Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 in Review

2011 was a great year. I can only hope 2012 gets even better.

January:

I started off the year sick (as I am apparently repeating that pattern this year!). I began the Capital Bikeshare Winter Weather Warrior Contest. It snowed like crazy. I Resolved to Ride Responsibly with WABA.

February:

Still going strong with the Winter Weather Warrior Contest! I was absolutely sick of winter. I had the worst bike ride ever (HAIL OW OW OW OW). The Superb Owl happened (with special guest Question Mark Suit Guy), and I watched some Roller Derby. Oh, and that guy hit me with his car. (Speaking of, there is an ending to that story, and I will tell it all after the 9th, when the judge hands down her sentencing decision and I can finally breathe).

March:


Achieved perfect attendance with the Winter Weather Warrior Contest! Rode the Vasa Ride with a few friends. Well, most of it (work schedules interfered).  It was a cold, rainy ride, but I had a great time. I attempted my first (and only) cupcake experiment--must do more in 2012!  Rode the CCT with some friends. Experienced awesome bike karma when some random strangers helped fix Betty. I was getting excited for Spring to arrive.

April:


30 days of biking! Lots of bars & brunches. I lost my beloved kitty, Indiana Jones. The Governator & Kevin Spacey decided I was a role model, and did some biking around DC. Ok, maybe it wasn't because of me, but how do you know? Spring was springing.

May:


Bike month! Betty found her soul mate. I convinced my out of town guests that Bikeshare was the way to go. I celebrated the death of Bin Laden at the White House with hundreds of other people. I did a Coffee Crawl and was way too caffeinated.  I Biked to Work. I Biked DC!

June:


I posted the full details of what happened when That Guy Hit Me With His Car. I went to Bike Fest and "won" the Weekend Along the Canal Package (a prize that led me to discover my now favorite Get-Away location: the Canal Lockhouses). I reviewed a bunch of products.

July:


It was ridiculously hot.  I got to ride with the Mt. Pleasant Cruiser peeps.  It was ridiculously hot.

August:


I got to ride with the I Street Social peeps. Betty got her first flat. I rode around a bit.

September:


I went to yet another hearing for That Guy That Hit Me With His Car.  I didn't get to do the 50 States Ride (boo!).  The Boy and I rode to and stayed in a Lock House for the first time and had an awesome time!

October:


The Boy and I rode to Alexandria for a date at Bilbo Baggins and had some awesome beer & terrible food. Then we took the Metro back. The parents came to visit and I did some sight-seeing & coffeeneuring.  The Boy and I went to another Lock House and Betty had some serious bike issues.

November:


I wrapped up my coffeeneuring. I joined DCLAW and arm-wrestled for charity.

December:


I talked about bike parking.

The biggest thing that happened in 2011 was when I was assaulted on my bike. Thankfully that saga is almost at an end. It's all over except for the judge's decision, which will be read on January 9th, 2012. I fully intend to post my victim impact statement on this blog, and also explain why this took so long and why I haven't spoken much about it. I will be really glad when its all behind me.



Things I'm looking forward to in 2012:

-The Big Event I'm looking forward to is The Police Unity Tour. I registered for it a few weeks ago. It's a 3 day ride in May, approx. 230 miles. The Tour is a fundraiser for the National Law Enforcement Memorial. I will post more details in a separate post, but suffice it to say I am Super Excited!

-A new bike! I was already planning on getting a new bicycle, but now that I'm doing this Tour, it's become a necessity :-)

-Lots of rides to train for this Tour! I'm going to set a goal of riding at least 100 miles each month, for a total of 1200 miles in 2012.

-The Vasa Ride, Bike DC and the 50 States Ride. Also, The Seersucker Social & Tweed Ride!

-Bike Camping!

-More Lock Houses! (The Boy and I already have Valentine's Day weekend reserved).



So long 2011, hello 2012!


Saturday, December 10, 2011

Let's talk about bike parking...

...bike parking ettiquette that is.

We already know that bike parking is inadequate (or maybe that's just me that thinks that). There's never enough bike racks, and if there are racks, there's never enough room for your bike.

I am convinced there is a billion dollar idea out there for the perfect bike rack that is simple, sturdy & will accommodate any size/shape bike. Cruisers, track bikes, Cargo bikes...they all fit easily & happily. If someone comes up with that idea, I will pay a billion dollars (no I won't, I don't have that kind of money).

Currently, the most common bike rack is the upside down "U". It's simple, sturdy--and sucks. At most it can accommodate two bikes, and even then its a bit of squeeze.

On-street U-racks

If you are like me and ride a gigantic cruiser bike w/ basket & possibly panniers, it's almost impossible to fit your bike next to someone else's at these racks. That is, unless they are positioned in such a way that you can park perpendicular at the racks, rather than parallel:

bikes parked parallel to each other-SMOOSH SMOOSH SMASH SCRATCHY FRAME!

bike parked perpendicular to the rack-YAY BREATHING ROOM (p.s. handcuffs are not a recommended method of locking a bike)

This is not always feasible due to sidewalk width, positioning of the racks, etc. There have been plenty of times where I've simply given up and parked my bike at a sign or another rack in the next block, simply because there was no way I could squeeze Betty onto a rack that was already taken. No big deal. It's annoying, but I'd rather do that than risk damaging someone else's bike (or someone damaging mine) by trying to force her into a space she doesn't fit.

Don't even get me started with the ridiculous "art" bike racks that so many cities seem to be in love with. ABSOLUTELY USELESS. Yes, its cute to have a bike rack shaped like a cup of coffee--BUT I CAN'T LOCK MY BIKE TO IT BECAUSE IT IS PHYSICALLY IMPOSSIBLE.

