- 180 miles in nine days + clouds and rain = day off. That’s the math.
- I went to see Doctor Pain on Monday. Two days before the appointment, my pain subsided. I conclude that my back is afraid of the good doctor’s needles.
- I went for a walk on Sunday, a day before the appointment, to see how my lower left leg would respond. It did fine, but my lower left back stiffened up even though I used a cane. Doctor Pain said there is a treatment she could administer but it would involve the approval of my insurance company. In the end, we decided to leave it alone. I asked if ibuprofen is okay to use. And she said the concerns about it making people more susceptible to coronavirus infection is overblown.
- Doctor Pain seemed quite anxious about potentially exposing patients to the coronavirus. Her office follows strict disinfecting procedures and other protocols (e.g., masks for staff and patients, touchless disinfecting lotion dispensers everywhere) but there is always a chance that someone could transmit the virus. When I was checking out the receptionist advised me to wash my clothes when I got home as a precaution. I did.
- I went for a walk today without a cane. I made it 1 1/4 miles and had only minor discomfort. In fact, I broke into a jog a few times just to see how my back and leg would respond. The discomfort, which was in my lower left back, went away, replaced by some stiffness in my lower right back.
- A few days ago I brought Big Nellie, my long wheel base recumbent, out of the basement. It’s rather cumbersome so I was concerned that pushing it up the stairs (a half-flight of steps) might cause my back to go whacky. No problem.
- Three of my last four rides were “bent”. I ended up riding over 90 miles on Big Nellie. My back and legs felt great afterward. My left knee not so much. I think I may be mashing the pedals too much. Riding a recumbent requires different techniques than a regular bike. One difference is that you can’t stand and use gravity and your upper body muscles to climb. This means that your legs have to work exceptionally hard when climbing hills. A second difference is that using high gears (the ones that are tough to pedal) can trash your knees. It takes a few weeks to adjust to spinning little gears. I’ll get there soon enough.
- One odd effect of recumbent riding is that my walking gait is much more comfortable. Back in my running days, I found that running immediately after riding a bike is awkward. My legs didn’t want to function normally. (How triathletes deal with this is beyond me.) My quadriceps muscles (in the front of the thigh above the knee) were tight and I tended to bounce a bit as I ran. After riding a recumbent, my stride feels much freer. Pedaling a recumbent seems to distribute the workload more evenly among calf muscles, quadriceps, and hamstrings.
- I retired in August 2017. Over the next 22 months, I did three bike tours carrying 40 pounds of gear and covering over 9,000 miles on The Mule, a conventional touring bike. From 2017 through 2019, I rode 30,000 miles, far more than I had ever done before, and only about ten percent of it was on Big Nellie. I think maybe the best treatment I can give my back and leg is to ride my recumbent for t he next month or so.
- Finally, a shout out to fellow blogger Brittany. She’s an American who has been living in Bavaria for a little over a year. One year ago today, she bought a bike to explore the area around her new home. Mostly these have been modest rides of 10 or 20 miles. Today, she went a bit nuts and rode 55 hilly miles. She loved it. I fear she has contracted the cyclovavirus. Fortunately, there is no cure.
People keep asking me what the best part of my bike tour was. I honestly don’t know. I’m still processing it. I did a quick review of my blog posts and was surprised at all the things I had forgotten. I’ll probably write a postmortem soon.
In the meantime, I am back on my bikes. While The Mule is in transit from San Francisco, I’m re-familiarizing myself with my other steeds. A few days ago I took my CrossCheck out for a twenty mile spin. It missed me.
Yesterday, the CrossCheck and I hit the road to check out the sunflowers at the McKees-Besher Wildlife Management Area in nearly exurban Montgomery County, Maryland.
The ride began with a trip to Friday Coffee Club. It was good to be back among my two-wheeled peeps. At about ten a.m. the last of the worker bees headed off to their respective offices and I made my way to Georgetown and the paved Capital Crescent Trail. After a few miles I cut over to the unpaved C & O Canal towpath. For several miles I dodged mud puddles. The surface was ridable but the CrossCheck was getting mighty grimy.
