Saturday, December 31, 2011

Yet another bike goal reached just before year's end

Sometime back in the summer when I started biking regularly, I thought it would be a fun activity for Scott and me to ride out to Purcellville, stay in a B&B, and ride back home the following day. I mean, it's nearly 23 miles from our house to the end of the trail; there's no way we could possibly ride there and back in one day!

Except, we can. Or rather, I can. And did. Today. As part of my race to ride the distance to Mom's house before Rose's and my six month anniversary, I hopped on the bike and rode the 45.95 mile round trip to Purcellville and back. According to my new computer, the trip (minus stops) took 3 hours, fifty minutes (the full trip time was just over four and a half hours). Less than five miles shy of fifty miles, y'all. I'll totally be riding half centuries with ease next year. But first, I need to chase down that 850 miles by January 11.

I took lots of pictures and have some shout outs for great gear which will go up in a separate post.

Thursday, December 29, 2011


Today I am grateful for wool glove liners, insulated boots, and helmuffs. I am also grateful for not wiping out on the icy parts on the W&OD trail. I'm not sure if one should traverse ice slowly or at speed; I chose slowly.

It was 27F with little wind when I left home this morning. My winter ride clothing choices are improving and I had a nearly perfect layering system today. Unfortunately and despite the vents on my helmet, my head is still getting too hot and my hair is pretty damp when I get to the office. I think my only option for keeping my hair dry is to go helmetless and that's not really an option if my husband and my lack of grace have anything to say about it.

Oh! Something cool (in the fun way, not the temperature way) happened this morning. I've never been able to ride hands free. I've lifted both hands off the handlebars for mere seconds, but that's as far as I've gotten. This morning, while pedaling through the neighborhood before the trail, I reached up with both hands to adjust my scarf. It wasn't until I put my hands back on the handlebar that I realized I'd just ridden hands free. Whoo hoo! I tried a few more times on the trail and kept losing my nerve, unfortunately. I guess, for me, hands free will have to be one of those things I don't realize I'm doing until I realize what I'm doing.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Bike crazy

You know, I keep thinking that I'm the bike crazy one in my relationship, but it turns out that Scott may be as rabid as I. Since his new job puts him back in Herndon next week, he's going to start bike commuting. I suggested he wait until spring, but if the warm winter holds he's going to start as soon as he feels comfortable with the route. He plans to join me on the half century route of the 2012 Backroads Century. He's also started talking about triathlons. And with the thoughts of increasing mileage and tris, we're beginning to talk about road bikes.

Rose and his unnamed bike are comfortable enough, but they're getting heavy with the additions of the commuting/transportation gear. While I would LOVE to get an aesthetically pleasing loop-frame Dutch bike, that style is completely unrealistic for my current lifestyle. I believe that a lighter road bike would help me increase my speed and distance. I want to get up to centuries and trundling along at 10mph won't cut it. And while I know of a woman who bikes centuries on a pink Hello Kitty cruiser with no gears (and in skirts, corsets, fishnets, and four inch heels, no less!), I don't think I'm that hardcore. :)

For now, I'll start researching and plotting and planning and continuing to ride my beloved Rose and stretching out my mileage in preparation for next year's organized rides and then I'll buy a road bike after Rose's one year anniversary. Maybe.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

So spoiled

Can those of you in the mid-Atlantic region believe these temperatures? 50F and 60F in the days leading up to Christmas? Holy cow! It certainly makes this "winter cycling" thing so much easier. ;)

Something that wasn't quite as easy as it should have been, though, was last night's commute. Specifically, illuminating last night's commute. The first rule of winter bike commuting is LIGHTS. The second rule is BACK-UP LIGHTS. The MiNewt.600 let me down when I got to my bike and hauled it out of my bag. Despite allegedly charging all afternoon, it wouldn't turn on for love or money. My back-up light was still attached to Scott's handlebar from our last Christmas light tour. I did have my two white blinky lights which I attached to each side of my front fork in steady mode to provide a teensy bit of illumination and, with the combination of my basket lights, allowed me to be seen by oncoming traffic.

Luckily, I left work about twenty minutes earlier than usual and there was a little bit of sunset reflecting on the cloud cover. Plus, the clouds reflected back a fair amount of the light pollution from the shopping center and car dealerships. But the tree-lined, dark parts of the trail were DARK. I took it easy and had no mishaps. Happily, the deer encounter happened in the light-polluted area and the black cat which crossed my path shot across the trail before I got too close.

My headlight is now fully charged and I will be sure to pack the backup before hitting the road tomorrow.

In non light-related news, I had another realization of my increase in strength last night. Not only did I ride up the 28 overpass in a higher gear, I actually gained speed climbing. Dude, that's huge. I also powered up the last hill to my street. That's also huge. And I wasn't a total sweaty mess when I got home. That's not huge, but it was a nice surprise.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Everybody's biking for the weekend

Okay, maybe that's just me. Anyway, when last we left our intrepid heroine, she had cracked her trusty steed's right pedal. Still, the commute home was easy-peasy. I stopped by Eastern Mountain Sports, since it's on the way, but they didn't have anything that satisfied as I am neither ready nor coordinated enough for clip pedals. Scott and I set off for the Ashburn Spokes, Etc where the store manager led me to the pedal section and made recommendations. I selected the spiky metal ones. He warned me about misthreading the pedals, showing me which was left and right, and said that we could bring in the bike and they'd install them for free if we had trouble.

We had trouble. Neither I nor Scott could loosen the plastic pedals to remove them. Saturday morning we bundled Rose into the back of the truck and took her and the new pedals to the shop. It is both heartening and a little embarrassing that everybody in the shop recognizes me and my bike on sight. The mechanics LOVED the lights woven in my basket and turned them on while swapping out pedals (OMG, what a quick process that is when one has the right tools!) and adjusting my squishy back brake. Scott was looking for something (I can't remember what) and I wound up chatting with another clerk who was impressed as all get out that I commute by bike. I mentioned how pleased I was with my MiNewt.600 headlight and he unpacked a MiNewt.1500 to show me the latest and greatest in headlamp warfare. The battery pack alone was the size of a mini meatloaf but was surprisingly light. I don't know how one would keep their head upright if they used the helmet mount for the light, though.

The rest of Saturday was spent exploring new stores such as Potomac Running (where Scott found a pair of minimalist shoes with a solid upper so he can have warm toes now that it's too chilly to bike and run in his Vibram Five Fingers) and Bicycle Outfitters in Leesburg. Wow! They had a great selection of clothes and jackets and bikes. We both tried on convertible jackets with back vents; unfortunately, they were out of our respective sizes in the colors we wanted. They had an adorable step-through Giant. Seriously adorable. And a beautiful used Raleigh diamond frame with fenders and Brooks B17 saddle for $399. I nearly spazzed and Scott got wistful as his first bike was his mom's Raleigh. It was a good visit.