Source. You say Tomato, I say AAAAAARGH.

Of course, it should go without saying that you shouldn't lock your bike to a tree. Not only is it illegal (at a tree less than 12" in diameter), but its just not very nice. A good rule of thumb is that if you can get your U-lock around it, you shouldn't lock to it.

This tree is crying. please don't lock to me, it hurts. *tear*

Of course I realize that public bike parking means that my bike can get a little scratched. Betty has plenty of scratches from racks & other bikes. It's no big deal. It happens. It's minor and doesn't interfere with the ability to ride my bike.

A few weeks ago, you may recall that we all celebrated a fun little holiday called Native American Persecution Day Thanksgiving. My method of celebrating this holiday, besides reenacting that scene from Addams Family Values  where Wednesday and the little geeky kid ruin the summer camp's Pilgrim Play, was to run the SOME (So Others Might Eat) Turkey Trot 5k. I figured this would be a fun way to do something Good for the Community, and also burn some of those holiday calories off.

The Boy even decided to tag along to cheer me along. He grabbed Jamie (my Jamis hybrid) and I grabbed Betty and we biked down to Freedom Plaza together to join in the fun. We were there pretty early, which was good since about 10 million people (this maybe be inaccurate) decided to participate as well. I couldn't find any bike racks (grrrrr) so we locked up to a couple of street signs along Penn Ave.

The Turkey Trot was pretty awesome. It was my first organized race in quite a few years. I am definitely not a runner (duh. otherwise this would be a running blog, and not a cycling blog) but I can put one foot in front of the other in a vaguely runnerish manner for a few miles. This is exactly what I did. I will say this: there are quite a few super-fast 3 year olds. One of them paced me, and he was in a stroller.

I would put up photos, but I can't seem to find any. I do remember photographers along the race course, but I can't find any info on how to obtain these mysterious photos.

Anyway, I crossed the finish line eventually. It was a perfect way to start the morning. The sun was shining, there were blue skies, my blood was flowing and I was high on endorphins (or still drunk from the wine the night before, kinda hard to tell). I was eager to get on with the rest of my Thanksgiving holiday by going to work and serving the wonderful people of the District of Columbia. Ok, maybe I wasn't looking forward so much to that, but I was still feeling good.

So imagine my chagrin, my rage, my crushed spirits & my dismay to find that whomever locked their bike next to The Boy's (my Jamis) had managed to do some pretty serious damage.

The handlebars & stem were turned almost completely 180 degrees. This was quite a feat, because Jamie has fenders, which makes it almost impossible to do that--but they managed it. Not only did they manage it, but they snapped the front brake cable in the process.

What. The. Eff.

This wasn't some scratch on the frame. This was some pretty serious damage that rendered the bike unsafe to ride. There is no possible scenario in which this person could not have known they seriously effed up this bike

Did they leave a note? An apology? Anything? No.

I was so angry. I fantasized about slashing the offending bike's tires (which I would NEVER do, not only because that's a crappy thing to do, but also I can't be 100% positive the bike that was locked up next to The Boy's was the offender since its possible, but not likely, someone else locked up before them and did the damage).

Now I have to pay out of pocket to fix the damage they caused. Happy Thanksgiving, right?

Guys, don't be that person. If you damage someone else's bike to the point where it's probably not safe to ride (such as snapping a cable)--LEAVE A NOTE.

Even better, DON'T LOCK THERE. If you have to lock your bike next to someone else's by jamming & forcing it there in such a way that you know you messed up the other bike--don't. Find somewhere else to lock, even if it means the next block over, or even *gasp*, across the street (there were plenty of OPEN street signs for this person to lock to directly across the street).

We all make mistakes or suffer from bad judgement. It happens. But when it does, don't be an ass. Take responsibility and own up.

Here are some bike parking guidelines:

-Thou shall not lock your bike to another bike, unless thou knowest the person to whom the bike belong-est.

-Thou shalt not turn any bike's handlebars more than 45 degrees to accommodate your bicycle.

-Thou shalt not lift any bike that is not thine own.

-Thou shall, whenever possible, lock thy bike perpendicular to the U-rack, unless to do so will interfere with pedestrian or vehicular traffic.

-If thou must lock parallel, thou shall do so in such a manner as to not damage any bikes that are already present.

-Thou shalt not lock to any tree that is less than 12" in diameter.

-Thou shalt not lock to any private property that does not belongeth to you or family/friends.

-Thou shalt not lock your bicycle to any *public* bike rack for more than 24 hours.

-Thous shalt not lock your bicycle to moving gates/fences.

-If thou accidentally cause significant damage (interferes with functionality of bike) to another's bicycle, thou shalt leave a note with thy name & phone number and offer to make amends for said damage.

-Thou, if feasible, will remove panniers from bicycle so as to allow others to park at bike rack as well. If it is not feasible to remove panniers, thou shall be considerate to other cyclists and make sure there is room for they as well.

-THOU SHALT NOT PUT TRASH IN MY BICYCLE BASKET, NOR STEAL MY STREAMERS LEST THOU SUFFER MY WRATH. Seriously guys. Guys, seriously.


Coming soon to this blog:

-Epic adventures in bicycling: The 2011 DC Tweed Ride

-Even MORE EPIC adventures in bicycling: My debut as  DC Lady Arm Wrestler

-The sentencing hearing is back on! It is scheduled for December 21st. I swear I am going to post details about why I haven't talked much about it very soon.

THINGS YOU NEED TO DO RIGHT NOW: You need to purchase these awesome buttons from this awesome blog because it benefits this awesome organization. I bought two. I might buy more. I like buttons. Every time you wear one, a cyclist gets his/her wings.


Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thankful



I am thankful for all of the people in my life. I learn something new & see things a little differently through their eyes.

I am thankful for my health, because without it I would not be able to live the life I lead.

I am thankful to have steady employment & a decent paycheck.

I am thankful for my home and my possessions.

I am thankful for The Boy being willing to put up with my crazy shenanigans, and even participating in a few with me.

I am thankful for my bikes, because I have had many adventures with them that I wouldn't have had otherwise.

I am thankful that I live in a city that is full of so many wonderful places & people to explore.

I am thankful for every day that I'm alive, because I never know if its my last.

And I am thankful to you all, just for sharing in my adventures with me.


I hope you are all having a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 21, 2011

We interrupt this irregularly updated cycling blog to bring you....

I apologize for this not being totally cycling related, but it is *me* related....

Click to enlarge


You know you've always wanted to watch a bunch of women arm wrestle each other! Indulge your secret fantasy while doing a good deed and COME ON OUT TO THE DCLAW EVENT ON DECEMBER 3RD!

Yes, that's right. Your faithful blogger has become a Lady Arm Wrestler. Meet "Capitol Punishment".

Watch me struggle conquer at the table! I promise that if you bet on me, your money will NOT go to waste because it all goes to the Legion whether I win or lose.


How does it work? Show up! Pay the cover charge! ($5) Buy DCLAW Bucks to place bets on the wrestlers! You can place your bets at the Bookie Table OR with each wrestler's entourage. Win prizes!! (If you bet on the winning wrestler AND you bet the MOST--you win a prize!)

Cash bar available, with very reasonably priced drinks (this IS the American Legion we are talking about here).

Where does the money raised go? To the American Legion! The Legion has hosted DCLAW from the beginning, and its time to give back. The money will go to making the building ADA compliant for disabled vets & guests--a much needed improvement.

Check out the DCLAW blog & FB page to find out more!





What other awesome ladies can you expect to compete?

The Kentucky Dirty!
Boudica!
The Jillotine!
Coco the Killer Clown!
Top Guns!
Ms. T Dynamite!
The Ohio Hacksaw!
Bo Shemoth!

Emceed by Daddy Whorebucks!

Can you think of a more awesome way to spend a Saturday evening? I didn't think so. Please come on out and place your bets (hopefully on me, Capitol Punishment)! I hope to have the space packed with fans! Plus, you get to meet me and my awesome entourage (what, doesn't everybody have one?!) And yes, I will be biking to the event (there are bike racks located next door the Legion, in front of WSC).

I am super nervous since this is my first match-so I will appreciate any and all encouragement and support I get from you guys! PLEASE feel free to say hello to me and hang out. The more "fans" I have in the place, the more I awesome I get!

Save the date!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Coffeeneuring

HA. You thought this post would be about the Tweed Ride, didn't you? Well, that's coming up. I just haven't finished started it yet. Sorry. I also have some pretty awesome (non-cycling) news coming up too. Also an update on the sentencing hearing. That's a lot of things.

But for now, I want to go ahead and get this post out of the way since it's been sitting in my drafts folder for awhile.

A few months ago, gypsybug of Chasing Mailboxes (randonneuse extraordinnaire) posted a "coffeeneuring challenge":




Interested in the Coffeeneuring Challenge? Here’s what you have to do to play.

  1. Ride your bike to 7 different local coffee shops from now through October.
  2. Only Saturday and Sunday rides qualify. Weekday rides are ineligible.
  3. Only 1 coffee shop per day counts. If you visit 7 coffee shops in one day, you may choose only one as a qualifying ride.
  4. You must do a short write-up of your experience that includes: where you went (address and website, if possible), the date you went there, what you drank, who was with you (or state whether you were solo), total mileage, and a few details about your coffeeneuring ride.
  5. You must take at least one photo during your ride, caption it, and submit it as verification that you actually went to the coffee shop and drank a beverage there.
  6. Hot chocolate qualifies, as do tea beverages.
  7. You may not combine your coffeeneuring ride with any other ride such as a populaire or brevet. You may, however, combine your coffeeneuring ride with a grocery run, ride to the gym, or other transportation/utility-oriented ride.
  8. Your ride must be at least two miles total, but there is no maximum so yes, you could ride 100 miles for a cup of coffee.
  9. There are no geographic limitations to the Coffeeneuring Challenge.
  10. You have to go to 7 different coffee shops, although you may ride to multiple locations of a chain (though that is not preferred).
  11. Deadline for submission for the Coffeeneuring 7 is November 2, 2011.
  12. Submissions must be sent to me at gersemalina “at” gmail.com.
  13. All qualifying rides must be submitted at the same time. That is, send me all 7 together, NOT ride 1, ride 2, etc.
  14. Premium unknown, BUT you will be featured as a guest post on this blog. So fame is part of your premium. Beyond that, I cannot say.
  15. During Columbus Day weekend (October 8-10), you have three days to accomplish two qualifying coffeeneuring rides.

Alas, I did not complete the challenge. I ended up getting distracted by putting together my Halloween costume on the final weekend, and before I knew it, I had run out of time to get that final ride in. Boo.

But you can still read all about it!

(I also highly suggest checking out the Chasing Mailboxes blog to read more coffeeneuring exploits)

Stop #1: Columbia Heights Coffee (3416 11th St. NW)
Date: Sunday, September 25th, 2011
Miles: 2.58
Drink: americano



Sorry for the blurry quality. Too much caffeine?

