Sundays Wear Me Out

What’s Buried in Grant’s Tomb? Winter.

The day began with another sign that winter is over. I finished Ron Chernow’s Grant. This was the last of the Christmas and get well books that have been on my nightstand since late December. It’s a mighty good biography.

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Blow Me Down

After reading, I headed outside for some wind storm clean up. We were really lucky. All we had in our yard was small branches and dead vines. It took about 90 minutes to get it picked up.

I could have worked more but I heard a cry from my bicycle shed and it sounded like my Cross Check saying “Ride me.”

So I did.

We went to the bank in Old Town Alexandria to deposit a check. On the way I passed under the Woodrow Wilson Bridge in Jones Point Park. Just beyond the bridge I saw a reminder of how lucky we were in this storm.

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Bald Eagles on My Mind

I hadn’t dressed quite warmly enough. I knew I wasn’t going to be out long. I turned around after ten miles and headed for home. I stopped to check out a bald eagle nest near the Mount Vernon Trail that I hadn’t seen before. This one is on the dirt road that goes through Dyke Marsh. The nest is about 200 yards from the marina access road (the one you cross when you leave Belle Haven Park heading south). With no leaves on the trees I had no trouble spotting the nest. It isn’t very big so I am guessing it’s new.  A good landmark is a bench on the right side of the trail facing away from the nest.

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Eagle nest with Dyke Marsh haul road in the foreground

This is one of three active nests along the Mount Vernon Trail between the beltway and the stone bridge, a distance of perhaps 3 miles. The other two are closer to the trail. A fourth nest which appears to be inactive can be seen across the Parkway from the trail about 1/4 south of the beltway.

A fifth nest, by far the biggest, is in Fort Hunt Park, about five miles south of the beltway. It is visible from the trail but it takes some searching. Go south past the Parkway ramps and across a curving wooden bridge on the trail. Once the trail rises a bit you get a clear view of the trees in the park and you’ll see a massive next. This one is definitely active.

If you don’t care to ride or walk along the trail to see bald eagles live you can always just watch them on the National Arboretum’s eagle cam. This nest is in the arboretum grounds in NE DC. The eagles are very active today so I think we’ll see an egg appear in the next day or so.

After my eagle nest diversion, I headed to my local bike shop to buy a new vest. They had all their winter clothes eon sale for 40 percent off. But no vests. Boo.

So I went to the gym to lift weights.

Then I rode 4 miles to home.

I am tired.

Nap time.

Lifting a Fog

For several hours after yesterday’s tentative 20-mile ride I felt fantastic, the best I’ve felt since the roof caved in three weeks ago. Temperatures this morning were in the 60s. I know a sign from the bike gods when I see one. It was time to push things a bit further.

I rode from my house to the Lincoln Memorial and back. For most of the 30-mile ride, I was cruising on flat ground. I felt fine. My lungs and heart felt completely normal. Normal is awesome.

So was the fog. The warm air caused the ice on the Potomac River to create amazing spooky clouds. The southerly breeze pushed the fog up against bridges and buildings. I stopped at the Reflecting Pool in front of the Lincoln Memorial. I could only see a few feet in front of me.

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Mount Vernon Trail heading north out of Belle Haven Park
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The Reflecting Pool and Washington Monument

At the Virginia side of the Memorial Bridge, visibility was nearly zero. I could barely see past my front wheel. I stopped and the wind blew a gap in the fog bank.

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Heading toward Arlington Cemetery on the Memorial Bridge

The ride home was into a steady head wind. If anything would test my heart and lungs. this surely would. After about two miles, I settled into a steady, calm breathing pattern. Dang.

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Fishing in the fog under the Woodrow Wilson Bridge in Jones Point Park

At 26 1/2 miles I decided to try climbing a bill. The Park Terrace Drive hill is well known to local commuters. I can easily break 30 miles per hour riding down it. Riding up it I am lucky to maintain 5 miles per hour. So It was pretty gratifying to see 4.9 on my speedometer only for a moment as I reached the top. It took a few seconds longer than normal for my heart rate to come back down but, having not ridden a hill in over three weeks, I was pretty darned pleased with how it went.

Sitting at home an hour or so later, I feel even better than yesterday. You might say I feel as if a fog has lifted.

 

 

 

Be Careful Out There

Last week a cyclists from out of town took a bike ride through Old Town Alexandria. He was headed for the southern part of the Mount Vernon Trail. His ride ended in an ambulance. He is in a local hospital in critical condition.