Sunday was sunnier and touch warmer than Saturday. I layered up, pointed Rose west and rode to Leesburg. Unfortunately, my leg warmers kept slipping down my thighs and I had to keep hiking them back up. Eventually, I found a fairly secluded spot where I was able to swap around my bottom layers. Unfortunately, my legs no longer had that wonderful windbreak from the leg warmers and they got chilly. The rest of me, including my toes, stayed comfy and not too sweaty. Lots of joggers and bikers smiled at my basket with its twinkling lights, hee! At Raflo Park, I left the trail for Market Station in search of a little warmth and maybe some hot cocoa. I found both at Dorner Bistro, a great little German pub, and treated myself to cocoa and the second best fries I've ever eaten.

Suitably resustained, I phoned Scott to let him know where I was and that I was on my way home. Oh, and I might call to be rescued in case I got too cold. Happily, I wound up not needing rescue and the trip home felt much faster than the trip out. I decided to treat myself to a little music and, when my external speaker decided its batteries were dead, plugged an ear bud in my right ear and listened to my Road Trip playlist. I pseudo drafted behind a guy for a while. He kept looking over his shoulder, expecting me to pass I guess, but I couldn't pass him while we were on an incline. Eventually, we got to a downhill portion and I zoomed past.

The Rte 28 overpass is still a bear, but I climbed it without dropping into the granny gears despite being at mile 22 of my ride. Huzzah! I felt pretty darn good when I got home, no huffing and puffing, and I wasn't a sweaty mess. I guess mid-30s with a 10mph wind is my perfect cycling weather.

Friday, December 16, 2011

You take the good, you take the bad

I'm going to start with the bad: I broke Rose's right pedal this morning. Must've taken off too hard at the stoplight. I felt a sickening crunch, looked down, and saw a chunk of the pedal missing. Bugger. She's still rideable, hopefully; I mean, I got to the campus and parked her just fine. Ah well, it's been about a month since I was last in my local Spokes Etc...

The good: Rose is decked out for Christmas.

Christmas rose

I found two sets of battery-operated, old-fashioned looking lights at Target last night and remembered about the wreath-looking candle rings amongst my Christmas decor yesterday. A third of a pack of tiny black zip ties later, et voila: Christmas Rose! The two guy commuters I passed today didn't notice, but the girl commuter smiled at my cheerful basket.

I haven't gotten brave enough to wear a Santa hat over my helmet. Maybe next week.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

More cheer!

I keep messing up my husband's gym plans. When I left the orthodontist last night, I noticed how warm the air felt and decided that I needed to get on my bike before the rain and cold front came through Thursday night. I called Scott and suggested we go for a ride through the neighborhoods across the boulevard (which are NOTORIOUS for tacky [as well as pretty] Christmas light displays).

It really was a perfect night for a ride. No wind, mid-40s temps, little traffic, and great light displays. Scott usually suffers with decent humor my desire to drive around looking at lights; I asked if a ride wasn't a much better way to view the lights. His only complaint was that he couldn't drink while riding around.*

*It's how my stepdad gets through touring Christmas lights with Mom and me. He'll have a Sheltie on his lap and a Miller Lite in his hand. It's a family tradition!

Monday, December 12, 2011


On Friday, Scott was trying to muster up enthusiasm to go to the gym. I suggested that he instead meet me on the way home and we could bike through a few neighborhoods to look at Christmas lights. He liked that idea and that's exactly what we did.

He didn't want to wait at the proposed meeting place and instead met me a little further than halfway. We nearly passed each other on the trail, but he recognized the Christmas lights adorning my basket. He also mentioned that he could see my headlight from the time I turned off the street onto the trail, a distance of just over a mile. And that was on medium power! Heh heh heh. Another fun thing was that I was able to keep up with him as we rode up the Rte 28 overpass. I've never been able to keep up with him. Yay!

We jumped off the trail at Church and rode the sidewalk down to the next neighborhood. We (okay, I) oohed and aahed at the pretty lights and amusing yard displays. I wish I'd taken my camera, but I'm not very good at taking night shots anyway. The funniest set-up, though, was a yard full of inflatable penguins, snowmen, and a Frankenstein monster with a jack-o-lantern at his feet. Scott didn't notice the monster as we passed and did a u-turn so he could boggle at it as well. On the way home, we passed a Santa on a Harley. Our neighborhood is lighting up even if our street is still pretty dark. If we get another warm snap, I'd like to tour through the neighborhoods on the other side of the boulevard. There's some seriously tacky stuff other there.

Saturday, December 10, 2011


As of last night's commute, I have put 620 miles on Rose in the five months I've had her. Wow. That's almost the distance from my house in northern Virginia to Nashville, TN. Another 230 miles would be the door-to-door distance from my house to my Mom's in Germantown, TN. I don't know if I can get that mileage in before our six month anniversary, but it'll be fun to try.

The funny thing is, earlier this week I thought my mileage was 400, maybe 450 miles. Scott argued that I was way above 500. And that's just on Rose. My total mileage since May -- I was on CC the Schwin from May to 10 July -- is 662 miles. Oh, wait. That was only since I started using MapMyRun/MapMyRide for calculations. There were a LOT of one and two miles in early May as I was getting the hang of being on a bike. So I might be closer to 675. Wow. And to think I was struggling to get out of and back into my neighborhood only seven months ago.

Friday, December 09, 2011

What a feeling

New head- and tail-lights paid for themselves last night. Cars passing from behind gave me a wide berth and cars ahead which would turn left in front of me waited until I passed. I figured that I looked like a (slow moving) motorcycle or something. I waved to the cars who yielded to me. Lighting up the trail was pretty darn awesome, too. I made sure to dim the headlight and dip it a bit when passing joggers and other cyclists, but there weren't that many out last night.

I noticed an odd thing last night. I spent most of yesterday feeling sick to my stomach from either a touch of food poisoning or a side effect of a new medication. In fact, I nearly called Scott to ask him to bring me home. But I decided to power through, and I was a bundle of happy, perky energy when I got home. The perkiness wore off as the endorphins dropped, but physically I felt much better.

The air temperature this morning was about ten degrees colder than yesterday, but with no wind it actually felt warmer. Scott's leg warmer thingies helped keep my knees warm and the only cold spot was the few inches between my elbows and where my t-shirt sleeves ended. Yes, I'm wearing a jacket over the shirt and arm warmers.

