Time Off for Good Behavior

I haven’t blogged in nearly four weeks. It was not for lack of trying. It’s been a rather emotional month.

Insurrection, Impeachment, and Inauguration

First, I was in a rage about the attack on the Capitol. I wrote several posts about it only to scrap them. I suppose I should consider the writing therapeutic.

What I can’t get my head around is why over 70 million people twice voted for a scumbag charlatan. What part of bankrupting casinos, stiffing contractors and others who worked for him, and tanking an entire football league didn’t these people understand? And all that was before he ran for president giving speeches that were hate fests. Then add his contempt for the rule of law, people of color, and the Constitution. Hel-lo!

Next there was the impeachment. At least we now know who in Congress deserves to be sent home in two years. What part about inciting a mob that kills a police officer, infects dozens more with a deadly virus, kills and injures many more, and trashes our Capitol building was hard to understand? What part about hunting down the Vice President and the Speaker of the House to kidnap or kill them seemed okay? Oh and lets not forget that the president deservedly got his ass kicked in the election and convinced millions that he was a victim of fraud. Poor Donald.

The inauguration was such a relief. What a change from “American carnage”. Gaga, JLo, and Garth getting upstaged by Amanda Gorman’s magnificent poem. “I’m walking to work.” The best damned fireworks display I’ve ever seen. (Too bad I wasn’t there in person but it was the lack of people on the Mall that allowed the fireworks people to go completely bananas.) I thought the whole day was such a relief. Everyone involved should be given an award. As for the 25,000 National Guard troops and miles of fences and barricades in DC? What an embarrassment. Hats off to the guard not to mention the Metropolitan Police (DC’s police department) who came to the rescue at the Capitol and worked 12-hour shifts for weeks.

For me, the biggest symbol of change was the removal of the white wall that was put up around the White House. It was a national disgrace. At least Mexico paid for it.

Jab Me

I had hopes to get vaccinated soon as the age for getting on the priority list dropped to 65. Yesterday Virginia announced it has a shortage of vaccine. It looks like I won’t get jabbed for many weeks. So much for baseball games and bike tours in the Spring. I’ll be keeping my distance. I have had very few interactions with people outside my immediate family this winter. I stopped doing Zoom get togethers months ago when I found them to be frustrating and annoying. Don’t even think about coming near me without a mask on. Inside or out. And as for my anti-vaxing friend: it was nice knowing you.

Bike Diet

I have continued to ride nearly every day, 600 miles for the month. A few weeks ago I decided to put the CrossCheck on a diet. During event rides in and near DC, people IDed me by the huge Carradice bag hanging from my saddle. It expands to double its normal size, but I had grown tired of the leather straps and metal buckles. They are a pain to open and close. I took it off and replaced it with a lighter Arkel TailRider rack bag. The TailRider uses zippers and a velcro flap so access is much easier. It has a less capacity but if I need to carry more I can slap on a pannier easily because the rack has two tiers of horizontal bars at the top (the upper bar is obscured by the TailRider).

I have had a habit of putting old tires from The Mule on the CrossCheck. These are Schwable Marathon Plus tires. They last forever and have taken me on over 10,000 miles of bike tours without a flat. The protection comes at a cost: they are very heavy and don’t roll particularly well. Also, they are stiff and very hard to mount. The rear tire on the CrossCheck must have had over 6.000 miles on it. It’s tread was worn away, I swapped out the Marathon Pluses for a pair of Schwalbe Mondials. They have decent flat protection but weigh half a pound less each. And they go on and off easily.

I am not in the habit of weighing myself but I am pretty sure that I’ve dropped a few pounds since Christmas. I haven’t had a beer in over a month. (I drank one Corona and was cured. Skunk beer.) And we are nearly all out of Christmas goodies. (Mrs. Rootchopper makes shortbread cookies with Hershey Kisses in the middle. Resistance was futile.)

I also took the CrossCheck to a bike shop and for a new chain and cassette. I was lucky they had the parts. I was even luckier that they could do the work while I waited. Thanks Conte’s of Old Town Alexandria

My last few rides on the CrossCheck have been fantastic. I can tell just by gliding that the new tires are a vast improvement. Going up hills is also much less of a chore. I can’t wait to get it out on the road for a long ride in the country.

Hurry Spring!!!!

Bike trip stuff

I’m starting to amass some new stuff for my bike trip. Two new Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires to replace the two I’ve been riding for a year and nearly 5,000 miles. (The old ones are still usable but won’t survive a long tour.)

