A Bike Ride in America 2018

The weatherman called for temperatures in the high 50Fs so there was just one thing to do: go for a ride. I had originally planned on spending the day at the Women’s March in DC. Last year Mrs. Rootchopper and I went to the Women’s March. We stood unable to move for hours in a throng of at least a half million people. I hadn’t heard much about this year’s march. I had committed to a volunteer event that was cancelled by the government shutdown. Mrs. Rootchopper was committed to doing a volunteer event that wasn’t cancelled, so I decided that, rather than commit my whole day to the march, I’d ride up to the Lincoln Memorial and check things out instead.

The ride featured a helpful tailwind. I slalomed through the people on the Mount Vernon Trail and stopped after 11 miles to take a picture of a jet landing at National Airport.

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I rode into the city on the Memorial Bridge. There was quite a bit of foot traffic coming away from the city. Since the government had shutdown all the Smithsonian museums and public restrooms were closed. I suspect that many of these folks were not having a very good time.

As I arrived at the east-facing side of the Lincoln Memorial I could hear speeches and cheers. Then I saw it. Tens of thousands of people lining the reflecting pool. The crowd was significantly smaller than last year but much, much larger than I was expecting.

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If you look really closely you can see my friends Joe and Veronica and Justin. Okay, maybe not. They were there though. I am sure there were other people I knew too.

As I passed in front of the memorial (to the left in the photo) I saw counter protesters with anti-abortion signs. It seemed that every one of them had a smiling Women’s March participant standing right in front of them holding a sign or wearing a t-shirt with a pro-choice message. Many of these counter-counter protesters were carrying Planned Parenthood signs. Somehow despite their differences of opinion, they seemed to be showing mutual respect. Whadda ya know about that!

I made my way down Constitution Avenue, amazed at the throngs coming and going from the Mall. I took the road around the Ellipse, a park situated between the White House and the Washington Monument, so I could get to the pedestrian plaza on the opposite side of the White House. I decided to stop and take a picture of the White House on the near side. I had taken the Ellipse road counterclockwise. It is a one-way street going clockwise so I was expecting to pull off if I encountered any cars.

The White House grounds is bound by a tall black metal fence. The security perimeter is further extended near the Ellipse by a jersey barrier that cuts off half the roadway I was on. I was inching my way along the remaining traffic lane. I could have gone onto the sidewalk but it was packed with tourists taking photos of the White House. I stopped in the road and reached into my handlebar bag. I pulled out my phone when I heard a man say “MOVE ALONG.” There was no “sir” at the end of the command. This was clearly meant to intimidate me. I turned and saw a Secret Service man (If it’s secret why did he have the words SECRET SERVICE in big white letters on his shirt? Maybe he should get one that says OBVIOUS SERVICE. Just a thought.) He was perhaps in his late twenties. He had on body armor of some sort and was holding an automatic (or semiautomatic) weapon in his left hand. It was pointed at the ground.

My brain went to work. Do I look like an evil doer? A desperado? Do assassins kill with cell phones while holding a bicycle between their legs? Why the hell does he have a weapon that could wipe out me and everyone within 20 feet of me? Why does he have it out?

Then my mouth went to work. I put my phone away and looked Mr. Secret Service in the eye and said “This is America.” I left off “You fucking Nazi.” Call me Mr. Restraint.

I went on the sidewalk and took my picture. In retrospect I wish I had taken a picture of him. I have a bad feeling that I’ll be reading about him in the paper someday when he uses that weapon against a harmless tourist from Des Moines.

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After this pleasant encounter I made my way up the 15th Street cycletrack to the other side of the White House. Pennsylvania Avenue is closed to motor vehicles. Today it was occupied by a hundred or so people expressing their support for the Dreamers. There were plenty of police around. None of them seemed to think they needed to bark at people or hold an uzi in plain sight. This made me feel a little better.

