50 States in a Dayluge

There’s something about riding cross country that changes your perspective on adversity on a bike. Your brain starts talking to you with pearls of wisdom like “You may be hurting but remember how hard Rogers Pass in Montana was?” and “It’s not as wet as Iowa” and “You’ll feel better when you get to North Dakota.”

Your brain can be an idiot, if you know what I mean.

For the uninitiated, the 50 States Ride is a 60-ish mile ride through nearly all the neighborhoods of DC. The route takes riders on all the avenues named for the 50 U. S. states. The ride is the big event for the Washington Area Bicyclists Association. The route is hilly as hell and somehow almost always occurs during bad weather. (WABA has a weather machine.)

The cue sheet for the ride is over 10 pages long and now comes in book format. I am not making this up.

The 50 States ride happens on open-ish streets. There is regular Saturday DC traffic to deal with. This year we also had to ride around several neighborhood block parties and a big fun run.

I met up with a frightful posse of #bikedc friends. Returning to the fold from last year were Michael, Rachel, and Kevin. New to the fold were Jesse (in the Maryland flag jersey and Jeanne to the bottom right).

50 States from Rachel

As you can see Rachel was an official Ride Marshal. This required her to hand out fritters to disabled cyclists. Would I lie about such a thing?

Jeanne was doing the ride for the first time and trusted me, a nine-time participant, to guide her. Poor Jeanne.

Amid temperatures in the mid 70s and high humidity, we took off> In keeping with tradition, I missed the first turn about 100 feet into the course. Hey, they changed the course again. What was I supposed to do?

We corrected my gaffe and were soon rolling through the streets of Northwest DC. We appeared to be having a good time despite a remarkable number of street closures. It turns out that we were riding during DC’s Annual Construction Crane festival. Who knew?

The entrance to the White House plaza on Pennsylvania Avenue was closed to keep out anonymous trolls but I rode around the closure. I was waved back by White House security police. Okay, we’ll ride on Pennsylvania Avenue some other time. (We did. Three times, in fact.)

We hit the first rest stop at City Center (which was once my favorite dirt parking lot in the city). There we met Friday Coffee Club charter member Brian and his lovely wife Nicole. Nicole was staffing the health food table where I managed to score some cheese puffs. Well, played Nicole!

Experience does actually count for something in this ride. We made it through the confusing maze of streets from downtown around the Capitol and over to Southwest DC. The course then took us to Ohio Drive but not down to Hains Point as in recent years, thus shaving 3 miles from the route. Next up was a roll past the new DC Wharf development and down a long stretch of M Street where the Nats were preparing for a double header with hours of rain delays. (Ain’t baseball great?)

We rode over the Anacostia River to Anacostia Park in Anacostia. (We looked for hobgoblins with little minds but saw none.) We did all enjoy the new path connecting the bridge directly to the park. It’s short and sweet.

On the flat road to the rest stop in the park I started to feel faint. I had no strength in my legs and the group faded into the distance. Uh oh. I guess those chills that woke me at 4 a.m. weren’t caused by a glitch in the house thermostat.

Fortunately the rest stop had plenty of food like bananas, Doritos, pretzels, potato chips, and, thank god in heaven, cheese balls. The assault on my gut biome must have smothered whatever was going wrong with my body and I was ready to roll once more.

We took off into the hills of Anacostia. I must say that our group did a truly laudable job of the climbs. Last year these climbs were extremely difficult for me. It may have been the result of pulmonary embolisms that ultimately put me in the hospital in December. This year I did okay. I weigh less, my bike has lower gears, and I am much stronger owing to my bike tour.

After bombing down the long Massachusetts Avenue hill, we rode through a series of traffic circles where I got out ahead of the group and lost contact. I think Rachel had to hand out some fritters. Anyway, I continued on with a couple of other riders through Capitol Hill east to Eastern Market for lunch.

The lunch was $10, pre-payed, and was rather disappointing. Just a small bowl of veggies. I almost went up to the food tent and said in a child like English accent, “May I have some more please?” To make matters worse, there were no cheese balls. WTF!

While waiting for the posse to arrive, I ran into Jeff and Tara. Jeff met in the fall of 2007 and have done many rides together, including at least two 50 States. Jeff and Tara were doing the new Route 66 version of the ride which is a bit shorter and goes into a few neighborhoods missed by the main route.

My crew showed up and began to refuel. Rachel ran to a coffee shop for life sustaining caffeine. She returned looking like a vampire after a good neck draining. Then we were back on the road headed east to pick off Oklahoma. There were no winds sweeping down the plains so we doubled back through Trinidad and past Gallaudet University on West Virginia Avenue. Our groups’ returning members and I were pleased to see that this year’s course did not ride up Mt. Olivet Street, a tough hill. Sadly, we rode up Montana Avenue instead, which is just as nasty.

