50-ish States with Nigel Tufnel

Before we begin my overdue recap of this year’s 50 States Ride, let me clarify something about this weekend’s axe incident. I did not hit myself in the head with an axe. Using the axe, I split a piece of wood lying on the ground. Half the wood launched into the air. The spinning mini-log and its jagged end caught me in the forehead right above the eye. I have a small cut and a welt on my forehead. And a headache. I should also point out that if you think this is a good way to get a third eye you would be eligible for a rare Darwin Woo Woo Award.

As for the 50 States Ride, the day started on a down note as it took some members of my posse 45 minutes to get registered. Given that this was at least the 14th time this event has been run, we were not happy campers.

This year was the 11th time I have done this ride so my ride was dedicated to the great Nigel Tufnel. I had lined up an impressive posse: Michael and Kevin returned from the last two years. Sean, husband of Kristin from the 2014 Ride with the Rookies, and his college roommate Alan were riding for the first time. Peter, Chris, Tony, Rachel M., Andrea, and Cassie were all in. Cassie expressed some concern about being able to do the entire ride so she left before any of us got to the start. She managed to ride the entire thing in about the same time as us. Sean and Alan left early because they were worried they’d take all day. (They threw in the towel somewhere around the 50 mile mark, which is not too shabby. A for effort. See you next year.)

We intended to start around 7:45 but didn’t get underway until around 8:30. We were joined at some point by a tall woman, presumably Muslim, dressed from head to toe in black. (She told me her name but my fusiform gyrus ate it.) It being a comfortably pleasant day this did not seem to be much of a comfort issue until the last few miles when temperatures surpassed 80 degrees. It didn’t matter, she was quite a strong rider.

We rode the first 15 miles, how should I say, rather aggressively. At least there were no arrests for traffic infractions. We stopped at the first pit stop for only a few minutes. And in no time we had made our way through downtown, past the White House, and the Capitol Hill complex of granite and marble buildings, Next came a quick spin through Southwest DC before flying by Nationals Park and across the Anacostia River to the second pit stop.

After about 15 minutes we attacked the first hills of the day, the formidable trio of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, Stanton Road, and Alabama Avenue. After roping Texas we moved through Fort Davis. Next came the 0.7 mile downhill on Massachusetts Avenue, SE. Weeee!

Negotiating Minnesota Avenue and its two traffic circles made us lose contact with Andrea. Michael did a quick recon search once we were back across the Anacostia River and couldn’t find her. She had missed a turn but, after the main posse crossed Hill East, we reconnected at the third pit stop at Eastern Market.

PB&J sandwiches and munchies were provided. After about 30 minutes we regrouped joined by Shira and Qudsiya on their tandem. We rode back across Hill East and then through NOMA past Gallaudet University and into industrial Ivy City. Although the gin mill and brewery were tempting, we forged ahead and began the climb up Montana Avenue. This led us to the most traffic-y part of the ride. South Dakota Avenue, Taylor St, and Michigan Avenue in Northeast DC are godawful places to be in a car or on a bike on a Saturday. And the cars let us know it. Michael led the charge into the traffic mess and in ten somewhat messy minutes we were free and clear, riding past Catholic University on John McCormack Drive. A few hundred yards afterward, I spotted an apparently crazy woman in a broad brimmed hat standing in the middle of the road. It was Ursula, fearless leader of WABA’s Trail Ranger’s, giving out high fives to the riders. It was the kind of nice surprise that makes you forget the craptastic car hellscape we had just left. Thanks, Ursula.

As we made out way up a short hill to Hawaii Avenue a cyclist nearly took me out. He was clipped in and didn’t want to wait to get around a car that was parallel parking. He cut me off. I belted him across the neck with my frame pump.

Okay, I didn’t. Violence doesn’t solve anything. I stopped and let him go, even forgoing an f-bomb in my magnanimity. (If he does it again, I’m letting him have it with the bicycle death ray.)

We scrambled up hill and down across Northeast DC. Most of the posse went to Rachel’s house in Petworth for mid-ride beers. Kevin and I forged ahead. I was starting to feel my age at this point. Sometimes sobriety is your friend.

