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.


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.

Spring Training

We are training for spring. Today the temperature on my back deck reached 66 degrees. After weeks of freezing our asses off, the people of DC are all smiles. Except, perhaps, for the tourist I saw crashing on his Segway, but I am getting ahead of myself.

I started the day doing physical therapy for my foot. It was barely numb when I awoke but I decided to forgo yoga or my other exercises and just do what the PT people told me to do. Dang, it hurts. Raise this, lower that, keep your stomach and your butt cheeks tight. After about a half an hour our was done. My stomach muscles wanted to be traded to another body. And the lacrosse ball that is beating the knots out of my calves is seriously in danger of getting thrown out the window. Ouch.

After a morning of relaxation, I headed out the door on Big Nellie. I was bound for an everything bagel in Bethesda, about 24 miles away. It was 50 degrees outside. Yesss.

As I was waiting for cars at an intersection with Fort Hunt Road near my home, an SUV drove by and made friendly tooting sounds with its horn. I have no idea who it was but I waved at them

I made it to the Mount Vernon Trail which was not particularly crowded. In Old Town Alexandria I took South Washington Street. My physical therapist ran past. Small world.

The ride to the city was so peaceful I went on auto pilot. I stopped at Gravelly Point to watch a plane land overhead – easily one of my favorite free things to do.

Over the 14th Street Bridge I rode then up Ohio Drive to M Street to the Capital Crescent Trail. The long ride up to Bethesda took time. Recumbents simply don’t do uphills very well. And since I am not exactly a badass on two wheels let’s just say it took a while.

When I got to Bethesda Row I headed straight for Bethesda Bagels. Since it was well after noon there wasn’t a line. I picked up my everything bagel, toasted with veggie cream cheese and a sweet tea. I proceeded to inhale these comestibles with great vigor. Ah!

I rode the Georgetown Branch Trail over to the Rock Creek Trestle. The trail was somewhat muddy. Recumbents are the best mudders so it was a tense ride. I slipped this way and that several times. The view from the testle differs by time of year. The winter view is, of course, leafless but it’s always fun to be at treetop level with the world. IMG_20150208_142017

I reversed course then headed down into Rock Creek Park. All the climbing has its rewards and for most of the next 7 miles I was cruising downhill. The number of people on Beach Drive was impressive. Many families out riding bikes with their kids. I had to be careful not to hit any of them. They wobble and waver and dart out in front of you unexpectedly.

I got on the trail at Klingle Road. This was a mistake. The trail at this point is narrow and crowded and has numerous bumps from tree routes. Once I reached the zoo entrance, I took Harvard Street to climb into Adams Morgan. It’s a healthy climb, too. To recover from my exertion I took a very slow speed spin through Meridian Hill Park. There was a healthy number of people there, no one I knew though. I rode by the drum circle but there was only one man with drums so I decided to head back home.

I took 16th Street which is a nice straight downhill shot to the White House. Along the way I saw the indefatigible Ted a.k.a @MrTinDC.

I shifted over to the 15th Street cycletrack and got behind a long line of tourists on Segways. Normally, Big Nellie looks weird to people I pass but in a cluser of Segways, Big Nellie doesn’t get a passing glance. At the intersection with Pennsylvania Avenue, the Seqways stopped to regroup. One tourist’s Segway jolted to a stop throwing him to the ground with an audible SPLAT. Should’ve rented bikes.

I crossed back over the river and headed home on the Mount Vernon Trail. It was packed with people, most of whom were oblivious to the fact that some people were actually trying to make forward progress. At the south end of the airport I balied out, opting to cut through Del Ray.

I cut over to Old Town and rejoined the MVT at the southern end of Old Town. Mistake. This part of the trail was every bit as chaotic as what I had bailed out on.There was no point in getting upset about it. I slowed down and took in the madness that warm weather brings. And besides, by this point my legs were started to tell me that all that time off in January had taken its toll on my fitness.

