Random Thoughts on a Down Day

Taking the rest of the day off

  • It’s hot as blazes outside. And I have ridden 188 miles in the last four days. So I decided to skip my usual night baseball game this week. And I am working from home today as well. I haven’t had a day completely off the bike in two weeks. It’s no wonder that I slept like a log last night. I am still a bit drowsy today, but I will be back at it for tomorrow’s 50 States Ride.

Blog power?

  • The car that was parked illegally for over a week in the bike lane at 420 North Union Street in Old Town was gone yesterday morning. Did somebody read my post? Or is it coincidence?  Either way, good riddence to the scofflaw parker.

Coffee in a tree

  • The forecast calls for horrific heat and humidity. Thank god the last rest stop is at a coffee shop around mile 55. Nothing says relief on a hot summer day like a big hot cup of joe. My friend Ursula will be running the rest stop. The thought of heat and hills and hot coffee gave me a weird dream the other night. (I rarely dream so it has stuck in my head.) I am climbing a tree. And there, sitting on a branch, is Ursula. Drinking hot coffee. She is cheerful. Then she spills the coffee and we mourn the loss.

Keeping my rubber side up

  • A shout out to the bike rider who nearly crashed on the Dyke Marsh bridge on the Mount Vernon Trail yesterday morning. He was passing a runner when he saw me coming toward him. He hit the brakes and his bike went skidding every which way. I was surprised he didn’t go down. His misfortune was a warning to me to take it easy on the wooden bridges which get really slippery when wet. Good thing. There was a pile up on the Trollheim, the boardwalk under the Teddy Roosevelt Bridge, yesterday morning. I wasn’t involved but rode through the crash site about 40 minutes after.

Road rage in North Old Town

  • I was on the receiving end of an act of road rage last night. I was coming to the place in North Old Town where the trail crosses the railroad tracks at an angle on First Street. A driver was approaching from the left. I was braking for the stop sign. About 50 feet before reaching the stop sign, the driver passed in front of me. He honked his horn and started yelling and pointing at me from behind his rolled up windows. He must have been having a bad day. It was weird.

Greetings while you sweat

  • A woman gave me the peace sign after I rode through the Memorial Bridge underpass last night. Then a passing male cyclist said hello. (Odds are it was Chris M. who I never recognize.) Just before the road rage incident two other unknown cyclists said hello. Considering the brutally oppressive heat and humidity, I’d say the people of the Mount Vernon Trail were having and exceptionally cheery day.

Flogini’s healing bike commute

  • My friend Flogini, erstwhile spiritual adviser to the Rootchopper Institute, wrote a cryptic note on her Facebook page yesterday. It was about bike commuting home in the rain and having the rain wash away her heartbreak. She broke up with her boyfriend that morning, on her birthday. I have been in a down mood the last few weeks. Her note was eloquent (not a surprise), and it somehow made me feel better. Whatta ya know about that, Burt? I reached out to her for the first time in months last night.

Impermanent friendship

  • Flogini and I have known each other for over nine years but we don’t hang out together anymore. A couple of years ago she just stopped saying yes when I asked her to get together. After several nos I stopped asking. Then she stopped reading my blog and following me on Facebook. So I unfollowed her. If she read this, she’d almost certainly say “Nonsense. We are still friends,” but her inaction speaks louder than her words. Sometimes life goes “CLANK.”

Any day will do

  • There is no good day to break up a relationship. That is to say, when a relationship is not working out, any day will do. I sympathize with Flogini because I broke up with a girlfriend on her birthday back in my grad school days. It was the right thing to do but the timing was unintentionally unkind. 19 years later she sent me a letter apologizing for breaking up with me! I had to remind her that I was the dumper not the dumpee and that it happened on her birthday. Derp. Time heals all wounds. We are on good terms today.

Trees at the ballpark

  • I hate my birthday. It’s like New Year’s Eve. Expectations are rarely realized. And the next day, if you’re lucky, you wake up another day older. I don’t need to be reminded of the ticking of my life clock. My knees and back and neck and shoulder and bladder remind me of it every day. I just wanted to hide in a hole this year. After the day had passed, I went to a Nats game alone and hid in plain sight. The people in the stands around me were anonymous like the trees I rode by on my bike tour in July.

