The Big Finish – Part 3

Prednisone

Today was my final prednisone pill. It’s powerful stuff. It has interesting side effects. It makes you speedy, improves your mood, and boosts your appetite. Basically, you run around the kitchen eating all the Christmas goodies. It’s a dirty, lousy, thankless job but somebody has to do it. Oink.

Stenosis

After breakfast, I did a half hour of yoga for my back. Normally, I start by doing standing stretches, but today I did nothing but stretches and core exercises on the floor. Child pose is the bomb. I think the prednisone allows me to relax and stretch without muscle soreness. It’ll be interesting to see how my body handles some of these positions without the benefit of steroids.

Colonoscopy

Earlier this month I had a colonoscopy. The doctor found three abnomalities. He found one to be obviously innocuous. Two were suspicious. He biopsied the baddies and removed all three. Today, he showed me the results from the pathology lab. My two suspect polyps were adenomas, the kind of polyps that can develop into colon cancer. Had I not had this colonoscopy I might have been in for a rather rude surprise in 2020. Long story short, I’m good to go, so to speak, for another three years.

The Last Ride

After a 20-minute meditation session down by the river, I went for my final bike ride of the year. It was a 28-mile gentle meander on the Mount Vernon Trail aboard the Cross Check. My back did not much like the bumps on the trail. After the ride I lowered the saddle a couple of millimeters. We’ll see how that feels next time. (Later in the evening my hips and left leg were sore from stenosis. Hmm…)

Fleet Miles

I have four bikes. The end-of-year odometer readings are pretty cool. Clockwise from top left: Little Nellie, The Mule, The Cross Check, and Big Nellie. These are only outdoor miles. I put some miles on Big Nellie in the basement every winter so its odometer reading is probably short about 1,000 miles. Grand total: 135,050 miles since 1991.

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December Miles

In December I rode 667.5 miles. All but 44 miles were outdoors. I rode 24 out of 31 days. My long ride was during the Hains Point 100 when I did 37.5 miles.

2019 Miles

I rode a total of 10,618.5 miles in 2019, 2,978 of them during the No Name Tour from May to early July. During the tour, I climbed over 150,000 feet. I rode 188 miles indoors, evidence of a mild winter. I climbed 0 feet indoors. Boredom has its advantages.

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Miles by Bike 2019

2019 Events

In addition to the Hains Point 100, I squeezed in a few other bike events this year. I did my 11th Fifty States Ride, my fifth Cider Ride, another Great Pumpkin Ride (I can’t recall how many times I’ve done this one), a ride looking at murals in Alexandria, and still another with a George Washington theme.

A Decade of Riding

I rode 84,531 miles in the 2010s.

Miles by Year - 2010 to 2019

 

Pictures of the Year 2019

Well, once again I wasted untold hours posting this inane blog. In for a penny, in for a pound. So here goes with the pictures of 2019. With one, regrettably from a few years ago.

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I finally made it to the Kenwood neighborhood in Bethesda. Cherry blossoms are one of the best things about DC in the spring.
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The bike valet at Nationals Park is the best. My bikes spent a lot of time here this year
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Nothing says bike touring fun quite like two weeks of thunderstorms.
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Springfield, Illinois just around the corner from the grave of the Corn Dog King
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Mark, Corey, and me taking shelter from a storm in a church in Kansas
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Kansas was an ordeal. Little did we know that the Rockies would be brutal. The sign was pretty neat though.
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Electrically equipped apartments in Pueblo, CO
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Flooding in western Missouri and eastern Kansas on the way west
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Part of a farm building that was obliterated by a tornado near Golden City, Missouri. Three people died here.
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I rode to the top of this beast. The ride down was epic.
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Indomitable French sisters in Boulder, Utah
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Rocks out west
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Stupidest sign of the year
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More rocks near Bryce Canyon
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Hoodoos in the Amphitheater at Bryce Canyon
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The Mule poses next to the Cedar Break National Monument snow bank in late June
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Survival indeed
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Gio and Christina from Italy in Eureka, Nevada
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I thought these climbs would never end
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Downhill through California wineries
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Salt flats in Nevada
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Morning view from my motel room – Caples Lake, California in the Sierras
Sugarloaf with sticks
Hiking Sugarloaf, Maryland
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Lotus blossoms at the Anacostia Botanical Gardens
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Apollo 50 on the National Mall
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The Mule comes home
Dinner view
They won the whole damned thing. Unreal.
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Tired? Not me. Emilia at the Great Pumpkin Ride
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Autumn in Fort Hunt Park near home
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A stellar human being killed by an out-of-control driver. Still hard to believe Miss you Dave.

