Taking the Day Off

My lower back hurt. It’s a recurring thing. Whenever I switch back and forth between different bikes, my body rebels. So I’m not surprised. It hurts on and off and makes me walk like an old man. (No jokes, please.)

So I took the day off. I drove to Metro and took the train into the city. My first stop was a relatively new art space. It’s neither a museum nor a gallery. It’s a place for artists who use technology to do their thing. A year or so ago a friend of mine went to one of its exhibits and took some pretty awesome pictures and video. In that abstract light show, the exhibit responded to viewers movements. I planned on going but I didn’t get my act together and it sold out.

A couple of weeks ago I heard that it had a new show. This one is called Parallel Universes. It’s a black and white light show where the lights are visualizations of the music that’s playing. At least that’s what happens in the main room. Three walls are covered with visuals that pulse and flash and change and move to the pounding music. You sit in the middle on comfy chairs that look a bit like marshmallows and stifle saying, “Wow” until you can’t any longer. Here are some still pictures from the main room.

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There are three other smaller exhibits that are interesting but not nearly as Wow. I spent about 40 minutes wowing before heading out to my next stop.

I walked to the nearest Capital Bikeshare station determined to finally use my membership. I tried and tried to undock a bike. Finally, I called the company. The station was out of service. I was not loving the CaBi experience. So I walked another station  a couple of blocks away on the National Mall. Once again my bike wouldn’t undock again. I called for help. Not a happy camper. In a few minutes, the customer support person and I got it to work. Yay. (Of course, by this time I could have walked to my destination. Bother.)

I adjusted the seat and headed north into downtown. In traffic. Without a helmet. Good thing the bike outweighed the cars in the road. Truthfully, it wasn’t nearly as tank-like as I expected. As the cars came closer I repeated: “Hail Mary. Full of Grace, The Lord is with Thee.” Well, actually I didn’t. I am a heathen. Heathen’s prayers are answered with lightning bolts. This is especially true of former altar boys.

I was a bit surprised to find that the ride was rather plush. Well, it would have been if the bike lane wasn’t blocked by a taxi. It was so tempting to just ram the cab. Urban bike rage is so tempting when your bike is humongous.

Sparing the cabbie from certain whiplash, I made it to a massive docking station near the Phone Booth (our local NHL/NBA arena). As I was approaching the station, I noticed a large bearded man on a hybrid bike. The bike was carrying all kinds of stuff. It even had a floor pump strapped to its rear rack. He had on sunglasses and was creeping along rather cautiously. I wondered if her wasn’t some sort of two-wheel street person who offered to pump up your tires for a buck.

I docked my bike and headed to a fine eatery. I ate things.

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Fortunately, this fine eatery is right next store to the International Spy Museum, my next stop. My friend Rachel (Don’t Call Me Bob) Cannon works there. A while back she invited me to check it out so I did. In the process of chatting, I learned that the large bearded man with the floor pump on his bike was Rachel’s boyfriend Tyler. How did I not recognize him? Oh yeah. That fusiform gyrus thing again.

Rachel showed me in to the museum and gave me some quick spy pointers. And left me to my explorations. I am not a museum kind of person, but I spent two hours in the place reading nearly every exhibit. I am now totally paranoid. There are more spies than bicyclists in DC. They even have their own hashtag: #SpyDC. I am not making this up.

There was even a big James Bond exhibit. I have read all the Bond books and seen all the movies. I am pretty much Bond-ed out already so I spent more time checking out the other actual spies. I think my favorite is Moe Berg. He was a big league catcher for over a decade. He was once sent to assassinate a scientist named Heisenberg who was working on an atomic bomb for the Nazis. Berg didn’t kill him because he realized that Heisenberg had not made significant progress in his bomb-making research.

I was pretty much exhausted after my afternoon with the spooks. So I made my way to the Metro and headed home. I consider myself lucky that my back held up quite well for about six hours. When I got off the train, I was in pain again. Sometimes it helps if I do the lean-against-the-wall thing that runners do. So I did that and made it up three flights of stairs to my car.

Big thanks to my #bikeDC friend Linel whose recent Instagram pictures alerted me to the Artechouse exhibit. He description was pretty much on the nose: “Mind blown.”

And extra giant non-hugs to Rachel. She’ll know what I mean.