I don't do much in the way of daydreaming or fretting during these rides; I am completely in the moment. Watching out for other cyclists and joggers, watching out for cars, watching out for kamikaze wildlife, feeling the chilly air, focusing on cadence. I feel like I'm getting sluggish and the commute is taking longer. I'll chalk that up to the cold and the three layers of clothing on my legs and heavier shoes. Okay, I guess I do daydream about something: if I'm able to keep cycling through the winter, I'm going to be FLYING next spring when I can shed all the layers.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Good buys

My toes have been chilly on rides to work despite wearing two pairs of Smartwool socks inside my boots. I'd ordered a new pair of brown fashion booties from which arrived Monday and were way too small for even one pair of Smartwool. Off to DSW they went last night and I exchanged them for a pair of waterproof, insulated rain/snow boots (by Totes, the umbrella people) that aren't nearly so bulky as my real snow boots. They even sort of look like fashion boots when my jeans aren't tucked in. And my toes (and ankles!) stayed toasty warm with only one pair of Smartwool on this morning's windy commute.

While I was in the shopping center, I was morally obligated to stop by Target to look for navy and dark brown cardigans. No love there, but I did find a pair of wind- and water-proof ski gloves by Champion. The bike-specific gloves I purchased in October are less wind-proof than I'd like and the ski gloves also had wicking material inside. My hands felt FANTASTIC this morning despite the icy wind. I am super duper pleased with that impulse purchase.

"You rode TODAY??" exclaimed a colleague as I passed his cube.
"It's a gorgeous day aside from the wind," I replied. "The only cold parts are my knees."

The fluorescent jacket/wind-breaker and an UnderArmor shirt kept my core warm, long johns and jeans did a fair job for my legs (need to add leg warmers for my knees tomorrow), and my elbow-length fingerless gloves kept my forearms comfy. Wool cap and helmuffs did the trick for my head and ears and the wool cap kept my sweat-soaked hair covered during the exposed-to-elements walk from the garage to my building (and then kept the messy hair covered until I could sneak into the ladies room with my hair dryer). I had to remove my scarf after I got off the trail because my back was finally to the wind and I began to overheat, but it did a very good job when I was out in the open and getting blasted by gusts.

Oh, and the best part about today's commute? No icy patches left over from yesterday's torrential rains. I guess the wind blew everything dry.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Winter biking just got easier

The Nite Rider MiNewt.600 and Radbot 1000 head- and tail-lights arrived Friday night and I finally got to test them out last night.

Oh. My. Gosh. The first phrase that comes to mind is "Do not look into laser with remaining eye". Yeah, 600 lumens at point blank is kind of intense. With that important safety lesson under our belts, Scott and I took the lights outside for a test. I pointed the headlight at the woods across the street. Even with the local street lamps, I could still see the illumination created by the headlight. Scott climbed the hill into the woods for me. The reflective bits on his helmet stopped reflecting at 275 lumens but I could still see the glow at 400. At full blast, I'll be lighting up deer in the next county!

I put my old head- and tail-lights on his bike and we took off for the trail so that I could road test the new lights and also see what my bike would look like to an oncoming vehicle/cyclist/pedestrian. When we got to a fairly dark patch, we swapped bikes and I had Scott ride up a quarter of a mile or so and then ride back to me. Thing the first: my little Bell WO blinkies are NO match for the Radbot on steady. The blinkies disappeared in after only a few feet. Thing the second: damn, that MiNewt is powerful when pointed straight ahead even at 275 lumens. Thing the third: my Planet Bike Blinky 3 DOES stand up to the Radbot's steady glow; I was happy to see some blink action in addition to the steady. Thing the fourth: other commuters (we were passed by four as we stood off the paved trail adjusting and readjusting lights) are using dazzlingly bright headlights so it may just be a part of the commuting game and I'll be giving as much as I've been getting. I'm not especially happy about that last point and I'm going to do my best to keep my headlight from pointing directly at other cyclists' and pedestrians' eyes. On the other hand, I'm thrilled to bits that a whole new world of night riding has opened up for me. This is very exciting.

Something else that will might make a winter bike commute doable is the NVRPA's purchase of a snow plow for the W&OD. Whoo hoo! When I was jogging last winter, I had to change my route from the trail to neighborhood streets when we got snow because it took FOREVER for VDOT (or the local authorities) to send a plow down the trail. I'm not sure how (or even if) all of the forty-five miles of trail will be plowed -- my guess is that it will be for the inner suburbs -- and there's not much info aside from the mention of the plow purchase. To be perfectly honest, I'll most likely stick with the 4WD truck when the snow flies and ice attacks, but it would be nice to have the option of going out for a ride. We'll see if the late January/February winter crazies drive me to purchase studded tires. ;)

Friday, December 02, 2011

UPS wants me to hit deer

UPS is keeping my assumed-to-be-beloved new bike lights and me apart. Woe is me. Woe, I say. I would have used them tonight had they been waiting on my doorstep last night as promised offered up as the earliest delivery date and if I'd ridden to work. It was not the cold (although, it was a bracing 28F when I got up, which would have been my usual bike departure time) that caused me to drive today; nay, it was my poorly chosen dinner beverage of Vanilla Coke Zero that kept me from slumbering soundly into the wee hours just before Scott rose and my own alarm lit up the room.* I was simply too tired to buck up and power through. Ah well.

This weekend, though! This weekend I will light up the darkness and blaze through my neighborhood streets like a crazy blazy thing.

*I have one of those sunrise alarm clock thingies. It's changed my life.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Sunshine on my shoulder

I've been biking to work this week. Yes, it's been cold, but the sunshine on my back, my scarf, and my helmuffs are keeping me warm -- a little too warm, in fact -- on the morning ride. Let's just say that the hair dryer in my desk drawer has been getting a lot of use.* For the evening ride, I swap my cardigan and scarf for the fluorescent jacket and am fairly toasty with that arrangement.

The worst part of the evening ride is the darkness; my little 2 watt lights can illuminate the trail directly in front of my tire and reflective items along the trail, but they're not sufficient for cutting through the gloom. In fact, I almost hit a ninja jogger last night (not even his SHOES had reflective bits). A 600 lumen MiNewt and a more robust tail light should be on my doorstep when I get home tonight. I do think that 600 lumens is overkill and I don't want to sear the eyeballs of oncoming cyclists (or motorists, for that matter), but I like the option of having that much candlepower on my handlebar. I'll probably keep the light at 250 in traffic and then bump it up to 400 when I'm in inky blackness (or perhaps the reverse...). And I'll keep the less sufficient lights in my pannier as emergency back-ups if something goes awry.

*Although, I worry that the woman who keeps using the restroom while I'm changing my base layer and drying my hair may think I'm homeless.

Monday, November 28, 2011

A tale of danger, adversity, and triumph!

Apparently the weather in Northern Virginia decided to turn into late spring while Scott and I were enjoying time with the entire family at my aunt's cabin in North Carolina. Happily, the streak has continued since our return and I was able to take Rose out for a leisure ride on Sunday.

