Autumn

The DC area does a pretty darn good job of falling. Here’s some examples.

Foliage

It always seems to take longer than last year, but the fall foliage around these parts, while not in the same league as Vermont, isn’t half bad. My vote for tree of the year is this one, located near the Virginia side of the Memorial Bridge.

Stopped me in my tracks

Cider

The last bicycling event ride of the year, at least for me, is the Cider Ride. It is staged by the Washington Area Bicyclists Association. There are three routes of which I picked the longest, 55-mile one. The course winds its way up and down the branches of the Anacostia River and spends about ten miles meandering around a United States Agriculture Department research facility and its adjacent suburban neighborhoods. On the return the course passes through Greenbelt (which I always confuse with Beltsville). The three pit stops had dozens and dozens of donuts (I had one with white frosting and sprinkles), apple pie, and, of course, warm cider. (The Greenbelt pit stop also includes yellow jackets which find cider irresistible.) Normally I don’t like cider but on a cool autumn afternoon, warm cider is just about the perfect drink.

Kevin W. contacted me the night before and we rode together from the start. At the first pit stop about 13 miles into the ride at Proteus Bicycles in College Park we were joined by Michael B. These two gents have been the anchors of my last several 50 States Ride posses and are the best riding companions. They wait for me at turns because I am old and they are not. At the end of the ride we indulged in libations. A pleasant time was had. As you can see, the weather was splendid.

Kevin (L) and Michael at the after party

A big thanks to the folks at WABA who spend many hours planning this event. On the day of the event they get up way too early and resist the temptation to eat all the donuts. So thanks to all the WABA staff Garrett, Ursula, Kristin, and, Anna (as well as any I haven’t met or didn’t see), and the scads of volunteers. Somehow volunteer Dana got assigned pie duty at the furthest pit stop from his house in Arlington. Hope you didn’t get stung. And a big shout out and thanks for the hug to Monica, the queen of merch at the after party.

Floods

Although not strictly limited to autumn, the flooding of the Potomac River is always an interesting thing to see. A week ago, we had the highest water since the epic storm surge from hurricane Isabel in 2003. This picture of the lower end of King Street (the main tourist street) in Old Town Alexandria was taken several hours before the high water mark. News reports showed a couple canoeing here.

Fall Back

We just switched back to standard time this weekend. One annoying aspect is that I have to reset all four of my bike computers. Of course, I have three different kinds, each it its own sequence of buttons to be pushed. My big worry is that when I start futzing around with the buttons I’ll accidentally delete the mileage on the odometers. So, before I start, I take a picture of all four computers’ odometer settings. I’m a bit over 155,000 miles on these four bikes. This means I ride a lot and I, and my bikes, are old. (This does not include mileage from my Raleigh Grand Prix and my Trek 1200, both of which left the stable decades ago.)

Clockwise from top left: The Mule (Specialized Sequoia), Big Nellie (Tour Easy recumbent), Little Nellie (Bike Friday New World Tourist), and my Surly Cross Check.

Welcome to the El Norte Zoo

It has now been over two years since the Irish government received my application for citizenship. (My paternal grandmother was born in County Mayo.) Between Brexit and the pandemic, the delays have become rather frustrating. I guess I’ll have another Guinness while I wait.

My experience is not uncommon so I get chuffed when I learn that someone I know has been granted U. S. citizenship. The latest is my friend Peter’s wife Ona. I confess that I barely know her but it’s quite obvious that Peter is an hombre con suerte. Ona became a US citizen over the weekend. I saw her at the Cider Ride after party and she was still beaming. Congratulations, Ona.

The Mule Turns 30 and 61

It was 30 years ago that I gave up trying to commute on my Trek 1200 and bought a commuter bike. The Specialized Sequoia that I bought came with a generator lighting system that was wired through the metal fenders. The lights were lame (3 watts as I recall) and the generator contacted the tread of the tire and wore tires out.

Over time I replaced everything but the frame, fork, seat post, and rack. The bike was priced to move, at $300 off list because, back in those days, people shied away from heavy bikes. What I didn’t know was that this bike was the best selling touring bike in Europe.

It is an awesome touring bike. Stable. Comfortable. Dependable.

For a while I stopped riding it when I switched to Big Nellie, my recumbent bike. Nerve problems in my legs eventually drove me back to the bike I have come to call The Mule.

Today The Mule turned 61 as in 61,000 miles. Still going strong.

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.

The Mule Turns 60

Indiana Jones once said. “It’s not the age; it’s the mileage.” Don’t know if I agree with him. I bought my Specialized Sequoia nearly 30 years ago. I almost gave up on it twice but a mechanic named Paul (now at Bicycle Space in DC) fixed a vexing problem with the headset about 20 years ago. When I complained about five years ago that he bike had too many miles on it to be trustworthy on long tours, my rando/touring/mechanic-y friend Mike told me not to worry. The Mule’s old steel frame would last a lot longer.

So here we are. At 60,000 miles. The frame, fork, seat post, rear rack, and wheel skewers are original. I fully expect to one day get on the bike and have it disintegrate beneath me. Until then, The Mule abides, baby.