Columbia Heights Coffee is quickly becoming one of those places I stop at frequently before/during work. I decided to stop here on my day off, because I needed to drop off The Boy's bike for some maintenance at the local bike shop and I've never been able to simply sit & enjoy this place.  I rode here, locked up at one of the plentiful bike racks on the block, and got myself a nice iced americano (my favorite) to sip on. Like many local coffee shops, the space is small and it was crowded inside. There are a few tables outside, so I chose one of them. Unfortunately, the mosquitoes were hungry. AAAAARGH, I hate mosquitoes. They ruined what would have otherwise been a perfectly nice early afternoon. I did watch plenty of cyclists using the bike lanes on 11th. I finished my amerciano and rode off on the The Boy's Bike to the bike shop and dropped it off. I took Capital Bikeshare for the return trip.

Overall impression: definitely a neighborhood go-to coffee shop.

Stop #2: Peregrine Espresso (1718 14th St. NW)
Date: Saturday, October 1st, 2011
Miles: 2.5
Drink: americano

I rode over to the Crafty Bastard's craft fair and checked out the different vendors. There were lots of really neat things, but nothing caught my eye enough for me to purchase. I saw lots of people decided to Put a Bird On It, which made me giggle and vendors probably thought I was some crazy idiot. I did take advantage of WABA's bike valet. I couldn't believe more people didn't. I saw tons of bikes locked to anything & everything up and down 18th St. (which was a MESS to bike down, by the way--the construction is AWFUL). Maybe they didn't know it was there? It's FREE, and people will literally sit there & watch your bike for you. No lock required. Why not use it?

It was a drizzly, slightly chill day. A perfect day to fetch a nice hot cup of coffee.  Which is what I decided to do once I was done browsing through Crafty Bastards. I decided to ride down to Peregrine on 14th, since I had never been there. Once again, I ordered an americano (hot) and took advantage of a rare open seat to dry off & enjoy my drink.


Overall impression: its a great place to get a drink to go, but not so much to sit & enjoy (very cramped, very few seating options). They could also use some more bike racks out front.

Stop #3: SOVA (1359 H St. NW)
Date: Sunday, October 9th, 2011
Miles: 5.36 miles
Drink: americano



It was the Season 6 opener for the DC Rollergirls at the Armory! A double-header too. I love going to derby. The only place where I spend more money than in a bike shop is at a derby game. I can't tell you how many derby t-shirt, glasses, buttons & other stuff I have, ha. Bikes, Beer & Derby: they are literally the biggest "sponsors" of my wardrobe. Anyway, I figured I might as well make a pit-stop on H St. since I would be passing near there on my way to the Armory. I decided to stop at SOVA. I've been there before, and I really like the space. It's bigger than it looks, with lots of comfy chairs & an open patio in the back. Definitely a nice place to hang around, if you don't mind all the beardy hipsters. (I don't mind hipsters, but the beards & mustaches freak me out). Unfortunately, I was running late (as usual) so I had to get my americano to go. It was a pretty warm day out, and I forgot to specify iced. The americano they gave me was scalding, eek.  At least I would be able to use Betty's cup holder. I had to dump out a good portion of my drink, though, to make sure it wouldn't spill out and scald me during the ride.

getting ready to take off.

I rode the rest of the way to the Armory without burning myself or spilling my coffee. Yay! Plus, by the time I got there, it was cool enough to drink. I had an awesome time at the derby. I just wish they had better bike parking at the Armory.


I ended up having to lock Betty way on the other side of the lot to this barrier. I don't like locking my bikes to anything that is not permanently embedded in the ground.

Overall impression: I'm a big fan of this place, and I think I might make it a habit to stop here before Derby games.

I made a few more bike trips after the derby game, including a few beer stops. All in all, it was a great day.

Stop #4: Pound (621 Pennsylvania Ave. SE)
Date: Monday, October 10th, 2011 (*Columbus Day Holiday!)
Miles: 4.35 miles
Drink: americano



My parents were visiting, and my dad wanted to check out the Main Reading Room at the Library of Congress. Generally, that room is off-limits to the general public but they open it up a few days every year. Today was one of those days. My dad has a library card for the library of congress, and takes advantage of it whenever he visits. I decided to ride to the Library to meet them. That included schlepping up Capitol Hill. On a normal bike, that's usually not a problem, but Betty doesn't like steep hills. I managed it though, just very slowly. Unfortunately, there was a suspicious package so we couldn't get into the library until it was cleared. It worked out for me though since I was running late ;-) (Can you detect a theme? Yes, I'm one of those people!)

The library itself is amazing. I've done the tour before (do it, if you never have) but I've never been inside the reading room itself. It's gorgeous. We even got to check out the room with the card catalogs---over 2 million cards! It went on forever.

The room itself is carefully designed to reflect the evolution of human understanding. 
They went on forever..they still use this as a back-up system just in case.

Afterwards, we stopped for lunch and I said goodbye to them. Then I decided to stop at Pound since I was in the area. I stopped here once before, but never got to try their coffee. It's a nice place. I still haven't explored it all. There's a back room that looks like it has some comfy spots to sit. Unfortunately, it was full of people and not an open spot was to be found. I got my usual ameriano to go, and waited outside to see if a table would open up outside (there are only two). It was absolutely gorgeous outside. A perfect early fall day. But, they didn't open up (darn table hogs!) That's ok though, I don't blame them--it was a gorgeous day outside. I'd hog it too. Perfect clear weather. Instead, I went around the corner to 8th St. and blew some of my hard-earned money in the two bike shops that are located there. HA! Another beautiful day in DC. I even managed to pick up my new bike companion, Bert. You'll see him in another blog.

Overall: Good coffee, good spot. A bit crowded on the weekends, but I didn't get to fully explore the entire shop.