I arrived home. Mrs. Rootchopper had opened the windows. The temperature was 66 degrees. (One degree off the record, so I am told.)

So I ended up riding 170 miles in seven days. Not half bad for winter. Tomorrow is a day off the bike as I am going to three doctors appointments.

We now return to our regularly scheduled winter.

Rock Creek Park on My Own Two Feet

My bikes were tired. I was sick. So I took yesterday off. Today was another story, And this is it.

I’ve lived in DC for 30 years, not including spending the summer here in 1980. And I have never hiked in Rock Creek Park. I’ve biked it. I’ve run it. I’ve even run a 10 mile race in it, but I’ve never taken to the wooded trails that run through the park like blood vessels.

Today, I rectified this in a big way. Starting from Pierce Mill I hiked the Western Ridge Trail to the Maryland line and then crossed the park and hike all the way back on the Valley Trail. I just checked a website that sad that the Valley Trail is 5.5 miles. That means I hoofed it over 11 miles. No wonder I’m tired.

Got Mud?
Got Mud?

For those of you unfamiliar with Rock Creek, it’s a wooded urban canyon that cleaves the Northwest quadrant of DC. I have stayed on the paved bike trail and roads of the park until today. The trails are mostly hard packed dirt. Hilly sections have timbers (and sometimes stairs) across the trails to make it easier to go up and down the sometimes steep hills. The Western Ridge Trail started out steep and a bit rocky but ended up being smooth for the most part. I was moving along pretty well when I spooked a deer (I hope it was a deer) in the bushes next to the trail. 

Up the Western Ridge
Up the Western Ridge

As the name implies, the Western Ridge Trail runs along the ridges on the western edge of the park. This means you have to hike up to the ridge. This was a decent work out. Once to the top the trail rolls up and down, ocassionally popping out on to a street here and there. At one point, in a wooded section, I was surprised to see three horses and their riders coming my way.

The Western Ridge Trail comes back down to the canyon floor at the Maryland/DC line. I cross Beach Drive, the road that runs through the park, and hit the Valley Trail. The Valley Trail was hit or miss. Sometimes it was an unpaved road, sometimes a dirt path through lush greenery. Sometimes it went straight up the side of the canyon. (Hey, where’s my stinking valley?).  It also had an annoying amount of tree routes to negotiate. 

Thankfully, the Valley Trail hung a right just at the end of this bridge
Thankfully, the Valley Trail hung a right just at the end of this bridge

I’m not complaining though.  It’s a damned nice way to spend a summer Sunday morning. Even a little rain didn’t spoil my day. That’s mostly because the tree canopy is so dense that the raindrops rarely made it through. 

I’m ready to get back on the bike now. 

There are a few more pix over on my Flickr page.

Frogs and Peeps in Rock Creek

A couple of weeks ago, I installed some Speedplay Frog pedals on Big Nellie, my Tour Easy recumbent. I like them a lot, mostly because they feel like they aren’t there. So I decided to try them on Little Nellie, my Bike Friday New World Tourist. I needed a short-ish, easy ride to test them out.

Kristen was looking for folks tor ride with. She was doing a ride to add some miles to her office’s National Bike Challenge team total.  She put out the call to meet at Pierce Mill in Rock Creek Park. Despite the fact that I have spent the last two Sunday’s in Rock Creek Park I decided to join the ride. Unlike the prior two weekends, I drove to the park instead of riding,

Rock Creek
Rock Creek

The original plan was to ride a big loop up the park to the Georgetown Branch Trail.  We’d take the GBT to the Capital Crescent Trail. The CCT would take us to the Georgetown riverfront. From there we’d ride on the dilapidated trail back up to the start. We eventually decided to ride up the park to Woodbine Road. Then we’d make our way on the streets of Chevy Chase, Maryland. Then we’d take the new-ish Bethesda Trolley Trail. As it turned out, the BTT led us to a coffee stop in North Bethesda. From there we took side paths and streets back down to Rock Creek Park at Garrett Park.

