Errandonnee Part Deux

Yesterday I took the day off from bicycling to go to the March for Our Lives in DC. We drove and took Metro for a number of reasons and it worked out remarkably well.

Today, I got back in the saddle with an old friend, Little Nellie. Little Nellie is my Bike Friday New World Tourist. She has a hair over 19,000 miles on her. I recently put a new large chainring, cassette, rear wheel, rear tire, rear tube, and chain on her.

Errand No. 5: Non-store Errand, a test ride to make sure all the new stuff was working properly.

Destination: Around the neighborhood

Observation: I was half expecting my rear tire to explode because it was so hard to install and the wire bead was slightly bent. So I rode over a couple of potholes to stress it. To my chagrin, I found that the shifting was messed up. The chain was jumping over the big sprocket and getting jammed between the cassette and the spokes. On the opposite end of the cassette, the chain was making unpleasant noises. Be careful what you wish for; you might end up with something worse.


So the first errand resulted in a second errand.

Errand No. 6: Store

Destination: Spokes Etc. At Belle View, my local bike shop

Observation: If I ever move, I will make sure I have a good local bike shop nearby. Spokes has been my go to shop for over 25 years. More often than not (like today, for instance), they do minor repairs while you wait. The Spokes mechanic (Sean, I think) figured out what was wrong within seconds. The new hub of my rear wheel is sized for an 11-speed cassette. My cassette has only nine speeds. He installed a proper spacer and tweaked things a little. In five minutes I was on the road again. Bicycles are so much more fun when they are in proper working order.


Spokes Service Area. Note: neither mechanic is Sean. He is bashful. 

The fix was so good that I took off and rode another 16 1/2 miles for a total of  24. Total miles so far in the Errandonnee: 58 1/2


First Day of Spring: This Bird Doesn’t Get the Worm

I took the day off to go to the doctors office. The weather looked great but there was still a chill in the air, especially considering this is the first day of spring.


I rode to the eye doctor’s office, picking up my first errand of the 2017 errandonnee in the process. I was expecting to be dilated which would have ruined my ability to read for the next several hours. Instead, the doctor checked my personal field. My right eye didn’t fare well. A closer examination of my eye revealed protein deposits on the membrane behind my lens. My lens is artificial having been replaced during cataract surgery. I had notice some difficulty seeing in low light and was planning on getting new glasses. Now the glasses will wait until I get the membrane cleared. This will be done with a simple laser procedure. It takes about three minutes. Still, to my mind it counts as eye surgery. It will be my 7th surgery and my 3rd of this type.

After the doctor’s visit, I rode to DC to check out the cherry blossoms. Basically, there were none. The cold temperatures knocked the trees for a loop. I rode to Hains Point and then up to the Tidal Basin. So disappointing. Next I  stopped to help some visitors from Minnesota. I took their picture under the non-blossoming trees with the Jefferson Memorial in the background. They have come to DC five times to see the blossoms and haven’t seen a peak bloom yet.


I biked and walked around the Tidal Basin then headed for Virginia. I wanted to check out the sale of winter gear at the Spokes Etc. store on Quaker Lane in Alexandria. I rode the Mount Vernon Trail to the Four Mile Run Trail to Shirlington. This was about 6 or 7 miles without a traffic light and only two stop signs. Not bad. Once in Shirlington I backtracked and rode up the long hill to the Quaker Lane shop. They were all out of the jacket I wanted so I headed for home along the King Street bike lanes. The city did a pretty nice job with this. On the way home, I swung by the Belle View Spokes Etc. shop where I had tried on a jacket a few days ago. The jacket had been sold so he who hesitates doesn’t get the worm. Or something like that.

Some more pix from my excursion are on my Flickr page.


Coming Out of Hibernation

For the last few weeks I have felt sore, tired, and sluggish. I put on my pants for work yesterday and discovered my winter noshing has gotten the best of my waist line. How depressing. Daylight savings time starts tomorrow so it’s time to stop feeling sorry for myself and kick it into gear.  Here’s how March is shaping up (with the  14 more bike commutes to boot):

  • Tuesday March 14
    • aerobic snow shoveling
    • eye doctor appointment
  • Thursday March 16: Alexandria bike/ped happy hour
  • Sunday March 19: volunteer at the Vasa Ride
  • Wednesday March 22: WABA happy hour in Alexandria
  • Friday March 31: Nationals vs. Red Sox exhibition game

So as a warm up, the last couple of days I did this:

