Winter Weather or Not

Nine years ago today, a 32-year-old bike commuting friend of mine posted these words on my Facebook page:

“I just could not feel my body in the cold. So I damaged it without noticing it!”

What a difference nine years makes! Today was almost summer-like in DC. I saw a roadside sign that indicated it was 78F degrees at 3:30.

Of course, I saw this sign while out on my bike.

I didn’t get started until just before midday. I had spent the morning eating diner food and going to the library with Mrs. Rootchopper.  With my belly and brain satisfied, I was off on my Cross Check for a jaunt up the Anacostia River.

I began my ride on the Mount Vernon Trail. I crossed the Potomac River on the Woodrow Wilson Bridge Trail. Once in Maryland, I made the long slog up to Oxon Hill Road. The climb goes right past a massive MGM casino. The ginormous electronic sign indicated that Cher was performing there this month. I don’t gamble and I don’t Cher so let’s just say the whole casino thing is lost on me. I think the complex looks like the Imperial Star Destroyer from Star Wars. I prefer Mos Eisley bars to casinos.

Having reached Oxon Hill Road I made my way to Oxon Hill Farm and proceeded to ride right back down the hill to the river. Somebody’s got some explaining to do.

The Oxon Cove Trail winds its way to a enclave of public buildings including a police training facility, a city bus maintenance yard, some Smithsonian greenhouses and a vocational training complex. After perusing all these fine public sector facilities, I rode right back up the hill to Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue.

MLK Jr. Ave is not exactly where it’s at. I think maybe it’s were it might have been at about 80 years ago. It’s actually kind of depressing. My ride north took me past the grounds of St. Elizabeth’s nervous hospital. The complex is being taken over by the Department of Homeland Security which probably says something snarky about DHS.

The ride through Congress Heights and Anacostia was interesting. Drivers in this part of DC use the freestyle method of motoring. Random u-turns, lane changes, horn honking are the rule. I waved a thank you to a driver for not cutting me off and he laid on his horn. De nada, dude.

Suffice it to say, my rather precarious medical condition made me apprehensive for this part of the ride. I was happy to see the Anacostia River Trail which runs rather appropriately along the Anacostia River. And so, like a Yogi Berra malapropism, I took it. North. The scenery was still the grays and browns of winter but the temperature told me it was late spring.

I rolled along the trail past the garbage consolidation facility (helps with the sinuses don’t you know), past the Aquatic Gardens (the flower show happens much later in the year), through assorted fields, both natural and athletic, and around a cement plant to Bladensburg. As I crossed over the Anacostia, I passed about five priests (or, more likely, seminarians as they all looked pretty young). We waved at each other. I said “Mea Culpa” three times for good measure. (I was a altar boy who had to learn the Latin Mass and the English Mass, a biographical fact that dates the crap out of me. )

I am kidding about the Mea Culpas, by the way.

Once across the river I consulted the Google for advice on how to ride home without retracing my steps. I rode up the river until the trail split into the Northeast and Northwest Branch Trails. I took the latter and spotted a cupcake shop, a landmark from the Cider Ride last November. I didn’t stop. (I know, what a fool.) But I did find a trail that would take me back toward DC.

After a few miles I bailed on the trail It would have taken me to Queens Chapel Road which I am familiar with. Basically, it’s a bicycle death trap. So I started riding neighborhood streets and following the sun. I found myself back in DC riding a straight street to the west. In these parts “straight” almost always translates into “hilly”. As I slogged up one long hill, I passed an old man doddering around his front yard. He looked at me and remarked, “Better you than me.”

I love it when I’m mocked.

Soon I was in familiar territory. Monroe Street leads to 8th Street which leads to the Metropolitan Branch Trail. How nice of someone to put a trail with very few cross streets right in the middle of a city. The trail took me back southward and after a wiggle and waggle I was on a cycletrack that took me right past the incomparably boring Bureau of Labor Statistics.

I rode past a scrum of photographers at a courthouse. They were waiting to take a picture of a Trump associate who was being charged with treason or money laundering or some such offense. (I can’t keep it all straight, to be honest.)

Soon thereafter I was riding along the National Mall pretending I was in the Olympic tourist dodge event. I was pretty proud that I didn’t hit a single one.

After the podium ceremony, I rode around the tidal basin and over the 14th Street Bridge to the Mount Vernon Trail. The 12-mile ride from the bridge to my house was interrupted by a stop at the gym, because nothing improves a 48 1/2 mile bike ride quite like lifting weights.

Fug.

I arrived home exhausted but still had some physical therapy exercises to do. I am doing these because my left shoulder is on the blink.

Despite trying really hard, I did not damage my body. I guess you need cold weather to do that.

