Monday, December 26, 2016

Bicycle Fun Club: Del Rey Christmas Lights Bike Tour

First things first:

I always like to associate my blog entries with the date they happened rather than the date I write them. As a result, sometimes I write entries that sneak in behind the one which appears on top. What I haven't realized until now is that as a result, my vast readership winds up missing these entries as they're never on top. So before you read this post, go read these two:

Off Topic: Giving Thanks and Shenandoah Spookout

Now, back to business:

My biking friends organized another "Bicycle Fun Club" ride - these rides are relatively leisurely, short, fun rides, usually associated with an event or theme. My kind of riding (as opposed to, say, the Hains Point 100, where people rode a Century (100 miles) by riding thirty-some-odd laps around Hains Point). This time, we were going to join up with the Del Rey Christmas Lights Bike Tour. On the grounds that this ride promised to be "no drop" and slow and family friendly, I convinced Valerie to join me. We drove our bikes down to Del Rey, where we unloaded and decorated them with battery-operated lights - my string of LED camping lights, some EL wire we had gotten as a prize at a Chesapeake Paddler's Association holiday party, and of course, assorted bike blinkies. We then joined some friends who were meeting up at St. Elmo's Coffee. We were a little on the late side so I had just enough time to slug down a cup before our group headed out to meet the overall ride.
At St. Elmo's (a little distorted by Panorama mode)
The group took off on what turned out to be a twisty-turny route through Del Rey. It would have been nice to have had a cue sheet, but I think that the organizers scoped out the best streets for viewing lights right before the ride and so didn't have time to put one together. At first the group stayed together and, being a highly illuminated mob of cyclists, had the mass and visibility to take the right of way as we rode. Valerie hadn't been on her bike in a while and so as the ride progressed we fell to the back of the pack. "No drop" means that there'll always be someone waiting at the turns to make sure the people at the back don't miss any turns (they were reasonably good about this, though not perfect). It does not, however, mean that anyone will hang back with you and so for parts of the ride it wound up being just the two of us riding by ourselves - though we'd keep catching the group when they'd stop to look at houses.

Now, Valerie doesn't see all that well at night and doesn't have a lot of road riding experience and so having to cross streets by ourselves in the dark freaked her out a little bit. By the end of the ride she wasn't having a good time. Fortunately, at the very end of the ride we all managed to group up again and rode as a big, blinking, traffic-clogging blob of bikes up Mt. Vernon Avenue back to the start.
Checking Out a House Along the Tour

Since, unlike many of the participants, we hadn't ridden there, we went to put our bikes away and so got separated from our group. Fortunately, we ran into Nadine from Dominion Hills who knew where they had gone. We caught up with them, managed to squeeze two more into a small dinner table, and had a nice dinner.

So, Valerie did the bike tour, we saw some nice lights, and we got to do something unusual, funky and fun as part of our holiday season.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Bicycle Fun Club: Alexandria Boat Parade

I've said before that I never actually ride bikes with my friends from the biking world, I just meet them for coffee. Well, occasionally there's an exception. Coffee club friend Judd is organizing a series of "Bicycle Fun Club" rides over the winter - fairly short, moderate pace rides - stuff that is within my capabilities.

Tonight's ride was from The Crystal City Water Park to Old Town Alexandria to see the illuminated boat parade. I had originally planned to do the ride starting from home, but time got away from me and so I wound up putting my bike in the car and driving to Columbia Island Marina, where I bumped into Deke. I bump into Deke everywhere.

It's a quick ride from Columbia Island to Crystal City. Still, I hadn't allowed quite enough time and I was the last one there. No problem. The group, which at that point numbered seven, hit the Mt. Vernon trail and headed to Old Town. Alexandria has been on another of its periodic traffic enforcement binges, which can mean expensive traffic tickets even for cyclists, and so we were careful to stop at every stop sign and ride with extra care.
Bob's composite of lighted boats. The group favorites included the locomotive (middle right) and the paddlewheel steamer (lower left). Personally, I had a soft spot for the Channukah boat (upper left).

Lighted Boats

We parked our bikes and watched the boats from Founder's Park. Some of them were pretty cool - there was a boat lit up to look like an old-fashioned locomotive, one that looked like a paddle-wheel riverboat, and a Channukah boat all lit up in blue. During this time Peter H2 and his daughter Sophie joined us (Gina was part of the group) and so did someone else's wife and daughter, bringing us to a total of eleven. Miraculously, when we went to eat we were able to get a table for eleven at Bilbo Baggins restaurant - well, actually it was a table for eight that to which we kept adding chairs as people arrived. I got a 10" personal pizza and a beer. I swore I was going to eat only half the pizza. Well, maybe half plus a slice. Or two. I ate the whole pizza. To make up for my gluttony, while a lot of people ordered dessert, I abstained.
Two views of the table

On the ride home we went our separate ways, since folks were heading home rather than back to the starting point. The group of us who were heading back up the Mount Vernon trail started out by heading west out of Old Town, which confused me since the Mount Vernon Trail runs north out of Old Town. I had been following Judd, since I thought he was heading back up the Mt. Vernon trail, but he and Josephine soon peeled off, leaving just four of us continuing on this odd route. Odd, but not incorrect - it turns out we were headed for Commonwealth Avenue and the new Potomac Valley trail. This trail pretty much parallels the Mount Vernon, and is a better choice at night since it's straight and well lit. This trail runs all the way up into Crystal City, but we took it only as far as where it intersects Four Mile run. At that point, Gina headed west, and Bobco headed home to the West End of Alexandria, leaving just two of us riding the Mt. Vernon trail. I don't remember the other guy's name - it was someone I hadn't met before. He was riding all the way back to Silver Spring!

I'm always a little freaked cycling at night - an uneasiness about the darkness fueled by having grown up in dark times in New York - and so I was glad to have someone with whom to ride. I was also glad that this guy had a bitchin' bright headlight, since my little light wasn't really cutting it in terms of seeing where I was going. I was in front, but it was his headlight from behind me really lighting up the trail. We rode together as far as the marina, where I ended my ride. I assume he made it back to Maryland OK!

The next Bicycle Fun Club ride is the Sunday of my upcoming whirlwind weekend (New York, then home to play  a gig). I'll probably be too pooped to go. But I hope there's more!