Whites Ferry 101

I have a few rides that I seem to do every year. One of them is the Whites Ferry Loop. Starting from my home in Mount Vernon Virginia about 6 miles south of Alexandria Virginia, I ride about 10 miles to the start of the Washington and Old Dominion Trail in Shirlington. Next I take the W&OD to Leesburg Virginia, about 35 miles to the west northwest. In Leesburg, north for five miles until I reach the Potomac River at Whites Ferry. Across the river on the ferry, bang a right and I’m cruising back to DC on the unpaved C&O Canal towpath all the way to Georgetown. I ride the last 16 miles home along the river.

Todays jaunt began with a hearty, completely inappropriate gut bomb of a breakfast. Grape Nuts with banana and strawberries and milk. And a chocolate chip scone. I waddled out to the bike and headed out. There was not much to report. It was in the 80s with partly cloudy skies. The trail was crowded but I managed to make decent progress. Somewhere west of Vienna, I was passed by Flogini, almost certainly another one of her dopplegangers. It’s impossible to know unless I turn around and give chase so I pedaled on.

In Herndon about 30 miles into the ride two women triathletes passed me on their super fast bikes. I caught up to them at a street crossing. They moved to the center island of the street. The one on the left couldn’t get free of her clipless pedal and went down sideways. I thought of my friend Dave S. who did the same thing in DC and broke his leg. Woman on the left seemed fine and I made a remark “That’s why I don’t use them.”

Off I rode on the trail I had ridden scores of times before. I didn’t stop. I banged a right in Leesburg and played with cars for a few miles. The turn onto Whites Ferry Road was a bit of a relief. Two lanes. Trees and manicured lawns and farms and blues skies and puffy white clouds. It’s a shame the road only lasts a mile or two.

The ferry, called the Jubal Early after the Civil War general, is a kind of goofy operation. It only goes a couple hundred yards, but it’s worth the $2 fare.

In the rather pathetic general store, I bought a large bottle of water and an Eskimo Pie. I am a bike nutrition god.

Onto the towpath I rode. No pavement and rainy days means mud. With each passing mile the mud got worse. I figured out that the best tactic was to ride straight through puddles. The bottoms of the puddles had a stone surface. No sliding but there was a mess building up on my bike.

The last 25 miles were smoother sailing, but bumpier. My triceps were really starting to feel sore. On the plus side, the canal is beautiful.

I was waved to a stop by three women who wanted directions to a field of sunflowers. I hadn’t seen any but we got to talking and they had no idea what the C&O National Park was. I explained how there was a plan to use it as a highway until Justice William O. Douglas to a bunch of reporters on a hike. Their stories led to public support for a national park.

Lesson finished, I cruised on down to Great Falls where I stopped for water.

Into the crowds I rolled. Among the people I likely passed was Kelly, my co-worker who sits right outside my office. Never saw her. My fusiform gyrus made a crackling sound.

A mile later I was riding past my favorite section of the canal called Widewater. Here, the canal widens and looks like a pond. Deep blue. Often, but not today, with waterfowl in abundance. What was in abundance was people. All ages. Some kids on wobbly bikes. Hikers. Groups of bros. Families. An emergency cart.

Once past the crowds, I fell in behind the cart at a dreary 8 miles per hour. It pulled off at the far end of Widewater where a dozen first responders were standing on the edge of the path. It looked like a drill of some sort.

Just 12 miles to Georgetown I passed the Carderock area where I go for my New Years Day hike. Just before riding under the beltway, I saw Lawyer Mike, a Friday Coffee Clubber, pedaling toward me with a purpose. Of course, it could have been yet another misfire of my fusiform gyrus.

The bumps were really getting to me. Luckily, the paved Capital Crescent Trail came to my rescue. When I cut over to the CCT, my speed picked up by at least 3 miles per hour.

The remaining ride home involved no dopplegangers or co-workers. I had neglected to drink enough water or eat appropriate food and I started riding on fumes through Old Town Alexandria.

Thankfully the wind stepped up big time and blew me along. I arrived home with a dirty bike and a sore body.

But 101 miles on the odometer. I’ll take it.

I made a Flickr album with some pix over here.

Post script: It was indeed Lawyer Mike so I am not completely losing it.