Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Bailff, whack his pee pee

Today I had my day in court. Again. I was called for jury duty. It is the second time I have served on a jury in Fairfax Circuit Court.  My first was a drunk driving trial in which we the jury found the defendant guilty.  In Virginia juries also determine the sentence in a criminal case and damages in a civil case. (I have no idea if the jury's determination is binding on the court.)  In the drunk driving trial, the defendant was on his third DUI and the conviction under Virginia's three strikes law was a felony. He had good lawyers, but it didn't matter. We hit him with a fine and jail time.

Today's case was a civil dispute between two people, a husband and wife, and a single defendant. The wife was driving her car and making a left at a green light when she was hit by the defendant, who admitted he ran the red light.  The husband was suing for reimbursement of his rental car costs, incurred because his wife's car was out of action. The wife was suing for a monetary award to cover damages.

During voir dire, I had to tell the defense attorney about my wife's accident (she was run over by an SUV 15 months ago) and that her situation was still unresolved. I can't believe he left me on the jury.  It may be because almost every other juror told of a car accident involving themselves or a loved one.  It's a jungle out there. 

There is an old saying, a lawyer is a fool who has himself as a client. Today's trial was pretty much proof of that. The defendant had an young attorney who did a decent job. The plaintiffs represented themselves. Most of the trial involved the judge explaining to the husband what he could or could not assert in front of the jury, what could or could not be admitted into the record, etc. Basic trial law.

The interesting part of the case was applying the concept of contributory negligence. Under this legal concept, if a plaintiff even slightly contributed to the accident, he or she cannot make a claim against the defendant. The judge explained that we might find this to be harsh, but it is the law that we had to work with. The driver admitted that he ran a red light and hit the plaintiff.

After the evidence was presented, we were sent off to the jury room to deliberate. First, we had to determine if the plaintiff contributed to the accident.  The seven jurors all heard the same evidence and all had slightly different versions of it. We determined after about 30 minutes that the plaintiff was in no way negligent.  Then we had to determine damages.  Here's where the plaintiff's need for a lawyer came into play. We were given no quantitative evidence of material harm to the driver. No cost of car repair, no cost of doctors visits, no cost of medical diagnostic tests, nothing.  On cross examination we learned that she had been in an accident a week earlier so we couldn't tell if her injuries were from the accident at issue in the case.  We all sympathized with her, but our instructions from the bench were we were not allowed to let that influence our decision.  We gave her no monetary award.

Technically the driver (the wife) was representing herself, but she hardly said anything to the jury.

The husband did address the jury. He kept screwing up argument and evidence, what was admissable and what was not. The judge was patient to a fault with him. The plaintiffs claimed that he had essentially run up a car rental bill frivolously. We sided with the husband despite his painfully inept self representation.  He told the jury how much he wanted and we gave it to him.

There was some talk of settlement talks between the parties that the jury wasn't supposed to hear.  We had the sense that the husband didn't like what was offered and took the case to trial out of spite. A couple of the jurors said his wife kept putting her hand on his arm to keep him from interrupting the judge.

The jurors I served with were all intelligent, logical, and articulate. The jury has to be unanimous in its decision. All I did as foreman was stop deliberations periodically and force each juror to vote. Negligent: yes or no. Around we went. More deliberations. Finally, we had seven nos. Then, how much money for her?  Around and around.

Then we did the same with the husband.

Then I wrote the jury's findings down and signed my name. Case closed. Jury dismissed.

While waiting in the jury pool room (no billiards or water, just tables and chairs and 100 or so of my peers), I killed time reading Bicycling magazine. The man sitting next to me asked if I was a cyclist.  It turns out he was Jim Strang, one of the owners of Spokes Etc. bike shops. I probably paid for his kid's college education!!!  Jim told me many stories of the bike business in the DC area going back to the 1970s.  We talked about Metropolis (a great shop in Shirlington), the various incarnations of the Belle Haven location, CityBikes and BicycleSpace, and some of the long history of Larry Black, now owner of Mt. Airy and College Park Bikes, but previously an owner of three stores, one in DC, one in Virginia, and one in Maryland. In passing, he mentioned some of the bike stores that I used to shop at back in the day. We even talked about how it might have been Jim who sold me The Mule at the Quaker Lane Spokes store. (They had bought to many and were selling them at a steep discount. I was happy to take one off his hands.)  I could have talked all day with him but then the court deputy came in and grabbed us for duty.

On the way home, I stopped at the Spokes Belle Haven store to buy some tubes and chamois cream. Jim's still got a daughter to put through college.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Munch, Munch, Munch Miles

My peers?  I have peers?  I have jury duty tomorrow which means I either get up at 5:30 and ride my bike through the inhospitable, car-clogged suburbs between Mount Vernon and the Fairfax Courthouse, or I sleep an extra hour and drive there. I'd like to be your bike everywhere hero but I also want to live to bike another month. So July is in the bag. 

Despite missing a whole bunch of days because of my wife's surgery, my in-laws' family reunion, and my general sloth, I still managed to bang out 608 miles this month. I did 21 rides, of which 15 were bike commutes. 3 rides (all commutes) were aboard The Mule. The rest were on Little Nellie.  My longest ride was a foray into Bethesda for a bagel and a cup of joe. 

So far this year, I've ridden to work 81 times. I saw a guy exercising this morning. He was tethered with some sort of think red stretchy thing to the post holding up a basketball backboard.  Another man stood near the foul line. Tether Man would launch himself, driving with his feet until her reached Foul Line's extended hands then backpedal to the baseline to start again.  My commute's like that. I exert force back and forth but always end up where I started. One of these days, the tether will break and I'll find myself in Iowa.

My total mileage for the year is 3,846 miles, on pace for well over 6,000 miles, lord willin' and the creek don't rise (which happens to be the title of a pretty good album by Ray LaMontaigne in case you need some music recommendations).

On the way home tonight, I was passed by three roadies near the power plant.  The first roadie called out the pass. A fourth rider on a mountain bike brought up the rear, head down, trying to pass the third roadie. A fourth roadie came from the opposite direction just missing Mountain Bike as he swung out to try his pass.  He yelled something to get Mountain Bike back on his side of the trail. Mountain Bike cussed him. Dude, you nearly caused a horrible accident with two roadies and me.  You are lucky there were some many bikes, otherwise you were sure to get caught in my bicycle death ray.  I may have to use my pump like the Italians in Breaking Away the next time you pass. Buon giorno.