The weather was incrementally muggier than last Sunday but we were spinning at an easy pace. Our group consisted of Ted and Jean, Kristen, her co-worker Chris, Ryan, and me. Twas a loquacious posse. We chattered and pedalled up the windy road, shaded by the canopy of green. As we spun our way through Chevy Chase, I admired the tastefully modest million-dollar homes. Ryan pointed out one house that deviated from the modesty theme; it looked like a white castle (not the restaurant, an actual castle with towers and ramparts and a moat).


Shadows and Cycles
Shadows and Cycles

We wiggled and waggled until we found ourselves at Bethesda Row. Ryan led us to the Trolley Trail and we followed it through parks, down sidewalks, and between housing developments. I was thoroughly lost. We stopped as luck would have it about a block from White Flint Mall. We checked our phone maps and saw that instead of turning around and heading back to Bethesda we could ride around the mall and take a small park trail to Garrett Park. During our search for the trail, my compadres found a cafe. After some coffee and a bite to eat, we headed over to Garrett Park, a neighborhood that takes traffic calming concepts to the max. Over the railroad tracks and down another park trail and we were back in Rock Creek Park.

The gentle downhill made for a fun easy ride. Traffic was light. One deer, then another cross the street in front of us. Big animal, small brain. (I’m refering to the deer not myself.)

Windy, gently rollling Beach Drive took us all the way back to the start.

At the end of the ride, I drove Kristen home so she didn’t have to ride up the imposing hill on Tilden Street. I lifted her bike to place it in the rack on my car. Dang. It’s a Mule!!! I have been impressed with her ability to ride up hills but now I am doubly so.

The verdict on the Frogs is thumbs up. Way up. I climb much better with them and I never once came close to falling over from not clipping out.

Some pix from the ride are on my Flickr page.


Sunday in the Park with Flor

Last Sunday I rode to Meridian HIll Park to hang out with my friend Florencia. Flor and I met on the Fifty States Ride on a day that was epically hot and humid. She rode like she had a tailwind the entire way. She was particularly strong on hills and I had absolutely no hope of keeping up with her.

These days, Flor spends much more time working than riding. So last Sunday she asked me to go for a not-too-hard ride to get her biking legs back. BIke ride? Moi?

We planned to meet up at noon. I decided that the least difficult route with the fewest hills and stop lights and cars would be a ride up Rock Creek Park as far as she felt comfortable. I knew from riding this route last week that it was about 15 miles from Garrett Park, Maryland to Flor’s neghborhood so I thought 30 flat-ish miles would be the maximum distance she would want to do.

The trip also allowed me to check out Big Nellie’s new headset. (This is the mechanism that connects the handlebars and stem to the fork. Without a functioning headset a bicycle can’t function. Long story short, the steering felt a little loose at first but I soon adapted to it and had no troubles with it. Thanks to Carl, the mechanic at Spokes Etc, in Belle View Shopping Center for the repair.)

After a stop to buy sunscreen I rode north on the Mount Vernon Trail. As I expected on a perfect weather Sunday, the trail was packed, With some patience I made it into the city without hitting anyone or cussing anyone out. I took the 15th Street cycletrack north past Meridian Hill Park and found Flor’s place after only one wrong turn. Along the way I was twice quizzed about my bike by passers by.

“Is it more comfortable?”

“Did you make it?”

“Does it help your back?”

“Can I buy one online?”

(Answers: Yes, No. Yes. Yes.)

After a brief wait, Flor appeared. She seemed like she was lacking her usual spark. You would be too if you worked on your feet yesterday from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m.  We decided to ride to the Rock Creek trestle and re-asses my route plans depending on how Flor felt.

