Coffeeneuring – Part Deux

On alternate Thursdays my wife and I go out for breakfast. Today we chose the Crystal City branch of a Northern Virginia institution, Bob and Edith’s Diner. As is usually the case, I had mucho cups of coffee with my meal.

Place: Bob and Edith’s Diner, 23rd Street S., Arlington VA.

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The Crosscheck made use of this fantastic bike rack.

Date: October 17

What I drank: one gallon of their drip coffee (not half bad I must say)

Ride Details: The forecast was for strong winds out of the WNW. With temperatures in the low 50s, I dressed in layers. Long rain (actually wind) pants, a short sleeve base layer, a t-shirt, a wind breaker jacket, a buff, and a headsweat. I was ready to put on long sleeve gloves over my mesh biking gloves. For the first seven miles I baked because the winds were moderate and at my back. Then, the wind changed. I got hammered. My clothing fit the bill. On the way home, I rode over the Memorial Bridge into DC and let the wind push me along Ohio Drive where I briefly chatted with #bikedc’s Randomduck (a.k.a Rudi). On the way hope I stopped to admire this just north of Old Town on the Mount Vernon Trail.

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Distance ridden: 30 miles.

 

No Pizza. No Problem.

One of my favorite local rides is a 50-mile loop from my house to Bethesda, Maryland and back. The first 12 were on the Mount Vernon Trail on the Virginia side of the Potomac River. I then crossed over to DC on the 14th Street Bridge. I rode along the river to Georgetown.  (I passed the new extension of the Kennedy Center which will merit a return trip.)

In Georgetown I took the Water Street cycletrack. This was great except for the school bus that off loaded 30 high school girls on the cycletrack. Did you know that when you’re off loaded into the cycletrack you absolutely must chat for a minute with five of your BFFs before moving to the sidewalk?

At the end of Water Street I picked up the Capital Crescent Trail which took me sveral miles straight to Bethesda Row where every person in Montgomery County was ambling slowly about at a closed streets art festival.

I went to Bethesda Bagels to get a slice of pizza. Don’t ask me why a good bagel shop has good pizza. Sadly, I am not the only one who knows this as the line out the door and across the sidewalk.

I decided that spending 20 minutes waiting in line or a slice of pizza was a waste of  a beautiful fall day. I got back on my bike and rode north to pick up Jones Bridge Road. This was necessary because the Georgetown Branch Trail has been demolished while a new light rail line is being built.

I had heard bad things about Jones Bridge Road but I’ve ridden on much worse. And traffic was very light.

Jones Bridge Road led me to Beach Drive. Here I turned south to head home. Beach Drive runs straight through Rock Creek Park. Whoever decided to put a linear park in a canyon in the middle of a city was a genius. Even better is the fact that the National Park Service which owns the park shuts down large sections of Beach Drive to cars on weekends and holidays. Better still is the fact that the road has been reconstructed and the pavement is smooth. (A couple of roller bladers looked super happy.)

I about a week these trees will be bursting with colors.

After several miles of pothole-free bliss, I had to take a paved trail that the Park Service apparently overlooked when working on the roadway. Essentially this is a goat trail that ducks under two roads with barely adequate head room for bicycle riders.

I survived the low clearances and two 90-degree right-hand turns onto narrow bridges. At one point I had to come to a stop because untrimmed shrubs had overtaken my side of the trail. Your tax dollars at work. Or not.

Once out of the park I was back along the Potomac where I rode to the Memorial Bridge. There I crossed over to Virginia. Near Arlington Cemetery I came to a stop behind three tourists one of whom was in a motorized wheel chair. I called out to them to see if they were lost. They were. They were headed to the cemetery but were turning the wrong way. I set them straight but wondered why there aren’t wayfaring signs.

As I approached Old Town Alexandria a very strange thing happened. Water started falling from the sky. Lots of it. I was getting actually wet. And cold. It was the first time I’d been rained on while riding since early June in Kansas. Dang.

About five miles from home I came upon a man riding with his daughter. She was on a little beginners bike. One speed. Pink. She was pedaling hard and barely making 8 miles per hour. When Dad, on his hybrid beside her, noticed I was coming up behind them he gently put his hand on the center of her back and started accelerating. I thought she or both of them would crash for sure. After a couple of wobbles she got the hang of the higher speed and cruised.

After about 1/4 of a mile, I passed them with a thumbs up.