Stop #5: Chinatown Coffee Co. (475 H St. NW)
Date: Sunday, October 16th, 2011
Miles: 5.94
Drink: Chai Latte

The previous night, I rode down to the E Street Cinema to catch the Sonic Transducer's production of the Rocky Horror Picture Show.....only to have it sell out as soon as I got in line. Bummer. I was all dressed up with nowhere to go, so I decided to catch the other midnight show which was "Human Centipede 2". I.....I have no words. Really. I kinda wish my brain had a delete option. Anyway, in my horror/rush to get out of the theater once the film ended, I left my helmet behind. Oh no!

The next day, I rode back down to retrieve my helmet (they had it, yay!) and figured I could squeeze in a coffeeneuring stop as well. I used Foursquare's "Explore" option, and saw that Chinatown Coffee wasn't too far away, so I headed there.

I knew it a good place because I saw a fellow Electra bike locked up outside. I locked Betty up and stepped inside.

A crazy homeless man decided to demonstrate some push-ups for me as I was locking up Betty. I did not take a photo of that.

My first impression was good. It was full, but not crowded. Small, but didn't feel cramped. A good amount of tables & chairs (although I noticed most of the tables were taken up by single persons, leaving many chairs empty). A clean, industrial look & good music being played by the employees (they often changed songs if one came on they didn't prefer). The music was a little louder than I'm used to at coffee shops, but not enough to be distracting or to hinder conversation. Based on the number of bike helmets I saw being carried in & out by customers, this place seemed friendly to cyclists.

Since I wasn't feeling like my usual americano, I decided to go with a latte. I got mine "to stay" even though it didn't appear any tables were free. I just decided to wait & hope. Sure enough, after about 5-10 minutes a primo spot at the front window opened up, and I snagged it. I must have come at the right time, because shortly after a few more tables opened up and remained open.

The latte was delicious.

delicious latte-ness

So delicious, that I decided to get one to go for my trip back home.

Pound Coffee Mug. If you look at the bottom left corner,  you can see a bit of Bert.

I decided that it would be a good time to fully test out the "spill-proof" mug I bought from Pound Coffee last week.

Verdict: It's not perfect, but it does the job fine.

A medium to-go cup of coffee/tea will fill the mug. You wouldn't want to get a large. Although there were a few drips that escaped the lid here & there, it kept the majority of my latte in the mug and out of my lap. I rode about 2.5 miles over bumpy dc streets, so that was pretty impressive. The lid design allowed me to easily drink from it at stop lights without a fuss. Not sure how it fares temperature-wise, however. I don't believe it's a thermal mug. Will find out as it gets colder.

Overall impression: I think I will definitely be going back there.




Stop #6: Dunkin' Donuts (2750 14th St. NW)
Date: Saturday, October 29th
Miles: 1.3
Drink: Pumpkin Latte

Ok, I'll admit it--this was done purely out of desperation. It was a miserable day, weather-wise, and I simply wanted to get it over with. It snowed! ACK! It's too early for snow. Also, I forgot to take a picture. It would have been blurry anyway, because my hands were frozen.
Anyway, I've been to this particular Dunkin' Donuts many, many times. I don't go for the coffee. The people that work there are very nice & its usually a nice, quiet place to sit for a bit. But the coffee is terrible. It's either usually burned or overly-sweetened. This time was no exception. I think it was both burned & sickly sweet with the pumpkin syrup. Oh well.

Overall impression: I go here because its convenient, not because its good.




And...that's it. I had planned on going to the Starbucks in Bethesda via the CCT, but then I found all my old goth clothes in my closet....and well, that was that.

I hope to have my Tweed Ride review up before this weekend (but don't hold me to that). I also have some news on sentencing hearing (sorry I've been quiet about that lately, there was a reason for that. I will explain all soon). Also, if you happen to have the evening of December 3rd free, keep it open--I'll let you know what for very soon!

WABA is hosting a happy hour this Thursday (the 17th) at Brasserie Beck at 5pm. New Belgium drafts will be available and its all for a good cause-you could even win prizes. Unfortunately, I will not be able to attend due to work commitments, but I hope you will!

Ride safe, everyone!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Another trip down the C&O: Lock House 10



The Boy and I had so much fun on our last trip to Lock House 6, that we immediately booked another one. We decided to try Lock House 10 since it also had electricity/running water & wasn't that much further out (in fact, we ended up accidentally riding to it while looking for a local store while we were staying in 6).

Lock House 10 has been restored to a 1930's feel in order to celebrate the Civilian Conservation Corps. I highly suggest reading about the CCC because its quite fascinating. In a nutshell, the CCC was part of the New Deal plan by FDR to employ people to restore/upkeep federal & state lands. It included African Americans & Native Americans (segregated from whites, but they did earn equal pay) & war veterans. There were quite a few CCC camps along the C&O Canal; they were used to help restore parts of the canal after it was destroyed by major flooding in 1924.

I wasn't sure what to expect, since the Canal Trust website doesn't have very good photos of Lock House 10. I was willing to find out, though!

This time we put a bit more thought into our packing. Since we knew there was a shopping center nearby, we didn't worry about stocking up on food/beer. We decided just to bring something to eat for lunch, and then we would go grocery shopping when we got there.

This is a general idea of our packing list:

Linens (2 pillows, one sheet & 2 towels)
Clothes for 2 days, extra undies & socks.
Coats, gloves & hats in case it got chilly
Rain gear
Toiletries
Trash bags
Kindle
Knitting
Camera
Phone charger
National Parks Passport
DVD player & fun movies
Bike tools: patch kit, tire levers, pump, multi-tool, screw-driver, wrench, scissors, knife, zip-ties.

Unfortunately, despite the best planning, things can still go wrong. *sigh* I will get to that in a minute....