Mr. Ed works in a cubicle around the corner from my office. He's a data miner. He doesn't wear a helmet with a light on the top, but I hear he has a canary in his cube for safety.  He used to work at Spokes, commutes on a fixie, and forgot more about how a bike's parts work than I'll ever know.  He speculated today that the bent derailleur hanger on Little Nellie may have been caused by the crappy bike racks in the garage at work. You back your bike into these metal hoops that are angled at about 30 degrees from the ground. If I push Little Nellie all the way in, its rear derailleur gets hung up on the metal hoop. So, I will be careful when parking at work in the future.

My tires are on the way from Wisconsin. I ordered them from Hostelshoppe, a recumbent store that had a web and catalogue business. FedEx sent me a routing number. Why do people care about the routing of their goods?  I don't care if they send my tires via Sao Paulo as long as they get here in a few days.  I suppose I can keep myself entertained by obsessively checking my package's progress. Kind of like Dave Stoller's father sitting in one of his used cars listening to his son's progress in the Little 500 bicycle race. If you don't know what I am talking about, turn off the Olympics and get yourself a copy of Breaking Away. You'll have a Mendelssohn ear worm for weeks.


Sunday, July 29, 2012

Tick, Tick, Bang

After yesterday's trip to the bike doctor, I was ready to test out the adjustments that were made to my bike.  I woke up and read the Sunday half of the Sunday paper. (We get the good stuff like the funnies and two crossword puzzles on Saturday.)  Then I read a few pages of a new book called Ride Somewhere Far, (written by family friend Claire Bangser).  There I was sitting on my deck reading a book all about getting off your ass and exploring the world by bicycle. And the weather was superb. Then it occurred to me, maybe I should ride somewhere far today.

Unless I get everything set up the night before, it takes me a while to get rolling. First, I put on the new fenders I bought for Little Nellie.  Then I lubed her chain. Then I took out the garbage. And fed the birds. After an hour, I put my fanny on my bike and rolled down the street. My plan was to ride to Great Falls Maryland and, depending how I felt, ride on to White's Ferry where I would take a cable ferry across the Potomac and ride home. It would be a little over 100 miles.

As I pedaled down the road, I noticed right away that the ticking noise from my front derailleur had returned.  I am pretty sure there is nothing too dreadful wrong with my bike, but the ticking is really annoying. I rode to the drug store to drop off a prescription. The pharmacy wasn't opened. I headed north on the Mount Vernon Trail, drug free.

On nice summer weekend days, the Mount Vernon Trail can become every bit as pleasant as the New Jersey Turnpike on the day before Thanksgiving, only the MVT is more crowded.  Today wasn't so bad.  You could tell that the occasional cyclists were among us. The wool socks and frogs gave this guy away.

Wool socks and clogs are de rigeur this year
After I passed Mr. Footwear, I put my camera away, only to come upon a bicycle with a cockatoo in a cage on its rear rack. The rider didn't look like Robert Blake so I forgot about taking a picture and passed him by. I got stuck behind a couple of young women who had the decency to dress well and ride at a decent pace.

Much improved fashion
Along the river north of the airport, I spotted a clear threat to homeland security in the river. Washington was under attack by an outrigger canoe.

We're doomed!!
I was all set to dial 911 when I noticed that the canoe was clearly not being used with hostile intent. Apparently these folks were just out getting some exercise and training for the King Kamehameha Games in Kailua Kona on the big island of Hawaii. Chaka, bra!
Never mind. Just some harmless waterborne lobbyists

By this point it had become clear that, although my ticking friend was still with me, the skipping of the chain on the rear cogs was pretty much gone. So Brad the mechanic is batting 500. (In his defense, he told me that the ticking could easily return after he tightened the bolts on my chainrings, and that only then would he recommend more expensive remedies.) 

I crossed over the 14th Street Bridge into DC and danced with the tour buses.  I do wish we could get rid of these things. They belch diesel fumes and radiate heat while spewing out touroids who wander about disoriented. An elevated tramway would be so much nicer. Get on that Congress!

Eventually, I came to the Capital Crescent Trail where I found another glut of fair weather cyclists. I have a new rule: you can't use the trails around DC on nice days in July unless you ride your bike on them in subfreezing temperatures in February.  So it is written so it will be! (Ramses was my great to the 10 power grandpop,)

I stopped at a Fletcher's Boathouse to re-load my waterbottles and decide which route to take to Great Falls, paved roads or the unpaved C&O Canal towpath. I chose the towpath because I haven't ridden it in months, and because it is a beautiful ride.

A few miles later, 18 miles from home,



The sound of the explosion was so loud that I thought it came from my front wheel. Alas, it came from the rear tire, a tire that I had replaced a puncture on only two weeks ago with lots of tyvek material for booting.

For the uninitiated, when you get a puncture in your tire, some material passes through the tire and penetrates the tube, wherein lies the air that makes your tire pneumatic.  When your take the offending material out, you end up with a hole in the tire casing. My rear tire is riddled with these holes and one hole is particularly long and jagged.  As you bounce along the tire flexes. As your tire flexes, it bites the tube.  If it has jagged edges, it bites a hole in the tube. If it bites a hole in the tube, the tube complains by saying, ":BANG! " To prevent this from happening you need some material, called a boot, to cover the hole. I used Tyvek at the recommendation of my cycling mad ophthalmologist.  As we now know, Tyvek is overrated.

I replaced the tube and put a patch over the jagged gash in my tire. Then I put a Tyvek boot over that.  I decided that riding further from home on the towpath was probably not a formula for a fun Sunday, so I turned around and headed home.

Of course, the ride home went off without a hitch. I didn't see any cockatoos or wool socks and frogs or outrigger canoes. It was uninspiring, but the chicks were nice. (I add that only because as I write this my wife and daughter are watching Olympic waterpolo and oohing and aahing over the hot polo players.)

When I got home, I ordered three tires (two for Little Nellie and one for Big Nellie). Some day this week I need to buy some glue for my patch kit and another tube. And sign up for some fall rides. You wouldn't want those tires to go to waste now, would you?

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Tell Q, "Mend Little Nellie"

I hate fixing things. I suck at fixing things. It's a chicken and egg thing. Do I hate fixing things because I suck or do I suck because I hate? This is one of life's mysteries. When things break, I use my best tool, my credit card. As a friend of mine once told me, this is why God invented money.

As I mentioned yesterday, Little Nellie just crossed the 8,000-mile threshold.  After 7,000 miles, I was thinking about getting rid of this bike, a Bike Friday New World Tourist. For those unfamiliar with such beasts, Little Nellie is a folding travel bike. I had it custom-built to mimic the riding position of The Mule, my old Specialized Sequoia touring bike.

