Saturday, March 31, 2012

I Want My Mommy

Every day this week has felt like April Fools Day.  After my bike crash, some really frustrating days at work, and screwing up my taxes, I was hoping for a reprieve. No such luck.  On Friday I telecommuted.  I needed to pick my daughter up at BWI in the late afternoon and leaving from home would save me loads of time. I was able to keep my leg elevated for most of the day too, but the damn thing stiffened up in the car on the way to the airport.  Fortunately, I-95 was jammed up pretty much all the way there so I got to feel pain with each application of the accelerator and the brake. 

I woke up with a very sore leg that didn't want to play nice.  We spent the day driving 45 very frustrating miles on I-95 to Fredericksburg to tour the University of Mary Washington.  The last time I had a good look at it, it was called Mary Washington College and it was quite small. It's much bigger now and all the plants on campus were blooming.  Very pretty.  We took the admissions tour with our daughter. Lots of stairs.  Not fun, but by the time it was over my leg was functioning okay.

After a stop at Chez Hardee, we jumped on I-95 for another frustrating brakefest.  (Dear DOT, Paving the country just isn't working.  Try something else.  How about a train that runs up and down the eastern seaboard and doesn't cost more than a trip to Latvia?)

Once home I decided to get the lawn mower ready for the new year.  I was distracted by the amazing weed garden on the side of the house.  Since I can't kneel, weed pulling is particularly awkward. In any case, I felt like I was accomplishing something since some of the weeds were 2-3 feet high.

After a trip to the hardware store for parts, I decided to drain the gas from the mower.  I have the most fuel efficient mower on the planet. I ended up mowing about 2/3rds of my back yard before it conked out.  I thought that if the mower wasn't hot, I would change the oil. I touched the engine housing with my right hand, YEEEOOOWWW!.  White hot.

Giving up on the mower, I took my Sequoia into my local bike shop.  About 7 weeks ago, I ordered a new rear rim from them and it didn't come in. So back I went to try again.  They ordered another. The new wheel will set me back over $200 partly because they will be overhauling my rear hub in the process. 

That sounds like a lot of money.  Consider this. During my adventures today, I gassed up the Millennium Falcon (my son's Mitsubishi Lancer).  It cost over $50! This is an economy car? As I pulled away from the pump, a guy pulled in with a humongous SUV. Have fun dude.

So March ends.  I am mighty glad to see it fade in my rear view mirror. 

I hope April Fools Day is full of pleasant surprises.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Just Not My Week

I spent the entire weekend doing my taxes only to learn that they can't be e-filed because I messed up my daughters 1040EZ.  Totally frustrating.  I was so worked up about it that I couldn't sleep a wink on Sunday night.  I was a zombie on Monday. I took a Nyquil Monday night and turned on the Wizards game.  I was out cold!

On Tuesday I took one of our cars in to be serviced.  I found a highly recommended mechanic in Arlington.  I needed him to diagnose the wobble in the front wheels of the car.  I described the problem and he said, "It's an alignment problem."  I said, "Can you fix it?"  He said the alignment machine is too expensive.  So he balanced my tires which helped a little and changed my oil.  Kind of a wasted trip, but at least I only rode 8 1/2 miles to work instead of my usual 29 1/2 on a very cold morning. 

I told Mrs. Rootchopper that I shouldn't climb any ladders this week. I was jinxed.

I took an antihistamine last night and once again found myself sawing logs in my recliner until the wee hours of the morning.  Success through chemistry. I had a tailwind and the temps were in the 40s so I was eager to get riding.

I got to Old Town, Alexandria and accomplished something that I have been trying to do for months.  Most mornings as I head north on Royal Street I am passed by a father and son coming from the north, riding their bikes to school.  Dad, you get big bonus points from me. Son, you rock. You've been riding on some pretty cold mornings.  Until today, I have been unable to get their picture.  Either the camera won't work, or the shot is blurry or a car passes between us.  Today, I bagged my prey.  A tip of the helmet to these two.
Father and Son on the Way to School

The rest of the ride to work was a nice sail. I was riding Big Nellie, my Tour Easy recumbent.  It has a full fairing (windshield) on the front.  Tail winds are joy rides.  I climbed the abrupt hill into Rosslyn.  Once there I had to pass through the Intersection of Doom.  This is where a ramp from I-66 meets Lynn Street meets the Custus Bike Trail in a poorly designed mess.  Nearly every day a cyclist or pedestrian comes close to meeting his maker.  Today was my day.

The light heading west turned red. I started to cross the three lane I-66 ramp, heading south to take the sidewalk to my office on Lynn Street. The car waiting in the first lane that I was crossing had stopped.  I started to pedal then heard a screech and a horn. A big ass pick up truck in the second lane had decided to speed through the intersection.  I can say that if I had been ten feet further along, I would be writing this from post op at Arlington Hospital.  The car in the first lane probably obscured me since I was low to the ground.  So next time I'm sending up a flare before crossing.

I felt like a Bond martini all day: shaken not stirred.