When the Woodrow Wilson bridge was being replaced, I bitched up a storm about the detours and the design of the trails that went beneath it. Both reflected a complete lack of understanding of bicycling. I focused on bollards that were painted black. And I described treacherous detours that changed by the week. One week there was gravel. Then next asphalt that gave way under the weight of a bike. There were sharp 90 degree turns in the dark. And on and on.

The Washington Area Bicyclists Association and folks from the Alexandria Bike Pedestrian Advisory Committee gathered officials from a number of agencies who were responsible for various aspects of the project. These included Alexandria city, the National Park Service, VDOT, and DHS. They walked these officials through the project and pointed out safety concerns and discussed design changes. Many changes were made including painting the bollards bright yellow and putting reflective material on them.

The bollards are part of an extensive security perimeter that is designed to keep vehicle bombs from blowing up the bridge. The bridge carries I-95 and the Beltway across the Potomac River so this perimeter is obviously justified. (The old bridge had no such protection. ) Other features of the perimeter include huge boulders, stout fences, significantly, a movable gate across the southern end of South Royal Street.

The gate is a metal bar that spans the width of the street. When a driver wants access, he enters a code into a keypad at the gate. The metal bar then descends into a metal slot in the pavement. Both the top and bottom of the gate and the area along the slot are painted yellow. When the vehicle has crossed the gap, the metal bar rises to block further access.

That’s how it’s supposed to work. After they installed the gate, it was often out of commission. Crews worked on it on and off. Every so often I’d see the gate was open and I’d ride through it. The alternative is a 20-yard-long side path that has three bollards across it. Why got through a narrow path when you don’t have to?

The cyclist from out of town rode toward the bridge. He saw an open gate. He rode through it. Either the bar was sitting above the slot or it was rising as he reached it, perhaps visually obscured by the yellow paint of the bar and the slot. And potentially shaded by the bridge or two large trees to either side of the street.

He hit the bar and went flying. He broke two vertebrae in his neck. As of this morning, a week later, he was still in critical condition at a local hospital. His wife was following him. She also hit the bar and fell but her injuries were not as severe.

Note that there are no warnings to cyclists that the open gate is a road hazard. No paint on the road surface or signs direct cyclists to the side path. Long story short, you might want to use the side path.

I hope the cyclist recovers.

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The security gate as seen from a south bound cyclist on South Royal Street.

 

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The security gate looking north.

Sunday Sight Seeing on the Mount Vernon Trail

On Sunday, two friends from my grad school days came over for brunch. Matt is not athletic. Mike is. Mike was going stir crazy staying with Matt so we agreed that I would take Mike for a bike ride after brunch. Fortunately, Mike is exactly my size so The Mule fit him. I rode my Cross Check.

Mike has a yard sale bike at home in Providence that he rides religiously once or twice a year. So I set a gentle pace. We did a tour of the Mount Vernon Trail bald eagle nests. Along the way Mike told me about how he recently used CitiBikes to ride around New York City. He said he would never have ridden a bike except for the fact that there are separate dedicated bike lanes. He felt totally safe. Mike should be the poster boy for urban bike infrastructure.

We made it to the Belle Haven nest but saw no eagles. As we rode further Mike told me about the  East Bay Bike Trail in Rhode Island. He loves it. I ran this once when it was a railroad line back in 1980 or 1981. It really sounds fantastic but Mike was annoyed that it wasn’t wide enough. Soon we entered Jones Point Park Mike was shocked to see a separate walking lane. (I didn’t have the heart to tell him that most walkers ignore it.)

Under the giant bridge and into Old Town. Then we took the Wilkes Street tunnel and Royal Street back to the Mount Vernon Trail. Continuing south we stopped at the Tulane nest. I could barely make it out with binoculars amid the dense foliage. Mike never saw it. Onward to the osprey (or maybe bald eagle nest) at the fishing hole. No birds, nice view.

Our next stop was the Morningside Nest which I couldn’t find at all amid the leaves. My bald eagle nest tour was becoming a bust.

