Top Ten of 2016

As is so often the case, my top ten list goes to 11. Hey, it’s my blog and I make the rules.

Yooper for a Week
After 11 years I finally did another solo bike tour. I drove 13+ hours to Ludington Michigan. After a ferry ride across Lake Michigan, I rode The Mule fully loaded with gear into the north woods of Wisconsin. On July 4, I had breakfast in Freedom. After a few days I turned east and crossed the UP, the upper peninsula of Michigan. After the UP, I visited car-free Mackinac Island on a quiet Sunday morning. Other than a two-hour scary thunderstorm and three hilly days of headwinds near the end of the tour, the weather could not have been better. And I managed three ferry rides without getting sick. I rode 832 miles in 11 days. It was a wonderful combination of hard work and rolling meditation. I proved to myself that even at 60 years old I still got it. Okay, maybe not all of it but enough of it to get the job done. I can’t wait to do another.

An Eventful Spring
Prior to my tour I warmed up my legs by riding some bike events. I kicked the year off with the Vasa Ride, co-sponsored by the Washington Area Bicyclists Association and the Swedish embassy. It was a bit of a disappointment because this is normally a social ride but I rode it alone and didn’t do much socializing at the embassy reception afterwards. Next came the Five Boro ride in New York City. The Five Boro Ride has always been on my to do list but conflicted with work, parenting responsibilities, and personal lethargy. I convinced Paul to join me (with Amy along for moral support). Paul and I rode the 40+ mile ride in a cold rain at the start of May. It wasn’t all that much fun, but touring Manhattan the day before in splendid weather with the wonderful guidance of my BU friend Susan made up for riding the Brooklyn Queens Expressway in a driving rain.

At the end of May, I rode the new DC Bike Ride. Not to be outdone by NYC, we had cold rain for that one too.

Scary Night
In May, I woke up in the middle of the night with severe chest pains. After a few hours of increasing pain, Mrs. RC called for an ambulance. The ride to the hospital ½ mile away took 20 minutes but I was well taken care of. What I feared was a heart attack turned out to be a respiratory infection. Fortunately, a nebulizer treatment in the ER and antibiotics fixed me up over the next week. An earworm of the Neil Finn song Anytime played for days. “I could go at anytime. There’s nothing safe about this life.” Words to live by.

At the end of the week, I dragged myself out of bed and rode my bike on Bike to Work Day. I was still under the weather but I now know I can ride to work with one lung tied behind my back.

Pulling Beers Like a Boss
I have been lax in volunteering at local bike events, basically forever. This year, with my respiratory problems more or less behind me, I volunteered at the Tour de Fat in DC. This is a fundraiser for bike advocacy groups (WABA being one of many) and I was determined to help out. It rained. It was cold-ish. I pulled beers nonstop for two hours. Instead of hanging around for the rest of the day, I went home and went to bed. (Every party has a pooper that’s why we invited you.) Next year I hope to be around to volunteer again. And to socialize afterward.

Call Me Lars
Our daughter finished up her year abroad with a semester in Sweden. A few days after Tour de Fat, Mrs. Rootchopper and I flew over and toured parts of Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and Iceland. It was an exhausting two weeks and fun to re-visit Copenhagen after over 15 years. Although I was in bicycle heaven for most of the trip, I didn’t ride at all. If you ask me what my favorite place was my answer would be “Yes.”

Ain’t Baseball Great
I went to 19 Nats games this year. The last time I went to this many games was when I lived in Boston. I rode my bike to about 15 games. How convenient of them to locate the ballpark 16 miles from home. As a bonus, it was great seeing so many friends at the bike valet before and after the games. The rest of the games involved driving the kids, including my niece Irene for one game. One exhausting game lasted 16 innings and the good guys won on a walk-off home run. I even managed to see two playoff games. Despite (or perhaps because of) the fact that the Nats lost their last game of the season, I can’t wait until April!

Fall Bike Frenzy
In the fall I did the Indian Head, Backroads, and Seagull Centuries (100 miles each), the 44-mile Great Pumpkin Ride (with Paul, Amy, and Jody), the 53-mile Cider Ride and, for the eighth time, the 62-mile 50 States Ride. I was already on fumes near the end of this madness, when an old friend asked me to ride with her to Harpers Ferry and back over two days. Given the fact that I had a colonoscopy (with the associated fasting and anesthesia) two days before we would have left, I declined. One ambulance ride a year is plenty.