We pulled into the Tacoma pit stop at the top of the DC diamond. This stop is at the home of friends Mike and Lisa. Mike is a bit deranged and Lisa isn’t so they match up well. And they are incredibly nice, not just because they let hundreds of sweaty strangers into their house. They collect Nats bobbleheads. I think this is because Mike wants to be one when he grows up.

As Kevin and I were about to leave, the posse showed up. So we waited a few minutes and all took off for the final eight miles. We rode west to Alaska where Patti Heck stood on the corner and took pictures of us. In a previous year I yelled “Hey, Patti” which caused her to look up and miss taking my picture. I called well in advance this year. She got me.

A mile later we descended into Rock Creek Park. The route took us up a nasty, paved trail on the far side of the canyon. It was steep-ish and bumpy. Several people chose to walk. This was wise. I, of course, didn’t. No way was I walking up another hill after Colorado, Utah, Nevada, and California this  summer.

On the far side we crossed but did not ride on Oregon Avenue. I don’t know why the route didn’t go down Oregon. These things are mysterious. So technically this was a 49 State ride. Sue me.

We rode the next few miles in Chevy Chase and not one person made an SNL, Fletch, or Community joke. Strange.

After climbing an insulting little hill we rode past Fort Reno. The posse took off while I stopped at the last pit stop to say hello to Colin. Hi, Colin.

Back on the road, I couldn’t see the posse. Dang. Climbing up Wisconsin Avenue I was blocked by two clusters of riders, a bus, and some chunks of metal with people in them. I followed the bike as they made their way onto Nebraska Avenue. They were chatting but I had a posse to catch. I stepped on the gas, or The Mule as it were, and passed them as we cruised by American University.

The ride down Loughboro Road and Arizona Avenue was rather rapid. Not quite as fearsome as the Hogback but not bad for DC. I figured somebody in the posse would find it intimidating. Wrong. The posse abides.

Now came the dreaded climb over Cathedral Heights. First, a short warm up climb on Ashby Street followed by a flat ride half mile on 49th Street. Then came Garfield Street. Oh, how I hate this street. Straight up. No posse in sight. Dang.

I shifted into my granny and let The Mule do the rest. I must have passed ten people on the way up. The hill was not giving them bike joy. There was lots of grumbling. Not by me though; I was too focused on spinning my legs off.

Over the top then down a ways working my way back to Wisconsin. There, right next to Cactus Cantina, I could see the posse waiting at the traffic light at Wisconsin.

I sped up and made the light, and caught the posse a half mile later. I do believe mid-ride beers may be a thing.

We jumped onto Connecticut Avenue, our last state. Connecticut is not for the faint of heart. Here. at Peter’s suggestion we turned off a couple of blocks early, and took the new counterflow bike lanes on Woodley Place.

Onto Calvert Street, across the Duke Ellington Bridge into Adams Morgan. A half mile past the start we finished at Mellow Mushroom where pizza, beer, and t-shirts were acquired.

Many thanks to the posse for getting this aging road warrior through the hills of DC without a scratch.  I had a great time. On a scale of 1 to 10, this one went to 11.

 

 

No Name Tour: It’s Not Rocket Science

After a week and a half, I welcomed a knock on the door this morning. Christmas in July. The Mule is home.

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I took it out of the box and started putting it together. Some of the hardware, the screws for the water bottle cages and the front rack, as well as a proprietary part for mounting the front fender, was missing. I reassembled the bike and took it to my local bike store to have them finish it off.

I was planning on taking it to the shop anyway. In addition to the final touches for the reassembly, they are putting on a new front derailler (the old one has had shifting issues for over a year), new fenders, new bar tape, and a new water bottle cage (one of the old ones broke in Nevada). They will also tweak my brakes and true my rear wheel. By this time next week, I should be back in the saddle.

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Last night I rode into DC to attend my second happy hour this week with Jessica who is back in town for a few months. We used to work together. She’s been travelling in South America for the last year. Many of her wanderings have been unplanned. Maybe I should do a bike tour like that.

