Top Ten of 2016

As is so often the case, my top ten list goes to 11. Hey, it’s my blog and I make the rules.

Yooper for a Week
After 11 years I finally did another solo bike tour. I drove 13+ hours to Ludington Michigan. After a ferry ride across Lake Michigan, I rode The Mule fully loaded with gear into the north woods of Wisconsin. On July 4, I had breakfast in Freedom. After a few days I turned east and crossed the UP, the upper peninsula of Michigan. After the UP, I visited car-free Mackinac Island on a quiet Sunday morning. Other than a two-hour scary thunderstorm and three hilly days of headwinds near the end of the tour, the weather could not have been better. And I managed three ferry rides without getting sick. I rode 832 miles in 11 days. It was a wonderful combination of hard work and rolling meditation. I proved to myself that even at 60 years old I still got it. Okay, maybe not all of it but enough of it to get the job done. I can’t wait to do another.

An Eventful Spring
Prior to my tour I warmed up my legs by riding some bike events. I kicked the year off with the Vasa Ride, co-sponsored by the Washington Area Bicyclists Association and the Swedish embassy. It was a bit of a disappointment because this is normally a social ride but I rode it alone and didn’t do much socializing at the embassy reception afterwards. Next came the Five Boro ride in New York City. The Five Boro Ride has always been on my to do list but conflicted with work, parenting responsibilities, and personal lethargy. I convinced Paul to join me (with Amy along for moral support). Paul and I rode the 40+ mile ride in a cold rain at the start of May. It wasn’t all that much fun, but touring Manhattan the day before in splendid weather with the wonderful guidance of my BU friend Susan made up for riding the Brooklyn Queens Expressway in a driving rain.

At the end of May, I rode the new DC Bike Ride. Not to be outdone by NYC, we had cold rain for that one too.

Scary Night
In May, I woke up in the middle of the night with severe chest pains. After a few hours of increasing pain, Mrs. RC called for an ambulance. The ride to the hospital ½ mile away took 20 minutes but I was well taken care of. What I feared was a heart attack turned out to be a respiratory infection. Fortunately, a nebulizer treatment in the ER and antibiotics fixed me up over the next week. An earworm of the Neil Finn song Anytime played for days. “I could go at anytime. There’s nothing safe about this life.” Words to live by.

At the end of the week, I dragged myself out of bed and rode my bike on Bike to Work Day. I was still under the weather but I now know I can ride to work with one lung tied behind my back.

Pulling Beers Like a Boss
I have been lax in volunteering at local bike events, basically forever. This year, with my respiratory problems more or less behind me, I volunteered at the Tour de Fat in DC. This is a fundraiser for bike advocacy groups (WABA being one of many) and I was determined to help out. It rained. It was cold-ish. I pulled beers nonstop for two hours. Instead of hanging around for the rest of the day, I went home and went to bed. (Every party has a pooper that’s why we invited you.) Next year I hope to be around to volunteer again. And to socialize afterward.

Call Me Lars
Our daughter finished up her year abroad with a semester in Sweden. A few days after Tour de Fat, Mrs. Rootchopper and I flew over and toured parts of Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and Iceland. It was an exhausting two weeks and fun to re-visit Copenhagen after over 15 years. Although I was in bicycle heaven for most of the trip, I didn’t ride at all. If you ask me what my favorite place was my answer would be “Yes.”

Ain’t Baseball Great
I went to 19 Nats games this year. The last time I went to this many games was when I lived in Boston. I rode my bike to about 15 games. How convenient of them to locate the ballpark 16 miles from home. As a bonus, it was great seeing so many friends at the bike valet before and after the games. The rest of the games involved driving the kids, including my niece Irene for one game. One exhausting game lasted 16 innings and the good guys won on a walk-off home run. I even managed to see two playoff games. Despite (or perhaps because of) the fact that the Nats lost their last game of the season, I can’t wait until April!

Fall Bike Frenzy
In the fall I did the Indian Head, Backroads, and Seagull Centuries (100 miles each), the 44-mile Great Pumpkin Ride (with Paul, Amy, and Jody), the 53-mile Cider Ride and, for the eighth time, the 62-mile 50 States Ride. I was already on fumes near the end of this madness, when an old friend asked me to ride with her to Harpers Ferry and back over two days. Given the fact that I had a colonoscopy (with the associated fasting and anesthesia) two days before we would have left, I declined. One ambulance ride a year is plenty.

Deets Provides a Surly Surge
A year ago I bought a new bike, a Surly Cross Check. Mostly, it hung on a hook in my shed, used only for the occasional weekend ride. This summer I started commuting on it. What a great commuter bike it is. I also did all my fall events on it. I named it Deets after the scout in the miniseries Lonesome Dove. Deets was said to be “cheerful in all weathers, never shirked a task, splendid behavior.” My Deets served me well until his back tire exploded on the way to work. Aye god, Woodrow.

