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.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

A Friend Gets Hit

Around lunchtime I drafted a witty blog that thanked a man who told me to slow down on an icy bridge on the Mount Vernon Trail. And if all had gone well I would have added to it by writing about seeing Chris from the Friday Coffee Club and having another rider ask to draft me while he caught his breath on the way home. During mid afternoon, that all went in the dumper.

This blog pretty much exists because my friend Charmaine kept urging me to convert the emails I was sending her about my bike exploits to a blog. Charmaine has two blogs herself, Living Car-Free! and Bicycling to Work. She is a very experienced cyclists; she's done the cross country thing and has been bike commuting forever. I met her several years ago on the 50 States Ride at an intersection on MLK Avenue in Anacostia. Her friend Keith was on a beam bike, she was on a Bike Friday and I was on Big Nellie. We were on the Avenue of Misfit Bikes. Long story short, she lived a mile from my house in Mount Vernon. We ended up doing scores of rides together.

Some years ago she introduced me to Reba who also bike commutes to DC from my neck of the woods. Reba emailed me this afternoon to tell me that, yesterday, Charmaine was struck head on by a pick up truck while riding to work on Michigan Avenue in DC.  Skipping over the details, the pick up truck won.

She's in the hospital with a bunch of injuries (broken right arm, contusions, scrapes, concussion, etc.) that one would expect to get from such a collision. She expects to get out of the hospital but she'll have to do rehab (to learn to use her left hand) and physical therapy.

I went to see her tonight. She looks pretty good all things considered and was lucid.

Just a few minutes before Reba's emaiil, I learned that a colleague of mine fell in a Metro station today. She did a face plant and was taken to the ER.

I am starting to get paranoid.

Tomorrow is another day. Maybe I'll stay in bed.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A Few Minutes with Andy Rootchopper

I made a quick decision to switch from wool socks to synthetic socks this morning. My wool socks cover my ankles; my synthetic socks go up over my calves. I look like Ryan Zimmerman. Except his socks are red and mine are black. And he can turn Uncle Charlie into a frozen rope.

And speaking of freezing, my toes were.  They didn't warm up until 3 pm.  My calves were toasty though.  Not that cold calves are ever a problem for me, especially since I quit dairy farming.

The ride to work had a highlight or two.  A bald eagle at the Belle Haven nest mooned me. Well, he actually tail-feathered me.  Normally, bald eagles face into the sun, toward the Mount Vernon Trail, at sunrise. This one was turned toward the west. Hence the bald eagle moon. (Sounds like a country rock version of Bell Bottom Blues.)

Near the airport I came upon a landscaping crew. One guy was walking on the left of the trail. The others were in a truck on the right side.  As I approached, the truck turned to cross the trail in front of me. The left side guy didn't bother to tell the driver of  the truck that I was coming. The truck stopped with a jerk.. Or should I say "abruptly" since the jerk wasn't actually in the truck? Aren't crews required to post a look out for cars when they are working on roads? They should do the same on trails, except for bikes and other trail users.  (Why do I feel like Andy Rooney all of a sudden? I've been thinking a lot about shoes lately. Maybe that's it. Since I am parenthetically talking about Andy Rooney, I should take a moment to brag on the fact that I went to the same high school as he.  So did Herman Melville. I don't often feel like Herman Melville. Whenever I see a whale, I throw up. Makes for lousy whaling excursions. Just ask Mrs. Rootchopper.)

On the northern flyover bridge just past the airport terminals I actually passed a cyclist. It was a woman wearing a parka and riding a CaBi. It still counts as a pass, doesn't it.  (If I asked her out for coffee, would that be a double pass?) That's one in the win column.  Better then Les Boulez. Speaking of Lez Boulez, you know you suck when Andre Blatche, a player you are paying $7 million NOT to play for you, mocks you in the morning papers.

The short bit of sidewalk is still out of commission on Lynn Street at the Rosslyn Circle of Certain Death.  I suppose VDOT decided that it's been too long since a cyclist was carted off in an ambulance so they added an obstacle.  Once they get a victim, they'll open the sidewalk again.

 The ride home was like a George Carlin weatherman routine. DARK.  The Mule was happy to chug along with a light tailwind. I stopped to take a picture of the gorgeous full moon low in the sky next to the Washington Monument.  It was a calendar picture if ever I saw one. Then my AIPS kicked in. AIPS is acute inept photography syndrome. It flares up whenever I pick up a camera.

The ride home was pretty routine. The last mile of my homeward trek is on Collingwood Road, a two-lane, shoulderless road with hills just big enough to hide a bicycle. A minivan came up from behind me. A car was obviously coming from the opposite direction. The minivan passed me. The oncoming car had to slow to a crawl. He hit his horn. Thank you oncoming car.

Tomorrow I'm switching back to wool, I think. I synthetics were better, sheep would wear polyester.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Mule Knows

The weathermen were all lined up with snow panic in their voice. "Slush and slippery roads coming tomorrow," they said. This is the kind of stuff that keeps me up at night. The thought of slipping and sliding for 15 miles on the way to work is unappealing to say the least. I went to sleep early thinking that tomorrow's going to suck.

At 6 am I went out to get the paper. It was 40 degrees out and barely sprinkling. No worries.

When it rains, I switch to The Mule. Planning for the worst, The Mule was the choice du jour. The Mule knows rain. With it's 700C wheels it is significantly more stable on slippery surfaces than my recumbent. It also has the oldest seat in my bike fleet so I won't cry if it gets damaged by rain.

I tried a trick that I have done in the past.  I put my socks on then put my stockinged feet in the plastic bags that the newspaper comes in. Then I put on my shoes. After some smirks from my daughter (okay, it does look silly having plastic bags billowing out of your shoes) I headed out. It took a while to get used to my feet sliding a bit inside my shoes, but at least my feet were dry.

I wore the hood on my waterproof jacket to keep my head dry. A buff completed my head and face ensemble. In the event that the office was unespectedly closed, I could rob a bank.

Instead of a miserable, slippery ride I was warm and dry. The rain came, but it was never became more than a heavy sprinkle, if that isn't an oxymoron. Speaking of morons, the people sitting in stop and go traffic on the GW Parkway looked unhappy. Cars never look like fun in the rain. They never show cars like this in commercials. There is a wide gap between the myth and the reality of automobile ownershop. Back on the Mount Vernon Trail alongside the GW Parkinglot,  I had the trail pretty much to myself all the way to Old Town.

A lone bald eagle eyed the Potomac River smorgasbord from a branch above the Belle Haven nest. With that long beak and fluffed up feathers, he looked like an emperor looking down his nose at his subjects. I swear I heard him say, "What fools these drivers be!"