  • Dropped Mrs. RC’s car off at dealer. Put Little Nellie in the trunk and biked to and from work. Six mile round trip bike commutes are like kissing your sister.
  • Registered for Car Free Day on Skyline Drive in late April.
  • Rode Deets to the barber shop for a haircut. All were cut. Will be wearing a hat for a few weeks.
  • Picked up some prescription eye drops which were free (I don’t understand but I’m not asking questions.)
  • Drove Little Nellie to Spokes Etc. to have its brake levers adjusted. (The left one was farther forward than the right causing my left shoulder to ache.) Had them install new bar tape. It’s more better now. Used my WABA member discount.
  • Made a donation to WAMU, one of our local public radio stations.
  • Booked my flight to Indianapolis for my daughter’s college graduation. ($5.60 – Southwest frequent flyer program ain’t half bad.)
  • Booked hotel for graduation. (Bad.)
  • Signed up for an April ride to help the homeless.

So April’s pump is primed. In addition to the events I just signed up for, April has two birthdays, a baseball game in Baltimore, the Climate March in DC, a possible road trip to see the Nationals play Philadelphia, and a possible Nats game against the Mets after the Climate March.

May promises to be busier still. Graduation (and a 12 hour drive home). A Le Vent du Nord concert. At least two bike events. A volunteering stint. Baseball. And maybe, just maybe, a hike if I can find the time. I need to pace myself. I wouldn’t want to end up in an ambulance again like I did last year.

Tomorrow I may go to up to DC to see the cherry blossoms. They not nearly at peak but the coming cold snap may ruin the show this year. Funny things happen at the cherry blossoms. Today, Brian proposed to Nicole. She apparently said “Yes.” Of course, this was posted to social media with pictures of the two of them smiling and a ring and blossoms. But these days one can never be too sure.

Heartfelt congratulations to two allegedly nice people.



A Proper, if Reluctant, Recovery

After totally botching a recovery ride yesterday, I decided to give it my all today. It being a national holiday, the last one for many weeks (a stretch of the calendar that I call The Long March as if it is comparable to Bataan), I slept in. Then I did what most old farts do, I ate a slow and methodical breakfast and read the dead tree edition of the newspaper. The good folks at the Washington Post had the decency to load up the sports page with baseball stories causing me to cry tears of joy in my Rice Chex.

Next came some web surfing. This is normally utterly unproductive, especially when accompanied by solitaire playing. Today was an exception. I learned (and saw with my own eyes) that the bald eagles at the National Arboretum have produced one egg. You can watch the entire process of egg sitting on the webcams that the U.S Department of Agriculture set up. This is a phenomenal time killer as not much happens for days. It is oddly addictive, however.

Interspersed with eagle watching and solitaire playing, I read some of Bill Bryson’s In a Sunburned Country. It is a funny travelogue about Australia, which I happened to have visited a couple of years ago.

At about 1 pm, I tired of my sloth and jumped aboard Deets for a ride to my local bike shop to have my front derailler looked at. It started throwing the chain to the inside a couple of days ago and I couldn’t get the appropriate adjustment screw to adjust.

Lucky for me there appears to me a time warp going on in DC. It feels like April. Flowers are coming up. Pollen is dusting cars windshields. The sun is warming bicyclists in shorts.

I expected there to be a long line at the bike shop and was delighted to see there was none at all. The mechanic on duty made quick work of the adjustment advising me to put the chain in the biggest gear before fiddling with the adjustment screw. I knew there had to be a trick. The adjustment was free (thanks Spokes Etc.) and I was on the road in no time.

I stopped at the scenic jersey barriers at the Belle Haven Marina for a photo op. Pay no attention to the ugly developments on the far side of the river.deets-at-marina

I rolled into Old Town and could see that the Presidents’ Day parade was still going on. I took the Wilkes Street tunnel from Union Street to check out the proceedings. The air in the tunnel was about 10 degrees warmer than on the street. It was also dark owing to the fact that I was wearing sunglasses.

A walker said hello and used my name. It was Bruce who I worked with until recently. He was dressed in white. Immediately behind him was a group of four or five people including his wife Paula – with whom I still work – dressed in her mandatory black. They looked a bit like Spy vs. Spy from Mad magazine.

I stopped to take in the parade. I couldn’t for the life of me get my phone to work properly to take a decent picture in the glare of the sun. I saw some bagpipers and what looked like Mummers driving itty bitty cars.

Having marched in parades for six years during my military school days I can only tolerate them in small doses. I hopped back on my steed for a slog along the perimeter of the parade and its crowds.

Once I found a street that would take me back home across  the parade route I took it. Slowly. The idea was to recover from the last two days. I took the hilly route home, mostly to test out the derailer. It worked fine.

