Spring Cleaning

Colors

It’s been an odd couple of days around here. Every day a new plant seems to burst into color. Crocuses, forsythia, daffodils. Cherry trees. Redbud trees. These have mostly come and gone but now we are in tulipalooza. I grew up in Ak=lbany NY, a former Dutch settlement. Every year there was a tulip festival. It was a big deal. Or so I am told. I never once attended. Around DC you can’t help but attend. Tulips are everywhere. The Pentagon Reservation (they actually call it that) and the Arlington Memorial Bridge are two places with tulips on display. The front of our house, and countless other houses in suburbia, are another.

In time the tulips will shrivel and die back of course. Don’t despair; azaleas are about to go nuts! We have three azalea bushes that are ready to burst into color any day. Two other azalea bushes planted last year did not survive the winter. My theory of the case is that they were planted too far under the eave of the house and didn’t get enough moisture. If you want to get your azaleas on, there are two pretty cool places in the DC area. One is Bluemont Park in Arlington. It’s right off the W&OD and Custis Trails. The other place is the National Arboretum in Northeast DC. It’s a bit tricky to get to by bike but once inside the biking is grand.

My ungodly looking lilac bushes (they are more like skeletons) are starting to leaf out. Soon their aromatic blue blossoms will emerge, as long as my attempts to cut the bushes back last fall didn’t do them in. I love the smell of lilacs. They remind me of my grade school. I remember going out the door and getting hit with a wave of that glorious scent. Alas, the DC are a is too far south for serious lilac bloomage.

Taxes

Somehow, someway I did several things today that worked out right. The other day I e-paid my estimated taxes. I screwed up the Virginia filing and called the tax office in Richmond this morning to clear things up. After waiting less than five minutes, I talked to an honest-to-god human who told me that I would be fined $500 for my error.

Just kidding.

She was very helpful. She told me my error didn’t stop affect the payment and everything should be okay.

Changing

The other day I brought Big Nellie out of the basement – as sure a sign of spring as you’ll ever see. What you can’t see from this photo is the bald rear tire. It turns out that riding hundreds of miles with the rear tire contacting a resistance unit is not the best thing in the world for tread life.

I found an old Schwable Marathon Plus tire and decided to use it as a replacement. This tire probably has over 5,000 miles on it but you’d never know it. Marathon Plus tires are practically indestructible. And, better yet, they rarely get flats. This is especially good news because installing a Marathon Plus tire is a total pain. I have lost quite a lot of skin on my fingers getting one of these beasts mounted. To make matters worse changing the rear tire on a long wheel base recumbent is like wrestling a dolphin. The bike has a very unbalanced weight distribution. Trying to keep it in one place while working on it can be next to impossible.

So I decided to use my repair stand.

It took me three attempts to get the bike on the stand. The first try worked but I placed it on the stand with the chain facing the lever that clamps the bike to the stand. Not gonna work. So, I took the bike off the stand and turned it around. Picking the bike up was significantly harder because I am right handed. With the bike oriented in this direction my weaker left hand had to pick up the heavier rear end of the bike. I managed to get it into the stand but somehow in the process of applying the clamp the dolphin came loose. Eek. I fed the bike a fish (just kidding again) and tried again. This time the bike stayed on the stand and I closed the clamp. Now I could tilt the bike so the front tire was on the ground and the rear tire up in the air right at the ideal height for swapping out the tire.

The old tire came off with only minor assistance of a set of tire irons. Now came the hard part. I started working the Marathon Plus onto the wheel. I worked my way around the wheel, pushing the tire bead over the rim wall. After only one attempt, the bead popped over the top of the rim. Then I turned the tire around to work on the other side. Somehow, some way I had managed to install that side too. Do you believe in miracles? I flipped the tire around to make sure I wasn’t imagining things. In another few minutes the wheel was back on the bike and I was good to go.

