Errandonnee 2019: Take me out to the happy hour

Another day, another errand. The third Thursday of the month hereabouts means that it’s time for another BikeDC happy hour. This one was held on the Dew Drop Inn in northeast DC.

The festivities began at 5 which gave me all day to ponder happiness. What better way to do that than to go to an afternoon baseball game at Nationals Park with my daughter. Our seats were sweet, on the 300 level between home plate and the Nationals dugout.

View from 317

The game lasted 3 hours and the good guys won, but not without some ninth inning drama. No worries, Dr. Doolittle saved the day. After the game, I headed rode north past the Capitol. (Ho hum. Life in the capital of the free world.) I made my way to the Metropolitan Branch Trail which runs along the railroad corridor heading north from Union Station. Using the MBT allows bicyclists to bypass probably a dozen traffic lights. It’s sweet.

The Dew Drop Inn is at the current northern terminus of the MBT. It’s a bar in an small, old industrial building. Fortunately, it serves food. I had beer and a sandwich during the 90 minutes I was there. For all 90 minutes I sat in the direct sun and fried my forehead. Dumb. The picnic tables on the patio where we sat were covered with tree pollen. (We cleaned them off.)

I rode home with progressively less sunlight and seemingly more and more pollen. At times I had to slow to a crawl in order to get the pollen out of my eyes and throat. Once I cross the Potomac River, I added midges to my misery. For 12 miles. At least the weather was enjoyable.

Errand No. 8

Category: Social Call (2nd use)

Place: Third Thursday Happy Hour at the Dew Drop Inn

Observation: The Metropolitan Branch Trail is like a bicycle expressway in the heart of DC. No red lights. Only a couple of stop signs. Relatively flat.

Dew Drop
Photo by Ted Nigrelli

 

Winter Weather or Not

Nine years ago today, a 32-year-old bike commuting friend of mine posted these words on my Facebook page:

“I just could not feel my body in the cold. So I damaged it without noticing it!”

What a difference nine years makes! Today was almost summer-like in DC. I saw a roadside sign that indicated it was 78F degrees at 3:30.

Of course, I saw this sign while out on my bike.

I didn’t get started until just before midday. I had spent the morning eating diner food and going to the library with Mrs. Rootchopper.  With my belly and brain satisfied, I was off on my Cross Check for a jaunt up the Anacostia River.

I began my ride on the Mount Vernon Trail. I crossed the Potomac River on the Woodrow Wilson Bridge Trail. Once in Maryland, I made the long slog up to Oxon Hill Road. The climb goes right past a massive MGM casino. The ginormous electronic sign indicated that Cher was performing there this month. I don’t gamble and I don’t Cher so let’s just say the whole casino thing is lost on me. I think the complex looks like the Imperial Star Destroyer from Star Wars. I prefer Mos Eisley bars to casinos.

Having reached Oxon Hill Road I made my way to Oxon Hill Farm and proceeded to ride right back down the hill to the river. Somebody’s got some explaining to do.

The Oxon Cove Trail winds its way to a enclave of public buildings including a police training facility, a city bus maintenance yard, some Smithsonian greenhouses and a vocational training complex. After perusing all these fine public sector facilities, I rode right back up the hill to Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue.

MLK Jr. Ave is not exactly where it’s at. I think maybe it’s were it might have been at about 80 years ago. It’s actually kind of depressing. My ride north took me past the grounds of St. Elizabeth’s nervous hospital. The complex is being taken over by the Department of Homeland Security which probably says something snarky about DHS.

The ride through Congress Heights and Anacostia was interesting. Drivers in this part of DC use the freestyle method of motoring. Random u-turns, lane changes, horn honking are the rule. I waved a thank you to a driver for not cutting me off and he laid on his horn. De nada, dude.

Suffice it to say, my rather precarious medical condition made me apprehensive for this part of the ride. I was happy to see the Anacostia River Trail which runs rather appropriately along the Anacostia River. And so, like a Yogi Berra malapropism, I took it. North. The scenery was still the grays and browns of winter but the temperature told me it was late spring.