By the way, if you’re thinking of getting a bicycle computer, don’t get the Cateye Padrone. It has never worked properly but I bought it at the start of the pandemic and returning it was fraught with peril.

Rebound

After a day of riding 65 hilly miles, my legs felt like concrete. Yesterday I was walking around like Frankenstein. In a fit of sanity, I took the day off.

Today my legs felt much better. I decided to go for a spin but before I began I raised my saddle a smidgen. Small changes to saddle height and other bicycle settings can make an enormous difference in comfort. Just a couple of millimeters was all it took to calm my sore left knee. I had no pain at all during my 35-mile ride up to DC and back. The change also seemed to help my lower back.

About a mile from home, I pulled The Mule over to take a picture..

I am beginning to wonder whether The Mule will outlast me.

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.

chart

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

 

Double Double Nickels

A double nickel is 55. The first time I heard this expression was when Jimmy Carter imposed a national 55 mile per hour speed limit during an “energy crisis.” Back in the 70s an energy crisis existed when you couldn’t find gas for your tank. Driving 55 on a wide open highway clearly designed for speeds of 70 or 75 miles per hour is enough to make you crazy. I once got a ticket for going 65 on I-66 in Virginia. The very same highway now has a 70 mile per hour speed limit. I should ask for a refund.

The energy crisis also introduced us to right on red. I am willing to bet that thousands of bicyclists and pedestrians have been mowed down by cars that don’t both to stop when making a right on red. It happened to me when I was on a bike trail.

I wonder if the lives saved from the double nickel exceeded the lives lost from right on red. Personally, I think these two changes began the erosion of the public’s regard for traffic laws. We got rid of the 55 mile per hour speed limit decades ago. We should do the same with right on red.

Screed over.

The contractors working on our house were not nearly as noisy as usual but their choice of overwrought oldie latin ballads on their boombox was getting pretty irritating. How long is this singer going to hold the vibratto note on “quiero”? Fortunately today was an absolutely perfect day for a bike ride.

I hit the road with the intent of riding to Bethesda for some pizza for lunch. Bethesda is about 25 miles from home so in my mind this makes sense. Your sanity may vary. I rode the Mount Vernon Trail to Crystal City. Then rode by a scenic and vast Pentagon parking lot before cruising around the north wall of Arlington Cemetery. I circled around the Iwo Jim Memorial (forever fixed in my mind by a nincompoop radio news reader who called it the Statue of the Two Jimas). Next I took Lynn Street through Rosslyn and the Intersection of Doom which is doomier thanks to construction. (I cannot even begin to describe the Intersection of Doom other than to say a bunch of roads, trails, and on and off ramps to I-66 and the GW Parkway all converging  at one end of the Key Bridge over the Potomac River into Georgetown. Look up “hot mess” in the dictionary. You’ll se a picture of the Intersection of Doom.)

Over the Key Bridge then up a side street into Georgetown where students meandered with big smiles on their faces, a sure sign that classes aren’t underway yet. I managed to miss a turn but soon found myself headed west-ish on Reservoir Road past Georgetown Hospital (and more construction) and the Bauhaus-y German Embassy.

Reservoir took me to MacArthur Boulevard which I planned to take to Persimmon Tree Road then up to downtown Bethesda. By the time I got to Persimmon Tree Road, I had already clocked 24 miles. Downtown Bethesda seemed a bit too far away so I decided to continue on MacArthur to the Old Anglers Inn where I could get something to eat.

Did I mention it was a perfect day for riding a bike? Well, it was. I got to the Old Anglers and I didn’t want to stop. So I refilled my water bottles and cut over to the C & O Canal towpath and headed back home. The towpath was bumpy in parts but after about a mile things smoothed out and I was cruising along with a tailwind.

There was plenty of evidence that this has been a hard year for the towpath. The towpath was narrow where it runs along the top of a huge wall near Carderock. (It’s a long way down.) The Billy Goat B Trail was closed. And crews were out clearing large trees that had fallen across the towpath.

After a mile of repairs the canal became blissful. Low humidity. Warm temps. A tailwind. Shade. The crunch of tires on the towpath. Ahhhh…..

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My bliss was interrupted by an ominous sign. It’s a good thing the sign is there because this part of the river looked really inviting.

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Eek.

No skinny dipping for me.

Other than being all kinds of messed up under the Beltway, the towpath was in pretty good condition. About three miles before the end of the canal, I cut over to the Capital Crescent Trail. This took me to a protected cycletrack on K Street along the Georgetown waterfront.

Next I took the side path along the Rock Creek and Potomac Parkway and Ohio Drive past the Watergate, the Kennedy Center, the Lincoln Memorial, and the Jefferson Memorial. (For you out of towners, this is pretty typical of DC. You can’t go a mile without seeing some famous building or other.)

I crossed the Potomac on the 14th Street Bridge and headed home on the Mount Vernon Trail. About five miles from my house the first double nickel happened. The Mule turned 55.

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Dang, The Mule abides.

I pulled into my driveway with the second double nickel. I had ridden 55 miles.

Did I mention that it is perfect weather for a nap?

Zzzzzzzzzz