Little Nellie Cracks 20

For the last month I’ve been riding my Bike Friday New World Tourist nearly every day. I named it Little Nellie after a scene in You Only Live Twice. (It’s easily one of the stupidest dogfight scenes in movie history.)

The bike was designed to mimic the dimensions of The Mule, my Specialized Sequoia touring bike. It’s pretty close except for the little tires which kind of beat me up. My recent binge of lifting weights and doing physical therapy really helped keep me from aching on long rides though.

Today, Little Nellie hit 20,000 miles.

IMG_1118

I bought her in 2007 so that’s a shade under 2,0

00 miles per year. Near the end of my ride I stopped at Spok

es, my local bike shop. I asked Taylor, the service manager, to look it over. It was creaking and popping in ways that suggested trouble was brewing.

Taylor couldn’t find anything wrong in the usual places but he did find a crack in the weld that holds a hinge to the folding seat mast (into which the seatpost slides). I called Bike Friday and they asked me to send them a picture. I think they will replace it under warranty. Good thing it’s the seat mast, which can be replaced without shipping the entire bike to Bike Friday in Oregon.

Two Tailwinds, Two Paisanos

The early afternoon weather in DC was beautiful. 70 degrees with a strong breeze out of the south. As luck would have it, the Washington Nationals were playing a game against the Arizona Diamondbacks at 4 p.m. I bought a ticket and jumped on Little Nellie, my Bike Friday, and rode the tailwind 15 miles to Nationals Park.

It was a lovely ride except for the bit about the big black car nearly hitting me 100 yards from the stadium. The driver’s window was open. I barked at him that he had just done something incredibly dangerous. He seemed not the least bit concerned. Then I jumped off my bike and beat the crap out of him. There was blood everywhere. I beat my chest and howled.

Image may contain: cloud, sky and outdoor
Not a bad day for a baseball game or a bike ride or a nap in a hammock

Okay, not really. I let it go at words and went in to enjoy the game. I sat down the left field line. My seats were on the field level. I brought my glove for protection. Sadly no foul balls were hit my way but a woman two sections over got clobbered by one and was escorted out for medical attention. The two teenage boys in the row behind me ate their way through the first eight innings. Mom bought them hot dogs and pizza and funnel cake and ice cream. I could sense them growing with each passing inning.

Image may contain: 2 people, including John Pickett, stadium
The giant presidents at the ballpark are very creepy up close. Shortly after I took this picture, Washington ate these two fans.

During the game I had a chat online with my friend Emilia who was sitting across the stadium. Emilia is from Venezuela. She and I keep tabs on the Nationals players from her country. There have been five paisanos in recent years. For the last few weeks there were none. Emilia texted me to let me know that Adrian Sanchez, who was called up from the minors to play third base for the injured Anthony Rendon, was from Venezuela. A short while later she texted that the Diamondbacks David Peralta was also from Venezuela. “I will not root for him,” she said.

Image may contain: sky and outdoor
That’s Emilia. Somewhere up there.

As it turns out, we have the lesser paisano. Peralta hit two home runs (he eats the National’s pitchers alive) and the Diamondbacks won in ten innings.

Around the 7th inning the skies grew dark and the wind changed direction. I thought for sure I’d get soaked but rain never came. Instead I was pushed all the way home from the game. Even the clouds of bugs didn’t ruin the ride.

So let’s recap with some maths:

Two Tailwind Ride > Big Black Car + Wrong Paisano + Bugs in My Mouth

And a  final note: Big congratulations to Blissful Britt who finished her last exam for her college degree today. On to grad school. (Just kidding.)

Errandonnee: Past the Halfway Mark

The big news today was we got a spiffy new dishwasher because the old one died. The installed turned it on and we didn’t realize it. This is going to take some getting used to.

Before that though I had time enough to get out on my bike.

Errand No. 7: Personal Care

Destination: Mount Vernon Rec Center

Observation: I can’t figure out how to dress for this weather. I wore three layers including the holey sweater and was overdressed. This could be it for my favorite cycling garment. It’s more holes than sweater now.