Charlie’s an angel

  • Finally, a shout out to Kelly, my co-worker who has forsaken bike commuting this summer for baby making. Last night, she gave birth to a healthy baby girl named Charlotte. Sometimes happiness comes in warm 7.3 pound packages. Congrats to all. (BTW, I lost the friendly, no-awards office pool by a little over 3 hours. Her due date was September 1. When I guessed the 9th, she wanted to burn my desk.)

Old Town Bike Lane Parking Lot

Today I took a picture of the car blocking the Union Street bike lane at 420 N. Union. This bike lane is part of the Mount Vernon Trail and it gets heavy bike traffic at rush hour and on weekends. This car has plenty of company. Often the entire lane is blocked. Sometimes the entire sidewalk is blocked. Sometimes both.

 It’s been there for more than a week. I spotted a parking enforcement officer parked nearby. So I asked him why he doesn’t ticket obvious parking violators such as this.

He told me that they had been routinely issuing $40 tickets to Old Town residents who park in their driveways in such a way as to block the sidewalk and/or the bike lane. According to the officer, residents complain that they are “parking in their driveways” and “have nowhere else to park.”

As you can see from the photo, driveways in this area of Old Town are little more than curb cuts. As such they are  too short to fit most cars. Every house has a garage, but the residents won’t park in them. Of course, there is nothing to prohibit them from parking parallel to the curb like anyone else. In short, their argument is bovine scatology.

But the ticket office at City Hall feels their pain. Their tickets are routinely dismissed. So the ticket officers have stopped ticketing. It was not clear whether the officers were told to stop ticketing or whether they gave up out of frustration. In any case, the officer said, “The city is trying to work something out.”  

What’s to work out? 

The League of American Bicyclists designated Alexandria as a “Bicycling Friendly City.” How many other BFCs allow parking in the bike lane for days at a time? Maybe the League needs to reconsider its award process. Maybe I need to reconsider my membership.

 

Deets Turns 2 and a Blast from the Past

I rode Deets, my Surly Cross Check, to the barbershop. I wore a baseball cap. I always get the same haircut. This time the barber must have mistaken me for a second grader. The short haircut became a buzz cut. Ugh. Good thing I had the baseball cap. I’ll be wearing it for about six weeks.

I rode to Old Town along the Mount Vernon Trail. The weather was breezy and just warm enough. Perfect. Just north of Belle Haven Park police cars were parked next to the trail with their lights flashing. A police officer was taking down yellow crime scene tape along the river side of the trail. I couldn’t see any desperados or axe murderers so I rode on.

I made it to the bank and did my business with the magic money machine. When I turned around there was Emilia. We did the 50 States Ride together in 2014, one of my very best days on a bike. It was also a very hard ride. She hasn’t talked to me since. (Just kidding.) What a great surprise.

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Emilia Shows Off Her Trophy

I dawdled a bit in north Old Town before heading home with a very pleasant tailwind. A police officer was still sitting in his car at the scene of the mystery but I decided to leave it to some other citizen crimestopper to find out what was going on.

On the way home, Deets decided to hit a milestone: 2,000 miles. He’s all ready to ride the Southern Maryland 100 on Monday and the 50 States next Saturday.

