The Mule’s Still Got It. My Knee Not So Much.

After two days of beautiful weather, The Mule insisted on going for a long ride. The Mule was jealous because I went hiking with friends yesterday. The Mule gets like that sometimes. The Mule would have killed me in my sleep if it had seen this view from the White Rocks overlook on Sugarloaf Mountain in Maryland.

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And so I found myself heading northwest along the Potomac River. For 12 miles I rode into a headwind on the Mount Vernon Trail to DC. I crossed the river on the 14th Street Bridge and headed to Georgetown. Next, I took the Capital Crescent Trail along the north side of the river. I had a choice of routes. Either follow the C&O Canal towpath or switch to the somewhat hilly roads. I chose pavement since the towpath was a mess the last time I rode it.

After 30 miles I reached Potomac Village where gas costs more than top shelf single malt scotch.

I turned left onto River Road and partook of the massive rolling hills, views of stupefying mansions, the tony Bretton Woods Country Club, a Buddhist temple, a one-room schoolhouse, and fields of corn. After over 20 miles I had no choice but to climb Mt. Nebo Road. It goes up steeply, three times. Maybe four. However many times, the last one hurt.

I had a headwind leaving DC but now I could tell the wind direction had changed. I was riding effortlessly, except for the steepest hills. As every cyclist knows this either means you put performance enhancing drugs on your Wheaties or you have a tailwind. Since cinnamon isn’t a PDA, I knew it was the latter.

A few miles later I picked up the towpath, expecting there to be only one mile to get to Whites Ferry, where a privately run cable ferry shuttles travelers across the Potomac River. Somehow the one mile was actually four. Yeah, well. At least the towpath was in excellent condition. I spun along merrily and spooked a couple of deer who were hanging around looking for trouble. They put out their cigs and hightailed it into the woods.

I only had to wait five minutes for the ferry. There were a handful of cars on it coming and going so I was off the boat in under two minutes on the Virginia side of the river.

Did I mention that the weather was nice?

I rode to Leesburg and picked up some snackage. Then headed back home along 35 miles of the Washington and Old Dominion Trail. Into a headwind. Sadly, the snackage contained only chocolate and other sugary delights, not anabolic steroids.

I estimated that the ride would be about 100 miles, but my calculation error on the outbound portion of today’s excursion meant it would be a bit more.

All in all, it was a very pleasant day on the bike, except for the last 20 miles which I did on fumes while trying unsuccessfully to ignore a screaming left knee and shoulder. The left knee has been getting worse by the month and will require some medical intervention this fall. The shoulder has a rotator cuff impingement. (Impingement is a fancy medical term for “messed up”.) I could have surgery on it as well.

Did I mention my sore left hip?


This ride, my longest of the year, was well worth the pain.

Ride my seesaw

I am on a medical seesaw. One week I’m feeling great, the next not so much. The weather has turned here and it’s perfect for riding in t-shirt and shorts. On Saturday, I rode 38 miles. Sunday 23. Monday 64. Tuesday 33. No problem. No pain. Just me and my Crosscheck cruising around the DMV.

Last night I was sitting watching the Nats game, an epic ten-inning come from behind smackdown of the Phillies. Around 11 pm, I noticed that my left shoulder was really sore. I’ve been having troubles with my left shoulder and arm for over a year, but this pain was in a different place: behind and on top of my shoulder.

I took some ibuprofen at bedtime and woke up to more pain and even some swelling. I’m right handed so having pain in the arm that I rarely even use makes no sense at all. I didn’t do anything to cause this. It just is.

Today was perfect riding weather but I had things to do. The morning involved errands. The afternoon was spent powerwashing my deck and patio. None of this activity involved my left shoulder. It’s still tender. I had a cortisone shot in this shoulder on March 1. The doctor said that if the shoulder felt okay after four weeks, I was in the clear. Yesterday was 5 1/2 weeks.

I am going to give it a couple of days to calm down but I am worried.