I continued on. Wet and chilled but unworried. It was actually kind of nice not to be baking in the sun for a change.

50 miles. 0 pizza.

We had pizza for dinner.

Yes.

Trail Tales

I went for a leisurely ride on the Mount Vernon Trail today. When I arrived at the access point on Northdown Road, I came upon a truck that was parked illegally and completely blocking the trail.

It takes a certain amount of chutzpah to park like this. There is usuakky a flex post in the middle of the trail at this entry point but somebody must have removed it.

After scrambling around the truck in the bushes, I took this picture. Then I called the Park Police to report it. The officer answering the phone did not know where Northdown Road was. So I told him it’s parallel to the GW Parkway. That didn’t help him. Do you know where Alexandria Avenue and the stone bridge are? Yes. Just north of there. Okay, I’ll send someone out.

He probably knows where Alexandria Avenue is because two of his colleagues are executed a man a half mile up the street. (It was caught on video.)

It’s a good thing the trail is so nice this time of year. Within a few minutes I reached the Dyke Marsh bridge. The marsh took all my frustration away.

Double Double Nickels

A double nickel is 55. The first time I heard this expression was when Jimmy Carter imposed a national 55 mile per hour speed limit during an “energy crisis.” Back in the 70s an energy crisis existed when you couldn’t find gas for your tank. Driving 55 on a wide open highway clearly designed for speeds of 70 or 75 miles per hour is enough to make you crazy. I once got a ticket for going 65 on I-66 in Virginia. The very same highway now has a 70 mile per hour speed limit. I should ask for a refund.

The energy crisis also introduced us to right on red. I am willing to bet that thousands of bicyclists and pedestrians have been mowed down by cars that don’t both to stop when making a right on red. It happened to me when I was on a bike trail.

I wonder if the lives saved from the double nickel exceeded the lives lost from right on red. Personally, I think these two changes began the erosion of the public’s regard for traffic laws. We got rid of the 55 mile per hour speed limit decades ago. We should do the same with right on red.

Screed over.

The contractors working on our house were not nearly as noisy as usual but their choice of overwrought oldie latin ballads on their boombox was getting pretty irritating. How long is this singer going to hold the vibratto note on “quiero”? Fortunately today was an absolutely perfect day for a bike ride.

I hit the road with the intent of riding to Bethesda for some pizza for lunch. Bethesda is about 25 miles from home so in my mind this makes sense. Your sanity may vary. I rode the Mount Vernon Trail to Crystal City. Then rode by a scenic and vast Pentagon parking lot before cruising around the north wall of Arlington Cemetery. I circled around the Iwo Jim Memorial (forever fixed in my mind by a nincompoop radio news reader who called it the Statue of the Two Jimas). Next I took Lynn Street through Rosslyn and the Intersection of Doom which is doomier thanks to construction. (I cannot even begin to describe the Intersection of Doom other than to say a bunch of roads, trails, and on and off ramps to I-66 and the GW Parkway all converging  at one end of the Key Bridge over the Potomac River into Georgetown. Look up “hot mess” in the dictionary. You’ll se a picture of the Intersection of Doom.)

Over the Key Bridge then up a side street into Georgetown where students meandered with big smiles on their faces, a sure sign that classes aren’t underway yet. I managed to miss a turn but soon found myself headed west-ish on Reservoir Road past Georgetown Hospital (and more construction) and the Bauhaus-y German Embassy.

Reservoir took me to MacArthur Boulevard which I planned to take to Persimmon Tree Road then up to downtown Bethesda. By the time I got to Persimmon Tree Road, I had already clocked 24 miles. Downtown Bethesda seemed a bit too far away so I decided to continue on MacArthur to the Old Anglers Inn where I could get something to eat.

Did I mention it was a perfect day for riding a bike? Well, it was. I got to the Old Anglers and I didn’t want to stop. So I refilled my water bottles and cut over to the C & O Canal towpath and headed back home. The towpath was bumpy in parts but after about a mile things smoothed out and I was cruising along with a tailwind.

There was plenty of evidence that this has been a hard year for the towpath. The towpath was narrow where it runs along the top of a huge wall near Carderock. (It’s a long way down.) The Billy Goat B Trail was closed. And crews were out clearing large trees that had fallen across the towpath.

After a mile of repairs the canal became blissful. Low humidity. Warm temps. A tailwind. Shade. The crunch of tires on the towpath. Ahhhh…..

