Ramblings on a Gloomy Saturday

  • My participation in a 60+ mile bike event today was dashed by an 18-inning epic World Series game. Yes, I watched the entire thing which didn’t come to an unsatisfactory end (the Saux lost) until 3:30 in the a of m. A few years ago I attended a Washington Nationals game that lasted 16 innings. I have to say that I was grateful that I didn’t have to ride 15+ miles home after last night’s affair.
  • I actually woke up on time to go to the 9:30 start but the combination of feeling bleery, the cold, rainy weather and the ache in my lower back convinced me that crawling back in bed was a better way to spend my day. I did download the cue sheet so maybe I can ride it someday during the coming week.
  • Yesterday, I rode to Friday Coffee Club in DC. After starting small the gathering grew to about 8 or 9 people. Somebody took a group picture. I had my mouth full of muffin. I look like a deranged chipmunk.
  • Most of the gang left leaving me talking, I kid you not, to two men named Poncho and Bones. Cowboys? Bank robbers? Drug runners? The left side of a athletic yet inept infield? Nope. Just Frank and Steve, an attorney recruiter and a computer scientist. So boooring!
  • I am getting kind of depressed by the low angle of the sun and the shortness of daylight. I left for Friday Coffee Club in predawn blackness. I waited until I was 6 1/2 miles from home to take a sunrise picture. sunrise 102618
  • For you politics junkies, as I took this picture I had my back to the condominium that was once home to Paul Manafort. I think he’s still in the pokey.
  • Tomorrow morning I am riding to Crystal City to watch the Marine Corps Marathon. A friend of my daughter is running. It will be her first. Go Marien!

Any Road Tour: Day 24 – Alice’s Attic

Somehow I actually slept a few hours in my tent last night. I was stirred from my slumbers by some of the chattiest wildlife on earth. And by a passing light rain shower that sprinkled my uncovered tent.

Up before dawn I packed my things and rolled out for what was supposed to be 73 mile day. I had a strong tailwind so I expected it to be an easy day.

Breakfast in the town of Sunrise didn’t pan out. I took a pass at viewing Richard Widmark’s birthplace because I can’t think of a single movie he was in even though I must have seen dozens of them.

I finally sat down to a fine country breakfast in Harris, 18 miles into my day. I get about six miles to the tortilla.

I left the restaurant and immediately made a wrong turn. I was distracted by the fact that the restaurant had apple fritter French toast on the menu, Tragically they were out of them. 😱

I clued in after four miles. Good thing I had a tailwind. Um, wait…

Four miles of headwinds later I was back on course in Stark. The roads, scenery, and towns reminded me of the foothills of the Adirondack Mountains.

Tailwinds pushed me through one rural metropolis after another. Granny. Springvale. Then Dalbo. Here I could stay at a free bunkhouse on a farm. I went into a bar for food and contemplation. The bar food was delicious and totally hit the spot.

It was only 40 miles to another farm roadhouse open to cross country bike tourists. So I headed for Alice’s Attic.

Along the way I passed an organic rock farm. Or maybe not.

I made a pit stop in Milaca for packable groceries and cash.

The heat and humidity increased as I rode. Clouds were building to the southwest. With four miles to go a small fluffy white dog charged across the highway to do me in. How this dog is still alive after running across this highway is beyond me. The dog was harmless but he was very fast. I took off. The loaded Mule was instantly accelerating through 17 miles per hour. Dang.

I pulled into a farm with an AA sign out front. I had a 50/50 chance of shelter or an alcoholics get together. Luckily this was Alice’s Attic. It’s a farm/antique place run by Alice. I am pretty sure she has a Group W bench somewhere in the barn where I am sleeping tonight. If you want to find a particular item, just go ask Alice. I think she’ll know.

Alice has been welcoming Northern Tier cyclists for 15 years, quite the trail angel.

Rains’ a comin’. Tomorrow might be a short wet one.

Today’s miles: 92.5

Total trip mileage: 1,742.

