Rest? Moi?

After taking the first day of the month off, I managed to mash 204 miles in six days, ending with yesterday’s 63 miles of cold, hilly Vasanneuring. So I decided to take a rest day today.

By 11 a.m. I was going stir crazy so I jumped into the car and drove to Great Falls Park in Maryland for a recovery hike. As soon as I got out of the car, I could tell this was not going to be restful.

I took off up the canal towpath to the far end of the River Trail. This hike is about 2 miles round trip and totally flat. Just the thing for my tired knees and back. Along the way I did the runners calf stretch against a tree or two. This somehow loosens my back up.

Next I walked to the Olmstead Island Overlook located right in the middle of the river at the fall line. The Potomac was raging today in Mather Gorge. The sound of the rushing water was a tonic.

Once back to the canal, I decided to give a longer, hillier walk a go. I took off up the Gold Mine Spur Trail. I was intending to hike the Gold Mine Loop Trail but when I got to a fork in the road I Yogi-ed it.

My turn to the right took me back toward the canal. At one spot I had a nice high view of the gorge. I made my way back down to the canal via the Lock 19 spur trail. By the time I arrived at the car, I felt like the Tin Man in need of a joint lube.

I had walked over five miles. It was time to head home. Of course, this meant that I had to drive by the gym. Why not stop to lift some weights? So I did.

I feel all rested now.

Or not.

 

 

 

Billy Goating at Winter’s End

The low 40F Degree temperatures and the cooling breeze and clouds did not exactly call to my bikey brain today. Off I drove (yes, I have a car) to the gym to push and pull on the machines. The machines won.

Then it was off to Great Falls National Park in Maryland. I pulled into the Carderock area that is located about 2 miles outside the Beltway. The access road passes beneath the C&O Canal and towpath. After parking and getting myself all arranged with layers and hat and Buff and backpack full of water bottles, I set off the Billy Goat C trail, clockwise toward the river. I was walking upriver and the breeze was in my face. It took about a half mile to warm up. My legs had bounce in them and I was cruising along, resisting the urge to break into a trot. Slow. Down.

There were no leaves on the trees, so the place looked rather stark. I had good views of the river and they didn’t disappoint. After about a mile, the path looped back to the towpath. I headed further upriver on the towpath.

The canal in some sections has water. I noticed some tall reeds near my side of the waterway. Inside the grass was a great blue heron shopping for lunch. A few hundred yards later I could hear the quacking of a duck. The duck was with about sever others, paddling about near the far side of the canal. I saw something move in the tall grass on the canal’s far bank. It was a fox, stalking the ducks. No worries. They kept themselves out of paw’s reach.

The sky was full of bird’s chirping. A massive flock of birds filled the trees beyond the canal. Suddenly, they became quiet and flew of in a cloud of winged mayhem. Seconds later they landed in some trees no more than a hundred yards from where they started. The racket began anew. Birdbrains.

I kept walking past the sign for the Billy Goat B trail. I was taking the canal to the western entrance so I could loop back along the river. Like the C trail and the towpath, the B trail was practically deserted. I was also fortunate that it was dry. The towpath, which is flat and has poor drainage, had some muddy sections.

Back along the river, wind at my back, I cruised along. My legs were still fresh but my decrepit lower back was not on board for the fun. Fortunately, I came upon some big rocks on the river’s edge. I sat down and pulled out a water bottle. The water was rushing over some rocks about 50 yards into the river. Once my breath calmed, I listened.

Is there anything more relaxing than the sound of rushing water?

I listened.

The cool breeze tried to distract me. It failed.

I listened.

After perhaps 15 minutes, I decided to get up before I fell asleep. If it had been 10 degrees warmer, I’d be curled up in a ball snoring.

It took a few minutes to get myself back into an ambulatory mood. Rock scrambles, none too difficult for an old dude with balance issues, persuaded me to get with the program.

I made it across a small stream. Most people would dance across on the rocks but my body seems to prefer stumbling.

Soon I was turning back to the towpath up two quick rises. With the wind at my back, I hiked the towpath beyond where I had parked my car to pick up the C trail. The trail took me back to the river and eventually, to the car.

My legs felt fine. My lower back was bitching up a storm. I didn’t care. My head felt great.

So my first hike, a six-miler, of the new year was over. A productive use to a cold and gray afternoon.

