This bike looks suspiciously like a snow shovel

The year opened with warm weather. Nearly warm enough for shorts on the bike. So naturally I took The Mule out for a couple of rides, managing 62 miles to and from DC. The streets were eerily empty.

Then the storm hit. For the first time in three years we were socked with an honest to god snowstorm. By the time it ended we had 11 1/2 inches in our yard. Wet snow. Good packin’ snow as we used to say during my snowball fighting youth

.I broke out the Wovel and went to work on Monday. Neighbors kept remarking at what a clever invention it is. My back was happy. There is no lifting involved just pushing down and thrusting with the legs. The only drawback was that the was so much snow that I ran out of places to put it. After about three hours, I finished the task of freeing up the cars and went inside. My triceps were screaming at me. All that pushing down was like being in a gym on one machine for hours. I went inside, ate, showered, and hit the couch for a well deserved nap.

Madman with Wovel from 2014

On Tuesday morning I went out for round two. On Monday I moved nine inches or so. Tuesday I moved the rest. Same result. I was sore and tired afterward. I repeated my post-shoveling ritual: I ate, took a shower, and fell asleep on the couch.

Yesterday there was no snow to move. Time to ride! But there was no way I was going out on streets narrowed by plowed snow, covered in brine and sand and salt. So I took to the basement for my first bike/reading session of the year. I managed to last 1:48, what I guess is the equivalent of 19 miles. I did a ladder workout. Starting in the lowest gear, read a page, shift up. Go up to the top gear in that chainring then reverse. Next, shift to the big ring and go back up the ladder. I did two sets. My knees were screaming at me.

Big Nellie on a resistance trainer in the basement.

After my ride, I went upstairs and helped Mrs. Rootchopper and our daughter finish the 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle – an end-of-year tradition at our house – we had begun a few days earlier. Eduard Munch’s The Scream.

You’d scream too if you had to do this puzzle.

Today, I planned on going out to deal with the storm damage in our yard. A cedar tree in our back yard had split near the top. The debris came down and was sitting on the power line to our house. Mrs. Rootchopper cut off some of the lower part of the fallen tree top. This took some weight off the line. For the rest we called Dominion Power. They had a crew out in a couple of days. The crew left their cuttings on the ground. A redbud tree on the side of the house had split down the middle of its main trunk. A couple of other large branches were hanging off other trunks.

Top of tree resting on power line.

I first had to move a pile of snow to make way for the new branches. Next I moved a big pile of branches from my wife’s previous efforts out of the mouth of the driveway. Then I started hauling branches, cutting them so that they would stack neatly, then adding them to a huge pile. I planned on 30 minutes. I even put a load of laundry in. Alas, it took three hours. I slipped and fell twice. It was not a lot of fun.

When I finished I came inside and felt like someone had beaten me with a bat. Every muscle ached. My back. My legs. My hands.

So I ate, showered, and took a nap. And did more laundry.

I hope to ride again tomorrow. That may not pan out. There’s another storm coming overnight.

Snowzilla Strikes Back

I woke up late, around 8:00. It was still snowing outside just as it did when I went to sleep. Icicles hung from the eaves all around the house. A look outside and it was clear that a foot of snow had fallen since I shoveled yesterday.

After breakfast I headed out into the storm. There was so much snow and the snow banks were so high that my wovel became useless. I had to resort to a conventional snow shovel. My neighbor came by with his snow blower and cleared a path through the sidewalk and out to the street. Thanks, Jay.

Dig. Heave. Dig. Heave. On and on. Occasionally, I could use the wovel and did. But the snow was heavy and my triceps were tired from yesterday.

After clearing our driveway with some help from expert car excavator Mrs. RC, I headed across the street to liberate the other three cars in our fleet. The street hadn’t been plowed in hours. To make matters worse, the plow only did 2/3rds of the street. This meant I had to shovel snow to get to the neighbors driveway. How much snow? My friend Rachel said it was many fucktons. She is quantitatively astute.

Mrs. RC worked on clearing the snow off the cars. I went to work with the wovel on the obstructed driveway.

Dig. Heave. Dig. Heave.

Four hours later we were done.

All I wanted was baked goods and a massage. Alas, my baking friend and my massage friend are 20 miles and several thousand fucktons of snow away.

