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.

Sunrise and flexposts

Dark. Cold. Must have coffee.

So I rode to Friday Coffee Club.

I followed the white ball created by my headlight. If felt as if I were going fast but speed was an illusion caused by my small field of view.

I could see a burgeoning sunrise through a thin layer in the cloud cover.

When I arrived at the bump out of the Dyke Marsh bridge on the Mount Vernon Trail the sunrise was just beginning. The amber side light from my headlight dominated the view.

IMG_3339

I continued along until I came to a small cove just south of the city of Alexandria. The river was glowing red, reflecting the new day’s dawn.

IMG_3340

Ahhh. That’s more like it.

The rest of the ride was uneventful. I managed to get across the national mall and around the Washington Monument without running over the anti-abortion people who were walking en masse to their rally at the Lincoln Memorial.

Coffee Club was quite crowded. I noticed that my leg and back lasted about ten minutes before the ache came. Fortunately, I managed to garb a seat and staved off pain.

As most of the gang headed off to work, Rudi and Big Ed lingered. Chatting about the Beatles, national politics, the DC City Council, and testimony styles.

We adjoined at 10:30. I made my way back down 17th Street. At a stop light I chatted with a man who was putting on his coat as he waited to cross the street. It was such a good little discussion that he nearly missed his chance to cross.

I made it across the mall again respecting the protesters’ right to life despite the fact that they were walking five abreast on the paths near the Washington Monument. Near the Sylvan Theater, two priests were walking rather slowly toward the event. They seemed to think their Roman collars would protect them for the morning chill. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.

The two padres would have really been miserable before the sun had done its thing. The temperature was about ten degrees warmer for the ride home. In Alexandria, I stopped at a hardware store to stock up on  chemical hand warmers. I put them in my shoes to keep my feet warm. (The toe and feet warmers aren’t nearly as useful.) They only had MEGA hand warmers. I’ve never tried them. Good thing I have MEGA feet. I hope they are MEGA warm.

The last seven miles were uneventful, but for some unsubtle new infrastructure on the trail. The entrance to the Mount Vernon Trail at Northdown Road has always been a problem. Motor vehicles would wander down the trail from time to time. Drivers would soon realize they were not where they belong. I’ve guided a few as they backed up to the entrance.

A single flex post was intended to keep motor vehicles out. It’s been replaced many times as delivery vehicles and the occasional wayward driver knocked it over. So now the National Park Service is getting serious. Two flex posts!

IMG_3342

Coming from the north (the direction of this picture) riders have to slow to squeeze by the posts without slipping off the trail. Trike riders will have an even tighter fit.

I give these posts about three months before they are lying on the side of the trail.

Nice try, though.

A Day of Frustration

Today was a day of promise and frustration.

Last night I set my alarm to get up for Friday Coffee Club. I woke up at 3 am went downstairs and noticed that it was 2 am. Somehow my alarm clock had been changed. Rather than wake up Mrs. Rootchopper, I just put it in my head to wake up on time. And I did.

I slept well. My back was very relaxed from the Feldenkrais class.

The ride to Friday Coffee Club was easy. I had taken yesterday off from riding and I had a tailwind. There was a sizable crowd at Swings. I met a Twitter follower and re-met someone who is currently living in New York City. The latter reads this blog and is considering a cross country tour this summer. To him I say: DO IT!

The group at my table traded medical war stories. One person had had back surgery that worked except for the fact that part of one foot is numb. Another person had a DVT and a pulmonary embolism. Still another told is of how his Achilles tendon ruptured when he dismounted his bike last summer. None of these three people is over 45 years old. We’d all be wolf dinner if we’d lived a few hundred years ago.

Today was apparently Wear-Strange-Things-on-Your-Helmet Day.

Standing at Swings was not agreeable to my left leg so I ended

up sitting for most of the get together. I rode home 15 miles without a problem. This stenosis thing is just bizarre. I can ride all day but can’t stand for ten minutes. For the next couple of hours, I had no leg pain.

Mrs. Rootchopper and I decided to run a few errands. First, we went to the bank to get a document notarized. Next we went to the phone store for new cases for our cell phones. Next up was the post office to mail our notarized document. Our final errand was to the Apple store at a mall to get a new battery for my phone. I walked maybe 100 yards to the store from the parking garage and stood around for a few minutes. My leg pain came back so strongly that I had to sit.

