Well, once again I wasted untold hours posting this inane blog. In for a penny, in for a pound. So here goes with the pictures of 2019. With one, regrettably from a few years ago.
Well, once again I wasted untold hours posting this inane blog. In for a penny, in for a pound. So here goes with the pictures of 2019. With one, regrettably from a few years ago.
I am a baseball fan. Before the start of the season, I thought the Washington Nationals had a great chance to win it all. Then the games started. Players became injured. I went to game after game and watched them lose over and over. My bike tour took me away from the wreckage.
But as Joe Garagiola said, baseball is a funny game. The season unfolded like all baseball seasons. Ebbs and flows, just like a long bike tour. Pre-season hopes gave way to harsh realities. A series of injuries gutted the lineup for a month. A relief pitcher coming off surgery on his throwing arm threw 100-mile-per-hour pitches everywhere but over the plate. Other relievers did little better. The injured players returned. Gerardo Parra was acquired and taught the team to just have fun. The team started to win. Max became utterly unhittable. Baby shark boomed from the speakers at the ball park. Strasburg and Rendon quietly, steadily evolved into elite players. Howie Kendrick, a part time player who had spent nearly a year off the diamond with an injury, hit like a monster. Eaton wore out pitchers and played with his hair on fire. Robles vacummed the outfield. Soto played like a veteran, even becoming a decent outfielder himself. The catchers, acquired over the winter to replace the disappointing backstops of 2018, became anchors. Max got hurt. The team kept winning. Astrubal Cabrera returned and hit like a beast. The team kept winning. Aaron Barrett returned from a hideous arm injury to pitch again and inspire. Zimmerman came back from a long struggle with foot problems. And he hit. More winning.
By the time they squeaked into the playoffs they had become the elite team I had hoped for in March. Then, impossibly, they won five elimination games, the last being Game 7 of the World Series.
In a way, winning the World Series doesn’t matter. The long arc of the season matters. Watching games on warm summer nights, sharing a beer or three with my daughter matters. Doing Baby Shark matters. Seeing friends at the game matters. Riding home from the ball park in the dark after a mid-summer night game matters.
Yes, we will celebrate for a few days. There will be a parade. Enjoy it. Already temperatures have dropped. Winds have begun to howl. Big Nellie soon will take her place in the basement where I’ll spin and read all those books I’ve neglected for the last six months. It will be reading season once more.
Meanwhile, a new team will take shape. Hopefully, my body will follow suit. Then sometime next spring, a flag will be raised and a new baseball season will begin. Maybe I’ll ride somewhere far, hopefully on two healthy legs this time. As Nationals manager Dave Martinez mother told him when he was growing up, “Often bumpy roads lead to beautiful places.”
The sun has turned the DC area into a desert. Trees are dropping leaves without changing colors. The soil in my yard is rock hard. The crabgrass in my lawn was over a foot tall, the rest of the yard was dust. Mowing the lawn stirred up big clouds of the stuff. During my ride today, there was so much dust in the air that it didn’t smell like the same place. I rode through Nevada in late June and it wasn’t as dry as this. It was 97 degrees today. In October. Dang.
Yesterday, I spent five or six hours outside doing physical stuff, including digging a trench for a downspout extension, mowing the lawn, and riding 25 miles on Big Nellie.
I was tired and hot so I knew I was going to crash early last night but the Nationals were playing a do-or-die playoff game against the Brewers. I did my best to watch the game on TV. To be honest, it was boring. Sometime around the sixth inning, the sun won and I fell asleep.
I was awakened from my slumber by insane cheering on the TV. The Nationals had pulled out an amazing, improbable, lucky comeback in the eighth inning. I watched the last half inning in a semi-coherent state. They won.
For those of you who know what an avid baseball fan I am, you’re probably thinking, “You idiot! How could you of all people miss the greatest comeback ever!!”
Get a grip, children. Pull up a chair.
I did miss the comeback but, except for the do-or-die aspect, this wasn’t even the biggest comeback of this year. The Nationals scored seven runs in the bottom of the ninth to walk off the Mets a month ago.