I passed a walker on the MVT on the north end of Old Town. A scaffold covered the trail in anticipation of the demolition of the adjacent Sheet Metal Association Building. They have associations for everything in the DC area. Snack Food Manufacturers, Retired Military Officers, Statisticians, Human Resources professionals. No Rainy Day Bike Commuter Association though. Lobby? We don't need no stinkin' lobby!  At the far end of the scaffold, a walker was about to put his umbrella up. I rang my bell and he hesitated. Good thing he did, he would have nailed me in the head with it.

Once clear of Old Town I started to see bike commuters.  I am a passee not a passer. A couple miles after a particular passer flew by me, I saw him on the side of the trail. The one thing you don't want to deal with on a rainy bike commute is a mechanical problem.  His was apparently a quick fix. He passed me again a mile later. I'm not giving you another chance, bro. Passees have their pride, you know.

The red maples on the river bank on the trail across from the Washington Monument are still clinging to their leaves. They are the last hold outs. Soon they will give up their color and all will be barren. A couple of months of this and I'll be dying for spring to come. And it will. Trust me.

In Rosslyn, a section of the sidewalk is closed. Walkers and cyclists salmon along the curb for 50 feet. Drivers seem displeased. Maybe we should have the lane closed. Will that make you happy? No? Then shut your pieholes.

The ride home was dry but surprisingly cold. I had to dodge Loudoun County commuter buses that were taking up the bike lane and a regular travel lane and the curb lane! I think Arlington's finest should show them all the tolerance that Loudoun County's police show bicyclists. A taste of their own medicine.

Riding The Mule home was much more pleasant than Big Nellie. Since my head was pointed down toward the trail, my helmet visor blocked the blinding headlights from cars on the Parkway.  The MVT had very few people on it. Only one ninja, in fact, and I managed to miss him. Bad aim.

I was passed by only three people. Of course, I passed no one. That made me 0-12 on the day just like the Wizards.  Think Teddy boy will give me a job as a coach?

My chain was making crunchy sounds. When I put the bike away, I pulled lightly on the chain where it contacts the big chain ring. It came off the teeth with ease. I do believe this chain is toast. So is the cassette and at least two of the chain rings. (I rarely use my granny.) All I want for Christmas is my new gear teeth. And a new chain ring. When I finish with The Mule, I'll be doing the same for Little Nellie. I wonder if I could get a group rate at my local bike shop. Replace one transmission get the second for half price!

I can dream can't I.

The Mule gets the call again tomorrow. There may be ice on the trail. The Mule knows ice.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Do I hafta?

No more Thanksgiving.
Time to be ungrateful.
Gotta go back to work.
Gonna ride my bike,
cuz that's what it's good for.

Near freezing in the morn.
Wore my backlaver thing.
Wore my wool saux.
Wore an extra layer up top.
Perfect, except the toes.
Better cold toes than clumsy boots.

No bald eagle today.
He's being cheeky.
Or maybe it's a she.
Saw a cheeky she-runner near Gravelly Point.
She had loooong legs and shooort shorts.

Spent the day trying to think of Christmas presents for my wife. Fail.

Can't post any pictures on blog any more.
Ran out of memory.
Need a new blog platform,
cuz I'm too cheap to pay.

Can't use too many subjects either.
Wouldn't be prudent.

Dear Prudence.
Won't you come out to play.

Somebody should write a song like that.

Annoying ride home.
Headlights in my eyes.
Ninjas on the trail.
Managed not to hit them.

Going to sleep.
"Toes up," says URG
She is wise.
I am tired.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

A Walk in the Park

There are days when riding a bike seems forced. Today was one of them. I don't have anywhere to go and it's a little on the cold side outdoors.  And, to be honest, bike riding does get a little stale after 6,600+ miles over the course of the last 11 months.

Sitting inside leads to a vegetative state. And blobitude. Both are not good for your soul.

So I went for a walk in the woods. One of the nice secrets of living in southeastern Fairfax County is Huntley Meadows Park. The park includes over 1,400 acres of woods and swamp with two miles of walking trails including a boardwalk out into the swamp.  Once you are a half mile into the park all you can see are trees and swampland. It's a great place to decompress.

I hit the trail at about 11 this morning. The best time to go is early in the morning when no one else is there. You'll see deer and, in season, an impressive array of birds, turtles, beavers and other critters.

There were a few families at the park this morning. This pretty much guaranteed that I wouldn't see any deer. Kids make too much noise. When my kids were little, we'd take them to the park to check out the birds in the swamp. My son became obsessed with photographing them so we bought him a telephoto lens. His bedroom walls have several framed pictures that he took at Huntley Meadows when he was around five years old.

There's not much to see this time of year. The skies were cloudy and gray. The trees barren of leaves. The water level in the swamp was low, except for a small area that had been damned by beavers. Even with so, walking through the park reminds me of all the times I went exploring in the woods in Albany when I was a pre-teen. I could spend hours and hours just hanging out, poling the big logs on Dead Man's Pond, and spying on the big kids.  Sadly, Dead Man's Pond was filled long ago to make way for houses. The woods were cleared by a man who bought them with money he made selling CB radios back in the 1970's. They probably don't even know that a man known only by the decidedly politically incorrect name of  Injun Joe lived there. (I thought this was a tall tale made up by one of my brothers. I helped a friend's father move when I was in college. He told us about when he was a kid in Albany and actually met Injun Joe. You could have knocked me over with a feather when I heard this.)

I spent about an hour in Huntley Meadows. At one point I saw a couple of signs about 100 yards off the trail in the woods. I decided to check them out. They were warnings of a winter-long deer hunt being conducted by archers.  If they wanted me to stay on the trail, what the hell did they post the signs up so far into the woods for? Fail.

When I got home, I packed my panniers for tomorrow's cold commute. Big Nellie and I will be ready. Legs fresh. Brain recharged. If you happen to be in southeastern Fairfax County, take some time to check out Huntley Meadows.

My pix can be found here.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

In Turkey We Trust

It's been a while since I posted. I have been busy stuffing my face. And relaxing. Not that that means I haven't ridden.

This is Thanksgiving week. Normal routines go out the window, except for bike commuting. I rode to work on Tuesday on Big Nellie. I am finally getting dialed in to my recumbent after a long time off the bike. One reason I have been off the bike so much is the fact that I crashed the bloody beast on wet pavement back in the spring and messed up my right leg.  So I have been reluctant to repeat the experience. Time heals all cliches so they say or something like that. Now everything is copacetic. So Big Nellie gets the call.

Tuesday at lunch one of my office mates decided that we should all go out to Ray's Hell Burger, about 1/2 mile from the office. I have had a heap of burgers in my life, but none match the orgasmic deliciousness of a Ray's Hell Burger. The damn thing melts in your mouth. Oh, the bovine goodness of it all.