The ride home was looking good.  The thunderstorms forecasted for the evening rush hour were nothing more than a light shower that had already passed. It was 70 degrees.  Nice riding weather.

I made it through the Intersection of Doom intact and proceeded down the hill on wet pavement to the Mount Vernon Trail.  I was going probably 15 or so miles per hour when I came upon a runner.  I was going to pass her but I noticed a bike approaching so I hit my brakes. The wet pavement was like ice.  My recumbent probably has a 25-75 weight distribution. 25 percent of the weight is over the little front wheel and 75 percent over the big back wheel.  (It's designed to be 35-65 but the panniers on the rear rack and my fat butt on the rear-ish seat skew it a bit.)  This means the front wheel is prone to skidding out. And skid out it did.

Down I went.

I haven't been riding Big Nellie much so my falling technique could use a little work  The ideal way to fall is to leave your feet on the pedals and let your butt cheek take the impact. Alas, my right foot slipped off the pedal and my right leg got folded under me with my right knee smashing the pavement.  The leg folding thing is called leg suck in the recumbent world and it can lead to a broken leg,  I was very lucky to only tweak and smash up my knee.  On-coming Cyclist observed that at least on a recumbent you don't have far to fall. True dat.

A Fine Looking Gash, No?
Obligatory Gravelly Point Shot
The runner stopped, a cyclist behind me stopped (which was good because Big Nellie and I was splayed across the trail).  The on-coming cyclist stopped.  If your reading this, thank you for your concern. The on-coming rider even counseled me to wait a few minutes to make sure I was okay. He even offered me his cell phone.  "How far do you have to ride?"  "14 miles.  I'll be okay." 

After straightening the handlebars and popping the fairing back into its bubble shape, I rode off gingerly heeding On-coming Cyclist's warning to go slow. 

I stopped at Gravelly Point to take a picture of my knee.  You can't see the swelling but the red gash is sitting on a welt that's about 2 inches high.

I thought about riding to the drug store to get some bandages and ointment, but decided to take my chances with the Fibber McGee closet next to our bedroom. In a fit of shopping clairvoyance, Mrs. Rootchopper had stocked up on humongous adhesive pads which were perfect for my injury. I took two Advils, jumped in the shower and washed my wound. Then I shaved the area all around the gash feeling very Dave Stoller in the process. (My cat Fellini was nowhere to be found. Rossini played in my head.) Then some ointment and a patch and I was good to go.

I am pretty sure I strained something like a ligament on the outside back of my knee. I'll ice it and assess it in the morning.

I hear tomorrow's going to be a good day for a bike commute.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

On Obsolesence. Taxes, and Rainy Days - Off Topic

It was rainy most of the day. We got up at 5:15 to take our daughter to BWI. She's off to Florida for spring break with her lacrosse team.  They're going to practice a lot this week. (Yeah, right!) All the girls on the team had all three volumes of The Hunger Games and two swimsuits. 

After getting home and taking a long nap, I procrastinated for several hours. Three crossword puzzles and half an Outside magazine later, I faced reality and started to do my taxes.  My hard drive has only 40 megabytes and 39.7 are occupied so out with the SAT prep software, out with last year's Turbo Tax. Pop in this year's Turbo Tax.  No go. It needs Service Pack 3 from Microsoft.  So I download SP3 knowing that I've previously tried to download it 3 times unsuccessfully.  Lo and behold, it loads! After only one hour!

Now we're cooking. I put the Turbo Tax disk in. No go!. I no longer have enough disk space!


Now my desktop computer is only about 6 years old.  It was the bees knees when we bought it.  Now most of its once massive hard drive is taken up with software updates. 

My wife, being way smarter than I, bought a laptop last year.  From what I can tell, it plays Mahjong like nobody's business. (My machine doesn't even have Mahjong. Sadly, I am mired in the Spider Solitaire epoch.)   So I copied my old tax files to a flash drive and loaded Turbo Tax onto her machine.

Unfortunately, it worked like a charm. I spent the nest two hours entering seemingly endless data about our charitable contributions. We don't give all that much, but we give to every tin cup in the free world. WAMU and WETA?  We need to decide. Adventure Cycling, WABA, and LAB?  I like my cigar too but I take it out once in a while. The American [Name Your Disease] Association. Pick one. 

After about four hours of this, I pressed the magic button and learned that once again we must pay the Alternative Minimum Tax.  I don't mind paying taxes but paying the AMT makes me feel like we are getting screwed.  It's like winning at negative Bingo.

We saved our asses off. We paid off the mortgage. We've been really good. Our reward is to hold our breath once a year and hope that we are not going to be rendered insolvent by some impenetrable math concocted by the Senate Finance committee.  Dear Congress, just raise my effing tax rate.  I won't mind. Really.  Just get rid of the AMT. when you do it.

End of rant.

Having some foresight, I am happy to report that Mr. and Mrs. Rootchopper are getting some money back this year. We withhold like a murderer in the interrogation room. We also benefit from Ben Bernanke's QE2 (or is it 3, I've lost track.). Our interest income is so low that our bank decided not to bother sending us a tax statement. Ha. Ha. You're rate is 0.25 percent!  Ben, we need to talk, dude.