As sweet as that was, it didn’t come close to the biggest comeback of my lifetime.
In 1967, as the Red Sox contended for the American League pennant, Tony Conigliaro was beaned. On my birthday. Hello, karma.
I went to college in Boston in the 1970s and, for a semester, lived a five-minute walk from the Green Monster of Fenway Park. Of course, the Sox lost in the World Series to the Reds, but surely they’d win it next year.
Twenty eight years later, I watched from my home in DC as the Sox were walked off by Aaron Boone and the Yankees in the eleventh inning of the seventh game of the American League playoffs in 2003. The next year, the Yankees annihilated the Sox for three games in the playoffs. I was fed up.
Then, the Sox came back. For four nights I sat on my sofa and went totally sportsball insane. The Red Sox eliminated the Yankees in Yankee Stadium and went on, in beautifully anticlimactic fashion, to win the World Series and reverse the curse of the Bambino.
Last night’s game was pretty great but, for me, nothing will top those four games in 2004. In fact, I even stopped watching baseball for a few years because I’d been to the mountain top.
All that said, I have only two words, inspired by the basketball fans of Boston, left to say.
The idea was to celebrate my 64th (god that sounds terrible) birthday by riding 64 miles but things got a bit complicated.
My daughter Lily decided that we should go to a Nationals baseball game for my birthday so last night I met her at the bike valet (I biked; she took Metro) and went inside the ballpark to watch the Nats take on the Milwaukee Brewers.
We bought two beers each at the center field bar’s happy hour and some fries and headed to our perch in Section 318. The extra beers were a money saving venture that backfired as the second beers became warm in the oppressive sauna of the Washington summer night.
The contest was entertaining. Lots of home runs. Just when you thought the Nationals were done for they came roaring back. They led by three runs into the ninth inning. I thought I’d get home by midnight (the ride takes about 1:20). The Nationals brought in their closer who was shelled like an oyster. Three home runs and the Brewers were ahead by one run. The Nats tied the score in the bottom of the night but stranded the winning run in scoring position.
They stayed tied until the Brewers took another lead only to surrender it. Again the Nats tied the game but left runners in scoring position. In the 14th inning the Brewers scored twice and the Nats scored once. End of game. It was now today. I had aged a year in 14 innings.
The 14 1/2 mile ride home was pretty great. A near full moon made up for the still, muggy air. I arrived home at 2:30, showered, and surrendered to the sandman at 3.
I awoke about 5 1/2 hours later and lazed around the house until 11:30. It was once again hazy, hot, and humid outside. This, combined with my bleary, sleepy head, made me dread the idea of riding 64 miles, one mile for each year. But wait! I already had 14 1/2 miles in the bank because the ride home occurred well after midnight.
I climbed aboard Little Nellie and we rode to Bethesda and back, taking a lap of Hains Point for good measure. 50 miles done. Mission accomplished.
I need a nap.
Another day, another errand. The third Thursday of the month hereabouts means that it’s time for another BikeDC happy hour. This one was held on the Dew Drop Inn in northeast DC.
The festivities began at 5 which gave me all day to ponder happiness. What better way to do that than to go to an afternoon baseball game at Nationals Park with my daughter. Our seats were sweet, on the 300 level between home plate and the Nationals dugout.
The game lasted 3 hours and the good guys won, but not without some ninth inning drama. No worries, Dr. Doolittle saved the day. After the game, I headed rode north past the Capitol. (Ho hum. Life in the capital of the free world.) I made my way to the Metropolitan Branch Trail which runs along the railroad corridor heading north from Union Station. Using the MBT allows bicyclists to bypass probably a dozen traffic lights. It’s sweet.
The Dew Drop Inn is at the current northern terminus of the MBT. It’s a bar in an small, old industrial building. Fortunately, it serves food. I had beer and a sandwich during the 90 minutes I was there. For all 90 minutes I sat in the direct sun and fried my forehead. Dumb. The picnic tables on the patio where we sat were covered with tree pollen. (We cleaned them off.)
I rode home with progressively less sunlight and seemingly more and more pollen. At times I had to slow to a crawl in order to get the pollen out of my eyes and throat. Once I cross the Potomac River, I added midges to my misery. For 12 miles. At least the weather was enjoyable.