Since I don't normally eat big lunches I spent the afternoon in a food coma.  The ride home was wicked good. It was warm-ish and my fuel tank was full.  Once at the Rootchopper ranch, I quickly showered and changed, then snarfed down some peanut butter and bread. I was out the door a little after 7 and headed to Baltimore in the Millenium Falcon, my son's Mitsubishi Lancer, a true automotive shitbox. I drove on I-95 to Cockeysville, Maryland. This involved the main line to New York plus two beltways. What fun. I-95 before Thanksgiving is automotive hell. You'll be bombing along at 60 miles per hour only to come to a dead stop before going 60 again. Polka driving (lots of accordions). I rendevoused with my son who had caught a ride from his college in the frozen north  I picked him up at a neighborhood of McMansions that was truly impressive. Suburban Baltimorons are not hurting. The ride home was eerie. There was hardly any traffic at all.  We made it home by 11:30 and after some chit chatting I headed to bed at 12:30.

Wednesday morning I went to the extra special Thanksgiving version of Friday Coffee Club at Swings Coffee in DC. I normally leave a half hour early to get to Coffee Club, but this time I actually left a little late. I was zombie after getting to bed so late. Work was work-ish. We were dismissed early and I rode home in daylight which was a treat. The next two months of riding in the cold and dark will be challenging. I could never live in the far north. I need my solar fix.

Thanksgiving means food. In order to make room for mass quantities, I did a pre-meal 16 mile ride.  It was warm out. The Mount Vernon Trail was thick with bored looking families killing time before the big gobble. That evening, we saddled up the Honda, with a trunk full of food, and headed to friends' house in North Arlington. Football, beer, and turkey. Yeah, buddy.

We interrupt this blog to give thanks for all the thank-worthy things in my life.


Back to the blog.

I took Friday off from work and went for a leisurely ride in Woodlawn. Woodlawn is that area south of the Mount Vernon estate. It's quiet suburbia with no traffic. The hills are not too bad and the roads have some nice curves that turn Big Nellie into a roller coaster car. I love carving turns even more than carving turkeys.

After 30 miles, I headed for home. My wife, daughter and I headed out to see Lincoln only to be thwarted by those bored families killing time by filling the movie theater. Go home bored families. Your relatives are already sick of you! We watched Life of Pi instead. It was in 3D. The 3D actually made the movie better. It was a real feast for the eyes. Somebody said it would be best to see this movie stoned.  Nobody in the theater said "DOOD!  That was AWESOME!" so I think everybody was straight for our showing.

Saturday has been given over to procrastinating. I did get some cleaning up down in the basement of doom and some caulking in my bathroom. I was supposed to research health insurance plans. Our current insurance is only good in the DC area. Since my daughter is going away to college, we need to change. We don't wanna!  I picked up the guide book my wife got from work and read the fine print.  If I understand it correctly, we can keep our current insurance until she leaves next fall. Yesss!

Insurance? Boy, did this blog get boring. See what happens when I take a day off my bike?  I do believe Big Nellie will be fixin' for a ride tomorrow. So will I.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

A Bike for the World

Getting your driver's license is one of those events that every teenager dreams about. And for most teenagers it means that an old friend gets pushed away.  My daughter's bike hasn't been used in two summers. It was not the greatest bike in the world to begin with. She's thinking about going away to college, far away. There was no chance that the bike would go with her.

We could have sold the bike for maybe $50 but instead I decided to donate it to Bikes for the World. As their website explains, Bikes for the World takes bikes and other useful items and ships them to the less fortunate in far flung places.  So today, I drove Lily's bike to Burgundy Farm school and handed it over.  I also gave them three old tubes that no longer fit any of the bikes I still have.
Donate Bikes Here

These were donated within the 1st hour
After my good deed for the day, I returned home to wrassle with some new panniers.  I bought some Ortlieb panniers to replace my worn out ones. Ortlieb slightly modified the design so I had not much fun getting them to work on all three of my bikes without interfering with my feet. I was more or less successful. Some tweaking will almost surely be needed.

Now that I have new panniers and have two old, slightly leaky panniers that I can use to transport messy stuff. Big Nellie and I used one to fetch a bag of birdseed from the local hardware store. For the first time on my bike, I wore a ratty old sweater that I had squirreled away in my office.  It's not as soft as the holey sweater but it did just fine.

Once that task was done, I was hungry. Big Nellie and I headed for Old Town Alexandria to find some grub. For some reason I felt like eating fish and chips again so we ended up at Eamonn's for the second weekend in a row.

I headed back home and put Big Nellie away.

The shed is now an empty nest.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Bank and Brewery

Two days off the bike left me feeling antsy. Lucky for me it was warm and sunny with temperatures in the mid 70s this morning.


It was a balmy 43 degrees outside and I ain't talking no centigrade here, Mister.

It may be that my antsiness (if that is even a word) was also the result of eating the three taco platter at Cactus Cantina last night.  The platter was preceded by two Dos Equis (would that make it Quatro Equis?) and a heaping helping of chips and salsa.

The mailman brought a check and, since I changed jobs, I no longer have a branch next to my office. This means I have to make a special trip anytime I need to use my bank.

Need to make a trip, feeling taco tummy, and need to ride my bike? Hmmm.......

I know, I'll ride to the bank!  (I'm effin' brilliant, I tell ya.)

Unfortunately the only bank branch open near my house is in a Safeway on US 1, a six lane highway that eats bicycles.  I could go all snarly on why my bank is in a grocery store ("The ATM is right over there sir, next to the fish sticks.") but, instead, I'll accept reality and go cash my check.

Of course, with cold temps and a decent breeze it took some time to figure out the right mix of clothing. 20 minutes later I was out the door. I felt fine standing still but once I got rolling into the wind, I was a little uncomfortable. No worries. I'll warm up, eventually,

The trip to the bank involved cutting through the drive through at a drug store, weaving into and out of access roads and finally dodging busy folks with shopping carts loaded to the max with turkeys and fixins.

Once my banking was done, I decided to try and intercept my friend Crystal's ride in Northeast DC.  This ride which was dubbed HubsNPubs would traverse 15 miles of busy city streets and visit 3 microbreweries. The noon start was located about 25 miles away.  I decided to join the festivities at the first brewery, Chocolate City Brewing on 8th Street NE.

I would enter DC in the southwest quadrant, ride north to the northwest quadrant and cut due east to reach the northeast quadrant. I would rely on my superb sense of direction rather than a map. I would get seriously lost in NE DC in about one hour's time.  I rode to 8th Street NE which was interrupted by the campus of Gallaudet University. So I rode around campus to the east, then north, then west, and ended up climbing a bitch of a hill in traffic. This was not a lot of fun I finally made it 9th Street NE where I reached a T.