Further…

Hoops, Sleep, Bike to DC, Bike Home, Nap, Repeat

The last couple of days have been killers. Our daughter’s college team is playing in an NCAA conference tournament. My wife and I watched the games. When I met my wife I was a very mellow marathon runner. Once I got behind the wheel of a car I became a raging maniac. She’s pretty much the same when watching college basketball. Her reactions to the game are as much fun as the game itself.

The games ended around 11:30 p.m. The morning after the first game, I got up before 6 a.m., skipped breakfast, and rode into a cold wind to Friday Coffee Club. It was worth it. Swings House of Caffeine once again has apple fritters. At 9 a.m. the festivities ended and I got to participate in the roll out. The remaining east bound club members ride across the Pennsylvania Avenue plaza in front of the White House then disburse to their homes and jobs. I think this was only my second roll out because I went west to my office after coffee.

I headed for home. I waited at Constitution Avenue at a red light. The Washington Monument stood to my right, encircled by flags on flag poles. All the flags were pointing straight out. Fortunately, they were pointing in my direction of travel. I still had to cross the Potomac River on the 14th Street Bridge. Long story short, I froze my ass off.

The 12 miles to home were blissfully wind aided.

I ate breakfast and took a nap.

Friday night I stayed up late again to watch Mrs. Rootchopper’s team get eliminated. This morning I awoke before 6, skipped breakfast again, and headed back to DC. This time I had a tailwind going to the city. I stopped at the Dyke Marsh bridge on the Mount Vernon Trail to renew my tradition of taking pictures of the early morning sun.

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My Cross Check jumped into the picture.

I arrived at the start of the Rock N Roll Half Marathon. This was on Constitution Avenue from about 14th Street to 9th Street. There were so many people that I couldn’t possibly find anyone I knew. I decided to find a good point on the course to view the runners.

I picked 18th and C Streets NW.  The streets were closed to cars and it was early so getting around was simple. I stood on the corner where the runners turned west off of 18th onto C. And watched.

The lead runners were incredibly fast. These folk were not messing around. Then the field became more and more crowded. I kept looking for my friends Ursula and Grace. And looking. And looking. Trying to find someone in a crowd like this brings on a kind of runner’s blindness, akin to snow blindness. Your brain just can’t process this much visual information.

Then I realized that a runner was coming right toward me. It was Ursula. She was just a few feet in front of me before I recognized her. I flinched when she gave me a high five (it’s her thing) because my hand was frozen. Right behind her was her co-worker Doug.  Another feeble high five. And they were away. I managed to get their picture from behind. (She’s got a fanny pack on. Doug is to her right.)
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I waited for Grace but I never saw her. On to Adams Morgan I rode, straight north on 18th Street.

I parked myself in the sun and waited as the runners turned from Calvert Street to go east on Columbia Road. It was still very cold, pretty much perfect for the runners. They were about a mile from running up the killer Calvert Street hill out of Rock Creek Park. Most of them had recovered, but Columbia Road was itself a bit of an incline.

Just as I began to get runner blindness again, I spotted Ursula. Yes! Then I accidentally shut off my camera. No! At least I got another high five. This time we made solid contact. Dang, it hurt. My hand was beet red.

I waited some more for Grace. She tweeted a description of her outfit (at my suggestion) so that her friends could pick her out of the crowd. I pulled out my phone to check the description and Twitter locked up on me. All I remembered from the tweet was that she was wearing gray tights (like a third of the field). Fortunately, Grace has red hair and tons of freckles. (I did too when I was a kid, so she gets bonus points in my book.)

And, sure enough, here she was. Her hair was pulled back and she wasn’t wearing glasses but she was easy to spot. And she was moving pretty fast despite the hill.

After she passed I rode across town to intercept the race again. This time I had to make my way through traffic jams. Drivers were now out and about and they were not happy to be hemmed in my street closures.

I made it to North Capitol Street. The runners were running south using the underpass to avoid New York Avenue. I had to use the side road and got stuck at a traffic light that lasted over a minute. I think the delay cost me a third shot at seeing Ursula. I set up camp at where the course turns east on K Street NE.

In just a few minutes Grace came cruising by. All smiles. She flashed a peace sign as she passed.

