Sunday, August 16, 2015

Cupcake Ride

Last weekend's NOVA Casual Bike Group Meetup got rescheduled to today, and as an attendee at last weekend's cancelled version I automatically got signed up for it. It was my first day home after Misissippi and New Orleans, but I figured, "what the heck" and decided to go. After all, the alternative would have been to hang out with my mother-in-law.

At the start of the ride in Shirlington the leader announced that this group wasn't the "Bad cyclists" - the kind who speed by you without warning. Here's some of the things I observed the good cyclists doing:
  • Gathering for the pre-ride talk right in front of the entrance to the Shirlington Library, making it hard for patrons to get in and out of the building.
  • Stopping traffic for extended period so the whole cycling group could cross together (cyclists always have the right of way, don't they?).
  • Speeding by other trail users without warning.
  • Ignoring traffic signs on the street and trail.
  • Plunging full blast into a section of the Mt. Vernon Trail where you're supposed to dismount because it's really skinny and a blind curve, causing a cyclist coming the other way to leap off his bike to get out of our way.
  • Swarming a couple's romantic picnic under a tree because we wanted shade on our break.
  • Taking over a whole lane on Water Street.
  • Turning into a chaotic, danger-to-ourselves group as we floundered about climbing the steep but short block from Water St. up to the canal.
  • Misrepresenting a ride as a "Beginner Level", when (by the leader's admission post facto) it should have been Beginner+. 
Cyclists are just an ill-behaved, loutish bunch,

That notwithstanding, it was a fun ride. It's a little weird to be the newbie riding with a group, but most of the folks were at least somewhat friendly.

The cycling world is full of gimmick rides. Today's was a "Cupcake Ride". The idea was to ride from Shirlington to Georgetown to get cupcakes from the famous Georgetown Cupcakes. The cupcake order had been prearranged so once we got there it was a quick pickup. Thirty riders, each having ordered 1-3 cupcakes made for a big order - lots of big boxes of cupcakes. 

The cupcakes had the group's logo on them!

MAMILs eating cupcakes
We took a break to eat our cupcakes by the canal, then it was time to head home. Because of the large size of the group we broke up in both directions into two groups of roughly 15 cyclists. On the way back the leader of my group picked up the pace to the point where, at a break, some people complained about his speed. So after the break he really took their comments to heart and slowed down -- kidding! -- he's a cyclist, and cyclists are d*cks! He continued riding just as fast as he had been before the break, all the way back to Shirlington.

By the time we got back it was after 5 and I was due home for dinner so I skipped the post-ride drink and headed home.

Don't pay too much attention to my kvetching - the ride was a fun time.

And my choice of cupcake was "carrot cake".

Oh, good Lord. I have given in to peer pressure and am wearing a bike jersey (admittedly, a tasteful solid color affair made of merino wool, rather than the garish synthetic kind such as the one modeled by Gary, in the foreground). 

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Active Weekend

Well, this was certainly an active weekend. Saturday morning Valerie and I did our monthly 5K. This month’s event was held in conjunction with the Arlington County Fair and the course was primarily several laps around the fairgrounds. We both expected a fairly easy course, since the race was held at 8 AM and the weather forecast didn’t call for extreme heat. Unfortunately, the morning was humid and the temperature climbed quickly as the sun rose in the sky, so it would up being a slow, sticky slog with some significant hills. Still, as I walked from the car to the packet pick-up I enjoyed the unusual sight of people watering livestock in the TJ Center parking lot. Cows at TJ. Cool.

Valerie crossing the finish line

Sunday morning we were out the door early again, this time to go paddle boarding with Ted at Key Bridge Boathouse (nee Jack’s). My limited experience with paddleboards has taught me that they’re more stable than they seem, and so one of the big considerations is the mental game of getting over your feelings of wobbliness. At first it looked like Valerie wasn’t going to make that mental leap and was going to be stuck just sitting on the board, but she pushed through, stood up on the board, and did a really good job! By the end of the trip she was moving at a pretty good pace and even said she’d do it again. Ted, of course, showed off his mad SUP skills..
Huh. Who'd have thunk it?

Mother and child reunion

Sunday afternoon I had signed up to go on a bike ride with the NOVA Casual Bike Meetup Group; however, that ride got cancelled at the last minute. It’s a good thing I checked my email since I could easily have missed the cancellation and shown up and waited at the Shirlington departure point. Instead I just rode by myself. Home, up over Chain Bridge, down the C&O towpath and Captial Crescent into Georgetown, followed the river down, crossed back into Virginia over Memorial Bridge, connected to the Mt. Vernon Trail by scurrying across the GW Parkway like Frogger with a bicycle (there must be a better way to do this!), then up to Rosslyn and out the Custis Trail to home.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

A Photo Essay of an At-Home Adventure

Yes, this blog is about my adventures in the wilderness, but not all wild adventures involve leaving the house.

