Marching to Recovery

As my body heals from the blood clots that invaded my lungs, I find myself getting stronger by the day. In fact, I feel stronger now on the bike than I did at the end of my tour or, for that matter, at any time in the last three or four years.

Some of this is from working out on a daily basis, either at the gym or doing physical therapy exercises. Some of this may be from the fact that, while I am on blood thinners, I can’t drink alcohol. Some of this may be the result of the recent tweak to my saddle position on my Cross Check. Or maybe it’s just the warmer weather. Or my the lower dose of my asthma medication. Or maybe it’s the anabolic steroids I sprinkle on my Cheerios in the morning. Whatever it is, I’m crushing it on the bike.

In the last seven days, I rode 240 miles, including a 57 mile day followed by a 41 mile day. I feel like I can go forever and climb any hill. And I am riding about two miles per hour faster than I did last fall.

For the month of March I rode 750.5 miles, 24 miles per day. I took four days off. On the one of those two days, I did a six mile hike. On another I stood on concrete for 5 hours at the March for Our Lives in DC.

So far this year I’ve ridden 1954.5 miles, about 80 percent of it on my Cross Check. I have ridden 281 miles on Big Nellie in the basement, just to make sure I didn’t crash on icy streets.

And I completed the Errandonnee.

And I did two interviews with the local newspaper. The first was about plans for a new bike trail in our area. (The article is on page 3.) The second one, which happened yesterday, was about my bike trip to Key West.

April has lots of fun in store, including the first event ride of the year, my first ride to a Washington Nationals baseball game, a visit to my pulmonologist, and (I hope) finalizing plans for my summer bike tour to the west coast.

Errandonnee: Fixing My Bike and My Body

Yesterday, I tweaked the tension on the leather saddle on my Cross Check. After getting the swale out of it, I measured Little Nellie’s saddle for height and distance from the handlebars. I applied these measurements to the Cross Check saddle position. I moved it up and back about 1/2 centimeter each.

I’ve been doing physical therapy to get rid of pain in my left shoulder and upper arm. I had no appointments this week because my therapist was booked solid. Someone canceled and I took the 2:30 slot. I rode about five miles beyond the therapist just to try out the new arrangement on my Cross Check. Verdict: perfect.

Errand No. 9: Other

Destination: The Jackson Clinic in Old Town Alexandria (next to the Sport and Health fitness center)

Observation: It never ceases to amaze me how seemingly tiny adjustments to a bicycle saddle can take a bike from pain to pleasure.

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Not My Kind of Day

I feel like bitching and moaning.

  • I went to my physical therapy appointment today. For the better part of a month I’ve been rehabbing a nerve problem in my left shoulder and arm. I’ve now gone to nine appointments. I have nearly all my range of motion back but it still hurts when the arm and shoulder bear weight or move in certain ways. Thursday is my last appointment. I think it’s time to try acupuncture again. At least I got a big foam roller that makes my back feel great out of the deal.
  • Today is the first day of the 2018 Errandonnee contest. It was cold and rainy with the possibility of ice accumulation here in the DC area. I can’t risk falling while on blood thinners so I had to forgo riding to physical therapy and lunch which would have easily knocked off two of my twelve errands. We are getting a freak snow storm tomorrow so that knocks that day out as well. And Saturday is out because I am going to a march in DC with Mrs. RC. So I am down to nine days, at most, to complete my 12 errands. I rode Big Nellie in the basement just to keep sane.

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  • A few weeks ago I ordered a new rear wheel, hub, and chain for Little Nellie from the manufacturer, Bike Friday, in Oregon. I have been waiting weeks for this to get here. It took them a week to get around to building the wheel. Only then did they discover that they didn’t have the cassette I ordered in stock. So I had to wait for that to arrive at their shop. So it finally came today. Yay! When I opened the box and pulled out the wheel, I decided to mount a tube and tire to it and get the bike back on the road. Only then did I discover that Schrader tire valve wouldn’t fit through the hole in the wheel rim. This is a first for me in over 40 years of bike riding as an adult. They drilled the rim hole to accept narrower, presta valves which are not readily available on small (406) tubes. When I called them, they suggested I take it to a bike shop and have the hole drilled out. Really? Now I wish I had had the wheel made locally in the first place. Anyway, I told them to ship me three presta valved tubes instead. (They’ll work fine on my old front wheel which has a Schrader sized hole.)
  • My Cross Check and I are not getting along. When I got back from my bike tour on The Mule, the Cross Check didn’t feel right. I was sliding forward on my saddle. So I tilted the nose of the saddle up a couple of weeks ago. My mechanics instantly improved. Unfortunately, after a 51 mile ride, my back started to ache like mad. So I tilted it back and rode 23 miles. No back pain. Go figure. After that ride, I moved the saddle forward just a bit in the hopes of getting the better mechanics back. I’ll fiddle and diddle with it some more over the next couple of weeks. One annoying thing about this bike is that tilting the saddle is very hard to do, much harder on my Bike Friday or The Mule. I actually need a hammer to free up the metal cradle that the seat hardware sits in.
  • Some bike tourists from Arlington are riding north from Jacksonville this week. The plan is to ride all the way to DC. They are riding along the coast, generally following the East Coast Greenway. They report that riding US 17 is not a lot of fun, but they are making good progress. Unfortunately today is crummy weather in South Carolina.