Top Ten of 2016

As is so often the case, my top ten list goes to 11. Hey, it’s my blog and I make the rules.

Yooper for a Week
After 11 years I finally did another solo bike tour. I drove 13+ hours to Ludington Michigan. After a ferry ride across Lake Michigan, I rode The Mule fully loaded with gear into the north woods of Wisconsin. On July 4, I had breakfast in Freedom. After a few days I turned east and crossed the UP, the upper peninsula of Michigan. After the UP, I visited car-free Mackinac Island on a quiet Sunday morning. Other than a two-hour scary thunderstorm and three hilly days of headwinds near the end of the tour, the weather could not have been better. And I managed three ferry rides without getting sick. I rode 832 miles in 11 days. It was a wonderful combination of hard work and rolling meditation. I proved to myself that even at 60 years old I still got it. Okay, maybe not all of it but enough of it to get the job done. I can’t wait to do another.

An Eventful Spring
Prior to my tour I warmed up my legs by riding some bike events. I kicked the year off with the Vasa Ride, co-sponsored by the Washington Area Bicyclists Association and the Swedish embassy. It was a bit of a disappointment because this is normally a social ride but I rode it alone and didn’t do much socializing at the embassy reception afterwards. Next came the Five Boro ride in New York City. The Five Boro Ride has always been on my to do list but conflicted with work, parenting responsibilities, and personal lethargy. I convinced Paul to join me (with Amy along for moral support). Paul and I rode the 40+ mile ride in a cold rain at the start of May. It wasn’t all that much fun, but touring Manhattan the day before in splendid weather with the wonderful guidance of my BU friend Susan made up for riding the Brooklyn Queens Expressway in a driving rain.

At the end of May, I rode the new DC Bike Ride. Not to be outdone by NYC, we had cold rain for that one too.

Scary Night
In May, I woke up in the middle of the night with severe chest pains. After a few hours of increasing pain, Mrs. RC called for an ambulance. The ride to the hospital ½ mile away took 20 minutes but I was well taken care of. What I feared was a heart attack turned out to be a respiratory infection. Fortunately, a nebulizer treatment in the ER and antibiotics fixed me up over the next week. An earworm of the Neil Finn song Anytime played for days. “I could go at anytime. There’s nothing safe about this life.” Words to live by.

At the end of the week, I dragged myself out of bed and rode my bike on Bike to Work Day. I was still under the weather but I now know I can ride to work with one lung tied behind my back.

Pulling Beers Like a Boss
I have been lax in volunteering at local bike events, basically forever. This year, with my respiratory problems more or less behind me, I volunteered at the Tour de Fat in DC. This is a fundraiser for bike advocacy groups (WABA being one of many) and I was determined to help out. It rained. It was cold-ish. I pulled beers nonstop for two hours. Instead of hanging around for the rest of the day, I went home and went to bed. (Every party has a pooper that’s why we invited you.) Next year I hope to be around to volunteer again. And to socialize afterward.

Call Me Lars
Our daughter finished up her year abroad with a semester in Sweden. A few days after Tour de Fat, Mrs. Rootchopper and I flew over and toured parts of Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and Iceland. It was an exhausting two weeks and fun to re-visit Copenhagen after over 15 years. Although I was in bicycle heaven for most of the trip, I didn’t ride at all. If you ask me what my favorite place was my answer would be “Yes.”

Ain’t Baseball Great
I went to 19 Nats games this year. The last time I went to this many games was when I lived in Boston. I rode my bike to about 15 games. How convenient of them to locate the ballpark 16 miles from home. As a bonus, it was great seeing so many friends at the bike valet before and after the games. The rest of the games involved driving the kids, including my niece Irene for one game. One exhausting game lasted 16 innings and the good guys won on a walk-off home run. I even managed to see two playoff games. Despite (or perhaps because of) the fact that the Nats lost their last game of the season, I can’t wait until April!

Fall Bike Frenzy
In the fall I did the Indian Head, Backroads, and Seagull Centuries (100 miles each), the 44-mile Great Pumpkin Ride (with Paul, Amy, and Jody), the 53-mile Cider Ride and, for the eighth time, the 62-mile 50 States Ride. I was already on fumes near the end of this madness, when an old friend asked me to ride with her to Harpers Ferry and back over two days. Given the fact that I had a colonoscopy (with the associated fasting and anesthesia) two days before we would have left, I declined. One ambulance ride a year is plenty.