I made two changes to The Mule's specifications when I bought Little Nellie. At the assurance of a Bike Friday salesman, I bought wider handlebars for Little Nellie. This took some time to get used to, but after a few months, I liked them so much that I bought wider handlebars for The Mule. My second modification was to use a Brooks B67 saddle instead of a Brooks Flyer saddle.  The main difference between the two is that the B67 is wider and springier than the Flyer. No matter what I did, I couldn't get the B67 to work with my body mechanics.  So a few weeks ago, I rode to BicycleSpace, a superb new bike shop in DC, and bought a Flyer. Within 50 miles, I had a new bike. It was simply incredible what a huge difference this one change made.  There will be no more discussions of sending Little Nellie away.  She's a keeper.

I had the mechanics at Spokes Etc., my local Mount Vernon bike shop, replace the cassette (the gears in the back) and the chain on Little Nellie last summer.  It has never shifted properly since.  I took the bike back to them  twice and still no improvement.  I then tried twice to fix it and more of the same. The problem is that seemingly at random the chain would skip over the cogs. Nevertheless, I have put 2 or 3 thousand miles on the chain making do with a less than perfect situation.  About 200 miles ago I started hearing a "tick" somewhere down near the chain rings (the gears in front). I could get it to go away by fiddling with the front derailleur, but it would come back. These kinds of noises usually mean that something is loose or a ball bearing has gone bad.  (It can also be something much more ominous like a cracked frame.) I tightened the right pedal, but this had no effect on the noise.

On the way home from work I stopped at Spokes to have them look over the bike and tell me how to resolved these problems. After about 15 minutes the mechanic decided that I had a stretched chain, a bad right hand shifter (this controls the gears in the rear), and a bad front derailleur. I really like this shop, because they routinely do minor fixes on my bike for free.  And this evaluation was free too, but something about the evaluation didn't ring true.  The shifter felt fine to me. Front derailleur replacements are very rare. 8,000 miles are not enough miles to account for either of these problems.  I was skeptical about the chain too, but, after thinking it over, I realized that the chain is in about the condition one would expect given the mileage I put on it. 

I slept on the evaluation and decided that I would definitely change the chain, but I would take my bike to BicycleSpace for a second opinion. The head mechanic, a bearded sage named Paul, is the dean of DC-area bike mechanics. He's our Sheldon Brown, a legendary Boston area mechanic.  About 15 years ago when Paul was at CityBikes in DC, I had a problem with The Mule. Its headset kept coming loose. I took it to one bike shop after another and nobody could fix it.  Finally, Bailey Garfield, the owner of Papillon Cycles in Arlington where I used to live, recommended Paul.  I called CityBikes and before I could finish explaining the problem, Paul said, "I know what's wrong. I can fix it. Bring it in." I rode to the shop at lunchtime. Paul fiddled with the handlebars and headset, then started rummaging around in some drawers. He stood up with a small washer pinched between his fingers. He held it up to the light like it was a gem and said, "This is what you need."  In five minutes, he removed an-ever-so-slightly-thicker washer from the headset, inserted the gem and Voila!  I was ready to get rid of the bike, but Paul saved it with a ten-cent part. And it has stayed fixed for 15 years and well over 15,000 miles.

Paul was not at the shop, but Brad was. I listened as he dealt with a customer in front of me and thought, "He's the man."  I explained the situation with Little Nellie and Brad went to work. In no time flat, he found that the bolts that hold my chain rings (front gears) together were loose. Out came an Allen wrench. Turn, turn, turn. He couldn't find anything wrong with the front derailleur and shifter.  Then he looked at the rear gears.

With a skillful glance he said, "Your derailleur hanger is bent." Ah ha!! I thought.  (The derailleur hanger is the metal piece of the bike to which the rear shifting mechanism is attached.) He pulled out a strange looking contraption and I stood in admiration as he straightened it out.  The device he used looks a lot like the hardware that surgeons use to line up bones during a knee replacement. (I used to watch the TV show "The Operation.)

Next he took the shifter cable off and re-attached it with a bit more slack. Then he adjusted the gears three times, once for each chain ring in the front.  His final recommendation was to replace the rear cassette and chain, and to ride the bike and see if his work on the chain ring bolts eliminated the ticking noise.

This particular cassette is expensive and I am not a big fan of the gearing it provides. To change it I will have to change the entire rear wheel, because the hub is specific to the cassette. My plan, then is simple: ride the sucker until the shifting sends me around the bend (figuratively, that is). I hope that Bike Friday can give me guidance on the proper replacement wheel/hub/and cassette.  Then I will replace the whole works and the chain and I will be good to go.

BicycleSpace charged me less than $20 for the repairs and advice. Good on you guys. I will be back to buy more bike stuff in the future.

As for Spokes, no worries there either. I have spent a few thousands dollars on bikes, spare parts, and repairs there over the last 20 plus years. They have a great policy of fixing minor problems while you wait, saving many a bike commute for me. On many occasions, I have watched them come to the aid of cyclists touring the east coast. As a once and future bike tourist, I can not tell you how important this is. So they'll still get my business. Local bike shops are indispensable and need all the support they can get. 

And if you live in Arlington, Papillon is a superb resource, the epitome of a good local bike shop.

Friday, July 27, 2012

The Impermanent Commuter

Today, was the 80th bike commute of 2012. That works out to about 2,300 miles going back and forth, back and forth. I should change my name to Duncan. I feel like a yoyo.

Today was also the end of my riding on Little Nellie for a while. I rotate my bikes every 1,000 miles so no it's The Mule's turn.  Little Nellie's odometer hit 8,000 miles on the way to work. I was all set to get ride of Little Nellie a couple of months ago but a change of saddle turned it overnight into my favorite bike.  She needs some TLC, there's some clicking and skipping and the like. I took her to my local bike shop the other day, but I want to get a second opinion so I am taking her to BicycleSpace tomorrow.

There's a decimal point in there somewhere
This week I received my copy of Ride Somewhere Far, a self-published book by Claire Bangser (co-authored by Brandon Hill), about her first bike tour down the west coast, and her passion for alternative forms of education. You can buy a copy here.

Claire wrote a book!

Today's bike commute was 35 miles.  This is a bit longer than usual.  Normally I ride 29 miles round trip but the nice weather has me adding miles here and there. I also went a mile out of my way to the Friday Coffee Club.  I hung out at the boy's table today.  The women folk took one look at us and sidled away to the counter by the window. On the way home I dawdled in Jones Point Park to get a sense of the DMV (District, Maryland and Virginia) boundary markers. It's like the Four Corners only Three.

My friend Florencia, who could not find happiness in all-to-conventional DC, flew the coop for southeast Asia a earlier in the summer. I found out today that she's writing a blog called The Impermanent Resident of her own about her adventures. She's quite a good writer.  Check it out.

Last night after midnight my son called to tell us his car broke down a mile from home. Today he determined that the car had run out of gas despite the gas gauge reading full. This never happens on a bike. He took the car to a dealer and it turns out it is under recall and under warranty. Free repairs are always welcome.