I pointed her towards Reston with the intention of checking out a bike shop in Reston Town Center. It's been quite a while -- well over a year -- since I last visited RTC and I've never been through there on a bike. It was quite fun pedaling through a pseudo city center with tall buildings and lots of foot traffic. I got to experience the phenomenon of being completely invisible to pedestrians. They'd look up and down the street, checking for cars, and step right out in front of me. Awesome. The bike shop visit was just as awesome. I admit I wasn't being terribly fair to them by showing up in a flowery top and skirt, but I was wearing my bike gloves and had just locked up my bike right outside the front window. I wandered the store for five minutes or so and was completely ignored by the sales clerks who were much more interested in tending to the lycra-clad men. There wasn't anything in that store which I couldn't procure from my beloved Spokes, so no love lost.

After that experiment, I pedaled back down to the W&OD and figured I'd explore a few more neighborhoods closer to home, but as I got to the top of the Fairfax County Parkway overpass, I stopped to sip a little water and took a look at the Ffx Co Pkwy trail. When in the car, we're usually driving south to see friends or go shopping; we hardly ever have a need to take the parkway north. And with that consideration in mind, I turned around and hopped on the northbound leg of the FCPT. (I don't know if anybody else calls it that, but I don't want to spell out the entire name over and again.)

The crossing at Elden was a little dicey and I hopped off the bike and walked the crosswalks. Beyond that there were only a few at-grade crossing with wide open rolling hills which I happily careened down with a huge-@ss grin on my face. After a few miles, I reached Rte 7/Leesburg Pike and had to figure out how to get from there to Sterling proper. Happily, there was a pedestrian path on the bridge and I was able to make it to the other side of 7 without incident. Unfortunately, the path on the other side of 7 emptied into a neighborhood of cul-de-sacs which then emptied back onto 7 but further east. There was no way to get across the Parkway and no way to head home on the west-bound side of 7. I needed to go about half a mile to get onto Dranesville Road and there was no apparent way to get there and I was NOT going to ride my bike on a six-lane divided road with 45 or 55mph (I can't remember what it is through there, but it hardly matters since everyone speeds) traffic. I whipped out the phone and examined a map of the area and discovered a path on the east-bound side of 7. Hooray!

The path wasn't in great shape, but any port in a storm, you know? I crossed Dranesville safely and opted to ride the sidewalk (I know, I know) until I realized that the road had bike lanes. Whoo hoo! Of course, I was on the road for only one block, but I soaked up as much bike lane goodness as I possibly could. Then I was finally back in my stomping grounds, if a couple miles north of my house.

I was tiring out as I was about fourteen miles into my ride and the mountains hills in that part of town are deceptively steep and/or long. I started craving grapes which meant I'd have to stop at the grocery store on the way home. But I was tired. Silly girl, just stop at the store; there's no sense in going home and driving a mile and a half. I couldn't argue with that and stopped for grapes. And salad fixings. And milk. And cereal. And soup. And ice cream, for good measure.

Have I ever mentioned that I'm not so good at spatial... things? My mantra is "it'll fit!" and it usually does, but there's some pretty creative real life Tetris that has to happen in the process. Did I also mention that the only portage I had on my bike was my front basket and rear rack and my little Po Campo purse? After spending a good ten minutes arranging and rearranging groceries and taking the cereal bag out of its cardboard box and bungee'ing a couple of things to the rack, I set off. The overfull basket wobbled and creaked and I had a terrible vision of the brackets snapping just as I crossed the boulevard spilling groceries and me into oncoming traffic.

I pulled over and reassessed my portage set-up. I removed the groceries from the rack and used the hooks on the basket to attach it to the rack. I knew those hooks wouldn't hold the basket in place when I hit the first bump and I bungeed the ever-loving heck out of that basket. I stuffed the other groceries into the bag and hoped for the best. With my purse attached to the handlebars and my bike listing ever so slightly to port, I headed home.

Fully loaded.

By this point, I was pretty wiped out and my middle gears were becoming too hard to operate. I downshifted just before the entrance to my street and threw my chain. Really? Really really? Thankfully, I almost always have a handkerchief in my purse and it did a fairly good job of cleaning off the chain grease so I didn't accidentally smear it all over my clothes.

The upside of being in a lower gear when I hit my neighborhood meant that the steep hill was MUCH easier to climb and I arrived at home without being completely out of breath and shattered. Which is good since after unloading the groceries, I had to take my husband to urgent care for a tetanus shot to counter the rusty nail he landed against while goofing around during a parkour-esque run. (We drove and he's okay. Amputation wasn't necessary.)

Monday, November 21, 2011

A week of not riding

All driving and no cycling makes Melanie Suzanne a cranky girl. I was too worn out by the weekend's activities to ride to work Monday. Then the weather on Tuesday kept me off the bike. It's not that I'm afraid I'll melt in the drizzle and rain; I'm terrified of crashing because of wet pavement. I've mentioned the ramp of the western side of the Route 28 overpass as being pretty darn steep. It's steep enough that I could not consistently ride up until a little over a month ago. It's steep enough that I can coast for 1/3 of a mile from the base (unless there's a 20mph headwind). I also have a pretty steep hill leaving my neighborhood that has me riding the brakes every day, but that's mostly because I want to be ready when a car invariably backs out of its parking spot and into the drive lane. I'm also pretty accident prone; luckily, only one crash has put me in the ER.

Oh yeah, I was writing a litany of why I didn't bike. Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday all had dental and hair appointments which were not easily or safely accessible via bike. Okay, one hair appointment, one teeth cleaning, and one braces-tightening (ouch) which, unfortunately, could not all be stacked on the same day. And the weather was SO GOOD, too. Saturday was an SCA event and Sunday was a Cirque du Soliel show. A whole week of not biking. And this week doesn't look much better what with our trip to my aunt's cabin in the Great Smokey Mountains of North Carolina. Her cabin is in a fantastically picturesque area with rutted gravel roads and one paved road with no shoulders and sharp drop-offs. Did you see the part above about accident prone? Yeah...

However, I am carrying my Schwinn cruiser (and helmet and accessories) to the mountains to give to my sister. I might sneak out for a quick ride and see if the roads really are that treacherous. Hopefully, the closest emergency room isn't two hours away in Asheville or Chattanooga.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


For grins, I decided to compare my vehicle and bike commute times and distances. I've been tracking my bike commute mileage and time via the MapMyRide app on my phone and for this experiment I tracked the time and distance from unlocking the bike at the bike rack to dismount in Scott 's parking space. For the vehicle commute, I used the stopwatch function on my phone to track my time from unlocking the truck to turning it off at the destination and the truck's odometer to track distance from parking space to parking space.

Bike Commute
Time to/from work: average 25m 20s
Distance: 4.77 miles

Truck Commute
Time to work: 14m 28s (huh. I've always thought it was only 10 minutes.)
Time from work: 20m 30s (huh. I've always thought it was at least 30 minutes.)
Distance: 5.0 miles

There are a couple of surprising results. If you'd asked me before this comparison, I would have assured you that the bike route was a longer distance. How could it not be? I have to swing way north of the direct (vehicular) route to the campus, but then again, the bike route is more diagonal than the right angles of the vehicle route.