A new Ottolock will replace my heavy U-lock. I’ll be mostly in rural areas so this should provide ample security. It’s a combination lock so I don’t have to worry about losing my key.

Spray on sunscreen for the ever growing solar panel on the top of my head.

And a pile of Adventure Cycling maps to keep me from getting lost.

I’ve also bought new Koolstop brake pads for my front and back wheels.

I’m going to buy a water filter and maybe a merino wool t-shirt before I leave.

About five or six weeks to lift off. Stay tuned.

Getting Back in Shape

My body has had a tough winter. For a few weeks I was really falling apart. I couldn’t stand up straight. I walked with a pronounced limp with pain in my left knee and hip.

Setting Aside Little Nellie

It occurred to me that my back pain was probably caused by the impact shocks I get while riding Little Nellie. Those little wheels don’t absorb much of the hit from countless tree roots on the Mount Vernon Trail. (The National Park Service is starved for money and their maintenance has really gone south in the last two or three years.)

I switched first to The Mule, then to my Cross Check, both of which have normal sized wheels (700c x 35 for the bike nerds). My back responded almost instantly to the softer ride on The Mule. When I switched the Cross Check some new back and knee problems cropped up. I re-measured the seat height and the distance from the saddle to the handlebars. The seat was about 1/2 inch higher than The Mule’s. After I adjusted it, I took off. The Cross Check’s bigger gears were just what my legs needed. I feel like my old self again.

I rode it to Friday Coffee Club today. The strong, persistent tailwind made me feel like a bike god. The ride home was a bit challenging but I actually enjoyed fighting the wind. I am back to my old commuting mileages. My last 8 days were: 30, 23.5, 45.5, 28, 31, 32, 32, and 30 miles (252 total). A couple more weeks like that should put me in decent touring shape.

Cross Check at Dyke Marsh
The Cross Check at Dyke Marsh on the Mount Vernon Trail


Working Out Off the Bike

I am also doing on alternate days: yoga, weight lifting, and physical therapy exercises including some with a foam roller. I don’t much care for any of these but you gotta do what you gotta do.


My pre-tour shopping spree has begun. I’ve bought mountain bike shorts, glasses (clear and polarized, both progressive for map reading while on the bike), Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires, Croakies, Koolstop brake pads, and a combination lock. (I am trading off weight for some security but I can’t recall ever having someone try to steal The Mule while on tour.)

The other night I attended a presentation by Jim Sayer, the Executive Director of  Adventure Cycling. Adventure Cycling makes the maps that I use. Jim’s presentation really helped get my head back in the game. Jim talked up La Route Verte, the bike touring network in Quebec. This is definitely going on my to do list. The website is amazing. (And it’s in both English and French, of course.) I need to do a key word search for “black flies” though.

And just to add to the preparations, spring arrived in DC. It may be temporary but two 70 degree days are just the tonic. I rode in shorts and a t-shirt today and it was bliss.




Flat Free, Almost

The Mule and I are shocked. Stunned. Today, after well over 5,000 miles we had a flat tire. I use Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires. They are advertised as “flatless.” I have to say that 5,000 miles, much of it carrying a load, is crazy good.

I only know how many miles because I thought it would be unwise to keep riding the tires I had on last year. They took me several thousand flat free miles too. The only problem I had was a slow leak on my last day in Florida. I put the bike on Amtrak and pumped the tire up when I got to DC and rode it home.

The culprit of this year’s flat was a nasty piece of green glass, quite thick and jagged. Today was recycling day so I am guessing that I was the victim of a dead Rolling Rock or gin bottle.

I am pretty sure I heard the glass contact the tire. I even scraped off my front tire while riding just to be careful but forgot to stop and clean off the rear tire. That green monster ate through the casing for several miles before I noticed the bike start swaying as I rode.

I walked the last two miles home not wanting to change the tire on the wet side of the road. It was given a proper burial. Come spring time I will buy a new pair of Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires for my next adventure.


Well I’ve done it now.  I retired. Threw in the towel. Jumped the shark. Rode off into the sunset. No reason to worry about impostor syndrome anymore. Fooled them all for 33 years.

By design it was a two-fer. My birthday and retirement day all in one. Once you ;e 62 your federal pension increases by 10 percent. Bueno. Also, I get to cash out my vacation days. Muy bueno. I had beaucoup vacation days because I only took 3 or 4 days off this year and, until recently, rarely took long vacations. I could have used them to take the summer off and ride cross country but I decided to work instead and do the cross country ride next year. With a fat wallet.