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.

 

February Bikabout

I expected to wake up sore and tired after yesterday’s combo of long bike ride, weight lifting, and physical therapy. Nope. I felt fine. So after breakfast I dropped off the car at a mechanic and walked two miles back home. I still felt fine so I filled up my tank with calories galore and headed out on the Cross Check. I wore shorts and a t-shirt because it’s February. And the temperature was already in the mid-60s at 10 a.m.

Crazy.

I rode bike trails 23 miles to Bethesda where I checked out Modern Market, a shop for which I have three gift cards. The place looked pretty good but my tummy was still holding the calories from back home so I headed back home the way I came.

The ride from Bethesda to Georgetown is a gentle downhill. This pretty much negated the effect of the stiff headwind. Once back to the river I had to fight the wind for about 12 miles. I I would have complained but it was well over 70 degrees.

I tacked on a few miles in the neighborhoods near home for an even 50 miles. The 98.5 miles over the last two days is by far the most I’ve ridden since the end of my bike tour in Florida back in October. Take that blood clots!

Oh, and, speaking of my medical misadventures, I just received a call from my endocrinologist. The lab tests say that the adenoma on my adrenal gland is innocuous. That’s one medical specialist I don’t have to see again.

And the foam roller arrived so that I can do my physical therapy exercises properly at home. The therapy is for rehabbing my shoulder but lying on this foam roller makes my back feel amazing.

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The Potomac River at the Kennedy Center with Theodore Roosevelt Island on the right.
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A depressing sign on the Capital Crescent Trail near the Potomac River.
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In the center rear of this picture was once a building with a tunnel through which the Georgetown Branch Trail passed.
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Dyke Marsh on the Mount Vernon Trail.
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It’s Wednesday so I had to wear my WABA socks. These legs haven’t seen sunlight in months.

 

 

Winter Weather or Not

Nine years ago today, a 32-year-old bike commuting friend of mine posted these words on my Facebook page:

“I just could not feel my body in the cold. So I damaged it without noticing it!”

What a difference nine years makes! Today was almost summer-like in DC. I saw a roadside sign that indicated it was 78F degrees at 3:30.

Of course, I saw this sign while out on my bike.

I didn’t get started until just before midday. I had spent the morning eating diner food and going to the library with Mrs. Rootchopper.  With my belly and brain satisfied, I was off on my Cross Check for a jaunt up the Anacostia River.

I began my ride on the Mount Vernon Trail. I crossed the Potomac River on the Woodrow Wilson Bridge Trail. Once in Maryland, I made the long slog up to Oxon Hill Road. The climb goes right past a massive MGM casino. The ginormous electronic sign indicated that Cher was performing there this month. I don’t gamble and I don’t Cher so let’s just say the whole casino thing is lost on me. I think the complex looks like the Imperial Star Destroyer from Star Wars. I prefer Mos Eisley bars to casinos.

Having reached Oxon Hill Road I made my way to Oxon Hill Farm and proceeded to ride right back down the hill to the river. Somebody’s got some explaining to do.

The Oxon Cove Trail winds its way to a enclave of public buildings including a police training facility, a city bus maintenance yard, some Smithsonian greenhouses and a vocational training complex. After perusing all these fine public sector facilities, I rode right back up the hill to Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue.

MLK Jr. Ave is not exactly where it’s at. I think maybe it’s were it might have been at about 80 years ago. It’s actually kind of depressing. My ride north took me past the grounds of St. Elizabeth’s nervous hospital. The complex is being taken over by the Department of Homeland Security which probably says something snarky about DHS.

The ride through Congress Heights and Anacostia was interesting. Drivers in this part of DC use the freestyle method of motoring. Random u-turns, lane changes, horn honking are the rule. I waved a thank you to a driver for not cutting me off and he laid on his horn. De nada, dude.

Suffice it to say, my rather precarious medical condition made me apprehensive for this part of the ride. I was happy to see the Anacostia River Trail which runs rather appropriately along the Anacostia River. And so, like a Yogi Berra malapropism, I took it. North. The scenery was still the grays and browns of winter but the temperature told me it was late spring.