The most surprising, to me anyway, results have nothing to do with the comparison between modes of transportation. Both drive times were completely different from what I've assumed them to be. And that twenty minute drive home? A solid ten minutes of that drive is spent sitting at stop lights. I didn't think to time lights on the drive in, but I tend to hit more greens in the morning.

What does all this SCIENCE mean? Not much, in the grand scheme of things. It takes more time to bike -- but not that much more -- and then I need a cool-off period after locking up the bike (and before facing people) that isn't necessary after driving. On the other hand, I'm pretty much guaranteed fifty minutes of physical activity when I don't drive the truck. Despite saving time with the truck, I don't really do anything special with those extra fifteen minutes and I'm usually crabbier after driving in evening traffic.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Social engagement

My friend Co. hosted a Lia Sophia party this afternoon (like Tupperware or Partylite, but jewelry) and I'd been going back and forth mentally on whether I'd drive or bike. As of this morning I was still pretty tired and sore from yesterday's excursion and, for the first time ever, I was not excited about the prospect of riding. The overpass bridges between my house in Sterling and hers in Reston are steep and I was afraid of the mile of playing in traffic I'd have to do between trail and her neighborhood. However, as I showered and dressed my enthusiasm perked back up and I felt jazzed by the challenge of trying something new.

My ensemble of heels, tights, skirt, tank, and bolero (I stowed my cardigan in my bag so it wouldn't be all sweaty) garnered a few stares along the route. I felt so prissy and girly with a bag in my basket and dinging my bell to alert pedestrians I was passing. The overpasses weren't nearly so tough today; probably because I was taking it nice and slow to keep the sweating to a minimum. The playing in traffic part of the trip wasn't nearly as scary as I'd feared it would be, either. Co. and everybody else in attendance at the party were amazed that I'd ridden my bike the 7.5 miles there, and in dressy clothes. Hee!

The first part of the ride home held a bit of excitement, mostly because I had forgotten the number of turn lanes to get onto the street that would take me to the trail and I wound up in the leftmost left turn lane. At the top of the lane, too, with cars stacked up next to me and behind me. Interestingly, I was faster off the line than the truck in the lane to my right. After making that turn and determining that the right lane was open, I signaled and moved over. The car that had patiently stayed behind me continued past at a polite and non-threatening speed. Bless.

The rest of the ride home was uneventful except for being startled by three does leaping across the trail just after I'd crossed the county line. Apparently I have a preferred expletive for deer crossings because it's the same word I used Thursday night.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Achievement unlocked: Epic Ride! (for me, anyway)

I set a (what seemed at the time) pie-in-the-sky goal for myself when I started biking in May: ride from my house to Washington, D.C. Yesterday, I got it into my head that I wanted to try biking to Rosslyn but I felt a little daunted by the twenty-five mile one-way route. Scott begged off from the ride because he had a lot of work-work to do this weekend. A ha! He could come and rescue me at the end of my ride.

This morning I decided that if I felt strong enough when I got to Rosslyn, I'd continue on down to Gravelly Point Park, where we'd started the costume ride in DC a few weeks ago. Scott agreed to pick me up wherever my travels took me and after packing my basket with snacks, a light jacket, and iPod with external speaker holder thingie (in case I got lonely and needed musical accompaniment), I was off.

The ride from Sterling to Reston felt especially difficult; I'm not sure why. I took a quick break at a trail side gazebo and guzzled a little water while exchanging my fleece gloves for my regular fingerless gloves. The ride from Reston to Vienna and on to Falls Church was easier and I kept a pretty good pace of spinning. After crossing Rte 7 in Falls Church, I stopped in a little park and snacked, hydrated, a gave Scott an update of my whereabouts.

Falls Church park

I knew that I would eventually jump off the W&OD Trail and jump onto the Custis Trail, but I wasn't sure where that would happen. I passed a confusing sign before the W&OD dumped me onto a residential street. I'd remembered seeing that part of the trail on the map last night, but I couldn't remember if that was before or after the intersection. Smart phone and intarwebs to the rescue! The answer: continue on the W&OD for another mile or so. As luck would have it, I misread the next sign and actually did go in the wrong direction at the intersection of trails, but my niggling doubt kicked in only a couple dozen feet after the intersection and, after turning around, I was back on the right route.

To Downtown

Custis Trail

This was my first time on the Custis and it hugs up against I-66 with lots of ups and downs to go over or under road crossings. There are LOTS of blind corners and more than once I would call out "passing on your left" to a pedestrian and then follow up with "oops, no, not yet" as another cyclist popped up from around the blind corner.

Custis curve

There are a couple of road crossings at grade in Rosslyn, but they all have lights, some of which are bike specific lights. Cool!

I elected not to take the Key Bridge into Georgetown and continued on the trail down a switch-backy ramp to a small trail- and river-side parking lot which opened onto the Mount Vernon trail. Before continuing south, I turned around and rode off-road for a bit under the ramp and along the river until I found a clear spot where I could snap a photo of Georgetown.


My spidey sense wasn't going off, but I kept thinking that I was going to get mugged or stumble across a drug deal and be murdered. Luckily, neither happened and I skedaddled back to the relative safety of the populated trail. I phoned Scott to tell him I felt great and that I was continuing on the Mount Vernon Trail to Alexandria. He said he was leaving and would meet me at Gravelly Point.

Mt Vernon Trail

Of course I couldn't resist snapping photos of the District skyline.


Speaking of not resisting, I decided that since I SO CLOSE, I had to jump onto the 14th Street Bridge and pop across to DC for just a couple of minutes. A tourist a the Jefferson Memorial was kind enough to snap photographic evidence of my achievement.


And with that, I made the final leg of my journey back to Virginia and down to the park. Three hours (to the minute) after leaving home, I was sitting on a picnic table twenty-nine miles from home and snapping photos of planes landing at Reagan National.

Reagan National landing

Scott picked me up fifteen minutes later and I basked in the happiness and pride of achieving a goal I'd set for myself six short months ago. Maybe in another six months I'll be able to ride the trails back home.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Everyone knows it's Windy

Good gracious, the wind was high this morning. It felt like there was a head-wind in every direction -- although, I can't vouch for the east because that's the one direction I don't travel on the morning commute. I couldn't coast much. Even down the Rte 28 overpass which normally lets me build up enough speed to coast 1/3 of a mile... nothing: I was at a near standstill at the bottom of the hill. I struggled all the way to the campus and I haven't felt so physically exhausted since my first few rides back in May.