As I passed under the capital beltway, my sunglasses obscured the view of the towpath in the shadows. A chunk of the right side of the towpath had completely eroded by an epic rainstorm last week. Had I not slid my sunglasses to the tip of my nose, I could easily have crashed.
A few miles later I rode past a rather scary looking section of the towpath at Mather Gorge, where the river runs fast. In this section the towpath runs between the canal and a cliff above the raging boulder-strewn Potomac River. The Park Service had narrowed the path and banned cars (usually just maintenance vehicles). I duck walked part of this section not wanting to fall into a big mud puddle or over the side into the rocks far below.
From Great Falls Park the towpath alternated between perfectly passable to some of the nastiest washboard I’ve ever ridden. The washboard wasn’t like tractor tracks. The rains had carved erratic channels across the path. The CrossCheck became a bucking bronco when I hit them. I am a bit surprised I didn’t damage the bike in the process. I made it across but I may need to see a dentist soon.
The canal itself was in decent shape. I saw dozens of sunbathing turtles including a huge snapper who was splayed across a log. Three great blue herons stood motionless in the canal right next to the towpath. I didn’t bother trying to take a picture because as soon as I stopped they were sure to fly off.
I left the canal at Rileys Lock and headed toward the Poole General Store in Seneca for food and water. It was closed. No bueno.
Since there was no alternative I headed west on hilly River Road toward the sunflower fields. The hills here normally wipe me out but all that climbing out west made them seem trivial. Running out of breath was not about to happen either. The warm, humid air felt almost liquid. The residual effects of being at altitude made deeps breathing unnecessary.
I walked around two of the three sunflower fields. The sunflowers seemed to be in a state of morning with their head bowed. Still, from the proper angle, they put on a decent show.
After about an hour I headed back home. This involved a ten mile roller coaster ride on River Road to avoid the towpath and find food. At Potomac Village I went into a grocery store and bought water, a sandwich, and a yoghurt parfait. It didn’t begin to dent my hunger but I decided to ride on and find something else later.
After descending the long, windy hill on MacArthur Boulevard at Great Falls Park I cruised along flat canal road all the way to DC where I stopped at a gas station for a Gatorade. (Gone in 60 seconds.)
All day I had noticed a clicking sound coming from my right pedal. At the gas station I noticed that the platform of the pedal and become disengaged from the pedal axle. I was holding the pedal together with pressure from my foot.
The remainder of the ride took me across Georgetown, down and across the Potomac, and into Crystal City where I attended an outdoor happy hour. Cold beer tasted pretty good at this point.
The ten mile ride home was a wobbly affair. My legs were done, but I was pleased with my day’s work. 86 miles in all.
Today, I rode to the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens in DC to check out the lotus blossoms and water lilies. Because of the pedal problem on the CrossCheck, I rode Big Nellie, my Tour Easy long wheel base recumbent.
My legs were pretty beat. I stopped after four miles to buy some new pedals. They sold pedals with toe clips and straps already installed for $3 more than naked pedals. Sold.
The ride along the Mount Vernon Trail featured oncoming weekend warriors and tourists who kept passing as I approached. Fortunately for them, I left my bicycle death ray at home.
Into DC, I made my way across Southwest and near Southeast until I crossed the Anacostia River at 11th Street.
I followed the river and the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail upstream for several miles until I found the unpaved path to the Aquatic Gardens. The place was fairly crowded. Music was blaring from a stage. Both aspects didn’t appeal to me. I like quite with my lotus blossoms, thank you very much.
After walking around the ponds, I was drenched in sweat. I headed home, retracing my route along the bike trails. People kept tempting me into head on collisions all the way home. “Sorry.” “Oops.” “My bad.”
I stopped for a quart of Gatorade and an chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwich. At home, I fought the urge to go inside and collapse. I spent a half hour swapping out the pedals on the CrossCheck. I also cleaned the towpath dirt off the bike and lubed the chain. Ready for another ride.
Tomorrow I am going hiking. I am hoping that the hiking poles that I bought before my tour, help my wonky hip and knee make it through the day without pain.
I arrived at home last night at the stroke of midnight. I rode 20 miles to the doctor’s office in the morning then did 31 miles to the Nationals game at night. I awoke today with tree pollen in my eyes and lead in my legs. Coincidentally I was low on cash.
