Spring Arrives in the DMV

Spring is fighting off winter here in the DMV. (The DMV is what all the cool kids call the DC, Maryland, Virginia area.) The weather goes up and down betraying any ability to get comfortable. If you want consistency, move to San Diego.

Friday, I woke up super early and rode to Friday Coffee Club. My plan was to see the famous DC cherry blossoms at sunrise. I timed it wrong and the cherry blossoms were a day shy of peak bloom, but the sunrise over the Potomac didn’t disappoint. I stood on the river bank for a few minutes just to take it in.

Sunrise wow

Not half bad.

The 14th Street Bridge over the Potomac River reaches the DC side right smack dab in the middle of the Tidal Basin, ground zero for cherry blossom tourist madness. I managed to wiggle through cars and buses and work my way around the Tidal Basin, up 15th Street, and around the Washington Monument, enjoying blossoms the whole way. Friday Coffee Club was busier than usual so all is right with the world.

Yesterday, I rode into DC to see my first Nats game of the season. The temperature during the game was perfect. We sat in the shade just below the TV announcers who were sitting in their perch in the press box. We were directly behind home plate which afforded a pretty good view of the pitches. Throughout the game, the plate umpires inclination to call outside strikes (to right handed batters) strikes was obvious. Somehow the Nats batters didn’t seem to clue in.)

NATS view

The fans in our section have a tradition of chanting N-A-T-S NATS NATS NATS WOO!!! for each Nationals score. I’ve never been into such organized things at baseball games. Such displays are better suited to football or hockey.

Every so often pedals from the cherry trees outside the ballpark would drift down on us.

My daughter Lily kept score. She’s getting pretty good at it.

During the seventh inning stretch, the stadium played A Ha’s Take on Me, something that was discontinued a few years ago. It was most welcome but the crowd didn’t seem to get into it. The whole point is to hit the high notes for the line “In a day or two.” I didn’t attempt it, which I am sure Lily appreciated.

As for me, despite the scorekeeping and the pedals and the perfect weather and the great seats and the drifting blossoms and Take on Me, I had a hard time getting into the game. It didn’t help that, for the second game in a row, the Mets didn’t win so much as the Nats lost.

In the Friday’s game, rookie center fielder Victor Robles was caught in a rundown trying to score from third base. He thus committed the Nat’s first TOOTBLAN of the season. (TOOTBLAN means “thrown out on the bases like a nincompoop.” ) Beating yourself appears to be a Nats forte. Robles, the centerfielder, also seems to enjoy overthrowing the cut off man, perhaps so we won’t miss Bryce Harper so much.

At least a quarter of the fans present were Mets fans. A throng of them in the left field bleachers chanted LETS GO METS throughout the game. This seemed pointless since it is pretty much indistinguishable from LETS GO NATS. Late in the game as the Mets scored several runs,  a few Mets fans in our section M-E-T-S METS METS METS WOO!!! Well played, dudes.

The ride home featured a fifteen minute delay getting to the Tidal Basin as I duckwalked my bike amid tourists headed for the Tidal Basin. The sidewalks around the basin were absolutely packed with tourists. The roads were packed with cars. Nobody seemed to be having much fun.

I escaped the madness and stopped at the Crystal City garage bicycle races on the way home. I watched a couple of laps of the Anything Goes race. It’s fun to see people, some in costumes riding unicycles, cargo bikes, tandems, fixies, and other assorted contraptions.

I rode home at twilight wearing a t-shirt.

Spring is here.

 

 

Fore Signs of Spring

As the weather slowly warms, people get out and about. This includes golfers.

I ride by golf courses all the time. If I pay attention, I can usually pick up a stray ball. A few days ago I saw one on the side of the road. This appears to be a driving range ball that ran away from home. It was at least 100 yards beyond the end of the range.

Yesterday, I hit the jackpot on Fort Hunt Road which runs along the edge of Belle Haven Country Club. I found three balls, all in good condition.

When I get a dozen or so, I’ll ship them off to my sister who is an avid golfer up north.