We packed everything up and were excited to head out. I used these wonderful panniers that I purchased from Basil and some creative cargo-netting (plus my basket). I felt like I was riding a tortoise ;-)

Betty, ready to go. I really need to buy a camping pillow ;-)
The Boy was using a "grocery pannier" that I bought a few weeks ago. It sucked. When we placed it on the bike, I could tell that it wasn't going to be very good. The hooks were the wrong size for either of our racks. I'm pretty sure they are the wrong size for *any* rack. As soon as he started riding, the damn thing came off. Grrrr. A few zip-ties later, and we were ready to go for real. (I'll be doing a review of that pannier, plus my new Basil panniers soon. Hint: the grocery pannier is not going to get a favorable one).

The ride was pretty good, if uneventful. We took the Rock Creek trail to Georgetown, then the CCT to Fletcher's Cove, then switched to the C&O towpath. We took it slow and easy, and the weather was gorgeous. Not too hot, not too cold & fall foliage everywhere you looked.



View Larger Map

I did find two things annoying: there were too many cyclists riding abreast. No. Biking is not a conversational sport. Not on a multi-use trail, anyway.  If you MUST ride next to each other, please respect other users and MOVE OVER when being passed. When you hear a DING DING, that means move over! go single file for a moment! I can't tell you how many cyclists simply ignored my warning that I was about to pass them, and almost forced me off the towpath. The second annoyance was unleashed dogs. If you are on a MUP, and you let your dog roam leash-free: YOU ARE A TERRIBLE DOG OWNER. Seriously, its irresponsible. I'm quite sure your furry "child" is well-behaved. I'M NOT. There are plenty of areas to let your doggie dog run wild. THIS IS NOT IT. (I love dogs. It's irresponsible owners that peeve me)

The red blur on the bottom is my handlebar-mounted airplane's propellor. Note annoying cyclists ahead.


More CCT.

Fletches' cove. I think I took this picture by accident.

Towpath..


Anyway, we passed Lock House 6 and waved. Then continued on until 10. Suddenly, we were there.

Approaching the Lock House. They were re-seeding the lawn.

Screened porch. Also an excellent place to store bikes.

Front door.

Another view from drive-way.

There was a man (a Quarter Master, I assumed) there trimming some weeds. He greeted us as we rode in and introduced himself as Bill. It was a good thing he was there, because we had a little trouble with the key lockbox. He was able to fix it though, and get us in.

He also showed us the basement and told us we could store our bikes down there. Unlike Lock House 6, though, I didn't find the basement area to be very inviting or useful. First, it was one of the old-fashioned "barn door" types (you can see it in the photo above) with steps leading down into it. Carrying a regular bike down them wouldn't be much of a problem, but I certainly wasn't looking forward to hauling Betty up and down those steps. Also, it's dark & creepy. The ceiling is really low, and I would not be surprised if there are bodies buried down there ;-/

Instead, we found that the screened porch was a perfect place to stash the bikes. I'm sure this probably violates some sort of rule, but the basement just wasn't gonna work for Betty.

The interior was just as beautiful as Lock House 6.

Sweet Kitchen. 
Living Room.

No fires in the fireplace!


Bathroom (upstairs! clawfoot tub!)

Double bed.

Real U.S. Army blankets! (and our pillows)

Games.

Game shelf. No deck of cards tho. Darn it.

I couldn't figure out how to work the oven. The Boy magically did it for me.

Pretty kitchen table.

CCC
The layout is basically the same as Lock House 6, with the exception that the bathroom is located upstairs (yay! No trudging downstairs to the basement). There are two bedrooms. One bedroom contains a double bed (with trundle bed underneath), as well as a closet containing a couple of foldable cots. The other bedroom contains 3 single beds. Blankets are provided, but you will need to bring your own linens & pillows.

The living room is nice, but there isn't a couch/sofa. Just individual chairs (which I found comfy enough). There are scrap books with information/articles on the CCC which were fascinating. And of course, a stamp for your National Parks Passport (which I remembered this time!) & guest books. They must have only very recently opened this lock house for rent, because the guest book doesn't go very far back. Also, the entries were not nearly as creative as Lock House 6 (no poems or drawings).

The kitchen was gorgeous. It contained a mini-fridge, stovetop with 3 burners & an oven. The oven took a little figuring out, since it was from the 1930's/40's. Also, the temperature dial was broken on the oven knob, so you kinda had to guess (there is a thermometer in the oven itself so you can adjust as you go). Be advised: the oven knob is backwards--Low is High and High is Low. Also, you need to flip the "switch" on the rear/top of the oven to get it to work. There was a decent amount of cookware to work with too. But be forewarned: much of it is 1930's era stuff. You might want to bring your own can-opener. There is a coffee pot, but no grinder. Salt & pepper is stocked, but nothing else. Bring olive oil, condiments or other spices you might need.

Also, the kitchen has the most sensitive fire alarm in the world :-/ I strongly advise you to turn the stove fan on 'high' and keep the porch door open. That alarm goes off for everything! Even just heating a pan on the stove with nothing in it. (Fire alarm: OH MY GOD GUYS SOMETHING IS HOT AND IT COULD POSSIBLY CATCH FIRE EVENTUALLY EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE. HEY GUYS? THE BURNER IS ON. JUST THOUGHT YOU SHOULD KNOW. EEEEEEEEEEEEE. OH? YOU'RE MAKING SPAGHETTI? I LOVE SPAGHETTI! EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE).

The screened porch is lovely. There are two rocking chairs and plenty of space. The Boy and I were debating whether we liked the screened porch or the open porch of lock house 6 better. Personally, judging by how many stink bugs I saw sticking to the outside of the screen, I prefer the screened-in version.