I made my way back down the cycletrack to the Pennsylvania Avenue cycletrack At 4th Street I took a right to head toward the waterfront and the bustling new development called The Wharf. At a stop light I heard a voice coming from my left. A bike had just pulled up along side me. I turned and saw Rachel M. I know you! She hadn’t recognized me. She was just making idle chatter. So we rode side by side to M Street. She turned left to explore the Anacostia River Trail. I turned right for the Wharf.

When I got there, I stopped to check my phone. When I got off my bike my middle and upper back went into spasm. Since an apparent back spasm a month ago had been the rather unpleasant first symptom of pulmonary embolisms, I decided that it would be wise to head for home. Slowly.

After a couple of miles, my back loosened up. I rode down the trail, weaving in and out of the humanity. Feeling better I diverted away from the river to ride through the Del Ray neighborhood. Everyone was smiling. People were drinking coffee outside. It felt like April (except there was no baseball).

I arrived home without any lingering pain. It’s pretty pathetic when you consider it a good day when your body doesn’t reject you.

But it was a good day. I even managed to get a little tan on my face. In January.

Play ball. This is America after all.

 

 

The Freeze, The Moon, The Heron, The Nudge, and Blowing Up The Karma Bridge

The Freeze

We are preparing for the arrival of the polar vortex. Whoever is in marketing in the weather world is brilliant. POLAR VORTEX just sounds like DOOM. It’s right up there with DERECHO!!!

Basically, the polar vortex is a few days of cold air and wind. It’s not the end of the world, particularly if you grew up with this sort of thing. When I lived in the northeast we called it January.

So we endure.

As luck would have it there are three days of events coming up that will all but require me to drive to work. I haven’t driven to work three days in a row since last winter so this should be nerve wracking.

The Moon

Last night’s ride home featured a near full moon over the monuments in DC. It was a thing of beauty. I stopped to take a picture.

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I wasn’t alone. Flogini, the erstwhile spiritual adviser to the Rootchopper Institute, has become a passionate bike commuter with her return to DC. Just like me she was stopped in her tracks by the sight and took a picture of her own. Proof once again that she is part of my karass.

The Heron

The ride into work was graced by another amazing sight. Unfortunately I did not have a camera at the ready. As I rode along the Mount Vernon Trail, a great blue heron flew just a few feet above the surface of the Potomac River near the river bank to my immediate right. The heron was going much faster than me. It buzzed a gaggle of geese bobbing in the water as it flew out of sight. A few minutes later I spotted it on the river bank. As I approached it took off in the opposite direction.

Did I say I love my bike commute?

The Nudge

Today after I “liked” Flogini’s DC moon picture on Facebook I received an errant private message from Gladys, the mother of her friend who was run over by a bus two years ago. This kind of “wrong number” has never happened to me before. In any case, I regarded it as a surreal reminder to go to the Rally for Rose tonight on the way home.

Thank you, Gladys.

Blowing Up the Karma Bridge

I rode to the market that Rose worked at to give my donation. A couple of folks were waiting by the door collecting. So I explained the story of the $140. (In retrospect the whole thing sounds a little Alice’s Restaurant. Perhaps I should have raffleforrosewaited for it to come around on the guitar.)  So it turns out that donations are rewarded with tickets to a raffle. They gave me about six feet of raffle tickets and sent me down the street to the barbecue place where the raffle was being run. There were several different containers to put your tickets in, each container representing a different set of prizes. It took a while to dispense with the tickets. Now my problem is this: if I win do I undo the karma from the donation? Have I blown up the karma bridge that I was crossing? If I win a gift certificate, do I put it on the street where the money came from? (Was I raised Catholic or what?)

I’ll figure something out.

In all seriousness, there were several other people with big cables of raffle tickets. The restaurants that participated in the fundraiser were packed too. (If you ordered certain menu items, all proceeds from the purchase went to Rose’s fund.)  And the gofundme website is making real progress as well.