Deets Provides a Surly Surge
A year ago I bought a new bike, a Surly Cross Check. Mostly, it hung on a hook in my shed, used only for the occasional weekend ride. This summer I started commuting on it. What a great commuter bike it is. I also did all my fall events on it. I named it Deets after the scout in the miniseries Lonesome Dove. Deets was said to be “cheerful in all weathers, never shirked a task, splendid behavior.” My Deets served me well until his back tire exploded on the way to work. Aye god, Woodrow.

Hiking Light
Unlike last year, I didn’t get much hiking done this year. I did the Billy Goat B and C trails on New Years Day which is becoming something of a tradition. Realizing that I-66 cuts right across the Appalachian Trail, I hiked it north (Manassas Gap) and south (Trumbo Hollow) of the highway. I also headed out to Shenandoah National Park to hike the Hogback Mountain trail. In late November I hiked the Potomac Highlands Trail from Turkey Run Park to the American Legion Bridge and back. A surprisingly nice hike so close to DC. Just before the year ended I did a meandering hike in Great Falls Park in Maryland.

Living Small
We had our wood floors redone in the spring. We hired a couple of amazing movers to relocate all our belongings from the top two floors down to the family room and basement where we lived among the piles of stuff for two weeks. It was quite a project. The floors turned out great. I came to realize that most of the crap that I have accumulated over the course of 25+ years in a house, I can live without.

Going Long
Coincident with my 61st birthday, my four bikes gave me a big present. I’ve been keeping track of the mileage on my bikes for 25 years and with an empty nest surge in recent years I finally made it to 100,000 miles. I also set my one-year personal mileage record of 8,167 miles.

That’s it for 2016. No mas. Thanks for reading. I am taking 2017 one day at a time. Love this life. It’s the only one you get.

Great Falls Saves My Day

After running errands and reading this morning, I had nothing to do. My to do list for my staycation was done. I decided to drive up to Great Falls Park in Maryland for a quick hike. It seemed appropriate since I started the year with a hike there.

My hike took me on a four mile (give or take) loop. I started on the Berma Road which is a bit muddy. Next I took a right onto the leaf covered Valley Trail. I love the sound of leaves swishing under my feet.

The Valley Trail intersected with the Gold Mine Loop. (Yes, there was a gold mine here long ago.) More leaves. More swishing. Very few people. The sun angled through the barren trees to add a bit of visual novelty to the proceedings.

After about a half a loop I took a spur trail that lead me to the Overlook Trail. This trail runs along a ridge above the C&O Canal and the Potomac River as it cuts through Mather Gorge. I climbed to a view point and it seemed that the flurries were casting a haze over the gorge. Or maybe it was just the angle of the sun and the thousands of grey tree trunks and rock faces.

I dropped back down to the Berma Road and took a bridge across the canal. It was then a half mile walk to the Great Falls overlook trail. I was a little disappointed that there was no ice, but if there had been I’d have been seriously underdressed and freezing my ass off. Be careful what you wish for. Still the sound of rushing water, the mist, the churn of foam in the rapids made for a soothing break from walking.

The hike ended with a 1 1/2 mile walk down the towpath past Widewater, my favorite section of the canal near DC.

Normally, this park is filled with people, often noisy kids. Today my solitude was interrupted only a handful of times, and briefly at that.

Not a bad way to salvage an afternoon.

 

 

Great Falls > New Tires

The plan was to put two new tires on The Mule. Then I walked outside. It was MUGGY. Then I looked at the old tires on The Mule. They looked acceptable. Sort of.

Then I jumped on my neglected Cross Check and headed to Great Falls Park in Maryland.

The first 13 miles was essentially my commute route, the Mount Vernon Trail and the 14th Street Bridge, to DC. Ohio Drive and some sidewalks masquerading as bike trails took me to K Street in Georgetown. I survived the half mile traffic gauntlet and made it to the Capital Crescent Trail.

I was making pretty decent time. This is attributable to three factors: a light tailwind, fresh legs, and, well, I’m a badass.

I switched over to the C&O Canal towpath at mile 18. The Cross Check loves the towpath. After a couple of miles, I had some solitude and it was bliss. Sweaty bliss but bliss nonetheless.