Grace Pooley

I turned and headed for the finish. This took much longer than I thought. At one point, on Capitol Hill I turned left where a police car was blocking off the road. My focus was in the distance and I didn’t see the yellow police tape strung across the road. I broke the tape with my helmet and apologized to the cop. He thought it was pretty funny and waved me on.

At the finish the runners were joined by family and friends. There was no hope of meeting up with anyone I knew so I decided to ride home.

By this time, I had come to realize that skipping breakfast was not the smartest move I could have made this morning. After I crossed the river, I had to contend with a strong headwind for the next 12 miles. Like yesterday, I had worn hiking boots instead of proper cycling shoes. The added quarter of an inch of sole made my knees very unhappy.

I pulled into home and ate all the things. The three cups of hot coffee could not have tasted better.

I had ridden 70 cold, windy miles in hiking boots on about 11 hours of sleep over two days. The coffee had no effect. I listened to my body and took a long nap on my bed in the warm afternoon sun.

 

Eve Teasing

In India, Eve teasing is what we call catcalling or public sexual harassment. We do not approve of Eve teasing here at the Rootchopper Institute. We do however get teased by the eve of big events and tonight is one of those.

Tomorrow is the 50 States Ride. It sold out a few hours ago. There is a new rule this year: if you don’t ride the whole thing you can go to the after party but you have to give your beer and pizza to bona fide finishers.  (Me.)

I rode to Friday Coffee Club at dawn. The temperature was hovering just above WTF. (It was 51 degrees F when I hit the road.) Now that the sun has moved a bit further south, I can take a sunrise picture at Dyke Marsh. So I did.

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Former co-worker Kelly saw this picture and thought I had gone back to work. No. Not gonna happen, Kelly.

Coffee Club was hopping. I signed up Kevin to join Team Rootchopper. Scuba Michael may also be joining us if his ear infection clears up. “Us” so far is Emilia and me. So if you’re coming and riding, we’ll be at the start around 7 am looking for other victims.

It warmed up for the ride home so the jacket came off. The weather has been glorious around here, such a start contrast to the news from the Caribbean. Hang in there Renee and John and Wendy. Based on today’s forecast (a Category 4 or 5 storm running right up the spine of the Florida peninsula), the bike tour to Key West isn’t going to happen. I still have fingers crossed but the Plan B (DC to Erie to Burlington VT or Albany to DC) tour is beginning to look like a real possibility. I have to be mindful that the point of this tour is to do my longest tour and see how my body reacts in preparation for a ride to the west coast next year.

This eve is also the eve of Clinchmas, the day the Washington Nationals clinch the National League East and a spot in the playoffs. The magic number is 4, so the clinch could happen tomorrow.

As soon as the Nats game is over, I’m going to sleep.

Winter ramblings

  • I was dreading riding to work in subfreezing temperatures this morning. Truth be told it wasn’t bad at all. I still hate having to put on and take off all the additional clothing though.
  • It will be cold for one more week then we go back to seasonal temperatures and constant rain.
  • Sitting in a ball park watching an exhibition game in late March may not be the brightest idea I ever had.
  • This blog gives me daily reader counts by country. I know (at least) nine people who are overseas right now. Six of them (India, Australia, South Africa) are reading regularly based on blog diagnostics. Hi Rick and Laurie, Alan and Dona, and Joe and Jane.
  • I left home a little late to avoid having to use lights. I got a sunrise picture as a bonus.

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  • I was going to go to my eye doctor appointment in Old Town tomorrow. He rescheduled it because of an expected snow storm. He’s a bike commuter. Probably doesn’t have fenders on his bike.
  • There is a bike motto thread on a local message board. Here are some of my ideas:
    • The farther one bikes, the less one knows.
    • Whereever you bike, there you are.
    • I bike. Therefore, I am.
    • To bike or not to bike? That is the question, albeit a stupid one.
    • Some kind of happiness is ridden out in miles.
  • I rode home in daylight. Saw a bald eagle perched above the Tulane nest. My face was moistened by hundreds of conversational snowflakes.
  • My favorite blog is going into hiatus. Have a blast in Ireland, Britt. We expect a full report without any blarney.