(Prediction: in about 20 years, a whole bunch of financial institutions will go broke. They loaned money out for 30 years at 4 percent and have to pay 7 percent for deposits.  Sound familiar. Welcome to the S&L crisis of the 1980s Part Deux. No worries for me. I'll be worrying about the price of Depends and ExLax.)

So I saved everything and tomorrow I will hit the send button. One should never file taxes without a glass of wine and a good night's sleep. 

The good news is that the refund will pay for a new computer.  So we can do this dance again next year.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Just Like Newport

A king time ago, for about a year and a half, I taught at a college in Newport Rhode Island. Classes were held in a building between Ochre Court and the Breakers.  If you've never been to Newport you should check out the summer cottages.  Parts of the Redford-Farrow version of the Great Gatsby were filmed inside the Breakers which was owned by Cornelius Vanderbilt.  I bring all this up because I would arrive at school at around 8 am to the sound of a fog horn in the distance.  The school was right along the cliff walk, which ran along a bluff above  Easton Bay that led to the Atlantic. Not that you could see the water. More often than not it was socked in with genuine pea soup fog.  The kind that gives you a New England accent if you live heah long enough.
The Bridge to Frog Island.or, Maybe, Dyke Marsh

This morning I left the house in a dense fog.  At times visibility was nearly nonexistent.  My glasses kept getting wet and I had to use my index finger windshield wipers to see.  By the time I made it to the Mount Vernon Trail some of the fog had lifted but you can see that it was still pretty thick.  As long as you have flashing lights and lots of reflective gear bike commuting in the fog is pretty safe, at least at the speeds I ride.  It's a total pain in the ass for car commuters because they're driving too fast to see what's coming,

I put my camera away to protect it from the damp.  About 10 miles later, I passed under the Memorial Bridge.  There along the river bank was a huge great blue heron. He was walking along very slowly,  I spooked him a bit so he raised his wings for a second and, then, relaxed.  I had gone by and he was safe to creep along the water's edge on his backwards legs.

The Tree that Won't Die
The ride home was uneventful.  The plan when I got home was to pull out the lawn mower and use it a bit until it ran out of gas.  This way I could change the oil and put on a sharp blade on Saturday.  I thought I would conk out after 10 minutes or so, but the damn thing ran until I had mowed the entire yard.  So next week I'll do the maintenance on the mower.  I celebrated by taking a picture of a weeping cherry tree in our front yard. Somehow this tree has escaped my wrath.  Only about 10 percent of what I plant lives.  I think my gardener father is up there having a good laugh at my expense.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Big Nellie Wins the Day

My doctor's appointment yesterday was rescheduled from 10 am to 730 am.  This allowed me to ditch the car and ride my bike to work.  Since the Sequoia had passed 30,000 miles, I decided to bring Big Nellie, my Tour Easy recumbent, out to catch up.  Big Nellie has work to do.  It's odometer read 29,000 miles on the nose.

It was a pleasant, if humid ride to work. I passed the Belle Haven bald eagle nest to see one of the local bald eagles perched up high in the tree.  This is pretty typical of this time of year. The eagles seem to like to bask in the morning sun.

When I reached the 14th Street Bridge I crossed over into DC to check out the Cherry Blossoms.  They were pretty darn spectacular. I can honestly say this was one of the very best blooms I've seen.

One of the best ways to see the blossoms is to ride a recumbent to the tidal basin early in the morning. You can duck walk and glide around the basin and pass under all the low hanging branches. A couple of times tourists asked me to stop so they could photograph Big Nellie and me under the blooms.

After about 30 minutes I had made a lap of the tidal basin and headed off for work.  After work I headed back to take in more of the show. I rode across the 14th Street Bridge and headed into East Potomac Park.  The road to Hains Point is lined with cherry trees. I rode through a tunnel of white blossoms for something like three miles.  Here again is another perfect place to ride a bike.  You see much more than if you walk and you're going slow enough to really enjoy the show.

The end of the commute had a bonus.  As I made my way down the Mount Vernon Trail I made it a point to check out the Belle Haven nest again. No eagles. About two miles farther south I rode under the Morningside nest.  As I made my approach I looked up. There, right above me was a bald eagle coming in for a landing near the nest. It's talons were out.  As it neared the nest it flapped its wings and veered off.  I was glad I was on my recumbent because it gave me a clear view of the show.  A minute later I heard an unfamiliar bird calling directly above me.  It was an eagle swirling above me.  I wonder if it was mating. It's the right time of year.  I pulled over and watched but I lost the eagle in the tree tops somehow.

I didn't get any eagle pictures, but here are some of the cherry trees.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Bad Genes; No Worries

The colonoscopy went off without a hitch last week but there were two minor details left unresolved.  The doctor removed two polyps while he was doing his Fantastic Voyage thing. He told me they looked like nothing to worry about but he sent them off to a lab to be sure.  Today I went back to get the results. 

No cancer. Precancerous. Will not return. 

Sounds copacetic to me.

