Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Size of Texas

"Let's just turn around and get some coffee and go home."

That was the thought that kept going through my mind last Saturday. It was the 3rd day of steady rain, way too early in the morning, and I had signed up for a 55 mile bike ride (The Law Enforcement Ride to Remember) that began and ended at National Harbor.

I had considered riding to the start at National Harbor, but I wasn't sure what the trail conditions were on the Mt. Vernon Trail. Not only was it possible that parts of the trail were flooded due to the rain, but the trail is a casualty of the federal government shutdown, meaning that no maintenance would be conducted on it. Also, it was still dark that early in the morning. So, Zipcar it was. The Boy very graciously offered to get up at that ungodly hour  and drop me and the new bike ("Blue") off at the start.

Did I not mention the new bike before? Oh, right. I have a new bike! A real road bike. Carbon fiber frame and everything. It's not "new", just new to me. It's been sitting in bits & pieces in our living room for the last 4 months or so, but I finally got it all together. Well, my Local Bike Shop got it all together. I just handed over the money for them to do it. This ride would be Blue's debut. So, I couldn't miss it, no matter how gray and miserable it was outside.

The "new" Blue. Bubble wrap included. Yes, those are mountain bike pedals on a road bike. And my bar tape does not match my saddle. I don't care.

We were running late, and managed to pull up to the event area 5 minutes before the start of the ride. I had just enough time to stash my gear bag and we were off. Since I had a fancy road bike now, I splurged on a Garmin. Mostly this was because I still have trouble reading cue sheets (I'm getting better at it though!). Turns out this was unnecessary because the course was very well marked along the way. Another reason for the Garmin was so I wouldn't drain my phone's battery with a cycling app running in the background.

The ride began by winding through National Harbor before dumping us onto a gravel patch (eek) to the  roads we would be riding. I walked my bike over the patch of gravel. There was no way I was going to risk my neck & new bike riding on wet mud & gravel. Once past, I hopped back on the bike and got going. Easy Peasy. This would come back later to haunt me...

As I said earlier, the course was well marked so I wasn't worried about getting lost. We also did pretty well as an overall group at staying together. I think there were a lot less riders than had registered; I got the strong feeling many folks simply decided to stay in bed. The roads were wet, but it wasn't raining very heavily. Mostly just a constant wet mist. I had worn my rain pants & jacket, but they were soon ditched since it was still fairly warm.

Rest stops were spaced 10-15 miles apart, making the ride fairly easy. There were a few hills, but not many. Traffic was light, and there was only one aggressive driver that I personally encountered (HONK HONK HONK!). Unfortunately, I did hear of a major collision between two vehicles on our route that caused us to be diverted from our last pitstop. Apparently a driver ran a red, went over the median and plowed head-on into another vehicle. Luckily there were police cars stationed at almost every major intersection, not to mention the off-duty folks doing the ride, so they were able to get help to the injured driver very quickly. I heard that it was extremely lucky that no riders got caught in the collision.

Rest Stop. Sparsely populated.

Goats! I knew I had to stop and take a photo. If you are wondering what they are doing, they are climbing on each other to get at the leaves that are too far out of their reach individually. Clever goats.

This was my first "real" ride on Blue, so I was still learning the ropes. I got a little over confident near the end when I tried to make a sharp turn way too fast (the turn surprised me) and ended up skidding out at speed on the asphalt. OUCH. Thankfully, the car BEHIND me was able to stop in time and didn't run me over, and I miraculously managed to fall in such a way that I unclipped AND crashed the bike on the non-drive side, so no damage. My poor hand & thigh though--ow. Nothing was broken, but I had some decent road rash and am still sporting a bruise the size of Texas on my leg.  I was a little annoyed at whomever was stationed at that turn (it was actually the same area as the patch of gravel from the beginning of the ride). He was obviously there to warn riders of the gravel, but a) he was sitting in his car, so that's not helpful and he had situated the car AFTER the hazard, instead of before, so b)ALSO NOT HELPFUL. Plus, he didn't bother removing himself from his car to assist me until I had already helped myself & my bike up and moved to the side of the ride. THANKS FOR NOTHING. Glad I wasn't seriously hurt. Sheesh. Anyway, I got back on the bike and managed to "limp" in to the finish area. Can't wait to see my finish photo, I bet its hilarious. I was not a happy camper.

Anyway, despite that one little mishap, I had a great time and was glad I hadn't turned around and gone back to bed. Blue turned out to be a swell ride too. I celebrated with a beer & a pizza and then got ready to head home.

Beer & Medal. I actually have two of these medals because the following day was the "run" portion of the event; a 5K race which I'm pretty sure I PR'd in. It was awesome.

The Boy wasn't going to be available to give me a ride home from National Harbor, so I rode it instead. I was feeling good, so I didn't mind the extra miles.  On my way up to the Wilson bridge, I found this little guy!

So cute! I remember when Franklin & Roscoe used to be that size.

We already have two turtles at home, so I helped him across the path and said goodbye.
 The ride home was pretty unremarkable, until I got to Gravelly Point. I stopped at one of the picnic tables to rest for a moment & drink some water. Gravelly Point is another casualty of the federal government shutdown, and was completely empty except for the occasional cyclist riding by, and a Park Police cruiser keeping vehicles from entering. A young man rode up on his bike to my table and exclaimed "isn't this awesome?!". He was referring to the planes taking off from the airport (Gravelly Point is the best place to watch the planes take off/land at National Airport). He was new to the area (an intern) and decided to take the day to explore by bicycle. I gave him some pointers and rode off. It was nice to talk to someone who was excited about getting around by bike.

I rode back home, with a stop at the Bike Shop on the way to make sure no permanent damage was done in the crash and to get my drivetrain cleaned/lubed, since it was squeaking like a mouse. It was a pretty great day, even though I never got my coffee.

I've been riding a lot this autumn. I feel a million times better than I did over the summer. I've taken some time off of work and it was just what I needed. The weather has been perfect (despite the rain) and I've been using every opportunity to get out and ride my bike or go for a run. Some photos....

Riding over the "Brookland Bridge" during the 50 States Ride

Pit Stop at the 50 States Ride

Cue sheet for the 50 States Ride: it was 4 pages long!

You can't ride the W&OD trail without stopping at Carolina Brothers for BBQ.

Rail car on the W&OD.

The start of the W&OD in Shirlington

The end of the W&OD in Purcellville

If you squint, you can see a hawk chilling in the branches.

Sunset in Purcellville.

Families biking on the National Mall for Kidical Mass

The cupcake stop at the end of the Kidical Mass ride

Bike tour of New Columbia Distillers

Bike Brewery tour at Bardo Beer Garden

Group picture of Kidical Mass

Beer garden dog.

Seeing a lot of these in DC lately. Shutdown City.

It's coffeeneuring time!

I also have some sad news: I finally sold Jamie, my very first adult bike. I realized I hadn't ridden Jamie in over a year, and there is nothing sadder than a bike that doesn't get ridden. So I figured he should go to a good home & owner than will actually put him to use. The new owner lives in my neighborhood, so hopefully I will see him around!

Bye, Jamie! We had a lot of good rides together!

An empty space. That is now filled by Blue.

I'm going to be doing a blog post on cycling accessories (bags, lights, bottles, etc) very soon. If you have any questions or anything you would like to see covered, let me know!