I rode past Widewater, a section of the canal just downriver from Great Falls. There were about 8 women sitting on stand up paddle boards in the canal. They were finishing, I am not making this up, a yoga class. Floating yoga? Really?

I stopped to check out the rapids at Great Falls. It rained heavily yesterday and the rapids were muddy and raging. If you’ve never been to DC, make sure you put Great Falls on your to do list. (I prefer the Maryland side because it has the towpath, a trail out through the rapids, and several really good hiking trails.)

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After watching the water show, I headed out of the park on the access road. It’s a long up hill that leads to what is normally a fun, curving downhill. Unfortunately, the road surface is choppy and, even on the Cross Check, not a road I want to ride over 30 miles per hour on.

I survived the descent.

The ride back was a familiar one along MacArthur Boulevard to Resevoir Road, back to the canal. From there I retraced my ride out with the exception of using a new bike path through the park on the Georgetown waterfront. The path is nice enough, but on an oppressively hot day the pedestrians and tourists on bikes were annoying. They’d just stop and chat in the middle of the path.

I had the following conversation a half dozen times:

“PASSING!”

“Oh. Sorry.”

I have the patience of a Swede.

The ride home was uneventful. There were no Lance Mamilots to irritate me. Despite encountering plenty of families with little ones riding tentatively on the trail, I remained civil.

How unlike me.

When I arrived home, my odometer read

60

So I went inside and had this:

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Nice Day for a Spring Ride

I waited for the temperature to rise. I didn’t want to ruin a good spring ride by freezing my toes off. At 11:00 I leaped into action. Sort of. I kept misplacing things. After 45 frustrating minutes I head out on the Cross Check for a bagel. In Bethesda. Over 25 miles from home.

The Cross Check still doesn’t feel right but rather than mess with the set up I decided to ride it a ways. After six miles I stopped and slid the saddle back. I was feeling cramped and too upright. Afterwards I felt more comfortable. I breezed through Old Town with its abundance of well dressed church goers. (My church has two wheels, by god.)

North of Old Town the Mount Vernon Trail started getting crowded. The crowds didn’t bother me but the impatient riders passing with bike oncoming did. Some of these were Lance Mamilstrongs. Others were new to riding on busy, narrow trails. Thankfully, I managed not to get hit. I crossed over to DC and rode Ohio Drive and its pathetically designed side paths up to Rock Creek Park. The side path in Rock Creek Park improves somewhat. After a couple of miles of mediocre, it becomes downright horrible. Tree roots, 90 degree turns, pinch points, blind, low descents under overpasses. People with dogs obstructing the entire path as they admired each others pooches. Must not kill.

 

I finally made it to Beach Drive which is closed to cars. It was apparently open to every grade school kid in a 100 miles radius today. They were swarming like gnats. It took a while to get clear of them. Once I did, I found myself cruising up the  gradual incline at 14 1/2 miles per hour. I wasn’t straining at all. The Cross Check was just getting it done.

I took the Georgetown Branch Trail to the Rock Creek Trestle. I love hanging out in the treetops over Rock Creek. A woman was sitting in the bumpout on the opposite side of the trail. She was speaking on her phone in a Spanish accent. Next to her was a copy of Nick Hornby’s latest book. I love Nick Hornby. I passed up the opportunity to strike up a conversation with her because my tummy was having a conversation with my head. FEED ME!

I backtracked on the GBT to Bethesda Row where I bought a drink and a bage19217984431_878c8b2188_m.jpgl. I sat and ate and watched the people stroll by. This street is really good for people watching. And dog watching too. A golden retriever with waves of flowing red hair was laid out on the sidewalk next to my bench. What a beautiful creature. (Full disclosure: I grew up with a golden retriever. They are the best dogs. Dumb as dirt but they will let you use them as a pillow when you watch TV. And they will defend you to the death.) I want to be a golden retriever in my next life.

After my snack, I headed over to Bradley Boulevard. I rode through Bethesda amid azaleas and dogwoods in bloom. The temperature was perfect for riding. The traffic was light. Yay spring!

Bradley to Kentsdale to Newbridge to Democracy to Falls. I was cruising among the megamansions of Potomac. I hear they have real housewives here.