I took 9th Street NE north through an industrial area that included the postal facility where anthrax was discovered, as well as a bunch of warehouses and big box stores. This is not on any guided tours of the city, I'll have you know.  Then around a roundabout, up another hill and stop. Time to check a map.  I was doing pretty good. Only about 15 blocks to go. Well, I finally made it to 8th Street NE and saw about six cyclists heading my way. This must be Crystal's group. Nope. Uh oh. I mean how many people ride bikes on this sketchy street anyway. About a quarter mile later I saw what looked like 50 bikes locked up and down some chain link fences.

Crystal's ride was a cycling extravaganza. Before I could lock my bike, a horde of young folks came out of an adjacent building and started fiddling with the bikes. Crystal, Kevin, Ted, John, and Ryan, Friday Coffee Clubbers one and all, were among the throng.  I was soon to meet Kevin's wife Rachel and John's wife Kate.

I hopped on Big Nellie and rode off with the group. We headed east to DC Brau.  Five miles later, after a car with FOP plates cut me off, we entered a strip mall parking lot and rode down a hill to the back of the buildings. The parking lot was packed. There was barely enough room for our bikes. Undeterred we entered the building and started drinking some free samples of beer. DC breweries are not allowed to serve beer for sale on site so we settled for three ounce tastes. I had a whopping total of nine ounces of beer over the course of an hour leaving me wanting only one thing: a bloody proper pint!

Some of the riders took a tour. I decided against it. I was enjoying the people watching. It was interesting to see the people with jugs called growlers. They'd pay to get them filled up then walk out cradling their jugs like they were made of gold. My precious.

When John and Kate decided to head home, I joined them. I had already ridden 25 miles and it was a long way back to my place in Virginia. John led us down Bladensburg Road which is normally very busy. Today, though, the traffic was light. Bladensburg Road ends at Maryland Avenue which heads southwest through Capitol Hill. As we approached the Capitol the houses were nicer. We rode past lovely row houses, mostly brick, three and four stories tall. John and Kate bid me farewell about a half mile from the Capitol and I continued on, eventually picking up the Pennsylvania Avenue cycletrack on the far side of Capitol Hill.

I took a left on 15th Street and traffic was a mess. Constitution Avenue which runs the length of the National Mall was closed at the Washington Monument. As I crossed it I could see thousand of people walking in a five-abreast formation toward me, eventually amassing at a stage set up on the monument grounds. I didn't find out what this was but there must have been tens of thousands of people involved. Note to marchers: you need a better press agent.

I rode across the river on the 14th Street Bridge and took the Mount Vernon Trail home. I was expecting a tailwind but the wind had changed direction and I found myself riding into a headwind. Two headwinds days should not be allowed. I am pretty sure this is caused by a vast right wind conspiracy.

I made it home with little effort by around 4 o'clock. I rode 19 miles on nine ounces of beer. DC Brau should market their IPA as an energy drink, I think. If I attached a growler of the stuff to my back, I could probably ride forever.

Check here for Keviin's ride report and here for Crystal's.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Hellos and a Good Buy

Cold and wet are not the best combination for a fun bike commute. Add a headwind and you're looking at 15 miles of I-wish-I-had-stayed-in-bed. 

My miserable ride began before I even got The Mule out of the shed. A critter had managed to topple our garbage can during the night so I spent the first 10 minutes outside picking soggy trash up from all over the yard. By the time I actually got on the bike I was already in a foul mood. 

The first few miles were not all that bad. I was wearing the holey sweater under my Marmot Precip jacket with its hood up. I was pretty cozy. Except for my feet. They were soaked within three miles. Manufacturers of wool clothing say that wool keeps you warm even when it's wet. Bullshit. My toes were freezing!!!

I made it to the Mount Vernon Trail and proceeded to plod along, hoping the rain would stop. Fat chance. Just north of Belle Haven Park I happened to glance up and there not five feet above me in a tree next to the trail was a hawk. Hello, Mr. Hark. Mr. Hawk wasn't looking too fierce today. He was just as miserable as I was.

The rest of the ride in was uneventful until the tree cover on the MVT gave way to soccer fields at Daingerfield Island. Here's where my fun was enhanced by a 15 mile per hour headwind. Oh. Joy.

Near the airport there was some tree cover but I knew that once I made it past the cozy confines of DCA I would be hit with those winds again. Mother Nature didn't disappoint. The last 3 1/2 miles to Rosslyn were not a lot of fun.  As I turned from the trail to cross the I66 off ramp near my office, a car coming up the ramp blew through the red light. Fortunately, I anticipated the driver's lawlessness and survived to ride another day.

It took me a full 20 minutes to get my wet biking clothes all wiped off before heading to my office. It quickly became apparent that my once waterproof panniers were waterproof no more. I bought my Ortlieb classic back roller panniers for my 2005 bike tour.  They survived my ride to Indiana amid the remnants of hurricane Katrina.  I have used them on hundreds and hundreds of bike commutes. This summer the fabric began to fail. I am sad to see them go. If you need panniers, buy these. They work great. In fact, I ordered a new pair this morning. 
I done wore these bad boys out. Good stuff!

I keep a stash of newspapers in my office to stuff in my bike shoes when they get wet.  I was down to one Style section. At lunch I went out and bought some soup. And I picked up a free newspaper. I didn't read it. I stuffed it in my shoes. Try that with your iPad.

Most of my stuff was dry for the evening commute, except for my super absorbent wool socks. Squish. The rains had stopped and my morning headwinds were now at my back.  So. Much. Better.

At the southern end of the airport a commuter rode passed and said, "Nice vest." I was wearing my Bike Arlington reflective vest. I picked it up on Bike to Work Day.  The cyclists was Pete, known online for some reason as Dirt. He's a member of the Friday Coffee Club. He's been volunteering to hand out blinky lights and reflective stuff for Bike Arlington this fall.  Bravo, Pete.

A few miles later as I was entering Old Town Alexandria Shawn (known on the interwebs as Shawnofthedread) rode by and said hello.  "Nice riding weather!" he said.  Indeed. Without the rain the ride home was actually pleasant despite the cool temperatures and wet socks. 

South of Old Town along the darker stretches of the trail my headlight exposed the beady eyes of some critters in the trailside underbrush. Hi, critters. Tell your friends to stay out of my garbage.

Tomorrow is my last bike commute of the week.  I will be driving to work so that I can catch my daughter's school play Thursday and Friday night.

Stay warm.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Fish and Chips, the Long Way

It's a federal holiday today. That's because yesterday was Armistice Day.  Nothing much happened on the 12th day of the 11th month but what the hell we'll give you the day off for good behavior.