Image may contain: outdoor

Errand  No. 8: Personal Business

Destination: The Italian Store in Old Town Alexandria

Observation: While Mrs. RC waited for the dishwasher installer to come, I decided to grab some Italian subs for lunch. I had to lock my bike to street sign a block away (the store is the white building with the Italian flag on it). Alexandria needs more bike racks.

Image may contain: one or more people, motorcycle and outdoor

So another day, another exciting errand-running adventure. I did 22 miles during my gym/sub excursion for a total of 80 1/2 miles.

 

Errandonnee Part Deux

Yesterday I took the day off from bicycling to go to the March for Our Lives in DC. We drove and took Metro for a number of reasons and it worked out remarkably well.

Today, I got back in the saddle with an old friend, Little Nellie. Little Nellie is my Bike Friday New World Tourist. She has a hair over 19,000 miles on her. I recently put a new large chainring, cassette, rear wheel, rear tire, rear tube, and chain on her.

Errand No. 5: Non-store Errand, a test ride to make sure all the new stuff was working properly.

Destination: Around the neighborhood

Observation: I was half expecting my rear tire to explode because it was so hard to install and the wire bead was slightly bent. So I rode over a couple of potholes to stress it. To my chagrin, I found that the shifting was messed up. The chain was jumping over the big sprocket and getting jammed between the cassette and the spokes. On the opposite end of the cassette, the chain was making unpleasant noises. Be careful what you wish for; you might end up with something worse.

IMG_0942

So the first errand resulted in a second errand.

Errand No. 6: Store

Destination: Spokes Etc. At Belle View, my local bike shop

Observation: If I ever move, I will make sure I have a good local bike shop nearby. Spokes has been my go to shop for over 25 years. More often than not (like today, for instance), they do minor repairs while you wait. The Spokes mechanic (Sean, I think) figured out what was wrong within seconds. The new hub of my rear wheel is sized for an 11-speed cassette. My cassette has only nine speeds. He installed a proper spacer and tweaked things a little. In five minutes I was on the road again. Bicycles are so much more fun when they are in proper working order.

 

IMG_0943
Spokes Service Area. Note: neither mechanic is Sean. He is bashful. 

The fix was so good that I took off and rode another 16 1/2 miles for a total of  24. Total miles so far in the Errandonnee: 58 1/2

 

Productive Failure

Today I got up early, left the newspaper on the kitchen table, and rode to a bike advocacy event. When I got to the venue, no one was there. I checked my e-mail. The event is next Saturday.

Doh.

I felt stupid but I didn’t much mind. With snow and rain in the afternoon weather forecast, I might not have ridden outside today but for my calendar screw up.

It was my first time on Little Nellie in many weeks so I took it easy riding to the venue. The bike  seemed to be resisting me the whole way. After realizing my mistake, I took a round about route back toward home.

Since the chain was moving sloppily over the sprockets on the cassette I decided to swing by my local bike shop on the way home to have it checked out. The mechanic put the bike on a repair stand facing away from me. As he checked the chain, the rear wheel turned. It wobbled from side to side. The rim was probably contacting the brake pad with every revolution. Aha!

The mechanic said my chain was long gone. My bike needs a new chain, a new cassette, a new large chain ring, and a rear hub overhaul.

The cassette and rear hub on this bike are of an unusual design that allows for a higher top gear. I don’t recall why I ordered this special hub and gear combination as I rarely use such high gears on this or any other bike. The special design also means that, in order to remover or install a cassette, a special tool is needed. And many bike shops don’t have one. Now that the wheel has 19,000 miles on it, I figure it would be a good time to replace the wheel with a conventional hub and cassette. This will give me a lower low gear and a lower top gear. Since the conventional cassette costs about $50 less, I will finance, in a sense, part of the new wheel’s cost by saving money on the new cassette and forgoing the overhaul on the rear hub.

So despite my scheduling snafu, I managed to beat the storm and diagnose some bike problems. Today’s ride goes in the books as a productive failure.