The finding of the polyps however elevates my risk for colon cancer so I have been moved out of the five year club and into the three year club. Small price to pay, I suppose.

Maybe in three years they will make an advancement in the prep so that it tastes delightful.  Fat chance. 

I reminded the doctor of my family history of colon cancer (my mother survived; her sister did not).  He immediately said if I have any siblings over the age of 40 that they should get tested.  So Bill, Joe, Jim, Marg, Mike and Roo step right up and get your MoviPrep. You're on candid camera.

Here's to 2015! 

Friday, March 16, 2012

I'd Ride 30,000 Miles for a Cup of Joe

I have been meaning to join a bunch of my fellow DC bike commuters at a local coffee shop for the last few weeks.  I think this was set up by my fellow bloggers Mary and Ed.  One week after another I have had a conflict but today I was going to get out of bed and get there.  So I left the house 15 minutes early, and rode our of camp headed into the big city.

Since Monday, I have logged 123 1/2 miles.  I was expecting to feel sluggish the whole way in.  Not today.. I had more pep in my legs than I knew what to do with. I was spinning in circles instead of mashing on the pedals.  Up the Mount Vernon Trail I went uncharacteristically passing bicyclists along the way.  I cross into DC and made my way up 15th Street when bike commuter extraordinaire Reba came along side. I followed her up the 15th Street cycle track as she blew on a whistle to clear a path through one cluster of bleary eyed tourist after another.  We banged a left onto the 1600 block of Pennsylvania Avenue. Barack and Michele waved Good Morning from their bedroom window.  (Would I lie?)

At 17 Street Reba left for work and I headed for Swing's Coffee a block away.  Within minutes of my arrival the place became stuffed with bike commuters. Many, like Ed, Mary and me, are also bloggers.  Nice to meet you  Laura,  Kirstin, Froggie, Lauren, Lisa, Brian, Jacques and all the others whose names my feeble brain has already lost.

On the way into town, the Sequoia finally hit the 30,000 mile mark on his odometer. I am pretty sure I have lots more miles that I neglected to transfer over from the first (this is the third) odometer on this bike. It's still a cheap thrill to watch 29,999 change to 30,000.  The last several hundred miles were not the easiest.  I discovered my rear rim is failing, my pedals fell apart, I collided with a parked car, and my rear axle sounded like it was not rotating freely.  I also had a little extra weight (a Christmas present from my sister-in-law).  Nothing like carrying an anvil to slow your roll.

Next week I switch over to my Tour Easy, which has a tad over 29,000 on its odometer. (I ride a lot.)

After leaving the coffee crew, I got hung up behind a crane building operation.  A crane was building a bigger crane right in the middle of the street.  Instead of waiting hopelessly with the cars, I hopped the curb and rode through an adjacent park.  Advantage Sequoia!

Thanks again to Ed and Mary for thinking up the coffee get togethers.  Mary even thought to bring her zombies.

I'm off the bike for three days to do some daddy duty.  And 460 miles of driving. No zombies.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

We'll Surely Pay for This

I look at the calendar. It says "WINTER". It is light out less than 12 hours. Saint Patrick's Day is still a few days away. 

I go outside. It says "MAY". It was 80 degrees when I left the office today.  Un-be-lievable.

I've been riding to work in shorts all week.  Yougottabekiddingme.

The weather gods are messing with my head.  Perhaps this is the work of Satin. Or Loki. Or the Sith, Or Vladimir Putin. Or Vlad the Impaler. Or a GOP presidential candidate. 

Oh, well. Might as well enjoy it.

Last Sunday we set our clocks forward because we are too collectively stupid or stubborn to get up an hour earlier without deceiving ourselves. Now it is dark when I leave the house and light when I ride home.

I cope. The big benefit to this is seeing amazing sunrises over the Potomac River. Here's yesterday's.  The buildings to the right are National Harbor. The people who built this monstrosity thought it was a big deal. The sun is more better, don't you think.
Repeat after me: Oooh. Aaaah.

Just north of the power plant I came upon the marsh caused by some active beavers.  The water level was so high here that, a few years ago, the National Park Service re-routed the Mount Vernon Trail to higher ground. Apparently the Park Service lost patience with our furry friends and pulled the plug on their bathtub.  Now its just a big muddy mess with no waterfowl or beavers in sight.

Somewhere there's a mighty pissed off beaver.
I received a check in the mail and wanted to cash it. My old office in DC was next to both of my banks. Neither have an office in Rosslyn where I now work.  Hmmm. Lunch time. 75 degrees. Bike in the garage. A light bulb flashes.  It's time for Utilitaire Man!  I put some straps on my pants and hopped aboard the Sequoia for a short jaunt into Georgetown. Without a helmet on I felt like some young urban bike hipster weaving in and out of traffic.  I think the gray hair, bald spot and pot belly gave me away though. I got to the bank and lo and behold it had nifty bike parking next to the front door.  As Wayne Campbell might say, "Excellent." 
Bikin' and Bankin'

I grabbed a sandwich after my banking was done and soon re-discovered that Rosslyn's Gateway Park near Key Bridge is an unpleasant eyesore. Hard to complain though. I was eating outdoors in my shirtsleeves in March!