Nothing in this discussion should be meant as disrespect for veterans. I just think it's weird that we gave Armistice Day the heave ho.  In Rhode Island they celebrate V-J Day. (For those of you who weren't paying attention in history class, that's the day Japan threw in the towel in WWII.) 
My father was a veteran, although he kept it pretty low key. He was in medical school during WWII. The defense department drafted all the medical students and paid for their schooling so that they would be available for the invasion of Japan, My father said the most pathetic thing in the world was seeing all the med students marching around at some military installation on Long Island. Nerds in formation.  You'd think really smart people could march better than Gomer Pyle. Nope.

I woke up late and was greeted with a pretty darn nice biking day. Of course, I didn't plan ahead so I goofed around for a few hours before heading out for lunch. I was thinking I'd ride the six or seven miles to Eamonn's in Old Town Alexandria and have some fish and chips.  The only problem was that I got up late and ate a late breakfast so I wasn't hungry.

So what could I do that would kill a couple of hours and make me hungry? Think. Think. I could have done something productive around the house but instead I decided to do what I always do.  I pulled Big Nellie out of the shed and headed north.

I had spent part of last weekend tweaking the seat on Big Nellie so I was hoping the ride would be improved.  Twas. I was cooking with gas for the first ten miles. A slight tailwind helped but that didn't explain riding fast up hill or swooshing through one turn after another. Long story short the seat tweak worked great.

I headed up to Alexandria by way of back streets and Fort Hunt Road. I normally take the Mount Vernon Trail but after 150 or so rides on it this year alone I needed a change.  Traffic wasn't so bad and I made it to Old Town without becoming somebody's hood ornament.  I cut back over to the Mount Vernon Trail and, a few miles later, headed west on the Four Mile Run bike trail. This goes underneath I-395 (one of the great bike infrastructure improvements ever) and empties out at the start of the W&OD Trail.

I kept trucking and soon reached the intersection with the Custis Trail. I banged a right on the Custis to head back to DC.  About a mile later I spotted my friend Geof parking his car in his driveway next to the trail. I stopped in to say hello. After a quick chat I was back on the trail. The Custis is a roller coaster all the way to DC and Big Nellie made the most of it.  I love hill hopping on this bike. You go screaming down one hill and use your speed to go up the next rise.

I took the Key Bridge into Georgetown because no ride around here would not be complete without a battle with taxis.  The traffic lights were in sync so I blasted down M Street to Pennsylvania hitting only one stop light along the way.  I met up with a mom on a tandem with her son who was about 10 stoking.  She also had another son riding on his own bike. She was taking them to the National Gallery. 10 year old was looking pooped. Somebody's going to be asleep by the Gaugins I'm afraid.

I rode across the plaza in front of the White House. Crews were busy building the review stands for the inauguration parade.  They had the plaza normally about 50 yards wide down to a single lane. Tourists hoping to get a nice picture of the White House had to settle for a chain link fence, some butt cracks and plywood.

I followed the cycle track on 15th Street to the Mall then continued on to the 14th Street Bridge. Back in Virginia I took the MVT back to Old Town where I stopped for my fish and chips. Fish and chips are salty and greasy.  Just the thing to top off the old bike engine.

Strap on the ol' feed back, son
Eamonn's. Motto: In cod we trust.

I fought a food coma for most of the ride home. I don't think all that grease will get digested for at least ten hours.  I do believe a nap is called for.



Sunday, November 11, 2012

Little Nellie Set Me Up

Sundays in November with temps in the 60s are rare birds. I'd kill myself if I didn't go for a ride.  So, finding suicide distasteful, Little Nellie and I lit out for parts unknown.

We began by meandering around the Fort Hunt area. This is you basic plain vanilla suburb. I contemplated riding down to Fort Belvoir but this being Armistice Day I figured there might be formal ceremonies or something. I turned to the north. I followed East Boulevard Drive on the east side of the GW Parkway. I much prefer riding on this stretch of road to the Mount Vernon Trail. It gets very little traffic and the houses are interesting and varied.  Some of the smaller ones probably date back to the 1930s when this was considered remote from DC.  These modest old frame houses are being knocked down and replaced by mansions. 

The Mount Vernon Trail was uncharacteristically uncrowded for such a nice weekend day.  I decided to take the Woodrow Wilson Bridge trail across the river to Maryland.  My legs, having had an easy day yesterday, had no trouble climbing to the top of the bridge.  The corkscrew ride downhill on the far side of the trail is always fun. The climb up to Oxon Hill Road wasn't. I have to say that I was impressed with myself as I reeled in a bicyclist and passed him near the top.

Once at Oxon Hill Road the options for further riding are pretty limited. I could go south on OHR and dance with the church going traffic or turn north and head to Oxon Hill Farm. I decided to do the latter. There is a pretty serious downhill next to the farm and it's usually thick with deer.  Oddly, today there were none.  The road gives way to a poorly paved trail around Oxon Cove.  This trail dumps out into a utilitarian area where there is a job training center, a Police academy, some greenhouses for the Smithsonian and other oddities.  I found a paved trail that headed away from the main trail and followed it..

Barn at Oxon Hill Farm
This side trail dropped me in a neighborhood of modest frame houses along side Indian Head Highway.  I took a left on the access road that runs parallel to IHH and headed toward DC.  Had I taken a right I could have climbed back up to Oxon Hill Road on a brand new (but not yet officially opened) access road. 

The access road gives out after a few blocks and I was forced out onto IHH.  There was plenty of room for Little Nellie and me since this section of the road has three wide lanes and several traffic lights to calm the autos down.  

I crossed into the city and spotted a big campaign sign. Marion Barry, the disgraced former mayor of DC, is still extremely popular in this corner of the city. He was re-elected. I wonder how the president would feel being put on a sign next to him.

Chutzpah: The Man in the Middle
IHH intersects the hilly and bumpy section of Martiin Luther King Boulevard. I decided to improvise a new route.  There were no street signs so I have no idea what roads I was on. I eventually intersected Mississippi Avenue which I am familiar with from the 50 States Rides I've done.  There was little traffic, a smooth riding surface and one big hill. 

My ride took me across the South Capitol Street Bridge depositing me at the home plate gate of Nationals Park.  The Nats were fun to watch this year even though I didn't go to any games. 

I made my way through southwest DC and across the Potomac River on the 14th Street Bridge.  Instead of taking the Mount Vernon Trail home I cut over to Crystal City and took roads that had very little traffic back to my house. Just before arriving at home, I stopped off at Sherwood Hall Gourmet for a Gary's Lunchbox sammich.  It tasted great after riding 34 miles in the sun.