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My bliss was interrupted by an ominous sign. It’s a good thing the sign is there because this part of the river looked really inviting.

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Eek.

No skinny dipping for me.

Other than being all kinds of messed up under the Beltway, the towpath was in pretty good condition. About three miles before the end of the canal, I cut over to the Capital Crescent Trail. This took me to a protected cycletrack on K Street along the Georgetown waterfront.

Next I took the side path along the Rock Creek and Potomac Parkway and Ohio Drive past the Watergate, the Kennedy Center, the Lincoln Memorial, and the Jefferson Memorial. (For you out of towners, this is pretty typical of DC. You can’t go a mile without seeing some famous building or other.)

I crossed the Potomac on the 14th Street Bridge and headed home on the Mount Vernon Trail. About five miles from my house the first double nickel happened. The Mule turned 55.

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Dang, The Mule abides.

I pulled into my driveway with the second double nickel. I had ridden 55 miles.

Did I mention that it is perfect weather for a nap?

Zzzzzzzzzz

The Mule’s Still Got It. My Knee Not So Much.

After two days of beautiful weather, The Mule insisted on going for a long ride. The Mule was jealous because I went hiking with friends yesterday. The Mule gets like that sometimes. The Mule would have killed me in my sleep if it had seen this view from the White Rocks overlook on Sugarloaf Mountain in Maryland.

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And so I found myself heading northwest along the Potomac River. For 12 miles I rode into a headwind on the Mount Vernon Trail to DC. I crossed the river on the 14th Street Bridge and headed to Georgetown. Next, I took the Capital Crescent Trail along the north side of the river. I had a choice of routes. Either follow the C&O Canal towpath or switch to the somewhat hilly roads. I chose pavement since the towpath was a mess the last time I rode it.

After 30 miles I reached Potomac Village where gas costs more than top shelf single malt scotch.

I turned left onto River Road and partook of the massive rolling hills, views of stupefying mansions, the tony Bretton Woods Country Club, a Buddhist temple, a one-room schoolhouse, and fields of corn. After over 20 miles I had no choice but to climb Mt. Nebo Road. It goes up steeply, three times. Maybe four. However many times, the last one hurt.

I had a headwind leaving DC but now I could tell the wind direction had changed. I was riding effortlessly, except for the steepest hills. As every cyclist knows this either means you put performance enhancing drugs on your Wheaties or you have a tailwind. Since cinnamon isn’t a PDA, I knew it was the latter.

A few miles later I picked up the towpath, expecting there to be only one mile to get to Whites Ferry, where a privately run cable ferry shuttles travelers across the Potomac River. Somehow the one mile was actually four. Yeah, well. At least the towpath was in excellent condition. I spun along merrily and spooked a couple of deer who were hanging around looking for trouble. They put out their cigs and hightailed it into the woods.

I only had to wait five minutes for the ferry. There were a handful of cars on it coming and going so I was off the boat in under two minutes on the Virginia side of the river.

Did I mention that the weather was nice?

I rode to Leesburg and picked up some snackage. Then headed back home along 35 miles of the Washington and Old Dominion Trail. Into a headwind. Sadly, the snackage contained only chocolate and other sugary delights, not anabolic steroids.

I estimated that the ride would be about 100 miles, but my calculation error on the outbound portion of today’s excursion meant it would be a bit more.

All in all, it was a very pleasant day on the bike, except for the last 20 miles which I did on fumes while trying unsuccessfully to ignore a screaming left knee and shoulder. The left knee has been getting worse by the month and will require some medical intervention this fall. The shoulder has a rotator cuff impingement. (Impingement is a fancy medical term for “messed up”.) I could have surgery on it as well.

Did I mention my sore left hip?

Ugh.

This ride, my longest of the year, was well worth the pain.

No Name Tour: It’s Not Rocket Science

After a week and a half, I welcomed a knock on the door this morning. Christmas in July. The Mule is home.

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I took it out of the box and started putting it together. Some of the hardware, the screws for the water bottle cages and the front rack, as well as a proprietary part for mounting the front fender, was missing. I reassembled the bike and took it to my local bike store to have them finish it off.

I was planning on taking it to the shop anyway. In addition to the final touches for the reassembly, they are putting on a new front derailler (the old one has had shifting issues for over a year), new fenders, new bar tape, and a new water bottle cage (one of the old ones broke in Nevada). They will also tweak my brakes and true my rear wheel. By this time next week, I should be back in the saddle.

