Today’s post is dedicated to all my friends who moved away from DC.
Yesterday marked the first day of spring in DC. Not the meteorological spring. Not the vernal equinox. The cherry blossom bloom.
The last couple of days, the National Park Service has banned cars from the Tidal Basin area. For those of you unfamiliar with DC, this is the odd man-made lake of sorts which is lined by cherry trees and three memorials (Jefferson. FDR, MLK). If you go at sunrise, this is the place to check out the blossoms on foot. If you go any other time, you’ll encounter crowds, although judging by today, much smaller crowds that usual.
Of course, the best way by far to see the cherry blossoms is by bike. I rode to DC and took the 14th Street Bridge which ends right at the Jefferson Memorial. Then I rode east on Ohio Drive along the Potomac River. At the intersection of Buckeye Drive there is a stand of early bloomers that are amazing. Buckeye Drive took me across East Potomac Park which is a short man-made peninsula in the Potomac. Buckeye dead ends into Ohio. I took a left and rode 3 miles down to Hains Point and back. The entire way was lined with trees nearly all of which were in full bloom. I was in a tunnel of cherry blossoms.
After the 3-mile ride I was back at Buckeye Drive. I re-traced my route but instead of going to the Jefferson I continued upstream along the river to the turn off for the FDR and MLK memorials. The path along the edge of the basin was nearly full of people but the road that I was on 50 yards or so away was empty.
At Independence Avenue I took a right and rode with the big metal boxes. They were going about 10 miles per hour so I was very safe but on guard against drivers distracted by the blossoms. I followed Maine Avenue and rode clockwise around the basin past the Jefferson then back over the bridge.
Five miles. Five bazillion blossoms. Perfect.
Tomorrow I’m going back. If I feel spunky I may ride up to the Kenmore neighborhood in Bethesda. It is packed with cherry trees. And, unfortunately, cars.
I’ve don’t like being idle so today was my kind of day. I was running around and doing stuff from 7 am to 7 pm. After breakfast and reading the newspaper I did this:
15 minutes of physical therapy exercises
A visit to the pulmonologist. She has pretty much decided to let the hematologist determine whether I should stay on blood thinners indefinitely. This was quite a surprise to me. This assumes that my lower leg is free of the deep vein thrombosis that dispatched the clots to my lungs. When I get back from my bike tour, she’s going to experiment with lowering the dosage of my asthma medicine.
Checked out patio furniture at Home Despot. It looked crappy.
Took my car to a state inspection station to find out if it would pass inspection with a ding in the windshield. He said “yes”.
Bought bird seed coated with hot pepper powder. (Alas the neighbor’s squirrel appears to be adapting to the stuff.)
Got my haircut so that I don’t look like I am undergoing electric shock therapy
Meditated for 30 minutes
Rode Little Nellie to DC for one last look at the cherry blossoms. Okay, I might go tomorrow and Friday buy this is peak bloom and there’s no telling when it will end. The Tidal Basin was crowded so I skipped it and rode through the tunnel of blossoms in East Potomac Park instead. If you still plan to go this year, tomorrow or Friday before work would be best. Walk around the Tidal Basin and go snow blind. Then take a bikeshare bike (the dock was full when I was there) to ride the tunnel.
Rode to the gym to lift weights lamely. I tried some free weights today.
Six or seven years ago, Megan Jones had an idea, a wonderfully goofy idea. She’d ride the 3.3 mile circuit in East Potomac Park 30 times in a day to raise awareness and money for the Washington Area Bicyclists Women and Bicycles program. She called her 100-mile event the Hains Point 100, because the circuit goes down to Hains point and because… do the math.
As someone who’s ridden WABA’s 50-State Ride nine times, I can attest to the magnetic draw of silly bike event gimmicks. Who the heck would want to ride around in circles for hours just to say they rode 100 miles? Who’d do it in the middle of December?
It turns out that LOTS of people would. Over 600 people signed up for today’s spin around the point. And from what I can tell, most of them showed up.
We had a blast. I rode with different people on each of my 13 loops. If you do the math, you’ll see that I didn’t ride 100 miles. Most people don’t. You don’t have to. You can ride 100 miles combined with your friends. Or 100 kilometers. Or 100 minutes. I rode 100 McEntees. According to the Hungarian Bureau of Standards, a McEntee is that unit that converts your miles to 100. This year each 0.44 miles I rode was 1 McEntee. If I had ridden further, it wouldn’t be Prudence.