The battery was only charging to 65% of capacity. While Apple replaced it we went to the food court. By the time I got there, on a scale of 1 to 10, my leg pain was a 9.5 .

After an hour of sitting, we went to pick up the phone. Again I had to sit while the phone was brought out from the back of the store.

On the way home, the pain went away. I started charging the battery. I checked the software. The maximum capacity of the battery was 65%. Did they forget to replace it? I’ll see how the phone performs before going back to the store.

In the morning I made an appointment with the Feldenkrais instructor for an hour-long session next week. I am hoping that some good will come of it. I am not at all hopeful that Monday’s PT appointment will be worth the bother but I am going through with it.

After today’s pain party, I have decided to reschedule my orthopedist appointment to next week (from the week after).

No mas.

Riding My Life Away

I haven’t been doing much biking these days. Well, by my standards anyway.

IMG_3266 (1)
It’s Fall, y’all

I rode 15 miles to the start of the Tour de Mt Vernon, a local ride sponsored by our district supervisor, Dan Storck. (Roughly speaking, he’s the mayor of Mt Vernon.) He an avid cyclist. I also have a state senator, Scott Surovell, who rode his bike across the country either before or after law school. It’s nice to have elected officials who treat bicycling seriously.

The Tour route went into Fort Belvoir. The base security folks demanded that we provide them with our social security number and drivers license numbers as well as our date of birth. I found this to be obnoxious. The base used to be open to the public with just a valid government issued ID, but base security was amped up to Defcon ∞ in recent years. God knows, two wheeled evil doers must be everywhere.

On the way to the ride The Google was drunk and guided me onto a mountain bike trail. It was a fun little ride but took me in a big circle. The ride began at a former prison that now holds artists’ studios. The first riders were horrible escapees, taking a wrong turn after 0.1 miles. Because of my privacy protest, I rode about 27 miles of the 32 mile route. It was very hilly.  Down to the river or the bay back up. Repeat. For the ride home, I relied on my own bikey instincts. It all made for a 57 mile day.

IMG_3258
Love in the morning

IMG_3263
Guard tower for escaping cyclists

A couple of days later I came down with a sore throat which morphed into a head and chest cold. You know, a cold. Still, I stayed up late to watch two World Series games and rode to a physical therapy appointment. I also did a few rides just to keep my sanity. There were pretty leaves too.

Yesterday I rode to the Kennedy Center to check out The Reach, a new set of performance and practice spaces connected to a couple of bike trails. There was a dance rehearsal going on outside. It was modern dance. I understand modern dance about as well as understand poetry which is to say not at all. There’s also public art.

IMG_3268
Playful art at The Reach

IMG_3272 (1)
More art at The Reach

Today I rode to Friday Coffee Club. We sat outside because we are stubborn. I froze. Kathy showed up for the first time in ages. She’s a federal retiree like me. She told me about the ins and outs of retirement funds distributions and Medicare. Since I turn 65 next year I got some financial calculations to do. (I may have to take a bunch of money out of my retirement fund earlier than planned. Life is hard. Then you die.)

IMG_3274 (1)
On the way to Friday Coffee Club along the Potomac River

 

 

Coffeeneuring 2019 – Cup the First

For the eight straight year, the Coffeeneuring Challenge is back. This is a friendly event in which people ride, run, walk, scoot, or somehow otherwise propel themselves to a coffee establishment for a cuppa joe. Or tea. Or mate. Or cider. Or hot chocolate.  The rules are pretty flexible but it’s one cup per week at least two miles from wherever you start for seven weeks. You have to document your activity and say something insightful about the experience.

Just be forewarned. I always fail at coffeeneuring. Basically, I go out to coffee once per week to the same place, Friday Coffee Club at Swings at 17th and G Streets Northwest in DC. The rules state that you have to go to seven different coffee places. I have been to four in the last three months. So unless I get super creative, I’m going to have a big L on my forehead when this is over. (Okay, no comments about how the L was there all along.)

So here is my first stop.

Place: Friday Coffee Club at Swings at 17th and G in DC.