I rolled along the trail past the garbage consolidation facility (helps with the sinuses don’t you know), past the Aquatic Gardens (the flower show happens much later in the year), through assorted fields, both natural and athletic, and around a cement plant to Bladensburg. As I crossed over the Anacostia, I passed about five priests (or, more likely, seminarians as they all looked pretty young). We waved at each other. I said “Mea Culpa” three times for good measure. (I was a altar boy who had to learn the Latin Mass and the English Mass, a biographical fact that dates the crap out of me. )

I am kidding about the Mea Culpas, by the way.

Once across the river I consulted the Google for advice on how to ride home without retracing my steps. I rode up the river until the trail split into the Northeast and Northwest Branch Trails. I took the latter and spotted a cupcake shop, a landmark from the Cider Ride last November. I didn’t stop. (I know, what a fool.) But I did find a trail that would take me back toward DC.

After a few miles I bailed on the trail It would have taken me to Queens Chapel Road which I am familiar with. Basically, it’s a bicycle death trap. So I started riding neighborhood streets and following the sun. I found myself back in DC riding a straight street to the west. In these parts “straight” almost always translates into “hilly”. As I slogged up one long hill, I passed an old man doddering around his front yard. He looked at me and remarked, “Better you than me.”

I love it when I’m mocked.

Soon I was in familiar territory. Monroe Street leads to 8th Street which leads to the Metropolitan Branch Trail. How nice of someone to put a trail with very few cross streets right in the middle of a city. The trail took me back southward and after a wiggle and waggle I was on a cycletrack that took me right past the incomparably boring Bureau of Labor Statistics.

I rode past a scrum of photographers at a courthouse. They were waiting to take a picture of a Trump associate who was being charged with treason or money laundering or some such offense. (I can’t keep it all straight, to be honest.)

Soon thereafter I was riding along the National Mall pretending I was in the Olympic tourist dodge event. I was pretty proud that I didn’t hit a single one.

After the podium ceremony, I rode around the tidal basin and over the 14th Street Bridge to the Mount Vernon Trail. The 12-mile ride from the bridge to my house was interrupted by a stop at the gym, because nothing improves a 48 1/2 mile bike ride quite like lifting weights.

Fug.

I arrived home exhausted but still had some physical therapy exercises to do. I am doing these because my left shoulder is on the blink.

Despite trying really hard, I did not damage my body. I guess you need cold weather to do that.

 

 

There Is No I in This Nelle

There’s Big Nellie. There’s Little Nellie. Then there’s Nelle. No big. No little. All awesome.

Nelle tweeted that she was riding to Jones Point Park to check out the Washington Area Bicyclist Association’s bike class for adults. I’d was looking for an excuse to go for a short ride so I thought I check this out.

I rode to the Park. The bike class is held underneath the Woodrow Wilson Bridge. It’s a paved parking lot that nobody uses for parking. Seeing as how you can’t park there, you might just as well learn stuff there. There are sword fighting classes, intense fitness classes, little kids’ bike classes, and, now, bike classes for grown ups.

The bridge is about 5 – 5 1/2 miles from my house. When I was about 100 yards away, I realized that I had left my lock at home. I swung by the class to check it out. Nelle wasn’t there and the instructors were much to busy getting their students set up to ride, so I figured I’d go back home. I took a hilly route just for variety’s sake. The 10 1/2 round trip was uneventful. It would have been eventful but for the fact that I biked past my friend Lisa who was walking a dog near Belle Haven Park.

Once back at the class I found Nelle who was talking to WABA member named Dave. Dave supports the classes out of enlightened self interest.  He figures that the more people we get riding in Alexandria (the city abutting the park and Dave’s town of residence), the better biking will be for everyone in Alexandria, Dave included.

Jason also showed up. He’s a former WABA trail ranger who had ridden down from North Arlington. After talking a while, Nelle got the idea of riding back to DC by way of the Wilson Bridge. Jason and I decided to ride with her.