So I pulled Big Nellie from the basement, cleaned and lubed her chain, and pumped the tires up. I rode to an ATM in Old Town Alexandria for some cash. (You’ll have to imagine the bank and the ATM because I forgot to take a picture when I got there.)
After that, I rode a few more miles to enjoy the beautiful weather and avoid yard work.
Category: Personal Business
Place: Suntrust Bank, Old Town Alexandria
Observation: The best thing about riding a recumbent is heating the remarks of little kids.
Many years ago, I was riding my Tour Easy recumbent to Indiana. I had just had the rear wheel replaced in Frostburg, Maryland. After a half hour I crested the aptly named Big Savage Mountain. With about 35 pounds of gear, all over my back wheel, I began the descent from the crest. The bike had a full fairing, a Lexan windshield, that made it super fast on downhills. And within less than a minute I felt like I was riding a bullet. I looked down at my speedometer and saw 48 miles per hour. I was just getting started. I’d never ridden this fast on a recumbent before and all I could think of was: I hope nothing goes wrong or I am a dead man. So, in near panic I yelled:
I started riding the brakes to bring me down to a safe speed, all the while hoping the rims of the wheels didn’t overheat.
American sports fans my age well know that “Whoa Nellie” comes from sportscaster Keith Jackson. He was the voice of college football for decades. I don’t remember all that much about college football back in the day but I remember his announcing.
I named my recumbent Nellie after that crazy descent. (Today I call it Big Nellie because I named my Bike Friday folding travel bike Little Nellie after the kit helicopter in the James Bond movie “You Only Live Twice.”)
Keith Jackson died yesterday at the age of 89.
Whoa Nellie indeed.
At the doctor’s office yesterday, I weighed 203 pounds, six pounds more than on the very same scale a month ago. Perhaps it is a coincidence but in the last six days I have downed six apple fritters, prescribed by the mental health professionals Rachel C. and Katie B. Suffice it to say, my pants are fitting a tad snuggly. My mood is good though.
As has been the case since I came home from the hospital, I felt a little better today physically. It snowed overnight. As much as I wanted to go out and shovel the inch of powder, Mrs. Rootchopper would have nothing of it and handled the chore with ease.
For most of the day I hung out reading and waiting for the mechanic to call about Mrs. Rootchopper’s car. The year and a half old battery died. Completely. It won’t even hold a charge. So the mechanics put in a new one. Then they checked the oil and found the dipstick dry. Oops. I hope this is not the beginning of old car syndrome, the affliction that kills both your car and your bank account.
While waiting for the mechanic to finish, I went into the basement and rode Big Nellie. It was my first ride or exercise of any sort since the embolism. I took it easy and noted a number of interesting things:
- My megamileage base will serve me well. My legs were not the least bit stressed.
- I felt a distinct cramping in my left calf. I never cramp so I am assuming that what I was feeling was the deep vein thrombosis, the source of the blood clots in my lungs. So there you are you little bugger.
- About 25 minutes into the ride, I felt the familiar stabbing pain in my right lung. I backed off my pedaling, dropped to a lower gear, and the pain went away. (It’s a 3 out of 10 on the objective pain scale.)
- I felt numbness in my calves. Since I have nerve issues in my legs whenever I ride my recumbent I thought nothing of it. The numbness went away once I stood up and walked around for a minute.
As I rode I read my book. Oddly, I read much faster when I am spinning my legs than when I am just sitting in a chair. I put the reading to a secondary use. I spent one page on each cog, going up and down the cassette in the middle ring. Then I shifted to the big ring and did the same. At no time was I out of breath but my heart rate was higher than normal for the effort I was putting out.
All told, I rode 52 minutes. I’d say the equivalent of about 8 1/2 miles at the pace I was going (about 10 miles per hour).
It’s not much, but it’s a start. Now that all the fritters are gone (oink) I can hope to gradually increase my time and intensity on the bike and drift ever so gently back below the Mendoza line.
- I was being a good boy. Except for one holiday party, I had greatly curtailed my alcohol consumption since my bike tour. And I’ve stayed out of the junk food cabinet for two months. So I did the math: much less alcohol + no junk food + daily riding = pulmonary embolism.