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Random Sunday

  • I rode to the Nationals game after work Friday night. It was suffocatingly hot. The Nats lost to the lowly Braves. I went alone. I had a great time.
  • An usher ejected  a fan for heckling the Braves left fielder. The fan got his money’s worth. He certainly gave me a few laughs. Well played, dude.
  • An Atlanta player hit a home run that landed about four seats away from me in the row behind mine. It bounced off a fan and the rebound went to a guy in my row about six seats away.
  • A mom brought three kids to the game. They were sitting in the row in front of me. She went to the concession stand. When she came back and found out that a home run landed two seats behind her she couldn’t believe her bad luck. The kids thought it was pretty funny though.
  • I had the seat at the end of the row. Home run guy and his buddies wore me out with their pee runs. Never buy seat 1 or seat 20.
  • Another home run landed in the seats a section to my left. The fan caught it on the fly. Barehanded.
  • I almost caught a t-shirt during the t-shirt toss promotion but another fan got two hands on it just as it was about to hit my hand. She paid for the shirt: her chest hit the railing in the middle of the aisle. Ow.
  • The ride home was aided by post-game fireworks. Less car traffic means better biking. Boom!
  • The ride through Old Town Alexandria at 11:30 pm was scary. The sidewalks were full of loud, drunken idiots. I assumed that drivers were similarly inebriated. I was extremely careful and am thankful that I made it through in one piece. Of course, the Alexandria police (who spend their time ticketing early morning bike commuters) were nowhere to be found.
  • I have decided to call the Cross Check Deets. After Joshua Deets, the scout for the Lonesome Dove cattle drive. He is described by Capt Augustus McCrae as “Cheerful in all weathers. Never shirked a task. Splendid behavior.” I hope my Deets is as noble.
  • After a year of light riding, I will be using Deets for commuting starting tomorrow. The rack has bigger tubes than the racks on my other three bikes so I had to adjust the hardware on my panniers. I test rode the bike with panniers for the first time. My heels had plenty of clearance so tomorrow’s commute should be sweet.
  • This morning I went for a short ride down to Woodlawn by way of Mount Vernon on Deets. Every time I stopped the oppressive heat and humidity sucked the sweat out of every pore in my skin. It was gross. There will be better days for weekend excursions. Maybe a hike next weekend. It’s been too long.

Today’s News: Annoying, Depressing

Cement Truck Parking

The Mount Vernon Trail is one of the most heavily used trails on the East Coast. Ab28624928742_d40e68caa3_zout two miles from my house, the trail merges with Northdown Road. As
you can see from the picture, at this point, the trail and road are only one lane wide. It is in fact a trail not a road. That didn’t stop this cement truck driver from parking in the trail. I’d use the words “middle of the trail” but the truck obstructed the entire trail. Every last inch. Perhaps the driver thought “Hey, look at this trail. It’s the perfect width for parking my truck.”

Trail users had to dismount and make their way through the mud on the side of the trail. It was barely wide enough to get by.

I may be making a big deal out of nothing but this is the kind of disrespect that bicyclists and bicycle infrastructure routinely get, especially in places like Fairfax County. All this truck driver had to do was park where I was standing when I took this picture and trail users would have had free passage.

Death by Parking

Earlier today, a 92 year old driver was parking his SUV in an alley a block from the Mount Vernon Trail in Old Town, Alexandria. He hit a parking attendant, then he hit another man, killing him. How the hell you can kill someone in an alley that is about as wide as the trail in the picture above is beyond me. Why in the world does Virginia allow 92 year olds to drive?  Will somebody from the DMV show up at the funeral to explain this to the loved ones of the deceased?

I’m Walking Here

Meanwhile in the 400 block of North Union Street an SUV was parked perpendicular to a house. It’s front end completely obstructed the sidewalk. Sticking in the ground next to the front bumper was a sign that said “No Not Block Driveway.” There is no end to the entitlement mentality of the landed gentry of Old Town Alexandria.

$2.5 Billion for Nothing

On Friday evening at rush hour my family and I drove to Tyson’s Corner. (This is the first time I have driven to Tyson’s in a year. It will be the last, but that’s another story.) On the way we got on the Beltway at US 1, just west of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge. Traffic heading to the bridge from Virginia was backed up for miles. In all six lanes. The bridge is only a few years old. The project to rebuild the bridge and the adjacent roadway and exits cost about $2.5 billion. The rationale was that this would relieve congestion. Trying to relieve congestion by adding more capacity is like trying to achieve happiness by buying more stuff. If only I had one more lane! If only I had one more HDTV!

The bridge was designed with the capacity to carry a Metro rail line. This has yet to be implemented. Already people are calling for the rail line space to be converted to car lanes.

 

Lemons and Cold, Wet Lemonade

“We’re definitely going to the Nationals game on Saturday and maybe on Sunday. Are you going? We could meet for a drink afterward.”

My friend sent me this invitation on Friday evening. I had already been thinking of going to a game this weekend and I have seen my friend only once since August. (How the hell did that happen? Life.)