Errand No. 8
Category: Social Call (2nd use)
Place: Third Thursday Happy Hour at the Dew Drop Inn
Observation: The Metropolitan Branch Trail is like a bicycle expressway in the heart of DC. No red lights. Only a couple of stop signs. Relatively flat.
My niece is leaving DC soon and tomorrow is my daughter’s birthday. What better way to mark these two events than to take them to a day game at Nationals Park. The game began at 4 but we arrived early to partake of happy hour brews.
The two ladies took the Metro and I rode my bike. I had noticed on Instagram that my Venezuelan friend Emilia was out and about on her bike. I hadn’t seen her in over two years. As I headed north of Alexandria on the Mount Vernon Trail, I reminded myself to say Hola instead of Hi in the extremely unlikely event that I should see her. Not two seconds later, she passed me heading south. “Hola, Emilia!” I yelled. Just as I did, I realized that she was in a bike trance. My shout made her eyes bug out of her head. I am sure she had no idea who it was who yelled at her. Sorry about that, Emilia.
The ride to the park was a brisk one. Lately, I’ve been feeling pretty good on the bike, even if my back and shoulder have been wonky. It’s all a mystery to me.
After meeting at the bike valet, the three of us entered the ballpark and had a beer at the happy hour bar above center field. We took our seats in the left field bleachers and enjoyed the game in shirt sleeves and shorts. The Nationals did their part by coming from behind in the 8th inning to win 3 – 2 over Pittsburgh. It was an entertaining game that lasted 2 1/2 hours, a welcome change from the 4 hour slogs I’ve become used to seeing.
We parted ways at the bike valet and I headed up First Street through the crowds of fans making their way out of the park. While stopped at the traffic light at M Street, I noticed a bike pull up alongside me. It was Klarence. She leaned her bike over and gave me as big a hug as could be done with two bicycles in the way. We hardly ever run unto each other anymore. We chatted briefly as we rode side-by-side for a couple of blocks. She headed east and north; I headed west and south.
Once I cleared the throngs of pedestrians and cars on the cycletrack at The Wharf, I increased my speed with little effort and flew home on the Mount Vernon Trail with sunlight fading. Oh, how I love riding my bike at night.
Errand No. 4
Category: Arts and Entertainment (1st use)
Place: Nationals Park
Observation: To see two of my favorite people in DC totally by chance in one day was a cherry on top of a pretty splendid day with my niece and daughter. Thanks to all four of you.
Total Errandonnee mileage: 61
Spring is fighting off winter here in the DMV. (The DMV is what all the cool kids call the DC, Maryland, Virginia area.) The weather goes up and down betraying any ability to get comfortable. If you want consistency, move to San Diego.
Friday, I woke up super early and rode to Friday Coffee Club. My plan was to see the famous DC cherry blossoms at sunrise. I timed it wrong and the cherry blossoms were a day shy of peak bloom, but the sunrise over the Potomac didn’t disappoint. I stood on the river bank for a few minutes just to take it in.
Not half bad.
The 14th Street Bridge over the Potomac River reaches the DC side right smack dab in the middle of the Tidal Basin, ground zero for cherry blossom tourist madness. I managed to wiggle through cars and buses and work my way around the Tidal Basin, up 15th Street, and around the Washington Monument, enjoying blossoms the whole way. Friday Coffee Club was busier than usual so all is right with the world.
Yesterday, I rode into DC to see my first Nats game of the season. The temperature during the game was perfect. We sat in the shade just below the TV announcers who were sitting in their perch in the press box. We were directly behind home plate which afforded a pretty good view of the pitches. Throughout the game, the plate umpires inclination to call outside strikes (to right handed batters) strikes was obvious. Somehow the Nats batters didn’t seem to clue in.)
The fans in our section have a tradition of chanting N-A-T-S NATS NATS NATS WOO!!! for each Nationals score. I’ve never been into such organized things at baseball games. Such displays are better suited to football or hockey.
Every so often pedals from the cherry trees outside the ballpark would drift down on us.