We continued down the trail to Fort Hunt Park, stopping to admire Fort Washington on the opposite side of the Potomac River. We did a lap in the park then headed for Mount Vernon. About a half mile from the park  I pulled over for one more bald eagle nest. I just could not find it. As I was giving up, I looked up and there it was, right out in the open. Easily the biggest nest of all. Mike saw it too. And just as he focused on it, an eagle flew down and into it. The nest, or actually the outside structure of the nest, is so big that the bird just vanished. I could occasionally spot the bird’s head bopping up and down, probably feeding an eaglet. As we were watching the nest, a second bald eagle flew in circles overhead. Woot!

We started talking with a couple who were walking their dog. Just as we were about to leave they spotted a bizarre looking naval vessel making good time on the river heading toward DC. It had a sort of dazzle camouflage on its sides. Very cool.

I took Mike up to Mount Vernon. He did not much a
ppreciate the last hill. After a brief rest, we continued  beyond the estate for a photo op before heading back home.IMG_0023.JPG

23 1/2 miles, 1 strange boat, 2 bald eagles.Not bad for a lazy Sunday.

After he left things got at tad more interesting, but that’s a tale for another post….

 

Triple Play for Punxatawney Phil

As every American knows, Punxatawney Phil is a groundhog who comes out of his hole on Groundhog Day (dang, isn’t that clever). If he sees his shadow, there will be six more weeks of winter. If not, liberation! Lord only knows how this myth got started.

At least Phil isn’t as politically dubious as Indian summer.

So today was the first, honest to god springlike day of the year. It took about six hours of daylight to get going in earnest, but temperatures eventually rose into the high 60s.

I started the day warming up for Errandonnee 2016. This was once called the Utilitaire, a name I prefer only to annoy the Goddess of Errands.  Whatever it’s called, it’s all about doing errands by bike. Today, I took my neglected recumbent, Big Nellie, out for some chores. Our first stop was the dry cleaners. I could use a dry cleaner in our office building but I like the people who run the shop near my house. You have to support nice people. Even if their shop is on US 1 in Fairfax County. Not to put to fine a point on it, US 1 is an abomination. It sucks in every conceivable way. And it’s even worse if you are on a bike. If you don’t support nice people, you get not nice people. Nice people are more better.

Next stop was the clothes donation bin. This was on the opposite side of US 1 so I got to play with cars. None of them hit me.

I crossed back over US 1 and made for the local hardware store. The clothes donation bin was 100 yards from a Home Depot. The hardware store is run by nice people (one of the owners rides a bike up and down the Mount Vernon Trail in the mornings). They sell all sorts of useful stuff. Until you buy a house you probably don’t shop at hardware stores. For homeowners, hardware stores are like a toy store. They are filled with all sorts of interesting stuff. Ours sells 25 pound bags of shelled bird seed covered with cayenne pepper. It’s expensive but the squirrels don’t like it and the birds do. I bought a bag and dropped it in my old pannier. The ride home was a bit lopsided but Big Nellie was up to the task.

With the Errandonnee practice run complete, I turned my attention to my bete noire: Not the Bryan Ferry record, squeaky brakes. According to Google, “squeeky brakes” is
“freins grinçants” en Francais. Why didn’t I learn this in 4 1/2 years of studying French?

First I worked on Big Nellie’s back brakes. This involves putting this huge bike in a bike workstand, adjusting the brakes, taking the bike out of the stand, going for a test ride and repeating. All the while dropping F bombs, because you really need three hands and I only have two. (If we survive climate change, humans will sprout a retractable third hand from their appendixes. And I bet  you thought it was a useless vestigial organ.)

It took me only two tries and about 20 F bombs but I silenced the squeal.

Next I put The Mule in the stand and went at it. The brakes on Big Nellie are V-brakes. The brakes on The Mule are cantilevers. The adjustment is the same but you need an additional tool (a wrench) to work on cantilevers. This ups the f-bomb count substantially. Fortunately, The Mule isn’t as ungainly as Big Nellie so it’s easier to get into the stand. After about 15 minutes I had silenced the truly irritating screech from both front and rear brakes.

After a quick lunch, I hopped on Big Nellie for a reward ride. I rode over to the Mount Vernon Trail which was busy with families. Many of them had free range toddlers. If you want to identify suboptimal parents, just go to the busiest trail in the mid Atlantic on a warm, sunny day and look for the ones with free range toddlers. As a reformed suboptimal parent, I sympathize and ride especially carefully around these people. There are also the our-kid-got-a-bike-for-Christmas-let’s-go-get-them-killed parents. I know its a “bike path” but it’s got MAMILs and teenagers on it and your kid can’t ride in a straight line yet. DON’T BRING THEM TO A TRAIL!!! Sorry. Life’s not fair. (You can trust Scar on this.)