Coffeeneuring 2012: Recap

The Cofffeeneuring Challenge of 2012 is in the books. I have to say that the riding wasn't the hard part. Getting caffeinated on the weekends was. I've been buzzed for 6 weeks. My central nervous system feels positively Parisian.

Coffeeneuring 2012: Rise of the Cranberry Orange Muffin!

So here's the recap which will act as my submission to the Queen of Coffeeneuring for her review.

Coffeeneuring No.1 Perks. 822 North Fairfax Drive, Old Town Alexandria VA. This is located one block from the Mount Vernon Trail near the Transpotomac Canal Center just South of the power plant.
Date: Saturday, October 6

Drink: Americano with a chocolate chip cookie.
Ride: Big Nellie
Rating: Two cups out of five. Coffee was good. The cookie was better. The shop was packed.
Miles: 21

Coffeeneuring No. 2: Buzz, 901 Slaters Lane, Alexandria VA. This is about a half mile from the Mount Vernon Trail. Take the ramp to Slaters Lane and follow Slaters until you see Buzz on the right.
Date: Saturday October 7
Drink: Americano with a chocolate chip cookie
Rating: Two cups out of five. The coffee was not as strong as at Perks. This is a plus. The cookie was not as good. The shop was packed mostly with WiFi squatters. I had to eat outdoors. It was pretty cold out and the seats were metal so I wasn't thrilled.
Ride: Big Nellie
Miles: 15

Coffeeneuring No. 3: The Hollin Hall Pastry Shop, 7920 Fort Hunt Road, Mount Vernon VA. This shop is about 1/2 mile from the stone bridge on the Mount Vernon Trail. Cross the bridge to the west. Take a left on Shenandoah. A right on Fort Hunt Road. The shop is in the strip mall on your left.
Date:  Saturday October 13
Drink: Americano with an eclair
Rating: One cup for the coffee. I really don't think the high school kid behind the counter knew what she was doing. Five cups for the eclair. Dang, it was tasty!!!! Not much ambiance. Just one little table for wayward coffeeneurs.
Ride: Big Nellie
Miles: 5

Coffeeneuring No. 4: Grape and Bean, 118 South Royal Street, Old Town Alexandria VA. Royal Street runs parallel to the Mount Vernon Trail. The shop is one-half block south of King Street.
Date: Saturday October 20
Drink: French Roast
Rating: One cup out of five. The coffee was way too strong for my taste. There was nothing but bread available to eat with it so I had nothing. (I could have had lunch but it was too early,)  This was a dissappointing experience. I ride by this shop every day. This is the first time I've gone inside and the staff seemed like they couldn't be bothered with me.
Ride: Big Nellie
Miles 54 1/2

Coffeeneuring Fail: Red Truck Bakery, Warrenton VA
Date: Saturday October 27
Drink: House Roast with orange cranberry muffin
Rating: Coffee rated four cups. The muffin went to eleven!!!!!  BEST MUFFIN EVER. And the bonus was seeing Veronique, a friend from back when our kids were little.Red Truck is definitely worth another visit. And the riding around Warrenton is great too.
Ride: The Mule
Miles: 1/2 mile (+ 72 for the Pumpkin ride)

Coffeeneuring No. 5: Misha's, 102 S. Patrick Street, Old Town Alexandria VA.  This shop is located several blocks west of the Mount Vernon Trail. Take King Street until you hit Patrick Street. Misha's is a couple of doors down from the intersection.
Date: Saturday November 3
Drink: House Coffee with a chocolate chip cookie.
Rating: Three cups out of five.  The coffee was fine. The cookie was heated up which made it especially tasty. This is yet another coffee house with WiFi squatters. I sat at a big long table with a pile of newspapers strewn all over it. Misha's and the Coffeehouse it replaced is something of an institution in Old Town.
Ride: The Mule
Miles: 14

Coffeeneuring No. 6: Perk Up, 829 South Washington, Old Town Alexandria VA.  From the intersection of the Mount Vernon Trail and South Washington Street at the Woodrow Wilson Bridge take South Washington two blocks. The shop is one door down from Green Street,
Date: Sunday November 4
Drink: House blend. Three cups out of five. This shop is pretty small so the WiFi squatters once again filled up most of the seats.  I sat outside on a cool fall afternoon.  They serve some pastries and such but nothing floated my boat.
Ride: Little Nellie
Miles: 11

Coffeeneuring No. 7: Saint Elmo's Coffee Pub, 2300 Mount Vernon Avenue in Del Ray, Alexandria VA. Mount Vernon Avenue runs parallel to the Mount Vernon Trail on the west side of US 1.  Braddock Road, Monroe Street or the bike path on the south side of Four Mile Run all intersect Mount Vernon Avenue.
Date: Saturday November 10
Drink: Americano with an orange cranberry muffin
Rating: Five out of five cups.  This coffee was exactly as I like it and the muffin was moist and crumbly and near perfect (look out Red Truck!).  Saint Elmo's is a real, honest to god neighborhood coffee shop. Every neighborhood should have one. A great place to finish the challenge. There are all kinds of restaurants up and down Mount Vernon Avenue. And just a couple of doors from Saint Elmo's is The Dairy Godmother where you can get a truly awesome root beer float.
Ride: Little Nellie
Miles: 18.

And, last but not least, a tip of the helmet to MG, the Gypsybug, Gersemalina, and wise Queen Coffeenista for coming up with this idea. It got me out of the house on several days when I would have been riding my recliner instead of my bike.


Saturday, November 10, 2012

Coffeeneuring Number 7: Saint Elmo to the Rescue

Today is my father's 95th birthday. I hope he and my Mom are enjoying themselves. Do they have Canadian Club in heaven?

After a week of unseasonably cold weather and five bike commutes we were greeted with some pretty decent riding weather. With 150 miles in my legs since Monday I felt my legs needed a break.  So whatever riding I did today would have to be short and sweet.

Gersamalina a.k.a. Gypsybug a.k.a MG, the Queen of Coffeeneuring, disallowed my coffee trip to Red Truck Bakery a couple of weeks ago on the grounds (no pun intended) that the ride to and from the coffee drinking lasted only one half mile. The minimum for qualifying is 2 miles. And event rides don't count (so this rules out the 72 miles I did after drinking my coffee).

So I had one more coffeeneuring ride to do to finish the Coffeeneuring Challenge of 2012.  I decided to ride to the waterfront in Old Town Alexandria and partake of coffee in the food court near the Torpedo Factory. In  the process I rode past a Firehook Bakery and a Starbucks. I wanted to do the Challenge without going to a coffee or bakery chain so I have assiduously avoided these places as well as a Drunkin Donuts about a mile from my house.