Like lock house 6, this house is right off of the Effing Parkway. However, it's on a slightly lower elevation, so you can't actually see the Effing Parkway or the cars zooming on it. It even hides the headlights at night pretty well too. There is a parking lot, and even a "private parking space". You can drive down from the parking lot off of the parkway to a "driveway" in front of the lock house. I'm not sure if its supposed to be used for that, but oh well. A Park Police officer did stop to hassle a friend of ours that had stopped to visit when he pulled into the parking lot. You're not supposed to park there after dark (unless you have a parking permit), but no matter how much The Boy tried to explain to him about the lock house & parking permits, it became painfully obvious that he had no clue what he was talking about and it was just easier to nod his head and have the friend simply circle back around until USSP was gone. Even though we are police officers ourselves, we know when to pick our battles. Sometimes its simply easier to nod your head.....and then just do what you were gonna do once they leave. (P.S. I do not officially endorse this method.) (P.P.S Park Police need to be educated about Canal Lock House policies).

Our plan once we arrived was to relax for a little bit, have lunch, then ride to the local store to pick up provisions. The exit off the towpath to the Cabin John shopping center (Lock house 8) is literally a two-minute ride away. Unfortunately, as soon as we set off we encountered a problem: Betty had a rear flat. And that was just the beginning...

Luckily, we hadn't gone very far at all, so I simply walked Betty back to the lock house. Since it was starting to get dark, The Boy went on ahead to go shopping while I stayed behind to fix the flat.

Thank goodness we brought a tool-kit this time. I can fix a flat on Betty. I've done it before. It's easy!

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!! <-----that's what the biking gods said.

I brought Betty onto the porch and turned her over so I could remove the rear wheel. I bent over to unbolt the coaster brake and promptly almost died when I brained myself with the damn kickstand. Note to self: remember to put the kickstand UP before working on the bike. I had a nice red bump smack in the middle of my forehead for the rest of the weekend :-/ Seriously, who hits their HEAD with a KICKSTAND?!

Sometimes, I really wish Betty had Quick Release Skewers.

Step 1: unbolt the coaster brake. SHAZAM. done.
Step 2: Unbolt the gearing thingy. PAZOW!  huh, what are those little metal shavings coming out? Hmmm, I will worry about that later. DONE!
Step 3: Unbolt the other side of the wheel. KA---uh, damn. This bolt is on really tight. Super tight. What sort of He-Man screwed this on? Jesus H. Christ.
Step 4: Wait for The Boy to return so he can use his manly muscles to get that bolt off. Also, drink last beer & use the cold can to ice bump on head.
Step 5: Get that last bolt off and remove wheel from bike. ZING! done.
Step 6: Use tire levers to release tire beading and remove inner tube from tire. WHAT WHAT! done.
Step 7: Inspect tire carefully for any objects that may have caused puncture. YEEEAAHH. done. no objects.
Step 8: Find leak in tube. Hmmm....we'll use the bathtub!
Step 9: drink a beer while bathtub fills.
Step 10: Send The Boy up to submerge tube to find leak while you finish your beer.
Step 11: Trudge upstairs to tub because Boy complains that he can't find leak. As soon as you get upstairs hear, "NEVERMIND I FOUND IT"
Step 12: Patch that beotch. Then patch it again because you messed up the first time.
Step 13: Insert tube back into tire and put tire back on rim.
Step 14: Put wheel back on, by doing Steps 1-3 backwards.
Step 15: Discover that bolt on gearing thingy is totally $%^@%@ stripped. Well, crap.
Step 16: Decide that you don't really need gears anyway. The towpath is flat. It's cool until you can get to a bike shop.
Step 17: Inflate tire using mini-pump.
Step 18: HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA You really thought it was going to be that easy???
Step 19: Discover that mini-pump is worth f*ck all. It won't lock onto valve & because Betty doesn't have a washer thingy to screw on valve to keep it from slipping through the rim hole, you can't effectively put any air in the tire.
Step 20: Give up for the night and drink beer and make spaghetti (EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE) and have fun with friends.

Photo is blurry because I've just been nearly concussed. 
Wheel successfully removed.

Coping mechanism.

Good friends. (Note, masks added to protect privacy. They are not real. The masks, I mean. My friends are real and definitely not imaginary.) 

Arrrrrr! Things got a little tense. (KIDDING!)

The Boy is not an actual pirate.

The next day, I tried to no avail to use that wretched mini-pump to get air into the tire. No go. It was apparent that we were going to need a better pump. The Boy came to the rescue. He figured there *had* to be some sort of hardware store for the local residents somewhere nearby. I googled & googled, but I couldn't find anything. He decided to simply trust to luck. And he won! He rode around a bit and managed to find Glen Echo Hardware not too far away. They had 3 floor-pumps in stock. YAY!

I used the floor pump and my spirits rose when the tire began to properly inflate. YAY! MAYBE I CAN SALVAGE THIS TRIP!

I knew something was wrong though. I could hear the tube inside the tire as it inflated. It didn't sound right. I didn't care though. Tire! Inflating! Can't Stop Now!

A few minutes later, the tire was inflated! Hooray!

Then a few minutes later my happiness exploded. Literally. KABLAMMO!!! The tube exploded. *sigh* It must have been twisted or caught on the beading--I'm not sure. What I was positive about was that no patch job in the world was going to save that tube and I did not have any extras. This could not be fixed.

I was so frustrated. This was not how I envisioned spending this trip. So far, I only managed to get one ride in, and that was the ride TO the lock house. My plan of riding to the Irish Inn and/or Great Falls began to evaporate.