Miles: 30 (Kinda crushed that, didn’t I?)

Date: October 11 (duh)

Random Semi-insightful Observation: Friday Coffee Club has parking for all kinds of mega bikes. (That’s Big Nellie in the foreground below.) Oh, and we let people on normal bikes come too. Some of these people aren’t really normal, but that’s okay.

What I drank: Swings High Mountain drip coffee.

Friday Coffee Club – Getting Our Groove Back

For a long time, I’ve missed Friday Coffee Club. It’s a gathering mostly of DC bike commuters every Friday morning before work. In it’s early days around 7 or 8 years ago, it was populated by an incredible array of interesting people: old, young, male, female, (and in between), lawyers, economists, librarians, students, IT professionals, bloggers, reporters, visiting bike tourists, folks from other countries, and on and on. The conversation always had surprises and I rarely left for work without a good laugh or learning something new.

Then Swings, the 17th and G Street NW location near the White House, closed for renovations and we were sent across town to temporary digs where the food was better but the spark was missing.

When Swings re-opened earlier this year the old spark was still gone. Recently Swings placed tables outside (under a protected building pass-through) and the life returned to the party. Today, even without founding members Ed (in Finland), Mary (in Iowa), Brian (new dad), and Lisa (in Hyattsville), the old spark came alive.

Rudi was back to his old self after leading the mourning after the passing of our friend Dave. Susana (a first timer) told us how her husband didn’t want to go to Macchu Pichu because he gets headaches at altitude. Then Lawyer Mike chimed in about how his wife and he wandered into a labor dispute in Lima and escaped being shot with water cannons only to be tear gassed later in the day. (Best honeymoon story ever!)

The weather was perfect. I had a gentle warm breeze at my back for the 15 miles from my home to Swings. I stopped to take a selfie of me with a line of porta potties behind me. I was re-creating a recent selfie of my friend Jessica standing in front of a line of Moai (large stone heads) on Easter Island.

Rapa Pooey

I am thankful that Rudi has his mojo back. It’s been a brutal couple of weeks and we are grateful for how he took us on his shoulders as we mourned.

I am grateful to meet (or perhaps re-meet) Matt. And to be introduced to Amanda. And super thankful that Susana came. She’s one of the nicest people on the planet. And she told great stories. One of these days I will get her on a bike.

Group selfie with Susana
Clockwise from left: Lawyer Mike, me. Big Ed, Susana

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

A busy week

It’s been a busy week:

  • Four medical appointments (endocrine system, eyes, teeth, skin), two indoor bike rides on Big Nellie, two outdoor bike rides on Little Nellie, a visit to the gym, five yoga sessions (on my own) (Did I mention I hate yoga.) A return to meditation after several months. One WABA event followed by a WABA happy hour. And Friday Coffee Club. Also, I stealthily bought Mrs. Rootchopper flowers for Valentines Day. And we went out to dinner.
  • I started doing yoga again because my body is a wreck. I suspect part of the reason it is a wreck is that I’ve gained about 20 pounds since last summer. My left knee, hip, lower back, and arm are all messed up. And very painful. My thighs feel like they are made out of concrete. So the yoga I am doing is very basic and emphasizes freedom of movement. My routine also includes PT exercises for iliotibial band syndrome (which I think may be behind the knee and hip pain) and runner’s calf stretches. I’ll give it another week before I go to my doctor and raise a white flag of surrender. The last thing I want to do is get on the medical hampster wheel again.

Next week promises to be busy as well.

  • A CT scan (as part of the endocrinology thing) on Monday at 7:30
  • A bike ride at 9:30 on Monday (I’ll probably miss the start because it’s in DC)
  • Breakfast with Mrs. Rootchopper at a diner on Thursday, an every other week thing.
  • The Hains Point 100/Bike DC 3rd Thursday happy hour. (This coincides with my friend Rachel’s trio playing at a local eatery. Sad face. Gonna miss it.)
  • Friday Coffee Club

I suppose I could be cavorting in Antarctica or Munich or some other far away land. But I’ll leave that to the young folk for now.

In a couple of weeks, the Crystal City Garage Bike Races begin. If you are in DC and want a cheap (i.e. free) night out, you should come.

 

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.