So, thinking that “definitely going” and “we could meet…afterward” meant that they had already bought tickets, I bought a ticket of my own. Shortly after making my purchase my friend, who is on a tight budget, sent me a message:

“The upper gallery seats are sold out. We’ll have to stand in line for the $5 game day tickets tomorrow morning.”

What the hell happened to “definitely going?”

Given that the weather forecast called for morning rain followed by near perfect weather for the early afternoon game, it seemed that there was a good chance that my friend would not get tickets in the morning.  I decided to go with the flow and went to bed.

In the morning, the predicted rain was falling. My friend messaged me:

“We don’t feel like standing in the rain to get tickets so we aren’t going to the game.”

Definitely going, going, gone.

I was disappointed and more than a little upset. I felt like a dog who has been teased with food only to have it taken away. Rather than do my usual thing of sending back an angry repsonse, I turned off my phone, put on my rain gear, and hopped on my Cross Check for the 15 1/2 mile ride to the ballpark.

Did I mention rain gear? Yes, the forecast I saw last night said the rain would be over by 10 am. It was clear from a glance at the radar in the morning that the rain would be with us through noon at least.

The ride to DC along the Mount Vernon Trail was cold, wet, and solitary. Perfect for reflection and dissipating my harsh feelings toward how things had transpired.(No matter how hard I tried to deny it, I find it hard to dispel the notion that, for some reason, my social life has gone to hell since last summer. Life.)

When I arrived at the ball park it was still drizzling out. I parked my bike and headed into the park. By pure dumb luck my seats were covered by the third tier of the stadium. As the rain fitfully ended, the wind picked up. Straight into my face. I ate some food and drank some water and hoped for kindness from the weather gods. They were apparently busy with something else. I really needed some hot coffee but settle on a craft lager from the stand next to my seat. It tasted bitter and a bit nasty but it took my mind off my clammy discomfort.

Going to a baseball game alone is a roll of the social dice. You could sit next to nice people or drunken jackasses. (My father took us to a game at the old Yankee Stadium back in the post-Mantle era. The place was a wreck. To our right a spectator walked down the aisle, took a big swig of his beer and spit it in the face of a man seated on the aisle. A nasty, comically drunken brawl broke out. We thought it was far more entertaining than the game. My dad was not of the same opinion.)

To my right was a father and son. Dad was a total baseball nerd who yelled things at the players despite the futility of sitting so far from the field. His son, who was at least 21 judging by the beer he had, was ignorant of the rules or the strategy of the game. To my left a family sat. They were rather on the larger side of human. They appeared to have purchase one of every item in the food court. The teenage girl to my immediate left sat shivering in gym shorts. Her parents later bought her an official Washington Nationals unislipper (you put both feet in it to stay warm). What will they think of next. In front of me were three season ticket holders who seemed like quite pleasant adults. It was an interesting slice of humanity and I considered myself lucky to be seated where I was.

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Except for the wind. The Nationals sprung out to a 2-0 lead. Their pitcher, Tanner Roark, was having a stellar day. He struck out 15 Twins in 7 innings without giving up a run. The Twins looked absolutely hapless at the plate. The Nats threatened but never crossed the plate again. They didn’t need to. They won 2-0. I even got to boo Jonathan Papelbon, our social-pond-scum closer.

The winds died down after a few innings but the sun and the warmth didn’t materialize until the game was nearly over. I walked out of the ballpark and the sun hit me. It was ten degrees warmer in the sunlight. Dang.

I hopped on my bike and celebrated with a tail-wind assisted ride home. The only downside to the ride was the traffic mind field of Old Town Alexandria. Cars and bike and pedestrians (but, to be honest, mostly cars) were moving about at random. I actually feared for my safety and was glad to be through the half-mile stretch unscathed.

When I got home I reflected on the game, the social mess that precipitated it, and the bike ride. I was glad I didn’t respond to my friend’s message. I would have Papelboned our friendship for sure.

With sunny skies forecasted for Sunday, I decided to buy a ticket to today’s game. I’ll be sitting near left field. In the sun. Maybe I’ll even drink a lemonade.

 

Nice Day for a Spring Ride

I waited for the temperature to rise. I didn’t want to ruin a good spring ride by freezing my toes off. At 11:00 I leaped into action. Sort of. I kept misplacing things. After 45 frustrating minutes I head out on the Cross Check for a bagel. In Bethesda. Over 25 miles from home.