Bicycle Listicle

  • Bald eagle sightings have increased hereabouts. Most mornings the Belle Haven nest about 5 miles from my house is overseen by a lone eagle. I’ve never figured out why.The nest is abandoned but for some reason eagles continue to hang out in the tree limbs above it.
  • Yesterday a bike commuter passed me north of the airport. As she did so, she pointed to the sky over the river and said, “Bald eagle!” When I looked I could see a bird about 100 yards away flying toward DC. The bird then banked to the left and I could see its white head. It continued its big turn and landed in a tree along the riverbank next to the trail. My eagle spotter pulled over to take a picture. I would have too but for my squeaky brakes. I didn’t want to scare the eagle. A minute later she came by me again, “That made my day!” Mine too.
  • This morning a bald eagle launched from the Belle Haven nest and flew RIGHT AT ME!!! Top of the food chain, ma! It veered off before tearing my head from my body. Otherwise, well, this blog would be kaput. As would I.
  • Just before the bald eagle attack, I spotted a brand new polyester throw on the trail near Belle Haven Park. I thought it might belong to Running Mom but decided to leave it in case it was someone else’s. A few minutes later here comes Running Mom pushing her son in a jogging stroller. She didn’t seemed to be the least bit upset so I assumed the blanket wasn’t hers. Glad I left it where I saw it. (It was hanging on a trailside sign this evening.)
  • I stopped for a sunrise picture and made it a selfie. I don’t do selfie’s very often, because I look pretty unremarkable and spoil the view. You can’t really see much of the sun. I suck at photography.  Also, I look like I’m 8 feet tall.

sunrise-selfie

  • The morning light was fantastic. I could have taken a dozen pictures. I stopped for this one of the Washington Monument reflected in the Potomac River. (The quality of this picture is proof that even a blind pig finds an acorn now and then.)  I was going to take a picture of the reflections and shadows of the multiple arches of the Memorial Bridge but decided to continue on to work instead. #bikedc friends Jacques and Mary had the same idea and shot the bridge from both sides of the river.

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  • Yesterday I didn’t get enough sleep and was riding in a mental fog. There is one bike traffic light on the Mount Vernon Trail for cars coming into and out of Porto Vecchio, an upscale condo on the river, just beyond the Belle Haven nest. I always stop for this light when it’s red and take extreme care when it is yellow (it is never green) to avoid being hit by turning cars. In my haze yesterday morning I rolled the red light. There were cars about to cross the trail. I am lucky I didn’t get hit. It’s the second time this month that I have escaped getting t-boned because I was in a trance. I really have to start paying more attention.
  • Today was supposed to be my co-worker Kelly’s first bike commute of the year. When I got to work her bike wasn’t in the bike parking room. Last night she laid all her bike clothes out. This morning she woke up, got dressed, went out and caught the bus. Only then did she realized that she had forgotten to ride her bike! Apparently Kelly’s early morning trance puts mine to shame.

 

Winter Bike to Work Day

Apparently today is International Winter Bike to Work Day. It’s that day of the year when the wheelpeople of the southern hemisphere ride around in shorts to mock us in the frozen north. Yesterday was a planned day off and it was a good thing because it was cold and very windy. Today was colder still but the winds were light, my legs were fresh, and the antibiotics were still kicking in.

I rarely climb out of the saddle but I did it three times on the way to work today. I am feeling my oats. Nothing like having two functioning lungs to get my ya-yas out.

About 100 yards from my driveway I was stopped in my tracks by the most amazing blazing sunrise I’d seen in ages. I pulled over to admire it. As I was pulling out my camera for a picture a motorcade of school buses and cars came by and obscured my view. So you’ll have to take my word on it.

I banged a left and climbed a short hill out of the saddle. A car came up behind me and honked loudly. It’s a residential neighborhood with narrow streets but Mr. BMW was bound and determined to demonstrate is automotive superiority complex. Do people who drive like this realize what incredible asses they are?

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I pedaled on into the cold winter air. It was in the 20s but I had dressed nearly flawlessly for the occasion. I had extra high socks on under my rain pants. I had chemical hand warmers between my shoes and my overboots. I had three layers on my head: skating cap, Buff, and jacket hood. The only part of me that got cold was my thumbs which never seemed to recover from taking this picture of The Mule at its usual sunrise posing place in Dyke Marsh.