We crossed the bridge on the busy side path. On the Maryland side we enjoyed riding the corkscrew trail down to the river’s edge. We took a left up Harborside Avenue and began the long ride up to Oxon HIll Road. I had plenty of time to check out the new casino being built. It’s huge. I said the ride was up a long hill but Nelle didn’t seem to notice. She was nice enough to wait for Jason who was not far behind and me who was waaaaaay behind.

Apparently, this hill is Oxon Hill because the road at the top is called Oxon Hill Road. Recently MDOT completely redid Oxon Hill Road so I led a tour of the improvements. Prior to these changes Oxon Hill Road was a lousy place to ride a bike. No bike lanes, broken pavement, heavy traffic going too fast, etc. Now there are bike lanes, sometimes protected from other traffic by an island. Also there were three roundabouts which did a nifty job of calming traffic. I took Nelle and Jason to near the start of the Matthew Henson Trail. This paved trail goes through the woods and some fields. It doesn’t seem to connect to much but thought it would be good for Nelle to know where it was in case she encountered it at work somehow.

We took Fort Foote Road back about half way to where we started on Oxon Hill Road. It’s an uninspiring suburban street that has much less traffic that Oxon Hill Road. Nelle was interested in Fort Foote but I checked it out and there’s nothing much to see anymore.

Back on Oxon Hill Road we headed for Oxon Hill Farm. The bike connection to the farm requires some idiotic sidewalk riding but being idiots we found it easy to navigate. The route through the farm goes down a steep, bumpy, windy road. There are deer and wild turkey in the woods along the descent but not today. We hooked up with Oxon Hill Farm Trail and rode it along Oxon Cove. At the bridge over Oxon Creek we stopped so that Nelle could eat one of her anabolic steroid chews. She said it was a chewy candy snack. After seeing her fly up Harborview Avenue, I have my doubts.

DSCN4864_1274.JPGWe checked out some Canada geese goslings and a swimming snake in the creek then headed into the corner of SE DC. Here near the police academy we admired the creepy Guns to Ploughshares sculpture, made from guns that DC police had taken off the streets back in the days when DC was the murder capital of the US. Chris Roell who runs the weekly BicycleSpace ride in Anacostia appeared out of nowhere to tell us about the sculpture and Anacostia. He explained that the sculpture was once located in downtown DC. Just the thing for tourists, right. DC thought better of it and moved it to its current location. We thanked Chris and his riding partner Sara (I think. My fusiform gyrus is still messed up.) and headed on to Anacostia.

We climbed a steep hill to Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. I climbed it. Jason rode up it numbly. Nelle took it like it wasn’t there. (Sugar candies, my ass.)

Once on MLK we rode through depressingly down trodden neighborhoods. There was plenty of car and bus traffic and a bumpy road surface just to keep things interesting. At one point Nelle got impatient with a car that was blocking her way. She hopped off her bike, picked the car up, and tossed it aside. Sugar candies. (Okay, I made that up.)

We crossed over the 11th Street Bridge and stayed on 11th through Capitol Hill. Mass Ave to us to a little grocery store where we bought cookies. Jason bought a black and white. I bought a chocolate chip. Nelle bought a BALCO sugar cookie. (Would I lie?)

Nelle led us through Columbus Circle in front of Union Station. What an insane mess of traffic. Our reward was the 1st Street cycletrack, a protected two-way bike lane painted lime green. The cycletrack took us to the Metropolitan Branch Trail. Once on the MBT the BALCO cookie must have been metabolized and Nelle flew up the trail. She confessed earlier that she is worried that she might not be in good enough shape to do the four day Climate Ride from New York City to DC in September. Not gonna be a problem lady.