The weather was about as good as one could hope for. Temperatures rose from freezing when I started at 9 a.m. into the high 40s when I quit at 1:30. Winds were calm. There was no precipitation.
For those of you who are quick on your little math feet, you’ll have figured out that it took 4 1/2 hours for me to ride 44 miles. And your probably saying to yourself, what a pathetically slow rider. Which is normally correct. But today I spent well over an hour in the pit area talking to friends. Adding in chatter time on the bike, I should get additional credit for talking 100 blue streaks.
Another aspect that I enjoyed was the fact that for the first time since my bike tour I felt strong on my bike. In the early going I was comfortably riding at 17 – 18 miles per hour which is unheard of for me. I even joined a massive group of about 20 riders for a while. We were clipping along at about 20 miles per hour. Whee! Pretty good for an old dude on a heavy bike.
On one of my laps I (sort of) rode alongside Kevin W. who had borrowed a Jump electric- assist dockless bike. These bikes are big and heavy but the motor more than makes up for that. Kevin would kick in the motor and instantly and smoothly accelerate away from me. Kevin was having a pretty good time showing me up. Again. (He took me to the cleaners at the 50 States Ride and two off-road rides earlier in the year.) My take on this little adventure is that these bikes are going places. I’d use one all the time if I were living in the city.
Another highlight was to see my friend Mike with his son who has developmental issues on a tandem. The two of them ride just about every weekend. Mike had expected to do one lap and then go home owing to his son’s low tolerance for long cold rides but the two of them were there for at least two hours. They are what love looks like.
Then there is the exuberance of youth. Rachel is about half my age. She rode six and a half miles to today’s event with no gloves on. Suffice it to say, this was a reeeeeallly bad idea. (I spent the first 28 years of my life in the frozen north. Been there. Done that.) After riding some laps with me, she disappeared. I saw her a while later in the pit area. She had tears on her face and she was bending over, nauseated. Her fingers were nearly purple. Ugh. I gave her my mittens. She protested! She’d actually rather get frostbite than cause someone temporary discomfort. Raaychulll!!! She did reluctantly, eventually take the mittens. This is a good thing because I was about to smack her upside the head. Then Kevin came up with some spare gloves. Then we found a heater. It took a while and some chemical hand warmers but she got her hands thawed out. (Head hits table.)
There were so many other people there: Ryan and Ursulla and Leslie and Colin and Inez and Greg and Carrie (and their new baby) and Katie B. and Nelle and Jeff and Sam and Rachel II and Viola and Ed (thanks for the cupcake) and Kitty and Mary and Ted and Katie Bee and Chris N. and Laura and Adam and Michael and Mark and Jeanne and Finn and at least a half dozen others whose names and faces are lost in the voids of my brain.
I found out later the McEntees were there. Taking their measure of things.
Long story short: I had a blast.
I didn’t take any pictures but there were cameras everywhere. In a day or two there will be literally hundreds of still photos and videos posted to the interwebs.
Good thing I saw some blossoms today because a blog title “Beaver and Balls” would have attracted a new readership.
On the way to work, I saw a beaver swimming near the beaver bridge (why do you think I call it that) just north of Slaters Lane on the MVT.
It was nice to have a tailwind too. Warm air would be coming on southerly breezes, but it wasn’t here yet.
In the evening I shed a few layers and headed for some cherry blossom therapy. The blooms are clearly below normal peak but they are still a tonic for what ails your weary Friday evening mind. I rode to Hains Point and picked up a golf ball that had settled along the roadside, far from any fairway that I could see. Having contributed a few dozen golf balls to the woods and water features of golf courses back home in my youth, I felt justified in pocketing this beauty.
Miles: 5 (on top of 29 1/2 getting to and from work)
Category: Non-store Errand.
Observation: When the blossoms are perfect, you could go snow blind walking around the Tidal Basin. I feel for anyone who comes to DC for the first time to see the cherry blossoms like this. Come back next year. They’ll be much better. Whenever you go, try to get to the Tidal Basin about 30 minutes after sunrise. The low angle of the light makes for great pictures. And the crowds are smaller.
It’s a new year. Normally I start the new year with an easy hike, but I did one the other day so I decided to take my Cross Check for a spin. I rode the Tour of Arlington, which is a loop around Arlington County entirely on paved trails. Instead of riding from Rosslyn to Alexandria directly, I took the Key Bridge into Georgetown. Riding down M Street and then around Washington Circle is always a bit nerve wracking. Good thing Washington Circle has an ER just in case.
