23 Degrees and Grateful

23 degrees in the shade. Except it was dark. I took off aboard The Mule well before sunrise to make a 7:30 physical therapy appointment on the way to work. I got about a mile from home when the fruits of last night’s gusting winds became evident:

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I briefly considered walking around the tree on the lawn to the right. Then I saw the wires and cables near the curb and thought better of it. I backtracked about a half mile and began my trek anew.

I made it to the Dyke Marsh bridge just as the sun was rising. My name is Rootchopper and I am a sunrise addict.

Daybreak and Sequoia - Dyke Marsh 2-4-15

I stopped again under the Wilson Bridge to admire a lift being used to diddle around with the underside of the I95 roadway far above. The lift completely blocked the trail. Nobody bothered to direct traffic because I was pretty much all the traffic that there was to direct. I stopped and took a picture for the hell of it:

Maintenance at the Wilson Bridge

All this stopping and gawking was eating up time. So I boogeyed on up the trail to the physical therapist, located conveniently right on the trail just north of Old Town.

My therapist gave me an extensive exam, ruling out causes for my numb right foot. He gave me a couple of PT exercises to do and we set up a schedule for follow up visits. One of the exercises is the standard runner’s lean to stretch the calf muscle. The other uses a belt to stretch the hamstrings. Looks like the acupuncturist and the PT man are on the same page.

The rest of the ride to work was cold but uneventful. I managed to avoid some black ice here and there. North of the airport I waved to @bilsko as he headed southward. Next I tried to get Mrs. Rootchopper’s attention as she sat in a long line of cars headed for the 14th Street bridge. She didn’t see me. She didn’t look very happy. I was cold but at least I was smiling – and moving.

Temperatures had climbed into the 30s for the ride home. Winds were light. And I was feeling pretty darn good after a low stress day at the office. To be honest, it was just about the nicest ride home I’ve had in a long time. I took in the monuments. They never get old. Every so often a bird flew across the trail. Some Canada geese flew over the river. There were no hills to slow me. When I feel like this, the ride becomes rolling meditation. My mind just ignores the stresses of life and goes on a vacation. I sing (badly). (“Fall at Your Feet” by Crowded House/Neil Finn has been my earworm for three days now.)

As I made my way south of Old Town, the full moon shone above the far bank of the river. It cast a perfect moonbeam on the water. I’d have taken a picture, but it would not have done it justice. It was jaw-droppingly beautiful. I am sooo grateful for my commute route.

Black ice kept appearing in front of me and I just sailed around it. There was no way I was going down tonight. Just not going to happen.

I arrived home to see a small box on my doorstep. My repaired headset had arrived from Chris King. Wanting not to push my cycling luck, I hopped in the car and drove to Spokes Etc. Belle View store where Little Nellie had been stashed during the repair. They should have my steed back to me tomorrow. I’ve missed you Little Nellie.

Beautiful sunrise, full moon, meditative ride, and repaired bike. Not a bad day.

Grateful.

Impending DOOM

Tonight, at approximately zero dark thirty, the Washington DC metro will become paralyzed with a dusting of snow. That’s right, supermarkets have been stripped of toilet paper, milk, and cilantro in advance of this cataclismic climatic event.

So I went for a bike ride.

(Truth be told, we should get a couple of inches over the next two days. Since the National Park Service refuses to treat the Mount Vernon Trail this will mean I won’t be riding until Wednesday. Hence the desire to get my two-wheeled ya-ya’s out.)

I took off on The Mule. I rode to my local bike store, Spokes Etc.  Unlike this blog they are not shy of a full set of spokes, or of bike knowledge. I asked them to look at the seatpost on The Mule and tell me if it is a setback seatpost. I have a Brooks leather saddle on The Mule and its rails, like all Brooks saddles, are short. This means I can’t push my saddle back farther which is, I thought, necessary for me to get ideal pedalling position. Not only do I already have a setback seat post but the store manager took one look at me on the bike and said, “You actually should be riding a bigger bike, but a simpler short term solution would be to raise your saddle because it is way too low.”

Doh.

So we raised the saddle about a centimeter (which is metric for “a little bit”). The saddle is connected to the seatpost which in turn is connected to seat tube. The seat tube is angled back. This means that raising the saddle also has the effect of moving the seat back. Genius.

Then I went for a 25 mile test ride. On the way I ran into Mr. TinDC of #bikedc social media renown. He was riding the Mount Vernon Trail with Rachel whom I had never met. We stopped to talk long enough to get cold. Then went our separate ways. My way took me over the Potomac River on the Wilson Bridge. I rode through National Harbor which continues to be the ugliest development I have seen in decades.  Then I rode up the long hill to Oxon Hill Road. The half mile+ ride was along side a massive construction site for a new casino. Personally I think it would be more usedful to have a giant Costco filled only with TP, milk, and cilantro but what do I know.

Once at the top of the hill, I turned around and rode back down because when it comes to designing lollygagging rides I am Mr. Creative.

Back over the river and through Old Town I rode. By this point I noticed that my left knee was not barking at me as usual. My arms were a little tense but otherwise the new saddle position seemed to be working out okay.

I made it to Four Mile Run and crossed over to Commonweath Ave. I rode through Alexandria and made my way back to the Fort Hunt area of Fairfax County where I live on the incredibly coincidentally named Fort Hunt Road.

When I arrived home I was quite wet from perspiration. I checked the thermometer. It was 51 degrees. Not half bad for late January.

The skies are cloudy. The air is still. I await the doom.

Working a List

I took the day off from work, my second four-day weekend in a row. I decided to get some things done rather than goof off. I started out by sleeping in. Considering how much trouble I have been having sleeping these last few weeks, this was actually an accomplishment. My first task of the day was to go through my closet and pull out all the clothing that I haven’t worn in over a year. I filled a tall kitchen garbage bag.

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One of the upgrades I bought when I ordered Little Nellie from Bike Friday was a Chris King headset. The other morning the handlebars would barely turn. So off I drove Little Nellie to Spokes Etc., my local bike shop, in the Belle View shopping center. As I walked the bike into the store it was clear that the steering mechanism was catching. It would not smoothly turn left or right or even go straight. Chris the mechanic said that it was kaput. I called Bike Friday and they said the headset had a 12-year warranty. My bike is seven years old so it looks like I’m in luck. So on Monday I need to call Bike Friday when they have service people in the shop to arrange for a replacement.

Next up, I dropped the bag in a Goodwill collection box.

Then it was off to the barbershop to get rid of my Professor Irwin Corey look. Then I hit the bank. Well, let’s rephrase that. I went to the bank.

After that I took Big Nellie out for a ride. The other day I tried the orthotics on Big Nellie and they really messed up my feet. Today, I used the insoles that came with my shoes and had no problems. So my conclusion is that for weight bearing activities the orthotics are great, for other applications, not so much. I know I am jinxing myself by saying this but these orthotics are really doing wonders for my back. No twinges. No aches. So 2015 is off to a good start.

I rode my bike around the Fort Hunt neighborhood, then down to Mount Vernon on the Mount Vernon Trail. Then I rode beyond Mount Vernon in an area I think is called Woodlawn. Whatever it is called it has miles and miles of lightly traveled suburban streets. It’s a good place to ride for riding’s sake. Along the way I was this:

Serious TP Job

I’d say it was the work of professionals. I’d love to see the look on the homeowner’s face when he sees this.

After nearly 25 miles I called the day a success.

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.