I’ve ridden The Mule over 5,500 miles this year. Today my trusty steed turned 51. Time to give it a rest for a few weeks.
I’ve ridden The Mule over 5,500 miles this year. Today my trusty steed turned 51. Time to give it a rest for a few weeks.
M&Ms come in all kinds of flavors these days. Last night I meant to buy the old fashioned milk chocolate kind, but I got the sleeping pill version. I ate some and passed out at 9:15. I woke up 7 1/2 hours later with no idea of where I was.
This tour is starting to wear my ass out. Good thing it’s nearly over.
The hotel breakfast was biscuits and gravy, oatmeal and raisins, eggs, sausage, potatoes, coffee, and OJ. I took an apple and a banana for the road.
The ride to Portland must have featured a tailwind because I put no effort into it. I rode over the St, John’s bridge and followed my maps toward Multnomah Falls which is well east of the city up the Columbia River. As I rode I saw beaucoup runners, mostly really good ones. Oregon is the home of Nike, the late Steve Prefontaine, and Alberto Salazar and the weather is perfect for running. At least it was this morning, before a heat wave hit.
There were also bicyclists riding what was obviously a predetermined route. It was the Portland Bridge Pedal. It’s like the 50 States Ride in DC but with signs instead of a 10 page indecipherable cue sheet.
I rode to the Columbia River and around the airport. I saw two story house boats and green islands and a rather enormous snow covered mountain which I took to be Mt. Hood. (It might have been Mt. Adams but what do I know.)
When I arrived in Troutdale, I saw an electric sign that said the interstate exit to Multnomah Falls was closed. I asked the Google and it told me that the cycling route to the falls was closed.
I booked a room in a hostel conveniently located 15 miles across Portland. So I asked the Google to direct me. And I got a tour of the city. I was riding mostly in the northwest part of town. Parts reminded me of Pasadena, others of Stockholm, and others of Arlington Va. I saw light rail, Craftsman houses with interesting paint jobs, and helpful bike wayfaring signs.
I even saw two buildings that had a Peter Max kind of paint job.
I checked in to my hostel which is walking distance to all kinds of interesting stuff that is closed because it’s Sunday evening.
Tomorrow I go see my niece and grandnephew. The boy looks like a cross between Winston Churchill and Don Zimmer. This raises the question: what do they call gerbils in England?
Total miles: 4,301.5
And another thing, while riding through Portland, The Mule turned 50.
Before we begin today’s tale, I need to clear up something from yesterday. I did indeed cross into the Mountain time zone late yesterday.
Last night I splurged for a decent hotel and had dinner at a sit down restaurant. Salad and jambalaya. The portions were huge. The walk back to the hotel was mostly a waddle.
At hotel breakfast this morning I met Peggy an Jeff who were traveling to Milwaukee by bike. They are known on Crazyguyonabike as PB&J.
The way west was aided once again by a mild tailwind. I must have been good because Bike Santa is sure being nice to me. The road climbed gradually and rolled a big bit I was having no problems. Then I realized that’s The Mule had achieved a milestone coming out of Dickinson.
The number and size of buttes increased today as I rode west. I startled a pheasant in the tall grass next to the road and he blasted up and away. I also spotted another fawn.
Frankly I thought the green hills and buttes were quite pretty. After a few miles the route took me into I-94. The shoulder is paved, ten-feet wide, and has a rumble strip so I felt very safe. Interstates tend not to have steep hills which made my legs happy.
I noticed the soil near the road was not brown. Instead it was white like a sandbox or gypsum in wallboard. I spotted a couple of cool looking mesas in the distance. Then I went around a big grassy hill. When I came to the other side of the hill I saw it. The Painted Canyon of the Badlands in Theodore Roosevelt National Park.
Not only had the terrain changed in what seemed like an instant, but it was spectacularly beautiful. I rode to the scenic overlook, parked my bike, and walked around for over a half hour.
The road to the scenic overlook contains a cattle guard, a metal rumble strip that catches the feet of large animals. The large animal here is the buffalo. Sadly I didn’t see any but when I got back on the interstate I could hear and see prairie dogs. (No pictures though because I was going downhill.)
I left the interstate to visit Medora, a funky western town that looked cheesy to me.
I stopped at a pub for lunch, a steak salad. Delish.
When I started up again the wind direction had changed. The headwind increased in intensity for the rest of the day as a storm passed through, mostly to the south and east.
Also the hills increased, or seemed to. A bike tourist zoomed by me in the opposite direction. He waved as told me that the food in the gas station in Sentinel Butte was great.
This gave me something to look forward to as I fought the wind and the hills. It also began to rain, not hard but the raindrops were big and cold.
I stopped at the gas station that looked like the one in Mayberry. Inside three men were packing up a burgers and snacks lunch. They offered it to me but I had eaten only a couple of hours earlier. Instead I asked for some ice cream. One of the men paid for it. Then another mad opened up a container on the table. Cookies. I had one, again for free.
Heading west was one big hill then a long downhill through rollers to the town of Beach. Here the route took me back to I-94. And the storm started building over me. Fortunately the road began to angle to the northwest. Into Montana. Note the selfie path.
There were two signs that just might have been related.
For the last five miles I had a strong tailwind. Despite very tired legs I flew along at 17 miles per hour until I exited the freeway at Wibaux. All the rain had convinced me to grab a hotel. I found one just outside of town in a gravel road. No lie.
Time to take the gas station dude’s recommendation and head into town for some pizza and beer.
My thanks to the people of North Dakota for a pretty awesome week that began with colorful ASL bike racks and ended in jambalaya and gas station freebies.
Miles today: 76
Total miles: 2,395
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.
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.
Somehow, despite dealing with pulmonary embolisms, I have managed to ride more this year than last. I passed 2,000 miles a few days ago.