Deets Provides a Surly Surge
A year ago I bought a new bike, a Surly Cross Check. Mostly, it hung on a hook in my shed, used only for the occasional weekend ride. This summer I started commuting on it. What a great commuter bike it is. I also did all my fall events on it. I named it Deets after the scout in the miniseries Lonesome Dove. Deets was said to be “cheerful in all weathers, never shirked a task, splendid behavior.” My Deets served me well until his back tire exploded on the way to work. Aye god, Woodrow.

Hiking Light
Unlike last year, I didn’t get much hiking done this year. I did the Billy Goat B and C trails on New Years Day which is becoming something of a tradition. Realizing that I-66 cuts right across the Appalachian Trail, I hiked it north (Manassas Gap) and south (Trumbo Hollow) of the highway. I also headed out to Shenandoah National Park to hike the Hogback Mountain trail. In late November I hiked the Potomac Highlands Trail from Turkey Run Park to the American Legion Bridge and back. A surprisingly nice hike so close to DC. Just before the year ended I did a meandering hike in Great Falls Park in Maryland.

Living Small
We had our wood floors redone in the spring. We hired a couple of amazing movers to relocate all our belongings from the top two floors down to the family room and basement where we lived among the piles of stuff for two weeks. It was quite a project. The floors turned out great. I came to realize that most of the crap that I have accumulated over the course of 25+ years in a house, I can live without.

Going Long
Coincident with my 61st birthday, my four bikes gave me a big present. I’ve been keeping track of the mileage on my bikes for 25 years and with an empty nest surge in recent years I finally made it to 100,000 miles. I also set my one-year personal mileage record of 8,167 miles.

That’s it for 2016. No mas. Thanks for reading. I am taking 2017 one day at a time. Love this life. It’s the only one you get.

It’s Iconic – DC Bike Ride

Today was the first DC Bike Ride. This closed streets ride is the successor to Bike DC, an event I did several times in the past. They changed the name because Bike DC had a weather hex on it. The ruse did not work.

The course meanders through the erstwhile swampy bits of DC before heading over toward the Pentagon on the HOV lanes on I 395.  The ride costs about 50 bucks for 17 miles so if you were looking for a bargain, this wasn’t it. But it was an opportunity to show people in this area that you support bicycling in DC, even if it means pruney hands.

With temperatures in the 50s and a steady light rain, 8,000 folks gathered on Pennsylvania Avenue. I spotted the #bikeMVT contingent consisting of Linel, Amber, Ed, and Reba. We were later joined by Sam and her mom, Joanne.

Cathy Plume stopped by. Sam, Cathy, and I participated in the protest that completed the installation of u-turn barriers on the Pennsylvania cycletrack last summer.

An announcer came on to give us useful information about all the iconic things we would see on the iconic streets in this iconic city. Somebody shut this guy’s iconic piehole, please!

Soon the announcements were over and the 14 mph group waddle to the starting line. One waddler fell over and his shoe stayed stuck to his pedal. It looked embarrassing and utterly pathetic.

Off we rode. At a brisk 10 mph. We rode into Southwest wear we could see iconic rain. We rode with great enthusiasm (which made up for our lack of speed). Over to Foggy Bottom which seemed aptly named. We made our way to the iconic Whitehurst Freeway. The route seemed to fold back on itself. It also seemed to avoid National Park Service roads, simplifying the clearances needed to put on the ride.

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Iconic Rain and Crane

We turned around at the Key Bridge and retraced our route until we crossed the Mall at 14th Street. Just past D Street we could see a minor problem. The early wave of riders were on hold as the last wave of riders cleared the ramp to Maine Ave.

Continuing on 14th,  we rode across the iconic Potomac River, near the site of the iconic Air Florida crash. Onward past the iconic Pentagon until we did an iconic U-turn and headed back to DC. On the way, I spotted Nelle (now there’s an icon!) from WABA waving like a maniac. Or perhaps she was pointing out an iconic jersey barrier. I also saw Ultrarunnergirl who fortunately seemed not to be water soluble. Ultrarunnergirl was finishing being best bike buddy of the Big Bike Weekend. I saw her on Bike to Work Day riding south on the Mount Vernon Trail. She rode to Huntington, probably 12 miles past her office, to escort her friend Yolanda on Yolanda’s first bike commute. After the ride, I chatted with them. Yes, she also rode with Yolanda during today’s ride.

We continued on, finally riding around 14 mph. Wheee. Then we turned on to Pennsylvania Avenue. Kathy Lewis waved us in to the finish line.

I rode to the after party which had no signage for bike parking. Erp.

There I hung out with Chris, who volunteered like a maniac all weekend. I met Chris on the first Cider Ride in 2013. I talked to a whole bunch of people, the decided to head back to my car which I had parked at Gravelly Point in Virginia.