This weekend I need to sit down and sort out my fall riding schedule. Do I dare do the Backroads Century and the 50 States ride on back to back days? Stay tuned.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Booty Call


I need better boots.

A few weeks ago the rear tire on Little Nellie went flat from a slow leak. I took the tire off and found three cuts in the casing. These cuts flex when the bike is in use. The flexing chews a hole in the tube. And a leak begins. So I replaced the tube and put tyvek over the holes on the inside of tire. I got the tyvek from one of my eye doctors who is a complete bike nut. (My other eye doctor is a bike commuter. Just a coincidence.)  Tyvek is the stuff they use to wrap new houses in before they put the siding on. It's also the stuff the post office uses to make Priority Mail envelopes. The next time you get a tyvek package cut it up into strips about the size of Monopoly money and put them in your saddle bag.

And even better boot comes from the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. Yes, good ole U.S. greenbacks are actually very durable cloth. Fold a dollar bill over twice or thrice and you have a nice tire boot that will last a long, long time. I once used one on the front tire on Big Nellie. Three years later I took the worn out tire off to replace it and out fell a dessicated dollar bill.  The same thing happened last night when I had to repair a flat on Little Nellie. The dollar bill boot I had used last year on the front tire had slipped out of position. The cut in the casing is about the width of a pencil so I first glued a patch from my patch kit over the hole. Then I glued the remnants of the dollar bill to that.  That should hold it for another 1,000 miles.

The ride to work was a breeze.  I had a nice tailwind and rolled along at 15 miles per hour.  That's fast for me.  Of course, I can't take the credit. The wind was doing most of the work. My regulars - people I see nearly every day - were all missing. Hoppy legged jogger, fitness woman, overdressed Asian bike commuter, @grafixnerd stunt double we all AWOL.

The ride home was hot. By Daingerfield Island north of Old Town my head was hanging. The strong headwind provided no relief.  As I rode around the power plant a guy passed me and asked, "Are you Rootchopper?"  I figured he guessed it was me by my pathetic form and slow pace.  It was Shawnofthedread from the Bike Arllington forum. Small world.

The rest of the ride was uneventful. I added a mile each way to my commute making it a 31 miler for the day. I was going to celebrate with a beer but it's late, I'm old, and I want to wake up in time for Friday Coffee Club.

This weekend I plan on getting Little Nellie's shifting looked at, probably at BicycleSpace. My local LBS said I need a new shifter, front derailler, and chain.  Before I spend big bucks, I'm getting a second opinion.

Speaking of second opinions, my personal physician  is starting a new practice. For an annual fee of over $1,500, he'll let me be his patient. All I can say is whatever happened to first do no harm?

Monday, July 23, 2012

Fawn and Fender

The ride to an from work tends to get tedious at times. I know every bump and bollard in the Mount Vernon Trail. The views of the monuments are always inspiring but, you know, seen one monument.... The same can be said for Canada geese. The damn birds are everywhere this year. I think they look a little like a Klingon bird of prey when they come in for a landing.  And I have more than enough empirical evidence to confirm that the phrase "like grass through a goose" is as true as true can be.

Normally, geese just sort of waddle around hoovering grass by the acre.  They don't do much honking.  And they are pretty much unremarkable, until tonight's ride home that is. I was directly opposite the water gate, not the complex of Nixonian fame,but the area behind the Lincoln Memorial.  Between the trail and the river were a line of geese and two fawns.  The fawns were no bigger than an Irish Setter and incredibly cute in  the way that only baby white tailed deer could be.  Four German tourist had stopped on their Bike and Roll rental bikes to checkout the babies. I wonder if they thought this was an everyday occurrence. I looked around for momma deer but she was nowhere to be found. The fawns were following the geese so closely, I was surprised they didn't honk.

As  rode home I kept an eye out for the momma and hoped she wasn't lying on the side of the Parkway. I never saw her.

Little Nellie was making funny noises most of the way home. about ten miles into the ride I noticed the front fender was riding on the front tire. When I moved it off, it came away in my hand. The metal spine of the fender had broken where it attached to the front fork.  It's a flimsy design but the fork does a decent job so I ordered another when I got home.

That little metal thing done broke
Tomorrow telecommute day, because I have to drive the Mrs. to the surgeon for her post op visit.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Eight Thumbs Up

It was clear that if I wanted to do 100 miles in the last seven days, I'd have to knock out 69 miles today.  This is not normally a big deal but I have spent 5 of the last 6 days off my bike and not even doing my daily physical therapy routine for my back.  I googled a route from my home in Mount Vernon to Indian Head MD.  This would be 70 miles round trip, but the roads are bumpy and narrow and the traffic is heavy. 

My thoughts turned to my 50 mile bagel ride.  This involved riding from my house to Bethesda Row using the Capital Crescent Trail and returning by way of Rock Creek Park.  I've done this ride at least 20 miles and it's always fun to get to Bethesda, grab a bagel and munch it down while checking out the view of Rock Creek Park from the Rock Creek Trestle on the Georgetown Branch Trail.

Poling on the Run
Then a Friday Coffee Club friend named Laura started pining about the huge donuts at Bethesda Bagels. I took this as a sign of fate and headed out on Little Nellie, my Bike Friday New World Tourist.  Instead of the usual ride north on the Mount Vernon Trail, I took Fort Hunt Road just for a change of scenery.  Fort Hunt Road intersects US 1 at the Beltway, which is about as messy an intersection as any bicyclist can find. Thanks to the foresight of previous Congresses, the recently rebuilt intersection includes a bike path that takes me back to the MVT.  Along the way I crossed over a Cameron Run and spotted a guy pole kayaking his way through the calm waters.  Looked pretty boring to me, so I took a picture and rolled on.  A few miles later I was inspired to modify my route because you can't ride too many miles in drizzle.

I took a left on the Anderson Trail along Four Mile Run and, after three miles, picked up the Washington and Old Dominion Trail.  The W&OD intersects the Martha Custis Trail after about 4 more miles.  I turned right on the Custis and headed back toward Georgetown.  I rode over Key Bridge on the sidepath then jumped into the flow of autos on M Street in Georgetown. A bicyclist in front of me was trying to take the lane when a car beeped its horn at him and shoaled him, coming to a stop at the next traffic light. The bicyclist caught up to the car and yelled at the driver, "What the hell are you doing?" or words to that effect. I thought, "Good on you."  Then the bicyclist blew through the red light.  Dude, you just confirmed in the driver's mind that bicyclists are unpredictable and irresponsible. Bad on you.