 

 

Little Nellie Is Growing Up

Today on my last ride of November, Little Nellie celebrated turning 19. In the past I have tended to avoid riding this bike because it beats up my back, but lifting weights has really helped me tolerate the bumps transmitted by Little Nellie’s wee wheels.

NWT19K

And so I put this bike away for the winter and switch to my other three steeds. They miss me.

A Ride in the Pine Barrens

Over 30 years ago John McPhee wrote about a place that was disappearing. The Pine Barrens are a vast area of southern New Jersey where, back in McPhee’s day,  not much happened. People lived without telephones or electricity. The Barrens were primitive, despite the fact that they are located about an hour east of Philadelphia and 90 minutes from New York City. McPhee wanted to see it before it became modern.

It’s still rather rustic in the Barrens but there are now two-lane highways criss-crossing the area. Vacation tourism was evident here and there. I saw jet skis on the waterways. I should go back and read McPhee to see what it was like back in the day.

I drove down from central New Jersey where I stayed the night. My day began with a visit to my maternal grandparents’ grave and their house, still standing. It was decorated tastefully and the porch was fixed up a bit, but it was still an old, old frame house. The side yard once had a garage and decrepit barn. Both are gone, replaced by a modern middle-class home. There is no arbor on the side of the house, no grape vines hanging from it. The big vegetable garden is gone too. My grandmother died when I was ten, during a summer that also took my paternal grandmother and godmother. My funeral suit got a lot of use that summer.  It was weird getting birthday presents at one of the wakes. I just wanted it to end and to go back to the routine of school. My grandfather lived for another 15 or so years. He died in his bed in the house.

The starting point of my ride was Batsto Village State Park. Batsto was once a thriving  a close knit community built around an iron furnace, mills, and such. People lived in orderly two-story, unpainted frame houses. The folks who lived here had to get along; there was nobody else around. The village is in the middle of hundreds of acres of sandy soil and trees, mostly pine trees.

On the drive to Batsto, I stopped for breakfast at a New Jersey diner. Diners are New Jersey. The food was starchy and hot and creamy and filling. The coffee gave me a jolt. After gorging, I drove on to Batsto passing a few miles from Lakehurst, the site of the Hindenberg disaster. My mom told me that when she was a little girl she waved at dirigible passengers as they passed overhead. She probably didn’t wave at the Hindenberg that night on account of a tragically violent thunderstorm.

The parking lot of the diner was filled with bicyclists getting ready for a ride. I overheard the diner owner saying he expected about ten of them to come in without a reservation disrupting his quiet Sunday morning. Oh the temerity.

As I drove I passed large groups of cyclists riding in and out of the dappled shade of the woods on either side of the road. Some miles further on, I passed cranberry bogs.

DSCN5949

After parking I began a 43 mile loop ride on Little Nellie through the Barrens. The roads were high speed but the traffic was light and the pavement smooth and free of debris. And flat. Pool table flat.

I rode past blueberry farms. Miles of them. Billions of sweet little blue berries. Kerplink, kerplank, kerplunk! 

DSCN5952

Trees rather scrawny, the result of the never ending sandy soil. The road frequently crossed streams and inlets.  Some of the smaller roads had wooden deck bridges.

DSCN5969

I spotted an osprey nest on a pole next to the road. Two ospreys were clearly visible making a racket. One flew off as I approached. It had a critter of some sort in its talons. The remaining bird stayed at the nest squawking. The flying osprey circled the nest as I rode by as if to say “Look at me!” My guess is the nest had young ‘uns in it.

A few of the turns on my map were unsigned. So naturally I missed a turn. Fortunately, I discovered my mistake at a point where a brand new road doubled back toward the route.

I didn’t bring enough water so I was starting to flag after only 30 miles. With temperatures in the low 80s, low-ish humidity, and light winds, I felt a bit like a wimp.

DSCN5970

Pedal, pedal.

Did I mention it was flat.

