Monday, December 10, 2012

A Moving Blog

I'm taking this blog over to Wordpress.  Same stuff, different software. As of this writing, I'm still working out the kinks so check it out at:

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Friday Fun and the Spanish Inquisition

When I was in middle school, my science teacher used to have a little weekly quiz called the Thursday Thrill or Friday Fun. They were neither thrilling nor fun but they were some of the many memorable things I learned about science from F. Norton Curtis, a.k.a. Snortin' Norton (because he had a habit of snorting when he talked) and Skippy for reasons unknown.

It was an all-boys, private, military school. In those days at least, the teachers could use physical means to maintain order. One English teacher I had used to make disruptive boys go to the corner, step back then lean into the corner and hold themselves there using only their foreheads. The walls were hard plaster. You'd have a screaming headache for the next hour. Try it.

Skippy had a different approach. If you were disrupting his class, he'd walk up to your desk, tell you to roll up your sleeve and stick your hand out palm up. Then, he would slap your wrist with his open hand. It was far more embarrassing than painful. He understood the peer pressure of an all-boys middle school.

So what the hell does this have to do with Friday.  Well, yesterday was Friday and it was fun. (Sorry, I ramble sometimes.)

It was ever-so-lightly raining when I left the house, so The Mule was the ride du vendredi. As I rode up the river on the Mount Vernon Trail, the "ever-so" part of the precipitation got dropped.  I gave the holey sweater the day off and I was glad I did. Between the light rain and the 40-ish temperature, I was comfy in my long sleeve base layer and t-shirt and my touring bike shorts, all beneath a water proof rain suit.

I headed into DC and Friday Coffee Club. FCC is much more fun when your not sick. And this week I was feeling better than I had in at least ten days. There were a surprising number of people in attendance considering the fact that it was raining. The high-ish point was the return of Froggie, our active duty, naval, weather geek. It was great to see him even if it took me about 10 seconds to recognize him wrapped in a couple of layers of bike commuter rain gear.  I think I speak for all the FCCers (not to be confused with Bob Cannon who is an FCC FCCer) when I say that we miss Mary, Queen of Caffeine, whose j-o-b schedule no longer permits attendance. There was some discussion on Twitter about having an extra early FCC next week. This would necessitate me leaving home at something like six a.m. That's probably not going to happen. 

Speaking of Mary, she is also Queen of the Coffeeneuring Challenge. It is now official, I am a Coffeeneur. For complete results, check out her blog. I am proud of this accomplishment. The last time that Mary held a bicycling challenge I failed miserably by, among other things, riding into the back of a parked car. (I am not making this up.)  Mary gave me an honorable mention. 

The ride home on Friday was slow and effortless.  No complaints. Just the kind of easy cruise that Friday evenings merit. It was my 150th bike commute of the year.

As soon as I got home, I showered, changed and headed out to see Lincoln at the movies. I had popcorn for dinner. I think the movie is overrated but the acting is off the charts. It has many of my favorite actors in it including David Straithairn and Tommy Lee Jones. They say Daniel Day-Lewis is in the movie too. I didn't see him though. All I saw was Abe Lincoln.

Today I did Christmas stocking shopping by bike. I rode Big Nellie into Old Town. As I was coming out of a Starbucks, I heard bag pipes. I nearly walked smack into Santa playing a Christmas tune. I would have taken a picture but a Santa playing bag pipes is a bit like the Spanish Inquisition. Nobody expects it.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Antisocial Oversleeping

I had a meeting at 8:00 this morning.  I needed to get out of the house by 6:30 to get there on time.  So I thought I'd wake up around 5:30 - 5:45 and be out the door with little trouble. Good plan, except that I woke up at 4:00 and thought, "No problem. Ill pop out of bed at 5:30 easy." The next thing I saw was 5:55 in big illuminated red numbers in the dark on my nighstand. Oops.

Lone Ranger fanfare music...

As usual I got the paper from the end of the driveway, did my back exercises, and watched a few minutes of inexplicable TV with the sound off. I am trying to guess what's going on in the telenovella that airs during my back exercises. Since I don't speak Spanish, having the sound off does not place me at much of a loss in this regard. Suffice it to say, after over a month, I have no idea what Anita is up to. I can tell who the baddies are though. They grimace a lot and dress in sexy clothes while Anita usually dresses like a high school cheerleader, when she's not rocking a teeny bikini at the beach.  Go figure.