The ride home from work was awesome. It was 80 degrees. I decided to divert from my normal route and cross Memorial Bridge into DC to check out the cherry blossoms.  Peak bloom is still a few days away but they are still so, so pretty.  I hope to get over again early next week.  We'll see.
Blooms in East Potomac Park

Back in Virginia, I took the Mount Vernon Trail home after re-crossing the Potomac on the 14th Street Bridge.  As I passed the airport I spotted a plan coming in over Long Bridge Park and Roaches Run to the west of the airport. It crossed the trail just as I approached. 

I am having way to much fun riding in this week.  I rarely get to ride in all five days.  And never in shorts in March.  I've already logged 123 miles this week. Yikes.  We'll pay for this somehow. 100 degree, code red days. Earthquakes. Hurricanes.  Something wicked this way comes.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Sequoia and Blossoms - Old Town Alexandria

It was a comfy 60 degrees for my ride to work this morning. A steady tailwind pushed me along. I feeling my tailwind oats, that incredibly gullible sense that today I am stronger than Lance. Until I realize the planes are taking off in the direction I am coming from and the flags are pointing my way. A genuine tailwind sucker was I.

The ride home was into the teeth of the same wind, but I didn't mind. The digital thermometer on my bike computer read "80" for most of the way. It's not even Saint Patrick's Day yet! The trees are suckers for this and are blooming at least two weeks early. I don't mind at all.

The ride home was nearly ruined by a Lancelot who passed me without warning as I passed a walker along a narrow stretch of the Mount Vernon Trail. I felt a tick on my left hand. The passing asshat actually made contact. No "Sorry". No "My bad". He was in a big hurry to get home and admire his engorged quads in the mirror. Someday he'll be admiring the CT scan they do after he goes ass over pea brain into a tree along the trail.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Daybreak Savings Time

Daybreak Savings Time by Rootchopper
Daybreak Savings Time, a photo by Rootchopper on Flickr.
One of the best parts of my bike commute comes at the beginning of daylight savings time. Just as I reach the Potomac River, three miles into my ride to work, I get to watch the sun rise. Here, the Sequoia with its spiffy new Velo Orange touring pedals. leans on a railing in Dyke Marsh.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Close Encounter with the Raptor Kind

From time to time I come upon bald eagles on the Mount Vernon Trail. Today, while test riding my new Velo Orange touring pedals, I hit the trail south of where I live. I picked the trail up just south of Fort Hunt Park.  About a half mile before reaching Mount Vernon, I passed a woman standing on the trail and looking up into the trees. As I passed I made eye contact and said, "Bald eagle?"  She said "I dunno."  I kept riding and thought, when she sees one, she'll know.

About 90 minutes later I was retracing my route.  I came to an elevated boardwalk section of the trail just south of Fort Hunt Park.  There were five or six people looking up into a tree that was arched over the boardwalk. I glanced up and RIGHT there was a big bald eagle.  He was between 15 and 20 feet up in the tree and doing his regal scanning thing.  The trail here is about 15 feet above the river bank so my little friend was perfectly situated to check out the menu at the Potomac Fish Market.

I took a few pictures and started to walk underneath to see if I could get an interesting angle. Splat!  I think he took offense!  Bald Eagle poo is a lot like pigeon poo, white and liquid. Thankfully, he missed me.  Not finding a better shot, I rode off. As I did with my back to the eagle, a passing cyclists said that he just took off.

I think the pedals passed the test..

Mechanical Ineptitude Sunday

After driving 860 miles in two days, I decided that Sunday would be a day to fix up a couple of my bikes then head out for a ride.  I forgot, however, that I am mechanically inept.

All I was going to do was swap out a set of pedals and toe clips on the Sequoia. Easy Peasy.  Not so fast, wrench head.  I had the left pedal off in seconds. Put the pedal wrench on the nut part of the pedal axle. Hold the pedal down with one foot. Push. No problem. Done it a million times. I open the box of pedals from Velo Orange and the first problem arises.  There's no indication of which pedal is left or right. Since the threading on the left pedal is reversed, this is critical information.

So, I take off the old pedals and carefully examine the threads.  I think I id'ed the left pedal.  I start to thread the pedal on and I notice there's no nut part.  There's no way to use a pedal wrench on this thing.  WTF.  I can get it on but I'll never get it off.  So I search the Velo Orange website to no avail.  I call Velo Orange and, well, it's Sunday.  They're probably on their bikes enjoying the weird design of their pedals!  So the Sequoia goes back in the shed.  I send them a WTF email. 

Next up, my Tour Easy recumbent.  I need to order a new seat for it.  So I go and check the design of the old seat.  Go to the company's website and it asks me for the frame size. To me it's "enormous", but that's not one of the options.  So I go searching for the purchase receipt which should be in the folder with all my bike paperwork.  Should be. It isn't.  I finally find a repair receipt for my bike. It has the serial number on it.  Yess! I call Bikes at Vienna where I bought the bike and have it repaired. Nobody answers. Of course. It's Sunday.  They aren't open yet.  I wait until noon. Call back at 12:05. They have a long history for me in their computer but the computer doesn't have the spec sheet for the bike. They say check the manufacturer's website.  They'll list the wheel base of the different sizes.  I do. They only list up to size large. Argg!