I banged a right onto Wisconsin and another on K Street. Soon I was tooling along the CCT which looks flat but is gradually uphill most of the way to Bethesda.  It was relatively uncrowded thanks to the mist so the going was reasonably fast. The recent thunderstorms left a pretty impressive path of destruction the debris from which line the trail. 

I planned to re-load my water bottles in Bethesda but the water fountain was out of order as a result of some nearby construction. Note to the construction crew, get you shit together. It's July in Washington. We need the damn water turned on.

Best Everything Bagel Around
The line at Bethesda Bagels was, as usually, out the door. I snagged my everything bagel and a cup of regular (Do they grade coffee like gasoline? Can you buy unleaded?) coffee and sat on a bench outside the shop under a tree that kept me dry from the mist and watched the Bethesdans stroll by.

The next order of business was the Rock Creek Trestle. This long bridge spans Rock Creek Park at just above the canopy. I love the view almost any time of year.  After a couple minutes of contemplating my navel (it's an innie, in case you were wondering), I backtracked to Jones Bridge Road and banged a left to head for home through the park.

In the Treetops on the Rock Creek Trestle
For most of the ride through the park, the main drag, Beach Drive, is closed to cars on the weekends. This is one of the great joys of bike riding in DC and not to be missed.  Unfortunately, once you get about half way through the park, the cars return and the horrible side path awaits. I think the Secretary of Interior should be required to ride to work at least once a week on this monstrosity. It's been narrow, tree rooted, overgrown mess for over 30 years (I lived here in 1980; it sucked then.)

The route home took me to the Lincoln Memorial beach volleyball courts, down Ohio Drive, over the 14 th Street  Bridge and under the George Washington Parkway. I took a left at the Pentagon rode through Crystal City, Potomac Yards, Old Town Alexandria and picked up the MVT at the beltway.  I rode the MVT home, sucking wind as I had not consumed enough water and the sun was burning through the clouds. I arrived home after 58 miles.  Good enough. Two thumbs up.
Once I was showered my kids and I went out to watch the latest Batman movie.  Just as the trailers started I folded my legs and OWWWW! a leg cramp. I was writhing in my seat like a nut trying not to YOWL!!!! There was just enough room to stretch my leg out to calm the spasm. I stayed splayed out for the first half of the film.

I would endure any amount of pain to see Anne Hathaway in a skin tight black cat suit.

So I did.

It was worth it. Six thumbs up.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Recovery Ride

Recovering from surgery is something of a solo enterprise.  My wife did the recovering. I worked from home to keep an eye on her. This went on for three days at the end of which we were both bored senseless. I celebrated by doing laundry and mowing the lawn in oppressive heat.  She decided to go through the mail and pay some bills.  She still feels pretty awful mind you, but I can't help the awful go away.

So we mutually decided that after four days without exercise it would be a good idea for me to ride to the office.  I loaded my normal stuff plus my not-so-light laptop in my panniers and headed out the door. It was overcast and I felt a sprinkle or two so I opted to ride The Mule, my Specialized Sequoia touring bike. Other than the annoyance of a balky cycle computer, I found the ride, despite the heavy load, more invigorating than usual.  I'M OUT!  There was very little auto traffic to contend with as everyone in his or her right mind was at the beach or in bed.  I made it to the bicycle traffic light at Porto Vecchio and found the convex mirror destroyed. Vandals!  What's next, Visigoths? Huns? Marauding Middle Class Teenagers?

Mirror, Mirror Not
A little further on I reached the bollard farm. In response to pleas for some sort of safety improvements, some changes have been made. Now the big black bollards are being painted yellow and have a yellow reflective band on them.  My hat is off to Jonathan Krall and Erik Wagner of the Alexandria Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Committee and to Shane Farthing of the Washington Area Bicyclist Association for talking the designers of this mess into some safety accommodations. 

Black to Yellow (the white bollards have primer on them)
The rest of the ride in was a bit of a struggle. Four days off the bike had knocked me out of my commuting groove, the wind was blowing in my face, and the Sony anvil in my pannier wasn't helping much either.

This being Friday I headed to Swings coffee emporium located a block from Michelle and Barry's white house for a jumbo cup of java at the weekly get-together of what passes for a biker gang in our nation's capital, the oh-so-cleverly named Friday Coffee Club. It's like Cheers except that it's above ground, alcohol free, and has no laugh track.   

When I arrived Reba who commutes from BR - beyond Rootchopper - was holding court with the boys club.  Among the boys was Adam (a. k. a. Froggie) who keeps coming back despite his recent move to Norfolk. (He claims to be in the Navy but I am beginning to think he is a corporate spy for Starbucks.) Like most of the coffee clubbers, he blogs about his bike addiction.
Reba keeps the boys in line - Froggie hides in plain sight

Kate, Rachel, and Kirsten
The gender balance was all out of whack, but this was soon rectified by the arrival of Kirsten, Kate, Rachel, and Mary.  Mary is recovering from recently riding over 700 miles in less than four days in the Rocky Mountains with her randoneuring hubby Ed.  Frankly, I am surprised to see that she can stand upright much less ride a bike. She is in shock because she and Ed recently discovered a crack in the frame of their tandem. Kirsten grows awesome veggies and runs ultramarathons whenever she can. I still have trouble getting my head around anyone running more than 26 miles in one go. There must be something in the veggies. Rachel has been known to cook a mean cake and works for a local bike tourism business. Anytime she wants to experiment with a new cake recipe, she is welcome to work in the posh kitchens at the Rootchopper Institute. Kate is inexplicably blogless. Where oh where did she go wrong? We need to work on her.

The age balance was out of whack too. Everyone in attendance was over 20. Some of us were over 20 twice. We needed youth!  In walked the perfect antidote to our age conundrum.  Jacques and his wife Liz arrived with the newest coffee club member, Hugo. Hugo is in the running for world's cutest baby honors.  He searches his environment with his crinkly fingers and has the softest hair at the base of the back of his head. Babies are great toys, especially when someone else has to get up in the middle of the night and change their diapers. Fortunately for Mom and Dad he seems to be a world class snoozer.
Jacques, Liz, and Hugo
Hugo, the perfect antidote to a rough week

After an hour recharging my social batteries and getting my baby fix, I headed off to work.  TGIF.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

A Return to the Foggy Bottom Medical Industrial Complex

About a year ago, faithful readers (the two of you over there in the shade sharing the malt liquor from a quart bottle) will recall that Mrs. Rootchopper had some fun medical mishaps. Fun here is an abbreviation for f*@king unbelievably nasty.  Her first encounter was with a thunderclap headache.  She was taken by ambulance to the George Washington University Medical Center emergency room, where they saved Ronald Reagan from certain death.  Our experience was nine hours in urban hospital hell that ended with the doctors saying, “We haven’t a clue what caused your headache.  The technical medical term for your condition is ‘shit happens.’ You can go home now.”