I went to make coffee this morning but I had trouble getting to the coffee pot. Someone (my son? his weirdo friend who has been visiting so long that I'm beginning to suspect he's moved in with us?) left some weirdo Asian instant coffee out on the counter, and my other son's electric kettle is there too.

Next, it was time to make lunch. I went to try and get my lunch bag from the hall closet but the door was blocked by many pairs of shoes - my sons', along with the weirdo friend from Detroit who may have moved in with us.

Then, it was back to the kitchen to make lunch. I already mentioned the mess around the coffee pot. The rest of our counter space was covered with other clutter including a gigantic Slurpee mug, our blender, and some ice packs which have been sitting there since last weekend. For the record, I bought those ice packs earlier this year. My sons are welcome to use them, but they need to learn to put things away.

I went to get a container for my salad and discovered that, as usual, whoever emptied the dishwasher just threw the plastic containers into the cupboard and slammed the door shut before the containers could all tumble back out. I had to spend some time straightening things out (this is the "after" picture).

with container in hand I set to making myself a salad. I went to throw out some vegetable trimmings and discovered that the trash is full as always. Someday I must get my family to watch a YouTube video on "how to take out the trash."

The good news is that they cook for themselves. The bad news is that they leave the kitchen splattered with all kinds of goop. Yesterday the floor was covered in home-made marinara sauce. Today it was some unidentified goop on the counter. I went to wipe off the counter, but the sponge was missing in action. I took some consolation in the fact that there were fewer dirty dishes than usual.

Somehow I managed to finish making my lunch. Before I left for work I wanted to check one more thing - whether I had the picture hooks I needed to rehang some pictures. Oops, my workbench is blocked by a large collection of pallets. I could swear that last week my son said they'd only be there a day or so until he dismantled them to reuse the wood for a reclaimed wood desk he's building.

Finally, time to leave for work. I take a quick look around my living room, which is polluted with large Pelican cases. There's also customized Segway parked there. I happily leave this place to go to the office.

Bringing Up the Rear

Yesterday I rode the Lynsky to work. For one thing, I have broken yet another spoke on the beater bike. Also, it was my intention to check out the infamous Freshbikes Tuesday night ride.

I started my day with a nice discovery. I wasn't thrilled with the idea of leaving my bike outside all day and so I went down to the garage in search of a place to lock up my bike - a pipe or something I could lock to. Well, I was thrilled to discover that my building actually has a bike storage cage - in fact, there's two! I didn't have to leave my nice bike out front, and I'll no longer have to chat with the homeless man who spends his evenings in the vestibule next to the outside bike racks.

After work I saddled up and rode the block over to Freshbikes. As regular readers of this blog know (assuming there are any), I'm no fan of cute little bike outfits. I was recently thrilled to learn two biking terms:

Lycra Lout - a term describing the poorly behaved, race-clad biker set, and

MAMIL - an acronym for Middle Aged Men in Lycra

If terms like this exist then clearly I am not alone among the general population in my feelings about bikey fashion, but I sure wasn't going to find anyone who felt that way in this crowd. It was like unto a Lycra Lout fashion show! I was one of the few wearing a regular t-shirt rather than a jersey and also one of the few wearing baggies rather than tight-fitting Spandex shorts. Most of the bikes there were road or racing. I didn't see anyone else on a gravel grinder. A few adventurous souls showed up on MTBs or hybrids.
Waiting for the ride to Start

Anyway, the first Tuesday of the month is the big ride, with police escort through this intersections and food afterwards. I took off with the group (the ride started a few minutes late, in part because of thunder) but quickly fell towards the back. A couple of miles in I was far enough back that I lost the police escort. The group overall got pretty spread out and I was happy that I had taken a look at the route beforehand. I generally had some other cyclists in sight, but it would have been easy to miss a turn.

The ride went through familiar territory including, I'm happy to say, part of the route I used to drive home from Shady Grove. So much nicer to be biking it!

After the ride there was food from Baja Fresh at the little park adjacent to the bike store. Tacos! I chatted a little bit with another rider, who I had also talked with before the ride. Most of the Lycra Louts were busy with their own groups and so weren't too friendly. I ate by myself, then headed up to the office to pick up my backpack, lock and lights. I couldn't resist checking email and wound up working for a bit and chatting with my boss - who was still there at 8 PM.
Dinner Afterwards. Auughh - way too many pretty outfits!

Then, a quick ride home in the dusk. I think I need brighter lights. I'm sure I could be seen, but my headlamp doesn't really illuminate the road ahead very well.

In summary, three miles to work, 16 miles on the Freshbikes ride, and finally three miles home.