Bridges and Blood

After completing my bicycling goals for the year, I decided to do some volunteering things. I haven’t done much volunteering mostly because my last several volunteering gigs were not a lot of fun. For example, there was the time I volunteered to staff a Bike-to-Work Day pit stop 1.5 miles from my house. It ended up involving 90+ miles of bicycling over three days to fetch and return handouts from an advocacy organization.

My volunteering gig this month was to help scrub the gunk off a wooden bridge on the Mount Vernon Trail. This effort is being spearheaded by the Friends of the Mount Vernon Trail. The National Park Service of the U. S. Department of Interior owns and is supposed to maintain the trail but they have been grossly underfunded for many years. One needs only visit East and West Potomac Parks in DC to see evidence of this. There’s the collapsing sea wall that lines the Tidal Basin and Hains Point for a start. Then there is the Jefferson Memorial jersey barrier farm. A security perimeter was put in after 9/11 but they ran out of money to put in proper, permanent protection (as they did with the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument) so the Jefferson Memorial is surrounded by jersey barriers. America, if you want nice things, you have to pay for them.

End of rant.

The Friends have been working on removing kudzu that was obstructing sightlines on a bridge in Alexandria. Other efforts, more like the one that I volunteered for, involved clearing the gunk from wooden bridges on the trial in Alexandria and Arlington in preparation for the application of grip paint. (That appears to be what it is actually called.) The paint hopefully will keep bicyclists on the trail and out of the emergency room.

My first MVT bridge crash was on what is now called Bridge Number 1. This is the bridge closest to the Mount Vernon terminus of the trail. (There used to be a bridge even closer but it was so dangerous, the Congress ponied up money to re-route the bridge after the wife of a senator crashed on it. That same bridge also claimed Mrs. Rootchopper as a victim.)

Bridge Number 1 took me out in 1989. I suffered a smashed bike, a dislocated left knee cap, and a cut on my left forearm that went to the bone. Gross.

So volunteering for this effort was a no brainer. Plus it was only three miles from home. I think we did about 2 hours of work and one hour of portaging the tools and water in large heavy bladders to the bridge which was 1/2 mile from the nearest parking lot. Thankfully, the younger volunteers carried the water.

I applied oxygen bleach and scrubbed it in. A power washer was used to finish things off. The power washing was a bit of a Rube Goldberg affair. Water was poured into a multi-gallon bladder. Gravity pulled the water through a hose to the power washer. Somebody had to hold the bladder up. Somebody else had to constantly refill the bladder to allow for continuous operation of the power washer. Water is heavy. There was spillage. Long story short, several of us had wet pants by the end of the event.

Sam with bladder, Judd with washer, Josephine with jug for filling bladder

We did about half the bridge before we ran out of battery power. Good enough.

After three days of low mileage cycling, I took today off. Today was also the day our housecleaning service came so my wife and I cleared out. Normally, we go to a diner for breakfast but lately we haven’t been all that interested in biscuits and Covid so we both went over to the Bloodmobile at the hospital down the street and donated blood. My wife has donated gallons over the years but today was my first time. Other than some annoying administrative glitches the donation went smoothly.

I’ll do anything for a t-shirt

We each received a festive t-shirt that gives ugly Christmas sweaters a run for their money.

If you’d like to help with the Mount Vernon Trail efforts, you can make a donation here or sign up to volunteer here.

My next volunteering effort will involve removal of cookies and fudge from our kitchen. Something has to be done.

Happy holidays.

Biking with Judd and George

The Friends of the Mount Vernon Trail is a volunteer organization recently started to help the National Park Service with the trail. (The NPS has very little money so it needs all the help it can get.) Today, Judd, one if the group’s founders, led a bike ride from DC to Old Town Alexandria. It being Presidents Day, Judd guided the group to points of interest having to do with George Washington.

I started the day with a CT scan. It took much longer than planned so I didn’t have time to ride 14 miles to the starting point of the ride. With some logistical help from my friend Erin, I rode 12 miles to the 14th Street Bridge and waited for the riders to come across the Potomac from their first stop at the Washington Monument.

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Judd making the turn onto the MVT

There were over 20 of them. They came down the ramp for the bridge and headed south along the MVT. After National Airport they headed west on the Four Mile Run and Washington and Old Dominion Trails. About six miles later they stopped at a marker indicating the northern most point of George Washington’s land. Judd explained how Washington personally took a block of granite and, with his bare hands, tore away chunks of rock to create the marker.

I made that up.

Did you know that George was a dog person? He had a dog named Sweet Lips.

I did not make that up, but its the kind of bizarre info that Judd had discovered in his research.

We backtracked along Four Mile Run, an old trail that meandered along the creek of the same name. I hadn’t ridden this section of trail in over 20 years. It was in surprisingly good condition.

Our route took us to the riverfront near Old Town Alexandria. I missed the turn and tool a few riders about a half mile out of their way. We made it back in time to see the very end of Judd’s remarks.

Judd led us to Christ Church, after some detours caused by the Presidents Day parade in Old Town. Christ Church dates to the 18th century. We went inside and were treated to a presentation by Dell, a church docent. Some of us actually sat in George Washington’s pew (actually, it is a box with a pew facing forward and back). Robert E. Lee also had a pew there. The place just oozed colonial cool. Amazingly none of our group were kicked out for being heathens.

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Heathens in Christ Church

From the church we rode west about a mile to the George Washington Masonic Temple on Shooters Hill. The highlight of the visit was going to the top and walking around the outside. The views were terrific. So was the gale coming from the west.

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Stain glass in the Masonic Memorial

After our tour, we all headed to Whole Foods for beer and food. It’s a good thing because I was starving.

Judd explained how George Washington shopped in this very store.

I made that up.

When I left, I found that my Krytonite U lock refused to open.

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Little Nellie was held hostage

After scores of tries, I gave up and called Mrs. Rootchopper. She brought my spare key to the lock but it didn’t work. So we drove to a hardware store and bought some WD40. I squirted it in the lock. Waited five seconds, inserted the key and rejoiced as I freed Little Nellie! Yay.

By this point the sun was setting and the beer was beering my brain, so I folded up the bike and popped it into the trunk of the car.

We drove home. Our home is on property that was once part of George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate.

I did not make that up.