Of course, over the four hours, another inch of snow had fallen. We clear that, fed the birds, and headed indoors.

Everybody part hurts. Somehow.

I am spent.

Outside the storm has intensified again. White outs are happening. Winds are howling.

I have to go back out there in a couple of hours.


Snowzilla Meets the Wovel

It was a dark and stormy night….

Several inches of snow had already fallen. Darkness came. So did more snow. We ate dinner. Then I went out into the storm.

The wind was calm. Then gusting. Then calm. Over and over.

The wovel went to work. We moved our cars to a vacant driveway across the street before the start of the storm. This allowed the road crew to plow the street IMG-20140303-00553almost to  the curb on our side of the street. All I had to do was move 6 inches of the stuff packed against the curb. Not easy. A neighbor had helpfully used his snow blower to clear the sidewalk. He blew the snow onto the strip between the sidewalk and the curb. There was nowhere to put the snow packed against the curb. The wovel made it easy to wheel it across the street.

The wovel is a giant shovel pan on a long stem. The stem runs over an axle attached to a huge wheel. This arrangement allows you to use leverage to lift the snow. The pivot point on the wheel means you push down on the handle instead of lifting up. This makes it easy to move tons of snow. It is a pretty damned good triceps workout but your back is spared stress.

But it looks dorky. So does my recumbent. I can tell you from past experience that nothing looks dorkier than a man holding on to a streetlamp because his back gave out after surgery. Been there. Done that. Science!

I excavated the cars, three across the street and one in our driveway. By the time I was done another couple of inches had fallen where I had started. Jane, stop this crazy thing!!!

I surrendered to the storm. I check out my Chia Werth. He was positioned next to the downspout. Unfortunately he was under an eave so he didn’t get the full effect of the storm. Still, it looks like the hole in his head (just like the real ballplayer!) was almost under the snow.


After about 90 minutes, I declared the wovel the victor and headed inside for a shower beer. I had hoped for a Fat Shovel beer but settled for a Fat Tire.

Tomorrow: MOTS (More of the Same). I’d like to do some snowshoeing but I’ll be whipped from another woveling session. Snowshoeing might have to wait until Sunday,


I Told You that Yoga Was Bad News

Last night was Mrs. RC’s yoga night. She has a class in Virginia about five miles from her office in DC. The snow squall that I rode through on the way home turned DC area roads into a hockey rink. Mrs. RC was a half hour late to her yoga class mostly because the cars on 14th Street bridge over the Potomac River were behaving like those little plastic football players on the vibrating metal football field.

After class she jumped in her car for the ten mile drive home. It took six hours. Yes, you read that right. Six hours. At the top of every hill she encountered a bank of buses and trucks. The drivers refused to go down because they were sure they would lose control and kill someone. Mrs. RC watched as cars made descents and slid off the road. She described planning on going down after them like she was lining up a putt of an undulating green. “I need to start farther to the left.” Not a good time for a case of the yips.

I stayed up until 1 am when I saw an email indicating that she was alright and that traffic was horrid. At 2:22 am I heard the front door open. She made it without an accident.

This morning I opted to drive. The National Park Service does not plow or de-ice the Mount Vernon Trail so I am pretty much out of luck for a while. (I could use studded tires but they would slow me down below 10 miles per hour, making my commute more than 90 minutes each way.)

Tomorrow the snow bomb comes. I am blaming a friend from Argentina. She came back to DC in January 2015 and we were hit with two weeks of incredibly cold air called a polar vortex. Just a few weeks ago she was hanging out on the beach in Patagonia. Then she came back here in the last week or two. And we get this monster snow storm. I think that maybe she’s one of the X-Men.  I am taking up a collection to rent her a house on the beach in Patagonia until March next year.

Since I have no choice but to deal with the snow, I attached a new blade to my wovel and I am ready for action. If you think this thing looks silly, you should try it. It works great at clearing snow.



The Trifecta of Pain Post Mortem

A couple of days ago I was somewhat concerned that Thai massage, followed by snow shoveling, and a physical therapy session, all withing the space of 17 hours would wreck my body. As it turned out, I made it through the Trifecta of Pain with flying colors.

The Thai massage (with a bit of Reiki at the end), although painful at times, was a very soothing experience. I don’t normally pamper myself like this, but I am glad I gave this a go.