On South Dakota Avenue we rode behind a car with South Dakota license plates. What are the odds? South Dakota Avenue brings out the mania in DC drivers. So what better time for the rain to start falling.

As we made our way past the Catholic complex in Northeast DC, we lost contact with Rachel and Jeanne. I think Rachel helped someone with a flat tire.

Michael, Jesse, Kevin and I rode to Rachel M.’s house in Petworth where she had set up an unofficial pit stop. We hung out there waiting for our Rachel and Jeanne. After 20 minutes we took off and made it about 200 yards before Michael got a flat. He changed it in about five minutes in the rain. At the very end as he was putting his Camelback on, his bite valve bounced off and we all watched as it took one…two….three…four bounces on the pavement then down a storm drain.

It’s not like Michael was going to notice waterdripping down his shirt, because it was now raining pretty hard. And I was once again feeling faint. I blame a cheese ball deficiency.

I was soaking wet and cold, because, as we later learned, temperatures had fallen into the low 60s. I sent a message to Rachel and learned that she and Jeanne has skipped Rachel M.’s pit stop and were 30 minutes ahead of us! (Actually somewhere along the way Jeanne abandoned the last few miles for the warmth and comfort of the after party. I can’t blame her. I think she rode about 10 miles more than she expected to.)

I was also pretty much riding blind. My glasses were covered with rain drops and smears from me trying to clear the water off.

At the Tacoma rest stop we refueled and I put on my rain jacket. l started feeling better. Being soggy, I neglected to go inside the house to thank my friends Mike and Lisa for hosting this pit stop. They are awesome to do this every year.

Our route was now near the northern most neighborhoods in DC and we started heading across town to Chevy Chase. We had to cross Rock Creek Park to get there. The cue sheet was rather confusing, a situation made worse by the fact that a critical street sign was obscured by a large shrub hanging over with the weight of the rain.

Flying down busy 16th Street we blasted past our turn. By this point we were joined by Shira who was piloting a tandem with a blind stoker. (I have forgotten her name. My bad.) We back tracked on the sidewalk and did our best to follow the route. We ended up right where we were supposed to be somehow after climbing a long hill on Military Road in the rain. Oregon Avenue was closed so we followed the detour, getting credit for the state in the process.

We were getting a bit testy as we rode through Chevy Chase looking for Linnean St. We found it and rode uphill past Fort Reno to Wisconsin Avenue. With pizza and beer on our minds, we skipped the last pit stop at a coffee shop and rode through Tenley Circle and past American University.

A steady rain was falling as we made our way along Nebraska Avenue. I heard a CRUNCH and looked to my left to see a car and an SUV colliding at low speed.

Down we rode all the way to MacArthur Boulevard. It must have been about a mile and we enjoyed the fun while it lasted. Soon we’d pay the price by riding back up to Cathedral Heights on Garfield Street. This is where my body completely failed me last year. This year, riding The Mule with its low gears, I made it up the hill without distress.

We made short work of the remainder of the ride. The rain kept coming and we kept riding. On busy Connecticut Avenue I darted ahead riding with the cars for a few blocks.

The ride to the finish at Mellow Mushroom in Adams Morgan was a relief. This had been a tough ride. It always is. And I always forget. But riding with a crew of truly nice people made it much easier. We assembled for pizza and beer and t-shirts, basking in the glory of our soggy feet, er,…I mean feat.

Thank you Marshal Rachel, Kevin, Michael, Jesse, and Jeanne. You made my tenth, and final (I’ve said this before), 50 States Ride a day worth remembering.

Special thanks to all the WABA staff, pit stop hosts, and volunteers.  See you at the Cider Ride in November.

 

500 States in 10 Days

Mrs. Rootchopper says that a good definition of amnesia is going through a second pregnancy. I have a definition of dementia. On September 8, I will ride the 50 States Ride in DC for the tenth time.

That’s right, 500 States!

Last year I rode with a fabulous group of friends who made me feel old and feeble. Of course, riding with pulmonary embolisms might have had something to do with that.

This year I hope to be healthier. And I want some good company again. Today I already registered myself and my friend Emilia, who will be joining me for the third time since 2014. (Emilia es muy loca.) So join us.

If you are a WABA member you’ve already received an email with registration details. If you’re not a WABA member, you can ride as a guest of a registered member. Or become a member and register.

In any case, I need someone to keep Emilia and me from riding off course – AGAIN!

And you won’t even have to tow me over Cathedral Heights because Emilia said she’d do that,

Also, I agree not to skip the 18 states that I’ve actually ridden in since last year’s ride. (I mean, I’ve really had my fill of Montana!)

So sign up. Then send me a message to let me know you’re joining the 500-States Posse!