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Seven to Seven

I’ve don’t like being idle so today was my kind of day. I was running around and doing stuff from 7 am to 7 pm. After breakfast and reading the newspaper I did this:

  • 15 minutes of physical therapy exercises
  • A visit to the pulmonologist. She has pretty much decided to let the hematologist determine whether I should stay on blood thinners indefinitely. This was quite a surprise to me. This assumes that my lower leg is free of the deep vein thrombosis that dispatched the clots to my lungs. When I get back from my bike tour, she’s going to experiment with lowering the dosage of my asthma medicine.
  • Checked out patio furniture at Home Despot. It looked crappy.
  • Took my car to a state inspection station to find out if it would pass inspection with a ding in the windshield. He said “yes”.
  • Bought bird seed coated with hot pepper powder. (Alas the neighbor’s squirrel appears to be adapting to the stuff.)
  • Got my haircut so that I don’t look like I am undergoing electric shock therapy
  • Meditated for 30 minutes
  • Ate lunch
  • Rode Little Nellie to DC for one last look at the cherry blossoms. Okay, I might go tomorrow and Friday buy this is peak bloom and there’s no telling when it will end. The Tidal Basin was crowded so I skipped it and rode through the tunnel of blossoms in East Potomac Park instead. If you still plan to go this year, tomorrow or Friday before work would be best. Walk around the Tidal Basin and go snow blind. Then take a bikeshare bike (the dock was full when I was there) to ride the tunnel.

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    To be honest, this picture doesn’t do the road to Hains Point in East Potomac Park justice.
  • Rode to the gym to lift weights lamely. I tried some free weights today.
  • Rode home feeling tired.
  • Ate dinner
  • Turned on the Nats game right about now

 

 

Errandonnee: An Alarming Finish

With warm air and a strong tailwind, I rode to DC for my final errand. Along the way, I watched three raptors fighting above the Belle Haven eagle nest. Crazy.

It’s Friday and that means Friday Coffee Club. And it’s the season opener for the Washington Nationals. Woot!

Errand No. 12: Social – Friday Coffee Club

Destination: Swings House of Caffeine, 17th and G Streets NW

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Fire Alarm Coffee Club

Observation: When I got to Swings a fire alarm went off. And all the coffee people came outside. I felt like an arriving celebrity. The alarm stopped. I ordered coffee and a muffin and a second alarm went off. So out we went into the wonderfully warm weather. Again. We finally got back inside for good though.

The ride home was into that wind that was so kind to me on the way in. Both coming and going I passed the peripatetic Joe Flood who was out searching for cherry blossoms. (He found a few.) I stopped at the gym for Andrea’s secret sauce (weight training). She’s doing a 200K randonnee event tomorrow. Go girl.

And so that’s a wrap on my Errandonnee for 2018. Eagles and garage bike races and coffee with friends and physical therapy and Italian subs and gyms and stores. It was fun. Special thanks to Mary for running this crazy event again.

 

 

Errandonee: Peaceful Everyday Actions

Being retired, I am practically specializing in peaceful everyday actions. My intent today was to take advantage of the fact that it was actually spring like outside and the season opening away game for my team (the Washington Nationals) was postponed to tomorrow.

I rode to DC to check out the cherry blossoms. If you want to max out your peaceful experience, it is best to go at dawn when the trees are in full bloom. Alas, it was after 1 p.m. when I arrived and the blooms were well short of full.

I rode Ohio Drive to Hains Point in the lame hope of seeing the trees along the roadway showing off their snowy blossom best. No dice.

Undeterred I headed back over to Virginia where I rode the bike trails around Arlington County. On my way back home, I took the Mount Vernon Trail. In the marsh near Daingerfield Island I spotted an immense snowy egret perched in a tree like a character from a Dr. Seuss book.

He was hard to miss being at a distance and at approximate eye level. I am so spoiled that I often forget to check out the bald eagle nests further south on the trail. Today I paid deliberate attention and was rewarded with quite a sight. A large bald eagle was perched above the nest near Tulane Drive. I pulled over and just took the sight in for 15 minutes. Although I was conspicuous in my eagle gazing, none of the passing trail users stopped to see what I was looking up at. Their loss.