Into the kitchen to inhale some watered down OJ and Cheerios. I got a pow-pow-powerful good-good- feeling.  Please note that the OJ goes in a glass not on the cereal. I would be gag-gag-gaging.

In a rush, I skipped using the sinus wash thing. I went for the Flonase instead. Except the bottle is empty. This probably explains why my sinuses are unhappy as I type this.

It was in the low to mid 30s this morning so, of course, I spent ten minutes getting just the right clothing on. I HATE this. Too many choices and not enough time.

Out the door I went. I hopped on Big Nellie, yelled "Hi Ho, Silver! AWAY!" to the consternation of my sleeping neighbors and wife and headed down the road in the dark.

About 2 miles into my rumbling ride, I spotted two cyclists crossing the road I was on. I caught up to second one and she said "Hi, Rootchopper!"Begorrah. If it wasn't Nancy Duley who I have never actually ridden with but who I see going south as I go north most mornings. She and I tweet a lot about the biking life around these parts.  We chatted for a few seconds, just long enough for me to explain that I was running late for my meeting. She mentioned that the other rider was her husband Patrick who had ridden a bit ahead of her.  Patrick is a fine Irish name but to me he is forevermore Mr. Nancy Duley. Maybe even with an @ in front.

Mr. Nancy Duley was circling around to join us when we hit a slight downhill. Big Nellie, as recumbents are wont to do, accelerated. A gap opened. I expected the Dual Duleys to catch me on the next incline since recumbents are to uphills what rhinoceroses are to flying.  They didn't. In a few minutes the big downhill was upon me.

Time. To. Fly

In a few seconds I was blowing past the 30 mph barrier with a cold wind tearing my eyes up. Can't see. Ayyyyyyyy!!!!!

Into the slalon turns at the base of the hill to Tulane Drive and across the Parkway in a gap in traffic. 

No more Duleys. If felt bad. I really wanted to chat some more. Another time.

My momentum carried me onto the Mount Vernon Trail at speed and I chugged along in the dark with the sun just starting to rise. Pretty.

Being early, the line of Catholic SUVs at Saint Mary's School for the Rich and Devout had not yet formed at the end of South Royal Street. I took the short cut down South Royal instead of following the MVT to the river.

The drivers in Old Town were kind enough to wave me through some stop signs (well, that's my alibi, officer) and I waited only 5 seconds at the King Street traffic light. Mid-block near some low income public housing some grade-school kids were waiting on the left side of the road for the school bus. I could see three little ones running toward the street from the housing area on the right. The first one who was shorter than the hood of a sedan never broke stride and ran out in front of me. I anticipated this and slowed.  The kids on the left side of the road yelled at her. Good. Next time, yell before she runs out into the street!

I took the bumpy short cut past the power plant and was soon cruising on the MVT at 15 mph.  Near National Airport I was passed by a guy on a road bike. He had on a back pack, a t-shirt and some gym shorts.  His exposed lower back was bright red.

I saw him again as I rode by the portapotties at Gravelly Point. I think he stopped to thaw out his noo noos. A minute later he blew by me again. I am very careful not to get FNNS when I ride. (FNNS is frozen noo noo syndrome.)

I hit all the lights in Rosslyn for the first time in ages. No cars tried to run me over either. I rolled into the garage at 7:49.  Up to the office. I pulled a George Reeves Clark Kent (except I didn't go in the broom closet and jump out the window) and changed superfast. I grabbed a cuppa joe and walked into my meeting one minute late.

Mission accomplished.

P.S. For my hygenic-obsessed reader(s), I should point out that I did shower immediately after the meeting.  As did my boss - not with me, of course - who rode his bike to work from Columbia Heights/Mount Pleasant area of DC.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Enjoying it while it lasts

Well, it was warmish again this morning. I could have gotten away with shorts but, since it was raining a bit, I went with shorts under rain pants. On top I wore the same thing as yesterday except I swapped out the vest and arm warmers for my rain jacket. I was dressed for success.

Since Big Nellie isn't all that sure footed in the rain, The Mule got that call this morning. I took the same route as yesterday, picking up the Mount Vernon Trail at the stone bridge.  Cars trying to get onto the GW Parkway clogged up the little side street that connects the bridge to the MVT heading toward DC. I managed to ride around and through the steel parade without harm to man or Mule. As I accessed the MVT, I could hear, high in the trees, a strange bird calling. I am pretty sure it was a bald eagle but I couldn't spot it. 