After 17 miles, I dropped off my bike and drove to Huntley Meadows Park for a quite stroll in the woods. As I drove down the entrance road, I passed dozens of cars parked, an overflow from the normally empty parking lot. So much for solitude. Now I know what there was nobody at the bike shop.

So I bagged the idea of a walk in the woods and came home.

Sometimes recovery happens. Sometimes it is thrust upon me.


Bike Therapy


I went for a ride on my Cross Check today. Yesterday’s ride on Big Nellie, my recumbent, was unnerving. It was as if I had not ridden it before. I had a feeling I was going to get run over for the entire time I rode.

The Cross Check has a new drive train so I had to make sure it was functioning properly. I am happy to report that Sean at Spokes Etc. in Belle View did fine job. I probably should have told him to put on new bar tape and new brake pads but when he told me he’d change my chain and cassette while I waited I didn’t want to upset my karma.

Today I went with the flow. I rode the Mount Vernon Trail with its downed leaves. The trees at Dyke Marsh were bare. It was a sad sight, one that I will have to get used to for four or five months.

As I passed the golf course I saw a big bald eagle perched in the nest tree. I have been seeing him regularly for a couple of weeks. In the shallows of the river, there were many, many egrets and herons. They must be heading south.

It was in the low 50s. I was in denial. I didn’t wear wool socks. My feet are still cold four hours after I came inside.

I rode over the Woodrow Wilson Bridge because I, like Chuck Berry, had no particular place to go. The expansion joints are really bad. I am glad I don’t have a skinny-tired road bike.

I rode up to Oxon Hill Road then blew through a construction site because there was no accommodation for bike and pedestrians except the other side of a six lane road that I was in no mood to cross twice.

Back down to the Potomac River past the monstrosity of a casino that is being finished. I was going about 30 miles per hour and taking it easy. This is a great hill to ride down but it will be traffic hell soon when the casino opens. They better have some good concerts there because nothing else about it is appealing to me.

Once back in Virginia I rode to the north end of Old Town. Then I reversed course and rode back home. What an exciting trip.

Aside from my feet I was comfortably warm. The streets are double track with leaves on the sides and down the middle. It’s actually quite pretty.

I managed to make it home without any near death experiences. That’s a pretty low bar when you think about it.

I know that I am feeling a little antsy after the election. I imagine a lot of other people are too. So I am trying my best to be civil to people who do stupid things on the road. It helps to wear lobster gloves. Nobody can tell when you are flipping them off.

When you add the election to the other brain squirrels I have, you get a real psychiatric menagerie upstairs. Thank god for bike rides.

Do you remember when we were all saying, I can’t wait until the election is over? Be careful what you wish for.





Errands and Bunnies

I don’t feel good. I think the emergence of pollen has caused major bodily malfunction. I will feel fine in a week. Until then I will be moving around in a daze and my tummy will hurt.

All of which is no excuse to skip running errands on my bike.

I began the day driving to the bike store (not a qualifying errand) to pick up The Mule after its 40,000 mile maintenance. It feels like a new bike. The wheels and pedals turn freely. The brakes make it stop. Bring The Mule home gave me a happy face. Thanks to the folks at Spokes Etc. in Belle Haven, my local bike shop, for taking care of my baby.

Once I got home and put all the bags and doodads back on The Mule, I took off on Little Nellie to buy some drugs. I bought some awesome windowpane and som25234599180_7aca9ab239_me truly righteous weed from my local dealer named Cosmo.

Actually, that’s a lie. I rode Little Nellie 1 1/2 miles to the Rite Aid to buy my asthma medicine. So much for my exciting life. Lungs gotta breathe. I nearly had a heart attack when the pharmacist charged me $200. All last year, inexplicably, the same medicine had been free. I honestly don’t mind paying but the inconsistency adds yet another layer to my bewilderment with the health care and health insurance industries in this country.

After riding 25235709060_4e25063c91_mhome, I changed into my hiking boots and rode Little Nellie to Spokes for some TLC. I was expecting to walk home, but Chris, the mechanic at Spokes had other ideas. Little Nellie’s rear shifting sucks. It has sucked for a couple of years. I replaced the cable and housing a few months ago to no avail. So I was all set to buy a new derailleur and shifters. Chris said that my derailleur worked fine but my shifter was toast. He looked up shifters on their on-line catalogue and could only find expensive Shimano Dura-Ace shifters to work with my 9 speed cassette. Then he found a part that cost $10 that might solve the problem. We agreed that I would swing by on my way home from work and they’d swap the part out.