Apropos of nothing, did you grow up calling them teeter totters or seesaws? Tadpoles or polliwogs?

Ten on a Sunday

  1. I hate pathletes. These are bike riders who ride trails as if they are in the Tour de France. They have no regard for anyone else on the trail. With nice weather, they were out in force today. May they die from infected saddle sores.
  2. I am no big fan of parents who take their kids on the trails either. Yes, I realize it’s a park but little kids have zero situational awareness and run in front of bikes and scooters. I saw several near misses today.  (That said, there were so many cute little kids out there today riding their teeny bikes and running on wobbly legs.)
  3. Weathermen are not floating my boat lately. They’ve over forecasted the temperature two days in a row. I go out thinking it’s going to warm up and end up freezing my butt off. You don’t need a weatherman to know that how fast your noonoos are freezing. Didn’t Bob Dylan say that?
  4. It took me most of the afternoon to ride 45 1/2 miles from my house in Fort Hunt to Bethesda and back. From DC to Old Town I had nothing in the tank. I rallied for the last six miles though which gives me cause for optimism. It was my longest ride in over four months.
  5. Before my ride, I spent 45 minutes doing my yoga routine. Some people believe yoga is self love; for me, it is self torture. Whoever invented the side plank deserves a special place in hell.
  6. I haven’t ridden Little Nellie in over a week. My body is nearly pain free. It may be time to find my Bike Friday a new home.
  7. I do my best thinking on my bike. Today, for instance, I figured out when I hurt my left rotator cuff. On my 2017 bike tour of Wisconsin and Michigan, I took a ton of pictures with a point and shoot camera while I was riding. Being right handed this meant that I had to control my loaded touring bike with only my left hand. When I was done, I noticed how sore my left triceps was.
  8. I destroyed the map case on my old Ortlieb handlebar bag during last summer’s tour. My bag lid closes with metal snaps. The more recent design of the bag closes with magnets. It also uses a redesigned map case. Last night, I stumbled on a website that carries the old map cases. So I guess I won’t have to buy a new bag.
  9. My friend Charmaine found $52 on the street while riding her bike. She’s buying.
  10. I follow someone on Twitter who likes bicycling and Neil Finn, and named her dog Lily (which is my daughter’s name). This has all the makings of a horror movie. Cue the Bernard Hermann strings….

A Shot in the Arm

Yesterday I went to the orthopedist to have him examine my wonky left upper arm and shoulder. He took xrays which revealed nothing more that a smidgen of arthritis, pretty much the norm for someone my age.

Then he examined me. He moved my arm around, had me exert pressure this way and that. His diagnosis was what I expected, a damaged rotator cuff.

He can’t tell if the damage is from tendonitis or a tear in the tendon. My guess (and hope) is that it is the former. This arm problem has been nagging me for at least 18 months. If it is related to recent trauma, the only significant trauma would be a fall I had on my 2017 bike tour to Key West. (It wasn’t a bicycle crash per se; I fell off a porch and my bike landed on me. I don’t recall hurting my left side though.)

For now, we are operating under the assumption that this is tendonitis. Accordingly, he gave me the option of anti-inflamatory medications or a cortisone shot. I chose the latter.

“Will it hurt?”

“Not really.”

“OW. Fuck!”

The pain lasted only a few seconds while the needle was in my arm.

Eight hours later my upper arm aches. This is normal for the first few days. Then the medical magic should start. If I am painfree in four weeks, no further treatment is needed.

If I’m still hurting, I can get an MRI to see if the tendon is torn. If it is, I can opt for arthroscopic surgery. My doctor said the surgery is straightforward. The recovery isn’t. It takes six months, including six weeks with my arm in a sling and beaucoup physical therapy, to get my arm well.

I asked about delaying the surgery until after my bike tour. He was not at all encouraging. One crash and my arm could get much worse depending on the extent of the existing injury.

By the end of March I’ll know if I will be spending my summer riding a bike tour or sitting in Nationals Park. Time will tell.