It’s Not the Heat; It’s the Blossoms

People keep asking me what the best part of my bike tour was. I honestly don’t know. I’m still processing it. I did a quick review of my blog posts and was surprised at all the things I had forgotten. I’ll probably write a postmortem soon.

In the meantime, I am back on my bikes. While The Mule is in transit from San Francisco, I’m re-familiarizing myself with my other steeds. A few days ago I took my CrossCheck out for a twenty mile spin. It missed me.

Yesterday, the CrossCheck and I hit the road to check out the sunflowers at the McKees-Besher Wildlife Management Area in nearly exurban Montgomery County, Maryland.

The ride began with a trip to Friday Coffee Club. It was good to be back among my two-wheeled peeps. At about ten a.m. the last of the worker bees headed off to their respective offices and I made my way to Georgetown and the paved Capital Crescent Trail. After a few miles I cut over to the unpaved C & O Canal towpath. For several miles I dodged mud puddles. The surface was ridable but the CrossCheck was getting mighty grimy.

As I passed under the capital beltway, my sunglasses obscured the view of the towpath in the shadows. A chunk of the right side of the towpath had completely eroded by an epic rainstorm last week. Had I not slid my sunglasses to the tip of my nose, I could easily have crashed.

A few miles later I rode past a rather scary looking section of the towpath at Mather Gorge, where the river runs fast. In this section the towpath runs between the canal and a cliff above the raging boulder-strewn Potomac River. The Park Service had narrowed the path and banned cars (usually just maintenance vehicles). I duck walked part of this section not wanting to fall into a big mud puddle or over the side into the rocks far below.

From Great Falls Park the towpath alternated between perfectly passable to some of the nastiest washboard I’ve ever ridden. The washboard wasn’t like tractor tracks. The rains had carved erratic channels across the path. The CrossCheck became a bucking bronco when I hit them. I am a bit surprised I didn’t damage the bike in the process. I made it across but I may need to see a dentist soon.

The canal itself was in decent shape. I saw dozens of sunbathing turtles including a huge snapper who was splayed across a log. Three great blue herons stood motionless in the canal right next to the towpath. I didn’t bother trying to take a picture because as soon as I stopped they were sure to fly off.

I left the canal at Rileys Lock and headed toward the Poole General Store in Seneca for food and water. It was closed. No bueno.

Since there was no alternative I headed west on hilly River Road toward the sunflower fields. The hills here normally wipe me out but all that climbing out west made them seem trivial. Running out of breath was not about to happen either. The warm, humid air felt almost liquid. The residual effects of being at altitude made deeps breathing unnecessary.

I walked around two of the three sunflower fields. The sunflowers seemed to be in a state of morning with their head bowed. Still, from the proper angle, they put on a decent show.

After about an hour I headed back home. This involved a ten mile roller coaster ride on River Road to avoid the towpath and find food. At Potomac Village I went into a grocery store and bought water, a sandwich, and a yoghurt parfait. It didn’t begin to dent my hunger but I decided to ride on and find something else later.

After descending the long, windy hill on MacArthur Boulevard at Great Falls Park I cruised along flat canal road all the way to DC where I stopped at a gas station for a Gatorade. (Gone in 60 seconds.)

All day I had noticed a clicking sound coming from my right pedal. At the gas station I noticed that the platform of the pedal and become disengaged from the pedal axle. I was holding the pedal together with pressure from my foot.

The remainder of the ride took me across Georgetown, down and across the Potomac, and into Crystal City where I attended an outdoor happy hour. Cold beer tasted pretty good at this point.

The ten mile ride home was a wobbly affair. My legs were done, but I was pleased with my day’s work. 86 miles in all.

Today, I rode to the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens in DC to check out the lotus blossoms and water lilies. Because of the pedal problem on the CrossCheck, I rode Big Nellie, my Tour Easy long wheel base recumbent.

My legs were pretty beat. I stopped after four miles to buy some new pedals. They sold pedals with toe clips and straps already installed for $3 more than naked pedals. Sold.