While I was at the happy hour, some people in DC held a protest/vigil in a small park on Pennsylvania Avenue just a few blocks from the White House. After the happy hour, I headed over to the park to see the site of a crash that killed two men who were sitting on a park bench. It took me a while to figure out how the car managed to hit them. Suffice it to say that the driver either had murderous intent or he was impaired beyond human comprehension. High speed fatal crashes are happening in DC with sickening frequency.

Next I headed to the national Mall to check out a very cool event commemorating the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11. For the last few nights the image of a Saturn 5 rocket has been projected on the Washington Monument. It’s actually a video (you can see the vapor venting from the rocket). I waited until 9:30 for the image to appear. I was one of perhaps 10 or 20,000 people on the Mall. I found being in a crowd like that very unsettling. Tonight and tomorrow night the image will lift off. Too bad I’ll miss it. Then again, I saw the real thing on TV live back in 1969.

I rode home in the dark, something I really enjoy, except for the spider webs and the ninjas on the Mount Vernon Trail. (I nearly hit one.) Passing through a neighborhood closer to home I had a close encounter with a fawn standing across the middle of the narrow road.

 

 

 

A Friend Is Gone

This morning a reckless driver killed a bicyclist on Florida Avenue, NE in Washington DC. The early news reports said the victim was “an elderly gentleman.” I don’t know any elderly people in that area of town. It couldn’t have been anyone I knew.

And yet it was.

Dave Salovesh was 54 years old. He was a wonderful man full of life and love. You could tell every time you saw him with his partner Jean that he loved her to the moon and back. I laughed so many times as he described the travails of being the parent of Kid O, his now teen-aged daughter. Being a parent is hard but, God, did he love her, too.

I’ve known Dave for over five years. Every interaction was a joy.

He was a passionate advocate for bicycling in DC. In 2015 he helped organize a protest on Pennsylvania Avenue, to get the city to install small barriers to keep cars from making u-turns across the cycle track in the middle of the road. We made a temporary barrier with people and pool noodles strung together. The protest succeeded and we had a ton of fun in the process.

At the end of the event Dave gathered up the pool noodles and we all went out for a beer down the street.

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I am gutted.

God, I’m going to miss him. What a great guy.

My deepest condolences to Jean and O.

Love you Dave.

Did someone say cider? And doughnuts? And pie? And beer?

What a difference a week makes. The autumn that wasn’t put on a fantastic show today. Reds and yellows and browns and crisp breezes and puffy clouds.

Lucky for me there was a bike event to get me out into the glorious outdoors. The Washington Area Bicyclist Association’s Sixth Cider Ride was today. Somehow, someway the WABA weather curse failed. A storm front moved through the area last night bringing high winds and heavy downpours. A couple of hours before the ride began, the front moved eastward. I had come prepared for rain but made a last minute decision to change from rain gear (rain jacket and long pants) to cool weather gear (shorts with long wool socks, topped off with a pull over fleece). Perfect.

I also decided to raise the saddle on Little Nellie, my Bike Friday folding travel bike. Just a tad. Even minor adjustments can have big benefits or cause big problems. I guessed right, however. I rode about 2-3 miles per hour faster today than yesterday. And my back and knees didn’t bother me at all.

The ride started in Northeast DC just before 9 a.m., and took us on a ramble along the Anacostia River trail system. The trails were covered with wet leaves making the going a bit dicey. One unfortunate rider fell and had to be taken away in an ambulance. Elizabeth, the rider immediately behind him, couldn’t stop and crashed as well suffering a big boo boo on her left thigh.

I knew several of the riders. I rode initially with Leslie but she was riding as a course marshall and had to stop and render assistance to the injured riders. Before the crash we came upon Jesse whose bike had died a hero on the trails. Somehow her rear derailler had fallen off. She was forced to take the Uber of shame. (She had her bike fixed and actually did one of the shorter versions of the ride. She persisted!)

We left the trails and stopped at Proteus Cycles in College Park to partake of warm cider and apple slices. No wait. There’s doughnuts over at the next table. Ixnay on the apple slices. Bring on the junk food!