I got pelted in a shower of pine needles while exiting my neighborhood. That was a new experience. Sunglasses as eye-protection, for the win. Also? The fingerless arm warmers kept my forearms comfy and cozy in the wind chill. I'm still looking for leg/knee warmer with good reviews. I may just break down and pull out the long-johns for wearing under jeans. If nothing else, I won't need to run the space heater under my desk all day.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011


It was full dark again when I left work tonight but I felt little fear with my trusty head- and tail-lights and blinky lights and reflectors and near-fluorescent jacket. Rawr. Traffic was a breeze and I got an appreciative up-and-down look and smile from a cute guy in the SUV next to me at the stoplight. Oh yeah, the plaid skirt, red tights, and red heels got me a LOT more attention than jeans or lycra ever have. Heh.

Once on the trail, I tried not to let the feeling of isolation get to me. I've been able to follow another female cyclist most of the way to Pacific the last two nights, but she wasn't around tonight. I got a little mesmerized by the moon but quickly put my attention back on the trail and made myself not ride ahead of my light.

I'm so glad I remembered to do that since a ghostly, deer-shaped form appeared at the farthest reach of my illumination in one of the darkest parts of the trail. I dinged my bell a few times and the doe startled and jumped off the trail. Unfortunately, a second doe jumped onto the trail. I think my scream scared that one off.

I passed a couple of west-bound commuters further up the trail and hollered "deer ahead!" I didn't hear any screams or crashes, so I guess everyone got past the danger successfully.

There was one semi-casualty this evening, though. I hit a speed bump too fast in the neighborhood across the street and wound up ripping one of the rivets which holds my Basil Mirte's hooks. I heard a grinding crunching sound behind me and the bike shuddered and skidded. I thought I'd popped my rear tire. Nope. The poor, overloaded bag had shifted down and back and the corner was caught in my back spokes. I wasn't happy about that, but at least I didn't have to change a tire for the first time in the dark or walk my bike the quarter mile home. I limped over the other speed bumps (good lord, there are a lot of them in our neighborhood!) and got home without further incident. I should be able to put in a new rivet to fix my bag. I hope so anyway. In the meantime, I'll just use my Basil Shopper as my glove compartment/trunk.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Ride-by voting

Swinging by my polling place on the way to work added two miles and 15 minutes to my commute. I got to park my bike right next to the entrance to the polling place which allowed me to completely miss the gauntlet of candidates and/or their volunteers waving papers in my face. Score!

The trail is pretty empty of commuters between 8:20 and 8:40. I don't know if it was lateness of the morning rush or if the other folks are using cars now that it's getting dark so early and getting colder in the mornings and after the sun goes down.

I don't mind the cold; although, I need to add arm and knee warmers on the mornings I don't wear a jacket (yes, yes, the jacket doesn't help the knees). My shirt today has 3/4-length sleeves and my lower arms got a little windburned. My knees get the brunt of the cold air in either jeans or leggings, and I want to be good to my knees because, as the song goes, I'll miss them when they're gone. I had to remove my scarf when I voted, and I tucked the warm gloves in my pannier when I stopped at the light for Waxpool. In the Too Much Information column, I'm going to start wearing a workout bra for the commute because wearing a damp-from-sweat bra throughout the workday sucks.

I haven't ridden in the cold and wet and I most likely won't. But maybe I'll try it once, just to see. Sometimes, I'm too curious for my own good (or Scott's comfort).

Monday, November 07, 2011

Night riding

Tonight's commute was my first planned ride in the dark and it was pretty darn awesome (and safe, thanks to my new headlight and the nearly fluorescent jacket Scott got me). The sun was just setting as I left the campus and the trees at the corner of Waxpool and Smiths Switch were ablaze in shades of reds and oranges. I spotted three does grazing next to the trees. Thankfully, they left me alone and I returned the favor. Traffic wasn't any worse than any other day and I felt pretty comfortable while on the surface streets. I actually felt safer in the dark than I did in this morning's fog.

As soon as I hit the trail and was surrounded by trees, the temperature dropped noticeably. Interestingly, when I crossed the County Parkway overpass, the air temperature shot back up and then dropped again on the other side of the street.

I've never been on the trail at night and it was fun seeing the lit-up backyards of the houses along the trail. So pretty. I'm looking forward to tomorrow night's commute and Wednesday's and maybe Thursday's (if it's not raining) and so on and so forth.

Cycling along the C&O

This Sunday, T. and I ventured over to the Maryland side of Great Falls and biked along the C&O Canal for an hour or so.

We had no time constraint (other than the setting sun) and took our time pedaling north and enjoying the post-peak scenery.

We found a camping area at Lock 21 and took a few photos of the Potomac, the waterfall of the lock, and the waterfall of the spillway down to the Potomac. On the way back south, I spotted a Great Blue Heron squatting on a stump across the canal.

We also spotted some mallards paddling about the canal. The three drakes' heads were brilliant green. The one hen in their company was drab, of course. It constantly amuses me that the female of our species is the more flamboyant sex, aside from drag queens.

After passing the information building, we pedaled south a bit further and found a boardwalk leading to an observation deck. I figured that boardwalk would dump us right onto the deck like on the Virginia side of the falls. Nope. It was about a half-mile hike (okay, not exactly a hike since the boardwalk was fairly flat and easily navigable) and I snapped lots of photos of small falls and gorges and rocks. And my own shadow.

And the views from the observation deck? Totally worth the walk. Not quite as spectacular as the Virginia side, but still pretty darn cool.

About this time, I remembered that we had left our bikes unlocked and, even worse, I'd left my pannier (containing car keys and WALLET) the rack. I had horrific visions of my poor Rose being snatched, or even worse, the pannier being grabbed. I practically ran back to the bikes and, to my great relief, found them and my pannier completely unmolested. In fact, several other unlocked bikes had joined our happy little trust corner. Phew!

T. eventually finished taking photos and joined me for a very short jaunt further south. The path was choked with pedestrians and I didn't feel safe (for myself or them) riding through them. T. was starting to tire out and the sun was getting lower and lower in the trees. Time to head back to the parking lot and pack up for the trip home.

Scott and I will have to go up and explore the trail on our bikes. He's never taken the northern route and I'd like to go further afield and find out what lies ahead. I'd also like to go south when there are less people to dodge.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Another experiement with biking in real clothes

It's been nippy in the mornings this week (32F Wed, 39F Thu, 46F Fri) and I decided to ride in regular clothes and give the Lady Cyclist thing another try.

On Wednesday, I wore jeans, cami, cardigan, SmartWool socks, loafers, wool cap, heavy gloves, and a light jacket. I was chilly when I left home, but quite sweaty when I got to work. Stupid overpasses (although, I am grateful not to cross many streets at grade) and the two long, steady inclines just before I get to the campus. Plus, while the hat kept my ears toasty, it trapped too much heat for the rest of my head. My hair was soaked and I kept the hat on until I could spend a fair amount of time in the "privacy" of my cube. Thank goodness I keep a dish towel in my drawer. The ride home in 60F was lovely with the jacket, heavy gloves, and hat stowed in my pannier. I swung up the access path along Pacific to visit the bank and Ulta which gave my legs a rest before tacking my nemesis: the Rte 28 overpass. Clothes were soaked when I got home, but that's okay.