The folks at Bike at Vienna do tell me that the pedals should be put on with a big allen key! They'll happily put the pedals on for me. They, alas, are 23 miles from my house.

I'm going out to search for the appropriate sized allen key. 
I was going to start my taxes tonight but I think that may be unwise.

Epilogue (A Quinn Martin Production):

I called Spokes about the pedal. They said bring it in. On the spot Chris at Belle Haven checked the threads put the right pedal on, fiddled and diddled. Voila.  On the road again....

Now for the Tour Easy seat....

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Creak, Squeak, Groan, Click

The Sequoia has the withers.  It is fading away day by day, pedal stroke by pedal stroke.  I rode to work in near-60-degree weather with a nice tailwind.  The Sequoia acted like a horse being reined in.  And the pedals clicked and the bike squeaked. 

The ride home began in 70 degree weather into a strong headwind. I had so much weight on my bike I was pretty sure I would be staying rubber side down. (A 925 page novel was in one of my rear panniers. No ebooks for me.)  All the way home the bike seemed to resist rolling. The pedals clicked and occasionally caught.  Further.

As I went under the railroad bridge across from East Potomac Park a man rode past me with a toddler in a seat in front of him.  I felt utterly pathetic.  10 miles per hour into the gale.

Dad and Toddler on Cool Bike
As I made the bend on Gravelley Point there was the man and the toddler.  I pulled over to admire the bike set up.  This little girl had nice high perch in front of dad.  They could talk as he pedaled.  She was protected from the wind by a small fairing with an apron hanging from the bottom.  Very cool set up.  I took a picture of the bike with the toddler on it.  Then I took a picture of the bike and saw wires.  It had an electric motor.  That's how he rode by me so fast.

Electric Dad Bike
After a brief chat I left as a plane came in low as approached the runway.   It never gets old.  I've been watching planes land and take off since I was a little kid sitting in my family's Ford Country Squire station wagon at Albany Airport.  Way ahead of Wayne Campbell.

The right pedal caught several times on the way home but I managed to free it up.  By the time I arrived home it felt like it was going to disintegrate.  I took the bike into the shed and checked it out for the other noises.  As I stood over the bike, I could hear squeaks.  I looked left and right. More squeaks.  The bike wasn't moving. Then I realized that the noises were coming from my helmet!  Doh.

Since I was checking the bike out anyway, I sprayed lube into the pedals (aren't they supposed to be sealed?) and on the dolly wheels of the rear derailler.  Then I cleaned the chain using my old t-shirt and citrus cleaner method. Added some Pedro's Ice Wax and quiet was restored for now.

I suspect that the groaning noise I am hearing is the read axle which needs to be overhauled or replaced. That I will do whenever Mavic decides to ship my rim.  It's been on order for a month.  I suspect this is why Germany invaded them twice in the 20th Century.  Ich vant mien velo parts!!! 

I'm getting some new pedals tonight. 

Eventually, the Sequoia will be restored to its youthful glory.  I hope. 

Monday, March 5, 2012

Bike Repair Wack-a-Mole

Not long ago I replaced the front wheel on the Sequoia, a bike with 29,000+ miles on it.  The brake wouldn't work no matter what I did to it. The brake wouldn't work because the rim had begun to cup. This sort of thing happens after over 18 years of use. 

So I put the Sequoia away for a while and came back to a couple of months later, only to discover that the back wheel wouldn't turn freely and the back brake wouldn't work properly.  The mechanic at Spokes, my local bike shop, adjusted the rear hub in a couple of minutes and warned me that it may need a rebuild (which means new ball bearings and grease).  Meanwhile I ordered a new rim from Mavic to match the front rim. 

Then I rode my Tour Easy, another bike with 29,000+ miles on it, in the basement.  The left pedal was making all kinds of noise.  It was starting to disintegrate just as it had done a few months before. I took it in to Spokes to replace the left crank arm and the pedals.  

While the Tour Easy was in the shop, I crashed the Sequoia and bent the front fork.  Spokes bent the fork back and I was good to go.  I rode the bike during the Halvvasa ride and had no problems. Today, I rode the bike and the right pedal was wobbling. When I got home I discovered that both pedals were coming apart. And the rear wheel was, once again, not spinning freely.

So I check out the Tour Easy and the mesh seat back seems to be tearing apart.  I also need a new seat pad so I am considering getting an entirely new seat.  $365.

Are these two bikes trying to tell me something?  Wouldn't a nice shiny new bike fit nicely under the Easter tree or bush or,....,whatever?

Or maybe that tadpole trike I've been thinking about.

I'll be broke no matter what I do.


Sunday, March 4, 2012

Half a Vasa Is Better than None

Swedes are crazy people.  You would be, too, if you lived way up north and didn't hardly see the sun for most of the winter.  At the end of winter, as proof of their insanity (as if the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Abba were not enough), thousands of Swedes participate in a very long Nordic skiing event called the Vasaloppet. Along the way, they eat lots and wash it down with warm blueberry soup.  (Would I make this up?)