This morning we had three or so inches of wet snow. I pulled out the wovel and went at it. Each time I use this gizmo I am amazed. Snow shoveling is one of the most stressful things you can put your back and heart. Woveling is a piece of cake. It is actually not much harder than mowing the lawn. And it makes quick work of the snow.

Later in the morning I went to my physical therapy appointment. We worked on my balance. To my surprise, after some awkwardness, I did most of the exercises without losing my balance. I don’t know if this gets me anywhere with my numb foot but it helped my ego quiet a bit. The PT folks were curious to hear about the Thai massage. I mentioned the pain I had with my quadriceps and IT band and that became the focus of the session. We used a foam roller to massage both areas. This was incredibly painful, much, much more so than during the massage. Then we tried using a lacrosse ball to work out the tightness in my IT band. This was not as bad.

And so the Trifecta of Pain is over. It was not nearly as painful as I had expected.

Trifecta of Pain?

My body does not do change well. When I went snowshoeing the other day, it seemed fine while I was out and about, but my little excursion, only 1 1/2 miles, followed by woveling snow and slush gave me a sore iliotibial band at my left hip. The iliotibial band was invented by Satan to stabilize man’s outer thigh. It starts just above the point of the hip and extends to the tibia just below the knee. When it gets inflamed it is hard to calm and can cause serious pain.

So tonight I go for my first ever Thai massage. In keeping with my style I signed up for a two-hour session. yes, i am an idiot. Sam and Jeff, two #fridaycoffeeclub regulars, had Thai massages from the same therapist earlier this week. Sam loved it. Jeff liked some aspects but not others.

During Thai massage the client remains fully clothed. The massage therapist manipulates body parts and muscles using his/her body and forearms and such. It actually looks quite a lot like some of the manipulations my physical therapist does.

So I fully expect to be a little sore tomorrow. This is just as well because we are expecting snow overnight and I will likely be woveling again during the day. By something of a coincidence, I have a late morning physical therapy appointment.

So by about 1 pm tomorrow, I expect to be sore in places I didn’t know I had. This may make evaluating the Thai massage somewhat problematic. Stay tuned.

Redfeather Wovels

After spending riding in the basement this morning, I took a break for lunch and watched the snow fall.  I looked on Facebook and saw a picture of my friend Flor wrapped up like Luke Skywalker on Hoth. Unlike Luke she was all in black and snow was clinging to her scarf, hood, and coat. She had a big smile on her face. What? She HATES cold. I figured if she was smiling, it must be pretty nice outside.

So as the snow fell I put on my bike commuting gear which is geared (no pun intended) for temperatures in the ’20s. Instead of my bike shoes, I put on my Goretex hiking boots. And Redfeather snowshoes.  I bought the snowshoes after Snowmaggedon a few years ago. Finally, I had a chance to try them out.


At first they felt ungainly. I even fell when I crossed the snowshoes on some uneven terrain. Once I got the drift (sorry) of keeping my feet wider apart I was trudging along in comfort. My feet were at first cold but warmed up and stayed bone dry despite all the powder I was slogging through.

Since this was my first real foray on snowshoes I didn’t want to go too far. During the tumble I tweaked my left hip so that reinforced my sense of caution. I had to cross several plowed driveways which are actually harder to snowshoe on than powder. The snowshoes have metal teeth across the ball of the foot and these work best when they have something to bite into.

On my little trek, I watch a cyclists make his lonesome way along Collingwood Road near my house. He didn’t look like he was having a whole lot of fun.

One of us is crazy

At one point I tried a small uphill section and to my surprise found it easy as pie. I could really get into this!

After about a mile and a half I took off the snow shoes and broke out my wovel, which I wrote about almost exactly a year ago. There were about 2 inches of powder on the ground and the wovel made easy work of the driveways and sidewalks at my house and the house across the street. I find it fun to use and enjoyed having a reason to stay outside with beautiful flakes falling all about me.

Snow falling on Hondas

Winter’s not half bad when you go with the Flo(r).

Godzilla Sleeps

Last night Mrs. Rootchopper and I went to the movies (Kinsgman: The Secret Service. Save your money unless you like faux Tarentino and/or Colin Firth.)  After the movie we went out to dinner. I had fish tacos. They seemed fine.

