No Pizza. No Problem.

One of my favorite local rides is a 50-mile loop from my house to Bethesda, Maryland and back. The first 12 were on the Mount Vernon Trail on the Virginia side of the Potomac River. I then crossed over to DC on the 14th Street Bridge. I rode along the river to Georgetown.  (I passed the new extension of the Kennedy Center which will merit a return trip.)

In Georgetown I took the Water Street cycletrack. This was great except for the school bus that off loaded 30 high school girls on the cycletrack. Did you know that when you’re off loaded into the cycletrack you absolutely must chat for a minute with five of your BFFs before moving to the sidewalk?

At the end of Water Street I picked up the Capital Crescent Trail which took me sveral miles straight to Bethesda Row where every person in Montgomery County was ambling slowly about at a closed streets art festival.

I went to Bethesda Bagels to get a slice of pizza. Don’t ask me why a good bagel shop has good pizza. Sadly, I am not the only one who knows this as the line out the door and across the sidewalk.

I decided that spending 20 minutes waiting in line or a slice of pizza was a waste of  a beautiful fall day. I got back on my bike and rode north to pick up Jones Bridge Road. This was necessary because the Georgetown Branch Trail has been demolished while a new light rail line is being built.

I had heard bad things about Jones Bridge Road but I’ve ridden on much worse. And traffic was very light.

Jones Bridge Road led me to Beach Drive. Here I turned south to head home. Beach Drive runs straight through Rock Creek Park. Whoever decided to put a linear park in a canyon in the middle of a city was a genius. Even better is the fact that the National Park Service which owns the park shuts down large sections of Beach Drive to cars on weekends and holidays. Better still is the fact that the road has been reconstructed and the pavement is smooth. (A couple of roller bladers looked super happy.)

I about a week these trees will be bursting with colors.

After several miles of pothole-free bliss, I had to take a paved trail that the Park Service apparently overlooked when working on the roadway. Essentially this is a goat trail that ducks under two roads with barely adequate head room for bicycle riders.

I survived the low clearances and two 90-degree right-hand turns onto narrow bridges. At one point I had to come to a stop because untrimmed shrubs had overtaken my side of the trail. Your tax dollars at work. Or not.

Once out of the park I was back along the Potomac where I rode to the Memorial Bridge. There I crossed over to Virginia. Near Arlington Cemetery I came to a stop behind three tourists one of whom was in a motorized wheel chair. I called out to them to see if they were lost. They were. They were headed to the cemetery but were turning the wrong way. I set them straight but wondered why there aren’t wayfaring signs.

As I approached Old Town Alexandria a very strange thing happened. Water started falling from the sky. Lots of it. I was getting actually wet. And cold. It was the first time I’d been rained on while riding since early June in Kansas. Dang.

About five miles from home I came upon a man riding with his daughter. She was on a little beginners bike. One speed. Pink. She was pedaling hard and barely making 8 miles per hour. When Dad, on his hybrid beside her, noticed I was coming up behind them he gently put his hand on the center of her back and started accelerating. I thought she or both of them would crash for sure. After a couple of wobbles she got the hang of the higher speed and cruised.

After about 1/4 of a mile, I passed them with a thumbs up.

I continued on. Wet and chilled but unworried. It was actually kind of nice not to be baking in the sun for a change.

50 miles. 0 pizza.

We had pizza for dinner.

Yes.

Electric Socks and Blueberry Soup

Today was the last Vasa ride ever. Vasa is the first bike event on my #bikedc ride calendar each year. It was begun as a collaboration between the Washington Area Bicyclists Association and the Swedish Embassy. This year the Swedes decided to discontinue their participation so WABA teamed with REI to do one last ride.

The Vasa Ride is inspired by the Vasaloppet 90 kilometer cross country ski event in Sweden. The event is testimony to the fact that, by the end of winter, Swedes go mad.

The full Vasa ride is 100 km, about 62 miles. For mere mortals there are shorter distances. As usual, I did the Halvasan (the Half Vasa).