Mrs. Rootchopper’s second fun experience with the medical system occurred a month later as the result of an SUV driver running her over (with his SUV) in broad daylight.  This was a feat of incredible automotive incompetence that resulted in several months of intense pain for my wife.  The recovery from the accident caused a significant delay (basically a year) in dealing with another medical problem.  Mrs. R was all set to go have an operation before Mr. SUV mowed her down. Fast forward a year, and she is finally given a green light for surgery,  The surgeon, Dr. Ernst Stavros Moreau, looked at the year-old date on her diagnostic images and said, “What’s taken so long for you to get this taken care of? Did you get hit by a truck?”  To which my wife said, “Actually, it was an SUV.”  To which the surgeon – who is extremely professional and poised - said (and I am not making this up), “You’re shitting me.”

The surgery was scheduled for yesterday and the good doctor gave us the complete rundown of the procedure and everything that could go wrong.  His description of the procedure made me absolutely pleased that I did not go into medicine for a living. If I had to operate on people every day, I’d walk around looking like Edvard Munch’s The Scream. Long story short the final complication of the surgery involved the surgeon sneezing at the wrong time and beheading the patient.  He told us that if the surgery was as complicated it as he expected it could take as long as seven hours and  that Mrs. Rootchopper could be in the hospital, yes, the very same GWU House of Head Pain, for five days.  


We arrived by car at the hospital, parking two blocks away because urban hospitals don’t do cars very well. The paperwork began at 8 a.m. and the pre-op preparation an hour later. (A note about GWU medical people: where is your gym? All the women look like elite runners, thin and fit, and the men looked like they make shaving commercials in their off hours.)  Just before going into the operating room, the pre-op folks decided that my wife’s wedding band would have to come off. This was not a good omen. Where I come from, removing wedding bands usually happens for two reasons, one is divorce and the other is burial. It wouldn’t budge.  This, however, was a good omen. It was decided that once she was unconscious they’d give it another try and if all else failed they’d bring in the jaws of life and cut the sucker off. Dr. Moreau told me to stick around in case something completely unexpected came up (what the hell could he NOT have covered) that would require some discussion from a completely composed and emotionally detached spouse. Fortunately the only consults involved the wedding band. First, I was told that they’d have to cut it off, then, they somehow managed to get it off with one last yank.Medical science marches on!

After about 5 hours of watching Divorce Court, observing the madness of the Emergency Room down the hall, and drinking way too much caffeine (the GWU hospital cafeteria is pretty decent and inexpensive), Dr. Moreau appeared. He was “ecstatic” at how the surgery went. (Ecstatic, for Dr. Moreau, meant that he managed to break a trace of a smile. He’s makes Perry Como look like Howie Mandell.)  Basically, the surgery went way better than expected and the recovery period would be much shorter than planned. It turns out that the immediate aftermath of surgery is often rather nasty and Mrs. R. had a rough go of things.  After three hours she stabilized and I was able to see her. She looked infinitely better than I expected.  I drove home, fed the kids and had a couple of margaritas to celebrate.

This morning I drove to work in Rosslyn (the first time commuting by car since early June) and jumped on the subway for the one-station trip to Foggy Bottom.  The train looked like it had just come from downtown Tokyo. People were all mushed together. Gross. I squeezed on and tried not to inhale the armpit of the straphanger next to me.  Note to Orange Line (so called because the riders are fresh squeezed) users: The Capital Crescent Trail is right next to the train line. Ride a bike to work.  Even on a 100 degree day, it’s way better than riding in that miserable train.

Upon arrival, Mrs. Rootchopper looked great. I wasn’t surprised when a young doctor (well groomed and looking like he just came from a GQ shoot) came in and declared her ready for discharge. (This sounds rather foul now that I think about it. Like the hospital is excreting the patient. Eww.)  Back to Rosslyn I went in the much less crowded subway.  I drove back to Foggy Bottom and parked amazingly nearby on Pennsylvania Avenue with two hours on a meter.  Two hours later I had to move the car – finding another metered spot in mere minutes – because the discharge process at this particular hospital is constipated. (Note to hospital administration: turn your discharge process over to some lunchtime waitresses from Manhattan. They’d turn those beds over so fast, you’ll be looking for patients on the floor.)

We arrived back at home and escorted Mrs. Rootchopper, stoned like a Deadhead, into the house without incident. I took off for the drug store and more medications - for her, I swear.

We, here, at the Rootchopper Institute are pretty much maxed out on the miracles of modern medicine. We hope our next trip to the island of Dr. Moreau is long in the future.  Looks like I’ll be returning one more time this Friday though. Swings coffee shop is only a few blocks east of GWU hospital center and I wouldn’t want to miss the Friday Coffee Club.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Barriers to Entry, but Not to Exit

Just when you think the Woodrow Wilson Bollard Farm has reached it's maximum level of stupidity, the good folks at VDOT make it worse. Today's addition is four new flexible bollards leading to the center fixed bollard at the base of the hill on the southern approach to the bridge. That was long winded but the picture gives you the idea. The point here apparently is to give you seven bollards of two types to avoid as you approach the underside of the bridge.

The magnificent seven
For a while there was a lone bollard in the middle of the trail down near the river.  This bollard was not sufficient to keep out evil doers because the design geniuses behind this project left one entire side of an adjacent parking lot obstructed only by some saplings. Of course, rather than address this problem they decided to install more bollards across the trail.

The lone bollard.
Drawing to indicate location of new bollard
All of these bollards are intended to keep a truck bomb from beneath the Woodrow Wilson Bridge, which has been unprotected for 42 years.  Of course, every other Potomac River Bridge, including a key railroad bridge, a metro bridge, the 14 Street Bridges, the Memorial Bridge, the TR Bridge (plus assorted ramps) and the Key Bridge)  could be blown to bits by a truck on the George Washington Memorial Parkway, but the geniuses at Homeland Security couldn't figure out how to install bollards across the Parkway without pissing off motorists.  That just wouldn't be prudent.

Although I refrain from photographing it, the Homeland Security folks have also added some sort of black cages to some of the arches beneath the Wilson Bridge to deter evil doers on foot. I can't believe they don't just fill the underside of the bridge with a massive amount of concrete and call it a day.

Of course, they could place security cameras around these places but that would require someone to watch the cameras. Even though every local DOT does this 24/7, our Homeland Security folks can't get it together to do that.

(For the record, I briefly worked for Homeland Security and was nearly driven insane. I left after 8 weeks.)

If this keeps up, I may become a Tea Party person. Or, end up in the nervous hospital.