- Sooo, let’s reconsider. My recovery plan: more alcohol + junk food out the wazoo + daily sloth = bicycling fitness monster. What could go wrong?
- In the hospital, my thinking was all about denial. I am going to get better in record time. No problem. My body, apparently, has other ideas. This is going to take a while. My body gets a little tiny bit stronger by the day. I am, however, a long, long way from being back to anything approaching normal.
- Ever since the event rides I did in August and early September, I’ve been wondering if something was wrong with me. I went from a bad climber to a horrible climber this year. My 50 States team had to wait for me at the top of every hill. It was embarrassing. Whenever I started climbing, my speed dropped like a stone and I had no ability to get it back. Was I throwing clots into my lungs this summer? Was my strong heart kicking out unnoticed clots for weeks? Whatever the answer, I am betting that I have much more cardiopulmonary fitness than the average PE patient. My doctors were pretty funny remarking on it too. I look like the average man on the street until you measure my vital signs and take an EKG. (Better knock some wood, right?)
- I’ve been reading, watching movies, watching sports, and hanging with my family. This has really lifted my spirits. If I stop and think about things, my brain goes into weepy mode. Thankfully, it’s nothing like true depression. A tear here and there actually kind of helps. Even having not meditated in several days, I am confident that I have the mental part of this sussed. I need to be vigilant. Hearing words of support from friends and family and readers helps a ton. I am truly grateful.
- Spiro, the spirometer, is not my friend. Spiro, you are dead meat. I am coming after you. I may be a wimp now but just you wait. I am going to kick your ass.
- Since most of the clots and the pleural infarction are on my right side, I can sleep comfortably on my left side, which is how I prefer to sleep. If I turn over onto my left side, my breathing becomes shallow and labored.
- My family gave me four books for Christmas. And cold weather cycling gear. I won’t make much use of the latter in the days ahead, but the books will come in handy. Once I get some strength back, I’ll be reading with Big Nellie.
- Tomorrow we go for diner breakfast and the new Star Wars movie. Then I write some thank you cards. And we’ll see about some very light exercise too.
I woke up late for the rest of my life. That’s how it felt anyway. I looked at the alarm clock and it said 6:45. Nooooo!
I swear these thoughts actually entered my brain on my first “work” day of retired life. All of a sudden I felt like I needed to maximize every second of the day.
Then I took a deep breath. Actually about 15 minutes of them. And did my back exercise routine. And it was just another day. I read the newspaper over a cup of coffee and headed out on Big Nellie to get a certified letter being held at the post office.
Once the chore was over, I could do whatever I wanted. I could go home and continue repainting the shed or I could go for a bike ride. My back was achy from yesterday’s chores so it was not a difficult decision. Big Nellie won the day.
My neck of the woods has more elderly people than any other in the DC area. They toot their horns at bicyclists, don’t bother with turn signals, and change lanes at random. It was good training for riding in Florida.
I rode down flat streets aimlessly. At Ft. Belvoir I decided to check out the new bike lanes. There is a wide side path and an unprotected bike lane in the road. The speed limit varies between 35 and 50 miles per hour which begs the question, why did they bother putting the bike lane in?
I rode all the way to Lorton then came back on the unprotected bike lanes on Telegraph Road. Going downhill I did a waltz with a massive pickup truck. Its driver wanted to turn. Then he didn’t. Then he did. Into and out of the bike lane. I finally said fuggit, took the lane and past him going 30 miles per hour.
I rode into neighborhoods just to add miles. As I went, my legs adapted to Big Nellie.
After 30 miles (not coincidentally the length of my round trip bike commute), I arrived at home after noon. After lunch I sat on the deck and watched the partial eclipse. We here in DC were at about 80 percent of totality. So for those woo woo folks who think an eclipse is a time of oneness with the universe and all living things, I hate to break the news. We were at 80%ness. So even at its closest to a full eclipse, 20% of the universe and living things didn’t give a rats ass. It was more like woo wo.
My intent was to finish the shed painting project. Alas. as the eclipse just passed its peak, clouds rolling in. Rain drops started plopping. Doppler radar showed storms all around me. So I will paint another day.
