Riding nowhere – October

Another month, another 913 miles of riding around in circles. Except for a single one-way 57-mile ride on the Washington and Old Dominion Trail that is. It’s inane to be doing this but it’s that kind of year, isn’t it.

After putting 676 miles on my Cross Check (which passed the 18,000-mile mark) and another 51 miles on Big Nellie, my Tour Easy recumbent, I switched rather cautiously to Little Nellie, my folding travel bike with little wheels. Little Nellie has been known to beat my lower back to a pulp so I have been avoiding riding it. I was considering selling it until, on a whim, I tweaked the saddle height and found a sweet spot. I can now ride it pain free. So it’s been my ride of choice for final 186 miles of the month.

So far this year I’ve ridden 8,655 miles. Getting to 10,000 is going to require some determination and a whole lot of help from the weatherman.

I also bought some new bike junk. I have a set of rechargeable blinky lights that are reasonably useful. They are be-seen lights, meaning they improve my visibility to others. The headlight will keep me from rear ending a parked car but I will use one of my more powerful Light and Motion headlights for nighttime navigation.

I also picked up a wind vest. It is bright yellow and has a big dorky reflective arrow on the back. The arrow points to the left. (The manufacturer makes a version for left side driving countries too.)

I also bought an Arkel Tailrider bag. This probably will replace my Carradice LongFlap , a huge saddlebag. The LongFlap uses leather straps that are a pain to open and close and it weighs a ton. The Tailrider is lighter and has zippers. I will give up some carrying capacity but I rarely maxed out the LongFlap. The rack on my CrossCheck has two levels which means I can use the Tailrider on the top of the rack and still attach panniers if I need to.

On to November. Brrr.

Biking and sleeping and reading

Somehow the weather in the DC area has been nearly perfect for about two weeks. Temperatures in the 60s. Low humidity. Sunny days with puffy white clouds (mostly). You’d think that I’d be out riding sixty-mile days one after the other but you’d be wrong. This is perfect sleeping weather. Having endured over 8,000 miles of bike riding so far this year, my body is making full use of the opportunity to re-charge itself.

Still, I’m out there nearly every day, spinning away for three or four hours. I’ve pretty much carved a rut in the roads and trails near home. I’ve been watching the trees closely. Only now are the leaves starting to turn. There are a few showoffs here and there but green still predominates.

Today was pretty typical. I rode my Cross Check across the Woodrow Wilson Bridge (I-95 and I-495, or more familiarly the Beltway) into Maryland. Then a half mile up Oxon Hill. Once at the top I turned to the south and rode a bike lane through three small traffic circles. I get my thrills wherever I can find them. Then I did two 4 1/4 mile loops on Fort Foote Road. It’s middle America suburbia. Nothing to write home about but it has nice rollers and a few fun curves.

On the way back across the bridge I heard some people up ahead looking over the railing, clapping and yelling “YAY!!” I stopped to check out the scene. The people on the bridge were applauding a wedding down below on a pier. By the time I got my phone out the deed had been done and the bride (in a faded pink gown) and groom were making their exit. That’s them just after they stepped off the pier in the picture.

Wedding on the pier

When I get home from these excursions I shower, eat snacks, and settle down to read. My daughter has been supplying me with books, nearly all novels, all summer. I left this biography for last. It’s about 740 pages of small print. It’s going to take a while. Chernow is a wonderful writer but the bike rides and the weather are conspiring to knock me out every 10 or 20 pages or so.

I read Chernow’s Grant biography last year and loved it. So I have no doubt that this book will be worth the effort.

In case you were wondering, I saw the Kennedy Center production of Hamilton last year. And I saw the Disney+ filmed version a couple of months ago. I’m not really big on musicals but the stage production of Hamilton is mindbogglingly good.

I have always been fascinated by creative people, musicians especially. They spend a decade or so absorbing all kinds of influences and then there’s an eruption. Stevie Wonder in the early 1970s is a good example. How Lin Manuel Miranda went from the book which is a straightforward biography to a hip-hop musical is beyond me.

Well, it’s time to get back to Mr. Hamilton. When I’m done with this I’ll be moving back to novels. The new Nick Hornby and Fredrik Bachman books are calling me.