The Vasa ride is not to be confused with the Vasa ship, named after a Swedish king. The Vasa ship was an ancient wooden warship that sunk on its first trip out of Stockholm. It was the king’s dream ship. Alas, it was dangerously top heavy as it was designed with two levels of cannons high above the waterline. During the short maiden trip, crosswinds tipped it over and it sank. Derp.

The Vasa warship was recovered and reconstructed in 1961. It is on display in a museum in Stockholm. This was one big, ornate boat. If you ever go to Stockholm it’s worth the trip.

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Because the rides today began at the REI store in northeast DC instead of the Swedish embassy, the routes were redesigned. I have done the old half Vasa route probably 15 times so I needed a change.

Like the old route, the new Half Vasa route headed out toward Great Falls. Instead of continuing past the Washington Beltway to Potomac, Maryland, it turned north to Bethesda. After a pit stop in downtown Bethesda, the route continued through Chevy Chase to get to Beach Drive in Rock Creek Park. The ride through the park lead back to the city and included a detour. The detour required a climb away from Beach Drive at the bottom of the park. The windy (in both senses of the word) descent back to Beach Drive was the highlight of the ride. The route left the park and climbed through Mt. Pleasant and Columbia Heights. (Note the references to high ground.) It continued due east, around a  massive medical complex, past the Basilica, and ultimately back to REI by way of the mercifully flat Metropolitan Branch Trail.

I rode 16 miles into a sometimes rainy, cold headwind to get to the start. I decided to try the electric socks that Mrs. Rootchopper gave me for Christmas. They might have worked okay but I had turned on the power to only my right leg. Derp again. (Later I corrected this. They kept my calves warm but my toes would have been better off with chemical warmers and decent wool socks.)

I rode with Michael B., Friday Coffee Club’s scuba expert. Michael and I have done a couple of Fifty States Rides together. He’s a very powerful rider which is to say, I have a hard time keeping up with him. Peter and Todd (I’m guessing at this name) rounded out our quartet. Unfortunately, plans to include my 50 States Ride partner Emilia in the festivities fell through. Te extranamos, amiga. Hasta pronto.

As the ride progressed the temperature dropped. We had some conversational sleet followed by some conversational snow. The former was a little painful. The latter was just plain pretty.

At the rest stop at the halfway point we ran into Joe. I don’t know when I met him but he always has to remind me of his name. Maybe cold bike rides cause brain malfunctions. I’ll ask Klarence the next time she psychoanalyzes me.

Joe and his friend more or less joined our quartet. We stayed together until Beach Drive where the light car traffic induced Peter and Todd to zoom off the front. Michael patiently waited for me as I slogged up the hills.

Medical Note: Although I slogged up the hills, my lungs were functioning just fine, unlike last summer. It just happens that I truly suck at hill climbing.

As mentioned above, a detour resulted in a climb leading to a twisting, bumpy down hill that woke my ass right up. Actually, I carried way too much speed into the first couple of turns and had to bear down so as not to catch a crack in the pavement or go careening off into the trees. Michael seemed born to descend.

Once we left the park, the ride became more urban. Michael nearly mated with a city bus in Columbia Heights. (The distance between the bus and Michael could have been measured in inches.)

The ride back on the Met Branch Trail felt like we were sailing. All the hard work had been done. On to the soup!

The blueberry soup was plenty hot and hit the spot.

This ride was the fact that it was like old home week. During the day I ran into Steve, Erin, Kevin W., Dan, Jeff and Sam, Judd and Josephine, Cyrus, Kristin, two Elizabeths, and one Grace. (And I’m probably leaving someone out.)

At REI I ran into Lisa with whom I’ve done countless rides. Lisa is the official Taiko drummer and flutist of Friday Coffee Club.

Before leaving the store, I ended up talking camping and running and cycling with Grace for probably 30 minutes. The long talk allowed me to stiffen up for my re-emergence into the cold outside,

I rode home 17 miles, taking an indirect course to avoid the tourist throngs at the Tidal Basin and the cherry blossom festival. Once in Virginia, a tailwind took over. I fell into a trance, and allowed my mind to think of nothing but food. Near Gravelly Point Park I passed two women walking. One said “Hi John” as I went by. I have no idea who it was. I could have hallucinated this.