A left  onto Falls took me through Potomac Village and all the way to Great Falls Park. Cars were parked illegally everywhere. I took a right to ride down to the C&O Canal on the access road. After a fun half mile glide, I came upon a half mile line of cars waiting to get parking in the parking lot.  I rode past the cars and made it to the admissions booth. I was waved in. It was National Parks Day. Admission was free. “Free” sounds like a good idea. Sometimes it’s not. I rode very slowly through the throngs for at least 15 minutes. It was like riding on the sidewalk in Manhattan. Nothing ruins nature quite like tens of thousands of well meaning people.

After the falls the crowds thinned a bit and I could get up to about 10 miles per hour. Carefully, I avoided spooking the strollers near Widewater, easily one of the best parts of the entire 185 mile long park.

I finally cleared the swarm and brought my bike up to a 13.6 mile per hour cruising speed. Why 13.6? I don’t know. I just locked into that speed.

I am happy to report that the Cross Check loves the towpath. I can see many gravel rides in the future. (North Central Rail Trail? Anybody? Bueller?)

I was on autopilot all the way back to Georgetown. I switched over the paved Capital Crescent Trail at Fletchers Boat House. It has way too many tree roots until you get to the last mile which has been recently paved. Zoom.

K Street under the Whitehurst Freeway was a parking lot. I think we need to just ban cars in certain places on Sundays. They are just too big and clumsy. We could pile them up and burn them. We could invite all kinds of latter day hippies, techies, and spiritual whack jobs. Maybe we could do this in the desert. Rosslyn on a Sunday would work. We could call it “Burning Car”.  Maybe we could get the drum circle from Meridian Hill Park to come and not keep a beat.

The ride home retraced my northbound journey. The trails were not as busy as before. Behind the power plant near Old Town, the MVT goes through some blind curves. As I approached I rode my brakes. Sure enough a rider came around the curve on my side of the path. I avoided a head on collision for sure. The rider seemed shocked that passing two pedestrians on a blind curve might not work out so well. I do hope she doesn’t drive a school bus for a living.

I rolled south on Union Street in Old Town. A police cruiser pulled out in front of me. I followed it to the intersection with Gibbon Street. This is where Alexandria police ticket cyclists for rolling through the stop sign. So I watched as patrol car 1414 rolled through the very same stop sign. It was the third such incident this week. The League of American Cyclists will soon designate Alexandria as a Bicycle Hypocritical City at the Silver level.

I rolled home with my lungs burning. The pollen and towpath dust had caught up to me and my asthma was really giving me a hard time.  I  made it home in a bit of discomfort with 69 miles on the odometer. This was easily my longest ride of the year.  But for the asthma attack I could have kept going. Let’s see if I wake up with any back issues tomorrow morning.

 

 

Let’s Just Dupe 2015

I had such a good year last year that I decided to do exactly the same hikes and bike rides every day this year. (I’ll wing it on the 29th.)

Okay, I’m just funnin’ you.

But today I did do the exact same hike as last January 1. It’s a coincidence. Really. I had a few hours to get some outdoor time and I didn’t feel like riding a bike for the fifth or sixth day in a row.  So I drove to Great Falls Park in Maryland and hiked the Billy Goat B and C trails. This hike is pretty flat, has a few easy rock scrambles, and is six-ish miles in length.

There wasn’t any wildlife in view, unless you count kids and dogs. There were some four and five year olds out there with their parents. A few were whining. Mostly they were just scrambling all over the place. Cute.

I did my best to hike fast. The trail was dry in most places. So I got to trucking. Temps were in the high 40s and low 50s, very comfortable.

The one interesting feature of the hike was the height and flow of the Potomac River. It has rained quiet a lot here recently and the river was moving fast. It was fun to watch. The lack of leaves and the gray sky made for a rather dull landscape though.

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Falling in would be a bad idea. Other than a quirky looking tree, there wasn’t much to note visually.

Last year when I did this hike, my head was as bleak as the landscape. I am grateful that this year my mind is in a much better state.

Winter returns to DC this week with temperatures below freezing for most of the week. January is a good time to recharge your batteries. I have a stack of books on my nightstand. As matter of fact, when I put Dead Calm down, the U-20 submarine had just launched a torpedo at the Lusitania. I wonder what happens next….