When I arrived at the promenade behind the Torpedo Factor I was stunned at how little bike parking there is. Alexandria is supposed to be a Bicycle Friendly City but once again it showed that it has a long way to go to earn this honor.  I managed to lock my bike to one of two bike racks near the food court. They each had a bike locked to them and the each of the racks would barely fit one more bike.
Closed x 4! Fail!

Once Little Nellie was hitched up, I walked to the food court. Each door to the building had a white sheet of paper on it. Closed.


Having already used up three nearby non-chain coffee shops I decided to head to the Del Ray neighborhood, home of Saint Elmo's Coffee Pub. Saint Elmo's is a bit of a Del Ray institution and it deserves its reputation as a fun place to hang out.  In front of the shop is a bike corral where customers can lock up their bikes on the street. Alexandria, you need to do a whole lot more of this!
Muffn with coffee. Mighty fine.

Inside I ordered a medium Americano and an Cranberry Orange muffin.  Both were excellent. The muffin was not quite as good as Red Truck's, but the coffee was the best of all my coffeeneuring stops.
Little Nellie in the bike corral at St. Elmo's

I took my time riding home. After riding Little Nellie exclusively for about 165 miles my body has dialed into riding her. It's hard to explain but spinning properly requires getting your hips and ankles and knees working together just so. The ride home, despite two decent hills on Fort Hunt Road, was effortless.


Where: St. Elmo's Coffee Pub, Mount Vernon Avenue, Del Ray, Alexandria VA
What: Americano and orange cranberry muffin
Distance: 18 miles

So, there you have it. I have met the Coffeeneuring Challenge of 2012.


Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Veni, Velo, Voto

Damn it was cold this morning. Time to break out the heavy artillery.  The holey sweater came out of mothballs for the first time since last winter. 

The holey sweater lives!!!
Dang! Frost!!
I donned four layers on my torso, a balaclava, some mountain bike shorts and wind pants, and wool socks. I headed down the street on Little Nellie to the voting place.  It was about 6:55 a.m. and the line to vote was quite long. It wasn't as long as 2008. In 2008, every African American who could get out of bed was in line before dawn. There were huge smiles and looks of incredulity on many of them as they stood in line to make history. It was moving.

I wish I brought something to read
Little Nellie waited patiently for me to vote
Unfortunately, the line this year wasn't.  It took 50 minutes to vote. Some moms with kids in tow realized that no amount of Pop Tarts could keep their little ones calm long enough to vote so they left. I really felt for some of the elderly folks who stood for so long. Why can't we do what Oregon does and vote by mail?  Just sayin'.

Look Ma. I got a sticker!
Even with the hassle, I'm glad I voted. It felt good to hit that big red VOTE button.

I hope you voted.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Eagles and Ninjas

The first day back on standard time was a shock to my system. For some reason I didn't sleep at all last night. I woke up and went out to get the newspaper in the driveway.  I am convinced that sleeping leaves an envelope of warmth around your body that is specifically designed to allow you to get the newspaper comfortably in any weather, even if you are still in your jammies. (Not that I wear jammies.  I would never admit to wearing jammies.)

The envelope of warm wears off after you read the sports section.  I dressed what I thought was appropriately for 42 degree weather. (In New England this is known as tanning weather. Here in the mid-Atlantic it is considered arctic.) I missed by about 5 degrees.  Of course, a sensible person would have gone back in the house and put on more clothing. That would be someone other than me.  Putting more clothing on would be like asking for directions. It just isn't done. Better to be miserable for an hour than delayed for five minutes.

The headwind didn't help a whole lot, I suppose.  I saw the hoppy guy (a runner who seems to have a stiff knee) and Nancy Duley, an early morning rider who always seems to be going home instead of to work. Nancy probably told her boss she's veloworking. All bosses should allow veloworking.  It's great for morale.

At the Belle Haven nest, I spotted the bald eagle. On recent mornings, he has been perched in the branches well above the nest. This morning he was in the nest itself with a stick in his beak, winterizing for raptors.

The stretch of the ride in from the airport to Rosslyn was harsh. Little Nellie and I slogged along into an unprotected headwind. My toes were not happy.  My hands were okay though. I was wearing mittens.  They work much better than winter bicycling gloves. They are also useful if a snow storm hits while riding your bike, but only if its good packing snow.

The ride home was much more enjoyable.  About a block from my office, I encountered the Bike Arlington bike light giveaway.  A volunteer added little blinkie lights to the front and rear of Little Nellie. I was also given two reflective straps that I put on my wrists so that I could give hand signals and be seen.  I was a rolling Christmas tree.  In addition to the two blinkies and the two wrist straps Little Nellie and I had:
  • pedal reflectors
  • reflective ankle straps
  • a reflective tab on the back of each shoe
  • reflective white sidewalls on the tires
  • a front bicycle reflector
  • a red blinkie on the seat post
  • a red reflective ankle strap on the seat post
  • a big white reflective spot on the front of the handlebar bag, the back of the saddle bag, and the front and back of each rear pannier. 
  • a reflective strap on the back of my helmet holding another red blinkie light
  • a Light and Motion Stella headlight on the front of my helmet
  • a yellow reflective Bike Arlington vest
Simply put, only a blind person could miss me.

I set off on the Mount Vernon Trail. It was dark. I was a-blinkin'. My headlight was on. A jogger approached with no reflective material or lights on. I missed him. People like this are called ninjas. A mile or so later I missed another. Then another. Then another. I crossed over Four Mile Run just south of the airport. A couple of bicyclists had pulled over to the side of the trail at the far end of the bridge.

A short time later Shawn, one of the two cyclists, rode by me and told me that the other cyclist had hit a ninja.

In Minnesota this is called thinning the herd.

I hope I don't hit a ninja this winter. If you are walking or running on a trail or street after dark, don't be a ninja.

When I arrived home, Mrs. Rootchopper was getting out of her car. She told me it could be in the twenties in the morning.

I may have to wear my jammies to work.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

If you perk it, they will come

Having spent an appalling amount of money yesterday on the four-wheel place holder in front of my house, I was now free blow my Sunday any way I wanted. I have to admit I failed miserably in the excitement department. 

The basic idea behind coffeeneuring is that you ride your bike a minimum of one mile to a coffee shop and partake of your favorite beverage therein.  Coffeeneurs are encouraged to visit the independent kind you see in Friends or Frasier instead of the cookie cutter chain shops. I have two problems with that. First, there are no independent coffee shops within a five mile radius of my house. You see, unlike most coffeeneurs, I live is soulless suburbia not hip urbia. (There is, in fact, a gourmet shop exactly one mile from my house. I don't think they qualify as a coffee shop, but I will have to investigate next weekend because they make a pretty darn good roast beef sammich.)  Second, the coffeeshops on TV always have places to sit.  Most of the coffeeshops I have been to are packed with WiFi freeloaders.