On Thursday, I wore jeans, long-sleeved shirt, SmartWool socks, boots, Buff (to cover my ears), heavy gloves, and a light jacket. My arms were chilly when I left home, but I warmed up quickly. I'm starting to figure out where I can coast and using that to my advantage. I also unbuttoned most of my coat (kept my neck covered) to cool off while playing in traffic during the last mile of my commute. My clothes were mostly dry when I parked the bike, but my hair under the Buff was soaked. *sigh* The afternoon commute was nearly as delicious as the day before, minus the side trip for shopping and plus throwing my chain at the top of the Rte 28 overpass; my clothes were soaked and streaked with chain grease when I got home. I made sure to transfer the baggie of wet wipes from another bag into my pannier for the next post-chain throw clean-up.

I'm making this bike commuting thing sound like fun, aren't I? No really, it is! Plus, if I remember to grab my external speaker thingie for my iPod, I can listen to music or podcasts on the commute. (I am not going to wear earphones while on the bike.)

For Friday, I realized that my third and last pair of jeans was in the hamper. Oh noes! I didn't want to wear my light-colored cotton slacks because they might show super embarrassing sweat spots. I've got to get more dark colored pants. What I did find was the skirt that I wore as part of my cheerleader costume. I picked the orange and white triangles out of the gores, and with the addition of a black cami, black leggings, multi-colored SmartWool socks, black boots, white & black cardigan, and a red scarf I was set to be an elegant-ish Lady Cyclist commuter.

The elegance mostly worked. At least I managed not to get my red lipstick on my cheek, chin, or forehead (which is a total win). My face was flushed and damp, but my clothes were dry. The hair? Well, the hair is going to continue being a problem, but if I get it cut into a choppier style which lets me just shake my head and go, it will be less of a problem. Biking in a skirt? So. Much. Fun. Plus, there was no flashing of an unsuspecting public, whoo hoo!

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Halloween Costume Ride

On Sunday, Scott and I donned our costumes (Seattle biker and cheerleader, respectively) and slogged through horrific traffic (due to road closures for the Marine Corps Marathon) to Gravelly Point Park where we joined the Bike Me DC! group for an in-costume ride through the streets of DC. Happily, the sun was out, the temperature wasn't bad considering the snow storm the day before, and everyone was in high spirits.We had to have a group picture before setting off, of course.The crew

We rode up the Mount Vernon Trail...
On the trail

...and across the 14th Street Bridge...
14th St Bridge

...and on up to the Jefferson Memorial.

Our leader, "Charlie Brown", wanted us to carry our bikes up the steps so we could get a group picture in front of Jefferson. The rest of the group rebelled because 1) his was the lightest bike in the group and we were too lazy to lug our heavier bikes all the way up there, and 2) we didn't want to tangle with park police. If you squint, you can see "Chuck" in the yellow shirt just right of center goading us to join him.

From there we tried riding the path along the Mall, but there were just too many people out and about to do that safely or responsibly. After a quick debate, we took to the streets and left the foot paths for the pedestrians. I was keeping an eye out for cars coming up behind and possible doorings ahead and did not snap any photos of the Smithsonian museums nor the colorful foliage.

Next up on the tour was the Capitol.

We crossed the Mall and snapped a few group shoots in front of the building.
Capitol crew

Because we had to wait so long for other group members to arrive (yay, DC traffic), we had to skedaddle back to our origin point so we could make our reservation for the after-ride party. I accidentally snapped a photo of the 1st quarter of the cue sheet (which wound up being the only part of our tour we completed).
Cue sheet

We took to the surface streets again, this time much faster. A few in our group, including our fearless leader, race a lot and really kicked up the speed. We were mostly able to congregate back up at stop lights. Again, no photos because I was keeping an eye on cars behind and car doors ahead and flying along with the pace-setters.

When we got back on the bridge, I did chance a couple overhead and over-shoulder shots of Rosslyn...

...and DC.

Obligatory panda.

I really enjoyed biking in a skirt. I mean, I bike in my Ruu-Muus all the time, but those feel like workout clothes. This skirt was actual real life clothing (albeit altered with appliqued orange and white triangles). I also liked my zip-tied orange pom-poms as streamers despite the left one occasionally covering my rear view mirror.

I asked Scott how he liked biking in a skirt (he wore a Utilikilt) and he said it was "an interesting sensation". He also wore bike tights underneath for warmth and propriety. :)

The party afterwards at the Shirlington Bungalow Billiards was a lot of fun and we got to know everybody a little better. Our fearless leader says he's working on a "lost cherry blossom" ride for next spring. We won't ride around the Tidal Basin because that will be way too mobbed with tourists; instead we'll bike around Northwest (yay. hills. please, oh please let's not bike up [or DOWN!] Wisconsin Avenue.). Can't wait!

Friday, October 28, 2011

I didn't ride yesterday because I worked from home and loaded up on horror movies. Yes, the work laptop was open and I answered emails and IMs and even a phone call or two and I quickly whipped up a report on customer growth and port usage for Bossman, but I was much more focused on clearing the movies I've been recording during AMC's Fright Fest from the DVR so that I could fill it up with even more horror this weekend.

(Egad, I love October and Halloween so very much.)

Scott took me out for dinner at Don Pablo's because it's been way too long since I've had a margarita and faux Mexican food. I got carded! Heh. That hasn't happened in years. Of course, I wound up having to wear the Birthday Sombrero. Scott kindly snapped a photo and posted it to Facebook. In retaliation, I made him drive me to the Leesburg Spirit store so I could look for pom-poms. Apparently, "cheerleader" is not a popular costume this year because there were no pom-poms to be found. Happily, a web search shows that my local Party City has pom-poms and even has them in the colors I want.

This morning's commute was pretty darn cold. I'm so glad that Scott passed along the leg warmers that didn't fit because they worked like a charm under my yoga capris. I wore my Terry bolero over my t-shirt and under my jacket which kept my arms MUCH warmer this time out. The only thing I could have used was a hat, and the wool one that's been on back-order finally shipped today. Anyway, it was 38 degrees F when I left and, as a friend noted, I was making my own wind chill. She's not wrong. Flying down the Rte 28 overpass is less than fun at these temperatures. I think a balaclava is next on my shopping list.

Tonight will be spent visiting some local haunts with friends. We'll be going to two new-to-us haunts which I'm very excited about. I do hope, though, that the rain holds off until we get back home.