Instead of hiking home I rode. I was not feeling well at all. My belly feels like its going to explode and my head felt like I was stoned. I made the ride home in o24912322314_c12863a9d5_mne piece.

Then I took a two hour nap.

I woke up just before nightfall. Mrs. Rootchopper and I drove into DC to check out the giant inflatable bunny rabbits in Yards Park. All I can say is artists sure have strange minds. Judging from the smiles of all the people milling about I’d say we could use some more of this whimsicality in our lives. Here are some bunny pictures.

Errandonnee Control Card Entries

Errand No. 2

Category: Personal Care

Miles: 3

Observation: Why is health care such a confusing mess in this country?

Errand No.3

Category: Bike Shop

Miles: 8 1/2

Observation: I am so grateful to have a good bike shop (Spokes Etc.) near my home, There are many more (Papillon, Bicycle Space, Wheel Nuts, CityBikes to name a few) within a 20 mile radius). If you want to have nice things like a good local bike shop, you need to give them your patronage.





TLC for The Mule

Given the fact that I’ve been riding The Mule 90 percent of the time since November, it’s not surprising that this bike is beat up. All that sand and salt and crud has taken a toll. I took in to my local bike shop for some TLC. Here’s what the to do list:

  • Replace the bent handlebar, brake levers, and bar tape  (damaged in a crash last winter)
  • True both wheels
  • Clean and adjust brakes (front caliper was sticking)
  • Replace the pulley wheels in rear derailer (they squealed like crazy. One has teeth that were worn to points)
  • Replace bottom bracket (I could feel crunchiness every time I pedaled)
  • Replace chain and cassette
  • Tune up whatever is left to tweak

Fortunately, the shop’s winter service deals were still going on so I got a break on the labor. I also put my WABA membership to use to get a ten percent discount on all the new parts. (Basically, the membership just paid for itself.)

The bike will be ready next weekend.

In the meantime, Big Nellie will do service as my bike commuter. Fortunately, we will be having a spate of springlike weather for the next several days. Just the thing for a little laid back riding.


Carl and Little Nellie

As I posted the other day, Little Nellie, my Bike Friday New World Tourist, was in the shop for a new chain and new bar tape. I also needed some help getting a tire mounted on the front rim. When I left the bike the folks at Spokes Etc. told me that they’d have the bike back to me on Thursday.

Imagine my delight when I received an email telling me the bike was ready today. Yay!.

Imagine my befuddlement when they also told me that the front tire was flat.

What a weird email.

I tried and trued to get the tire on. It was a new Schwalbe Marathon and the Alex rims on my bike are unusually tall. The combination makes mounting tires extremely difficult. It is never a good idea to use tire levers to get the tire on because you stand a very good chance of puncturing the tube.

After over an hour of frustration and quite a lot of lost skin, I resorted to my metal tire levers to no avail. So I took the bike to Spokes and waved a white flag. Carlos tried to get the tire on and couldn’t do it so he pulled out some thin plastic levers and popped the tire on. He then pumped it up and rolled the bike into their repair queue.

So, long story short, we don’t know who punctured the tube. Wanting to get the thing fixed today, I told them to go ahead and put a new tube in. After all, I still don’t have any skin on my thumbs.

When I picked the bike up, Carl had just finished mounting the tire. With his bare hands. I asked, “How did you do this?” He explained that he pushed the wire bead of the tire into the well of the rim and, in short order, he had the tire on.

Carl’s secret is that he has tons of experience dealing with Bike Fridays and recumbents. He’s dealt with this problem scores of times. In point of fact, I tried to do what he did and I just couldn’t get the tire on.

While he had my bike, he looked it over and told me about all sorts of issues the bike has or will soon have. The rear derailer is on its last legs. He recommended a different derailer, one for mountain bikes (Deore) instead of road bikes (105), because, unlike the road derailer, the mountain bike derailer is designed to work with a wide range of gears such as Little Nellie has. He also pointed out that the cable feeding the derailer had been installed incorrectly with a zip tie. This interfered with the proper operation of the derailer. He removed the zip tie and set things right. He then pointed out that the indexing on my rear derailer shifter was about to die. This is no big deal because with a twist of a nut the shifter will work just fine in friction mode. Finally, he told me that the long cable housings on folding bikes trap water and that the next time I have work done on my bike, it would be a good idea to replace the cables and housings.

Bike Fridays are odd ducks. So are Tour Easy recumbents which have similar cable and housing issues. I consider myself pretty lucky to have Carl working just three miles from my house.

For those of you thinking that this tire mounting thing is peculiar, check out this video that describes the trick Carl used.