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Last night I rode into DC to attend my second happy hour this week with Jessica who is back in town for a few months. We used to work together. She’s been travelling in South America for the last year. Many of her wanderings have been unplanned. Maybe I should do a bike tour like that.

While I was at the happy hour, some people in DC held a protest/vigil in a small park on Pennsylvania Avenue just a few blocks from the White House. After the happy hour, I headed over to the park to see the site of a crash that killed two men who were sitting on a park bench. It took me a while to figure out how the car managed to hit them. Suffice it to say that the driver either had murderous intent or he was impaired beyond human comprehension. High speed fatal crashes are happening in DC with sickening frequency.

Next I headed to the national Mall to check out a very cool event commemorating the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11. For the last few nights the image of a Saturn 5 rocket has been projected on the Washington Monument. It’s actually a video (you can see the vapor venting from the rocket). I waited until 9:30 for the image to appear. I was one of perhaps 10 or 20,000 people on the Mall. I found being in a crowd like that very unsettling. Tonight and tomorrow night the image will lift off. Too bad I’ll miss it. Then again, I saw the real thing on TV live back in 1969.

I rode home in the dark, something I really enjoy, except for the spider webs and the ninjas on the Mount Vernon Trail. (I nearly hit one.) Passing through a neighborhood closer to home I had a close encounter with a fawn standing across the middle of the narrow road.

 

 

 

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.

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Photo by Ted Nigrelli

 

Errandonnee 2019: Errand No. 4 at the Old Ballgame

My niece is leaving DC soon and tomorrow is my daughter’s birthday. What better way to mark these two events than to take them to a day game at Nationals Park. The game began at 4 but we arrived early to partake of happy hour brews.

The two ladies took the Metro and I rode my bike. I had noticed on Instagram that my Venezuelan friend Emilia was out and about on her bike. I hadn’t seen her in over two years. As I headed north of Alexandria on the Mount Vernon Trail, I reminded myself to say Hola instead of Hi in the extremely unlikely event that I should see her. Not two seconds later, she passed me heading south. “Hola, Emilia!” I yelled. Just as I did, I realized that she was in a bike trance. My shout made her eyes bug out of her head. I am sure she had no idea who it was who yelled at her. Sorry about that, Emilia.

The ride to the park was a brisk one. Lately, I’ve been feeling pretty good on the bike, even if my back and shoulder have been wonky. It’s all a mystery to me.

After meeting at the bike valet, the three of us entered the ballpark and had a beer at the happy hour bar above center field. We took our seats in the left field bleachers and enjoyed the game in shirt sleeves and shorts. The Nationals did their part by coming from behind  in the 8th inning to win 3 – 2 over Pittsburgh. It was an entertaining game that lasted 2 1/2 hours, a welcome change from the 4 hour slogs I’ve become used to seeing.

We parted ways at the bike valet and I headed up First Street through the crowds of fans making their way out of the park. While stopped at the traffic light at M Street, I noticed a bike pull up alongside me. It was Klarence. She leaned her bike over and gave me as big a hug as could be done with two bicycles in the way. We hardly ever run unto each other anymore. We chatted briefly as we rode side-by-side for a couple of blocks. She headed east and north; I headed west and south.

Once I cleared the throngs of pedestrians and cars on the cycletrack at The Wharf, I increased my speed with little effort and flew home on the Mount Vernon Trail with sunlight fading. Oh, how I love riding my bike at night.

Errand No. 4

Category: Arts and Entertainment (1st use)

Place: Nationals Park

Observation: To see two of my favorite people in DC totally by chance in one day was a cherry on top of a pretty splendid day with my niece and daughter. Thanks to all four of you.

Total Errandonnee mileage: 61

 

 

 

Pedals and Petals

I spent Sunday morning doing yard work, just cleaning up dead branches and vines and such. At one point I jumped to grab a loose branch hanging to within about nine feet of the ground. I never had much ups and have even less now. Suffice it to say, after three tries the dangling branch continued to dangle. My back, always gimpy anyway, decided to go into spasm.

Ugh.

So I ate some ibuprofen and watched the Nats game on TV. It was nice outside when the game ended so I went for a gentle 22-mile ride. When I finished, I was Quasimodo.