I took a brief detour to check out the progress at 17th and G Streets. This is where Friday Coffee Club used to convene before somebody decided to renovate the building. I wanted to see if the outdoor seating area was still intact. It was. The sign outside said the project will end on 5/12/2017. This is a Friday so I am marking my calendar for a return to Friday Coffee Club.
Next I rode across White House Plaza, the section of Pennsylvania Avenue that goes past the front of the White House. The review stand for the Inaugural Parade was nearing completion. There are police and guards all over the place. And fences. I found the whole thing depressing to be honest. I haven’t been this depressed about a president since Nixon.
From there it was down the 15th Street Cycletrack, dodging the tourists from back home who didn’t get that a cycle track was for bicycles not for standing and wondering where Ford’s Theater is.
For giggles and kicks I rode a lap around Hains Point. I was getting pretty tired because breakfast was about five hours earlier and I didn’t bring any health Christmas cookies with me (except those stored in the rolls of fat around my waist). On the way toward the point, Grace pulled up alongside me. We follow each other on Twitter. She slowed down to chat with me for a lap before I veered off for home.
The ride down the Mount Vernon Trail was automatic. Just south of the airport I stopped to celebrate reaching 4,000 miles on my Cross Check. As soon as the winter is over, I am riding this bike nonstop.
At the north end of Old Town Alexandria, a sign was posted next to the trail. A small dog had bolted from its owners during the New Years Eve fireworks display. The dog looked distressingly like that of a friend of mine. I kept my eyes peeled for the dog for the next mile. No luck. On the south end of Old Town a notice was posted. It said that a bicyclist had been bitten by a dog while riding on the trail just south of the Beltway. The dog was on a leash! The Notice was a BOLO. (My daughter and I were binge watching NCIS this week. They say BOLO all the time on that show. Just don’t call me Jethro.) Police are looking for the dog and its owner. It’s the first time I’ve heard of a bite and run.
I slogged the final six miles home. Nobody’s dog bit me.
The best part is I can now truthfully say that I have ridden 42 miles everyday in 2017. At least until tomorrow night.
After yesterday’s sweatfest, today was sublime. Clearly, the weather gods did not get the memo.
To: Weather Gods
From: Washington DC
We will suffer each and every day through impossible heat and humidity. You will give us awesome weather in spring and fall. K? Thx.
I rode Big Nellie to work in shorts. The cool air was blowing up my legs. Eek! I passed Ed on the way. Ed was going slow because he’s Ed and Ed does that sometimes.
I am pretty sure Chris M. came by with a GoPro camera on his head. It looked pretty silly but I may just be a video star once he edits my belly out of the picture and fills in my bald spot.
Even the drivers in Rosslyn were nice. Okay, nice-ish. I got into the garage at work unscathed only to be nearly vaporized by a massive pick up going way too fast. Big Nellie moved this way and that with aplomb. Okay, maybe aplomb isn’t the right word maybe azucchini.
My co-worker Kelly returned to bike commuting. The recent threat of evening storms scared her off. Of course, you’d be scared too if you were caught in rising water on your second bike commute.
At the end of the work day, she boldly slapped on her helmet for the perilous trip down the elevator to the locker room to change. She also took a water bottle in case the elevator got stuck for more than a day. We haven’t heard from her since she left. Also, she has a habit of talking to walls but I’m sure this pre-dated her adventures in bike commuting.
I left about an hour later. I stopped to take a picture of the beautiful blossoms covering the Mount Vernon Trail just across the the Washington Monument. I heard somewhere that this tree is a white ash tree. I have not verified this. In fact, I am about as good at tree identification as I am at facial recognition. I took a picture but I got in the way. I wore a helmet to keep the blossoms off my fusiform gyrus. I think it worked.
As you can see I was in a good mood. I was congratulating myself about giving some advice to a friend. The advice panned out nicely for her. As a result, I figure I will probably not see her until autumn 2016 or so. I apparently have a talent for this sort of thing. A few years ago I advised someone to quit her job. She moved 12,000 miles away a few weeks later. If only I could work this magic on tech stocks.
I took a dang-it’s-a-nice-evening lap of Hains Point then headed for home. Big Nellie was really cruising along nicely when I ran into Mike and Lisa aboard their purple DaVinci tandem. It has the cool feature that unlike most tandems the captain (up front) pedals independently of the stoker (in back).
Every once in a while, Mike and Lisa ride down the Mount Vernon Trail to explore my neck of the woods and beyond. They have an impressive cruising radius and appear to like riding up steep hills. We chatted for nearly a half hour on the side of the trail. One would think that I’d think to take their picture. One would be wrong.