Once in the door at home, I ate all the things. 63 cold miles in the books.

Thanks to WABA, REI, and all the volunteers that made this a resounding success.

Adjo, Vasa.

 

Goodbye in the Sky

It would hard to come up with a nicer day to ride a bike than today. So off I went aboard the Cross Check for Chevy Chase. Not the comedian but the neighborhood on the top side of DC.

Just before leaving I put a message on social media about my plans and Ricky responded. He said he’d meet me at the trestle.

Riding the Mount Vernon Trail on a nice weekend day is an exercise in patience. When I wasn’t dawdling behind some tourists I was going uncharacteristically fast, thanks to a day completely off the bike. My lower back/hip issue was still in evidence but it clearly wasn’t slowing me down.

I stopped just north of Old Town Alexandria when I saw a big snowy egret right next to the trail. I hope you like the picture because I nearly was run over by a half dozen cyclists while I took it.

Snowy Egret

I rode along the river on the Virginia side until the 14th Street bridge then switched to the DC side. I slalomed through the crowds all the way to Water Street in Georgetown. Water runs upstream to the Capital Crescent Trail and so I flowed. I wore my bell out passing trail users of all types of humanity.

The Capital Crescent connects to the Georgetown Branch Trail in downtown Bethesda. The GBT is scheduled to be shut down on Tuesday for 4 – 5 years as a light rail line is constructed along the right of way.

I rolled onto the trestle and Ricky was there talking with some other cyclists. I posed for pictures among the tree tops and high above the creek.

Then we rode off to Ryan’s house to take care of his cat. And drink some of his beer.

Ryan has a pretty terrific man cave. Basically it’s a bike mechanic shop. I want one.

After the beer, we rolled back to the GBT and went our separate ways. I headed down into Rock Creek Park and headed for home.  Road work has a section of Beach Drive, the main drag through the park, closed. Ryan told me to take a right at the detour and a left onto Ross Dr. I missed the turn onto Ross and ended up climbing a big hill on Military Road. I knew I had screwed up but there was no easy way to fix what I done broke so I kept spinning. It was a long way up but the road back down was a breeze, literally and figuratively.

The rest of the ride was the usual cruise along the river. With puffy white clouds above. And a steady breeze from the south.

As I rode south of the airport I noticed some trees beginning to change to red and yellow.

I may not have the trestle to ride to but fall days offer plenty of terrific riding in the weeks ahead.

Losing my Perch in the Sky

The State of Maryland has broken ground on the Purple Line. This is a light rail project that arc across the top of DC connecting two spokes in the wheel of the Metro rail system. The right of way will include a paved trail which is great news for cyclists. Unfortunately, while it is being built the Georgetown Branch Trail, an unpaved trail that connects the Capital Crescent Trail in downtown Bethesda to downtown Silver Spring will be closed. That trail includes one of my favorite places in the DC area, the Rock Creek Trestle.

The trestle carries the trail at tree top level over Rock Creek Park. I go there to catch my breath, to eat lunch, to check out the fall foliage or simply to show off the view to friends. I’ve been there dozens of times. Unless plans change, September 4 is the last day to ride to my perch in the sky.

Five Buck Bikeabout

Yesterday’ weather was fantastic.  Good weather for goofing off is also good weather for getting stuff done around the house. Sorry to disappoint you, my friends, but I chose responsibility over slacking.

I mowed the lawn and painted the shed. Most of the painting had already been done by Mrs. Rootchopper during the week but I took on the tedious chore of painting the trim. Four plus hours of pure fun. Not. When I was done I reloaded the shed with all the stuff. It’s good to be back to normal, but my efforts were rewarded with lower back pains.