Flor led us through a traffic mess at the Zoo. Then we rode on the pitiful Rock Creek trail until we passed Pierce Mill. We then picked up Beach Drive which was closed to car traffic intermittently for the next several miles. The water washed over rocks in the creek. The breeze made a rustling sound in the green, green canopy of leaves above us. Through the canopy above we could see a beautiful blue, blue sky with puffy clouds floating this way and that. Flor and I pedaled the curving road at 12 to 14 miles per hour chatting the whole way through the park. I defy you to find better biking conditions than this.

We stopped at the trestle for a couple of pictures. Flor gave the green light for some more miles and we headed north to Garrett Park. Once in Maryland the traffic restrictions no longer apply. We dealt with quite a bit more cars than I did last week. Flor rides in the city everyday so she didn’t care.

Flor on the Trestle
Flor on the Trestle

I mentioned a nice little restaurant in Garrett Park in case Flor wanted to stop for a bite to eat but she seemed uninterested. Once we reached Garrett Park Road we turned around and headed back south. I had misplaced my camera prior to the ride. Normally, I take shots of the people I ride with while I am riding. I decided to try taking pictures on the fly with my new iPhone instead. It was impossible to tell if I actually had Flor in the frame so I took a four. They all came out fine. Credit to the subject.

Flor Miraculously  Managed to Stay in Frame.
Flor Miraculously Managed to Stay in Frame.

A deer appeared at the side of the road. Another one five miles farther along. We talked on and off. During the “on” we discussed everything under the sun (computer dating, job searching, living near the zoo, Rolfing, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness) except cycling. During the “off” we were lost in the stupefying beauty of the park.

We climbed Park Road to get back to Flor’s place. Flor’s legs were pretty tired but she looked pretty happy. I think the ride did her good. I hope she can walk tomorrow.

My ride home involved bombing down 18th Street. It was a bit like a Giant Slalom event. Cars, buses, pedestrians, cyclists all seem to appear out of nowhere. I switched over to 16th Street which ends at Lafayette Park across from the White House. Tourists milled about. I rode straight through a bunch of participants in the Post Hunt, an annual scavenger hunt put on by the Washington Post. I am pretty sure the answer to one of the hunt’s questions was not “Old dude on a recumbent.”

I took the cycle track on 15th Street. It was video game. Pedestrians popped off the sidewalk into my path over and over. Two Mennonite women stood in the track. One spotted me and shoved the other one to the sidewalk. Clearly, she will get bonus points on the day of reckoning when she goes to that great cycletrack in the sky. At Constitution Avenue, an airport shuttle van nearly took me out as its driver rushed to make a left turn across my path. Lucky for the driver I left my bicycle death ray at home.

The Mount Vernon Trail was still packed. It didn’t slow me down. My legs were pretty tired. I hadn’t eated anything in seven hours and I could feel a bonk coming on.

Never let ’em see you bonk.

I didn’t.

Thanks to Flor for another excellent ride. (We’ve never had a bad one.) We have to do some more this summer. 50 States will be here before you know it. (Then she can once again leave me in the dust on Kansas Avenue.)

A few more pix are here.


To the Park the Long Way

The idea was to go to Meridian Hill Park to hang out with my friend Florencia. Trouble was that we were meeting at 3 and I had a day to kill.

I decided to go for a bike ride. I’ll bet you saw that coming, didn’t you?

I took off aboard Big Nellie, my Tour Easy recumbent, heading north along the Mount Vernon Trail toward the city. The weather was perfect: warm, low humidity, a refreshing breeze, a puffy cloud interrupting the blue, blue sky. The trail was somewhat crowded but I made a reasonable pace. Now and then I came to a crawl waiting for a cluster of weekenders to step aside. Just north of Old Town Alexandria a car did a u-turn across the trail. (For some reason cars do this a lot when any point in the road would suffice.) At this point in the trail there are railroad tracks on the right. As I came to a near stop for the car, a cyclists came up behind me and passed me, crossing over the left rail in the process. The cyclists was a MAMIL, middle aged man in lycra. Actually, since he was clearly in his sixties, he probably qualified as an OMIL (the “O” being for “old”) but OMIL doesn’t quite roll of the tonque.