April in my rear view mirror

After a week of mourning and activism, I need to move ahead. Dealing with the sudden death of a friend is always very hard. Seeing the incredible outpouring of love for Dave in the local community (and beyond) has been amazing.

I pulled up a bunch of old Flickr pictures to share with friends on Facebook. I had said in my last blog post that I’d known Dave for five years. The pictures say that it’s more like ten. I had forgotten how many rides we did together.

He may be gone but like Tom Joad he’ll still be here.

A fellow ain’t got a soul of his own, just little piece of a big soul, the one big soul that belongs to everybody.”

But unlike Tom Joad, Dave had an enormous soul. And his passing leaves a our one big soul broken.

When I heard the news, I didn’t even want to look at a bike, much less ride it thousands of miles. That feeling faded with dozens of tearful hugs from friends over the last week.

My Errandonnee activity came to a screeching halt however. It just didn’t seem right to continue. Most of my rides in the last week were to and from DC to visit the site of the crash twice, go to a happy hour with mutual friends, and attend a rally at the District Building (city hall) to call for the city to up its game to keep vulnerable road users safe.

Near the end of the month my Cross Check’s odometer hit 12,000 miles. I put it away and switched to The Mule for the rest of the month.

Ironically, on my first ride to the crash site, I found out that the brakes on The Mule were nearly useless. When I got home I tried to put new brake pads on the bike but the hardware on the 28-year old brake mechanism was so rusted that I couldn’t get one of the old pads free of the caliper. Fed up, I took the bike to my local bike shop where they swapped out the old cantilever brakes for new mini v-brakes. Afterwards I could skid my back wheel. A vast improvement.

The planning for my tour continues to march ahead. The expected start date is now May 16. Launch will occur from the small town of North Judson, Indiana instead of Chicago. This is because Mrs. Rootchopper will be driving me there in her new car. Her 15-year-old car was burning oil like a bad diner cook. Speaking of diners, North Judson has an awesome one that I will hit up before departure. During Lent, they make killer paczkis, which Dave, who lived in Chicago and its environs before moving to DC, would have appreciated.

I have built a decent mileage base, riding 868 miles in April. So far this year I have clocked 2.609 miles, mostly in 30-mile days.  That, and riding 1,300 miles from Indiana to Colorado, should put my legs, not to mention engine weight, in good stead for the climbing during the middle of the trip.

My long ride of the month was a 64-mile jaunt to Bethesda and Potomac, Maryland. A few days ago I did a hilly 39 miler. I also rode to six or seven baseball games at Nationals Park. The rides were better than most of the games. Blame the bullpen.

Last night on the way home from the last game of April, I spooked a yearling in the dark along the Mount Vernon Trail. It bounded along the trail ahead of me for a few hundred yards, its white tail dancing in the white circle of my headlight.

On to May….

 

 

 

 

Errandonnee 2019: Shoppin’ and Shaggin’

With rain holding off until evening, I took a muggy ride this morning. I stopped at my local Safeway to buy three things: castile soap (for my bike tour), oatmeal (for my bike belly), and Woolite (for my holey sweaters). They only had oatmeal. It’s not a very good store. So I rode three more miles to the bigger Safeway at Belle View Shopping Center where I scored all three items.

After that, I rolled up Fort Hunt Road past the Belle Haven Country Club. I suck at golf but some of the members of this club make me look like Tiger Woods. I picked up three golf balls all within five feet of each other on the side of the road.

The rest of the ride involved spotting scores of eastern red bud trees in bloom. At one point I saw a lilac blooming and took a big whiff for my favorite scent.

Whatever my Cross Check and I are doing, it’s working. I am riding faster and with more comfort than at any time since my bike tour.

Errand 5

Category: Shopping (2nd use)

Place: Belle View Safeway

Observation: If you shop by bike at my local Safeway, you get to lock up next at the loading dock. At the Belle Haven Safeway, you get to lock up at a stop sign. Such is the life of a cyclist in car-loving Fairfax County, Virginia.