So I started the today with my usual noga (My wife says it’s yoga, I say it’s back exercises so let’s just call it noga, okay?). After that I languished on my deck reading the Sunday paper. Had I stuck around it would have been tea and buttered scones but I decided to go on a recon ride to DC. I am riding my ninth 50 States Ride in a month and need to find a parking spot near the start. (It’s not too late to sign up. You have to be a WABA member, or come as the guest of one. )

So off I rode to DC on the Mount Vernon Trail. It was busy, mostly with tourists on rental bikes. You can tell because they gape at all the stuff I see every day. On the Dyke Marsh bridge I caught up to a bike tourist. We had a ten second chat from which I learned that he is riding around the perimeter of the 48 contiguous states. He started in Minnesota and is riding counterclockwise. So he’s already been from midnight to three o’clock. The ride will take him 14 months. Go dude! (I found his journal when I got home over on Crazyguyonabike.com. The journal notes say that he also took a side trip to Hawaii and dropped down into Mexico for a few days.)

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After ten miles of weaving around the rent-a-bikers, I made it into DC and headed for Rock Creek Park. Along the way, I spotted a cricket match because this is DC and DC is eclectic as fuck.

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The weather was nearly as good as yesterday. The park side trail is being refurbished and looks great for most of the way from Georgetown to Military Road. At one point, people were gathering along the trail to look into the creek. Five bucks were making their way across the creek. The road crossing had all us bystanders holding our breath. I think they made it across without incident. (The picture shows only the southbound half of the road just after a merge to the left out of frame. The grassy median is wooded and wide. They had to make it across another two lanes of northbound traffic after that.)

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I made it to the new Klingle Valley trail which I had ridden downhill recently. Today, I slogged up the hill. I kept my breathing and effort constant and had no trouble making the climb. Of course, neither would you at 7 miles per hour.

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Once i reached the top, I check out some of the local streets for parking. As long as you are willing to ride a mile (or less) to the start of the ride, you’ll have no trouble finding a place for your metal fart barge (Colin made me say that.)

After the recon was over, I rode to Meridian Hill Park for no other reason than it’s one of my favorite places in DC. The water cascade was dry earlier this summer but it is now flowing in all its glory. The park is built into a hill. Looking down from the top (near the swordless statue of Joan of Arc) the cascade is pretty. Looking up from the base of the park, it is just WOW! And it sounds so soothing you could sit beside it all day canoodling with your canoodle-ee.

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Mon Dieu! Ou est mon epee?
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Cascade from the top of the park
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Cascade from the bottom of the park

I thought it would spoil the vibe if I started canoodling with myself so I made my way home down the 15 Street cycletrack. This was a mistake. It took a really long time. I could have been bombing down 16th Street instead. Riding in a cycletrack in DC feels like you’re in a video game. People, ubers, delivery vans, dogs, and other random stuff seem to appear. You’ll never score enough points if you don’t pay attention.

The ride home was a breeze. Literally. I took a side trip through Del Ray for a change of pace. After 40 miles, I didn’t feel the slightest bit tired. I’m ready for my tour, Mr. DeMille.

Some more pix of my ride are on my Flickr page.

Rolling Lawnchairs – a DC Bentabout

Every Memorial Day motorcyclists descend on DC as part of an event called Rolling Thunder. If you live in DC, you can plan on traffic tie ups and long waits at restaurants and crowded taverns. DC residents have learned to go with the flow when these sorts of things happen. (Except parents who are trying to get to day care before the overtime charges hit. The words “road rage” do not do it justice.)

With the Washington Nationals out of town and a hike already under my belt this weekend, it was time for a long ride. I decided to do a bikeabout on Big Nellie, my Tour Easy recumbent.  A bikeabout has no destination. It’s just a meander during which I take a ton of pictures using my point and shoot camera.

I wanted to check out the renovations to the Rock Creek trail. So I headed to DC. The MVT was a zoo, as it always is on nice days on the weekend.  I took my time. Near the beltway I saw Grace as she was headed the opposite way. I don’t know if she recognized me. (She’s never seen me on a recumbent before.)

The tourists had yet to meet critical mass in Old Town Alexandria. I paid close attention to the road ahead and managed to miss a tall ship docked at the southern end of harbor. (Thanks to Emilia who took an Instagram picture and brought it to my attention.)

I stopped at Gravelley Point park near National Airport. Typically, this place is packed on the weekends. Not today. I breezed through.