My daughter Lily kept score. She’s getting pretty good at it.
During the seventh inning stretch, the stadium played A Ha’s Take on Me, something that was discontinued a few years ago. It was most welcome but the crowd didn’t seem to get into it. The whole point is to hit the high notes for the line “In a day or two.” I didn’t attempt it, which I am sure Lily appreciated.
As for me, despite the scorekeeping and the pedals and the perfect weather and the great seats and the drifting blossoms and Take on Me, I had a hard time getting into the game. It didn’t help that, for the second game in a row, the Mets didn’t win so much as the Nats lost.
In the Friday’s game, rookie center fielder Victor Robles was caught in a rundown trying to score from third base. He thus committed the Nat’s first TOOTBLAN of the season. (TOOTBLAN means “thrown out on the bases like a nincompoop.” ) Beating yourself appears to be a Nats forte. Robles, the centerfielder, also seems to enjoy overthrowing the cut off man, perhaps so we won’t miss Bryce Harper so much.
At least a quarter of the fans present were Mets fans. A throng of them in the left field bleachers chanted LETS GO METS throughout the game. This seemed pointless since it is pretty much indistinguishable from LETS GO NATS. Late in the game as the Mets scored several runs, a few Mets fans in our section M-E-T-S METS METS METS WOO!!! Well played, dudes.
The ride home featured a fifteen minute delay getting to the Tidal Basin as I duckwalked my bike amid tourists headed for the Tidal Basin. The sidewalks around the basin were absolutely packed with tourists. The roads were packed with cars. Nobody seemed to be having much fun.
I escaped the madness and stopped at the Crystal City garage bicycle races on the way home. I watched a couple of laps of the Anything Goes race. It’s fun to see people, some in costumes riding unicycles, cargo bikes, tandems, fixies, and other assorted contraptions.
I rode home at twilight wearing a t-shirt.
Spring is here.
Today was one of those rare weekday afternoon baseball games. The weather was pretty awesome. I decided to ride Little Nellie to the ballpark.
About 8 miles into the ride, a woman flagged me down next to a swampy area along the Mount Vernon Trail, just north of Old Town.
“Do you know how to change a tire?”
I said “Sure” as my brain noticed two things. First, she was an attractive, fit woman who was probably in her mid twenties. Second, when I was young and single, not once did an attractive, fit woman who was probably in her mid twenties ever ask me to help her change a tire. Not once.
I just can’t even…
I hopped off my bike. Two other bike riders stood by to see how tire changing is done. I thought “Don’t screw this up, you old dork.” Flat tire woman, whose name was Susie, already had the rear wheel (it’s always the rear wheel) off. She had used tire levers to remove the tire and tube.
She: “I put a dollar bill in the tire as a boot. Here’s my Road Morph pump.”
Me: “Marry me. You are the woman of my dreams.”
I didn’t ask how she knew the cool trick of covering the hole in the tire casing with a dollar bill. Nor did I ask how she knew had my favorite pump. (It looks like a little frame pump but converts to a miniature floor pump.) In fact, I had the same pump on my bike. She even knew enough not to mess around with lame patch kits when a replacement tube was so much faster and easier.
She had the whole thing down except actually putting the tire back together.
So I filled up the tube with some air. Put it in the tire. I started working the tire onto the rim. She reached for the levers. Her only mistake!
“Don’t use them to put the tire on. They puncture the tube.”
One tire bead went on. The other went on except for the last, stubborn little bit. I showed her how to push the tire on the far side of the rim into the well of the rim. Then I used the bottoms of the palms of my hands to nudge the last bit of bead over. She pumped it up a bit more. We checked to see if the tube was not sneaking out from beneath the bead. Nope. She filled it up noting that the gauge on the pump was kind of useless. I said “Use your fingers. Just pump until it’s hard to squeeze the tire.” Done.
And off I rode.
About three minutes later Susie blasted past me. “Thanks, again.”
I felt old. Again.