There was a dusting of snow on the boards of this bridge but I didn’t slip. I just chugged away to the office arriving surprisingly comfortable.

The ride home feature gray skies, a headwind, and ten degrees less cold. I enjoyed the grind except for two close passes by cars whose drivers were in a big rush to get home. One, of course, was a BMW. Ask any bike commuter what cars have the most obnoxious drivers and you’ll hear “BMW” more often than not.

I made it home in one piece with a smile on my face. Not a bad way to end a workweek.

I hope you fine readers have a splendid weekend.  I plan on doing as much..

 

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Bike Commuting Karma

I often write about my bike commuting trance. In fact, people I know in DC bring it up all the time in conversation. Last night I popped a couple Tylenol PMs to help me sleep through Mrs. Rootchopper’s nasty cough. (I swear I did not give this disease to her. Her boss did. Really.)mule-post-sunrise I was still groggy when I headed out for work on The Mule.

I managed to make it nearly all the way to work without incident. I even stopped for a sort- of-sunrise picture. Sorry, readers, but the sunrises a little too early for me now. (This is a good thing for my visibility and my mood, however.)

I was plodding along, comfy with temperatures in the 30s and light winds. Then I rode up the short steep hill to the Intersection of Doom. The IoD is called this because of the number of people on foot and wheel who have been hit there. It is the meeting of North Lynn Street on which north bound traffic heads into Georgetown via the Key Bridge, US 29, and off- and on-ramps to I-66. Does that sound like a mess? Well, add a helluva a lot of impatient car and bike commuters and you have a recipe for disaster.

I was on the connector trail that links up the Custis Trail with the Mount Vernon Trail. Thanks to my drug assisted trance and the effort from the hill, my mind was completely out to lunch. At the IoD I took an immediate left from the connector trail across an I66 off- ramp via a cross walk. I looked up and saw that the WALK signal had a red 10 illuminated. I had 10 seconds. I noted that there was no traffic heading from my right to my left. And for some reason my brain did not register the fact that this meant that the I66 off-ramp cars had a green light. I signaled my left turn, looked left, made eye contact with the driver of the lead car in the first lane of three that I had to cross, and I turned.

It was only as I was directly in front of the car that I realized that the car had a green light. Ack! I was saved by the simple fact that a recent change to the traffic signals prohibited a right hand turn while the WALK light was not in steady red hand STOP mode.

But I still had two lanes to go. For some reason, the bike commuting gods had blocked off the center lane with traffic cones so I actually had a place to stop in the middle of this godforsaken crossing. I was about to stop when I noticed that no cars were coming up the last of the three lanes. I quickly pedaled across it to the safety of the sidewalk beyond. Dang.

I am one lucky mule driver.

I was a lot more attentive on the ride home. Good thing too. The Mount Vernon Trail goes uphill from Jones Point Park to get to South Washington Street in Old Town Alexandria. At South Washington the trail takes a left across South Street and continues along the river. I had a white WALK signal for my left-hand turn. A car was waiting at the red light. I aimed my helmet light at the driver and slowed down. Despite the fact that there were 500 lumens of my headlight beam in her eyes, the driver took a right on red, WALK signal be damned. Dang again.

I yelled at her but my heart really wasn’t into it. There was some kind of bike commuting karma going on today.

Funny thing was, that within a mile I was back in my trance. I rode up a long gradual incline and got that “how did I get here” feeling.

Just lucky I guess.

 

Feel

This morning’s bike commute, my fifth this week, began with a sense of dread..Last night, for the third night this week, I woke up at 3:30 and couldn’t get back to sleep. My circadian rhythms are not amusing me.

I pulled on my overboots and layers and hat and whatnot. Ugh. I left early and was plodding away on The Mule. About two miles into the ride, my friend Reba blew by me like I was standing still. She made a friendly mocking remark about my utter lack of celerity. I mumbled profanities.dyke-marsh-and-mule

At three miles I stopped to sit on a bench and take a slightly pre-sunrise picture.