When I got into DC I was shocked that there were no crowds to contend with. The same cannot be said for the Rock Creek Trail. “Hey, let’s go down to the trail and stand in the middle and talk. We’re important people, you know.”

Must not kill.

The trail was mostly its old self. In parts it was so narrow and worn out that it would accommodate one way traffic only. When I did encounter sections that had been renovated, I was very impressed. Wider. Smoother. Straighter. With new wooden fencing. I can’t wait until it’s done.

Once clear of the trail I had a chance to enjoy Beach Drive which, for much of its length, is closed to cars on weekends and holidays. As I bombed up toward Chevy Chase, I was passed by Mike, a.k.a. @rattlingfender. Mike hosts the official Rootchopper pit stop at the 50 States Ride. I swear I do not pay him for this.

I stopped at the Rock Creek trestle because I like to ride my bike above the tree tops.

Time to head home. I took the Georgetown Branch Trail to Bethesda Row. Normally, I stop for lunch but today I just wanted to get home so I turned on to the Capital Crescent Trail. It was packed. Every time I see it like this I think: if you think a bike trail is a bad thing for your neighborhood, you’re nuts.

I never really had the chance to get any speed going. Every time I got Big Nellie up to cruising speed I had to slow to a crawl because of congestion.

The ride back home featured a strange yellow orb in the sky. What’s up with that?

Also, Gravelley Point Park had filled up. I think they only allow clueless people to use the park on the weekends. One cyclist simply stopped cold in the middle of the trail. No reason.

After the park, the trail squeezes between the Parkway and a secondary runway at the airport. As I approached the squeeze point, a bush was being blown all over the place. The wind was the backwash from a jet about to take off. Being on a recumbent kept me beneath the worst of the blast.

The ride through Old Town was just insane. Cars and bikes and people going every which way. Nobody following any kind of traffic rules. I remarked to another cyclist “This is like being in a video game.” He agreed.

After Old Town, there was nothing but sunny skies and tailwinds. Not a bad way to end a 50-mile holiday jaunt.

For the complete story check out my Flickr album.

 

 

Killing My Legs for a Good Cause or Two

What a busy weekend.  Friday night I took Mrs. Rootchopper out for dinner to celebrate her retirement. It had been a long last week for her (she worked until 1 a.m. one night).

Climate March

On Saturday, I went to the Climate March alone. She and I had done the Science March (a small part of it, anyway) and the Women’s March.  She had also done a march in support of immigration. She needed a break from marching. I rode to Union Station in DC where I met up with folks from WABA. WABA’s Nelle escorted a bunch of cyclists to our rendezvous point. Then we all walked over to take our place in line for the march. Several of our group held up a banner that Nelle had made. (Her creativity and energy astound me.) The march was preceded by much speechifying, none of which we could hear. So for a couple of hours we stood in the ironically blazing sun. At 1 p.m. or thereabouts we started to march. To my surprise we moved along pretty well.

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Joe, Nelle, and Nick holding the banner

We walked down Pennsylvania Avenue toward the White House.  At one point the marchers stopped and sat down and did some sort of woo woo chanting. The only chanting I would have done was to yell “Holy crap this pavement is hot!”  I opted to hang out in the shade with Carrie (see below).

The organizers had wanted to surround the White House. When we got to 15th Street we were told that we could not march to the front of the White House to our right. Instead we were shunted off toward the Washington Monument to our left. By this point we were all pretty wiped out from the heat. We decided to call it a day.

I walked back to Union Station with Nick and Doug, two WABA employees. It was about 20 blocks. It was good that I had company because I would otherwise have paid attention to what a slog it was.

I recovered my bike from the bike valet, and rode home. My legs were toast. I had ridden about 135 miles during the work week. Adding the 33 miles of riding to and from the march, standing around on hot asphalt for hours, and walking several miles only made my dead legs deader.

Breaking the Cycle

So in the spirit of abject self abuse, I woke up early to do a 53 mile bike ride for charity. The event was called Breaking the Cycle and it was put on by The Dwelling Place, a nonprofit that “provides housing opportunities and support services in Montgomery County for families experiencing homelessness, helping them to achieve and maintain self-sufficiency.”