And once again the city of Alexandria is pledging to get serious about pedestrian safety. It’s too late for Rose Cruz, but maybe some good will come of this tragedy.

 

 

 

Any Excuse for a Ride

I am going hiking tomorrow and have three medical appointments on Wednesday so I figured I might as well take today (Monday) off and get a five day weekend out of the deal.

The shifting on my new Cross Check was sloppy. It was starting to annoy me even though this is expected as the chain stretches. I could have fiddled with the little dial adjuster thingie for a few minutes and fixed it myself, I suppose. That would be rational. That would not be me.

I bought my Cross Check at Bicycle Space in DC. As part of the purchase, they will tweak your bike’s gears and brakes for a year after purchase for free. Good deal. So I hopped on my bike and headed into town along the nearly empty Mount Vernon Trail.

It was a nice ride except for the inferno part. Dang was it hot!

The ride went smoothly. It’s fun to ride a brand new bike over familiar terrain. I was taking it easy and still going significantly faster than when I ride my other bikes. This Cross Check is an animal.

As I suspected from riding with Katie Lee and her Cross Check, this bike shines in traffic. It is so much more agile than my other bikes and it’s wide-ish tires eat up the bumps in the road.

The good mechanic at Bicycle Space on K Street tweaked my gears and showed me a peculiarity of my shifter. We traded names and, true to form, I forgot his within about three blocks. He was a very nice guy. So, thanks Nice Guy.

I decided to meander around town for a bit. My friend Emilia teaches at Mundo Verde, a bi-lingual (Spanish and English) charter school with a focus on sustainability. I decided to go check it out. I should have taken a picture. It was muy bueno. My boss and a co-worker send their kids there. They tell me that the teachers are muy bueno too.

As I rode by, some people were sitting on the lawn in front of the building. It looked like some teachers were getting organized for the coming school year. This must be an exciting time of year to be a teacher.

I circled back and headed west across town on O Street which is a pretty quiet route to take considering it’s only a few blocks from downtown. At 11th Street I turned north. This was another quite street. I guess everyone must be working. What’s up with that?

I took a left on Euclid and rode over to Meridian Hill Park, which was featured on page 1 of the Washington Post today. The park is in two big tiers. The top tier is an open rectangular field with shaded areas along the longer sides. This is where the drum circle is and where circus of slack lining, hula hooping, acroyoga-ing folks hang out on the weekend. From the edge of the top tier, you can look down on the cascading water feature of the low tier. Whoever designed this was a genius. It is just stunning. A public sector thing done amazingly right.

After chilling in the park, I headed down 16th Street. A driver from Virginia nearly sideswiped me about a block before he made a left hand turn from the right lane. Some people simply should not be allowed to drive.

I slalomed through the tourists near the White House with aplomb. Actually, it was with a bike but I don’t get to use the word aplomb often.

Acro20651892132_b05724fba0_zss the river and down the MVT rode I. Instead of mindlessly riding straight home, I made my way over to Del Ray where I had had a root beer float at the Dairy Godmother ice cream shop. It was gone within minutes. Darn tasty.

Back on the bike, the heat of the day was starting to wear on me. I rode to Old Town to buy a postcard for the August Post Card Challenge.

On the way home I decided to chow down on some tater tots so I headed to Del Ray Pizzeria‘s Belle Haven location. (I could have simply gone to the Del Ray location. It’s only three shops down from the Dairy Godmother.)  The tater tots were ho20669470851_a12618b5b3_zrs categorie. The pilsner and the koltch were not too shabby either.

The ride ended with a slog up a big hill on Fort Hunt Road and a long glide toward home.

By the time I arrived my lower back was feeling sore. Too many miles and hills on a new bike will do that to you. Good thing one of my Wednesday medical appointments is a massage.