The Cross Check still doesn’t feel right but rather than mess with the set up I decided to ride it a ways. After six miles I stopped and slid the saddle back. I was feeling cramped and too upright. Afterwards I felt more comfortable. I breezed through Old Town with its abundance of well dressed church goers. (My church has two wheels, by god.)

North of Old Town the Mount Vernon Trail started getting crowded. The crowds didn’t bother me but the impatient riders passing with bike oncoming did. Some of these were Lance Mamilstrongs. Others were new to riding on busy, narrow trails. Thankfully, I managed not to get hit. I crossed over to DC and rode Ohio Drive and its pathetically designed side paths up to Rock Creek Park. The side path in Rock Creek Park improves somewhat. After a couple of miles of mediocre, it becomes downright horrible. Tree roots, 90 degree turns, pinch points, blind, low descents under overpasses. People with dogs obstructing the entire path as they admired each others pooches. Must not kill.

 

I finally made it to Beach Drive which is closed to cars. It was apparently open to every grade school kid in a 100 miles radius today. They were swarming like gnats. It took a while to get clear of them. Once I did, I found myself cruising up the  gradual incline at 14 1/2 miles per hour. I wasn’t straining at all. The Cross Check was just getting it done.

I took the Georgetown Branch Trail to the Rock Creek Trestle. I love hanging out in the treetops over Rock Creek. A woman was sitting in the bumpout on the opposite side of the trail. She was speaking on her phone in a Spanish accent. Next to her was a copy of Nick Hornby’s latest book. I love Nick Hornby. I passed up the opportunity to strike up a conversation with her because my tummy was having a conversation with my head. FEED ME!

I backtracked on the GBT to Bethesda Row where I bought a drink and a bage19217984431_878c8b2188_m.jpgl. I sat and ate and watched the people stroll by. This street is really good for people watching. And dog watching too. A golden retriever with waves of flowing red hair was laid out on the sidewalk next to my bench. What a beautiful creature. (Full disclosure: I grew up with a golden retriever. They are the best dogs. Dumb as dirt but they will let you use them as a pillow when you watch TV. And they will defend you to the death.) I want to be a golden retriever in my next life.

After my snack, I headed over to Bradley Boulevard. I rode through Bethesda amid azaleas and dogwoods in bloom. The temperature was perfect for riding. The traffic was light. Yay spring!

Bradley to Kentsdale to Newbridge to Democracy to Falls. I was cruising among the megamansions of Potomac. I hear they have real housewives here.

A left  onto Falls took me through Potomac Village and all the way to Great Falls Park. Cars were parked illegally everywhere. I took a right to ride down to the C&O Canal on the access road. After a fun half mile glide, I came upon a half mile line of cars waiting to get parking in the parking lot.  I rode past the cars and made it to the admissions booth. I was waved in. It was National Parks Day. Admission was free. “Free” sounds like a good idea. Sometimes it’s not. I rode very slowly through the throngs for at least 15 minutes. It was like riding on the sidewalk in Manhattan. Nothing ruins nature quite like tens of thousands of well meaning people.

After the falls the crowds thinned a bit and I could get up to about 10 miles per hour. Carefully, I avoided spooking the strollers near Widewater, easily one of the best parts of the entire 185 mile long park.

I finally cleared the swarm and brought my bike up to a 13.6 mile per hour cruising speed. Why 13.6? I don’t know. I just locked into that speed.

I am happy to report that the Cross Check loves the towpath. I can see many gravel rides in the future. (North Central Rail Trail? Anybody? Bueller?)

I was on autopilot all the way back to Georgetown. I switched over the paved Capital Crescent Trail at Fletchers Boat House. It has way too many tree roots until you get to the last mile which has been recently paved. Zoom.

K Street under the Whitehurst Freeway was a parking lot. I think we need to just ban cars in certain places on Sundays. They are just too big and clumsy. We could pile them up and burn them. We could invite all kinds of latter day hippies, techies, and spiritual whack jobs. Maybe we could do this in the desert. Rosslyn on a Sunday would work. We could call it “Burning Car”.  Maybe we could get the drum circle from Meridian Hill Park to come and not keep a beat.

