and advsied them of the tree.

On the way home he rode past me and remarked “No pictures tonight”.  He explained that he was unharmed and all was good and sped away. When I got to the scene of the fallen tree there was no evidence that the tree had fallen. Not even sawdust. The National Park Service once again did an amazing job of clearing the trail.