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I left the eagle to his sentry duty and rolled home. I was pretty tired, a result of the warmer, moister air and riding 98 miles in two days.

Errand No. 11:  Peaceful Everyday Action – Eagle Gazing

Destination: The Tulane Bald Eagle Nest

Observation: The cherry blossoms aren’t the only thing in bloom around here. The wildlife population is about to explode. In the last two days I’ve seen egrets, ospreys, herons, an owl, and bald eagles. And last night I heard spring peepers. Sadly, the explosion of clueless tourists is also upon us. Treat them with kindness. They’ll be gone soon enough.

My distance today was 41 miles. Bringing my total to 168.5.

Bulldogs and Bicycles on a March Sunday

Well the day began with the loss of our adopted college basketball team in the NCAA tournament. My daughter went to Butler University so we adopted the Bulldogs. The game itself is only mildly interesting to me. Watching Mrs. Rootchopper lose her mind and yell at the TV greatly adds to the fun. She was raised in Indiana so it must be in her blood.

After the game I took off on my Cross Check despite a stiff back. I am king of ailments these days, aren’t I? I had nowhere to go and a little under five hours of daylight to get there. So I went. Up river into a light wind. Temperatures were in the high 50Fs.

Of course, the Mount Vernon Trail was crowded. I am always amused when I pass under an eagle nest and I am the only one who knows to look up. I didn’t see any action at the Morningside nest but there were two adults in the Tulane nest. I could only glimpse their white heads but I’ll bet they have an egg or two to tend. Photos from the third nest in Dyke March along what is called the haul road show two adults. One of them appeared to be feeding eaglets chunks of fish.

The ride north was really pretty splendid. I stopped to check out the monuments across the river in DC.

Not half bad. Did I mention the skies were blue?

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I rode up to Rosslyn where I used to work and crossed the Key Bridge into Georgetown. The sidewalks were absolutely packed with people. And M Street was packed with cars. I made my way down to Water Street and took that to the Capital Crescent Trail. Cars that were turning around were clogging up the entrance. I made it past them unscathed and took my time grinding up the trail to Bethesda. I saw three massive trees that had been blown down by our recent wind storm. I’ll bet the ground shook when they landed. Along the trail I saw several cherry trees in near bloom. They were pink and just waiting to explode in white. Sorry trees, but there’s a snow storm coming.

The trail ends at Bethesda Row, a neighborhood of shops and shoppers. I checked my phone and figured out how to ride to Rock Creek Park. Until recently, you could take the unpaved Georgetown Branch Trail, but it’s closed. As it turned out I made it to the park with only one turn. I also probably climbed every hill in Chevy Chase Maryland in the process. I am pleased to report that my lungs and legs did just fine.

Most of Beach Drive, the main drag through Rock Creek Park, is closed to motor vehicles on Sundays. I plodded along riding the slight downhill back toward downtown DC. The road is actually at the base of a canyon which is a pretty darn cool thing to have smack dab in the middle of a city. Alas, road construction diverted me out of the canyon. I rode uphill on busy Military Road. And my lungs and legs didn’t complain at all. Once at the top, I turned back into the park and rode all the way back down. If I wasn’t afraid of falling and dying, I’d have opened it up on the descent. My new life motto is YODO and I am not ready to shuffle off this mortal coil just yet.

The rest of the ride through the park was uneventful and pleasant. I followed the trail past the zoo and a graveyard and the end of the C&O Canal and the Watergate complex. I made it over the Kennedy Center washboard without losing a single filing. Beach volleyball, Lincoln Memorial, polo field, softball field, cricket pitch, Tidal Basin, Jefferson Memorial. And back over to Virginia on the 14th Street bridge.

The slight tail wind aided my return home. I rolled into the driveway at sunset. 51 miles of bicycle goodness.

We might have lost the game but we won the day.

 

Getting the Party Started

In my desire to get spring rolling, I booked a ton of activities for the next several weeks. This weekend was a bit of a warm up, in a manner of speaking.