Breaking the Cycle was conceived in a typically Washington way. Carrie is on the Board of The Dwelling Place. She’s married to Greg who is the managing director of WABA. Like Garland and Rooney, they decided to put on a show. (I was a little upset that Carrie didn’t sing the Trolley Song.)

With dead legs and another unseasonably warm and muggy day, I decided to start as early as I could. I must have looked haggard because Carrie explained that there was a bail out option that would cut 13 miles off the ride. Good to know but being a cyclist of very little brain I had no intention of bailing.

The first 14 miles of the ride were in Rock Creek Park. We rode north until there was no more road then took a wooded trail further north to a lake. After that it was all suburban and country roads in Montgomery County, Maryland. I think the route was Greg’s idea. The cue sheet was five or six pages long. It rivaled the 50 States Ride for complexity. You pretty much could tell you were on the route because riders were pulled over to check their cue sheets every couple of miles.

The course was a little hilly but nothing that I couldn’t handle. It was shaped like a lollypop, a circle with a stick. The stick part was an out and back ride to Waredaca Brewery. It was early when we got there so there was no beer drinking to be done. After inhaling an apple and taking a picture for some riders, I reversed course. All went well until I discovered that one of the turns on the cue sheet was wrong. It said to go left when it meant right. So I added a mile to my endeavor. I didn’t see anyone else make this mistake. It was no big deal.

The final few miles were on a trail in Sligo Creek Park. I opted for the trail to stay in the shade but it would have been much faster to take the adjacent parkway.  In any case, I arrived back at the start in semi-decent condition. Organizers of this race really know how to treat the riders. Finishers were given a metal beer glass (or maybe cup) and a coupon for a free beer at Denizens Brewery which happened to be the start and finish. I had the red ale. Then another. (It was moist and delicious.) And some soft pretzels. (They were moist and delicious too.)

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While at the bar I talked a bit with the chairman of The Dwelling Place. His name is Bond. James Bond. Didn’t look a thing like Sean Connery though.

And so the weekend ended. I am taking tomorrow off the bike to attend a dinner after work. My dead legs will thank me.

So my thanks to Nelle, Doug, Dan, and Nick on Saturday and Carrie and Greg on Sunday for making this a fun and worthwhile cycling weekend. These things don’t happen without a lot of work and thought. Cheers to you all.

 

Bike 1, Quinoa 0

I slept in.

When I woke up it was a perfect summer day. The second in a row. There was just one thing to do.

I rode my bike.

You saw that coming, didn’t you.

After all, I could have spent my day doing something truly exciting like dry toasting some quinoa. (Or driving a funicular railcar. I actually know people who did these things today.)

But I rode my bike.

I chose the Cross Check for my adventure. The first ten miles were unremarkable which is remarkable for a Sunday on the Mount Vernon Trail. Normally, the MVT is a zoo on a nice weekend days but today it was less busy than a weekday evening. I rode it all the way to DC. Unmolested.

I made it to trail along the Potomac on the DC side before disaster almost struck. I was patiently following two tentative riders as they made their way through the narrow underpass of the TR Bridge. There was stream of bikes coming our way then a runner. Just as Tentative Rider number 1 came upon the runner a stream of Lance Mamilots came around the bling corner on the other end of the underpass. Two got past the runner but the third nearly hit her. The tentative riders somehow managed not to find themselves in a big pile up. As did I. The runner was rightfully pissed. I yelled something non-obscene at Lance.

Another mile went by. As I approached K Street, I was following a rider on a very Eurpoean-style city bike. She was riding very slowly and came to a stop a the turn off for K Street. Somehow she fell sideways into a small patch of grass. She was more embarrassed than hurt. So I turned onto K and headed toward the Capital Crescent Trail. The CCT was busy and a few impatient riders nearly caused head on collisions. I just moseyed along and kept a positive attitude. It was just too nice a day to get upset.

Approaching Bethesda, I was passed by another Lance. He was headed straight for an on-coming walker. Oncoming walker was an unassuming looking, thin woman, perhaps in her late 60s, with thinning brown hair. In a vaguely eastern European accident she shouted: “Get on the other side of the trail, ASSHOLE!”