At R Street Nelle continued on the MBT while Jason and I headed across town on the R Street bike lane. At 15th I said goodbye to Jason and headed up the cycletrack to Meridian Hill Park. This involved another tough climb. I was rewarded with a park bench and a sammich I bought back at the cookie stop. The park was packed with people. Usually people are playing frisbee, using hula hoops, doing acroyoga, slacklining and such. Today people were sitting around chatting, reading or just catching some rays.

After eating I headed down 16th Street to the White House, then around the Treasury Building, passed the Washington Monument and the Jefferson Memorial and over the Potomac River on the 14th Street Bridge.

The weather was perfect but for a strong gusty wind and so much pollen that my eyes felt like they were filled with sand. Once across the river, the wind was at my back. I had a nice push for the last 12 miles home.

So my short ride turned out to be 59 hilly, windy miles. Thanks to Jason for the company. Thanks to Nelle, who despite many opportunities to do so, did not drop me. Proving there is no I in this Nelle.

Here are some more pix.

 

 

 

Three Stage Bike Commuting

I have been a sloven blogger. Monday’s ride to work featured a five minute conversation with Ellen, a bike rider whom I have never seen before. She was admiring my Bike Friday. I will likely never see her again. Such is the impermanence of the social life of the moving cyclist.

Tuesday was a great day to ride to work. So I worked from home. Instead of doing a short bike ride in the evening I mowed my lawn. This frees up Saturday so I can go for a hike in Shenandoah National Park with Ultrarunnergirl. Woot!

Can. Not. Wait.

Yesterday’s bike commute came in three stages. It was like the Tour de France only not so much. The ride to work was uneventful. I was hoping a random passing cyclists would admire my legs and chat me up, but, as is always the case, this didn’t happen.

Stage two was an evening ride from the office to Smith Public Trust in the Brookland neighborhood of DC. This ride took me across town at rush hour. I managed to improvised a route that made it a breeze. I took the Mount Vernon Trail to the 14th Street Bridge. (Along the way I passed the snow goose which I am now convinced is a swan.) From there I rode into Southwest DC. Up 7th Street all the was to K Street NW. Then K to the Metropolitan Branch Trail which dropped me off about a mile from the pub. There was a happy hour to wish Shane Farthing a fare thee well as he moves on from his position as the Managing Director of the Washington Area Bicyclists Association.

There were many #bikedc people. I met many #bikedc people. There were nachos. There was beer. I stayed way too long.

I headed for home at around 9:30. Thankfully, Dave Salovesh  escorted me down the MBT. I was riding Little Nellie which has little wheels. Little wheels are fun to ride because they are twitchy.Twitchy is not a good thing when you’ve been drinking. (Biking is not a good thing when you’ve been drinking. The Brookland transporter pod was broken leaving me little choice.) I was also using clipless pedals for the third time since March.

I nearly killed myself trying to negotiate a sharp left turn on the trail. I tried to unclip to put my foot down but the shoe wouldn’t disengage. I rode off the trail, luckily into some grass. No fatality, no foul.

Dave took me to the new 1st Street NW cycletrack. It is fantastic. There is a concrete berm, a physical separation between the main lane and the cycletrack. Wonderful.

Dave headed to Salovesh Estates on Capitol Hill. I headed west on the mall then took my usual route home on the Mount Vernon Trail.

It was raining lightly. My head was clearing from the beer. Now I was just dead tired. Only 14 miles to go.

Pedal. Pedal.

Watch out for that fox!

Watch out for that rabbit!

Watch out for that deer!

And here I was worried about cars in the city. The damned wildlife nearly got me.

I made it home around midnight.

After six hours of sleep, I rode to work today.

I am on my way home.

By way of the Third Thursday Happy Hour in Shirlington.

Wetting My Whistle – The 2014 Hoppy 100

The curse is on us. 

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).

DSCN3277_434
All Smile on Hains Point

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. 

DSCN3286_425
Note Rachel and Avery Are Freezing. We Were Wet and Sitting under a Ceiling Fan

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

DSCN3285_426
In Which We Learn that It’s Not Open

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. 

Here are some more pix from the ride.