Riding My Life Away

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

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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.

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Love in the morning
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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.

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Playful art at The Reach
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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.)

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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.

Ramblings on a Gloomy Saturday

  • My participation in a 60+ mile bike event today was dashed by an 18-inning epic World Series game. Yes, I watched the entire thing which didn’t come to an unsatisfactory end (the Saux lost) until 3:30 in the a of m. A few years ago I attended a Washington Nationals game that lasted 16 innings. I have to say that I was grateful that I didn’t have to ride 15+ miles home after last night’s affair.
  • I actually woke up on time to go to the 9:30 start but the combination of feeling bleery, the cold, rainy weather and the ache in my lower back convinced me that crawling back in bed was a better way to spend my day. I did download the cue sheet so maybe I can ride it someday during the coming week.
  • Yesterday, I rode to Friday Coffee Club in DC. After starting small the gathering grew to about 8 or 9 people. Somebody took a group picture. I had my mouth full of muffin. I look like a deranged chipmunk.
  • Most of the gang left leaving me talking, I kid you not, to two men named Poncho and Bones. Cowboys? Bank robbers? Drug runners? The left side of a athletic yet inept infield? Nope. Just Frank and Steve, an attorney recruiter and a computer scientist. So boooring!
  • I am getting kind of depressed by the low angle of the sun and the shortness of daylight. I left for Friday Coffee Club in predawn blackness. I waited until I was 6 1/2 miles from home to take a sunrise picture. sunrise 102618
  • For you politics junkies, as I took this picture I had my back to the condominium that was once home to Paul Manafort. I think he’s still in the pokey.
  • Tomorrow morning I am riding to Crystal City to watch the Marine Corps Marathon. A friend of my daughter is running. It will be her first. Go Marien!

The Incompetent Coffeeneur Rides Again

The Coffeeneuring event is up an running again thanks to Mary’s tireless dedication to destroying my central nervous system with gallons of caffeine.

Of course, I wasn’t really paying attention so I accidentally coffeeneured (is it a verb?) today by riding 30 round trip miles to Swing’s House of Jitters in DC to see my peeps at Friday Coffee Club.

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Did I mention we went from 80s and muggy to windy and 55 overnight here in DC? I had on tights and two shirts (one with long sleeves) and I still froze. I have to admit it felt pretty terrific.

I rode into town in the pitch dark and slalomed around scores of limbs downed by the overnight passing of the remnants of hurricane Michael. In Jones Point Park I dismounted to try to remove a small tree that had landed across the trail. I didn’t bring my axe so rootchopping wasn’t in the cars so I snapped the top off to clear half the trail.

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At Swing’s I celebrated with an apple fritter along side my Nicaraguan brew. (Actually, as far as I know this coffee could have come from Dubuque. But it said “Nicaragua” on the urn so I’ll go with that.)

The brew and the fritter put my heart and pancreas into overdrive. On the way home I stopped at the gym to lift weights. You wouldn’t like me when I’m mangry.

So ends my first day of coffeeneuring. I am coffeeneuring again tomorrow because my friend Susana wants me to tell her all the things about my Any Road bike tour.

The Coffeeneuring rules say that I can’t count Friday Coffee Club again. And, despite tomorrow’s coffee meet up, I don’t normally drink coffee anywhere else but home. Therefore, I’ll probably fail to successfully complete the challenge and qualify for the Golden Coffee Urn or other fabulous prizes.

Now if I could only get to sleep….

Rainy Friday, Worth the Ride

Rain. Cold rain. On a Friday morning when most retirees stay in bed. I got up and hit the road a little after 6:30. The rain, blown by a northeast headwind, spit on my face. And I rode. I arrived at Friday Coffee Club (yes, we capitalize it) around 8. The crowd was predictably small, given the crummy weather: Ed, Ricky, Andrea, Jeff, and a player to be named later. (Sorry, I didn’t catch your name.) Ed and Andrea were discussing a 400 kilometer randoneuring event they are participating in tomorrow. (Ed is riding. Andrea is volunteering.) That’s 248 miles (plus 5 because the course designer is a sadist.) In one day or so. I can’t even.

Ed brought a lightly used Brooks Flyer saddle with fancy copper rivets. I bought it from him for my tour. It has lots of room for tension adjustments. My tush should be a happy camper.

After Andrea, Ricky, and the PTBNL left, Ultrarunnergirl made her first appearance of 2018. Yay! I haven’t seen my biking-hiking-baseball-flaming drinks buddy in a very long time. Hugs and smiles. She took the bus because she is nursing a messed up hip. We must get her well for future adventures.

After I left FCC, I rode to the gym and went all Hulk for 40 minutes. Next, I did 20 minutes of physical therapy at home. Then, I went to an acupuncturist down the street.

I had a hard time tuning my ears to my acupuncturist’s heavy Korean accent but with some forbearabce, we managed to get the gist of my problem understood. He examined my tongue and poked various parts of my body. Mostly this was painless, but a couple of pokes in my feet caused sharp pain. (A similar discomfort shortened a Thai massage a few years ago.)

As I lay on my back, He pinned me in my upper left arm and at various other points all over my body. After about 15 minutes, he flipped me over and repeated the process. Acupuncture is rather hocus pocus to me but I have had success with it in the past. I have to say that my arm does feel better this evening. I’ll wait a day or two before declaring the trip a success.

At the end of the appointment, he placed small stickers on spots on my hands. This mark points that I should prod and massage to help my shoulder heal.

When I got home I ordered two new maps from Adventure Cycling. Over coffee, Ed has made the road west out of Missoula sound like bicycle heaven. He said there is a 90 mile gradual downhill that follows a river through the mountains. I stumbled across a blog online that described the shortcut to the Cascades in less than glowing terms. I will use the maps to work out itineraries for both routes.

One of the maps contains a small surprise, a short cut to Missoula from the east. I’ll have to give that a closer look at that. (It probably involves a climb of horrific proportions.)

I think the only way to properly plan for this trip is to go with the flow and see how I feel when I get to Montana.