So at 4 o’clock I threw in the towel on my first day at my new job.
- I found a wet parcel on my doorstep after a storm yesterday. Inside was a new Kryptonite U-lock. I had first bought a Kryptonite literally decades ago. There was a bit of a scandal when some YouTube dude showed you could break the lock with a Bic pen. So Kryptonite re-designed the lock and gave owners a new one. That happened about 8 or 9 years ago. The lock mechanism on my replacement lock started failing a few months ago, so I contacted Kryptonite and they sent me a new lock. For free. Awesome.
- I decided to go on a long-ish ride to reach a milestone on Big Nellie. I stopped at Canal Park along the Mount Vernon Trail. My friend and fellow bike commuter Linel had taken a picture at this park a few days ago. I have been riding past it daily and never knew it was there only a short walk from the trail. (Bike riding is not allowed.) It is a wonderful place to go to contemplate your navel, read a book, or just hang out. (There are plenty of benches and very nicely maintained lawns.) There is also some odd public art.
- I rode to Key Bridge (basically my commute) and then into Georgetown. Traffic was very light. Turning left on Wisconsin Avenue I rode up and up and up to Cathedral Heights. I turned downhill and found my way to the new Klingle Valley Trail, over 20 years in the making. It’s only 0.8 miles long but it is worth checking out. I only took one picture because by now anybody can search for it on Flickr and find dozens of better pictures. One you get past this barrier you descend down a curvy paved path into woods. Sweet.
- I got home after 42 miles in increasing heat and humidity. Big Nellie reached another milestone, 41,000 miles. She will get a rest now. Well done.
What better way to celebrate a hot muggy July 1 Saturday then to do my winter neighborhood ride in reverse.
Big Nellie and I rode toward US 1 and took the lane at a traffic light. We turned left onto the 3 lane concrete mess and a driver a couple of cars back laid on her horn. As she rolled by she yelled “Get on the sidewalk!” through her open passenger window. Not having time to explain that her inadequacies are her own business I responded with a mindfully deliberate F bomb.
I could easily have caught up to her at the next traffic light but escalation is not my cup of Kona.
Within a minute I was off US 1 and riding flat, nearly car free side streets. At Fort Belvoir I turned left and headed for the Woodlawn neighborhoods on the north side of US 1. There are lots of new bike trails under construction along US 1 in this area so three cheers for my county for finally getting with the program. (Too bad US 1 is still a hideous monstrosity, though.)
A few years ago while riding Big Nellie when it had a fairing (a big Lexan windshield) a man in a Tesla rolled silently by. He stopped and waved me over. He said he was an engineer and wanted to inquire about the provenance of my bike. Ultimately he told me that he was working on a zero energy house near Mount Vernon. (It may have been a negative energy house, one that uses less energy than it produces, but my memory fails me.) I never asked him where his house was specifically but I think I found it today.
Check out those two big wind turbines on the roof. I could see that the one on the left was moving but it was silent. This is a south facing exposure. The eaves cast shade on the windows to avoid heat gain in the house. There is no lawn, just rather elaborate and tasteful landscaping.
I meandered around at about 12 miles per hour. I was getting hotter and I was in no hurry to get anywhere. Near the Mount Vernon Country Club, I passed a house with a ready to market peach tree. You see they put bags over the produce on the tree so you don’t have to put the peaches in a bag later. Or something like that. There are a few peaches that are outside the bags. I think these may be free range peaches. Clearly I need to do more research.
The remainder of my ride involved avoiding collisions with tourists on rental bikes on the Mount Vernon Trail. Not a bad way to spend a Saturday morning.
Those of you old enough to know who Arte Johnson is know that he made famous a couple of bits of schtick. One was a lecherous old man who mumbles and grunts at Ruth Buzzi’s old lady in a hairnet until she whacks him with her purse. The other was of a man on child’s tricycle riding until he falls over sideways.
I pulled Big Nellie, my Tour Easy recumbent, out for the first time in over two months. I planned on looking at colorful leaves and the upright seating position on this bike is just the thing I needed for maximum enjoyment. Sadly, peak foliage around her is at least a week away. (This is great news for those of us who will be riding the Great Pumpkin Ride in Warrenton VA next week, however.) Of course, if I wanted to see foliage, I should have gotten out of bed and driven to the Blue Ridge. But I slept in.