As the car left he began to cross back in front of me. I glanced to the left, saw his skinny front tire, and thought “He’s goin’ down in three, two, one…” BAM!  His tire caught along the rail and down he went directly in front of me. He didn’t roll or skid he just stick the landing on his shoulder, hip and knee.

MOAN. “Entirely my fault. My fault.” Must have been a RABIL (retired altar boy in lycra).

I came to a stop a couple of inches from his sad repose. Two sets of walkers came along. One guy said, “Don’t move, mate.” AMT! Aussie Medical Technician.

We waited for the OMIL to get himself together and watched as he sheepishly called the wife for transport home.

I rode on weaving in and out of the trail peeps. I stopped at Gravelley Park to use a green room and watch a plane take off then headed into the city on the 14th Street Bridge. I expected that the city streets would be congested with the Rolling Thunder Memorial Day event so I stayed along the river. Ohio Drive and Rock Creek and Potomac Parkway were both barricaded so I could ride in the street all the way to Georgetown.

After a brief dance with the cars underneath the Whitehurst Freeway I picked up the Capital Crescent Trail and headed to Bethesda. The trail was crowded as expected. Dodging the walkers, bladers, runners, and cyclists took my mind off the fact that the steering on Big Nellie was messed up. One second it felt like the front wheel was going to leave me behind, the next it felt like the wheel was tracking in a rut. I gave it a good looking over in Bethesda but I could see nothing wrong.

After eating a slice of pizza at Bethesda Bagels (their pizza is as good as their bagels and that’s saying something) I took the Georgetown Branch Trail to City Bikes in Chevy Chase.  There a mechanic (Travis, I think. I am awful with names) took Big Nellie for spin. He said the steering felt fine to him.

On I rode reaching the trestle over Rock Creek Park. I love the view from the treetops here.

Big Nellie on the Trestle

Since I had about two hours to kill at this point, I headed north on Beach Drive in Rock Creek Park. I hadn’t ridden this road in ages and it is a beautiful place to roll. I took a wrong turn but went with the flow and ended up climbing out of the park into Kensington MD. Once there I checked my map app and found my way back to Beach Drive. I took it north all the way to Garrett Park MD. There was method in my route. I figured that if my steering failed she could come and get me at our friends’ Rulon and Heather’s place in Garrett Park.

My steering didn’t fail so I did a uey and headed back toward DC.

Since I was now going slightly downhill my pace picked up. The sketchy steering made this a tense ride but I made it without problem. I stopped to refill my water bottles and headed out of the park up the gradual hill to the Mount Pleasant neighborhood. I kept pace with a woman on a road bike and thought that the new Speedplay Frog pedals made climbing infinitely easier.

Once I was our of the park I proceeded to get lost. I think this may be my greatest cycling skill.

I knew that all I needed to do was find 16th Street and I could find Meridian Hill Park so I focused on that task. In short order I was at the park. An old man was playing chess. Groups of people where picnicing on the grass. Bench sitters were people watching. Frisbees were being tossed. Dogs were being watched. A woman in a bridal gown carried yellow flowers as her soon to be husband stood along side in his suit.  The drum circle beat out a cacophonous rhythm.

Not a Bad Place for Wedding Pictures

I was a half hour early so I hung out alone and relaxed. After a while I spotted a woman wearing what looked like dark pink-ish tight pants. Flor? No way. I’ve never seen her in colors. So I hung out some more.

A little after three, I duck walked my bike around the park and soon pink tights lady stood up and waved. It was Flor after all. She promptly jumped aboard Big Nellie. Flor is small and Nellie is big so her ride lasted only a few yards. I think Flor secretly wants a recumbent. It would probably just fit in her efficiency condo. (Not.)

