Sunday, May 20, 2012

Chain, Chain, Chain

Twas a lovely day in Washington town.  The temps were in the low 70s.  A light cloud cover kept it that way.  A pleasant breeze topped it off. You know what I did.  I got up at the crack of dawn for a 200 mile bike-a-thon.


I spent the start of my day on our new deck finishing The Hunger Games trilogy. I have been carrying around the saga of Katniss Everdeen for weeks and weeks and it was time to lighten the load.  For a series aimed at kids, these books are incredibly gory.  And fun. After I plow through the pile o'magazines on my nightstand, it's back to grown up books - the latest from David Lodge and Michael Lewis.

Once the reading was done I headed out on Big Nellie, my Tour Easy recumbent.  Big Nellie has been lonely.  I have been riding The Mule (my Sequoia) ever since I had a new rear wheel built and had the rear hub overhauled.  The mechanic said that I should ride it for a couple of weeks and bring it back for re-tensioning.  It's been an epic (for me, anyway) couple of weeks. I put over 400 miles on that baby.  I think the wheel is fine, but I'm going to bring it in soon for a look over.

Big Nellie and I headed north on the Mount Vernon Trail (MVT).  We made our first stop at the Morningside bald eagle nest where one of the two photographers I have been seeing was hanging out. He told me that there are three eaglets in the nest.  He showed me some pictures on the screen of his camera.  Dang, that zoom he has works very well. We chatted for 10 or 15 minutes and I rolled away. 

I stopped at Belle Haven Park to replace some broken zip ties that hold the mesh seat back to the seat frame. The correct size zip tie is no longer made so I use two smaller ties in each mounting point.  This works until it doesn't and I start all over again.  Soon I will replace the entire seat.  The new seat will use parachute chord to secure the mesh.  Zip tie sales at my local hardware store will never be the same.

Northward I rode managing to not crash on the dirt and gravel at the new Wilson Bridge underpass detour.  I certainly hope the contractor does a better job on the park than he's been doing on the MVT because he's totally incompetent when it comes to bike trails.

I breezed by Saint Mary's School where they were having their spring bazaar.  They had one of those rides that you spin around in, get off, and puke.  Kids love them. Not me. At St. Mary's Church a few blocks later church was letting out. Catholics, being in a state of grace, were jaywalking like there was no tomorrow.  If I were a bus, there wouldn't be.

I glided down King Street to people watch. Many folks were brunching al fresco. Others were window shopping,  La di dah.

Back on the trail the traffic was building. I was in no hurry so I took my time behind tourist after tourist on rental bikes.  I noticed that my head wind was becoming a side wind.  It wasn't very strong but every so often a gust would grab the fairing on the bike and I'd get a little passive assist.  Sweet.

Across the 14th Street Bridge and into DC on 15th. I normally take the sidewalk to the cycletrack at 15th and Pennsylvania but not today.  First I was stuck behind walking tourist, then I was swallowed up by Segways, then CaBi bikes.  I bailed on Constitution Avenue and swam east with the big dogs.

I hung a left on 7th and rode up the Bus and Bike Only lane.  There were no buses. There were lots of cars. I don't think this lane works very well.  Time for a do-over DDOT. Either that or you should give up and call Honda Accords buses.

After Mount Vernon Square I stopped at BicycleSpace.  Everybody I know is talking about this shop and I can see why.  They sell Brompton folding bikes (I watched a sales person demonstrate the fold.  It's magic, I swear.)  They also sell what the British would call proper city bikes with lights and racks and fenders and chainguards.  I want one. And they sell Brooks leather saddles.  Finally, somebody sells them around here. They're not lightweight or inexpensive. They are, however, a treat to the seat.  The Mule and Little Nellie both have Brooks saddles.  Finally, BicycleSpace has Paul the best mechanic in town. He fixed the Mule ten years ago when absolutely no one else could. And he did it with a 25 cent part.  If your bike is hopeless, take it to Paul.

My next stop was Ben Chili Bowl. This restaurant on U Street is legendary hereabouts.  I bought a half smoke with everything on it to go. I put it in my pannier and rode up the 13th Street hill next to Cardozo High School. Spin, spin, spin.

After a few turns I was at Meridian Hill Park, destination for the day. I was there to attend my friend Florencia's goodbye party. She's leaving DC.  I was early so I ate my half smoke. Ugh. Half smokes with chili, mustard and onions is not biking food.  It may not be non-biking food either.

Flor give her acroyoga partner a massage
Flor spinning.
Although the party was not starting until three I made my way through the park. I spotted some acroyoga and, sure enough, it was Flor doing her Cirque du Soleil thing.  From a distance it looks effortless. Up close, you can tell how athletic she and her partner (he's on his back with legs and arms up supporting her) are. 

Around this time I checked Twitter and found out that K.C. was nearby and invited her over.  She's a fellow bike blogger and we've been crossing paths for a couple of years without meeting. We had a nice chat about her riding, her bike Betty, renting lock houses on the C&O Canal, and her police work. (She's rides a bike on patrol.)   She's interested in doing some riding on the GAP trail west of Cumberland MD and riding back on the towpath. My advice: DO IT! 

Back at the party things were going along swimmingly when Flor decided to ride Big Nellie. I warned her that her pants which had much loose fabric would get caught in the pulleys of the chain tensioner under the seat. Nothing stops Flor. She tied up her pants and started riding and rolling about. She was having a blast when all of a sudden the tensioner ate her pants. We spent the next 45 minutes trying to free her.  We tried breaking the chain but that only succeeded in damaging a link and making my hands black.  After much angst Jeff Dahloff, a bike commuter and ride partner on many a ride around these parts, noticed that we could disassemble the tensioner with a screwdriver and a nut driver - both of which were in my seat back bag. In two minutes Flor was free. I hope her pants aren't ruined.

Flor insists that she did not get her pants caught so that she could attract every guy in the park to her aid.  If I had caught my pants leg, I'd still be in the park waddling around on the bike. For the record, Flor has nice legs.  So do I. Must be the hair.

We put the tensioner back together and, but for a skipping chain, Big Nellie was back in action. It was getting late so I said goodbye to Flor with a big hug.  As we came apart my arm hit her camera and it fell to the ground.  Ugh.  The gods are telling us something, Flor.

Once I realized the bike was operating okay, I had a pleasant ride home. The winds had changed direction and I had my second headwind of the day.  No problem. The MVT was jammed with people, many of whom simply wouldn't move out of the way.  If it had been a hot and sticky day, I might have lost my temper and used Big Nellie's death ray.  Instead I went with the flow. Once past the airport, the crowds ended and I was rolling free again.

I stopped at the Morningside nest. The photographer was still there 6 hours later.

I worked on the chain and I think it might be okay. Tomorrow will tell.

It was a nice ride. Good say hello to so many people. Very sad to say goodbye.


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