Errand 6

Category: You Carried WHAT on your bike? (1st use)

Place: On Fort Hunt Road next to the Belle Haven Country Club

Observation: Technically, this category is supposed to be used for carrying odd sized items like a rug or a sharpened lawn mower blade. But hear me out. I’ve been collecting golf balls (and a few tennis and baseballs) for years during runs and bike rides. One of my sisters contracted cancer years ago. She and her oncologist were golfers. So she told him that she once she was cured (she was), she’d take him out on the course and kick his butt (I don’t know if this ever happened). Ever since I have been shipping my golf ball bounty to her.  Conveniently, my Carradice saddle bag has side pockets that hold four golf balls. I have 15 golf balls already this spring.

Errandonnee 2019 – Three Errands in One Day

The 2019 Errandonnee started today. I left home before dawn riding my Surly Cross Check 14.5 miles to Friday Coffee Club. There was an ever-changing cast of characters and cranberry scones. Bueno.

Errand Number 1

Category: Social Call (1st use)

Place: Swings House of Caffeine, 17th and G Streets NW, DC

Observation: Friday Coffee Club regular Pancho Bate and the Canadian children’s folk singer are dopplegangers. Pancho confirmed that the comparison has been made for decades.

I left at about 10 and headed homeward for a weight lifting session at the gym. My wonky shoulder behaved for a change and I survived the ordeal.

Errand No. 2

Category: Personal Care (1st use)

Place: George Washington Rec Center, Fort Hunt Road and Belle View Boulevard, Fort Hunt in Fairfax County

Observation: On the way I picked up my 12th golf ball of the year. Belle Haven Country Club has more hookers than a truck stop.

From the gym I rode to Village Hardware, the best hardware store in northern Virginia. I bought a spray can of primer to cover some water spots on the ceiling of our Florida room.

I was going to do a fourth errand but it started to rain. I wasn’t dressed for wet weather so I called it a day. Three errands down, nine to go.

Total miles so far: 30.

Getting Back in Shape

My body has had a tough winter. For a few weeks I was really falling apart. I couldn’t stand up straight. I walked with a pronounced limp with pain in my left knee and hip.

Setting Aside Little Nellie

It occurred to me that my back pain was probably caused by the impact shocks I get while riding Little Nellie. Those little wheels don’t absorb much of the hit from countless tree roots on the Mount Vernon Trail. (The National Park Service is starved for money and their maintenance has really gone south in the last two or three years.)

I switched first to The Mule, then to my Cross Check, both of which have normal sized wheels (700c x 35 for the bike nerds). My back responded almost instantly to the softer ride on The Mule. When I switched the Cross Check some new back and knee problems cropped up. I re-measured the seat height and the distance from the saddle to the handlebars. The seat was about 1/2 inch higher than The Mule’s. After I adjusted it, I took off. The Cross Check’s bigger gears were just what my legs needed. I feel like my old self again.

I rode it to Friday Coffee Club today. The strong, persistent tailwind made me feel like a bike god. The ride home was a bit challenging but I actually enjoyed fighting the wind. I am back to my old commuting mileages. My last 8 days were: 30, 23.5, 45.5, 28, 31, 32, 32, and 30 miles (252 total). A couple more weeks like that should put me in decent touring shape.

Cross Check at Dyke Marsh
The Cross Check at Dyke Marsh on the Mount Vernon Trail

 

Working Out Off the Bike

I am also doing on alternate days: yoga, weight lifting, and physical therapy exercises including some with a foam roller. I don’t much care for any of these but you gotta do what you gotta do.

Shopping

My pre-tour shopping spree has begun. I’ve bought mountain bike shorts, glasses (clear and polarized, both progressive for map reading while on the bike), Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires, Croakies, Koolstop brake pads, and a combination lock. (I am trading off weight for some security but I can’t recall ever having someone try to steal The Mule while on tour.)

The other night I attended a presentation by Jim Sayer, the Executive Director of  Adventure Cycling. Adventure Cycling makes the maps that I use. Jim’s presentation really helped get my head back in the game. Jim talked up La Route Verte, the bike touring network in Quebec. This is definitely going on my to do list. The website is amazing. (And it’s in both English and French, of course.) I need to do a key word search for “black flies” though.