Flor on Big Nellie

More friends arrived. Food came out. Conversation ensued. Sun shine. Breezes blew. The slack liners did their thing a few feet away. Flor’s rock climbing friend Jonna showed up with a surprise. She was on the nest as they used to say in the moving picture shows. I guessed she was six months along but she is due in three weeks. Go girl!

We hung out for three hours and then it was time to hit the road so that I’d get home before night fall.

The ride down 16th Street was surprisingly devoid of motorcycle traffic. That didn’t make it any less interesting because Big Nellie’s steering was turning my downhill glide into an adventure.

I made it home without incident, 64 miles for the day. Along the way, Big Nellie’s odometer turned 36,000 miles. Maybe the steering is dying of old age.

So I declare the day a success. Perfect weather. Windy roads in Rock Creek Park. Friends and breezes in the park.

Now it’s time to take Big Nellie to the bike doctor for exploratory surgery.

Pix of the day are here.

How I Found Jesus and Lost a Crown

You could not ask for a nice day to ride a bike. Warm, breezy, sunny and dry is an awesome combination. It’s a little bit of Vermont in DC. It was the perfect day to try out my new prescription sunglasses. I pulled Little Nellie, my Bike Friday New World Tourist, out of mothballs and headed out for parts to be determined.

We headed up the Mount Vernon Trail. Traffic on the trail on nice summer weekend days is usually pretty heavy but it was tolerable today. I decided not to press my luck and left the trail to cross the Potomac River on the Woodrow Wilson Bridge trail. The bridge trail was very crowded but everybody was polite and considerate so I made good time. On the connecting trail in Maryland I passed an interesting tandem bike, a Hase, I think. The stoker sits in front on a recumbent seat. The captain steers from behind the stoker on a conventional bike saddle with conventional handlebars. The riders seemed to be having a blast.

I pedaled up the half mile hill to Oxon Hill Road which is being completely rebuilt to the south. Not wanting to ride through the construction site, I turned north. The intersection at Oxon Hill Farm has been redesigned to deny a left hand turn. I couldn’t figure out how to get to the farm any other way so I turned left anyway. Take that MDOT.

I rode back down the long hill in Oxon Hill Park to Oxon Hill Cove. The trail through this parkland, owned by the National Park Service, is a mess and really needs to be torn up and repaved. (I will refrain from bitching about Congress and how it seems hell bent on turning our public infrastructure into East Germany 1978.)

One mile and a big climb later I was on the streets of Anacostia. As usual, Sunday in Anacostia means church and church goers dressed in Sunday best. I took Martin Luther King Junior Boulevard (is that the longest street name in DC?) down and up and down through the neighborhood. Instead of taking the 11th Street bridge over the Anacostia River to Capitol Hill, I turned instead into Anacostia River Park. I headed north, up river, exploring side roads here and there.  A nifty new bridge takes the park trail north toward Benning Road. Coming toward me on the bridge was a chatty pack of women on bikes. Nellie from the Washington Area Bicyclists Association was at the head of the group. I recognized one of the riders as a regular Mount Vernon Trail bike commuter. She has a blinky light that swivels on the top of her helmet and a very serious bike commuting demeanor.

Since none of the women said “What a man!” as I passed on continued onward. I spent a few minutes trying to find the entrance to the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens but only succeeded in finding the solid waste disposal facility for DC. Fail.

I crossed the Benning Road bridge and took the Anacostia Trail downriver on the west side of the river. Next I meandered through Capitol Hill where I took a break at Eastern Market. After some food and drink, I headed to the Capitol (because it’s there) and then up the Metropolitan Branch Trail. A left put me on the contraflow bike lane on R Street. (Contras make good bike lanes.)

My wanderings took me through a street fair of sorts complete with a farmers market and bike repair, because you need some peaches with your new brake pads.  Up U Street where all the people who can’t get to the beach were eating brunch. I turned up 15th Street and headed into Meridian Hill Park. The park is usually filled with people doing acroyoga, slack lining, and hula hooping, and a very entertaining drum circle. Sadly the only activity was a bunch of people having picnics and an ultimate Frisbee game.