A Year in the Woods

This was my second year of doing day hikes. Early in the year I made a list of hikes that I wanted to do on my white board at work. I modified the list, adding three hikes that friends of mine did during the year and taking off two hikes, Bull Run Mountain and Sky Meadows, because they are in an area that is infested with ticks. (One of my coworkers contracted Lyme disease at Sky Meadows.)

Hike List 2015

As you can see I cross off quite a few hikes.

To get the year off on the right foot, I went up to Great Falls Park in Maryland and did the Billy Goat B and C trails. I had done this last summer and enjoyed the route but not the heat. This is about a six mile hike, mostly flat.  It was a good way to start the year.

For the next several months I forgot about hiking. I don’t honestly know why. When I realized that I had missed some of the year’s best hiking weather I kicked it into gear on the first weekend in June and re-visited Rock Creek Park. This time I did the Valley and West Ridge trails in a counter clockwise direction. It’s a good hike, about 10 miles or so.

It was time to get away from the city. The next weekend I found a hike online that seemed to offer some solitude. It was an out and back hike on the section of the Appalachian Trail in Virginia known as Ashby Hollow. The trail was rocky and the the ups and downs lived up to the nickname Roller Coaster. I was amazed that through hikers did this section of the trail carrying big backpacks. I saw a couple too.  More power to you folks.

I was on a roll. A luck would have it Ultrarunnergirl was looking to go for a hike in the Shenandoah National Park. We headed out to White Oak Cannon. Here, she advised me to buy a year pass to the National Park system. Great idea. We hiked up the canyon, enjoying waterfalls all the way up.  At the top of the trail we took a fire road up to Skyline Drive. At her suggestion, we hiked up the steep trail to Little Hawksbill, the highest point in the park. Hiking down beat the crap out of my legs. To get back to the start we took the Cedar Run Trail. This was a pretty trail but it was also rocky and the rocks were slippery. Ultrunnergirl’s iPhone went for a swim. She went for a rock slide near the end of the hike. This was my first non-solo hike since college. It was also my first hike in Shenandoah National Park. If you live in the mid-Atlantic and do not take advantage of this park you are really missing out.

A couple of weeks later, I headed back to the park for a hike up Little Devil Stairs.  This was pretty challenging and involved crossing and re-crossing a stream. Well worth the early wake up on a day off from work.

I took the rest of July off.

I started August with a hike on the exotically names Potomac Heritage Trail. It was not the best hike but it was close to home. Then, in mid-August, on my 60th birthday, I did the most popular hike in these parts, Old Rag. It was quite challenging. I was a bit annoyed by the rock scramble. At one point I had to wedge myself into a gap between two boulders and hike vertically, with my back against one boulder and my feet on the other. Not my style at all. The view from the summit was pretty darn nice. If you want solitude, find another hike.

In September we took a long vacation in Australia, New Zealand and Thailand. We did a whole mess of walking including an easy short hike at  Kata Tjuta in the outback.

Kata Tjuta Walk

 

After returning home, I made my way back to Great Falls Park in Maryland for an easy hike along the River and Gold Mine Loop trails.  I’d done each of these before but separately.

The next week, I drove to Prince William Forest Park down near Quantico. The trails here are not very well marked so I was a bit confused as to where I was or where I was going. Nevertheless, I cobbled together a pretty successful loop hike.

My last hike (unless I get really motivated in December) combined two hikes near Harper’s Ferry. Maryland Heights and Weverton Cliff offer fantastic overlooks of the Potomac River, Harper’s Ferry and the Shenandoah River.  This was my longest hike by far. Probably about 3 miles longer than I was comfortable doing.

I am learning what I like and don’t like about hiking. I am not a big fan of rocks. I don’t like rock scrambles. Nor do I like rocky trails. I am not a big fan of fording streams either. I am afraid that I am going to turn an ankle, fall, or get soaked. Since most of my hikes are solo, any one of these would be bad news.

So that’s how I put my best foot forward this year. I hope next year that I do more hiking with friends. So if you live in DC and wanna go for a trek in the woods, I’m all ears.

All Is Quiet (nearly) on New Years Day

New Years Eve was a mellow affair. My wife, daughter and I went out to dinner then our daughter went to a party and we went to see Unbroken. As my wife put it, “It’s a mediocre movie about a great story.” I agree. The book was intense.

Nothing says ringing out the old year like watching a man dessicate in a life raft on the pen sea for weeks followed by getting beaten to a pulp over and over again by a sadist in a prison camp.