We did talk about this year’s 50 States Ride. They host one of the rest stops at their home in Tacoma Park. It is the best rest stop ever. In 2013, I pulled up to the house and Mike stood on his porch and yelled “ROOTCHOPPER” repeatedly. Lisa threatened to call 911 and he stopped. In 2014, he put a banner on his house that said, “All Hail ROOTCHOPPER.” This year’s ride is on September 12. I can’t recommend it enough. I’ve done it seven times including each of the last five years. Be forewarned, it’s a lot harder than it sounds, but it’s a pretty good bet that you will meet some great people along the way. I will be out of town for this year’s event, but I expect a complete report from my #bikedc peeps.
We made our promise to go to a ball game together. We haven’t pulled this off yet but one of these days the stars will align and we’ll get it done.
We went our separate ways. I took the long way home.
The Hoppy 100 is the invention of John Roche, craft beer enthusiast and bicycling masochist. It was his idea to combine a 100 mile ride with visits to local craft breweries. It worked out pretty well until the monsoon hit. The second Hoppy 100 was toned down a bit. Instead of 100 miles, John designed a route that was 100 kilometers. And instead of a monsoon, we had a steady drizzle. And a medical emergency involving blood. And a Pythonesque trip to a police station. So it was with a mixture of excitement and dread that I threw my helmet into the ring for the third Hoppy 100.
Now this year’s version was designed to be about 45 miles. In order to get it up over 100 kilometers, I decided to ride Little Nellie to the start at the Washington Monument. There I met Casey (@waterfroggie) wearing a bike jersey from a Belgian brewery. Casey had come from Annapolis via bike and Metro to participate. Obviously Casey was hardcore. Kevin U. (@bicyclebug) showed up to ride his third Hoppy 100. Next came Avery and Kevin-the-Second, a thirsty couple from Arlington (I think). Our starting group was rounded out by the arrival of Rachel “Don’t Call Me Bob” Cannon (@rachelcannon), Peter (@jopamora) and our main man, John Roche (@dirteng).
After introductions we were off in search of brunch. To warm up a bit, we took a ride down to Hains Point, a spit of land along the Potomac River opposite National Airport. It became immediately clear that this was a chatty bunch in no need of beer to loosen our tongues. We crossed over the river on the 14th Street bridge and took the Mount Vernon Trail to the Four Mile Run Trail south of the airport. About a mile later we came upon a barrier forbidding our passage. This was literally as sign that this Hoppy 100 would go just about as smoothly as the first two. Uh oh.
Being very familiar with the trails in these parts, I routed us without delay across Four Mile Run via the US 1 bridge to a parrallel trail. After re-crossing the Run about a mile later (and encountering a man dancing rather erratically to his own jam in the middle of the bridge) we reconnected with the Four Mile Run Trail and sped hungrily to Shirlington. In Shirlington, we encounted a street festival of sorts but the assorted crafters and dog people were no match for our hunger and thirst. We met up with Kathy (@arlingtonrider) who conveniently lives in Shirlington and reserved brunch accomodations at Busboys and Poets. We were joined by Bob “Don’t Call Me Rachel” Cannon (@Rcannon100) and his wife Elizabeth.
We ate and talked and talked and ate. Rachel, just back from a summer interning at a museum in Alaska, told many tales about the resourceful and eccentric residents of Haines. She is still adjusting to life in the lower 48, particularly when it comes to prices of food. She could be the only person I have ever heard say, “Food is so inexpensive in DC!!!” (When we first moved to DC, whenever we drove out of town, my wife and I would buy groceries there because food is so costly here.)
Stuffed and caffeinated, we headed out on the Washington and Old Dominion Trail. A light drizzle began to fall but we were not deterred. We knew that in just a few miles we would be tasting a fine pint of beer. Ahh.
Elizabeth bid us godspeed and with Bob in the fold we left the W&OD and began our ride through North Arlington. We rode up. And up. And up. And up. There were a few downs in between but the ups won out. The crew did itself proud on the hills with Peter easily taking the King of the Mountains. (I suck at hills. How much do I suck? Rachel hadn’t ridden a bike in three months and she whupped my ass.) At Glebe Road, the high point of our time in Arlington, Kathy turned around and headed back to Shirlington.
After another mile of spining we found ourselves looking down at a narrow switchback that gave way to a scary steep side street that took us to Chain Bridge. All this hill is missing is the slalom poles and some snow. We were but one brake failure from certain death. Rachel’s front brake was not working so we all stood by and cheered as she plunged to her doom.