Up to Old Town the trail was pretty empty. A few sprinkles keeps people indoors. A bald eagle was once again perched above the Belle Haven nest. I wonder if this one is not visiting from up north during the winter.

I had no problems with SUVs blocking the trail this morning. I had camera at the ready just in case. Maybe I should just hold a camera all the time while I ride and the obstructions to my travel will magically disappear.

Near National Airport I fell in behind a bike commuter and a rollerskier. I could have passed both but decided to check out the skier's technique. He was pretty good, cruising along at 13-14 miles per hour. At one point he buny hopped a seam bewteen the trail and a bridge. That was a little clumsy but he never lost his balance.  He pulled over at the Humpback Bridge. I wonder if they have a Vasaloppet tide for rollerskiers?

Nobody was hit at the Rosslyn Circle of Doom today. There's always tomorrow, I suppose.

After 9 hours of cogitating for the greater good, I headed home. A steady 10 mile per hour tailwind made the trip blissful. I couldn't feel the pedals. I just rolled along effortlessly in the dark. I nearly hit two ninjas but I didn't care. 

It will be cold in the morning.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Shorts in the Jungle

One thing I hate about winter riding is the clothing. It takes me ten minutes to get dressed or undressed instead of two. And I am forever trying to decide if I have the right mix of garments for the ride to and from work.

It was in the high 40s at 6 a.m. with the promise of much warmer temperatures once the sun rose. I wore a baselayer, a t-shirt and a vest on my torso, wool socks for my feet, glove liners under regular bicycling gloves, a watchman's cap under my helmet, and, wait for it, SHORTS!!!!!! 

It was probably near 50 when I hit the road. I took a slightly longer route to work. Instead of a diagonal from my house to the Mount Vernon Trail at Tulane Drive I rode a straighter line to the stone bridge where I picked up the MVT about a mile south of Tulane.  This route costs me my 35 mile per hour downhill, but I get to ride a curvy wooded trail that is more gradually downhill.

It's nice to see runners in shorts on the trail in winter. This is perfect running weather. I passed the three-step runner (so named becasue she runs three steps then walks) and the hoppy runner (he has as a hop in his step) came and went.

The Morningside bald eagle nest was empty but there was a bald eagle perched in a branch above the Belle Haven nest. It was facing the sunrise over its watery domain.

At the traffic light for the access road to the Hunting Towers apartment the MVT crosses at a crosswalk and takes a right downhill to the Woodrow Wilson Bridge bollard farm. This morning a black SUV was planted squarely in the crosswalk so as to make a right turn on red.  This is illegal and, more importantly inconsiderate. The driver should have been waiting at the stop line. And he should not have been attempting a right on red because pedestrians were present. And he couldn't see to safely make a right turn on red because two Metrobuses idling at a bus stop blocked his view. So rather than simply wait he decided to pointlessly force pedestrians and bicycles into the rush hour traffic on South Washington Street.

I pulled up on Big Nellie and stopped in the crosswalk and made a big wave with my right arm to indicate he should back up and clear the crosswalk.  He didn't budge. I stopped in the crosswalk and stared at him. Then, when I could do so safely, I rode past him in a gap in the traffic and stared at him the entire time. I am not so bothered by the legal aspect of this. What pisses me off is the fact that this jerk is creating an unsafe situation for others for no reason. He was simply being stupid and inconsiderate. Nobody is as important as SUV Man!

As I rode north the temperature crept up, except at the short dips in the MVT.  At a dip toward the river at the Slaters Lane apartment building it was a good ten degrees colder. That woke my ass right up.

I was passed approaching the airport flyover bridges by a guy wearing a back pack on a mountain bike.  He slowed as he climbed and I had to slow because I didn't want to have to spin my ass off to get around him.  I do believe this is the bike path version of shoaling. I finally cleared him at the north end of the airport on a downhill. Big Nellie knows downhills. Mr. Mountain Bike, not so much.

At the Humpback Bridge just north of the 14th Street Bridge underpass, I spotted something out of the corner of my eye. In a tree on the other side of the GW Parkway was perched a big bald eagle. He was facing the Washington Monument across the river. Then Kate Smith walked by singing "God Bless America".  (Okay, I made that Kate Smith part up.)  It's really unusual to see a bald eagle this close to the city.