I rolled along the trail past the garbage consolidation facility (helps with the sinuses don’t you know), past the Aquatic Gardens (the flower show happens much later in the year), through assorted fields, both natural and athletic, and around a cement plant to Bladensburg. As I crossed over the Anacostia, I passed about five priests (or, more likely, seminarians as they all looked pretty young). We waved at each other. I said “Mea Culpa” three times for good measure. (I was a altar boy who had to learn the Latin Mass and the English Mass, a biographical fact that dates the crap out of me. )

I am kidding about the Mea Culpas, by the way.

Once across the river I consulted the Google for advice on how to ride home without retracing my steps. I rode up the river until the trail split into the Northeast and Northwest Branch Trails. I took the latter and spotted a cupcake shop, a landmark from the Cider Ride last November. I didn’t stop. (I know, what a fool.) But I did find a trail that would take me back toward DC.

After a few miles I bailed on the trail It would have taken me to Queens Chapel Road which I am familiar with. Basically, it’s a bicycle death trap. So I started riding neighborhood streets and following the sun. I found myself back in DC riding a straight street to the west. In these parts “straight” almost always translates into “hilly”. As I slogged up one long hill, I passed an old man doddering around his front yard. He looked at me and remarked, “Better you than me.”

I love it when I’m mocked.

Soon I was in familiar territory. Monroe Street leads to 8th Street which leads to the Metropolitan Branch Trail. How nice of someone to put a trail with very few cross streets right in the middle of a city. The trail took me back southward and after a wiggle and waggle I was on a cycletrack that took me right past the incomparably boring Bureau of Labor Statistics.

I rode past a scrum of photographers at a courthouse. They were waiting to take a picture of a Trump associate who was being charged with treason or money laundering or some such offense. (I can’t keep it all straight, to be honest.)

Soon thereafter I was riding along the National Mall pretending I was in the Olympic tourist dodge event. I was pretty proud that I didn’t hit a single one.

After the podium ceremony, I rode around the tidal basin and over the 14th Street Bridge to the Mount Vernon Trail. The 12-mile ride from the bridge to my house was interrupted by a stop at the gym, because nothing improves a 48 1/2 mile bike ride quite like lifting weights.

Fug.

I arrived home exhausted but still had some physical therapy exercises to do. I am doing these because my left shoulder is on the blink.

Despite trying really hard, I did not damage my body. I guess you need cold weather to do that.

 

 

Swinging Back the Joy

One of my favorite things about bicycling in DC is the weekly get together called Friday Coffee Club. Bike commuters would congregate Swings Coffee Roasters at 17th and G Streets NW, across from the Old Executive Office Building, to vent about their workweek, dream of weekend bike adventures, and ponder the magnificence of coffee and fritters. Many friendships were made. Remarkably, even by me.

Then tragedy struck. The building that housed our coffee house was renovated down to the studs. Swings closed. Panic! The coffee club relocated across town near K and 4th Streets NW at A Baked Joint. Despite its fine coffee and yummy breakfast sandwiches, A Baked Joint lacked the three most important things about coffee clubs: location, location, location. (Admit it, you thought I was going to say fritters, fritters, fritters, didn’t you?) Many of the original club participants, including me, stopped going.

This week Swings re-opened. Felkerino, one of the founding members, put out the call via social media. And the old gang re-assembled.  Ricky, true to form, arrived first. Mary and Brian, two of the other founding members, were there as were many unfounding folks. Kristen gets bonus points for making a special telework-day trip to the gathering to represent the K (Kristin, Katie, Kate, etc.) sisters. Bob (Don’t Call Me Rachel) Cannon bemoaned the absence of Rachel (Don’t Call Me Bob) Cannon. This brought to mind how truly amazing it is how much they look alike.

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This was the crowd when I showed up at about 7:50. It nearly doubled in size before work called people away.

Unfortunately, Swings does not yet have fritters for sale. (Oh, the humanity!) Andrea and I improvised by buying over-sized chocolate chip cookies. We touched our cookies together in a celebratory toast of sorts.

The place looks almost exactly as before the renovation. Why mess with a good thing, right? It was actually warm enough to sit outside but the outdoor furniture is not yet in place. So we gathered indoors and conversation flowed around the tall tables. There were so many people that I didn’t get a chance to talk to half of them. Even so, I learned about federal budget injustices and self-administering injections of blood thinner and notice-and-comment proceedings and bike swaps and optimal application of man-made snow, among other things.

After the gang dispersed to make their fortunes in the land of the paper pushers, I rode back to the retirement home. I stopped at the gym and lifted some weights. After that I swung by the local bike shop to have the chain on my Cross Check evaluated for wear. It’s only my second chain on this bike. I thought it would be a good idea to check it since the odometer crossed 8,000 miles on the way home.