I have a friend who would object. Do it now, she says, the future may not come. Setting aside the fact that she has put off seeing me into the future at least six times in the last 2 1/2 years, I disagree. If I can’t do it next year, it will be because I am dead.  I won’t care a whole lot about riding a bike.

I rode to Friday Coffee Club with a tailwind. Thank you bike gods. The conversation was pretty interesting with lots of congratulations sprinkled in. I rode to work with Lawyer Mike.  We had a 13- or 14-block conversation while riding in the M Street cycletrack. After Mike peeled off, I continued on to work through a surprisingly empty Georgetown.

As I rode across Key Bridge, an on-coming bike commuter made eye contact with me. She gave me a big smile. I may be old, but I still got it. (For me, “it” is a bad case of lumbago, but whadda ya want?)

At work, the IT staff had already left me a message. They wanted my computer and iPhone. Dang. Even vultures let the body die before they pick it clean. I put them off for a few hours, did about 10 minutes of work, said goodbye to people and called the IT folks. Okay. Come rip the technology from my cold dead hands.

And they did. And I left. Will a big smile on my face.

I rode off with a big smile on my face. For about a block a sense of melancholy came upon me. I cleared the Intersection of Doom turned down the hill to the river and a stupid grin came over my face.

I decided to use my early departure to find some eclipse glasses. I visited about 8 or 9 places for naught. Then I decided to ride to Fort Washington, Maryland to buy my National Park senior pass. $10 for lifetime admission to national parks. (An annual pass for young folk is $80.)

The ride was brutal. My tank had a (super high calorie) doughnut, some orange juice, a banana, and a mocha java. All from several hours earlier. Caffeine and sugar fumes. The heat and humidity was truly oppressive. The headwind didn’t help a whole lot either. add in some pretty nasty hills and you’ve got yourself a hurtin’ unit. But the pass was only $10! (Online it costs $20 so the ride really wasn’t necessary.  You want rational, go somewhere else.)

The ride back featured a gloriously breezy 1-mile ride downhill from Oxon Hill to the Potomac River. Once at the river, it was sauna all over again. I rode home on fumes. Then Mrs. Rootchopper and I drove to an outdoor happy hour in Crystal City, near National Airport. They were giving away eclipse glasses so we got some. And some beer and some pizza. We were joined by my daughter and her college friend who was visiting. And then we were joined by torrential rains. We got soaked. I was actually getting chilled. The rain let up. More beer. More pizza. Then the rains returned. The vendors said no mas and we were drove home.

At home I watched a Neil Finn concert from Roundhead Studios in Auckland. It was recorded live at about 3 a.m. DC time. My favorite musician. On my Retirebirthday! Yes! And what better song to play but “Taking the Rest of the Day Off.” Perfect.

After that we had cake and ice cream. I got underwear! (No lie.) A pair of socks. (No lie!) Some bug spray. (No lie!) A sleeping bag liner (redundant since I ordered one a few days before!) And the piece de resistence, a Montreal Expos baseball cap. YES!!! Not the multicolored one either. The dignified dark blue one. So cool. I’m not taking it off. Ever. Bon anniversaire!

Image may contain: 1 person, hat, sunglasses and closeup

My first official day of retirement was pretty mundane. I read the paper and did a heap of puzzles. Returned the sleeping bag liner and bought two new tires (Schwalbe Marathon Plus), citrus degreaser, wax lube in a small bottle, and a new helmet. Tour shopping. (My new panniers are on the way with the sleeping bag liner.)

I went to dinner with friends from grad school. Birthday dinners have been a thing for us for about 30 years. It’s a pretty cool tradition. When we got home, my wife and I talked to our son on Facetime. He was calling us at 9:30 am Sunday from Phuket Thailand. What a treat! He is a teacher and classes start in a couple of days. He seems pretty upbeat.

Today, I put the tires on The Mule. Then I took it for a 16-mile test ride in search of brake pads for the rear wheel. The three bike shops I visited were mobbed so I gave up. I’ll pick them up on the way to my volunteering gig on Tuesday night.

Next up was painting. I repainted the trim on the refurbished shed. Then I mowed the lawn. Oh, and there was laundry.

Ain’t retirement great!?

In all seriousness, thanks to everyone for their well wishes on this blog, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and, can you believe it, in person.