Practice

I have participated in the Chasing Mailboxes Errandonnee every year except last year when it was cancelled because of the pandemic. (I suppose it could have been held but it would have had to be renamed the Infectionnee, or something like that.) The Errandonnee is a friendly challenge to do errands on your bike (or by foot or scooter or some means other than an gasmobile). Errandonneuring is not for the faint of heart. It takes determination and focus.

This year’s Errandonnee starts April 15. I suppose you could just jump right in to the event. With all the good weather we’ve been having, well intentioned errandonneurs often end up with errands undone. You just ride right past the store and end up doing a tour of tulips. There is only one way to avoid a failed Errandonnee.

Practice.

Yes, I know Paul Hornung and Allen Iverson made fun of practice. Let the record be clear: neither Horning nor Iverson ever completed an Errandonnee.

Little Nellie and I would not make the same mistake. Today, I rode my trusty Bike Friday to Walmart to pick up my glasses at the Vision Center. We made use of the fabulous bike parking at the shopping cart return. Walmart ain’t exactly woke when it comes to Errandonneuring. We were not to be deterred and finished the errand in fine fashion.

Then I went for a ride to look at the tulips.

The Errandonnee is open to the public. That means you. You can achieve errandonneuring greatness.

Getting Stooped

Anytime you ride 40,000 miles in four years, something has to go by the wayside. I have neglected my house and yard now for a long time and it shows. I have so many projects to do in the months ahead there is no point in making a list.

The first job on my backlog is to re-paint the metal stoop outside our kitchen. I last did this a couple of decades ago> I did a poor job and the paint never looked good. It’s been a rusty mess with lots of chipped paint for years.

Last week I spent three two-hour sessions washing and scraping and sanding and grinding away at the mess. I also fixed some rusty holes using some epoxy. I did the best I could before saying “no mas”.

Next up was priming. The weather here was absolutely perfect for bike riding but alas I was back at the stoop. It is a cruel coincidence that perfect riding weather is also perfect painting weather.

First, I taped off the area. Next I rode Little Nellie to the hardware store for primer, a mini-roller and a brush. The last time I painted the stoop I used a brush. It was a frustrating mess. This time I started to prime with a small roller and was shocked at how much better the roller worked than that old brush. The horizontal surfaces all have a texture to them supposedly to impeded slipping. Getting paint on all sides of the textured surface was impossible with a brush but it was super easy with the roller.

As I primed I could see cracks in the paint that I had missed during prep. I did what I could to fix these. No doubt I’ll be re-doing some of this later in the year.

Unfortunately, I ran out of primer so I jumped back on Little Nellie and returned to the hardware store. The upside to this misadventure was that I now knew how much paint to buy for the top coat. So I bought that too.

The rest of the priming took about 20 minutes.

Priming and painting are infinitely more rewarding than prep. I had spent about six or seven hours doing prep and felt like I had accomplished nothing. After an hour or so of priming I felt like I was cooking with gas.

Today was the last step, the top coat. Last time I used black gloss paint. It was slippery and didn’t adhere well at all. The hardware store paint guy said that black satin would be a better choice and would not be as slippery, so that’s what I used. It took no time at all to paint the stoop. The only problem was the fact that the daylight was such that I had trouble seeing where I had failed to completely cover the primer. So once I had painted the entire thing, I walked around and looked for spots where I could see primer peeking through the top coat. After 15 minutes of this I declared victory.

All that’s left is to take off the painter’s tape.

In celebration The Mule and I went for a ride among the blossoms in Alexandria and Arlington. Cherry trees are fading. Red Buds are taking over. After that come lilacs and azaleas. Also, the deciduous trees are leafing. Soon the Mount Vernon Trail will be a tunnel of green again. This will obscure the three bald eagle nests between my house and Old Town Alexandria. Two of these nests are quite active. The third seems in need of a tenant.

My next project involved a big tree root. No chopping though. Stay tuned for all the excitement.

2020 – One Last Recap

It was such a fun year!