WABA walked off with $38,000 from this event. And raised tons of awareness about Vision Zero. Not bad for a truly crummy day of weather.

All things considered DC Bike Ride seemed to be a smashing success. Perhaps next year it will even be iconic.

I stashed a whole bunch of Flickr pix here.

Thanks to the staff people at WABA and the volunteers for all the work you did on this event. Also, thanks to the EMTs and police that stood out in the rain to get us through the event safely.

 

 

Bike to Work Day 2016

I did not feel very good when I woke up but I decided to ride to work anyway. It was Bike to Work Day, after all. Slowly.

I poked along, coughing fits one mile, calm breathing the next. I rolled into the Alexandria Pir Stop at City Hall Plaza in Old Town. I saw Reba, Ed #1, and Kathy chatting and took their picture. Jonathan was reading off raffle winners. And Reba won something, something

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Ed, Reba, and Kathy
Monaco. Holy cow! Then we heard him repeat the prize:  one night at the Hotel Monaco in Old Town. So Reba’s dreams of being a Bond girl went up in smoke. Truth be told, it’s a pretty darn nice prize.

Onward to Rosslyn. I was a bit surprised that the bike commuter traffic was so normal. Then at the north end of Old Town, I convoy of women on bikes, suspiciously without panniers or backpacks made a turn across my path. I followed them. In the course of a short conversation with one of the riders, I learned it was a tour group of ten women, aged 50 and above, who started riding in St. Augustine, Florida. They were taking a couple of rest days to see the DC sights before continuing on: destination Bar Harbor, Maine. They were traveling with a company called Women Tours.

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Bike Train to Maine
Soon they left me behind and I continued northward. On one of the flyover bridges at National Airport an on coming cyclists caught my eye. Short blazing red hair and distinctive panniers with a pattern on them and pronounced handles sticking straight up. It was Ultrarunnergirl, who never seems to come to Virginia on her bike. I started waving like and idiot and she went to give me a high five but, me having absolutely no cool, didn’t even make a decent attempt.

Fail.

On I rode to Rosslyn as the volume of bike commuters picked up (i.e. blew by me). Two Lance Mamilots came roaring down the trail swerving among the bike commuters, many of whom may have been first timers. My only words to the Lances is that you are self absorb asses and it’s riders like you that put off people who want to ride to work safely.

I somehow made it up the Rosslyn hill into the Rosslyn pit stop. There I ran I

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Nelle
nto WABA‘s Nelle (she’s the awesome Deputy Director) and ever jovial Dana who gave me my BTWD shirt. I won a water bottle then grabbed another from a couple of other tables. One was from Bruce Deming who specializes in personal injury cases involving bicyclists. I talked about two cases involving contributory negligence, one that allowed the victim to make a claim, the other (a fatality) that left the victim’s survivors with nothing but memories.

I had three cups of Java Shack coffee, the first coffee I had had since Sunday. They made me feel euphoric. I rode the sidewalk to the office and in my hyper attentive state avoided being hit by a red light runner at 19th and Lynn. I yelled at him to no avail.

The bike room at work had 2 bikes when I arrived. Lame. Two co-workers came in a few minutes later, but didn’t sign up for Bike to Work Day. Seriously. If free and convenient is not enough, I don’t know what is.

At 11 am the coffee wore off and I powered down like the robot on Lost in Space. Thud. Another cup had little effect. Lunch revived me somewhat and, after work, I headed to NE DC to pick up my packet for Sunday’s DC Bike Ride. I met Ed #1 again. He gets around. Then Nelle, again. We’ve run into each other four times in the last two weeks. People are starting to talk. (“Nelle, who is that creepy old dude?” People can be mean.)

I ran into Charmaine who I haven’t seen since our North Carolina bike adventure two years ago. We sat and chatted for over a half hour allowing me to recover from the 18 or so miles I had already ridden.

I also briefly ran into Ed #2, and Ted and Jean, who are Friday Coffee Clubbers.

I had a token for a free beer but nobody wanted it, even a stranger I approached. All my beer drinking #bikedc friends were probably at BTWD happy hours.

I left at 6:30 headed for home, deliberately going so slow I was annoying myself. I made it home after 8 pm through dozens of clouds of midges. I was covered with the darn things.

Tomorrow I get up and work the East Beer booth at the Tour de Fat event. Unfortunately the weather forecast calls for rain. I will do my best to present a cheery face. Instead of riding to the event, I’ll be driving to my wife’s office a mile away and ride from there.

Super big thanks to all the people who got up early and worked on behalf of #bikedc. You done good. Special thanks to Nelle who put in a monster day, working two events.