More ibuprofen and eight hours of sleep later, I could stand straight-ish. The weather was perfect outside. A sane person would spend the day resting his back by relaxing on the deck. Well…

I decided to ride 20+ miles to Bethesda Maryland to check out the cherry trees in the Kenwood neighborhood. On the way I passed by the Tidal Basin in DC where the cherry trees were clearly past peak blossom.

A tailwind pushed me further to the northwest. I was about to check my phone map for directions to Kenwood when I spotted three people standing in the middle of the Capital Crescent Trail looking up. They were standing under an absolutely huge cherry tree in full bloom. At the next intersection I took a left into cherry blossom heaven. Each street in Kenwood is lined with cherry trees. It was just past peak bloom and a bit breezy so it was snowing blossoms. Because it was Monday, there was little car traffic, and only a few pedestrians wandering around with wide eyes and big smiles.

I stayed in Kenwood for at least a half hour before heading up the CCT to Bethesda Row and lunch. After a slice of pizza and a chocolate chip cookie (my middle name is “Health”) I took off to the west. Bradley Boulevard was a bit hillier than I remembered but I used my bike tour climbing form to its best effect.

I rode through Potomac Village and over to Great Falls Park where I enjoyed the half mile winding downhill on MacArthur Boulevard. The next 25 miles took me through Glen Echo and Georgetown, and across the river to Rosslyn where I picked up the Mount Vernon Trail for the 14 1/2 mile ride home along the river.

I was sucking wind at the end, due to the 64 miles and 85 degree temperature. I was greeted by our own little weeping cherry, which bloomed while I was riding.

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It was the farthest I’d ridden since late August. And my back didn’t mind a bit.

 

And some don’t get rained out

There is an old saying in baseball: you win some, you lose some, and some get rained out.

This is a story about losing, getting rained out, and winning. Leave it to me to get things totally out of sequence.

About two years ago the Red Sox were scheduled to play an exhibition game versus the Nationals at Nationals Park to mark the end of Spring training. I managed to get one of four tickets that one of my co-worker’s bought.

Losing

As I typically do, I set out on by bike for the ballpark. It was raining. I got about five miles from home when, heading northbound, I was hit by a black SUV on the Mount Vernon Trail. (There goes the no hitter.) The SUV was exiting a condominium complex and failed to stop before making a right on red. To this day I am shocked that I managed to escape from this encounter with only some bruises.

Getting Rained Out

A short time after the crash, I was informed by the Twitter that the game was rained out.

Winning

Fast forward 22 months. I am riding southbound on the trail to the exact place where I was hit. There, blocking the entire trail, was a white SUV. I came to a stop and shouted at the driver. “Why are you here? Why are you blocking the trail?” The driver looked at me as if to say “So what.” Then, before I could ride around the front of the vehicle, the driver took off, taking a right turn on red.

I had seen this behavior dozens of times and I finally decided to ask the city of Alexandria to do something about it. I wrote them a short note requesting a change to a sign. Drivers leaving the condo complex at this intersection face a traffic light with a sign that says “No Turn on Red when Pedestrians Are Present.” I asked that the city to replace it with a sign that says “No Turn on Red.” I deliberately kept my request simple thinking it would avoid getting bogged down in analysis and budgetary considerations.

I had no idea that there was an Alexandria City Traffic and Parking Board. My note was referred to them and the issue was placed on the February meeting agenda. My friend Erin Meter provided a statement on behalf of the Friends of Mount Vernon Trail. Her statement, and that of Zack DesJardins, went into details about traffic signal timing, signal delays, best practices on signage and traffic lights and the like. (Judd Lumberjack came and offered moral support.) Erin and Zack did some serious homework on this.

Two representatives of the condo complex spoke. One had several pictures of the scene. (I was half expecting him to talk about the circle and arrows and the paragraph on the back of each one. But I digress.) Finally, I gave a brief statement. (The order was not for dramatic effect. It’s just that I arrived last.)

I explained how I was hit. And that I see the trail obstructed on a regular basis which is obviously dangerous.

The Board then voted unanimously to change the sign and to study the signal and signage issues.

I couldn’t believe it. I actually had to ask Erin if we won.

We won.

A tip of the cap

Many thanks to Christine Mayeur, Alexandria’s Complete Streets Coordinator, for encouraging me to show up and give a statement.

And to Erin, Zack, and Judd for thoughtful statements, support, and photography,

Zack, Me, and Erin (Photo by Judd Lumberjack)

P. S. Teddy Ballgame would not have approved. I put on a tie and nobody died or got married.