 

 

 

And I Thought It Was Me

One of the worst, most depressing experiences I have ever had on a bike, or for that matter off a bike, was hitting the wall on my first day climbing in the Colorado Rockies. The day started with 30 miles from Pueblo to Wetmore. In the process I climbed about 1,400 feet. It was a bit challenging but not too bad.

Between Wetmore and Westcliffe, however, was a 3,000 foot climb over what I learned today is something called Hardscrabble Pass. The Google says the distance is 15 miles but other accounts have it at 12 miles. Either way it is a relentless grade of between 6 and 8 percent for most of the way up.

Today I read an account of a bike tourist who did this ride in 2009. He describes having to stop every 1/10 of a mile to avoid going anaerobic. His legs kept tying up as he rode. With no experience at this sort of thing, I didn’t stop until I was completely unable to get a breath. At around 7,500 feet, I leaned over my bike gasping. (My asthma didn’t help a whole lot.)

Another rider broke the Pueblo to Westcliffe ride into two days. He referred to the pass as “the wall.” He took five hours to ride 15 miles over the top. And he walked three times.

After starting and stopping several times, I ended up walking the steepest part about half way between Wetmore and the pass. I felt humiliated, but these two journals assure me that my failure to ride nonstop over the pass had nothing to do with my fitness or age.

My ego feels better now.

No Name Tour: Highlights

Even before I finished my ride this summer, people were asking me, “What was the best part?” It may seem strange to say this but until I reviewed my blog posts last week, I had forgotten much of the ride! I suppose this was because I was so focused on the present that the past was of little importance.

And now that I have reviewed the posts, I still don’t have an answer. There were plenty of highlights.

  • Lincoln’s tomb (and the comic graves nearby) in Springfield, Illinois.
  • The Burma Shave signs on the Route 66 bike path in Illinois.
  • The many trail angels that showed me kindness, especially Jesse, the retired chef in a white pickup truck in Saint Louis. I am not exaggerating when I say that he saved my life. (I’ll never forget how he vacillated between saying “I love you” and cussing like Samuel L. Jackson.)
  • The Buddhist monk in the cowboy hat walking on the side of the road in Missouri. I am still kicking myself that I didn’t take his picture but he seemed completely at peace, gliding down the shoulder of the road with a serene smile across his face.
  • Taking a dive in the pool at the city park in Ash Grove, Missouri at the end of a hot and frustrating day. Fifteen minutes of bliss.
  • Meeting and riding with Mark and Corey from Ash Grove to Pueblo, Colorado.
  • The Cosmosphere in Hutchinson, Kansas. I could have spent hours and hours in that place.
  • The epic flooding in eastern Kansas.
  • The medicinal effects of marijuana edibles, an order of magnitude more effective and long lasting than ibuprofen for the pain in my left knee and hip.
  • Mo at the Courtyard Country Inn in Westcliffe, Colorado for getting me a room after one of my most exhausting days on a bike.
  • Making it to the top of Monarch Pass. And flying down the other side for ten miles.
  • San Miguel Canyon in Colorado. I went off route to avoid Lizard Head Pass and rode through a breathtaking canyon. Pure serendipity.
  • The Hogback in Grand Staircase – Escalante National Monument.
  • All the bike tourists I met on the side of the road. The French sisters and Dan Hurwitz are still riding. The sisters are on Instagram and Dan has a blog.
  • Bryce Canyon. Egads, it’s amazing.
  • Red Canyon, the little known canyon to the west of Bryce.
  • The ride from Cedar Breaks National Monument to Cedar City, Utah, a loss of 5,000 feet in 20 miles.
  • My Warmshowers hosts in Hutchinson, Carson City, and Sacramento. And Jesse and Mike in San Francisco.
  • Mushroom Swiss burgers in Nevada. Everybody I met was raving about them for good reason.
  • The sign guys who helped me find a place (and drove me to dinner) after I climbed Carson Pass in California.
  • The bike mechanics in Pueblo, Salida, Ridgeway, and Carson City who dropped everything to help me.
  • Most of my days seemed to be in survival mode on this tour. Still I had hours and hours of meditative solitude.

No Name Tour – The Mule Is Back

A bike tour doesn’t officially end until your trusty steed is back and home and in working order. When it arrived from San Francisco, I re-assembled The Mule then took it to the bike shop for some TLC. It now has new fenders (long overdue), new bar tape, a new water bottle cage (one of the old ones died of metal fatique), and a new front derailleur that actually shifts properly.

I brought The Mule home and put on the handlebar bag, the bike computer, the frame pump and the saddle bag. Everything old is new again. I left the lizard on the stem.