Okay, let’s start again. 2020 sucked but at least I salvaged some decent bicycling. I managed to go 10,240.5 miles this year. My Cross Check edged out The Mule for most miles: 4,179.5 to 4002.5. The other 20 percent of riding was split between Big Nellie (my Tour Easy recumbent) at 1,458.5 miles and Little Nellie (my New World Tourist) at 600 miles.

My bikes now have a total of 145,082 miles on them. Either one of them break or I do.

End of YearOdometer MilesMiles Ridden
Specialized Sequoia60,0204,003
Tour Easy44,2431,459
New World Tourist22,598600
Cross Check18,2214,180
Total145,08210,241

The monthly distribution was kind of Bell curvy. (I took stats, can’t you tell?)

As a prize for finishing in first place, the Cross Check got a new look. People used to pick me out during events by my humongous Carradice saddle bag. No longer. I switched to an Arkel Tailrider. It kind of wrecks the all black look, but it weights a bit less than the Carradice. The bike still weighs a ton but that will be addressed when I replace the tires with something lighter.

Riding nowhere – October

Another month, another 913 miles of riding around in circles. Except for a single one-way 57-mile ride on the Washington and Old Dominion Trail that is. It’s inane to be doing this but it’s that kind of year, isn’t it.

After putting 676 miles on my Cross Check (which passed the 18,000-mile mark) and another 51 miles on Big Nellie, my Tour Easy recumbent, I switched rather cautiously to Little Nellie, my folding travel bike with little wheels. Little Nellie has been known to beat my lower back to a pulp so I have been avoiding riding it. I was considering selling it until, on a whim, I tweaked the saddle height and found a sweet spot. I can now ride it pain free. So it’s been my ride of choice for final 186 miles of the month.

So far this year I’ve ridden 8,655 miles. Getting to 10,000 is going to require some determination and a whole lot of help from the weatherman.

I also bought some new bike junk. I have a set of rechargeable blinky lights that are reasonably useful. They are be-seen lights, meaning they improve my visibility to others. The headlight will keep me from rear ending a parked car but I will use one of my more powerful Light and Motion headlights for nighttime navigation.

I also picked up a wind vest. It is bright yellow and has a big dorky reflective arrow on the back. The arrow points to the left. (The manufacturer makes a version for left side driving countries too.)

I also bought an Arkel Tailrider bag. This probably will replace my Carradice LongFlap , a huge saddlebag. The LongFlap uses leather straps that are a pain to open and close and it weighs a ton. The Tailrider is lighter and has zippers. I will give up some carrying capacity but I rarely maxed out the LongFlap. The rack on my CrossCheck has two levels which means I can use the Tailrider on the top of the rack and still attach panniers if I need to.

On to November. Brrr.

A Year by the Numbers

It was a whopper of a year for me on my bikes. I pretty much shattered every personal record.

I rode a total of 11,837 miles, 1,926 miles more than last year.

I averaged 32.4 miles per day.

I rode 309 days, taking 56 days off. I never took more than 3 days off in a row.

On my riding days, I averaged 38.3 miles.

I rode 4,300 of miles on my Any Road Tour from Mount Vernon, Virginia to Portland Oregon.

June, all of which was tour riding, was my highest mileage month: 2,260.5 miles.

My longest day was 136 miles from Morehead, Minnesota to Gackle, North Dakota on June 18.

The Mule, my 1991 Specialized Sequoia, accounted for 46.5 percent of my riding, 5,502.5 miles. 281 miles of my riding were done indoors on Big Nellie, my Tour Easy recumbent, mounted on a trainer. Most of this riding was in recovery from medical problems in late December 2017. I only rode the Tour Easy 1,099.5 miles in all. I’d sell it except for its usefulness indoors.

My Bike Friday New World Tourist took me 2,001 miles. It’s fun to ride but it beats me up because it’s little wheels don’t absorb road shock particularly well.

My Surly Cross Check soaked up another 3,234 miles, just riding around the DC area.

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Year end Odometer Readings

The Mule: 51,024

Big Nellie (outdoors miles only): 42,010

Little Nellie: 21,002

Cross Check: 10,668

Total: 124,704

 

 

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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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.