The ride along the Mount Vernon Trail featured oncoming weekend warriors and tourists who kept passing as I approached. Fortunately for them, I left my bicycle death ray at home.

Into DC, I made my way across Southwest and near Southeast until I crossed the Anacostia River at 11th Street.

I followed the river and the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail upstream for several miles until I found the unpaved path to the Aquatic Gardens. The place was fairly crowded. Music was blaring from a stage. Both aspects didn’t appeal to me. I like quite with my lotus blossoms, thank you very much.

 

After walking around the ponds, I was drenched in sweat. I headed home, retracing my route along the bike trails. People kept tempting me into head on collisions all the way home. “Sorry.” “Oops.” “My bad.”

Head. Table.

I stopped for a quart of Gatorade and an chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwich. At home, I fought the urge to go inside and collapse. I spent a half hour swapping out the pedals on the CrossCheck. I also cleaned the towpath dirt off the bike and lubed the chain. Ready for another ride.

Tomorrow I am going hiking. I am hoping that the hiking poles that I bought before my tour, help my wonky hip and knee make it through the day without pain.

 

 

Lotus Blossoms, Water Lilies, and Arepas

All my cycling friends have been posting pictures of lotus and lily blossoms from the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens. Easy cycling access to the gardens is provided by the new Anacostia River Trail. This is good on two levels. First, well…, bikes, right? Second, finding the place in a car is a PIA.

Mrs. Rootchopper has tried to find it a number of times and ended up at athletic fields and in sketchy neighborhoods. We drove to the gardens today and,with the help of Google maps, found the athletic fields. Go technology!

We pulled up the area on the phone and we found it! Just back track and make an improbably turn down a side street in the neighborhood adjoining the athletic fields. Follow the road around a 90 degree right turn and over some epic speed bumps, and there it is!

Once clear of the parking area, you enter an area of green. It’s almost as if you are walking into a children’s book. The walkway takes you right to the main event: ponds filled with lotuses and water lilies. The leaves of the lotuses are about the size of a wheel cover on a car.

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The spent blossoms (the green part inside the pedals in the picture below) look like water wands used by florists to gently water their plants. And the blossoms look like WOW!

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Some of the stems stretch up as high as seven feet. The water lilies are much, much smaller and only inches above the water itself but their colors are electric. They look like little hallucinations.

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We left after about 45 minutes. It was muggy and a storm was approaching.

We drove to Union Market in Northeast DC. The storm hit while we were driving down busy Benning Road. We could see a distinct rain line; it looked like a shower curtain liner. And a about as thick. It was over in 5 seconds. No lie. Weird.

At Union Market we headed to Arepa Zone. Arepa’s are a Venezuelan food that I learned of from my 50 States Ride buddy Emilia, who is from Caracas. Basically they are sandwiches that look like corn bread pies. Inside is goodness of your choosing. They aren’t all that big but they have mucho calories. Yummy.

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There are some pictures over on my Flickr page.

Amanda Buy the Bike Already – and Other Thoughts

  • Amanda works with me. She keeps talking about getting a bike. I just can’t seem to get her from talk to action. On the way home from work, I took a picture from the Dyke Marsh bridge on the Mount Vernon Trail.

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Amanda was really surprised. I keep telling her my bike commute rocks! I haven’t told her about having incoming jets fly right over my head as the land on the second runway at National Airport. Or the dozens of downy egrets in the river. Or the morning glories in bloom in the wetlands north of Old Town. Or the opera singer. Or…..