Up 15th Street to 16th I rode. Traffic got a bit heavy so I started to zig zag to the east and the north. I managed somehow to ride past the Tacoma Park  home of Mike, the world’s most loquacious randonneur. (He and his wife Lisa hosted a rest stop on the 50 States Ride last year.)

I pushed onward into the confusion of downtown Silver Spring. If there’s a silver spring anywhere about it’s probably paved over or built on. I spotted a sign for a bike trail that eventually led me to the Georgetown Branch Trail which meant it was time to head for home. After spending a few minutes enjoying the view and chatting with people on the Rock Creek Trestle, I headed toward Bethesda Row for a bit of iced tea. After refilling my water bottles, I hopped on the crowded Capital Crescent Trail and headed for Georgetown and the Potomac River waterfront. The trail is downhill the entire way and the downhill combined with the tailwind to make this a perfect ride.

The river north of Key Bridge was choked with kayaks and canoes and powerboats and other floating things. DC sure likes its water. All this activity made the going kind of slow on K Street which runs by the packed Georgetown Waterfront Park. I pedaled along and was soon at the beach volleyball courts near the Lincoln Memorial. A couple of Park Police officers cruised at 5 miles per hour on the trail making sure that none of the scantily clad volleyballers were drinking or evil doing. As he drove the driver of the cruiser sucked at a Slurpee. (Um, can we move along guys? Please.)

With the help of my tailwind, I rode down Ohio Drive past several softball games (I saw two batters hit frozen ropes in the process.) As I rode across the Potomac on the 14th Street bridge my tailwind became a cross wind strong enough to lean in to.

The Mount Vernon Trail was as crowded as I suspected but the trail users were generally well behaved (an abnormality on a nice summer day, to be sure). As I cleared Gravelly Point Park I went to take a drink from my water bottle. As I pulled on the valve with my teeth something clicked in my mouth.  It was a porcelain veneer crown on one of my front teeth. Bummer. Luckily I didn’t swallow it. Hopefully my dentist can glue it back on. (It was put in about 20 years ago so I’ve got nothing to complain about.)

In Old Town I decided not to deal with Union Street which is usually teeming with touroids on days like today. I rode down Royal Street where, in front of Saint Mary’s Catholic church, a couple was setting up a series of long tables with carvings of various Christian people and scenes. I found Jesus on South Royal Street.


Not wanting to take a couple of mulchy detours on the MVT, I took the Park Terrace Drive hill instead. I rode up the hill in the saddle at 8 miles per hour, twice as fast as on my recumbent.

I pulled into my driveway with 62.9 miles on my odometer, a metric century (100 kilometers).


Of Foxes and Bagels

We’d heard the sound before, a growliing, barking, bleating sound. We could never figure out what it was.  This morning before sunrise we heard it again. We had already lost an hour of sleep to the shift to daylight savings time so Mrs. Rootchopper and I were not amused. We sprang from the bed to see what was the matter (with appologies to Clement Moore).  In the dim pre-dawn light my wife spotted the culprit, a fox on the lawn beneath our bedroom window.

Well, now that I was awake, I stayed awake. I did the usual Sunday morning things and bided my time until the temperature was well into the 40s. Then I jumped on BIg Nellie and headed out.

I took the Mount Vernon Tral heading towards DC. I expected it to be crowded but I was surprised to see it was not. The worst of the crowding usually occurs between Old Town Alexandria and DC so on the north side of Old Town I changed course, picking up the parallel route through the old rail yard (now a massive mixed use development), Crystal City and the edge of the Pentagon parking lots.

I entered DC on the Memorial Bridge and rode carefully through the hoards of tourists visiting Abe. A school kids’ band played the national anthem as I rode past.  My travels took me north into Rock Creek Park. The trail in Rock Creek Park is crappy on just about every level you can think of. At Pierce Mill I left the trail and rode on Beach Drive which is closed to vehocular traffic on the weekends. The ride north is gradually uphill but i didn’t care because even with no leaves on the trees, Rock Creek Park is a thing of beauty.