This morning they weren’t. After staggering around the house (it’s a federal holiday), trying to eat a little breakfast, and feeling unwell, I did my best Godzilla breathing fire imitation. Yes, I called Ralph on the porcelain phone. I made an offering to the porcelain god.

When it was over I felt awful. So I went back to sleep. Or tried to. An hour later I was ingesting over the counter drugs like there was no tomorrow. (And there is no physical therapy tomorrow because I canceled it.)

At 2:40 pm I woke up. I feel better now. Not quite to James Brown but really how’s he doing these days. Snow was just starting to fall. I went outside to retrieve Big Nellie for indoor use. I put it on a trainer in the basement. Not a lot of fun but it is a bit better than nothing at all. Next I postitioned my Wover next to the front door. It’s a warning to the snow gods that they’d better not mess with me.

Now I am back under a pile of Snuggies (don’t knock them, they are really warm). And I amd drinking a ginger ale that Mrs. Rootchopper just brought from the store. When I am sick ginger ale is the nectar of the gods. When I am well, I can’t look at the stuff.

Now I lay me down to sleep….

Get Lost, March

March, and I mean this with all sincerity, has sucked. As I write this, it has been raining for two straight days, except for the last half hour during which it has been sleeting like a bitch. Good riddance.

The before picture. Conveniently, it’s also my “Goodbye March” picture.

In addition to depicting pretty much exactly how I feel about March 2014, this is also a picture with a medical purpose. If you look closely at the nail, you will see it is deformed. Just behind the nail is some swelling. When this finger gets aggravated, that swelling blooms into a big painful cyst. (The cyst deformed the nail.) If I bump this finger when the cyst is inflamed against anything hard, it hurts a whole bunch.  As it turns out, the cyst is somehow related to arthritis and a bone spur in the adjacent knuckle. So tomorrow morning I am having both the bone spur and the cyst removed. Later this week I’ll be riding in North Carolina with a splint on that finger. Let’s just say, it’s going to be interesting.

It is really important for me to get this taken care of. I’ve been dealing with it for several years now. A painful middle-finger cyst can impede the sharing of important information with my fellow road users, particularly those driving BMWs and Range Rovers. Once the surgery wound heals, my finger will be all set for the busy DC riding season.

I was expecting to get a local anesthetic for my surgery but it seems as though they are going to knock me out. I expect to be in a post-op fog tomorrow. This means that my bike riding for March is complete. The numbers are pretty lame. I rode 484 miles in March, 312 of this was on 11 bike commutes. As usual the Mule did the bulk of the work, 301 total miles with 213.5 miles from seven commutes. Little Nellie picked up the remaining five commutes and a total of 169.5 miles. Big Nellie was confined to the basement. I did one ride down there for what I guess was about 13.5 miles.

I completed the Errandonee Challenge. My long ride was a 40-mile errandonnee on a Saturday. I also did the Halv-vasa ride last weekend. I did several fun sessions of snow shoveling with my wovel. Finally, I started doing yoga again and actually did a head stand yesterday. I used the couch to spot myself. I didn’t stay vertical for long, maybe 15 seconds or so, but it was actually pretty comfortable.

For the year, I have ridden to work 27 times, which I was surprised to discover is only four times fewer than last year. I have racked up 1293.5 miles so far this year.

Taking the Rest of the Day Off

Five hours.

Yep, Five hours. I wovelled my ass off today. I did it in two shifts. The first go ran from 10 am to 2. I added an hour after the snow stopped falling.

Looks weird. Works wonderfully. Look at how much snow is on that sucker!

Mrs. Rootchopper had to work so I was working solo. If I didn’t own a wovel, I’d be dead now. I used a conventional shovel for a small amount of the work around the edge of the cars but otherwise it was me and my fulcrum. (Wasn’t that a Harry Nielson song? I guess not since nothing rhymes with “fulcrum”.)

In spots, our 4 or 5 inches of snow was really 2 or 3 inches of snow on top of two inches of heavy slush. It was a work out. I will have awesome triceps from pushing down on the handle of the wovel. They will hurt like hell. In fact, by about 9 a.m. on Wednesday I’m gonna be in a world of hurt.

For now, I am taking the rest of the day off