Electric Socks and Blueberry Soup

Today was the last Vasa ride ever. Vasa is the first bike event on my #bikedc ride calendar each year. It was begun as a collaboration between the Washington Area Bicyclists Association and the Swedish Embassy. This year the Swedes decided to discontinue their participation so WABA teamed with REI to do one last ride.

The Vasa Ride is inspired by the Vasaloppet 90 kilometer cross country ski event in Sweden. The event is testimony to the fact that, by the end of winter, Swedes go mad.

The full Vasa ride is 100 km, about 62 miles. For mere mortals there are shorter distances. As usual, I did the Halvasan (the Half Vasa).

The Vasa ride is not to be confused with the Vasa ship, named after a Swedish king. The Vasa ship was an ancient wooden warship that sunk on its first trip out of Stockholm. It was the king’s dream ship. Alas, it was dangerously top heavy as it was designed with two levels of cannons high above the waterline. During the short maiden trip, crosswinds tipped it over and it sank. Derp.

The Vasa warship was recovered and reconstructed in 1961. It is on display in a museum in Stockholm. This was one big, ornate boat. If you ever go to Stockholm it’s worth the trip.

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Because the rides today began at the REI store in northeast DC instead of the Swedish embassy, the routes were redesigned. I have done the old half Vasa route probably 15 times so I needed a change.

Like the old route, the new Half Vasa route headed out toward Great Falls. Instead of continuing past the Washington Beltway to Potomac, Maryland, it turned north to Bethesda. After a pit stop in downtown Bethesda, the route continued through Chevy Chase to get to Beach Drive in Rock Creek Park. The ride through the park lead back to the city and included a detour. The detour required a climb away from Beach Drive at the bottom of the park. The windy (in both senses of the word) descent back to Beach Drive was the highlight of the ride. The route left the park and climbed through Mt. Pleasant and Columbia Heights. (Note the references to high ground.) It continued due east, around a  massive medical complex, past the Basilica, and ultimately back to REI by way of the mercifully flat Metropolitan Branch Trail.

I rode 16 miles into a sometimes rainy, cold headwind to get to the start. I decided to try the electric socks that Mrs. Rootchopper gave me for Christmas. They might have worked okay but I had turned on the power to only my right leg. Derp again. (Later I corrected this. They kept my calves warm but my toes would have been better off with chemical warmers and decent wool socks.)

I rode with Michael B., Friday Coffee Club’s scuba expert. Michael and I have done a couple of Fifty States Rides together. He’s a very powerful rider which is to say, I have a hard time keeping up with him. Peter and Todd (I’m guessing at this name) rounded out our quartet. Unfortunately, plans to include my 50 States Ride partner Emilia in the festivities fell through. Te extranamos, amiga. Hasta pronto.

As the ride progressed the temperature dropped. We had some conversational sleet followed by some conversational snow. The former was a little painful. The latter was just plain pretty.

At the rest stop at the halfway point we ran into Joe. I don’t know when I met him but he always has to remind me of his name. Maybe cold bike rides cause brain malfunctions. I’ll ask Klarence the next time she psychoanalyzes me.

Joe and his friend more or less joined our quartet. We stayed together until Beach Drive where the light car traffic induced Peter and Todd to zoom off the front. Michael patiently waited for me as I slogged up the hills.

Medical Note: Although I slogged up the hills, my lungs were functioning just fine, unlike last summer. It just happens that I truly suck at hill climbing.

As mentioned above, a detour resulted in a climb leading to a twisting, bumpy down hill that woke my ass right up. Actually, I carried way too much speed into the first couple of turns and had to bear down so as not to catch a crack in the pavement or go careening off into the trees. Michael seemed born to descend.

Once we left the park, the ride became more urban. Michael nearly mated with a city bus in Columbia Heights. (The distance between the bus and Michael could have been measured in inches.)

The ride back on the Met Branch Trail felt like we were sailing. All the hard work had been done. On to the soup!

The blueberry soup was plenty hot and hit the spot.

This ride was the fact that it was like old home week. During the day I ran into Steve, Erin, Kevin W., Dan, Jeff and Sam, Judd and Josephine, Cyrus, Kristin, two Elizabeths, and one Grace. (And I’m probably leaving someone out.)

At REI I ran into Lisa with whom I’ve done countless rides. Lisa is the official Taiko drummer and flutist of Friday Coffee Club.

Before leaving the store, I ended up talking camping and running and cycling with Grace for probably 30 minutes. The long talk allowed me to stiffen up for my re-emergence into the cold outside,

I rode home 17 miles, taking an indirect course to avoid the tourist throngs at the Tidal Basin and the cherry blossom festival. Once in Virginia, a tailwind took over. I fell into a trance, and allowed my mind to think of nothing but food. Near Gravelly Point Park I passed two women walking. One said “Hi John” as I went by. I have no idea who it was. I could have hallucinated this.