Coffeeneuring on Veteran’s Day

Today was my last coffeeneuring ride of the challenge and it turned out to be the best one of the seven. Bob “Don’t Call Me Rachel” Cannon invited folks to meet up at St. Elmo’s Coffee shop in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria. It gave me a good excuse to get out of bed and get something useful out of an odd Tuesday off from work.

Veterans Day Coffeeclub

It was in the 30s when I left the house but warmed up very quickly on the 45 minute ride to Del Ray. Big Nellie got the call because my neck was barking at me yesterday. It was an effortless ride and my mind just blanked during most of it.

By the time I reached the coffee shop I was warmed up. Bike commuter Dana was already there and taking in the sun over coffee outside. So I grabbed a house coffee, a couple of cookies and a blueberry muffin and joined him. Other folks started arriving shortly thereafter. A few folks came and went but about eight people hung out for an hour as the temperatures rose into the 60s. Bob’s wife Liz brought her dog named Evil. He seemed pretty good hearted to me. Rod Smith had come from Maryland pulling an huge flatbed trailer. I met Sara and Bomber (I think) who were prepping to drive up to Sugarloaf for a 50 mile ride. Steve O was there too. As was Kathy the godmother of social bike riding in Arlington.

After way too much coffee we went our separate ways. The thought of hanging on my deck in the sun one last time before winter’s chill arrived was more tempting than the prospect of a lengthy bike ride, so I headed home.

Along the way I saw evidence of a car mishap that must have been pretty interesting.

This must have been an interesting event

Tomorrow we get one more warm day before it’s time to break out the woolies. Thanks autumn, I had a blast.

Coffeeneuring Check List

Place: St. Elmo’s, 2300 Mt. Vernon Ave, Del Ray, Alexandria VA http://stelmoscoffeepub.com/

Drink: House roast. Tasty but two tall cups was too much. I’m all jittery.

Observation: There is a bike corral on the street directly in front of the shop. Very good accomodations. Also, an art bike rack to the side of the front of the shop.

MIles: 15.5

Photo op:

Veterans Day Coffeeclub

Paul to the Rescue Again

I took a day off yesterday after a  hilly 57-mile ride on Thursday and a 109-mile ride on Friday, both in hot and humid conditions. What I should have done was gone for a short, easy ride, but I mowed the lawn in oppressively swampy weather and took a chill pill for the rest of the day. As a result of this semi-off day, my legs felt tight and sore. Walking down stairs was a little difficult, not unlike the day after running a marathon. (Been there, done that, had to walk downstairs backwards back in the day.)

My plan for today was to go for a nice easy spin on Big Nellie and see where the bent gods took me. As I made my way into Old Town Alexandria, my legs loosened up considerably. I decided to hit a few bike shops to see if they could fix a problem with one of my pedals. On my recumbent I wear sandals and use PowerGrips. These are straps that go across the pedal diagonally. Normally I use toe clips (I am not a fan of clipless pedals) but nerve problems in my left foot led me to try PowerGrips in search of relief. They work reasonably well except that the strap on my right pedal is at a steep angle, and rubs against my toes. The one on my left pedal fits properly, only touching the outside of my pinkie toe. The reason for the discrepancy is that the pedals attached to a metal plate. The left plate looks like an old bottle opener, flat with a bend at the end. The right plate as a second bend in the middle causing it to extend out too far from the pedal.

I stopped at Wheel Nuts in north Old Town but they were closed. Seven miles down. I decided to try the Velocity bicycle co-op in Del Ray a few miles away. They had all kinds of junk parts (just what I thought I needed) but no plates for PowerGrips.

Twenty years ago, The Mule, my Specialized Sequoia, had a recurring problem: it’s headset (the part that the handlebars attach to) kept coming loose. NOBODY could fix it. After giving many mechanics a crack at the problem, I took the bike to Papillion Bicycles on Columbia Pike in Arlington. Bailey, the owner, couldn’t figure it out but he said try Paul at City Bikes. I called Paul and before I could finish my description of the problem he knew what was wrong. And he did. It needed a ten-cent washer that he happened to have among his two bazillion bike parts.

