Heat Wave

At this time in each of the last three years, I was riding somewhere far away. In 2017, I was crossing the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. In 2018. I was in the Idaho panhandle. In 2019, I had finally left the high mountains and landed in San Francisco. This year I am in hell.

We are in the midst of a heat wave here in the mid-Atlantic. Temperatures have been in the 90s for days on end. Humidity is stifling too. Today, at the end of my bike ride the temperature was 97, but the effect of the high relative humidity made it feel like 108.

Seriously.

I managed to crawl 21 miles on Big Nellie before throwing in the figurative towel. Too bad it wasn’t a literal one; I was dripping wet, as if I had fallen into a pool.

Yesterday, despite the brutal heat, I rode to the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens. In July, water lilies, lotuses, and a few other types of flowering plants bloom. The Gardens has a series of ponds separated by walking paths. The lotuses were showing off. The water lilies were being shy. Riding there was a 23 mile jaunt. I brought a trekking pole to help my back handle the walk around the ponds. What I really needed was a parasol. I managed about 30 minutes blossomy zen before heading home.

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On the way home I cut through Capitol Hill. The streets on the eastern part of the hill were littered with piles of spent fireworks and snacks., the detritus of a night of prodigious DIY celebrating. Whoever lives in this area spent thousands on fireworks.

My return route took me to Lincoln Park on Capitol Hill. The park is a square awkwardly bordered by city streets. It’s a beautiful oasis filled with green grass and majestic old trees. The Emancipation Statue in the middle of the park has been the subject of protests; it depicts Lincoln standing tall and a freed slave on his knees looking up at his liberator. Right now it is surrounded by a series of jersey barriers which are surrounded in turn by a chain link fence, to deter protesters from trying to take the statue down. You may have seen all the ruckus about the statue on the news recently. You probably didn’t see what I saw as I rolled past: folks from the neighborhood relaxing on the lawn, hanging out in the shade. DC is an interesting place.

An Iceberg Calved on My Head

It’s soooo hot and muggy here in DC. Some people really like this. I do too but there’s a limit to everything. Today we passed my limit.

The morning was actually not half bad. The temperature was about 80 degrees and it was very humid. This is not a problem on a bike ride of only 75 minutes such as my commute. There was no need to loosen up. The heat and humidity did it for me. I settled right into my trance.

Pedal, pedal.

I cruised past the halfway point, around the Slater’s Lane apartments on the river. The trail turns away from the river and joins a spur that goes to the opposite side of the apartments. A woman was standing on the grassy island where the trails join. I paid her no mind and cruised past. I looked left to make sure the coast was clear and spotted something familiar. A white pannier with black leafy accents. The pannier had two large loop handles protruding from the top of the bag. I turned off the trail and headed back. Those panniers are unique and the belong to my friend Kirstin who was standing next to her Long Haul Trucker.  How I missed her on my first pass I’ll never know. She has RED hair. (I used to but the last of it left sometime in the Carter administration.)

As soon as she saw me she yelled: “Rootchopper!”

Kirstin rode all the way down from DC, about ten miles, to accompany her friend Yolanda on her ride to work in DC. Yes, she’s that nice.

Digression on #bikedc Connections: I met Mary at the 2010 50 States Ride. Mary is one of the co-founders of Friday Coffee Club. She occasionally runs with Kirstin and told her about Friday Coffee Club, which is where Kirstin and I met.  Kirstin’s husband Tom works out with Ed who is the father of Lolly who used to work for the Washington Area Bicyclists Association (WABA). I volunteered to recruit new WABA members one evening. Lolly came to help, subbing for Alex. I met Alex in Baltimore on a bike ride. Alex saw a SharrowsDC logo pin on my saddle bag and asked if I was from DC. I bought the pin from Brian (who is @sharrowsdc on the interwebs) who sold them to raise money for WABA. Brian is one of the co-founders of Friday Coffee Club.

So, back to our tale. Kirstin and Yolanda and I rode five miles or so to the 14th Street Bridge where they peeled off to cross the river while I carried on to my office in Rosslyn across from Georgetown. It was fun riding with them, a great change of pace for me. I have to admit that it was a bit frustrating too. Kirstin can chat a blue streak and the trail is too narrow to ride side by side. So we’ll just have to do another ride together.  Maybe I won’t get lost this time.

The ride home was a whole ‘nother ballgame. Damn was it hot. And muggy. I did fine for about 3 or 4 miles but for some reason my lungs started to ache. Not when I was breathing though. I was not having fun. I plugged along with the pain coming and going and eventually staying. In Old Town I pulled over and took two hits from my albuterol inhaler. I was hoping this would help as it did when I made a rather painful 3 a.m. trip to the ER in May 2016. It didn’t.

I crawled through Old Town. I noticed that sipping from my bottle seemed to help. I made it to Belle Haven Park, about 4 1/2 miles from home. I stopped for some fresh, cool water. And it worked! The pain subsided.

I have no idea what the heck was going on with my lungs but I felt good enough to pull over and take a picture at Dyke Marsh. As you can see, I was no longer dying.

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I actually have a friend who prefers this kind of weather. She is insane. We met during the 50 States Ride on an oppressively hot and muggy day just like this. She appeared to be thriving. The other riders in our group not so much.

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Suffice it to say, we were abandoned to our wretched fate. (The woman in the photo and I actually finished. The dude lasted another few miles before bailing out when we got near his home.)