Once in the door at home, I ate all the things. 63 cold miles in the books.

Thanks to WABA, REI, and all the volunteers that made this a resounding success.

Adjo, Vasa.

 

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.

 

 

Donate to the WABA PE Wing

Every year the Washington Area Bicyclist Association hosts event rides that are based on a gimmick. The March Vasa Ride, held in cooperation with the Swedish embassy,  commemorates Sweden’s Vasaloppet cross country ski event. The Cider Ride in November involves riding over 50 miles at the end of apple picking season. And, of course, the 50 States Ride presents participants with an 11-page cue sheet to more or less guide them all over the city to ride the avenues named for the 50 states.

So it occurred to me that WABA’s year end fund raising could use a little push from a gimmick. Here’s my idea.

I have ridden 9,911.5 miles this year. I thought the remaining 88.5 miles was a fait accompli, a tap in, a slam dunk. Unfortunately I was betrayed by pulmonary embolisms, pneumonia, and a partially collapsed lung. (It’s the trifecta I’ve always wanted, Santa!)

So I thought maybe I’d ask my friends to all go out and ride 88.5 miles on December 31. This would be fun (albeit flippin’ cold) for them but wouldn’t accomplish much.

Instead, I decided to invite my #bikedc friends (and any others who are feeling generous) to donate $88.50 to WABA. You money will be used to fund the new pulmonary embolism wing of the state-of-the art WABA Wellness Center.

Just kidding.

Your money will help fund the many programs, events, and advocacy efforts that WABA conducts on your behalf.

And it will put a smile on my face.

So clink on this link to donate.

And if you can’t spare $88.50, you could always spring for some fashion fabulous WABA socks.

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All the cool kids are wearing them. All you have to do is go to the WABA store.

Cheers.

 

 

Hains Point 100

Six or seven years ago, Megan Jones had an idea, a wonderfully goofy idea. She’d ride the 3.3 mile circuit in East Potomac Park 30 times in a day to raise awareness and money for the Washington Area Bicyclists Women and Bicycles program. She called her 100-mile event the Hains Point 100, because the circuit goes down to Hains point and because… do the math.

As someone who’s ridden WABA’s 50-State Ride nine times, I can attest to the magnetic draw of silly bike event gimmicks. Who the heck would want to ride around in circles for hours just to say they rode 100 miles? Who’d do it in the middle of December?

It turns out that LOTS of people would. Over 600 people signed up for today’s spin around the point. And from what I can tell, most of them showed up.

We had a blast. I rode with different people on each of my 13 loops. If you do the math, you’ll see that I didn’t ride 100 miles. Most people don’t. You don’t have to. You can ride 100 miles combined with your friends. Or 100 kilometers. Or 100 minutes. I rode 100 McEntees. According to the Hungarian Bureau of Standards, a McEntee is that unit that converts your miles to 100. This year each 0.44 miles I rode was 1 McEntee. If I had ridden further, it wouldn’t be Prudence.

The weather was about as good as one could hope for. Temperatures rose from freezing when I started at 9 a.m. into the high 40s when I quit at 1:30. Winds were calm. There was no precipitation.

For those of you who are quick on your little math feet, you’ll have figured out that it took 4 1/2 hours for me to ride 44 miles. And your probably saying to yourself, what a pathetically slow rider. Which is normally correct. But today I spent well over an hour in the pit area talking to friends. Adding in chatter time on the bike, I should get additional credit for talking 100 blue streaks.

Another aspect that I enjoyed was the fact that for the first time since my bike tour I felt strong on my bike. In the early going I was comfortably riding at 17 – 18 miles per hour which is unheard of for me. I even joined a massive group of about 20 riders for a while. We were clipping along at about 20 miles per hour. Whee! Pretty good for an old dude on a heavy bike.

On one of my laps I (sort of) rode alongside Kevin W. who had borrowed a Jump electric- assist dockless bike. These bikes are big and heavy but the motor more than makes up for that. Kevin would kick in the motor and instantly and smoothly accelerate away from me. Kevin was having a pretty good time showing me up. Again. (He took me to the cleaners at the 50 States Ride and two off-road rides earlier in the year.) My take on this little adventure is that these bikes are going places. I’d use one all the time if I were living in the city.

Another highlight was to see my friend Mike with his son who has developmental issues on a tandem. The two of them ride just about every weekend. Mike had expected to do one lap and then go home owing to his son’s low tolerance for long cold rides but the two of them were there for at least two hours. They are what love looks like.