Hiking Light
Unlike last year, I didn’t get much hiking done this year. I did the Billy Goat B and C trails on New Years Day which is becoming something of a tradition. Realizing that I-66 cuts right across the Appalachian Trail, I hiked it north (Manassas Gap) and south (Trumbo Hollow) of the highway. I also headed out to Shenandoah National Park to hike the Hogback Mountain trail. In late November I hiked the Potomac Highlands Trail from Turkey Run Park to the American Legion Bridge and back. A surprisingly nice hike so close to DC. Just before the year ended I did a meandering hike in Great Falls Park in Maryland.

Living Small
We had our wood floors redone in the spring. We hired a couple of amazing movers to relocate all our belongings from the top two floors down to the family room and basement where we lived among the piles of stuff for two weeks. It was quite a project. The floors turned out great. I came to realize that most of the crap that I have accumulated over the course of 25+ years in a house, I can live without.

Going Long
Coincident with my 61st birthday, my four bikes gave me a big present. I’ve been keeping track of the mileage on my bikes for 25 years and with an empty nest surge in recent years I finally made it to 100,000 miles. I also set my one-year personal mileage record of 8,167 miles.

That’s it for 2016. No mas. Thanks for reading. I am taking 2017 one day at a time. Love this life. It’s the only one you get.

October on a Roll

I am having a pretty darn good weekend. Saturday I rode the Seagull Century. It was supposed to rain all day, but we only had a sprinkle now and then. The overcast skies and light winds along with the impossibly level terrain made for a nearly effortless 96 mile day.

On the drive home, I learned that it rained all day in DC only 120-ish miles away. The Nationals-Dodgers playoff baseball game was postponed until Sunday. My Twitter feed said that because of the rescheduling tickets were available at 10:30 Sunday morning.

After a really deep sleep, I woke up late. I bought a ticket for a seat in the left field grandstand. With winds blowing hard from the direction of DC, I decided to go multimodal. I drove 8 miles, parked my car, and rode the last 7 to the ballpark. I could have driven farther but the Army 10-miler (running) road race had forced several road closures.

My ride to DC was hard because of a relentless strong headwind. I wore my baseball cap instead of a helmet. Crossing the Potomac River on the 14th Street bridge, I tucked my cap into my jacket. The crosswind was so strong I had to lean into the wind to stay upright. Lordy!

Once across the river I practically glided to the ballpark.

My 2015 tour-mate Kevin pulled into the Bike Valet behind me. Good to see him.

The game was a blast. It was my first ever playoff game. The ballpark was packed. Fans were given red towels to wave (the Nationals colors are red, white, and sometimes blue). I didn’t get one. Sad face. I mentioned this to the fans next to me. A woman sitting behind me gave me hers. Woot!

We spent about half the game on our feet cheering and clapping and towel waving. The howling wind made for an adventurous game for outfielders. Somehow Jose Lobaton, the light hitting back up catcher who was subbing for his Venezuelan countryman, the injured Wilson Ramos, smashed a three run home run into the wind. Lobeeeeee!!! Pandemonium!

We won.

I left with a sore throat from screaming.

At the Bike Valet, I ran into Kevin again, then Ed and Mary showed up. Mary rode to Harpers Ferry the other day. Then she ran a marathon. And rode home. She was a tad tired. (I’d be dead.) Go Mary!

Then Lauren and Klarence showed up. I only see them at baseball games these days. They seem so happy together. Klarence and I did our traditional bone crushing hug thing. After chatting for a bit we parted but not without another BCH. Klarence leads the league in BCH per nine innings. Suffice it to say, I miss Klarence big time.

The ride back to the car was literally a breeze. The nasty winds had calmed but what wind remained was at my back for five miles.

Today I slept in. The temperature has finally dropped into the autumn norm. The air is dry. It’s perfect sleeping weather. I spent the morning reading four days’ worth of newspapers and doing all the crosswords and sudokus. I am the newspaper puzzlator!

As I write I am listening to the Nats-Dodgers game on the radio because my TV plan doesn’t get the MLB TV network. As someone who grew up listening to baseball games at night on the radio, I feel like a kid again.

The weekend wasn’t all perfection though. After I changed the tires on Deets, I noticed that the odometer was being stingy. My normal bike commute route is 29.5 miles but the new tires were only getting credit for 29.

So I reset the wheel size. In the process I learned that, unlike my other bike computers, this one won’t allow me to re-enter the 3,045 miles I had deleted in the reset process. Boo. Cateye Urban Wireless. Don’t buy this bike computer.

Also, I pulled out my cold weather bike gear. Wind pants. Lobster gloves. Tights. Ear band.

Noooo!

Okay, autumn has its moments. I promise to enjoy them. With any kind of luck, I’ll get to see another playoff game. Woot!

How was your weekend?

 

 

Seagulling

Everybody I know who rides bike events in the DC area raves about the Seagull Century. Seagull is held every October out of Salisbury University on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. With over 6,000 participants paying in-season hotel rates, this ride provides a big economic boost. I did not participate in the hotel part of the proceedings, however, choosing to forgo some sleep to save a few bucks.

I left home at 4:30 a.m.