Every bike tour needs a mascot but my last few haven’t had one. I was given this little plastic lizard by the owner of Lizard Lips, a pretty decent cafe inside a convenience store in Toronto, Kansas. The lizard needed a name so I decided to call it Dave in memory of Dave Salovesh. Dave wasn’t the slightest bit reptilian but what are you going to do? (Ironically, I was riding with Mark and Corey at the time. Mark bought a pool noodle and used pieces of it to make cushions on his handlebars. My favorite picture of Dave has him holding pool noodles after a protest in DC.) Dave was the kind of person who seemed to look forward to flat tires because it gave him an opportunity to talk to his cycling friends while he fixed it. So, whenever I was facing a godawful climb or a soul-sucking headwind (which was WAY too often) or a terrifying descent in a swirling, gusty wind, I’d talk to Dave. Dave the Lizard wasn’t particularly loquacious, but he took my mind off the struggle for a few seconds.

I also like the fact that this lizard is pink. I think it would look nice with Dave’s jersey with the rainbow-puking unicorn on it or his fabulously loud bicycling tights.

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.

 

 

 

No Name Tour: Feelin’ Like Clyde Barrow

Last night Jessie ordered in India food. It was delish. Today Mike, Jessie, and I decamped. Mike rode his bike to work. Instead of riding her bike to work, Jessie rode the Muni streetcar with me downtown.

She hopped off at her office. I continued on, missing my stop at the Embarcadero Center where I worked for a summer a lifetime ago.

I corrected my error without difficulty other than the fact that the huge duffle was digging into my shoulders.

Back at Embarcadero I switched to BART. I find it amusing that BART hasn’t solved the problem of onboard announcements. “Next stop $&@/;)&&@&& Station.”

I managed not to miss my stop but once I got on the streets, I took some wrong turns before finally setting off toward my hotel.

I’m pretty sure this is an unsafe neighborhood. There’s trash everywhere. Lots of homeless people. Every other vehicle is a heap. Businesses are all protected by tall metal fencing and locked gates. Fortunately the hotel has an airport shuttle. (BART connects to the airport via a spur line that has smaller, shuttle trains.)

I’ve been in so many sketchy motels since I left home that I feel like a bank robber hiding out from the heat. No worries. They’ll never take me alive.

I’m not very far from where the interstate pancaked on itself during the World Series earthquake. And just a half mile from the ugliest stadium in Major League Baseball. I’d go to a game anyway but it’s the All Star break.

Walking around has re-awakened my wonky left knee and hip. During the tour, I pushed The Mule up some mighty big hills and my hip and leg never complained. I just walked a half mile and it feels like my left side has become unhinged. This will make for an interesting hike next Saturday.

Speaking of when I get home, I have a fairly busy schedule: refill my asthma prescription, repair my laptop, have diner breakfast with my wife, deal with 7 1/2 weeks of mail, try to go to two happy hours at the same time, go to Friday Coffee Club, do the hike, ride to the botanical garden to see the lotus blossoms, ride to the sunflowers fields in Montgomery County, Maryland, put The Mule back together, and take The Mule to the bike shop to replace worn out parts.

That’s too much. Maybe I should just stay here and rob a few banks.


Very big thanks to Jessie and Mike for being such terrific hosts these past few days.

No Name Tour: Aftermath In SF

Friday night Jessie and Mike took me to the neighborhood Puerto Rican restaurant In Haight Ashbury and we stuffed ourselves. How do you say gut bomb in Spanish?

Yesterday we took The Mule to Bespoke, a bike shop across town. The owner used to work at my local bike shop in Mt. Vernon. He’ll ship my baby home later this week.

I rode a Jump bike back from the bike shop. It was my first time on an electric assist bike. It’s two-wheeled crack.

We had breakfast al fresco at a restaurant on the Wiggle, a bike route that weaves through the streets of this section of the city, avoiding big hills. It’s painted green and includes a counterflow section.

I bought a massive duffle bag Friday. It had straps on it so I can wear it like a backpack. I could wipe out every passenger on a BART train with this baby. Bwa ha ha.

Last night we had phenomenal tacos at a Mexican place before imbibing a huge bowl of punch at a bar. Not much of an improvement on my bike touring diet I must say but it felt considerably less painful.

I’m staying with Jessie and Mike until Monday morning when the duffle and I will relocate to a hotel near the Oakland airport for Tuesday’s flight home. I’ve already scheduled two happy hours for next week. Unfortunately they are for the same evening.

I looked up some descriptive statistics on the Western Express yesterday. Between Pueblo CO and San Francisco I did more than 98,000 feet of climbing.

And today to prove that this tour has traumatized me, I signed up for my 11th 50 States Ride on Sept 7. Nigel Tufnel would be pleased.

Team Rootchopper assemble!