It was at this point that I remembered that I was a Silver Spokes member of the League of American Bicyclists. This meant I automatically had membership with the Better World Club, which is sort of the equivalent of AAA for bicycles. I could call them, and they would come out and transport me & my bike to any location in a 30 mile radius. I knew there was a bike shop a 10-minute drive away. Unfortunately....I never received my membership materials and was uncertain as to whether I could use the service.

Thankfully, another friend of ours was due to visit later that afternoon. He had a car! One thing was for certain: Betty wasn't going anywhere in her present condition. And since we were leaving tomorrow.....she HAD to be fixed, or I was stuck. Literally.

Our friend agreed to transport Betty to the shop (in return for dinner & beer, of course). Problem is, Betty is a big girl. We ended up having to remove the front wheel so we could fit her in the car. Removing the front wheel is fairly easy. Just undo the bolts and voila. Except the bolts were on soooooo tight. Super tight. Almost impossible to unbolt. But we managed.

We brought Betty to the bike shop (an Electra dealer, no less!) and I was immediately annoyed. First, there were a bunch of kids employees who were just standing around outside talking with each other. Ok, whatever. I wheel my OBVIOUSLY BROKEN bike into the store, right past them (they even held the door for me) at which point we were greeted with......nothing. We literally stood around for 15 minutes before one of the kids employees finally came inside and went behind the counter. Then he had the nerve to ask us if we had been helped. BY WHOM?! YOU ARE ALL OUTSIDE NOT WORKING!!! I took a deep breath and explained to him that I needed a flat fix, but more importantly, the bolt on the gearing thingy (note: not the technical term) was stripped and it needed to be fixed. And of course, he simply ignored everything I said and tried to claim that it was "supposed" to be like that. Whatever. I'm used to being ignored. He would figure it out once he tried to put everything back together again. (Pet peeve: mechanics that 'diagnose' a problem without ever looking at the bike. AT LEAST LOOK AT IT FIRST).

So, the kid (seriously, he couldn't have been older than 17) got it up on the stand and put a new tube in (dang it, now that I think of it, I should have simply bought more while I was there. Dunno why I didn't think of that at the time. Silly me.) Then when he went to put the wheel on, discovered what I already told him: the gear bolt was stripped. Ooops.

He went and got (what I assume) was the manager and more experienced mechanic. He made me feel much better about getting Betty fixed. He seemed to know what he was doing ;-)

He managed to tap a larger sized bolt in. Its not a permanent solution, but it works just fine for now. I thanked him profusely. Betty was rideable again. I also purchased another patch kit and some winter gloves for The Boy while I was there.

We put Betty back into the car and did a little food shopping since we were out anyway. Then we went back to the lock house and put the front wheel back on Betty.

Except....we couldn't bolt the dang thing on. Despite bringing a toolkit, we forgot pliers. We didn't have anything to secure the opposite bolt while wrenching the other one, so we couldn't put the front wheel back on. Mother Effer.

At this point, I think I may have muttered some very nasty things. And maybe thrown a temper tantrum.

I gave up for the rest of the evening and decided to make dinner & drink beer & forget. The Boy could go back to the hardware store the next morning before we left to get the tool we needed.

(We had bison burgers, oven fries & I bought a raw cheesecake slice for myself. The fire alarm went EEEEEEEEEEEEEE.).

The next morning came way too soon. I started cleaning & packing while The Boy rode to the hardware store to get the tool. I also made bacon & eggs (EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!) for him to eat before we left. When he returned, we were *finally* able to put the front wheel back on (although, there are two decorative "stays" that we could NOT figure out how to get back on, so we just left them off for now). Betty was ready to go.

I was pretty bummed about leaving. The Boy managed to get in way more biking than I did, and most of my time was spent cursing & feeling sorry for myself. Oh well. At least it was an absolutely picture-perfect day to ride back to DC.

We managed to be all packed up & ready to go by 11am (check-out time) and set off. The trails were fairly empty and we made good time. We had just arrived into Georgetown and were about to get on the Rock Creek trail when one more disaster struck: The Boy hit a curb the wrong way attempting to enter a sidewalk and blew out his front tire.

Yup. Another effing flat. At least this time we were only half a block from a bike-shop (CycleLife). The Boy took it over there while I rode on ahead--I had to be back at work and was risking being late if I stayed. I managed to make it home without further incident.

Jamie's front tire was done. The shop replaced both tube & tire, and The Boy also got some new grips installed since his hands had been hurting. He said he was very happy with the service he got there. Then he made it home without incident too :-)

So that was our trip. Not quite the success as it was the last time, but at least it was a learning experience. Oh, and guess what arrived in the mail two days after we got back?

Mustache edit to protect privacy and prevent fraudulent use.

Yeah. Great timing.

Things I will keep in mind for next trip:

-It's great to have a tool-kit, but make sure ALL the tools you need are included, and that they WORK (stupid mini-pump)
-Get a tune-up before you go to make sure all parts are in good order (cables, housing, bolts, etc).
-Crap happens. Better have a back-up plan, just in case.
-When all else fails, call a friend to bail you out (or BW club if you are a member).
-ALWAYS have extra tubes on hand.
-Bring TWO bottles of whiskey.

Note: If you are ever staying in Lock House 10, we left the floor pump & a patch kit in the kitchen closet where the cleaning supplies are located. Please don't take it from the house---we donated it for other cyclists to use. If we ever make it back to 6, we will probably do the same there.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Wordless (Long) Weekend

Coffeeneuring

Making use of the cup holder. 
bike "parking" at the DC Armory

DC Armory

DC Rollergirls!

At the Biergarten House

Library of Congress Card Catalog

Main Reading Room 

Dome

More coffeeneuring

Aaaargh.

Betty has a new friend.