Meanwhile, seven miles to the north, the beautification committee of the National Park Service was hard at work installing plastic, water-filled jersey barriers along the trail near the entrance to Roosevelt Island.  Now, they could have actually planted some nice hydrangea bushes or maybe some arborvitae to act as a barrier but that would be tasteful and we can't have that now, can we?

Aren't they pretty?
On a bittersweet note, yet another of my cycling-related friends and a member of the Friday Coffee Club has flown the DC coop.  First, Richard, a member of last fall's 50 States Ride posse left for Puerto Rico by way of Spain. Then, Florencia, the organizer of the posse, headed for Cambodia by way of Argentina.  Then Adam (a.k.a. Froggie) was shipped off to Norfolk by way of Vermont.  (I do believe the 50 States corkscrew routing has messed up their senses of direction.) Today, Lauren, a.k.a. lkono, has headed off to Ireland (by way of London, which leads me to believe she rode the considerably less convoluted 13 Colonies Ride).  These four people embody why living here in the Washington area is so great.  Between them they have interests in meteorology, yoga, Chinese, acroyoga, Spanish, rock climbing, back alley waffles, running, a rooftop bathtub, and the Navy.  And I know I am leaving a lot out.  You'all (it's a southern city, don't you know) are welcome back any time.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

New/Old Mount Vernon Trail

Obsolete sign

New/Old Mount Vernon Trail, a set on Flickr.

Readers of this blog have seen countless complaints about the dangerous detours, bollards and design flaws on the Mount Vernon Trail near the Wilson Bridge. The renovated parkland beneath the bridge has finally been opened and, with it, a brand renovated segment of the Mount Vernon Trail. I have to admit, once you get away from the mess at South Royal Street, this is pretty darned nice.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Munching the Miles

My bike riding typically picks up in June because I no longer have to attend my daughter's school events. This June I missed out on almost a week of riding to take my daughter on a college safari from DC to Auburn AL and back. We visited six colleges in four days and drove more miles than I want to admit to.

Anyway, back to the bike. Despite the time off, I logged 621 miles in June. I did 23 rides in all and commuted to work 14 times. 338 miles were on Little Nellie, my Bike Friday New World Tourist. Yeah, it's a folding bike but that doesn't mean I can't use it like a regular bike.  Six of my commutes and 12 rides were on Little Nellie. Big Nellie, my Easy Racers Tour Easy recumbent, placed with 254 miles, 7 commutes and 10 rides.  The Sequoia is resting comfortably in the Rootchopper Bike Garage after doing one ride, a commute, of 29 miles.

My longest ride of the month was 41 miles. Just a ride around the area with some shopping thrown in for good measure.  In fact, all but a couple of my rides were around 30 miles give or take a mile or two. My compatriots on the Friday Coffee Club team in the National Bike Challenge kid me about how much I ride.  I feel a little like PacMac biting off 30 mile rides day after day.

The other highlights of the month are the new Brooks Flyer saddle I put on Little Nellie, the 30,000 miles that appeared on Big Nellie's odometer, and the 3,238 miles I've ridden in the first half of the year.

July riding will be complicated by car maintenance. Typically, I put Little Nellie in the trunk of the car and take it to the mechanic.  We now have two cars in need of work so that will make for some interesting logistical legerdemain.  Also, I lose a weekend in a couple of weeks to a trip to the world famous Sigler Family Reunion, where even heathens like me can get richly blessed if we so choose. We've been to this in-law fest for 20 of the last 21 years, missing only when my daughter had the swine flu a couple of summers ago. I hope to get in at least one long-ish (over 60 miles) ride this month. I also have to get my act together and start fixing Big Nellie up. She's looking the worse for wear these days. Fortunately, Tim Fricker at Bikes at Vienna has a new seat bag that looks like it would be the perfect birthday gift for the middle aged recumbent cyclists.  Black or red would be best.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Geese, Bollards, Heat and Physics

People don’t appreciate the little things. Take air conditioning, for instance.  Go five days without air conditioning during a heat wave in Washington DC.  It builds a hell of a lot more character than playing football.  Actually, that’s not true; it just makes you miserable, which come to think of it is exactly what football practice did for me back in high school.

Yesterday afternoon, the power was restored at the Rootchopper Institute by some utility workers from Illinois. I guess they have this derecho thing figured out west of the Appalachians, but the DC area has a power grid on a par with Havana.  I kept checking the temperature on our digital thermostat.  It took 3 hours for our air conditioning unit to lower the house temperature from 88 to 87 degrees. Ruh roh!  Between the still rising temperatures outside and the oppressive humidity, the air conditioner was doing everything it could just to stay even.  It’s sort of like the summer time version of shoveling snow in a blizzard.  You can kill yourself just keeping even with the snowfall. After several hours, the temperature outside and inside started to fall and I was able to sleep in my own bed for the first time in almost a week.  

For several days, I have had a craving for cereal and cold milk.  I eat cereal and cold milk for breakfast about 300 times a year.  It’s not a coincidence that the word “crack” appears in Cracklin Oat Bran. After eating a bowl this morning, I felt like Ewan MacGregor after he shot up in Trainspotting. I fell back in ecstasy and passed out.  When I came to, I jumped on Little Nellie and headed out into the swampy air for my bike commute.  

As long as I didn’t stop everything was copacetic.  I had to stop in Belle Haven Park, though, to document the geese herd.  This was no gaggle. It was a gaggle of gaggles. A metagaggle. Gagglegeddon.  Soon they will have to close the park to clear all the geese poo.  Ick.

I wonder if they are planning a takeover.

Bollards on Southern Side of Bridge
When I arrived at the Wilson Bridge Bollard farm, I stopped to take some pictures of the recent improvements. They painted lines to direct trail users through the bollards and put a yellow reflective band around the top of the bollards.  It was good that these bollards were in place because any southbound truck bomber had easy access to the underside of the bridge because the barrier gates were still not in place.  (I am not giving away any secret info to evil doers because the underside of the bridge has been unprotected since about 1960.)
Bollards on Northern Side of Bridge
As I rode through the north end of Old Town Alexandria, I heard a screech of tires. I looked to the intersection just ahead of me and there was a young man on a motor scooter who decided that it would be a good idea to come to a stop at a stop sign when the crosswalk was occupied by two elderly men walking and a third in a wheelchair.  If I had Mr. Fantastic’s powers, I would have used my stretchy arms to smack him upside the head. (Motor scooter boy, not wheelchair man.) Alas, instead I have the looks of the Thing and the only stretchy part of my anatomy is my waistline. I could have jumped off my bike and whacked him with my belly but I thought better of it. (I wonder if his helmet would have saved him.)

