Closing Day

When I went to sleep Wednesday night, my intention was to spend Thursday at work then ride home and watch the Nationals play the Dodgers in the deciding game of their baseball playoff series. Having watched scores of games both at the ballpark and on television (not to mention listening to a few on the radio), I was totally psyched that this would be a ballgame for the ages.

So, during the morning, I bought a ticket. I headed to the ballpark on Deets and prepared for a long night. The game started just after 8 pm, an hour after the normal starting time, to accommodate a national television broadcast. This meant that the game would probably not be over in time for fans to take the subway home. The subway system steadfastly refused to extend its hours. So fans had to improvise. The hashtag #natsride and account @natsride sprung up over the last few days to facilitate carpooling. Many others chose to bike to the game, like me.

Prior to the game I ate dinner after which I ran into Kevin from the bike tour. Later in the evening, he offered to get me some World Series tickets which was incredibly thoughtful. We were sitting in opposite sides of the ballpark so we parted ways. Soon after reaching my seat in the left field grandstand, Klarence and Lauren walked down the aisle to my left. They had come to try and get a ball during batting practice. Klarence and I had a long talk, probably our last one for quite a while as our social paths rarely cross anymore. Hugs happened. Then they went off to keep score in their perch in the seats high above the Nats on deck circle.

Normally, when I go to a baseball game alone, my introversion melts away and I strike up a mini-friendship with the folks sitting nearby. It’s a very conversational vibe. Last night was different. Fans were on their feet for most of the game, cheering and waving red towels. The atmosphere was more like a football or hockey game.

The Nationals’ ace was on the mound. The Dodgers eventually got to him and some relievers for four runs. The crowd stilled. Then the Nats scored a run. Woot! Then a Nats pinch hitter hit a two run homer. Pandemonium!

Since this a win or else situation, the managers used every trick in the book and played nearly everyone they had. At 11:30 the scoreboard announced that the last train was leaving the nearby subway station in a few minutes. The crowd booed! Loudly! (Good luck getting support for fare increases, Metro.)  The game dragged on. Finally, in the bottom of the ninth inning, the Nationals sent up the best hitter in baseball to face the best left handed pitcher in a generation. Our man popped up. Down to their last pinch hitter, the Nationals sent a rookie to the plate. It would have been so cool if he got a hit. Alas, he struck out lamely and the Dodgers won. After over 4 1/2 hours, the longest 9-inning post season game in baseball history.

What a strange feeling it is to go from sensing a euphoric victory to suffering a buzz killing defeat. The crowd went silent. In the distance, you could hear the Dodgers celebrating on the infield. Fans, wiped out from emotion and the late hour, began their long slog home at 12:30 in the morning.

The bike valet was stuffed with bikes. Some were locked to the top of a ten foot high chain link fence that contains the bike racks. Many were simply leaning against other bikes. I was lucky to get out in a reasonable amount of time. After greeting Kevin again, I thought of waiting to say goodbye to my other friends at the game but it was already close to 1 am so I rode off into the dark.

Most of the crowd stayed until the final out. The traffic outside the ballpark was insane. Traffic signals were ignored. Traffic control officers seemed to be completely overwhelmed. Riding a bike under these conditions is like being a running back going off tackle. You just look for the gaps and ride to daylight. Or in this case, headlight.

The ride home along the Mount Vernon Trail featured a steady tailwind. I was groggy but I have ridden this trail so many times that I was nearly confirming that I can ride home in my sleep. Another cyclist followed me all the way to Old Town, about nine miles from the ballpark.

Then I was on my own. The only sign of life I saw was two lights next to the trail. A fox? Raccoon? Opossum?

I pulled into my yard at 2:30.

What better way to soothe the disappointment of a season ending loss than to ride 16 miles under the stars in a crisp autumn breeze.

Only 171 days until opening day.

 

October on a Roll

I am having a pretty darn good weekend. Saturday I rode the Seagull Century. It was supposed to rain all day, but we only had a sprinkle now and then. The overcast skies and light winds along with the impossibly level terrain made for a nearly effortless 96 mile day.

On the drive home, I learned that it rained all day in DC only 120-ish miles away. The Nationals-Dodgers playoff baseball game was postponed until Sunday. My Twitter feed said that because of the rescheduling tickets were available at 10:30 Sunday morning.

After a really deep sleep, I woke up late. I bought a ticket for a seat in the left field grandstand. With winds blowing hard from the direction of DC, I decided to go multimodal. I drove 8 miles, parked my car, and rode the last 7 to the ballpark. I could have driven farther but the Army 10-miler (running) road race had forced several road closures.

My ride to DC was hard because of a relentless strong headwind. I wore my baseball cap instead of a helmet. Crossing the Potomac River on the 14th Street bridge, I tucked my cap into my jacket. The crosswind was so strong I had to lean into the wind to stay upright. Lordy!

Once across the river I practically glided to the ballpark.

My 2015 tour-mate Kevin pulled into the Bike Valet behind me. Good to see him.

The game was a blast. It was my first ever playoff game. The ballpark was packed. Fans were given red towels to wave (the Nationals colors are red, white, and sometimes blue). I didn’t get one. Sad face. I mentioned this to the fans next to me. A woman sitting behind me gave me hers. Woot!

We spent about half the game on our feet cheering and clapping and towel waving. The howling wind made for an adventurous game for outfielders. Somehow Jose Lobaton, the light hitting back up catcher who was subbing for his Venezuelan countryman, the injured Wilson Ramos, smashed a three run home run into the wind. Lobeeeeee!!! Pandemonium!

We won.

I left with a sore throat from screaming.

At the Bike Valet, I ran into Kevin again, then Ed and Mary showed up. Mary rode to Harpers Ferry the other day. Then she ran a marathon. And rode home. She was a tad tired. (I’d be dead.) Go Mary!

Then Lauren and Klarence showed up. I only see them at baseball games these days. They seem so happy together. Klarence and I did our traditional bone crushing hug thing. After chatting for a bit we parted but not without another BCH. Klarence leads the league in BCH per nine innings. Suffice it to say, I miss Klarence big time.

The ride back to the car was literally a breeze. The nasty winds had calmed but what wind remained was at my back for five miles.

Today I slept in. The temperature has finally dropped into the autumn norm. The air is dry. It’s perfect sleeping weather. I spent the morning reading four days’ worth of newspapers and doing all the crosswords and sudokus. I am the newspaper puzzlator!

As I write I am listening to the Nats-Dodgers game on the radio because my TV plan doesn’t get the MLB TV network. As someone who grew up listening to baseball games at night on the radio, I feel like a kid again.

The weekend wasn’t all perfection though. After I changed the tires on Deets, I noticed that the odometer was being stingy. My normal bike commute route is 29.5 miles but the new tires were only getting credit for 29.

So I reset the wheel size. In the process I learned that, unlike my other bike computers, this one won’t allow me to re-enter the 3,045 miles I had deleted in the reset process. Boo. Cateye Urban Wireless. Don’t buy this bike computer.

Also, I pulled out my cold weather bike gear. Wind pants. Lobster gloves. Tights. Ear band.

Noooo!

Okay, autumn has its moments. I promise to enjoy them. With any kind of luck, I’ll get to see another playoff game. Woot!

How was your weekend?