I arrived at Salisbury just before 7. I put my cue sheet on my bike. Threw on my rain jacket because the skies were overcast, and headed to the start. I looked around for people I knew but, seeing no one, set out on my own.

Getting to the start involved riding through a tunnel. Weee!

The start was obstructed by people milling about and straddling their bikes. This was a good reminder that people would be lacking situational awareness during the ride.

After about a mile I struck up a conversation with another rider who told me that organizers had chopped off four miles of the 100-mile route due to flooding. It had rained 15 inches in the area during the previous weeks causing major flooding in some communities along the course. After discussing the flood, he asked me what time I was trying to reach. Time? Seriously? I usually try to reach a zen moment by mile 30 but that’s about the extent of my riding goals.

Within five miles, Chris M. (@manymodecommute on the Twitter) pulled up along side me. We met on the inaugural Cider Ride a few years ago. Ever since I have struggled to remember his face. Another victim of my defective fusiform gyrus. Also, Chris is chatty so the zen thing kind of went out the window. (Except for about a minute late in the ride when my brain went on vacation and Deets decided to ride some rumble strips. How I managed to keep all my filling is a mystery.)

Chris was riding about 1 – 2 miles per hour faster than I normally do but I decided to ride with him anyway. We zipped along in an every changing pack of bcycles.A while ago someone told me that it was wise to skip the first rest stop. They were right. It was a madhouse.

Chris and I made our way through all the people lingering on the road and headed forth looking for Rest Stop No. 2.

Meanwhile we noticed that the road was utterly flat. For those of you wishing to do a very fast 100 mile bike ride, this is your dream ride. I wasn’t looking to prove anything but it was hard not to ride fast. Despite my efforts to make Deets gallop, we were getting passed by scores of bicyclists, sometimes gather in groups. Velomobiles also clipped by us. These are little bike cars.

At the second rest stop 40 miles into the proceedings we had some water and some rather disappointing snacks. A participant while refined interwebs taste said “Hi Rootchopper. I like your blog.” Once again my fusiform gyrus failed me. (If you read this, please identify yourself.)

Trees. Sodden farmers’ fields. Chicken farms. I kept saying we were getting a headwind but Chris was pretty sure we weren’t. It was just the fact that I rarely ride 17 -20 miles per hour.

Just before 60 miles we approached Assateague Island. The bridge to the island looked ominous. It was a trick of the eye. We flew over it.

dscn5651
Chris gets his climbing in

The rest stop at Assateague was a bit better than the previous one. It had packaged, crustless PB&J sammichers. They looked like sponge bread raviolis. The texture was strange but the calories were welcome.

As we left the island we stopped for a photo op with some ponies. Chris is a better wild pony model than I am.

DSCN5657.JPG

Once we came off the bridge we encountered a bona fide headwind. You mean we have to work at this? Well I never! It was short-lived. In fact, the overcast skies and light winds made for a perfect day to ride hard. We obliged.

Another ludicrously flat 20 miles went by in a flash. The final rest stop loomed. After I parked Deets, I picked up another rider’s bike after it had fallen over. It was made of carbon fiber. It was about half as light as Deets. No wonder so many riders were passing us. (Note to self: never admit you are fat, old, and slow. Find excuses wherever you can. K? Thks.)

I had heard a rumor about pie on this ride but the first rest stops had left me feeling short changed. But no! There was pie at the last rest stop. Cherry pie with vanilla ice cream too.

Major YUM. Chris has so much will power. He made me leave after one piece of pie. I cried.

The last 20 miles featured a climb over a highway. The overpass actually was a little difficult. Not much. Well, not at all actually. There was even a surprise pit stop that featured, I am not making this up, free beer. Dang. (We did not partake, however.)

We rode to the finish line through a tunnel and past throngs of our adoring fans. Okay, maybe one or two said “Hi” but still..

The after ride festivities were pretty nice too. Music, beer, food that didn’t taste like it was made last week.I even ran into Dave (@darsal) and Jean (@oskarchat) who told me about the amazing exploits of Ricky (@bikeeveryday) and Ryan (@ryansigworth) who scorched the course in under five hours. And a special surprise came from seeing Phil F. who I worked with for about 20 years.

The post ride activity was a fun game of Find the Car. When you get up at 4 a.m. and river over two hours you don’t think to make a note of where you park. I had plenty of company. I think I won the game though. I found a campus map. Then made my way to the route I drove in on. That led me to my car. Ta da. Only took me 30 minutes.

Another bonus was the fact that the Nats game got rained out. Now I can recover watching the game tomorrow.

Special thanks to the organizers and volunteers at this very well run event. You did yourselves proud. Also thanks to the many police officers (including Maryland State Troopers) who protected us at busy intersections. And to the EMTs who carted a handful of riders from the course after they crashed.

Bottom line: If you want to do a first century ride, this is your event. The flat course made 100 miles much easier than most metric (62 mile rides I’ve done). If you want to ride your fastest 100 mile ride, this is also the event for you.

I posted a bunch of pictures on my Flickr page.