More sand. More trees. A canoe with a man and woman came toward the road as I crossed a creek. They were framed by overhanging trees. It looked perfect.

Unpaved pathways intersected with the roads. Some were hiking trails. Some were more like sandy roads.

A mile later a doe and her fawn stood on the side of the road. They regarded me with caution then started to meander away. How many deer must there be in this place?

About a mile from Batsto, I looked down a sandy road to my left. Two wild turkeys were walking along. They looked like they might be talking to each other. Of course, when I tried to get a picture they turned and walked away from me. Don’t you just hate antisocial turkeys?

DSCN5971

My ride ended back at the car. I don’t recall ever riding a bike at my grandparents’ house when I was little so this was my first-ever ride in the state of New Jersey. It’s my 18th state. (The others: New York, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, California, Maryland, Virginia, Hawaii, West Virginia, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Ohio, Indiana, North Carolina, Michigan, and Wisconsin. As well as the District of Columbia.)

Pine Barrens

I placed a bunch of pictures on Flickr.

 

Full Moon Baseball

Twice this spring I have had tickets to baseball games that were rained out. The first one was called before I got to the ballpark, but I managed to make it an eventful day by being hit by an SUV. For the second game, I rode to the ballpark from work and stood around for an hour while the rain came down. The game was called and I rode home in what I expected to be steady rain. Once I was a few miles along, the rain stopped. Go figure.

So the makeup game to that second rainout was last night. I sat with two co-workers, Bob and Karen, and Richie, who retired after working with Bob for many years. I rode to the ballpark on Little Nellie in case I wanted to get a ride home from Bob by folding Little Nellie up and dropping her in the trunk of his car.

The Nationals arrived back from a west coast road trip at 1 am. This meant that many of the older star players would be getting the night off. The starting pitcher had been struggling all season. So I was expecting the Nationals to lose and for the fans rooting for the Orioles to be really obnoxious.

Instead the Nationals dominated from the outset. The good guys won 6-1 thanks to the performance of Dos Padres, speedy shortstop Trea Turner and pitcher Joe Ross. Turner and Ross are young players that the Nationals acquired in a trade with the San Diego Padres. What were the Padres thinking? These two guys are great.  Turner never hit the ball out of the infield but managed to get on base on three weak singles. Then he stole bases at will. He also made one of the best defensive plays I’ve seen. Ross pitched up a storm, striking out 12 and lasting into the 7th inning.

The haircut on the kid sitting in front of me was as good as the game. He got it for the last day of school.  Sister Irma would have had a heart attack if one of us showed up with a mohawk.

Image may contain: one or more people and stadium

During the game a full moon rose over the Anacostia River to the east of the park. This was a good omen for my ride home. The game was over by about 10 p.m. and I made my way to the bike valet. I usually run into Klarence there but not this night. (I miss you Klarence, but, no worries, my mouth’s still bleeding. Stay proud.)

Image may contain: one or more people, sky, crowd and outdoor

Once clear of the ballpark traffic I made my way around the Jefferson Memorial and over the 14th Street bridge to Virginia and the Mount Vernon Trail. The moonlight reflected off the river and made for a sweet transit.

The trail, of course, was empty. The air was cooling and I was rolling along in trance mode. The moonlight reflecting off the path was only occasionally disturbed by car headlights on the parkway.

I rolled through Old Town Alexandria and didn’t see a single car. There were no tourists. Only peaceful quiet soothing breezes, and the glow from the moon.

Back on the trail south of the beltway, I started down from the bridge over Cameron Run. I spotted a dark mass at the bottom of the brief decline in the shadows. It was a homeless person, dressed completely in dark clothing huddled along the left edge of the trail facing the bushes along the river. If he did not have white hair, I don’t know if I would have even seen him.

The rest of the ride on the trail was just me and the cooling evening air with Mr. Moonlight casting a glow on the proceedings. No bugs to annoy, only a breeze and the sound of my breathing.