Tonight I hit another milestone. My Cross Check passed 9,000 miles.
And it’s only 10,000 miles behind Little Nellie.
One of my favorite things about bicycling in DC is the weekly get together called Friday Coffee Club. Bike commuters would congregate Swings Coffee Roasters at 17th and G Streets NW, across from the Old Executive Office Building, to vent about their workweek, dream of weekend bike adventures, and ponder the magnificence of coffee and fritters. Many friendships were made. Remarkably, even by me.
Then tragedy struck. The building that housed our coffee house was renovated down to the studs. Swings closed. Panic! The coffee club relocated across town near K and 4th Streets NW at A Baked Joint. Despite its fine coffee and yummy breakfast sandwiches, A Baked Joint lacked the three most important things about coffee clubs: location, location, location. (Admit it, you thought I was going to say fritters, fritters, fritters, didn’t you?) Many of the original club participants, including me, stopped going.
This week Swings re-opened. Felkerino, one of the founding members, put out the call via social media. And the old gang re-assembled. Ricky, true to form, arrived first. Mary and Brian, two of the other founding members, were there as were many unfounding folks. Kristen gets bonus points for making a special telework-day trip to the gathering to represent the K (Kristin, Katie, Kate, etc.) sisters. Bob (Don’t Call Me Rachel) Cannon bemoaned the absence of Rachel (Don’t Call Me Bob) Cannon. This brought to mind how truly amazing it is how much they look alike.
Unfortunately, Swings does not yet have fritters for sale. (Oh, the humanity!) Andrea and I improvised by buying over-sized chocolate chip cookies. We touched our cookies together in a celebratory toast of sorts.
The place looks almost exactly as before the renovation. Why mess with a good thing, right? It was actually warm enough to sit outside but the outdoor furniture is not yet in place. So we gathered indoors and conversation flowed around the tall tables. There were so many people that I didn’t get a chance to talk to half of them. Even so, I learned about federal budget injustices and self-administering injections of blood thinner and notice-and-comment proceedings and bike swaps and optimal application of man-made snow, among other things.
After the gang dispersed to make their fortunes in the land of the paper pushers, I rode back to the retirement home. I stopped at the gym and lifted some weights. After that I swung by the local bike shop to have the chain on my Cross Check evaluated for wear. It’s only my second chain on this bike. I thought it would be a good idea to check it since the odometer crossed 8,000 miles on the way home.
It was a fitting coda to a joyful morning.
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.
And so I put this bike away for the winter and switch to my other three steeds. They miss me.
During yesterday’s ride, The Mule crossed another milestone, 44,000 miles. It was all impressed with itself. Not have bad.
Friday began with what is becoming a rejuvenated tradition for me: Friday Coffee Club. The ride into the city on my Cross Check was run of the mill. I was in a good mood and the ride only made it better.
About 1 mile from A Baked Joint, the interim location of the FCC, I happened to run into Andrea. Andrea and I chatted for a bit about how hard it is to get to ABJ. The streets are one way or closed off from construction or the traffic lights are numerous and interminable. Basically, it’s DC. Deal.
Andrea, however, has figured out some tricks. New York Avenue is a main drag that runs on a diagonal to the grid of lettered and numbered streets. Intersections often result in small triangles with traffic lights going every which way. When you get to a red light at one of these the trick is to take a right then a quick left, essentially going the long way around the triangle, then a right to continue on the diagonal. Not only does this save time at the first red light but it allows you to catch a few more green lights along the way.
Andrea’s real genius came when she took me down K Street. A left on 7th Street is illegal so Andrea does a Copenhagen left. She rides to the far side of the intersection and pivots her bike. And from there ABJ is but a short hop away. Watch me screw it up next week.
We had our coffee outside. We told tales of our bike touring adventures. Andrea advised me to get a silk sleeping bag liner. Genius again! Then PLINK! A sheared off screw fell on the table from above where some construction was happening. Fortunately we survived a few more insults from on high before moving on.
On the ride to work I fell in behind Lawyer Mike and Pancho. Until I met him at FCC, I’d never met a Pancho before. I can’t get over what a cool name it is. Right up there with Augustus.
The ride to work went surprisingly fast. I had figured out a few tricks of my own last week. It involves getting through the worst of the badly timed lights on the M Street cycletrack. Several of these lights last a minute so hitting them all is pretty frustrating.
In the evening I rode to Mount Pleasant, a neighborhood in the north central part of DC. The ride there was remarkably pleasant. especially given the fact that I rode through two insanely congested traffic circles. At my destination, I met a bunch of co-workers present and past for happy hour. This turned into dinner. It was a pretty darned nice evening. Unfortunately, when I got out of the restaurant a little after 10 pm, it started to rain cats and dogs. I put on my rain jacket, hopped on the Cross Check and carefully rode toward Virginia down 11th Street. I could barely see and was sure that the drivers and other street users could barely see me. I took my time. I stopped to put on my headlight and made my way to the Pennsylvania Avenue cycletrack. Then it was on to 15th Street and past the Washington Monument. The rain started to abate.
I have no idea how long it took me to ride the 16 miles home. Once it stopped raining it was actually pretty nice. The trail was empty. It was just me and the breeze and the sound of thousands of frogs croaking and peeping in the night.
I arrived a home just after midnight. I stayed up another couple of hours before falling asleep in an easy chair. Then I staggered to bed only to be awoken at 6 am with cramps in my feet and calves. Perhaps I should drink less wine and more water on these outings. Ya think?
During yesterday’s festivities the Cross Check managed to cross over a mileage threshold.
In the evening, my wife, daughter, and I went out to get some dinner. Just before arriving back home, the car odometer hit a milestone of its own and easily won the odometer competition.
I gotta get pedaling. It’s catching up to my bikes!
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