The fun started on Saturday. Mrs. Rootchopper and I went into DC for the Science March. She made a sign. We stood around in the rain and checked out other people’s signs. The signs, and the people, were impossibly nerdy. The guy in front of us had a sign that showed that the cost of Trumps trips to his resort in Florida would pay for over 1,000 post-docs. Nerd after nerd came up and asked him what his assumptions were.  I am not making this up. In response he would turn his sign around and show them. He had the assumptions written on the back. I am not making this up either.

After an hour of waiting around we made it into the part of the national mall where the speakers were speaking, as speakers tend to do. There were several tens of thousands of people in front of us and an equally impressive amount of mud below us. I later learned that I knew seven people withing a couple hundred feet of our location. I didn’t see them though.Image may contain: 1 person, crowd, sky and outdoor

At 2 o’clock the march began. On time. (These nerds are pretty impressive.) The size of the crowd plugged Constitution Avenue up. It took us an hour to walk one city block. We bailed and hoofed it about a mile to our cars. My wife drove home. I drove to my office where I was picked up by a co-worker.

Off we went to Baltimore to watch the Orioles play the Red Sox. I went to college in Boston and lived within walking distance of Fenway Park during my sophomore year. I also drove a cab during two summers. Suffice it to say that Bostonians love their Sawx!

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Here are a few random observations about baseball in Baltimore:

  • The hot dogs outside Camden Yards are the best I have ever had. I only had one.
  • Camden Yards is a much nicer ballpark that Nationals Park because
    • The seats in the upper deck seem much closer to the field
    • The acoustics of the park trap the roar of the crowd. This place gets loud!
    • Prices of food and drink are much less than in DC
    • Brick > concrete
    • Having an old warehouse just beyond the outfield is way better than having a new parking garage beyond the outfield
    • The crowed yells “O!!!!” during the National Anthem. It’s truly obnoxious when they do this when the Orioles play in DC. In Baltimore, it fits.
  • There are a few things I don’t like about Camden Yards
    • It is next to a football stadium that lurks like a monument to civic waste
    • It is also next to a seriously poor neighborhood. Very depressing.
    • Of much lesser significance, there is no place other than your seat to eat your food.
    • Bike parking is outdoors and not protected

The game went pretty quickly once we got the rain delay out of the way. About a third of the crowd was rooting for the Red Sox. They went home disappointed as the Orioles won 4 – 2.

I had planned to participate in the car free event in Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park on Sunday morning. I didn’t get to sleep until after 1 a. m. Getting up at 5 to drive 80 miles then ride a very hilly 62 miles in 40 – 50F temperatures wasn’t my idea of a good time. So I slept an extra hour and went to brunch with Mrs. R/C and a friend from her hometown who was in town to participate in the march.

Brunch was fun. Afterwards we walked a mile back to the car through the Enid Haupt Garden at the Smithsonian Castle. This garden is one of my favorite places in DC. Sadly, it will soon be removed for a new museum building.

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The rest of Sunday was devoted to deep, deep meditation on the deck. Okay, I took a nap. Sue me.

This morning’s ride to work featured 50F degree temperatures, drizzle, and a steady headwind. Image may contain: bicycle, tree, outdoor and nature

I started late and was groggy to boot. My head hung down. Things just appear suddenly when your head hangs down. At one point I was awakened by the shortest running shorts I have seen in a long time. Fortunately, they were on a very fit young woman. They were rather pleasantly undersized. Sometimes you just have to appreciate the view. Woke me right up.

A half mile later, I spotted bright orange out of the corner of my eye. I looked up to see a large mallard standing on the trail. He had huge cartoon feet. He was utterly unfazed by my passing. I didn’t even get a quack out of him.

My final visual surprise came when I just happened to have my head up. Chris N. rode by and gave me his patented salute. I used to see him nearly every day but his commute changed. Now he’s back.

The ride home was gray and cool and drizzly. The wind had the decency to push me home.

The party continues later this week:

  • Friday: a retirement
  • Saturday: ride to the Climate March and a Nationals baseball game
  • Sunday:  a 50+ mile bike event ride
  • Monday: a retirement dinner for a second retiree

After that I have a college graduation, two concerts, the Ride of Silence, a weeknight baseball game with folks from work, a Sunday baseball game with my daughter, and Bike to Work Day.