And just to add to the preparations, spring arrived in DC. It may be temporary but two 70 degree days are just the tonic. I rode in shorts and a t-shirt today and it was bliss.

 

 

 

We interrupt this winter…

I rode 32 miles today. In shorts. It was 70 degrees F during the ride.

I’ll take it.

Oh, and this happened.

CC11000

My Cross Check went all Nigel Tufnel and turned 11.

Time to put this bike away for a while and switch to one of the others.

Tonight was the State of the Union Address. No mention was made of the most important event on the horizon: Pitchers and catchers report to spring training in a week.

 

 

Sunrise and Coffee

Only a complete idiot would get up before dawn and ride 15 cold miles for a cup of coffee. Yep, I’m your man.

Friday Coffee Club is my excuse for getting my ass in gear once a week. It’s also my excuse for a nap about five hours later.

I was unable to locate the battery for The handlebar bag on The Mule obstructs a handlebar mounted light so I pulled my CrossCheck down off its hook, slapped a headlight on its handlebars and rode off into the cold and dark.

I made it to the Duke Marsh bridge and was happy to see no ice on the boards. I stopped to check out the predawn light over the Potomac.

The ride to DC featured a headwind but I didn’t much mind because my legs were feeling strong after taking yesterday off.

Friday Coffee Club was in fine form. Ricky brought some homemade pumpkin banana chocolate chip bread. Poncho sported his new merino wool Phoenix Bikes jersey. Joe showed off his new screaming yellow jersey. Steve O describes his icky sinus surgery (I had to ask!). Andrea described how to tell male baked goods from female baked goods.

Fellerino checked his batwatch. It said rain was approaching so I headed for home. Of course, I got caught in the rain but the tailwind more than made up for the dampness.

Nap time beckons.

Willis Carrier is a god

It’s not the heat. It’s not the humidity. It’s BOTH.

I have been trying to adapt to the heat and humidity here in DC for the last month. I was totally spoiled by warm, dry days in the Pacific northwest for the better part of a month.

Yesterday, I decided to get my yayas out and did a ride I do every year. It’s the Whites Ferry century. I leave from my house and ride to Whites Ferry Maryland about 35 miles up the C&O Canal then take a cable ferry across the Potomac River. I pick up the W&OD trail in Lessburg Virginia and ride home. It’s flat but the 33 miles on the C&O towpath are unpaved. This means you use the same muscles for the entire ride.

Image may contain: sky, tree, plant, mountain, outdoor, nature and water

Image may contain: sky and outdoor

When I left it was actually comfortably warm outside. Withing two hours the heat and humidity increased. By the time I left the shade along the canal, I could tell it was getting mighty uncomfortable. I stopped in Leesburg to have lunch in an air conditioned bar, opting for Diet Coke over beer. The bartender must have refilled my glass ten times. Well, done, my good man.

I was pretty much gassed after 90 miles but made it home on fumes. 101 miles in total.

Today’s plan was to mow the lawn, then work on my bikes (including cleaning off the towpath dirt off my CrossCheck). I walked out the front door and it felt as if I were hit by a hot, wet towel. I hadn’t mowed half the lawn and my clothes were drenched with sweat. It only took a little over and hour but I looked like I had jumped in a swimming pool when I was done. I wish!

I gave up on the idea of doing work on the bikes. Suffice it to say that Willis Carrier is my favorite inventor.

In a few hours I was in a movie theater watching “Juliet, Naked”. No it’s not a porno. It’s based on the novel of the same name by one of my favorite authors, Nick Hornby. I ate all the salted pop corn and drank a “regular” soda. (Regular means a quart these days, apparently.) The movie was shown in a new theater with comfy seats. Bliss.

I lived my first 28 years in the northeast. Up there you go to the movies in the daytime when it’s too cold or nasty to do anything outside. DC stands the year on its head.

With a day off the bike today, I should have fresh legs tomorrow. I’m driving to central Virginia to do a 62 mile ride on a rail trail. The heat index (what it supposedly feels like) will be over 100 degrees.

Willis, whatchu talkin’ about.