Much thanks to Carl for showing me the ins and outs of the drive train on my nearly 8-year old bike. Next winter, I’ll take it in for some of the work Carl recommends.

Swing and a Miss at a Disc Trucker

I began the day by riding a couple of miles to the stone bridge on the George Washington Memorial Parkway to watch the annual 10 mile road race. I didn’t properly know anybody running. I knew a friend of a friend was running. That was it. The spectators on the bridge with me were cheering and yelling at the runners.  I didn’t see the friend of a friend. I doubt she recognized me. I did see one of my regulars from my bike commute. She’s a runner that recently had a baby. She was MOVING! I yelled, “GO MOM!” I don’t think she knew I was yelling at her though. After the race I learned that @ultrarunnergirls running buddy Teresa had run. Never saw her either.


I rode home after most of the runners had gone past.

Then I put The Mule on the car and drove to Spokes to buy the Surly Disc Trucker. After I posted yesterday about my buying excursion, I received tweets from several people who are really happy with their Surly bikes.

The reason for bringing The Mule was to compare dimensions with the new bike and to cannibalize parts. As soon as I put the bikes side by side I saw a problem. The Disc Trucker was the same size as The Mule, 56 cm. I test rode it two times. With the saddle that came with the bike, it was a pretty nice ride, especially after we raised the handlabrs a touch. Past experience says that my bottom only wants to ride on leather. When I put my Brooks Flyer leather saddle on it, the ride became uncomfortable. I could not get the Flyer’s seat back far enough. This is exactly the problem I’ve had for 24 years with The Mule. After trying to tweak things to make the bike work for me, we gave up. Both the sales clerk and a mechanic agreed that the bike was a tad too small. They will try to locate a 58 cm bike. In the meantine I’ll be riding The Mule from Pittsburgh to DC.

Suffice it to say, I am really frustrated and disappointed. Never the less, it’s worth it to take a few weeks to make sure I can get a better fit with a slightly larger frame. Lord willin’, I’ll be riding this bike for a decade or more.

The Incompetent Consumer Shops for a Bike

I have been meaning to but deck furniture for two years. And lamps for the house. And new furniture for the familty room and the kitchen. Everything I look at looks ugly. I can’t convince myself to but anything. About 13 years ago I went shopping for a touring bike. I couldn’t pull the trigger on one. I did end up with a nice recumbent though. And a few years later I bought my Bike Friday. But no touring bike.

Today I decided to test ride a new touring bike. Again. The cold weather kept me indoors until 1. I called Bicycle Space to see if they had a Surly Disc Trucker in my size available to ride but they didn’t. My local bike shop, Spokes Etc., is also a Surly dealer but I rarely see Surly touring bikes on display. I checked for its Safari bike, also with disc brakes, and it said there were none in stock locally. Really?

I decided to go try my luck at the Bailey’s Crossroads REI shop anyway. They indeed had a Safari in my size ready to test ride. After some annoying paperwork absolving REI from liability and putting all the risk (however minute) of a test ride on me, I took off for a ride. In their alley and parking lot. The bike was very nice. It had wide tires and itty bitty gears for climbing the steep hill behind the store. It had handlebars that looked a bit like an infinity symbol. They looked cool but I really didn’t much like them. The brakes were located on the horizontal part closest to me which I found awkward, which is not a good thing. You want to have the brakes at hand when big metal things get in your way. The curves in the bars were bent in a strange way so that what looked super comfortable was actually ergonomically unfriendly. So I took a pass.

On the way home, just for the heck of it, I swung by my local Spokes. I was shocked to see exactly the right Disc Trucker hanging in the display area. Without signing a liability waiver (thank you Spokes) I took off around the neighborhood. There was serious like. I returned to the shop and put my Brooks Flyer leather saddle on it.

While the saddle was going on, a man about my age came in with his Disc Trucker. “Buy that bike. You’ll love it.” He commutes on the Mount Vernon Trail on his. That’s a pretty good recommendation. The salesperson started to talk abou the bike. Then I told him that I have several friends with Surly bikes and they are all happy with their purchases.

With the Flyer on, I went for another test ride. There was love. Dang this baby is smooth. I was a little put off by the fact that my feet felt like theyr were too far forward on the pedals. They were platform pedals, without toe clips. It’s been ages since I rode a bike with these kinds of pedals. Even with this minor annoyance, I was loving this bike.

I decided to sleep on the purchase but it has now been two hours and I know what I am doing tomorrow. I’m going back to buy me a new bike. First one in eight years. This bike will replace The Mule, which will become my winter/rainy day bike. I might even put snow tires on it.

It’s going to be weird having an odometer that says 00000.