I just can’t even…
So I rode to the game. I sat along the first baseline just beyond the Nationals’ dugout. My seat was on the aisle in row T, about 20 rows up from the field. The sun was shining. The humidity was low. The wind was blowing out. The section I was in was getting a nice breeze from the big gap in the upper decks of the stadium behind us.
Two men were behind me drinking beer and making funny remarks. I had my official Alex Rodriquez glove on my left hand. Unlike ARod I was not taking performance enhancing drugs. Perhaps this was a mistake.
Anyway, life was good. Then. along about the third or fourth inning, Trey Turner, a right handed batter, came to the plate. Right-handed batters stand on the left side of home plate. (This just occurred to me after 62 years. Weird.) They tend to foul balls to the right side of the field. In other words, in our direction.
Turner hit a high fly ball. Foul. Over the Nationals dugout. Over the sections to our left. Over our heads. Then it came, improbably, straight down. The three of us stood. Looking up. I’ll be damned it’s going to land right. Here.
It grazed the front of the man behind me as he stood in the aisle next to us. He flinched to protect his beer. And the ball hit the concrete and bounced over his head about 10 rows behind us.
I just can’t even…
It never once occurred to me to stick the glove out and catch the damned ball. All around me I could hear fans say “He had a glove on!”
I felt a strange kinship with my friend and fellow blogger Tim Jones. Tim and I went to school together for six years. He actually played sports in high school. He had and has no vices. (Except perhaps microdosing LSD, but that’s just a rumor.) I, on the other hand, spent my years of military high school incarceration taking PE classes and channeling Bluto Blutarski, who had yet to be invented. These days, Tim is a comically horrific athlete. He sucks at racquetball. And, remarkably, he was a slower marathon runner than me.
In stark contrast, I am an inept fan. I just can’t even…
Recently, my vegan friend Klarence, who is a baseball fanatic of the first order, acquired a leather glove to catch foul balls. This was a major philosophical concession on her part. She rationalized that the glove was previously owned by a friend from West Virginia. It’s probably covered in coal dust from the mahns. It’s seriously used. Then it occurred to me, the ball is covered with horsehide.
I just can’t even…
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.
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.
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.
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.
The early afternoon weather in DC was beautiful. 70 degrees with a strong breeze out of the south. As luck would have it, the Washington Nationals were playing a game against the Arizona Diamondbacks at 4 p.m. I bought a ticket and jumped on Little Nellie, my Bike Friday, and rode the tailwind 15 miles to Nationals Park.
It was a lovely ride except for the bit about the big black car nearly hitting me 100 yards from the stadium. The driver’s window was open. I barked at him that he had just done something incredibly dangerous. He seemed not the least bit concerned. Then I jumped off my bike and beat the crap out of him. There was blood everywhere. I beat my chest and howled.
Okay, not really. I let it go at words and went in to enjoy the game. I sat down the left field line. My seats were on the field level. I brought my glove for protection. Sadly no foul balls were hit my way but a woman two sections over got clobbered by one and was escorted out for medical attention. The two teenage boys in the row behind me ate their way through the first eight innings. Mom bought them hot dogs and pizza and funnel cake and ice cream. I could sense them growing with each passing inning.
During the game I had a chat online with my friend Emilia who was sitting across the stadium. Emilia is from Venezuela. She and I keep tabs on the Nationals players from her country. There have been five paisanos in recent years. For the last few weeks there were none. Emilia texted me to let me know that Adrian Sanchez, who was called up from the minors to play third base for the injured Anthony Rendon, was from Venezuela. A short while later she texted that the Diamondbacks David Peralta was also from Venezuela. “I will not root for him,” she said.
As it turns out, we have the lesser paisano. Peralta hit two home runs (he eats the National’s pitchers alive) and the Diamondbacks won in ten innings.
Around the 7th inning the skies grew dark and the wind changed direction. I thought for sure I’d get soaked but rain never came. Instead I was pushed all the way home from the game. Even the clouds of bugs didn’t ruin the ride.
So let’s recap with some maths:
Two Tailwind Ride > Big Black Car + Wrong Paisano + Bugs in My Mouth
And a final note: Big congratulations to Blissful Britt who finished her last exam for her college degree today. On to grad school. (Just kidding.)