Then there is the exuberance of youth. Rachel is about half my age.  She rode six and a half miles to today’s event with no gloves on. Suffice it to say, this was a reeeeeallly bad idea. (I spent the first 28 years of my life in the frozen north. Been there. Done that.) After riding some laps with me, she disappeared. I saw her a while later in the pit area. She had tears on her face and she was bending over, nauseated. Her fingers were nearly purple. Ugh. I gave her my mittens. She protested! She’d actually rather get frostbite than cause someone temporary discomfort. Raaychulll!!! She did reluctantlyeventually take the mittens. This is a good thing because I was about to smack her upside the head. Then Kevin came up with some spare gloves. Then we found a heater. It took a while and some chemical hand warmers but she got her hands thawed out. (Head hits table.)

There were so many other people there: Ryan and Ursulla and Leslie and Colin and Inez and Greg and Carrie (and their new baby) and Katie B. and Nelle and Jeff and Sam and Rachel II and Viola and Ed (thanks for the cupcake) and Kitty and Mary and Ted and Katie Bee and Chris N. and Laura and Adam and Michael and Mark and Jeanne and Finn and at least a half dozen others whose names and faces are lost in the voids of my brain.

I found out later the McEntees were there. Taking their measure of things.

Long story short: I had a blast.

I didn’t take any pictures but there were cameras everywhere. In a day or two there will be literally hundreds of still photos and videos posted to the interwebs.

Be Careful Out There

Last week a cyclists from out of town took a bike ride through Old Town Alexandria. He was headed for the southern part of the Mount Vernon Trail. His ride ended in an ambulance. He is in a local hospital in critical condition.

When the Woodrow Wilson bridge was being replaced, I bitched up a storm about the detours and the design of the trails that went beneath it. Both reflected a complete lack of understanding of bicycling. I focused on bollards that were painted black. And I described treacherous detours that changed by the week. One week there was gravel. Then next asphalt that gave way under the weight of a bike. There were sharp 90 degree turns in the dark. And on and on.

The Washington Area Bicyclists Association and folks from the Alexandria Bike Pedestrian Advisory Committee gathered officials from a number of agencies who were responsible for various aspects of the project. These included Alexandria city, the National Park Service, VDOT, and DHS. They walked these officials through the project and pointed out safety concerns and discussed design changes. Many changes were made including painting the bollards bright yellow and putting reflective material on them.

The bollards are part of an extensive security perimeter that is designed to keep vehicle bombs from blowing up the bridge. The bridge carries I-95 and the Beltway across the Potomac River so this perimeter is obviously justified. (The old bridge had no such protection. ) Other features of the perimeter include huge boulders, stout fences, significantly, a movable gate across the southern end of South Royal Street.

The gate is a metal bar that spans the width of the street. When a driver wants access, he enters a code into a keypad at the gate. The metal bar then descends into a metal slot in the pavement. Both the top and bottom of the gate and the area along the slot are painted yellow. When the vehicle has crossed the gap, the metal bar rises to block further access.

That’s how it’s supposed to work. After they installed the gate, it was often out of commission. Crews worked on it on and off. Every so often I’d see the gate was open and I’d ride through it. The alternative is a 20-yard-long side path that has three bollards across it. Why got through a narrow path when you don’t have to?

The cyclist from out of town rode toward the bridge. He saw an open gate. He rode through it. Either the bar was sitting above the slot or it was rising as he reached it, perhaps visually obscured by the yellow paint of the bar and the slot. And potentially shaded by the bridge or two large trees to either side of the street.

He hit the bar and went flying. He broke two vertebrae in his neck. As of this morning, a week later, he was still in critical condition at a local hospital. His wife was following him. She also hit the bar and fell but her injuries were not as severe.

Note that there are no warnings to cyclists that the open gate is a road hazard. No paint on the road surface or signs direct cyclists to the side path. Long story short, you might want to use the side path.

I hope the cyclist recovers.

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The security gate as seen from a south bound cyclist on South Royal Street.

 

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The security gate looking north.

Fifty States with a Six Pack

For the last couple of days, I had nothing in my legs. I’d pedal and it felt like my legs were just lifeless. This is what happens when I ride 6 days in a row for 210 miles. So did I take the day off before the hilly, 62-mile 50-States Ride? Surely you jest.

For the uninitiated, the 50 States Ride is the main event for the Washington Area Bicyclists Association. It is held annually for at least the last 12 years (I did it in 2006 and it had been held before that). The route traverses the entire city as bicyclists ride on the streets named for the 50 States. After about 20 miles of warm up, the ride also appears to seek out every hill in town.

The day broke with clouds and a beautiful sunrise over the Lincoln Memorial as I drove to the start. I arrived at around 7 a.m. just in time to see Brian (@sharrowsdc a.k.a Gear Prudence) heading out alone. I begged him to stay and ride with me to no avail. Celebrities don’t ride with the little people.