I belong to the Washington Area Bicyclists Association (WABA).  Every March, WABA teams up with the Swedish embassy to host a bicycling version of the Vassaloppet.  Some folks do the entire 60 mile ride. They must be Swedes. I, however, am of Irish extraction. I don't do 60 mile rides in 45 degree weather. So I did the Halvvasa, which apparently is Swedish for Half Vasaloppet.

Pre-Ride: The Crowd Gathers
I drove to DC at an ungodly hour for a Sunday morning.  Coffee was my co-pilot.  I parked near the Jefferson Memorial and rode my Sequoia two miles along the river to the ride start/finish at the Swedish embassy along the Georgetown waterfront. This would be the test ride for my recently repaired front fork.

Bike Friday Club of DC - Jonathan and Me
The full Vasa ride had already left on its 60 mile trek. I picked up my cue sheet and found Jonathan Krall, like me a member of the Bike Friday Club of DC. We chatted with some other Halvvassed riders then headed out into a steady headwind.

Regina - Have Smile, Will Ride
The route takes trails and roads west to Great Falls Park, mostly along the Capital Crescent Trail and MacArthur Boulevard. This is a pretty flat ride save for a short-ish hill near the reservoir. We rode past Glen Echo Park, a mothballed amusement park of yesteryear and over the Cabin John Bridge.

The climb up into Great Falls is challenging.  It's probably 1/2 mile long which is long enough to find a climbing rhythm.  We took Falls Road into Potomac Village spotting a flock ("flock" isn't the right word here) of vultures snarfing down Sunday brunch - a deer carcass on the side of the road. Gross. 

The Boots Rider Had a Moustache on Her Bike.
Dude, Get Off My Dream Bike
Blue Bike, White Tires, Boots!
Welcome to Sweden
After a 15 minute chat in Potomac Village, we reversed course,  Before we reached the vultures, we banged a left through the Avenel development.  Oaklyn Drive was pool table smooth with several rolling hills.  It's as nice a biking road as you will find. As I was about to pass the riders in front of me, I caught sight of a bicycle moving very fast on my left.  He was the lead rider in a club ride.  The club riders.soon were three abreast along side.  As they made their way past us, a car came from the opposite direction. The club riders compressed toward us. Thankfully, the driver was not playing Angry Birds on his iPhone and we all survived the encounter.

Swedish Innovation Exhibit
The ride back was very pleasant with a light tailwind that upped our cruising speed by five miles per hour.  Smooth sailing.  I fell into a pleasant 15 mile per hour groove and lost contact with Jonathan as he faded into the distance ahead of me.

A lovely, enthusiastic WABA volunteer called out to me at Reservoir Road and I made the right hand turn back down to the Capital Crescent Trail. Another 5 miles of scenic river riding and I was back at the embassy.    I had forgotten my lock, so Jonathan used his cable lock to lock our bikes together. Thanks, Jonathan.

Blueberry Soup
We entered the embassy and had some warm blueberry soup to celebrate our day.  We chatted with a bunch of other riders, including Mark Blacknell, whose name I have seen a million times on the Internet.  Mark is the current WABA president.  Frankly, I have no idea what that means, but his security detail and bullet proof bike were very impressive.
After Ride - Trying Out a Utility Bike
Good ride. Well done, WABA. Thanks for the hospitality, Swedish Embassy.

Until next year, skol, y'all.

Friday, March 2, 2012

On to the Blueberry Soup

When you are not allowed to eat, every commercial on television has the most amazing looking food in it.  Even food I don't eat like fried shrimp looks amazing.  I stayed up until almost midnight watching TV and surfing the net while the flushing juice did its thing on my digestive tract.  I slept like a log.  Accompanied by my post op wingwoman, Mrs. Rootchopper, I arrived at 630 at the Colonoscopy Center around the corner from our house.  (When you buy a house, location is everything.) 

After the usual paperwork, I was taken back to be readied for the procedure.  Clad in a backless hospital gown, I laid down on an operating table. The nurse took my vitals (all good, thanks to cycling no doubt) and hooked me up to oxygen and a blood pressure cup and a pulse taking gizmo. (When your pulse is lower than your age, your in good shape and getting old.)  The doctor came in, stinking of gin.  Just kidding.

The anesthesiologist sat near my head and introduced himself. I promptly forgot his name.  Today I would be getting the celebrity anesthetic Propofol.  (This is what Michale Jackson od'ed on.) Dr. McCone, the man with the plan - and the scope - came up from behind.  He introduced himself and after some small talk, and an injection of Propofol, I blanked out. 

I was having some pretty good dreams.  It seemed like I was out for hours, but the whole procedure takes only 15 minutes. In my case, a little longer since the good doctor found two very small polyps.  As he said, odds are they are nothing to worry about, but left alone they could have become cancerous. (Eek, the "c'" word.)