I could not stop laughing. For miles.

In Bethesda Row, I stopped at Bethesda Bagels (I love places with creative names) and bought a bagel sandwich. I rode to the trestle over Rock Creek Park and ate half of it there, looking out from the treetops to the creek far below.

And to think I could have been dry toasting my quinoa.

Dang.

With my tank topped off, I headed  outbound on Beach Drive. I had some company, mostly on bikes. At Garret Park I turned around. I had a bit of a head wind and put my head down for a moment. When I looked up, I nearly rode into a fawn. There were two in the road. So cute.

Back to DC, staying in, mostly car free, Rock Creek Park. Lord, was it nice. Warm, breezy. The soothing sound of the creek rushing past only a few yards to the side of the road.

I climbed out of the park on Park Road and made my way to Columbia Heights. Normally this hill is difficult for me. Not today. I rode the bike lane straight up Irving Street, passing a long stream of cars waiting in line for the short light at the top of the hill. Sucks for them, I thought.

Soon I was sitting on a bench in the shade in Meridian Hill Park. The rest of my sandwich didn’t have a chance.

For some reason, riding down 16th Street on the way home has become a favorite of mine. There are so many interesting buildings and people. Unfortunately, it ends with a ride through the touroids near the White House. I managed to get behind a tour group on Segways clogging the 15th Street cycletrack.

Riding a bike behind Segways is only marginally more enjoyable than dry toasting quinoa.

I survived. Nobody killed me as I rode out of DC. The MVT was once again not half bad. The last ten miles were not the easiest. I have to remember to drink more water while I am riding during my tour next week.

I rode all winter, all through a cold, wet spring. Today’s beautiful 63 1/2 miles was payback.

Tonight, I’ll dry toast some quinoa.

Just kidding.

Too bad there aren’t any funiculars around.

A Year in the Woods

This was my second year of doing day hikes. Early in the year I made a list of hikes that I wanted to do on my white board at work. I modified the list, adding three hikes that friends of mine did during the year and taking off two hikes, Bull Run Mountain and Sky Meadows, because they are in an area that is infested with ticks. (One of my coworkers contracted Lyme disease at Sky Meadows.)

Hike List 2015

As you can see I cross off quite a few hikes.

To get the year off on the right foot, I went up to Great Falls Park in Maryland and did the Billy Goat B and C trails. I had done this last summer and enjoyed the route but not the heat. This is about a six mile hike, mostly flat.  It was a good way to start the year.

For the next several months I forgot about hiking. I don’t honestly know why. When I realized that I had missed some of the year’s best hiking weather I kicked it into gear on the first weekend in June and re-visited Rock Creek Park. This time I did the Valley and West Ridge trails in a counter clockwise direction. It’s a good hike, about 10 miles or so.

It was time to get away from the city. The next weekend I found a hike online that seemed to offer some solitude. It was an out and back hike on the section of the Appalachian Trail in Virginia known as Ashby Hollow. The trail was rocky and the the ups and downs lived up to the nickname Roller Coaster. I was amazed that through hikers did this section of the trail carrying big backpacks. I saw a couple too.  More power to you folks.

I was on a roll. A luck would have it Ultrarunnergirl was looking to go for a hike in the Shenandoah National Park. We headed out to White Oak Cannon. Here, she advised me to buy a year pass to the National Park system. Great idea. We hiked up the canyon, enjoying waterfalls all the way up.  At the top of the trail we took a fire road up to Skyline Drive. At her suggestion, we hiked up the steep trail to Little Hawksbill, the highest point in the park. Hiking down beat the crap out of my legs. To get back to the start we took the Cedar Run Trail. This was a pretty trail but it was also rocky and the rocks were slippery. Ultrunnergirl’s iPhone went for a swim. She went for a rock slide near the end of the hike. This was my first non-solo hike since college. It was also my first hike in Shenandoah National Park. If you live in the mid-Atlantic and do not take advantage of this park you are really missing out.