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It was a fitting coda to a joyful morning.

 

 

 

I Should Have Practiced More

Retirement is hard. I’m having trouble getting into the flow. Take today, for example. I completely forgot that it’s Friday. On Friday’s I get up really early and ride to Friday Coffee Club. I slept until 7:45. Then I made a pot of coffee, sat down to a bowl of cereal, and read the paper. Mrs. Rootchopper walked into the kitchen and said, “No Friday Coffee Club?”

Fail.

In my defense, it is that time of year when the low humidity and cool temperatures make for perfect sleeping. In the aftermath of the bike tour and with my rib still healing, my body just wants rest. So I am feeding the beast.

Each day, though, I have a plan to do one or two specific things. On Tuesday it was volunteer at WABA in the evening. Don’t tell Greg but we didn’t get a damned thing done once Kristin cracked open the tequila. Anyway, since the WABA office is 16 miles from home, volunteering also means a pretty decent bike ride. (On the way home I encountered several people headed to the High Heel Race in Dupont Circle. I didn’t want to say anything but I think some of these women were, um, not. Women, that is. A couple could play wide out for pro football teams. And they could go a little lighter on the make up and sequins. Just saying.)

Today, after waiting for the temperature to rise, I rode the Cross Check to the Lincoln Memorial. Just because. And it was super nice out. And the trees are turning. Like this one across the river from the Memorial.

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On the way home I pulled over to record another odometer milestone.

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Not bad.

I’ll put the Cross Check away for a few weeks and give my other bikes some attention.

Once I got home, I mowed the lawn. Mowing the lawn feels like you are accomplishing something even when you really aren’t.

Then I went inside and did something I’ve been meaning to do since I got home. During my bike tour to Key West, hurricane Maria made landfall on the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. Two of my BikeDC friends (who, incidentally, don’t know each other) are from Puerto Rico. They each spent many anxious days not knowing the fate of their families. (From what I can tell, all are accounted for and out of immediate danger.) A week or so later, I started riding in southern Florida. Even a month after hurricane Irma made landfall in the Keys, the devastation was obvious. I simply cannot imagine what the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico are like. So today I made a donation to the American Red Cross. You can too. Here’s the site.

http://www.redcross.org/about-us/our-work/disaster-relief/hurricane-relief/hurricane-maria-relief-information#Domestic-Response

 

 

Goodbye in the Sky

It would hard to come up with a nicer day to ride a bike than today. So off I went aboard the Cross Check for Chevy Chase. Not the comedian but the neighborhood on the top side of DC.

Just before leaving I put a message on social media about my plans and Ricky responded. He said he’d meet me at the trestle.

Riding the Mount Vernon Trail on a nice weekend day is an exercise in patience. When I wasn’t dawdling behind some tourists I was going uncharacteristically fast, thanks to a day completely off the bike. My lower back/hip issue was still in evidence but it clearly wasn’t slowing me down.

I stopped just north of Old Town Alexandria when I saw a big snowy egret right next to the trail. I hope you like the picture because I nearly was run over by a half dozen cyclists while I took it.

Snowy Egret

I rode along the river on the Virginia side until the 14th Street bridge then switched to the DC side. I slalomed through the crowds all the way to Water Street in Georgetown. Water runs upstream to the Capital Crescent Trail and so I flowed. I wore my bell out passing trail users of all types of humanity.

The Capital Crescent connects to the Georgetown Branch Trail in downtown Bethesda. The GBT is scheduled to be shut down on Tuesday for 4 – 5 years as a light rail line is constructed along the right of way.

I rolled onto the trestle and Ricky was there talking with some other cyclists. I posed for pictures among the tree tops and high above the creek.

Then we rode off to Ryan’s house to take care of his cat. And drink some of his beer.

Ryan has a pretty terrific man cave. Basically it’s a bike mechanic shop. I want one.

After the beer, we rolled back to the GBT and went our separate ways. I headed down into Rock Creek Park and headed for home.  Road work has a section of Beach Drive, the main drag through the park, closed. Ryan told me to take a right at the detour and a left onto Ross Dr. I missed the turn onto Ross and ended up climbing a big hill on Military Road. I knew I had screwed up but there was no easy way to fix what I done broke so I kept spinning. It was a long way up but the road back down was a breeze, literally and figuratively.

The rest of the ride was the usual cruise along the river. With puffy white clouds above. And a steady breeze from the south.

As I rode south of the airport I noticed some trees beginning to change to red and yellow.

I may not have the trestle to ride to but fall days offer plenty of terrific riding in the weeks ahead.