We walked out of the theater at 11:58 and drove home as fireworks filled the midnight sky over Old Town Alexandria.

The New Year dawned with me sleeping in (sort of, 7:15 is as good as it gets these days). I did about 45 minutes of yoga. Okay, probably closer to 35 because I just don’t have the patience for doing it properly.

After breakfast and some chores I took off for Great Falls Park in Maryland. I had hiked the Billy Goat B and C trails last summer in my old hiking boots. I ached afterwards. I was really looking forward to how my back and legs held up with my new hiking shoes and orthotics. It was clear right away that this was going to be a much better experience. 20150101_121529

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I started on the C trail in a counterclockwise direction. This took me to the C&O Canal towpath. I could not believe how much faster I was walking than last summer. A great blue heron stalked something in the water. Some kids played along the edge of the canal. The sun beamed down on me and the canal glistened with just the thinnest layer of ice possible. I kept hearing an exotic birds sound, almost like the sounds of a ray gun in a science fiction movie. Where was it coming from? I couldn’t figure it out for the life of me.

I walked about three miles on the canal and picked up the B trail. It was a bit muddy. I slipped and thought that my back would seize up. But it didn’t. It felt incredibly, wonderfully normal.

The trail had plenty of people on it. We wished each other a happy new year as we passed. I was lost in thought for most of the hike. Turning over events of the past year. Trying to figure out the unfathonable. The B trail took me back to the towpath. I figured out what that exotic sound was. People were skipping stones on the ice and it was vibrating in an eerie pitch. I tossed a couple of stones. Tweek. Tweek. Bizarre.

Back on the C trail, I encountered more people. Some were obnoxiously loud. Once I got past them, I went into a meditative trance. It was so relaxing. Just the sound of the river and my breathing. It’s a wonder I found the path back to the parking lot.

So the year begins. Not a bad start.

Three Outings

I worked on Christmas Eve. Well, I intended to work. I rode Little Nellie to the office in the rain. It was not entirely unpleasant. I figured I’d have 5 or 6 hours for my stuff to dry out before the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come scared Mr. Scrooge into an early release.

About 2 hours into the work day all three of my phones range in succession. I figured it was all my fans calling to wish me a happy holiday. I figured wrong. It was my daughter calling from the eye doctor. After they gave her eye drops she became nauseous. Too nauseous to drive herself home. Mom was incommunicado. Son was dead to the world. So I had to go get her. I put on all the still wet clothing and headed out into the rain.

The eye doctor is on my commute route so it was no big deal getting there. I ran a bunch of stop signs in Old Town, including one in front of a police car. The police officer probably didn’t want to get wet so he let me ride on in peace. A Christmas miracle.

By the time I got to the doctor’s office, my daughter was over her crisis. Well, at least Igot an early start on Christmas Eve out of the ordeal.

Christmas morning began with 45 minutes of yoga while my peeps slept in. After about 2 hours of gift opening and a Wizards game on TV, Mrs. Rootchopper announced that we should go to Great Falls Park for an easy hike. Best gift of the day. I picked the Berma Road and the towpath, about a 2 1/2 or 3 mile flat loop.

Great Falls Park

Today I waited until it warmed up and rode Big Nellie, my Tour Easy recumbent, to  Old Town where I went to the Comfort Shoe store. My acupuncturist recommended a particular brand of shoe insert/soft orthotic. Since my doctor told me that one possible solution for my numb foot would be orthotics I deciced to try give my acupuncturists inserts a try. They were pretty expensive (over $70) but that’s much cheaper than an orthotic from a podiatrist. I put them in my hiking shoes and my feet went “Ahhhh!.”

After the shoe store I rode to Mount Vernon on the Mount Vernon Trail. Along the way I stopped to check out a house on West Boulevard Drive that is being demolished. The house must have cost north of $800,000 so I am interested in seeing what gets built in its place,

DSCN3591_716

I continued past Mount Vernon to US 1. I crossed US 1 and headed back home on back streets. After the ride my kids took me to buy a smartphone. We stood around for about an hour while the sales clerk did his thing. Normally my back and knees would be barking at me but they felt fine. Score another for the orthotics.

My numb foot seems to be getting better. At least it’s not numb all the time.

Tomorrow the weather is supposed to be wonderful. Hike, bike, nap?