The ride home retraced my northbound journey. The trails were not as busy as before. Behind the power plant near Old Town, the MVT goes through some blind curves. As I approached I rode my brakes. Sure enough a rider came around the curve on my side of the path. I avoided a head on collision for sure. The rider seemed shocked that passing two pedestrians on a blind curve might not work out so well. I do hope she doesn’t drive a school bus for a living.

I rolled south on Union Street in Old Town. A police cruiser pulled out in front of me. I followed it to the intersection with Gibbon Street. This is where Alexandria police ticket cyclists for rolling through the stop sign. So I watched as patrol car 1414 rolled through the very same stop sign. It was the third such incident this week. The League of American Cyclists will soon designate Alexandria as a Bicycle Hypocritical City at the Silver level.

I rolled home with my lungs burning. The pollen and towpath dust had caught up to me and my asthma was really giving me a hard time.  I  made it home in a bit of discomfort with 69 miles on the odometer. This was easily my longest ride of the year.  But for the asthma attack I could have kept going. Let’s see if I wake up with any back issues tomorrow morning.

 

 

Three Little Things

Thing One

The last few days have had some interesting moments. The other day I was riding Little Nellie to work. I didn’t feel so well but I had to go to work so that I could go to see Santana in DC with Mrs. Rootchopper. (It’s her real name. I swear!)

About 2 1/2 miles from home, I drop down a steep hill. I can easily hit 30 miles per hour on this one. After that I have about 1/2 mile to go before I come to the crossing of the busy George Washington Parkway. Car and bus commuters use the same intersection. The car commuters generally are turning north to head to Alexandria and DC and the bus commuters are crossing to catch the north-bound bus.

The cars queue up, often ten deep. I suppose I could join the line, but typically I ride carefully past the cars on their left hand side. On this day I saw that there was ample space between the edge of the road and the left hand side of the cars so I decided to squeeze by them to the right. This is not a good idea. I noticed a passenger side door crack open and hit my brakes. I came to a stop at the rear fender of the car just as the shotgun seat passenger hopped out right into my line of travel. He was getting out to run for the bus. I may have yelled something. He looked at me and said “sorry” as he closed the door on his back to let me pass unharmed.

My brain went into immediate aggressive mode and I barked some angry words back at him as I rode by. After about three minutes and well beyond the crossing, I realized that he was actually not at fault. Anytime you squeeze by a car on the passenger side, you are asking to get doored. This passenger had no reasonable expectation that a bike would be there.

Still I hope my harsh words will make him think twice the next time he opens a car door.

Santana was entertaining but we didn’t get on the road (with Little Nellie in the trunk of my wife’s car) until 11:30. By the time I got to bed it was clear that I was dying a slow death at the hands of the Pollen Beast.

I slept until 10 the next morning. I NEVER do this. By Friday I was back in action.

Thing Two

On my ride home last night, I diverted from Union Street, the mainline of the Mount Vernon Trail through Old Town. Instead I rode up Royal or Fairfax Street. There is a stop sign at the end of each block. There were cars and buses about so I was being careful and stopping at each stop sign. I was passed by an Alexandria City police vehicle, an SUV. I followed it up the street and watched as it rolled through two stop signs. The driver was in no hurry, he or she just did what everybody else does. My only problem is that APD goes out of its way to give tickets to cyclists who do the very same thing in Old Town. I waved a mittened hand at the cop. He waved back. Have a nice day.

Thing Three

Today is Saturday. The Nationals are scheduled for a 4 pm game. It’s April 9. And it’s snowing outside. The biggest flakes I’ve seen in a long time. And it’s sticking. And the wind is blowing. And it’s cold.

Really.

They postponed the game. I am staying inside. Until May.

 

 

Shamu’s Test Commute

I haven’t been on a bike since the Snowzilla storm. So today I went for a ride to see what my commute will be like next week. The day began with an impressive amount of black ice in my driveway. My solution was to do puzzles all morning. I managed to get all but the Scrabblegram which Mrs. RC and I have taken to doing. (Worst part is finding out that answers often include completely bogus words)

I used The Mule because it is my bad weather bike. I had to roll it through some snow in the back yard but that took all of three minutes.