  • I have confession to make. I feel like a jerk. I am short changing some friends who are asking for donations connected to one charity bicycling event or another. A month ago I gave money to support Mike who is doing the Bike to the Beach ride. Proceeds go to autism support and research. Today, Emilia announced she is doing the ride too. I gave money when Katie said she was doing a Climate Ride. About two months later another Katie announced that she was doing another Climate Ride. Then Grace announced that she was doing a Climate Ride. How do you manage all these donations? You can’t budget for them. You feel bad if you give different amounts to each of your friends. Can you tell I was raised Catholic?
  • Watching one friend stress out over raising money made me decide to drop doing a charity ride this fall. It’s a good event for a good cause, cancer. I feel bad not doing it because so many people in my family have had cancer. (My father, my mother, a sister, a brother, my wife, three aunts, two uncles. Sorry kids, the gene pool’s a complete mess.) I want to focus on preparing for my tour to Key West and making sure I am ready to ride to the Pacific next summer. My aging body probably has only one shot at making it. Spending my summer stressing out over fundraising just didn’t float my boat.
  • There are two things to do if you are in DC this weekend.
    • You should go to the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens. The water lilies and lotuses are in bloom. I’ve never been there and the pictures I am seeing online are driving me nuts.
    • And then there is the Tour de Fat. It’s a party put on by New Belgium Brewing to raise money for local bike charities. There will be live music and cold beer. I volunteered to work in the beer tent again.
  • And finally a note about the #bikedc DL. Dave just got cleared to get back on a bike after breaking his leg doing an Arte Johnson. A day or two ago, Alex collided with a salmoning cyclist. (When you ride against the flow of traffic, you are salmoning.) She broke her jaw. So Dave and Alex, be patient. You’ll be back to (your abnormal version of) normal in no time. The Rootchopper Institute sends you its thoughts and prayers (because we are waaay to lazy and cheap to bring you a beer.)

Looking Up – YODO

  • A year ago I was riding my bike in northern Michigan. It was cool. Literally. Riding around DC in the summer is an exercise in adaptation. After 101 miles the other day, I feel adapted. Near death, but adapted. When I moved here in the mid 1980s I tried to maintain my New England running life. It was impossible in the summer. I’d lose a pound per mile in sweat and there were no water fountains around to get a drink from.
  • I often take pictures of the sky. So when life gets me down, all I need to do is look up. And well….

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I took this picture while sitting at Nationals Park.  It was so sunny that I couldn’t see the result on my phone. Then I got home and looked at it. Yeah, it was really this nice out.

  • A friend of mine recently posted a quote from Ray Bradbury on her Facebook page:

If we listened to our intellect we’d never have a love affair. We’d never have a friendship. We’d never go in business because we’d be cynical: “It’s gonna go wrong.” Or “She’s going to hurt me.” Or,”I’ve had a couple of bad love affairs, so therefore . . .” Well, that’s nonsense. You’re going to miss life. You’ve got to jump off the cliff all the time and build your wings on the way down.” 

Ray Bradbury, you are a putz. If we listened to our intellect, we’d never find ourselves in toxic relationships.  Only an idiot jumps into business without thinking things through. Taking risks is foolhardy unless you minimize them first. It’s obvious that Ray Bradury never went on a bike tour. If you don’t use your head, you will find yourself in the middle of nowhere with a failing tire. In the rain. With a head cold. Miserable. Been there. Done that. Thinking doesn’t make you a cynic; it just makes you prepared. (Bring a spare tire, dummy!) Go ahead and jump off that cliff, but you might want to be wearing a parachute, because the rocks will mess your ass up. Or you can follow Old Ray’s advice and, as they say in Minnesota, thin the herd.

Our disagreement on the Ray Bradbury quote probably explains why I haven’t seen or heard from this particular friend in nearly two years.  She’s a YOLO person. I’m a YODO person.

  • I signed up to dispense beer at the Tour de Fat in DC. It’s an event that celebrates bikes, beer, music, and such. And it raises money for local bike advocacy groups. Now if you think about it, you might not come. So forget what I said about Ray Bradbury and come on out. Even if you don’t drink beer and I haven’t seen or heard from you in two years.
  • I’ve lived in DC for over 30 years. For much of that time I could go out and not run into a single person I knew. It was very strange. It’s not that way anymore.  There were four people that I know who visited Great Falls Park on the C&O canal this weekend. I only saw one of them as I rode past on Saturday but the coincidence is kind of neat.
  • Also during that 30 years, I have never seen the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens when the water lillies are in bloom. That happens this month. I would love to go this weekend but I will be out of town. If you are in DC, you should go. And, best of all, you can bike there on the new Anacostia River Trail.