After achieving sugar nirvana, we headed on roads through the Beltsville agriculture research area. Here my tweak to Little Nellie’ saddle height paid off. I was riding 15-20 miles per hour through fields and stands of colorful trees. Clearly, the tailwind helped a lot but I was feeling very comfortable on the bike for the first time in weeks.

Did I mention that it was gorgeous outside?

I could have stopped dozens of times to take pictures but I figured one would do the trick. Light car traffic, the low angle of light, colorful leaves everywhere, and a road with some bikes receding in the distance. Dang.

The route took up to the Patuxent Research Refuge where we turned around to fight the wind for a few miles. Then we crossed back through the agriculture complex, over a hill,  and into Greenbelt. Here we stopped in a park for warm cider and pie. I went with the apple pie because pumpkin pie makes me gag.

I stayed long enough to hear more about the crash from Elizabeth, who showed me her  bruise. (Elizabeth, Dr. Rootchopper recommends red wine. It won’t help the bruise but you won’t care.) And I got a surprise hug from Laura. I am a fan of the hammy Instagram mini-movies she makes of her bike commutes and other shenanigans.

I left the rest stop and headed back toward DC. This part of the route was different from last year so I stopped frequently to avoid getting lost. I only went about 100 yards off course all day. (I missed the cue “Take a right at the porta potties.”) We rode back to the trail system by way of the College Park Trolley Trail in Berwyn.

Just before getting back on the Anacostia Trails I passed a rest stop where people were yelling at me. I learned later they were yelling “Mead!” I was in a nice flow so I passed up the offer to wet my whistle, choosing instead to make a crossing of a busy highway behind 20 other cyclists. Within minutes I realized I had goofed. This group was doddling along and I was in the mood to motor. After a mile of hanging off the rear, I started passing people. In five minutes I was alone off the front of the group and whizzing down the trail along the river. It was beautiful. The sunlight off the water was the perfect complement to the breeze and the colors.

The change in the course also involved going south along the Anacostia on the east side of the river for about a mile then doubling back on the west side. This portion on the ride featured a strong headwind off the water and was serious work. It appears that most other riders skipped this part. I can’t blame them. Perhaps the highlight was riding past dilapidated RFK Stadium. The stadium was one of many “multiuse” stadiums built in the 1960s. I looks ripe for implosion these days.

The last few miles were across Capitol Hill and up the Metropolitan Branch Trail. I rode most of the second half of the ride much harder than the first so I my legs were ready to call it a day. And soon I arrived at the finish at the Dew Drop Inn. There, after 55 honest miles, I tossed back a couple of Raven lagers and hung out in the sun with friends on the elevated deck.

And tonight we set the clocks back one hour. The extra hour of sleep is exactly what my tired legs need.

 

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).

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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.

 

May Day Ramble in DC

The citizens of #bikedc are agog. The long, cool, wet days of April are behind us. We’re in an honest to god heat wave. Hallellujah.

I took the opportunity to buy a ticket to a night game at Nationals Park. With several hours to kill I rode Little Nellie to DC. My first stop was at the Renwick Gallery. The Renwick is part of the Smithsonian Institution. Admission is free. Yay, America. It is located at 17th and Pennsylvania NW, a couple hundred yards from the White House or, if you have better taste, Swings House of Caffeine, home of Friday Coffee Club.

The Renwick has recently embraced the idea of multi-room art exhibits that visitors can be a part of. It’s the new, new thing in DC these days. The current exhibit contains artwork from Burning Man. Something about the size of these kinds of exhibits make me wonder “What kind of mind thinks this stuff up?” Certainly not my kind of mind.

The exhibit continues on the sidewalks in the surrounding neighborhood.

I left the Renwick and rode across town to the REI store. The store is located in the building that was once the Washington Sports Arena, the site of, among many other things, the first U.S. Beatles concert, held two days after an eight-year-old me watched them on Ed Sullivan.

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After purchasing some fancy pants (wicking underwear that I find useful for biking and hiking), I sat down for coffee and a cookie. Shopping requires sustenance, don’t you know.