The rest of the ride in was blissfully uneventful.  There were not all that many people on the trail, but there were some Park Service folks cleaning up the debris left behind by the fireworks watchers.  I have to say that people seem to be getting much better at carrying out their trash. 

The ride home began with yet another saddle tweak.  It looks like my back likes the saddle level so that’s where it’s going to be set.  Once out of the garage at work I entered the blast furnace of this heat wave. Dang.  Fortunately the winds were tail and my legs were fresh so Little Nellie rolled smartly down river.

There was one incident that made my ride home remarkable. Just beyond the beltway, the Mount Vernon Trail runs right next to the George Washington Memorial Parkway. At one point it crosses an access for a condominium called Porto Vecchio.  There is a traffic light for bikes at this point and I had the green.  A car heading south on the Parkway to my right made a turn into Porto Vecchio directly across my path.  He also had a green light. I am pretty sure I had the right of way in this situation and I am also pretty sure the laws of physics were in his favor. I hit the brakes hard and yielded to the car.   

Beyond Porto Vecchio my bike and I were treated to a loverly ride in the shade.  I hardly noticed the heat until I pulled into my yard and stopped. Dang.  


Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Of Bollards, Derechos, and the Intersection of Doom

It’s been a while, hasn’t it?  Since I last posted on this blog, I was nearly killed by a car in the Intersection of Doom, Little Nellie has been utterly transformed, my blog was cited by local bicycle advocacy organizations in a frontal assault against the Woodrow Wilson Bridge Bollard Farm (now capitalized since it is almost certainly destined for national monument status), and I have learned, rather uncomfortably, what derecho means.

Intersection of Doom: For those of you who don’t know about it, the Intersection of Doom is located in Rosslyn, Virginia at the meeting of Lynn Street, Lee Highway, the I-66 off ramp near the Key Bridge, and the Capital Crescent Trail.  I ride up the hill from the Mount Vernon Trail to the IoD every morning and take a left in the crosswalk on Lynn Street to go to my office.  (Normally, I don’t ride on crosswalks but I’d have to go through 4 lights and even more of the IoD to get there on the streets.) The crosswalk crosses the three-lane off ramp from I-66.  The people in the cars waiting at this particular light are antsy since they’ve been going 60 miles per hour and have grown accustomed to high g-forces.  Once they reach the IoD their frustration amps up as they have to wait for cyclists and pedestrians crossing through the IoD before turning right toward the Key Bridge and DC.  Right on red is allowed here, but it is not allowed from the center lane, of course. About a month ago, a pickup truck almost picked me off as I was riding across the ramp on Big Nellie.  Last week, it was a black sedan (piloted by a friendly stranger, no doubt).  I was on Little Nellie which is taller than Big Nellie. I watch as the driver blew through the red light without any apparent attempt at braking while talking to someone on her cell phone.  I hope she arrived at her destination in time.  She must be a very important person, because she thinks one minute of her time is worth the rest of my life.  You have to wonder how many cyclists and pedestrians will be mowed down before either a traffic cop is placed at the intersection or the intersection is re-designed.

Bike Transformed: Since I put a Brooks Flyer saddle on Little Nellie last week, the bike has transformed itself from a snail into a galloping platypus. Like a platypus, it’s still kind of funny to look at with all its pivots and levers and little wheels, but it really is riding like a regular bike now.  I keep tweaking the saddle position to dial in the best tilt/height/fore-aft orientation. No matter what I do both my back and my knees are more comfortable than they were with the previous saddle, a Brooks B67.  (That saddle was wider and springier.)  Little Nellie even made a guest appearance in @commute_by_bike’s blog out of Flagstaff AZ.   How you ask? (I heard you in the back row.)  He was in town and came to Friday Coffee Club last week. He thought my commuting arrangement was overkill, I guess.  My bikes and I do what works for us. So far we’ve managed to pull off the 29 mile commute 68 times this year.  Little Nellie is chuffed. 
Woodrow Wilson Bridge Bollard Farm: I was shocked to see that the Washington Area Bicyclists Association posted an account written by Jonathan Krall of the Alexandria Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Committee of their WABA/BPAC meeting with the officials in charge of the Wilson Bridge Bollard Farm.  Long story short, it doesn’t look like much will be done in the short term to remove the bollards, but I am still really happy to see WABA and BPAC  go to bat for the Mount Vernon Trail users who have been putting up with unsafe conditions at the bridge underpass for years.  Special thanks to Jonathan (who is also a Bike Friday owner) and Greg from BPAC and Shane Farthing from WABA for enduring searing heat (over 100 degrees) to walk transportation officials through the various problems with the site.  Also, thanks to Mark Blacknell of WABA for his involvement. 

Derecho: I took seven and a half years of foreign language between 8th grade and my freshman year in college.  Sadly, not one bit of it was in Spanish. French, it turns out, is useful when ordering fromage et crepes and Latin comes in handy when involved in heated discussions of Caesar’s Gallic Wars.  (“All of Gaul is divided into three parts…” That’s all I remember, sorry. I don’t even remember the parts other than Hellevicia which has since become a font.)  So I paid no mind to the warnings that the line of thunderstorms appearing on Weatherunderground was a derecho.  I mean, derechos sound like an excellent, if unhealthy, snack food. My family and I were spending a nice summer evening in the Starship Rootchopper, enjoying the icebox conditions that Mrs. Rootchopper prefers from April to October thanks to our Warp-drive powered air conditioner.  Then, faster than you can say “Que Pasa?” the derecho hit. The whole damned ship shook. Stuff was banging against the exterior walls, or was that thunder? Lightning or maybe something else was flashing nearly continuously. I called down to engineering to direct more power to the shields.  They responded in an imitation Scottish brogue that “we can’t take much more of this!!!” The interior lights flashed a few times and the warp drive left us adrift in the eerie calm of Hades on the Potomac.  In Hades, no one can hear you sweat.  (I’ll take the Tholian web any day over this.) For five days we were without power.  The temperature in our ground floor living room rose to a toasty 93 degrees.  I took to sleeping outside with a million of my insect friends where it was considerably cooler after sundown. My son deserted us for his friends’ air conditioning.  My wife and daughter both attended more movies than Siskel and Ebert. I hung out reading my book about the sex life of H. G. Wells. (I am not making this up.)

This morning a phalanx (learned that word in Latin class) of utility trucks pulled up in front of the drifting hulk the Starship.  After several more hours of sweaty waiting and reading, we lit out in our shuttle craft for food, cell phone charging and air conditioning. (I wonder how many newborns will be given the name A. C. this week.)  When we returned the extension cords that our neighbor cleverly ran across the street were gone.  We were saved. I sure hope we don’t have to endure a sequel anytime soon.  Rootchopper II: The Wrath of Derecho.  (Is Ricardo Montalban still alive?)