Today's coffeeneuring ride was to Old Town Alexandria because that's the only direction I can go to find an urbia.  I thought I had used up all the coffeeshops in Old Town itself and might have to ride to Del Ray (another Alexandria neighborhood) or Crystal City which is the saddest excuse for a planned community on the planet. Everything there is named Crystal This or Crystal That. There are even two Crystal Marriot Hotels. It's all a pain in the Crystal ass so I try to avoid it.

Perk Up, Little Nellie
I rode up South Washington Street and within a block came upon Perk Up, an independent coffeeshop. This shop is located at South Washington and Green. I thought this was a Starbucks so I was pleasantly surprised that it was not. I walked in and sure enough every seat was taken, mostly by people with their noses buried in tablets and laptops. I waited for Jennifer Anniston to walk in but she must have been busy looking awesome somewhere else so I ordered a small coffee and sat outside in the sun. It was 50 degrees out so it wasn't terribly uncomfortable.

Once done with my brew I headed back home, making a stop at the local variety store. The Hollin Hall Variety Store is an old fashioned Five and Ten store. It has all the little crap that no sensible store would want to stock. Postcards, crafts, oddball cleaning stuff, and shoe laces, which is what I needed.

Another mile and I was back home, completing my cofffeeneuring adventure at 11 miles. 

Anybody for some fish?
Oh, and on the way, I saw this guy.  (Or gal, it's hard to tell.) He was probably fishoneuring. I'll talk a pass on that concept.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Cars and Coffee

Ryan, a participant in Friday Coffee Club, asked me if I was interested in doing a ride today. I turned him down because I have a back log of stuff to do around the homestead.  I was moderately successful in accomplishing them today.

I dropped the Millennium Falcon, my son's car, off Friday night to get new front tires.  Teenage boys go through tires and breaks like buttah.  The garage called at 8:15 and said the tires were on but the front brakes (pads and rotors) needed to be replaced.  They said it would be done by around 10:30. Apparently, they are on Central Standard Time because the car wasn't ready until 12:30.  While waiting for the car, I received my October credit card statement. I spent $45 on gasoline for the entire month. Not bad.  Unfortunately, all the car repairs today totaled over $700.  Ugh. That's probably my entire bike-related spending for a year.

I walked over to get the car. The wind was a blowin' and the 50 degree air temperature felt like 40.  After getting the car, I took it to get inspected. My usual inspector will pass a wheel barrow full of loose car parts but he wasn't there today. Please pass me so I can get on with my day.

The Falcon passed. Yesss,,,,

Next stop was the bank,

The car has had some gunk on the windshield for a couple of days. That turned out to be egg.  Some very small birds egg had broken on the windshield. I spent a few minutes cleaning it off.

At this point I should have mowed the lawn. I decided instead to ride The Mule to the local bike shop to get my left toe clip (that could be the title of a Daniel Day Lewis cycling movie) fixed. They were up to the task. (Bolt through hole. Attach nut. Turn.)

Now that The Mule was back in proper working order, I rode around the shopping center looking for coffee.  The only coffee was at Drunken Donuts (Their slogan is "America runs on Dunkin' " which says nothing about biking) so I rode into Old Town Alexandria and had an Americano at Misha's coffeeshop. Misha's, and the cleverly named Coffeehouse before it, have been serving coffee on the corner of King and Patrick for well over a decade. The coffee was fine and the chocolate chip cookie hit the spot. Misha's is pretty big inside but the place is swarming with WiFi refugees. I sat on the Group W bench in the back room.
The Mule shares bike parking with another steed at Micha's

Coffee, cookie and bike paraphernalia at Misha's
With my veins coursing with caffeine, I hit the road again. I now had a gusty, lusty, and dusty tail wind. The ride home was, excuse the expression, a breeze. About a mile from home, The Mule told me to pull over.  He had something to tell me. Here's what he said:

Ain't no decimals, baby.

Today's 14-mile coffeeneuring adventure was either my fifth or my sixth depending on whether the wise and beauteous Queen of Coffeeneuring gives me credit for last week's rule-bending ride.

One thing that I learned from today's misadventures is that I have a cold and have had one for over a week. There is no pump to my pedalling. So I am applying medicinal Merlot as I type this.
Tomorrow should hold enough daylight for me to affect repairs to Big Nellie's seat, mow my lawn, and bag another coffeeneuring trip.  Then I will grab a Snuggie and dream of warmer climes and perpetual downhills on smooth pavement. 

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Trance Ride

I get into a trance when I bike commute. I’ve ridden to and from work so many times now that it’s automatic.  This morning , after a mile, following the white dot made by my headlight, I looked up and wondered “How did I get here?”  And I wasn’t even thinking of that Talking Heads song.

Back into my trance and soon I was on the Mount Vernon Trail. I glanced at the morning sky. It looked just like yesterday, a beautiful pre-dawn light show. I passed through Belle Haven Park and came out of my trance to glance up at the Belle Haven nest. For the third time in a week, a bald eagle was perched on a branch above the nest.

I pedaled past a blind man waiting for a bus in front of the Hunting Towers apartments. Do I call out my pass or not? I decided not and moved as far away from him as possible. Maybe the next time I’ll say “Good morning. Bike passing in front of you.” That seems long winded though.

I rode down to the underside of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge. Now that the MVT is reconstructed down to the river, I no longer cut under the bridge to take South Royal Street. I don’t miss the dance of the SUVs where the MVT cuts into the drop off line at Saint Mary’s School. So many of the parents seem oblivious to the bikes weaving among their cars, as if the bikes aren’t there every day. The knuckleheads who escort the kids from the cars need to stop the cars before the trail intersects the street. That way the kids, who are pretty oblivious due to their kidness, don’t step in front of a bike. When bikes hit people, bad things happen. When I was in grade school, a kid hit a little old lady walking home from church. The lady died. I think the kid was messed up in the head after that.

I stopped at King and Union Streets to marvel at the fact that the road was dry. This intersection routinely floods after storms.  The shop doorways all had sandbags in front of them. They know the water will eventually arrive.

Back on the MVT I re-enter my trance. I look up. “Hi, Rootchopper.” It’s Nancy Duley, a Mount Vernon area bike rider and self-professed recovering economist passing by. Like so many economists, she always seems to be heading in the wrong direction. Assume a compass...

Old Town Sandbags
I go back into my trance. I can’t seem to make any speed this morning. It doesn’t matter. The early morning light puts the monuments in half silhouette. Meet the Monuments. Good album. Do monuments wear Cuban boots?  The trance is strong with this one.