Refueled, I headed for the Anacostia waterfront and Yards Park. Yards Park is part of the rejuvenation of a long neglected area of DC. Unfortunately, development has chewed up big chunks of the park. Still, on a day when the wind is blowing from the south and the sun is working it’s spring time magic, Yards Park is a great place to linger and reflect. I say on a bench and read a National Geographic.

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Next up was a ballgame at nearby Nationals Park. Ticket prices were surprisingly low so I bought a seat in the baseline boxes just beyond the Nationals dugout. The game was a treat. After weeks of moribund offence, the hometown team broke out of its funk by scoring 12 runs. They hit four home runs, two of which were Ruthian clouts. The only downside to the proceedings were the pollen (ick) and the heat. After about three innings the heat was getting to me. How will I ever ride across the country if my heat tolerance is so low? DRINK some water you moron! And so I did. I downed about a gallon during the game.

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After the game I was rewarded with a glorious ride home in the dark. As I reached the Virginia side of the 14th Street bridge over the Potomac River, I felt the temperature drop several degrees. It declined incrementally for the next hour as I pedaled the final 12 miles home.

So, 11 hours and 36 miles after I left the house my May Day ramble ended.

For more pix from the day, you can check out my Flickr album.

Friday Double Header in Shorts

Spring finally arrived for a few days on Friday. It was shorts weather at the break of dawn so I rode to DC to attend Friday Coffee Club properly attired. The ride featured a warm tailwind, the best kind. Little Nellie’s wee wheels were rolling just fine.

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@edbikes’s apple fritter and coffee

After hanging out with the cool kids at Swings House of Caffeine, I headed back home. Of course, I took another walking lap around the Tidal Basin and a spin down to Hains Point to absorb all the cherry blossom goodness.

Inebriated on all the pinky whiteness, I rode home into the aforementioned wind which was decidedly less than joyous but I had shorts on and I didn’t care.

After a few hours at home, I rode back to DC for some baseball watching. My route back glanced off the cherry blossoms at the Tidal Basin again. (If you don’t do cherry blossoms and bald eagles, you might as well not live around here.)

I met Kevin U. at The Wharf, DC’s newest, absurdly overdone development on the water. What it replaced was utterly forgettable, but the excess of this place is just inane. Kevin and I ran into Ted and his mother and her friend Bert. I think this is the first time I have seen Ted without cycling clothes on. Now that I think of it, it may be his mom’s first time seeing him with cycling clothes on too.

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I parked Little Nellie in here. It’s the best thing ever.

Kevin and I walked to the ballpark. He wouldn’t accept payment for the seat he gave me so we agreed that I would buy him some nachos. At the nacho booth, the server was being a bit stingy with the portions in the chicken nachos for the customer in front of us. The server’s co-worker started kidding her about it. Then I got into the act as a joke. Stingy server moved down the line of ingredients and Co-worker waited on me. The co-worker put his finger to his lips to keep me quiet as he made a HUMONGOUS bowl of chicken nachos for Kevin. We all had a good laugh when Kevin hefted the thing.

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Here’s Kevin, slim and trim before eating his nachos
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The Nacho Bomb: Kevin’s gonna need bigger pants

Back at our seats I pulled out my food from home and Kevin dove into his nachos. In the spirit of the thing, he did his best to eat as much as he could but it was a titanic calorie bomb. I brought a glove to catch foul balls (our seats were down the first-base line). Good thing too, because the nachos had rendered Kevin immobile.

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The view from our seats. Note the nets put up to protect fans during batting practice. They take them down for the game.
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I brought my son’s glove for protection. Note that it is an ARod model. As a former resident of Boston, I felt a sense of intestinal distress putting it on.

The game was a bit of a yawner. The Nats played poorly and lost 2-1. During a pitching change, the stadium played some dance music and hidden cameras panned the stands for people dancing. A woman in the row behind me was dancing up a storm. That’s how I, standing with my arms crossed looking bored, ended up on the Jumbotron. (It was my second time on the big screen. The previous time was under similar circumstances as the cameras spotted the large couple in front of me wearing Virginia Tech clothing on Virginia Tech Day.)