My wife drove me home and I went to sleep for a couple of hours. I woke up and ate breakfast.  I'm still a tad off - mostly from the persistent gurgle in my gut.  That will go away with a couple of meals.

I go back in a few weeks to get the official pathology results. I won't be surprised if Dr. McCone puts me on a more frequent schedule than every five years.  No complaints here. 

So for those of you who shy away from this sort of thing, here's some advice from the Rootchopper Institute of Fluid Dynamics and Cancer Prevention:

  • If you have a family history of colon cancer and you are over the age of 40, get a colonoscopy. If your doctor says no, get another doctor, and get a colonoscopy. If you're younger than 40, talk to you doctor about one. If you don't have a family history, and you're over the age of 50, bend over!  You should have one, too!

  • Yes, the prep sucks but it's only one day.  (I know colon cancer patients who had repeated colonoscopies.  They have it bad. You don't. Deal.)
  • The procedure sounds awful but it doesn't hurt at all. Not one bit. No pain. Big gain.
  • It isn't embarrassing. Okay, a little but what do you care? You'll be unconscious. Try being a doctor who does this all day. Seriously, Dr. McCone and his staff are superb, professional, and experienced. I know he's been doing colonoscopies for at least ten years because he did one on me in 2002 and another in 2007.   
  • It isn't expensive. With my insurance, it cost me $40. And I didn't have a Groupon. I don't know what it would cost you, but colon cancer is a killer. I'm pretty sure it's a lot cheaper (and a whole lot less depressing) than a funeral. As Norman Chad says, "Pay the man, Shirley,"
So get your ass to your doctor.

As for me, I will spend the remainder of the day eating and napping. Tomorrow I plan on eating and reading as it pours buckets outside. Sunday morning, the Sequoia and I are doing the Vasa ride, an event run by the Washington Area Bicyclist Association and the Swedish Embassy. At the end of the ride, I'm drinking some blueberry soup.  

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Feelin' Preppy - Way Off Topic

About 15 or so years ago, my mother had colon cancer. One of her older sisters died from it. My mother survived hers.  It may be because she caught it early, or the fact that she contracted the disease over a decade later when treatments were better. Either way, her cancer puts me in the deep end of the colon cancer risk pool. So I began getting colonoscopies ten years ago.

My first colonoscopy was uneventful. My mother warned me that the preparation would be unpleasant. It involved fasting the day before and drinking a couple gallons of nasty tasting solution. Think flat wheat beer mixed with gatorade and salt.. And you have to drink two gallons.  Basically, it flushes your digestive tract. The nasty taste is from all the electrolites they load the juice up with so that your heart won't go haywire.  When I was a freshman in college I was very overweight.  A friend told me about this water diet he was on. So I tried it. I ate nothing and drank glass after glass of water for a few days.  Not surprisingly I spent the better part of a Saturday on the toilet, after which I collapsed on my bed with the shivers.  It seemed funny about a week later.  A few years later I learned that this diet can kill you by stripping your body of electrolites and sending you into cardiac arrest.  So, as bad tasting as the juice is, I don't much mind. After I drank the first gallon, nothing happened.  I sat around for four hours thinking that I might have to cancel the procedure.  Then I drank the second gallon.  Madone!  Gurgle, Rumble and Roar.  Ready, when you are, doctor!

In the exam room, the next morning, a nurse came in to give me a sedative. I think it was vicodin.  I felt the stuff go up my arm. It made my whole body feel like it was glowing. I looked up at the nurse, smiled, and said, "That was so nice."  Once the sedative took over, the doctor could have used a two by four and I wouldn't have cared. After the procedure, I was given the news that I was cancer and polyp-free.

Five years ago, I had my second colonoscopy. I decided that, since I knew what I was doing, that I could go to work the day before.  I still had to fast but the flushing solution was different. I only had to drink two liters, about four hours apart. It still tasted foul. And two liters is still a lot.  I drank the first liter around 1 pm expecting nothing to happen.  And it didn't.  For about an hour. Then, Mary, Mother of Gawd! Gurgle, Rumble, and Roar!  All afternoon. Other than vanishing from work for three hours, the rest of the prep and procedure was uneventful.  The sedative knocked me out this time so I didn't experience the pleasant rush in my arm. After wards, my doctor gave me the same good news.

This time, for some reason, the preparation is different again.  The instructions say to start taking the juice at 4 pm.  Even though I could have spent most of the day in the office, out of anxiety, I teleworked. All I could think about all day was food. The instructions on the juice box say you can add something to the juice to make it taste lest horrific.  I toyed with the idea of vodka.  Then it occurred to me that you really don't want to be drunk when this stuff kicks in. And it did kick in. Jesus Christ really does have a middle name! Gurgle, Rumble and Roar! I still have a liter to go as I write this. Ugh and I hoping tomorrow morning brings good news. 

The Sequoia
 Since I couldn't eat lunch, I drove over to Spokes to retrieve the Sequoia.  The pedal overlap is minimal.  The bike tracks straight and true. Well done, Fred. A mechanic and I fiddled a bit with the front fender and trimmed the stays.  I should be good to go.  Speaking of going.....