 

 

47 Miles for a Cup of Cider

The WABA Cider Ride is one of the last DC bike events of the year. In its first two years it was held in early December. From where I sit, holding a bike ride in December in DC is like holding World Series games in November in Boston. You’re just asking for trouble. Last year trouble arrived in the form of cold temperatures and rain. Even before the ride began I was feeling plenty depressed which only made a bad day suck more. Let’s just say it was not a whole lot of fun. I swore I’d never ride the Cider Ride again. (I also said this after the 2010 50-States Ride and then went on to ride the event four more times.)

Then someone at WABA got a pretty darn great idea: they decided to move the ride up to mid-November. So I signed up to ride the 47-mile option.

The ride began (and ended) at the Dew Drop Inn. This bar is located along the Metropolitan Branch Trail and immediately next to railroad tracks. It is an old building with a shipping container attached. I think one could say it has character.

I arrived about 40 minutes early thanks to non-existent traffic. Michele, the WABA events coordinator, was working with a scruffy crew of unscruffy women (including Sarah, another WABA employee, and volunteers Leslie and Sam) getting the ride’s check in area set up. I helped a little, got my cue sheet and headed out.

The course took us on city streets through middle-class Northeast Washington and into neighboring Mount Rainier, Maryland. Soon we were on the Northwest Branch Trail which follows the northwest branch of the Anacostia river. We traveled north-ish. I had my fingers crossed. Every other time I’ve ridden this trail system I’ve gotten lost. Thanks to many, many well-placed arrow signs, I managed to get only mildly confused a couple of times. One of these befuddlements came because a sign had been blown down. Did I mention it was windy. Well, now you know.

We followed the trail and the arrows. It was not encouraging that course marshalls were stopping to get their bearings. It wasn’t their fault. The directions are almost comical:”Bear left up big hill. Over bridge. Through the woods. Bang a left at Grandma’s house.” At times I was expecting to turn the page and see “HA HA!”

But I didn’t.

We kept following the trail  and the occasional road mostly through College Park until we were all dropped on the outskirts of Greenbelt Maryland. There are hundreds of acres of agricultural land used for research purposes by the Department of Agriculture. The roads are pretty darned nice for cycling. So we cycled.

We rode into the National Wildlife Federation property for a two mile loop through the woods with hardly any auto traffic. This was sweet. We returned through the Ag complex and into Greenbelt. From Greenbelt we wended our way back to College Park for a short ride on the very nice Trolley Trail. Next up was my big goof of the day. After the Trolley Trail we jumped on Route 1 and I took a right onto the Northwest Branch Trail instead of a left. After about 1/2 mile I came upon a course marshal. He told me I was off course and led me back to the point of my mistake and soon I (and the dozen other people who also goofed) was on my way to majestic snow covered Mount Rainier Maryland. (Just kidding. No snow. Just can’t figure out why this town has such a peculiar name.) The rest of the ride was an approximate retracing of the first four miles of the route.

The Cider Ride route is almost as complex and mysterious as the 50-States Ride. This is an incredible achievement made possible only by WABA’s proprietary RRGS (random route generation software). I have heard that NASA is considering using it for a mission to Mars.

There were two pit stops along the route. The first stop was at the 12 mile mark outside Proteus Bicycles in College Park They had warm cider and a ludicrous amount of granola bars and donuts. I felt health conscious and had a cup of cider and a Boston cream donut as I walked to Nelle from WABA. Nelle was in her usual good spirits despite the fact that the wind was threatening to blow her entire pit stop away. She reminded me as I parted that getting lost on a ride this complex is inevitable. You just have to go with the flow.

The second stop was at a park in Greenbelt. Here I selected the healthful choice of hot cocoa and apple pie. I spent a few minutes talking with Colin another WABA staff person. Colin’s bike is an touring bike that seems to have been set up by Dr Frankenstein. Or, considering its ability to carry thermoses, Juan Valdez.

The circuitous route made it hard to tell when you were going to get a tailwind, headwind or crosswind. I assumed that anytime I was going more than 20 miles per hour it was because of a tailwind. I assumed that because my legs were dead right from the start. They were the only legs I had so I did the best I could.

There was an after party at the Dew Drop Inn. There was beer. I drank some. There were chips. I ate them. There was a burrito. I ate it. There were many people I knew from #bikedc. I didn’t eat them.

Just before entering the bar, a young man with a clipboard asked me if my name was on “the list.” I was somewhat surprised to learn that it was. What was this list, I thought? It was the list of people who were given this really nifty mug.

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So another Cider Ride is in the books. Many thanks to WABA’s Greg Billing, Nelle Pierson, Colin Browne, and Sarah Katz-Hyman for a great event. Thanks also to the many volunteers who helped out along the course.

Extra special thanks to WABA’s Michelle Cleveland. These events take a ton of time to set up and pull off. As my father said when he was particularly impressed or proud of one of his kids: “You done good.”