Paul is now the head mechanic at Bicycle Space in DC, so I decided to let him have a go at the pedal problem. Several miles later, Dr. Paul examined the patieDSCN2387nt. “You don’t need a new part. It looks like you bent this one in an accident.” Paul is also psychic. I did indeed crash the bike a year ago and came down on the right side!

He took the right pedal off, walked into a back room with a hammer in his hand and  began the operation. I was a little troubled by the hammer and the fact that he did not sterilize his hands before surgery. After a minute, he came back out, hammer in hand, took a look at the left pedal, and went back to the OR. A few whacks later  he came out and the pedal was exactly right. Dang,

 

With a smile on my face, I headed for home. Not wanting to go back the way I came, I decided to ride back via Anacostia. I picked rode east to 11th Street Northeast and took a right. I rode over the Anacostia River on the wicked awesome new 11th Street Bridge (such a clever name, no?). In Anacostia, 11th Street becomes Martin Luther King Junior Boulevard. The MLK (very L.A. sounding, don’t you think) is an interesting ride. There are signs of gentrification with new restaurants, cafes, condos and such. And there are the depressing signs of DC’s poorest neighborhoods with housing projects, job training places, and people handing out on the street corners. Along the way, I glanced at an electric sign outside a church. 104 degrees!!!

After the first hill, the MLK descends to cross busy South Capitol Street. Here the road surface becomes a washboard. At 25 miles per hour, it’s downright hairy. (DC needs to up its game with some serious roadwork on the MLK.) Once you get up a good head of steam, you are greeted by a red light at the bottom of the next hill. Argh!

From a dead stop, I climbed the next hill, slowly. At Blue Plains Drive I banged a right and headed down a steep hill, breaking the speed limit in front of the DC Police Academy in the process. I am a brazen scofflaw.

After a couple of left turns, I was on the Oxon Cove Trail. Park maintenance has gone by the wayside this year. Tufts of grass four or five inches tall protrude from all the cracks in the pavement. Grass on either side of the trail is two feet tall.

The trail and the park were completely empty. As I rode next to the cove, I spotted the remnants of an large bird of prey, either an eagle or a hawk. There were some big feathers and some bones but not much else; it had been picked clean.

The trail enters the grounds of Oxon Hill Farm DSCN2389where it turns away from the water and climbs, gradually at first, but steeper and steeper all the way to the top. I think this is the toughest hill in the area. On the way up I saw what looked like the hoof and lower leg from a young deer. Yikes!  A little further on, I spotted a beautiful feather, from a hawk or eagle. I stopped and put it in the flag slot on my Arkel seat back bag.

 

The steepest part of the hill remained so I yelled “Get ’em up, Scout” and started to ride. (I didn’t actually say that, but I am pissed that Johnny Depp has screwed with Tonto. Tarzan is Johnny Weissmuller. Avery Brooks is Hawk. Jay Silverheels is Tonto. That’s it. Don’t mess with my childhood icons. Okay, the new Star Trek actors are infinitely better than the old ones, but that’s an anomaly.)

After the monster climb, I got to ride down the crazy fun downhill toward National Harbor, then up the corkscrew hill to the bike path bridge over the beltway. (This corkscrew design is brilliant.)

Next I rode over the Woodrow Wilson Bridge (a good place to watch the fireworks in Old Town next Saturday night, by the way) and onto the Mount Vernon Trail. Then, for reasons that escape me, I rode up another nasty hill on Westgrove Boulevard. After a stop for a Gary’s Lunchbox sammich at Sherwood Hall Gourmet, I rode home.

What started as an easy spin evolved into a 37-mile hill fest. So much for my plan. At least, I got my pedal fixed. Thanks to Paul and Bicycle Space. It was worth the effort.