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I took my disappointment to the start where I somehow managed to put together a fantastic team of riders:

  • Rachel (Don’t call me “Bob”‘): Rachel and I met several years ago at Friday Coffee Club. When she worked in a DC bike shop, she sold me my bike du jour, a Surly Cross Check. I have sung her praises before in this blog more than once. Despite our cycling connection, we had never ridden together.
  • Miss Emilia: Emilia was one of the five rookies that I rode with on the 2014 50-States Ride.  With her constant smile, deep voice, and Venezuelan accent, she lifted my spirits during the heat and rain and hills three years ago. As I noted recently, she is a much stronger rider now, pedaling slowly but powerfully.
  • Scuba Michael: Michael, another Friday Coffee Clubber, was one of the co-leaders of our 2015. Nothing bothers Michael, probably because he literally swims with sharks. Seriously. He’s a powerful rider who takes mercy on old dogs like me.
  • One-bag Kevin: Kevin moved to DC last fall. We met at Friday Coffee Club a few weeks ago. He rode the ride with one Ortlieb roll top pannier filled with an assortment of foods including a jar filled with mystery glop.
  • VIP Steve: Without Brian’s celebrity we needed to upgrade our group’s status. Steve payed the big bucks for VIP status. He wore the VIP 50 States cycling cap, which cost about $1 per state. Steve is a man with sartorial priorities and strong cycling legs.
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Lesly, a course marshal and the voice of #bikedc, with Rachel and Emilia at the start

We rolled away around 7: 50, closely following Kitty’s Club. Kitty (real name Grace) was marshaling the ride and had a bunch of friends in tow. Big groups move a bit more slowly than our six pack.  The temperature was in the high 50Fs with a gentle breeze. Ahhh.

The downtown section of the ride was changed this year but we were not fooled one bit. Wyoming, California, New Hampshire, Vermont, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, and New York were conquered without a fight. Once I we hit New Jersey, the next few states fell like dominos with little more than a glance on the 12-page cue sheet. Louisiana, Delaware, Maryland, and Washington. A police road block put Virginia in jeopardy but we picked up the 600 block without a bit of trouble.

Once clear of downtown we cruised down to Hains Point on Ohio Drive. The breeze off the river was refreshing. We negotiated the construction zone at the Wharf project on Maine Avenue. A long stretch down M Street led us eventually to an alley that plopped us on the sidewalk across the Sousa Bridge on Pennsylvania Avenue across the Anacostia River. The sidewalk leads to a shaded side path down to Anacostia Drive along the river. The shade obscured some truly nasty tree roots. Nobody crashed and good dental work kept our fillings intact.

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Emilia, Todo Sonrisas, in East Potomac Park before the Hills

My dead legs were already in evidence on the flat terrain. Now, after a rest stop break, we headed into the dreaded hills of Anacostia. These are overrated. There are many more and harder hills yet to come. Bwa ha ha. My dead legs didn’t much care. Dead is dead.

Before starting the climb, I took a wrong turn. Oops. We quickly corrected the mistake and headed up. A fortuitous red light on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard broke up the first long climb. No problem. We descended to Mississippi and enjoyed the flat cruise alongside parkland. All good things must come to a hill. Up Stanton Road we rode. Bye y’all. The five left me in their wake and I huffed and puffed all the way to Alabama. I rejoined the group at a red light and we proceeded to climb further to the eastern top of the city. This climb (and the many others to follow) were MUCH easier in the pleasant temperatures and low humidity of this early September day.

We rode down Pennsylvania to Texas, an ironically small side street. After doing a quick circuit through a residential neighborhood we made our way along peaceful, downhill Fort Davis Drive to Massachusetts. The descent back toward the Anacostia River is one of the highlights of the ride. The sensible members of our group rode cautiously. It was fun passing them. Yee haw!

The downhill ends at a dead stop at a traffic circle. Around the circle and along Minnesota Avenue which led to another traffic circle. And lots of traffic.

Soon we were back on Anacostia Drive along the river. The riders in front of us were making a wrong turn en masse onto the south side of Pennsylvania Avenue. Having made this mistake a couple of times, I yelled “No turn. Go Straight.” The clipped in riders started wobbling and falling. Temporary chaos. No fatalities. On to the turn to the north side of Pennsylvania which took us back across the river to Kentucky and South Carolina on the east side of Capitol Hill.  We missed the turn to the lunch stop (the turn wasn’t indicated on the cue sheet) but recovered after a little tour of tree lined streets and lovely townhouses.

After a burrito and some other munching and libations, we headed off on North Carolina into Hill East. Tennessee led to Oklahoma. Sooner (sorry) we were headed back across NoMa to pick up Florida and West Virginia in the Trinidad neighborhood past Gallaudet University. At Mount Olivet Street, Michael peeled off for home. We were grateful that he gave us 36 good miles and we were left to fend for ourselves as a quintet.