 

Errandonnee No. 3: Mulching to Work

I chose Little Nellie, my Bike Friday New World Tourist with little wheels, to ride to work. Everything was going along just fine until we hit the mulch pit of death near Teddy Roosevelt Island. Wee wheels won’t work here. So I dismounted. And took a picture.

Mulch

Category: Work

Miles: 29 1/2 (round trip). So I’ve already hit the Errandonnee limit.

Observation: Spring bike commuters are starting to appear. They were generally well behaved today. This evening will almost certainly bring out the Lance Mamilots, who ride like asshats only to demonstrate their frail male egos and small man parts.

 

Pre-peak Cherry Blossom Ride

Winter has returned. It was in the 30s with a northwest wind. A snowstorm looms in the days ahead. DC’s famous cherry blossoms are in jeopardy. So I went up to DC today to check out what was in bloom. Short answer: not much.

I parked at Gravelly Point Park near the airport across the river. This was a good idea because the highways heading into the city were jammed with traffic. The 1 1/2 mile ride was pleasant enough. Blue skies and puffy white clouds practically commanded me to look up. So I did. Here’s one from the back side of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial.

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There were only a handful of trees in anything close to peak bloom. And the wind picked up as I walked and rode among them. Even without peak bloom the blues skies and the trees and the monuments made for pretty views. Deets couldn’t resist striking a pose.

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Here are a few more over on my Flickr page.

 

April Chores before February Storms

For yet another day it was April in February. My mind turned to thoughts of spring. Well, old fart thoughts of spring.

I rode Deets to the Hardware store to pick up my sharpened lawn mower blade. While waiting for my blade, I read the local free newspaper. An injured bald eagle had been found on the farm next to my house. It had a full head of white feathers so it was probably mature. This is egg laying season. One injured eagle means another may be without a mate. Not good. (This eagle is not one of the eagles that nests at the Arboretum in DC. Those eagles probably forage for food along the Anacostia River some 10 to 15 miles from my house.)  I bought some stuff at the drug store nearby then rode home.

I pulled out The Mule to see what I could do about it’s screeching front brakes. Well, the short answer was not much given the fact that the brake pads were almost completely worn out. So I hopped back on Deets to ride four miles with a tailwind to the local bike store for some replacements. Alas, they were out of stock so I rode a couple more miles into Old Town where my not-so-local bike store had one pair of the kind of brake pads I prefer.

The ride home was into a strong headwind, a sign of an approaching storm front due to reach us in early afternoon. Along the way I passed a woman running. She stumbled as I passed and fell flat on her face. I stopped to see if she was okay (she was). Of course, my concern only made her feel embarrassed. Onward.

Pedal pedal.

Back at the ranch, I put the brake pads on with a surprisingly limited number of f-bombs. When I am working on a bike, I use a lot of lube and a lot of f-bombs. They just make things work better. I don’t know why.

Next, I drained the oil from the lawn mower and replaced the blade, the air filter, and the spark plug. When I went to put new oil in the engine, I found that the oil I had in my shed was last winter’s dirty oil that I had yet to dispose of. Derp.

Clouds loomed.

I jumped on The Mule and headed for the hardware store so I could get some oil and test the brakes.

Pedal pedal.

Raindrops fell. Then the sky cleared. I bought some oil and made it home warm and dry. The brakes worked and didn’t squeal.

The oil went into the mower. I put some gas in. And started it up. It went clank. Then it ran normally. I repeated this. It went clank each time I started it. Clanky sounds aren’t good but the thing worked. I will unclank it another day.

My final task of the day was to polish my shoes. Do people still do this? I learned it from my father who wore the same shoes for 35 years. Good shoes last forever. I bought this pair over 20 years ago. Good shoes are kind of like bikes. Trust me. Someday you’re gonna need a quality shoe.

Having finished my chores, I sat down with a bagel and a newspaper to enjoy a sunny day on the deck. Ten minutes later the front came through.

It’s February now.