Big Nellie is my only bike with clipless pedals, the kind that attached to the bottom of your shoe. I anticipated that this might be a problem and I wasn’t disappointed. After dodging 4,397 runners, walkers, cyclists, and escaped convicts on the Mount Vernon Trail, I made my way down Union Street in Old Town Alexandria. I had made it half way through the tourist zone near King Street when I came upon a Mazda stopped in front of me at a stop sign. I rolled slowly up to it. It didn’t move. Nobody was in its way. It just didn’t move.
As I came up to its bumper I realized I was going to have to stop. I went to unclip and nothing happened. My left foot wouldn’t release. So I veered to the right of the car as I frantically twisted my foot to no avail. I lost my forward momentum and started falling to the left. I reached out to brace myself on the Mazda’s back left fender. Then it moved and I completed my Arte Johnson and landed on my side on the pavement.
My recumbent seat is only a couple of feet off the ground to begin with. Breaking my fall by contacting the Mazda made the normally uneventful fall even less so. Yet I was still lying on my side in the middle of the street with this ginormous bike attached to me.
A Latina pedestrian came over to help. She was saying something in frantic, accented English but I couldn’t understand her. During the fall, my left foot unclipped but my right foot stayed attached. As she was speaking, I was twisting my right foot and hoping it would release so I could get my body out of the street.
The driver and the passengers in popped out of the car in a panic. ARE YOU OKAY? No, I have a really bruised ego! An my foot is stuck!
A cyclists with gray hair flowing out from under his helmet appeared. Her grabbed my right arm to pull me up. No. Please. I am fine. I just feel like a complete dweeb lying in the street with this chaise lounge attached to my right foot.
Finally, my right foot released and I stood up. Latina smiled. Gray hair bike rider looked relieved. Mazda people got back in car free from the fear that they had somehow contributed to the clumsiest cycling accident of the month. (As I write this four hours later, only my left knee feels any pain. Mostly from getting whacked by the bike’s top tube as I twisted my right leg to free it.)
Well, if any of the people who were there are reading this, thanks for your concern.
I continued riding up the trail of a million weekend warriors until I reached Teddy
Roosevelt Island. I ride by TR Island every day on my way to work, but the last time I set foot on it was at least 20 years ago.
I locked the bike and went for a calming walk on its dirt trails. The island is an oasis of green in the Potomac River only a few hundred yards from the Sunday brunchers on the riverfront in Georgetown. It would be an incredibly relaxing place but the noise from airplanes flying into National Airport and the cars rumbling across the Teddy Roosevelt Bridge ruined the ambiance.
Before leaving I did an Interwebs search for pizza. I was hungry. There’s an Italian place right next to the Custis Trail about 2 miles away. It’s called The Italian Place. Damned clever if you ask me. So I rode up the long hill out to Rosslyn then up some more until the universe decided I had had enough. After a half mile down hill run, I came to the place. They should change its name to The Place with the Incredibly Long Line. I was took a number. 87. Then I heard them call “47!” I walked out.
I continued on the trail up/down/up/down/up/down etc. Until I came to a flat stretch. Lance Mamilot came riding past from the other direction. He blew a snot rocket to his right. Then just as I reached him he blew one to his left. What an asshole! I got a misty spray of his nasal excretions on my left leg. Ewwww!
At the W&OD Trail I headed back toward home. Nineteen miles down, only 17 miles to go. I decided to leave the trail at US 1 and work my way through the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria. I stopped at Del Ray Pizzeria. I was going to get t
hat pizza after all. Sadly, they don’t serve individual slices. This was almost as upsetting as the snot rocket and the Arte Johnson. I had a cheese steak instead. It was humongous. I looked great but did not live up to its visual wonderfulness. It was probably a good cheese steak as cheese steaks go, but I am not much of a cheese steak person. Nick Hornby once remarked that there are well written books that are poorly read. Perhaps this was a good cheese steak that was poorly tasted.
In any case, the cheese steak came with tater tots. Tater tots cure everything. I’ll bet that if Arte Johnson ate tater tots, he’d have stayed upright.