Mt. Olivet goes UP. I was dropped again. I caught and passed the group on the 9th Street Bridge over the railroad yard into Brentwood. I led the group up another hill and over to Montana Avenue. We rolled downhill to South Dakota, with its heavy traffic. I hate this road. It just feels unsafe. We escaped intact when we turned left onto Taylor Street. This led us to Michigan which is nearly as awful as South Dakota.

We crossed back over the railroad tracks. This time I took the sidewalk and the rest of the group took the road. Dropped again. Dead legs.

After a brief reprieve near Catholic University, we climbed up Hawaii Avenue to more ups near the Soldiers Home Cemetery. We rode downhill to Upshur. This is a slight change from prior years so we missed the ensuing turn onto Illinois Avenue. No worries, we back tracked into Grant Circle and picked up the route on Illinois headed northwest. To Kansas back toward the southwest. The turn on Iowa sent us northward to Arkansas and a northwest heading. A turn on Georgia took us north so that we could turn left and left again to Colorado headed northwest to Missouri to the southeast. And you wonder why people get lost!

After some side streets we headed back to the northwest on North Dakota. We nearly missed a turn at 3rd Avenue (my bad) but recovered again. Soon we were in the Tacoma Park neighborhood and arrived at the fourth pit stop at the home of Crazy Rando Mike and Lisa. (Lisa’s not crazy, just Mike.)

After a chat with our cheerful hosts, we headed north to Alaska. Works for me. Alaska heads down to 16th Street then onto Sherill Drive into Rock Creek Park. If there were fewer cyclists and an open gate into the park this would an awesome descent. Even so, it was a blast. It led to the closed Bingham Road. We rode on a hilly, windy sidepath to another hilly, windy side path along Oregon Avenue. The terrain kept us from reading our cue sheet and we rode past our turn off the path. When we realized the mistake we walked through some weeds to Oregon and backtracked. Then it was up Beech on my legs which were starting to show signs of rigor mortis. Needless to say I got dropped again.

Utah, Nevada, and Nebraska were conquered without a fuss.

I rejoined the group and Emilia told me that she was having trouble getting her lowest gears to work. She was kicking my ass on the hills and spotting me three gears. She really is La Terminadora!

Up we rode on Fessenden Street. Actually up they rode as I was dropped again. Hello morgue, you have my legs.

After a brief rest stop we climbed Wisconsin to Tenleytown where we picked up Nebraska past American University, Rachel’s alma mater. Nebraska becomes Loughboro and descends. Arizona is a left hand turn at a stop sign. I confess I blew through the sign. In front of a DC patrol car. Oops. The police officer must have sensed my legger mortis and did not pursue me for arrest and incarceration. The other four in our group actually stopped. I feel so ashamed.

So, once they caught up to me (I waited), I missed the turn to go back up the hill on Ashby. I believe my legs had affected my brain. After a reprieve on 49th Street, we faced the climb up Garfield, the dreaded worstest hill on the entire ride. Some sicko added this beast to the course in 2014. Emilia, not knowing it was coming, was not amused. A detour put us instead on Dexter.  My faint hope of topographical forbearance from Mr. Dexter was dashed as soon as I turned and looked UP. DANG!

Up went Steve. Up went Kevin. Up went Rachel. Up – without her lowest gears no less – went Emilia. I wanted to cry. Not. Gonna. Walk. Dammit. And I didn’t.

Over the top to a series of rolling hills. New Mexico was conquered without a shot. Once we reached Idaho the cue sheet went away. We rode crested Cathedral Heights and cruised down to busy Connecticut Avenue. With Connecticut traffic stopped at a red light, we took the left lane and made it to the left hand turn onto Calvert Street. And the triumphant final half mile to the after party at Mellow Mushroom in Adams Morgan.

When we walked into the bar, I raised my hands and yelled “NINE!!!!” Then Emilia posed for a re-creation of her 2014 t-shirt photo,

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Missing gears. No problem! Way to go Emilia. Let’s do it again.

Next, Rachel took a shot of the two of is together. Note how I have helmet hair and she doesn’t. Dos Sonrisas.

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I can’t imagine doing this ride without my lowest gears. Emilia didn’t complain. She just found a way and buried me on every hill. Awesome.

After a big and well deserved un fuerte abrazo, Emilia hit the road and the remaining gang of four headed to the roof for pizza and drinks. Thanks for the pie, Rachel. How good to finally ride with you.

Once the party broke up, I drove up town to Petworth to see Alex Baca, my favorite bike ride stalker. We met because she spotted a SharrowsDC pin on my saddle bag on a bike ride in Baltimore several years ago. Brian sold the pins to raise money for WABA. She just celebrated a birthday and is still recovering from a nasty crash that resulted in a broken jaw. I am happy to report she looks great and seems in good spirits. And, to bring the day full circle, Brian and his wife Nikki (married all of three weeks) walked in. Brian, a solo rookie, finished the ride too.

