Friday, June 8, 2012

Monsoons, Bollards, and Bald Eagles

What a weird week! My frustration over the absurd mess where the Mount Vernon Trail crosses under the Woodrow Wilson Bridge led to a somewhat contentious online exchange with Mark Blacknell, WABA's el presidente. I threatened to stomp his spokes and quit WABA if he didn't do something to help me with the bollard farm. He threatened to give me alcohol poisoning at a biker bar. Ultimately Mark tired of my obnoxious persistence and foisted the mess on Shane Farthing, who is WABA's executive director.

After all that fun, I rode home from the office in decent weather. It started to sprinkle but the skies didn't look all that bad.  At the bollard farm, I stopped to chat with another cyclist (Paul D).  As we went our separate ways, the sprinkles turned to showers. Then the showers became a monsoon. And it stayed that way for over 1/2 hour. After 5 minutes of monsoon, I was as wet as I could be so the only thing that mattered was visibility. I turned on my blinky red light. I was on the MVT so there was little worry of being run over by a car, but I felt better because the back of my helmet was going BLINK every second or so. The real problem was seeing the path ahead. Water was pouring down my glasses. I wiped them with a finger every so often and that seemed to help. Despite the fact that Big Nellie has a big fairing on the front, even my legs were soaked. Another feature of Big Nellie is its foam seat. It was raining so hard I felt like I was sitting on a sponge.Pedal. Squish. Pedal. Squish.

I squished onward. South of Belle Haven Park I encountered two saw horses with a Trail Closed sign on one of them. My option was to turn around and cross the parkway in a monsoon at one of the most dangerous intersections in the area (Belle Haven Boulevard) or ignore the sign. No brainer. I rode around the barrier and kept trucking. To my relief the trail was no worse beyond the barrier.  (I think the saw horses were left over from some flooding earlier in the day. The NPS wasn't going out in a monsoon to removed them. I don't blame them.)

The trail zigs and zags for a hundred yards here, so I slowed way down to see where I was going and not hit any other scofflaws coming from the other direction.  I often tell people I could ride the MVT with my eyes closed. Now I know I wasn't lying.

After the Tulane Drive turn off, I spotted a cyclists standing under a tree trying to stay dry. He wasn't succeeding. I yelled, "Just ride. You're already wet." He just smiled.

As the downpour continued, my concerns turned to body heat. The rain was cold and I had on a t-shirt and shorts.  My mind turned to all those freezing winter commutes.  If I could handle January, I could put up with this. Pedal. Squish

I arrived home and went inside. Water was literally pouring off me as if I had just come out of a swimming pool. Inside, I unpacked my waterproof Ortlieb panniers. They had an inch or two of water in the bottom of them!  Unreal. Water never gets in them.

Thursday was an off day. I traded e-mails with Shane Farthing about the bollard farm and sent my bollard farm blog post to various people who I thought might be able to help. I invited Shane to call me Friday morning and invited him to the Friday Coffee Club gathering of bike commuters and miscreants at Swing's coffee near the White House.

I chose Little Nellie for my commute today. Big Nellie's foam seat was still wet and I didn't want to put a diaper over it.  It's so undignified to ride on a diaper.  As I rode through the bollard farm, I encountered a giant paving machine under the bridge. The machine was in operation and nobody was directing trail traffic. I do believe the construction crew was breaking new ground in its ineptitude.

I noticed a newbie at Coffee Club as I sat with Ed and Lisa. Ed observed that he prefers to meet indoors.  When indoors we stand at small tall tables that are conducive to mingling. Outside we sit at low tables like potted plants. I felt a bit like a hibiscus today, to tell the truth.

As the confab was breaking up, the newbie came and sat down next to me. It was Shane. We had a long talk in which I learned a lot about bike advocacy and how WABA works. There is simply no way that the expansion of everyday cycling in this area could have happened without an organization like WABA.  With more cyclists, come more cries for help.  So WABA has to do triage. Shane agreed that the bollard farm was a problem that needed addressing. Some sort of short term solution was needed. So he agreed to make a few phone calls.  The bollards are a symptom of a bigger problem that WABA is looking into. There are  many overlapping jurisdictions involved with the Mount Vernon Trail. They don't talk which means that local cyclists and their advocates play wack-a-mole with these sorts of problems. If fact, two bollard problems were resolved within the last month, one in Falls Church the other in Arlington.  So Shame is working on getting everybody talking.  Ultimately, we agreed that the mess under the bridge needed a re-design.  That could take time.

Later in the day, I learned that through an act of divine intervention a chronic problem with a dangerous at grade crossing of the GW Parkway was finally getting some action after years of complaints. Hope springs eternal.  Soon after Shane emailed me to tell me that VDOT was going to paint the black blogs yellow, add reflective material, put up some warning signs and add some lighting.

Man vs. Bollards
With such good karma, I was not surprised to have a tail wind for the ride home.  Little Nellie and I made tracks and survived the bollard mess. I stopped to take a picture since traffic cones were now placed on one side of the bollards in a lame attempt to add a little visibilty. A cyclists rode through the bollards and, as he passed me said, "More God damned bollards!"  Don't blame me, buddy.  I don't want them either.

I stopped at the Morningside bald eagle nest. I haven't seen much of anything there in a week.  After a minute, I was about to leave when I heard this outburst of squawks coming from then nest. Then, coming in from the river on the opposite side of the nest, a massive bald eagle swooped in. I'm guessing it was the adult male bringing dinner.  The eaglets went crazy. I couldn't see them but they making all kinds of noise.  As they started to come down, another smaller bald eagle exited the nest through the trees in front of me. This was an adult female. (Bald eagles don't get their white head and tail feathers for a few years so the adults are easily identified.)

Next week will be calmer. I'm going college hunting with my daughter. I hope I don't see any bollards.

1 comment:

  1. It was my idea to sit outside at Friday Coffee Club, since I hadn't done it before. I have to admit, I like being outside, and I like sitting, since I can see everyone better than if we were standing, as short as I am.

    I didn't realize you were talking to Shane!