Well, I didn’t catch a foul ball, but Kevin and I had a good time. Kevin’s gastroenterologist, however, will probably not be amused.

As always, my favorite part of riding to night games is the ride home in the dark. Even the headwind didn’t spoil the fun. I made it home at midnight.

I awoke late on Saturday. At 10:30 a.m. I found out that the Nats were playing at 1 p.m. I could go! Sadly, I was too pooped to pedal. Double headers are hard.

My thanks to Kevin for a fun evening.

 

Extra Innings by Bike

One of the benefits of retirement is you get to go to baseball games whenever you want. Today’s Nationals vs. Braves game started at 1 p.m. All during breakfast and my hour of physical therapy at home I checked the weather. I didn’t want to go and freeze my butt off.

I checked ticket prices. I found a seat in the front row of the left field grandstand about 20 feet to the fair side of the foul pole. For $10. I figured, if it gets too cold, I’m only out ten bucks so what the hell.

Little Nellie and I took our time during the 15+ miles to the game. As I passed the Tidal Basin, I could see that it was still peak bloom for the cherry blossoms. One tree in particular just gobsmacked me. So I took it’s picture.

 

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No words

My seat was perfect. My friend Katie Lee who is a baseball fanatic sent me a message asking if I had brought my glove. I laughed and said no.

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Caution: Baseballs are closer than they appear

I looked up and there was that foul pole. In the first inning, the second batter, a former National named Kurt Suzuki, hit a home run that hit the pole (the foul pole is in fair ground) about 20 feet above my head. BONG!

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It’s hollow

Maybe Katie was on to something.

The game was entertaining with some strange things that made it notable. The Braves tried to steal home plate late in the game and nearly got away with it. It was one of several plays in which the Nationals’ players seem to fall asleep mentally. On another a Braves batter managed to get a double because no Nationals fielder bothered to cover second base on a bloop hit. Derp. The Nationals had a runner on first base late in the game. The next batter hit the ball hard with a resounding WHACK and his bat shattered sending the top two thirds like a spear down the third baseline. The ball made it to the third baseman who threw out the batter to end the inning. If that bat had stayed intact I might have had another home run come my way.

The Nationals tied the game with a homer in the bottom of the ninth. Extra innings. For ten bucks. (I actually paid as much for a soda as I did for my seat. Normally I drink water but the water vendors who set up outside the park were not there today.)

The sun was in and out of the clouds all day. In the first inning I wore two layers topped with my hooded jacket. After the sun dropped below the stadium roof line, I put on a wool sweater and put my hood up.

Did I say something about another home run. Well, Kurt Suzuki hit another home run. It was coming right at me. Holy crap. My brain said “If I catch it with my bear hand the blood thinners will turn my hand into a black blob.” I turned to watch it come and went to stood up. At this point I realized that my now four layers of clothing had turned me into a hooded, immobile mass. A virtual Charlie Brown in the dead of winter. The man sitting in the row behind me three rows to my left “fielded” (more like shielded, I guess) the ball off his oversized scorebook. It bounced to the row behind him.

I thought again of Katie, who keeps score at every game she attends. She’d have made the catch if only to protect her scorebook. She would give a rats ass about my blood thinned hands. (JK, KL.)

There is a video summary of the game on Facebook. You can clearly see me dressed like the Unabomber in the front row.

In the 12th inning the Braves prevailed. Sad face.

I’d have ridden straight home, but the cherry blossoms called my soul. I did another lap of Hains Point. I saw two trees without blossoms. But the rest were just stunning. I just had to take another walk around the Tidal Basin. I was surprised to see that the sidewalk wasn’t very crowded.

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I’m drunk on cherry blossoms

After feeding my addiction one last time, I started the long slog home into a steady headwind.

I’m going to Friday night’s game. It will be in the 80s during the day. No more Unabomber outfits for me. And maybe I’ll bring a glove. Or a scorebook.

 

Seven to Seven

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

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

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

 

 

Bulldogs and Bicycles on a March Sunday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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