I just made that up so that her parents would freak out. (She’s fine. Really. Just some surface wounds and a mild concussion.)
We made it safely to the bridge and across the Potomac River. The skies were gray and depressing.
We took the unpaved C&O Canal Towpath to the Capital Crescent Trail. The CCT was our route up to Bethesda. Normally, the CCT is thick with exercisers but not on this misty, gray day. After some confusion in Bethesda Row, we found the unpaved Georgetown Branch Trail. The rain had turned the GBT into a slippery mess, and Little Nellie’s wee tires were not very happy skidding this way and that. Helpfully, the rain intensified a bit.
In Silver Spring Maryland we went through a maze of streets until we found Denizen’s Brewery. It was 2 o’clock. Denizen’s didn’t open until 3. Fail.
Peter and Casey headed for their respective homes. The rest of us decided to ride on and, leading the way without a clue, I took a wrong turn. We stopped to regroup and the skies opened up. We huddled under an awning and comiserated, with the emphasis on miserated. We decided to ride a few blocks to the Fire Station restaurant and seek refuge from the deluge.
The service was slow but they had beer. Yay. And hot soup. YAY! We ate and talked and checked the radar on our smartphones and talked etc. After 3, we decided to backtrack to Denizen’s where we found Peter hanging out with his wife and kids. They were on their way to get ice cream because nothing slays a gray, drizzly summer day like ice cream
Except beer. The folks at Denizen’s were exceptionally nice and so was their beer. We huddled in a non-air conditioned corner drying our outsides out and wetting our insides. I should point out that we only had a couple of drinks at each bar so we weren’t getting drunk. Except for Rachel who was useless after her 8th pint. (I totally made that up. Sorry Mr. and Mrs. Cannon.)
After an hour of hanging out, the rain turned into a light drizzle. Avery and Kevin-the-Second headed off to the Metro. Bob reversed course to head back to his home in North Arlington. John, Rachel, Kevin, and I headed back into DC. We decided to skip the last two breweries since the evening was nearly uponus. We took the Metropolitan Branch Trail. For about half it’s distance, the MBT is just some signs on streets. During this bit, Kevin U. veered off for home. Near Catholic University the MBT becomes and honest-to-Jesus bike trail. (Was the Pope in on this?) It is gradually downhill, the rain had stopped, and we had a tailwind. Bike joy was had.
Rachel turned off to head for a dinner date with friends. John and I rode to the end of the trial and parted company.
From there, I headed home. Once across the Potomac I was treated to an empty Mount Vernon Trail and a persistent tailwind. I arrived home just before nightfall with 70 miles on the odometer.
Many thanks to John Roche for designing the route and recruiting such a fine crew.
New Years Day is weird. It’s a time out at the start of the game. What a waste. We should all go to work and save the day off for August or late April when we can really use a day off. But you go with what you got, so I did.
I read the paper then read some more of a book I received as a gift for Christmas. It’s about slavery and academe in colonial America. Nothing like a book full of hate to kick start the new year. Thoroughly depressed, I decided to get out of the house. Ideally, I would have preferred going for a walk in the woods but that would have required a drive and it was already noon. So I decided to take a short ride on The Mule.
I headed north on the Mount Vernon Trail with no destination in mind. Kids were out showing off their new Christmas bikes to mom and dad. Pink bikes with tassles are big this year. (I suppose they are big every year.) I’m no fan of bringing little ones onto trails like the MVT but the traffic on the trail today was light and the kids were having a blast. (WOW! This bike is sooooo cool!)
Alas, The Mule is rather old like its rider. I bought it about 21 years ago. It just keeps rolling along without complaint. Maybe I should put some tassles on it.
I had a tailwind and the temperature was creeping up through the 40s as I rode. I gave the holey sweater the day off in favor of the long sleeved shirt that was under the Christmas tree. I guessed right and was perfectly comfy for the entire ride. Score one for Mrs. Rootchopper.
I headed in to DC to check out the New Year’s Day riding at Hains Point. It was pretty busy with grown ups in lycra riding their fancy pants bikes with skinny tires. I made no effort to keep up. I did one three-mile lap, saw no one that I knew, and decided to head back home. I was greeted by my first headwind of the New Year. Pedal pedal.
I rolled in to the driveway after 29.5 miles. My mind was calmed.
Tomorrow brings the first commute of the year. With a storm coming, high winds and frigid temperatures, I expect that I will telecommute on Friday. Gotta ease in to this 2014 thing.