Do I have to get back on that bike? Can’t I just sit here and freeze to death?

The merry prankster in me said “Further!” and I mounted my two-wheeled steed. It’s so hard to turn off your mind, relax, and float downstream when you’re on a bike, groggy, and struggling upstream.

My head hung low but I slogged along. Then out of the top of my peripheral vision I saw something. I looked up. A woman was walking her large dog. She was on the right edge of the trail and the dog, on a leash, was on the left edge of the trail. I hit my brakes and the squealed. “Oh!” I shook my head as I passed. “Duh!”

Once I was at work and had switched out of my overboots and layers and hats and whatnot the muscles in my upper back went into spasm. Off and on. All day.

Then my head cold returned.

The first one of you who says “You should try yoga” is gonna get it.

Strangely, once I was back on my bike for the ride home, my back felt fine. The ride home had a tailwind-ish feel. A passing rider even said “sort of a tailwind.”

Riding down from a short bridge just south of Alexandria, my hanging head almost did me in again. The headlights of the oncoming cars on the adjacent parkway were blinding me. Then I saw them: two ninja walkers, dressed in dark clothing, backlit by the headlights. As I was about to go around them, two bike commuters came speeding past. The first one calling out his pass almost too late. The second one didn’t bother.

The rest of the ride was actually pleasant. When I got home I did the back exercises (that Mrs. Rootchopper calls the “Y” word). While in a shoulder stand, my upper back went into spasm. I rolled out of the position, sat, and breathed calmly. Go away spasm. And it did.

And so ends six days of riding 179 miles in January. At age 61. Feeling every year.

 

 

Let There Be Light

The last time I commuted by bike was last Wednesday. Moving just 5 days along the calendar this time of year brings a sweet benefit: daylight. I noticed that I can now see the combination lock to access my bikes without a headlight in the morning. It’s still before sunrise but there is enough emerging light that I can make do.

I start my ride with “be seen” lights. A blinking front and two blinking rear lights allow drivers to see me (if they are looking, more on this below). I arrived at my sunrise spot today just a tad early. The Mule posed for a picture.

mule-before-sunrise

You may notice one peculiarity about The Mule. It’s pedals don’t match. I replaced the left pedal when it disintegrated on my bike tour last summer. I haven’t gotten around to replacing the right one.

After I put my phone away, the sun broke over the horizon. I appreciated it’s brightness all the more because of a string of dreary, gray days.

I wore a holey wool sweater under my wind breaker shell in the morning. The bright sun warmed things up considerably on the ride in.

I left work before sunset with March-like temperatures just below 60 degrees. The wool sweater was in the bottom of one of my panniers. I know this warmth was only for one day but did it ever feel good.

The ride homeward went off without a hitch until I had an all too close encounter in Old Town. I stopped at a stop sign. (No lie.) A big black SUV had its turn signal on and turned left across my path. I started pedaling. A red SUV was behind the black one. It did not have its turn signal on. It did not stop at its stop sign. Instead it started turning right at me! For a split second my brain didn’t process what was about to happen, then I yelled WHOA! WHOA! I veered to my right and looked left so that my helmet-mounted headlight would shine in the driver’s eyes. As far as I can tell the red SUV never slowed. The driver never saw me. He just missed taking me out.

After something like this happens, the adrenaline feeds the squirrels in my brain. The next couple of miles were rather un-trance-like. Once I cleared Old Town and its dance with death I fell back into a trance for about a mile. Then I noticed cars backed up heading in my direction on the GW Parkway to my right. This could mean only one thing: a big crash. Sure enough, at the sweeping turn near the fishing hole (really just a popular river bank fishing spot) I could see one small car all bashed in with no windshield. Friend of the blog Nancy who lives down my way said the accident also involved a motorcycle. Ugh. I didn’t stop to gawk because this was obviously a serious situation and the emergency responders didn’t need me getting in the way.

I put The Mule away. Inside my house I started walking down the stairs when my left leg gave way. I somehow managed to strain my  left iliotibial band, the thin muscle that runs from the outside of the hip to the outside of my knee. Lucky for me I bought some vitamin I today with an added sedative. Zzzzzz.