Many, many thanks to:

  • the volunteers and staff of WABA, many of whom got up well before sunrise to run the pit stops, take our picture, and keep us safe
  • Laura Miller who was the WABA staffer in charge. Not a bad debut! You can handle the WABA weather machine any time you want
  • the course marshals, particularly Kitty who’s group we road with on and off throughout the day
  • the  folks at District Taco and Mellow Mushroom who fueled our two-wheeled foolishness
  • all the other sponsors including Signal Financial, the lead sponsor of the ride.
  • the people of DC, who once again supported us with smiles and shouts, all day. What a change from 2006 when drivers cussed me out!

And big, big thanks to my team six pack. You guys were so much fun to ride with.

 

Volunteering for Ducks

It rained all day here in DC. I knew I was volunteering at WABA tonight so I didn’t bother to go out in the gloom and wet. At around 4 pm I headed to DC in rain jacket and pants. It was only about 62 degrees. i warmed up in a half mile. The ride was not half bad except for the 10 minute wait for a school bus to unload grade school kids in a downpour. I was okay with them taking their time but some of the kids went back on the bus to fetch things they had forgot. Must not kill.

I took the 15th Street cycletrack about 10 blocks north. The cycletrack is supposed to encourage bike commuters but I find it really unnerving especially when visibility is impaired by rain. I lived. End of story.

I arrived at WABA world headquarters. Volunteers were already at work at 6 pm. We were helping WABA staff get ready for Saturday’s 50 States Ride. (As of this writing the ride is not sold out but it probably will in the next day or two.)  I spent the first 90 minutes moving stuff out of storage to staging areas for the pit stops. Tables, banners, food, pens, zip ties, id labels for people staffing the stops, scissors, tape, binder clips, tents, a cooler, powdered sports drink, etc. When that had run its course, I helped put together the 12-page cue sheets. The 50 States Ride route is notoriously complicated. It’s part of the fun.

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Volunteers Hard at Work

If you are doing the ride, you’ll be stopping a lot. Don’t get frustrated. Go Just with it. Say hello to the people at the stop light or stop sign. The secret sauce of the 50 States Ride is that it is a social event that even introverts will love.

After a couple of hours, the evening’s activities came to a close. Cue sheets were still being run off the office printer. I suspect someone will be feeding it paper for another hour or so.

I rode home in the rain. It was dark. I was concerned about visibility so I wore a bright yellow belt that lit up from within.  I also had my Stella headlight blazing away. With raindrops on my glasses I couldn’t see very well but drivers would have to be blind not to see me. My wet glasses made it extremely hard to see when I was facing headlights. So I rode very slowly. The ride home took nearly 2 hours.

 

Work Somehow Seemed Easier than Retirement

My quest to do myself in by retiring marched forward yesterday. I started the day painting my shed in stifling humidity. I was drenched in sweat after two hours. I changed shirts and went to the home despot for some landscape edging. I then installed this along the bottom of the shed in the  hopes of impeding water flowing under it and somehow making the raised floor wet. Plan B involves regrading which I seriously want to avoid.

Next up I rode my Cross Check to see if an adjustment I made to the rear derailler’s shifting had fixed an annoying problem with the chain bouncing around. No dice. So I rode to Spokes Etc. my local bike store. They took a crack at it (again). Then I rode home. 11 miles in more stifling heat and humidity.

Next I sat indoors and cooled off for a couple of hours before riding the Cross Check to DC. Yeah, the chain started skipping again but at least I had a nice tailwind.

I attended a volunteer night at WABA world headquarters. I helped assemble first aid kits for ride marshals in preparation for the 50 States Ride. (Registration is still open.) They were short on defibrillators.  (Just kidding.) They had pizza and beer, which works for me as first and second aid.

It was still pretty gross out for the ride home. The headwind slowed me down but it cooled me off. The swarms of bugs along the river didn’t float my boat. Another 33 miles in the can.

I made it home and took a long cold shower. Then I sat down to watch the Nats on TV. I made it to the top of the 9th inning. Then I fell fast asleep. Ain’t baseball great. I woke up at 12:30 and staggered to bed.

Today I took it really easy. I put new brake pads on The Mule in preparation for the tour and then took Big Nellie out for a slow-ish 20-mile ride in the park. The rest of the day was spent sitting on the deck reading an actual book.

The next four days look like this:

  • Thursday: 6.5 mile hike on the Appalachian Trail
  • Friday
    • Ride 32 miles to and from Friday Coffee Club in DC
    • Ride 22 miles to and from Crystal City Happy Hour
  • Saturday: Ride 47 miles with Colin and company in Maryland. Ride ends at a brewery. That Colin is a genius.
  • Sunday: Ride 100 miles at the Reston Century

I wonder if I can get out of the ICU early enough on Monday to go the Nats game.