Every street along my normal route to the Mount Vernon Trail was clear with the only problem areas where homeowners had shoveled snow into the street earlier in the day. Why people do this when they have a front lawn to throw the snow on is beyond me.

I arrived at the Mount Vernon Trail, took one look and gave up. It is a glacier. Just like it is every year. Thanks to the National Park Service, the only trail owner that doesn’t even try to plow or treat area trails. (They own significant real estate in the city. They don’t plow there either.)

I climbed up the hill to Fort Hunt Road, the only alternative to the trail. This took me to US 1. A trail connects US 1 to Washington Street in Old Town Alexandria. The first 100 yards of the trail were covered in plow residue. VDOT or Fairfax County couldn’t be bothered to clear the trail, I guess.

If you think that is too much to ask, you are wrong. Once the trail crosses into Alexandria city, it is totally clear. I tag on Alexandria a lot about being hostile to bicyclists but whoever is in charge of plowing did a great job here.

I took the streets through the western part of Old Town. I crossed over the rail line at Slaters Lane and US 1. The sidewalk here is also a bike lane. It was cleared quite adequately. Another round of applause for Alexandria.

I rode Monroe Street (kind of a melting mess) to Mount Vernon Avenue, the main drag through the Del Ray neighborhood. No problems. I made my way to the trail along Four Mile Run. The trail on the Alexandria side was impassible because of a creatively crappy plow job that ended in a snow bank.

I walked around this mess and hooked up with the Four Mile Run Trail on the Arlington side of Four Mile Run. Arlington done good.

Here I bailed out on the trails. I had gone 10 miles and I was tired. I spent the last week shoveling and eating. I feel like a whale and my shoulder muscles are still incredibly tight.

I headed back to Old Town via Potomac Avenue and its new side trail. All was clear sailing. Alexandria. I retraced my path to Fort Hunt Road and slogged my way up two hills trying hard to stay out of the sand and salt that had accumulated on the edge of the asphalt. Most roads in Virginia lack a paved shoulder so you can pretty much count on wrecking your drive train if you bike around here in the winter.

I made it home, a total of 20 1/2 miles. Not bad for my first day back. Tomorrow is supposed to be a 60 degree day. That should take care of the problem areas I discovered today. It will take a week of warm temperatures or a responsive and responsible Park Service to clear the Mount Vernon Trail. Alas, the smart money is on the weatherman.

 

 

Crossing 1,000

MG over at Chasing Mailboxes recently decided to put in as surge of running to get to 1,000 miles for the year. I thought this was not such a great idea because it reminded me of my running days when I discovered what I called junk miles. Junk miles are miles you run for reasons other than fitness. I wanted to run 3,000 miles one year (I biked a whole lot less in those days). So I was running lots of 70 mile weeks. Do the math. Mostly this meant that I spent a lot of time nursing injuries. After the year was over, I discovered that 60 miles per week worked every bit as well so I dumped about 10 junk miles off the weekly running schedule.

So what does this have to do with biking? Shortly after commenting to MG about the concept of junk miles, I noticed that I had about 900 miles on the odometer of my Cross Check. Hypocrisy be damned, I went for it.

After many miles of riding flat neighborhood streets I decided to put the 100-mile challenge to better use. I started seeking out hills. I hate hills. So I tackled Oxon Hill (twice), Mason Hill near my home (twice today), Beacon Hill (once is plenty), and assorted other hills leading from the GW Parkway near the river up the hill that runs roughly parallel.

To my surprise, I actually got better. Even today when I forgot to take my asthma medicine. Of course, I had help. El Nino and climate change have conspired to bring us unseasonably warm weather with generally light winds.

After doing my hills, I headed up the Mount Vernon Trail. On Union Street in Old Town Alexandria I came upon an old friend who I hadn’t seen in nearly a decade. I could tell because he was cycling with his son who was now 13. The last time I saw the boy he was a rugrat.

As we were talking, a co-worker of mine ran past. He’s pretty fast. Every time I see a runner with good form I feel a twinge of jealousy.

After the chat I did a loop north to Four Mile Run and back to my neighborhood.

I pulled into the driveway to record this picture:

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Mission accomplished.

See you next year….