No Name Tour: Day 51 – You Have to Earn It

I hand washed my clothes in the hotel last night. It must not be as dry here because it was all slightly damp this morning.

After breakfast I improvised a route back to the Western Express at Rockville. The wind was howling in my face. The American flags still flying from Independence Day we’re flying horizontally. Don’t go back to Rockville and waste another gear.

Then it got seriously hilly. I couldn’t believe I was using my granny gear. The map said I had a bike trail ahead. When I got there I saw that it had an 8% grade.

It’s a good thing I threw some stuff out at the hotel.

I arrived at the ferry terminal just as the 10:30 boat was leaving for San Francisco. Killing time I had Friday Coffee Club solo with a pretty awesome chocolate chip cookie.

I sat in the sun with my back to the pier. When I turned around after 20 minutes I saw that a line had formed with well over 100 people in it. No worries; it’s a big boat. The Mule went in a bike rack in the rear and I took a seat inside. The ride was as smooth as a bus until we approached San Francisco. Thankfully the swells were short lived.

Jessie and Mike were waiting for me. After a short chat we followed a trolley bus up Market Street, dodged a dozen misbehaving pedestrians, rode the Wiggle to The Panhandle, and ended at their place in the Haight.

After Mike moved The Mule and all my stuff upstairs to the apartment, we walked around the block so I could buy a duffle bag for the trip home.

Later they treated me to dinner at a Puerto Rican restaurant, beers at home, and ice cream at a shop up the street.

Tomorrow I’ll ship The Mule home.

Miles today: 28

Tour miles: 2,976

No Name Tour: Day 50 – Gems in the Breakdown Lane

Way back in Missouri I met Rob and Fay on their way from Santa Monica to Chicago on Route 66z we hit it off and they invited me to stay at their place if I’d decided to finish my ride in Sacramento or San Francisco.

As things worked out, I ended up riding through Sacramento. Despite the fact that I arrived a day early and that they had plans for the night, they opened their home to me. Before they left for a night out at the football (soccer) pitch, they left me with a warm pasta casserole, instructions to eat or drink anything else to my liking, a huge TV, and a swimming pool.

I never made it to the pool because one of their comfy chairs knocked me out. I woke up 90 minutes later totally disoriented. Before and after my slumber I drank about six pints of cold, cold water from the fridge. (94 miles of riding makes for a powerful thirst.

We chatted a bit after they came home and again over the breakfast they made me. Then thru gave me a rolling escort back up to the Western Express Route. We then rode the fantastic bike trail along the American River into Old Town Sacramento, and ultimately over the Tower Bridge into West Sacramento. It was about 27 miles in all. What terrific hosts!

I continued heading west on the causeway over farm fields along I-80.

Then after a few miles of suburban roads I entered Davis. I remember coming to Davis in 1979 and marveling at how the community embraced cycling. Today, as I was taking a left turn a white SUV pulled up along my right hand side. I had missed the fact that the left turn had two lanes. The driver Roth window open started yammering at me to learn the rules of the road. She could have said something constructive like “You need to be in the right lane”, but she chose to be an asshole.

So I chose to tell her to fuck off.

This happened as we were moving in traffic.

After she passed me, I signaled and moved over. Oddly the driver behind Miss Bossypants had no trouble comprehending my maneuver.

There was a criterium going on in town. I saw it as an impediment between me and lunch.

A couple of passers by chatted with me, apologized for the driver’s rudeness, and explained how to get to a good restaurant along the race course. This being a holiday the placed was packed. Many of the tables had whiny kids. The line go order food was out the door. I left.

After another five miles I spotted a Subway and hoovered a foot long.

The trail west of Davis was designed for me; it was riddled with bumps from tree roots. Where’s my axe when I need it?

Soon I was back on two lane country roads they actually went up and down a bit. Show me what you got, Yolo County.

Not much.

I rolled through orchards if fruit trees, past farm fields, and along a Putah Creek.

Near Winters the creek was filled with families having fun with tubes and other water toys.

I stopped in Winters for GatorAde and an Its It, which is the closest food you can get to Meth.

From Winters I did more easy climbing and rode past Vacaville, known mostly for its hospital for the criminally insane. I didn’t have to deal with any loonies running loose but I did see a wild turkey run across the road in front of me.

Could it be that the turkey was a human escapee and that something in god water is making me go mad?

From Vacaville it was a short spin to Fairfield. The afternoon heat and 75 miles of riding convinced me to find a motel. And do I did.

I pulled a Joe Walsh and washed everything I own except my shoes in the bathroom sink. Tomorrow’s 2-hour ride to the ferry terminal in Vallejo could be a tad moist.

Total miles: 75.5

Tour miles: 2,948

Top speed: 26.1 mph

More pix on Instagram