A couple of weeks later, I headed back to the park for a hike up Little Devil Stairs.  This was pretty challenging and involved crossing and re-crossing a stream. Well worth the early wake up on a day off from work.

I took the rest of July off.

I started August with a hike on the exotically names Potomac Heritage Trail. It was not the best hike but it was close to home. Then, in mid-August, on my 60th birthday, I did the most popular hike in these parts, Old Rag. It was quite challenging. I was a bit annoyed by the rock scramble. At one point I had to wedge myself into a gap between two boulders and hike vertically, with my back against one boulder and my feet on the other. Not my style at all. The view from the summit was pretty darn nice. If you want solitude, find another hike.

In September we took a long vacation in Australia, New Zealand and Thailand. We did a whole mess of walking including an easy short hike at  Kata Tjuta in the outback.

Kata Tjuta Walk

 

After returning home, I made my way back to Great Falls Park in Maryland for an easy hike along the River and Gold Mine Loop trails.  I’d done each of these before but separately.

The next week, I drove to Prince William Forest Park down near Quantico. The trails here are not very well marked so I was a bit confused as to where I was or where I was going. Nevertheless, I cobbled together a pretty successful loop hike.

My last hike (unless I get really motivated in December) combined two hikes near Harper’s Ferry. Maryland Heights and Weverton Cliff offer fantastic overlooks of the Potomac River, Harper’s Ferry and the Shenandoah River.  This was my longest hike by far. Probably about 3 miles longer than I was comfortable doing.

I am learning what I like and don’t like about hiking. I am not a big fan of rocks. I don’t like rock scrambles. Nor do I like rocky trails. I am not a big fan of fording streams either. I am afraid that I am going to turn an ankle, fall, or get soaked. Since most of my hikes are solo, any one of these would be bad news.

So that’s how I put my best foot forward this year. I hope next year that I do more hiking with friends. So if you live in DC and wanna go for a trek in the woods, I’m all ears.

Fritterman Triathlon

I had no plan for the day. It started as most Saturdays. I ran the deck on the crossword puzzles in the paper. I screwed up the Sudoku. I drank all the coffee. With the important business of the day behind me, I decided to do a triathlon.

No, not the Ironman or even the Tinman. I did the Fritterman. It’s the suburban version.

First, event is the Hollin Hall Errandonnee. I rode my bike to the drug store. Then got a haircut. Then picked up ten pounds of birdseed. Then I rode home, stopping along the way to chat with Nancy Duley (on her awesome 1993 Hollands bike) and her friend Stephanie (on her blue bike of a sort I can’t recall). We stood in the road on a sidestreet and gabbed for ten or 15 minutes. (I do hope the folks driving by in SUVs could see that adults in suburbia can indeed function on a Saturday morning without 3,000 pounds of steel.) Then I rode home. Total mileage: 2 1/2 miles.

Back at home I snarfed an apple and went out for round two: the lawn mowing event. I actually like mowing the lawn. Like running and hiking (see below) it has a meditative aspect to it. And I refuse to pay people to do something I learned how to do during the Kennedy administration. I finished this event in 45 minutes.

After the lawn mowing (I came in first), I headed indoors for some nuked left overs. I watched the last three innings of the Nats game on the tube. (The Nats lost. Boo.)

It was 3:30 with plenty of daylight remaining so I drove to Rock Creek Park and hiked ten miles. I hiked the Valley Trail toward Maryland and the Western Ridge Trail back to my start at Pierce Mill. It was hilly. It was muggy. It was my first hike of the year. My legs were hurting at 4 miles. Rather than make it an 8-mile hike, I pushed on. This was a pretty good decision until I missed a turn and hiked down a muddy hill and then back up. And I was doing fine until the last 200 yards back down to Rock Creek. It was pretty much straight down and my legs felt like lead. And I was still hanging in there until I stepped off a curb awkwardly about 100 feet from my car and my back seized.

I made it to the finish.

It is not true that you are given fritters at the end of the Fritterman Triathlon. That’s because I was alone and there were no fritters in sight.

When I got home I looked like Mike Myers’ Middle Aged Man. I may not be able to walk tomorrow.

So it goes.