Cutting through a neighborhood about a mile from home, there was movement. An animal darting across the road in front of me. A mature fox was crossing the street at a trot. The fox population has exploded near my home in recent years. They tend not to care a whole lot about humans being around, even humans on funny looking machines.

Little Nellie made quick work of the last half mile and we flew across the lawn into the back yard. I didn’t really need my bike light to open my shed; it was illuminated by the moon.

I honestly can’t say which was better, the game or the ride home. I’ll have to try again. Soon.

A Little Water Won’t Kill Ya

It rained last night. The passage to my backyard was a mud pit. It was drizzling as I, without a whole lot of thought, pulled Little Nellie out of the shed.

I wore rain gear fImage may contain: tree, plant, outdoor and natureor the ride to work. All was going well until I reached the Mount Vernon Trail. Normally, the river is to the right of the trail. Today, the trial was beneath the river. As I cleared the Dyke Marsh boardwalk, I hit about 40 yards of deep water. I’d guess it was 6 inches deep. The density of the water slowed me to a crawl and I pedaled through it getting my feet thoroughly soaked. I stopped to take a picture that doesn’t do it justice.

I hopped back on Little Nellie, pedaled 20 yards, and was deep in the soup again. Pedaling through this much water is hard work. I cleared that flood, had a 20-yard breather, then hit the next one. And the next one. And the next one. No lie. I was pedaling really hard as I hit the last one and the backwash from Little Nellie’s wee front wheel caused the water to splash up over my knees.

After another deep section north of Belle Haven Park,  I made it into Old Town without need for scuba gear.

Old Town, of course, is notorious for flooding and today it did not disappoint. Union Street (which includes the Mount Vernon Trail) Image may contain: one or more people, people sitting, motorcycle and outdoorwas closed at King. Little Nellie posed for a picture. I watched a pick up drive through the water but decided not to press my luck especially with a police car in the distance.

I turned up one alley and over another and found myself on King just to the left of the water in the picture.

Free and clear, right? Wrong. I managed to avoid submersion for a couple of miles before hitting deep water twice near Daingerfield Island. The force of my bike through the flood again kicked water up over my knees.

Dang.

I really should have chosen a bike with bigger diameter wheels. I hope Little Nellie’s hubs are not completely messed up.

In the afternoon Doppler radar was showing a really nasty storm approaching. I ran into the No. 2 person at my agency who was carrying his motorcycle helmet. Good luck! Our admin assistant and I both told my boss to hit the road on his cargo bike. He rides into DC and he probably made it unscathed.

I, on the other hand, was scathed. I made it about 9 miles in decent shape. The good news was the flooding had receded. The bad news was I was heading into dark, dark clouds with wind and rain and thunder and lightning.

Oh my.

I rode through Belle Haven Park aware that at any time a limb could fall from one of the giant old trees along the trail. It had happened before but not today. South of the park I had to deal with the fact that my glasses were covered with rain drops and condensation. I could barely see to make my way.

There was nothing to do but pedal, so I did. A bicyclist zipped past me. How he could see was beyond my ken. As I went through the slalom south of Dyke Marsh branches with wet leaves slapped me in the face.

Pedal. Pedal.

All the while, lightning was flashing across the sky.

I followed a curve in the trail up and to the right. Out from behind an overhanging branch came a bicyclists. A woman on what looked like a beach cruiser. She was riding in a frenzy without rain gear and nearly collided with me. I veered off to my right and she flew by.

Sections of the trail now had run off from the adjacent parkway. Some of these were fairly high speed and gave me cause for concern. Would they sweep my wheels out from under me?

Nope. It’s good to be lucky.

Once I left the trail the rain subsided. There was still some thunder and lightning but it was not all that intense.

I rode across the front lawn, around the muddy side of the house, and down the small grassy decline to the shed. After opening the shed and getting the bike inside I started to wipe everything down with an old t-shirt. Then

BOOM!

A clap of thunder erupted directly overhead. The walls and the floor of the shed shook. I felt the vibration in my torso.

Double dang.

A little water won’t kill ya, but the thunder’s a bitch.