As usual, I made my way to the Georgetown Branch Trail that crosses the park on an old railroad trestle. I love it up there above the tree tops with the creek and the miniature runners and bicyclists on the rail far below.

Big Nellie on Rock Creek Trestle

After a brief respite, Big Nellie decided I was hungry so we rode the Georgetown Branch Trail to Bethesda Row.  The trail is unpaved. Usually, this time of year it’s an icy and muddy mess but today it was in excellent shape.

I parked Big Nellie next to an amazing cargo bike. The frame said Bicycle Maximus on it. I bought an everything bagel with veggie cream cheese and a coffee and chilled on a bench and watched the Bethesdans do their Bethesdings.

Big Bikes at Bethesda Bagels

Refreshed, refueled and caffeinated, we took off down the Capital Crescent Trail. The first two miles were a slalom course around walkers, dogs, cyclists, runners, one fish, two fish=, red fish, blue fish.

The best way to ride a long wheel base recumbent is down a long, smooth, gradual hill. As luck would have it, that’s exactly what the Capital Crescent Trail has to offer. We cruised at high-ish speeds making sure not to freak the other trail users out. (All day today, i saw little kids stare with open mouths at Big Nellie. “Awwwwesommme.” )

Instead of heading back on the Mount Vernon Trail I took Water Stereet to K Street and rode straight across downtown DC. I picked up Mass Ave and took that past Union Station into Capitol Hill. I took a right and picked up the bike lane on 11th Street and rode that straight to the Anacostia River. The 11th STreet Bridge is being reconfigured. The renovation gives 11th Street a river crossing separated from freeway traffic. Even with a mess of construction it was a pretty sweet crossing. The bridge drops 11th Street directlu onlt Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

MLK brings a series of long uphill slogs. Even thoughg it is hilly and bum[y and goes through some of the poorest areas of DC, MLK is riot of activity on Sundays. At South Capitol Street I took a left and headed toward the Wilson Bridge. South Capitol becomes Indian Head Highway in Maryland. A new access road has been built that makes for a more direct route to the bridge.  After yet another long climb I came to the top of a hilland turned right for a high speed descent on near virgin pavement.

The trail to the bridge and across the river was busy but we had no troubles weaving among the folks out enjoying the warm sunny day.

In Virginia I headed into the throngs on the Mount Vernon Trail through Belle Haven Park. Two junior high aged kids were taking up the entire trail while going so slow i had to ride my brakes. Suddenly, they both stopped in the middle of the trail. I barked something at them. “Sorry.”

The next mile was slow going. Mom, Dad, and daughter were out on their bikes for what was probably the first time. For the second time in a mile, dead stop in the middle of the trail. I can count on one hand the number of times this has happened to me in the last year but today it happened twice in a quarter of a mile. Argh.

A few hundred yards later a litle girl on what had to be her Christmas bike all pink and tassled veered directly into my path. All I could think of was what happens when she meets Mom, Dad, and daughter or the two middle schoolers. It won’t be pretty. (Digression: if you have a kid who is still learning to ride a bike, DON”T TAKE THEM ON A BUSY BIKE TRAIL.  They can’t handle it. They endanger themselves and others. I know the trail is there for everyone’s use but you don’t take a new driver on the beltway at rush hour. They don’t want to ride point to point anyway. They want to ride in circles and off the pavement into the grass and such.  Take them to a parking lot like the one underneath the Wilson Bridge.)

The kids I could handle but my asthma kicked in around this time. I think the tree pollen triggered it. I was only four miles from home so I didn’t bother with my inhaler.

I rolled into home after 56 1/2 miles of smooth sailing. My windpipe was a mess and my left knee was pretty unhappy but the rest of me was all smiles. I finished my longest ride of the year on a fabulous early spring day. And there’s still plenty of light left.