After a ride across the Woodrow Wilson Bridge sidepath which was filled with British sympathizers (they all seemed to walk on the left today), I rode down into Jones Point Park. Here I saw several optimal parents. They were teaching their kids to ride their bikes off the trail in the big paved area under the bridge. If you have a kid who’s learning to ride a bike TAKE THEM TO JONES POINT PARK. It even has nice bathrooms. And a rudder from a World War I ship.

I rode through Old Town to Four Mile Run, then came back through Del Ray. People were out and about. Cabin fever was being cured. Smiles abounded.

I took the Park Terrace hill on the way home. Riding hills on a recumbent is not big fun, but I needed a challenge. The grind put me in a trance and somehow I found myself riding over the crest of the hill.

So there you have it. Errands, Bike maintenance. Lazy ride.

A triple play on a sunny day.

Thanks Phil. See you in about three weeks.

 

Got Kids, Get Kidical

I recently found out that there is a ride for kids coming up. It goes from Jones Point Park, over the Woodrow Wilson Bridge, down a spiral ramp, around a cove, over an unpaved trail along the river to National Harbor. This is fun for an adult. It will be a gas for a kid. So if you have a kid and a bike, check out the Kidical Mass Alexandria ride to National Harbor.

If you think “My kid can’t do that” consider this. My son did 13 miles of Bike DC in the rain when he was 10. He also did the Tour du Port, 20 miles on the streets of Baltimore at the same age. He had only a one-speed bike but he didn’t care. He was so proud of himself. He had a blast. Give your kid a chance to have a blast and do the Kidical Mass ride from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Sunday, September 28.

Check it out here.

Obstruction Cleared

Obstruction Cleared

This morning before 7:45 the tree that obstructed the Mount Vernon Trail was removed. It probably took all of ten minutes to do.

It has been pointed out to me that both the Mount Vernon Trail and Jones Point Park are owned by the National Park Service. I believe that the city maintains this section of the park. Either way, leaving this obstruction here for five days is not the sign of a bicycling friendly city. A bicycling friendly city would make sure that it’s bicycling infrastructure is treated with the same urgency as any street in its jurisdiction.

Early Spring Ride

Looking out the window, the weather seemed dreamy.  I decided to go for a long Sunday bike ride. Just before leaving I checked Twitter and saw that my cycling friend Lisa just arrived at Mount Vernon about 3 miles from my house. I tweeted her to be on the lookout for me.

I interesected the Mount Vernon Trail  1 1/2 miles from my house. I turned right and in about 30 seconds saw Lisa coming my way.  I joined her for her ride back toward DC. Along the way we stopped at the Morningside bald eagle nest. Just as she dismounted behind me on the side of the trail, I pointed out the nest. No sooner had she said that she saw it, a bald eagle swooped in from the skies over the river and landed in the nest.

Lisa at the Morningside Nest

After the bird show, we resumed riding.  I kept getting far ahead of her because I was on Big Nellie and we were heading downhill. Big Nellie goes downhill incredibly fast. (Of course, going up hill is quite a chore, so all is fair.)  We stopped at the Belle Haven bald eagle nest but there were no eagles around. Next I showed her how to get on the Woodrow Wilson Bridge trail. Once she saw it she had to ride it so we took the trail over to National Harbor.

After gettting a drink at a coffee shop we wandered over to The Awakening statue. The Awakening used to be on Hains Point, but the Park Service kicked it out and it ended up in a cramped spot on a teeny bit of riverside beach. We posed for the obligatory pictures and started to leave when we bumped into Ted and Jean from Friday Coffee Club and their friend Jenny. We chatted and then headed out for Alexandria and lunch.

Lisa at Awakening

Lisa and Jenny at DC Cornerstone

We rode through Old Town and stopped at Buzz, a coffee shop and bakery on Slaters Lane. Here we partook of more chat and a light lunch (if you can call coffee and a cookie “lunch”).

Union Street Bike Gang

The wind was making a nice sunny day a little bit uncomfortable (just 10 more degrees and we are THERE, BABY!!!)  I headed home with a mighty tailwind. I rode onto my lawn and just managed to avoid running over the first crocus of spring.

First Crocus of 2013

It’s be here any day now.