The rest of the ride was uneventful. I survived the Rosslyn Circle of Doom. Somebody should sell t-shirts with all profits going to the people who get mowed down by cars every month.
This evening, Mrs. Rootchopper reported on a near death experience for a cyclist over on 12 St SW in DC. A bicyclists with no lights and wearing nothing reflective turned in front of her taking the center lane. A turn lane was on the right and a through lane on the left.  A Mini Cooper directly behind my wife honked impatiently as she slowed for the cyclist. The Mini then veered left around my wife's car then veered back right. My wife slammed on her brakes to create a gap between her and the cyclist. The Mini passed between my wife's front bumper and the cyclist's back wheel and then zoomed off into the right hand turn lane. 

It's a jungle out there.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

An Update on Charmaine, Apple Maps, and Xmas Shopping

I drove to Washington Hospital Center today to check in on Charmaine, my bike commuter friend who was hit by a pick up truck while biking to work last week. I bought her a small flower arrangement which tried desperately to escape the front seat of the Millennium Falcon. It managed to topple over several times soaking the passenger seat.

As it turns out, Charmaine was discharged from the hospital and sent home. I plugged her address into the mapping software on my iPhone. The software guided me to take a right on North Capitol Street. Since there are two rights I had to guess which one. (I guessed correctly.)

Later it told me to take a right on Ager Rd, which was not possible since there was a traffic island in the way. I kept going without turning and it kept telling me to take a u-turn on a busy six-lane road. Ultimately it decided to re-route me entirely. It directed me to take East-West Highway east. Near a park, it told me to pull over, park on the side of the road, and WALK to the destination!  I nearly stopped to see if Allan Funt was in the back seat! No wonder that Apple executive was fired.

After resorting to looking at the map and remembering landmarks from when I biked to her house, I found my way through the confusing streets of West Hyattsville. Charmaine was home with her friend Nancy, who happens to be a nurse,by her side. (Way to plan ahead, Charmaine!) Many of Charmaine's cuts have already healed. She still has a nasty scrape between her nose and upper lip and, of course, her right arm is still broken, but she's in good spirits and has surprising amounts of energy. She's taking Tylenol for the pain which pretty much proves she's made of high grade amazonium.

During my stay, I learned that Charmaine was issued a $5 traffic citation for "failing to maintain position in lane." This sounds pretty bogus to me. Of course, the citation was written without any input from Charmaine (she had a concussion). I wonder if the ticketing officer even saw the incident. Or did he rely on the word of the driver of the pick up truck, thereby helping his defense in the event of insurance or legal issues? I can't think of any other reason to issue a ticket for $5 other than to demonstrate an astonishing degree of insensitivity.

I stayed only a few minutes. Nancy and Charmaine were off to a police station to retrieve her bike. They have no idea what shape it's in.

On the way home, I drove to a Barnes and Noble which has the word Booksellers on its sign. I walked in and saw that about 1/5 of the store was taken up with displays for various versions of its Nook tablet.  Another big chunk of the store displayed toys and games. The book I was looking for was not in stock. It was published two months ago in hardcover. I used to enjoy going to bookstores but what's the point if they don't have any damned books. The only bookstore withing 10 miles of my house is now a pathetic retail mess. The other two have long ago been converted into a CVS and a bar.

Life's not fair, is it?

Saturday, December 1, 2012

November Numbers

As usual I did a bunch of riding in November. Most of my rides were commutes but I managed to squeeze in a few others for the hell of it.

My monthly mileage total was a respectable 603.5 miles. I rode to and from work 14 times. six times on Big Nellie, six on Little Nellie and 4 on The Mule. I did five other ride on Big Nellie, three other on Little Nellie and one other on The Mule. So that adds up to 23 rides for the month.

My longest ride was a 44 mile rumble on Big Nellie.

Big Nellie logged 222.5 miles, Little Nellie cam in at 244.5 and The Mule did 136.5.

I've ridden to work 146 times so far this year. At 30 miles per commute, that's 4,380 miles. At 25 miles per gallon I (theoretically) saved 175 gallons at a cost over around $600. 

For the year my biking miles stands at 6,779 miles.

I took today off. cuz I am sick and tired. Literally.  

I will probably take tomorrow and Monday off as well so I hope to be back on the bikes on Tuesday.