Tomorrow will be spent procuring the above-mentioned pom-poms, prepping costume and makeup for friends' party, and watching the skies for snow. *record scratch* Yes, snow. We're right on the edge of the awful snowstorm that's supposed to hit the I-95 corridor. We'll see if the storm manifests this far south and west. I may, or may not, take the bike for a spin in the snow. ;)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Bust and boon

Last night's commute was a bust. My right shifter has been flaky for a couple of days where the bottom right lever wouldn't catch every time I pushed it. The lever failed to catch at all when I left the campus and got on the road proper. I decided to limp along until I could cross Waxpool and get out of traffic. A short while after getting onto the much calmer Smiths Switch, I pulled onto the footpath and took a look at my shifter. The bottom half had come loose and barely clung to the main portion of the shifter casing. I pulled out my multitool and tried tightening the visible screws to no avail. I could have made it home with some difficulty and discomfort but, and I'm not proud of this, I called Hubbyfink to pick me up instead and take me to Spokes. He panicked a little bit but I assured him both I and the bike were fine and we were in a safe spot.

Thirty minutes later, I pushed Rose into the shop and announced I was back for my weekly visit. The shop's manager laughed because it was true. It turns out that the plate which is supposed to keep the shifter levers from loosening the screws stopped doing it's job and had worked itself loose. The repair guy readjusted and tightened everything and added some Loctite to the plate for good measure. Everything is once again tickety-boo; although, I'm beginning to suspect that my Ariel might be a lemon.

While we waited, I showed Hubbyfink the jacket I've been coveting since our last trip to the bike shop and he, after confirming that yes I would delighted to have that be my birthday gift, bought it for me. I swear, these trips for free tune-ups and adjustments are going to bankrupt us. :)The jacket was fantastic for this morning's ride even if the sleeves don't feel quite as wind-proof as advertised. Maybe if I wore a base layer with long sleeves, I might feel a difference... And, if isn't correct and the rain showers don't break for the rush hour(s), it'll be GREAT for the ride home. I'll just have to deal with wet hair since the wool cap and/or helmet cover will have to wait until payday.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


I am sucking up every bit of good weather that I can in anticipation of the cold(er) and dark days ahead. Yes, it was chilly yesterday morning, but the afternoon commute was the epitome of glorious. I could have cried, I was so thankful to be outside and enjoying the fresh air and sunshine on the trail rather than being cooped up in a car and frustrated by the heavy traffic leaving Ashburn.

This morning, the air temperature felt warmer than yesterday but the wind on the trail (there is almost always wind on the trail) was cold and yet I still managed to arrive at work all sweaty. Thank goodness for the gym showers so I can both cool down my upper body and warm up my legs (yes, the muscles are warm, but the skin is so cold).

I'm recognizing more and more of the same commuter faces in the morning and afternoons. The commuters -- we have panniers and/or backpacks and lights (although, I did pass three racers in a pack who all had headlights) and don't have the sleek racer look -- are super friendly and wave or say hello as we pass. Some of the walkers and joggers are friendly, too. Everybody seems to have gotten more congenial as the temperature has dropped.

I'm excited about this evening's commute. I will pass 200 miles ridden this month somewhere around route 28 and I think that's super cool.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

It's the Great Pumpkin Ride, Charlie Brown

Scott and I participated in the Great Pumpkin Ride in Warrenton, VA, today. We rode the quarter century route and I wore the Creepy Pumpkin jersey from Scudo Sports Wear.

Highlights of the ride
- The beautifully and deliciously stocked rest stop at mile 14. I did not try the pumpkin soup, but everything I did try was super yummy.
- The gorgeous fall foliage. We rode on a few back roads with little to no traffic and it felt like we were deep in the woods.
- Well-marked route with arrows painted on the roadways as we approached intersections with turns.
- All the comments about my jersey from other riders and photographers. It was a hit and many riders told me how happy it made them to see the jack-o-lanterns.
- Cheering on another woman rider as she and I struggled up some of the hills. Our husbands pedaled up those hills and patiently waited (and caught their breaths) as we crawled up together.

Lowlights of the ride
- Lack of information or a decent website. There's a reason there's no link to the ride above; it doesn't have a website. No route info beyond route lengths and no rest stop info.
- SUPER hilly course. We were told that this year's quarter century route differed from last year's and was MUCH hillier.
- Nothing happening at the end of the ride. The ride was a big loop and we started/ended at the Trail Head parking lot. When we finished, only the registration pop-ups (unmanned, I should add) were present.
- Not being able to find the Bike Me DC meet up group so we could ride with them.
- The temperature. It was in the low 40s when we started and in the low 50s when we finished just after noon. I finally warmed up this evening.

Apparently, we were VERY spoiled by the Backroads Century and the celebratory atmosphere that event provided before and after the ride AND its full-of-information website. I suppose any ride is a good ride, but both Scott and I were disappointed with this event. I think we'll give it a pass next year.

Ride stats
Miles ridden: 24.87
Breaks taken: 1 at the wonderfully stocked rest stop and a couple more after hills
Hills walked: 3
Dead squirrels and raccoons spotted: 3
Travel time: 2h 10m

Something else, not entirely related to this particular ride, is that I have got to train myself out of being psyched out by hills. I can conquer a hill if I can see the end of it. But if it's a long incline or extremely steep, I give up and walk before I push myself too hard. A tiny bit is physical, yes, but mostly it's psychological. More training required.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Ravenstreet Beach Week 2011

Scott and I spent the first week of October in the company of a few Ravenstreeters + Ravenstreet in-laws in a slightly less than gorgeous house on the Pine Island section of the Outer Banks. The weather was beautiful, if chilly, and I spent a tremendous amount of time on my bike.

Before we got to the beach, though, Scott and I stopped in Charles City, VA, on the banks of the James River for the first ever Virginia edition of the Warrior Dash. He ran a 5k full of obstacles including rope ladders, cars as hurdles, fire, and mud pits.

Oh, so muddy. Scott after completing the Warrior Dash, 10/1/11.
He had a blast. I'm still trying to get mud off my shoes. After he was hosed off, I scrubbed him with baby wipes until he was clean enough to put on fresh clothes and get back in the Highlander. We then raced down to OBX.

I did not keep the same beach schedule as last year, partly because the pool heater was broken and didn't warm the pool until nearly Thursday. Boo hiss. But most of my days found me up at 8:30, breakfasting, shower-dress-makeup, and then heading out for a ride. On Sunday, I got in two rides: one to the Harris Teeter about five miles up the road and then another five mile ride in the afternoon with T and K.

The trail is pretty narrow and has some sandy (read: slippery) spots. Plus, there are beach bunnies and sand kittens you have to watch out for, 10/2/11.
I spent the late afternoon hanging out on the crow's nest of the deck to the beach, watching the ocean waves crash against the shore. While lost in thought, I noticed a flash of movement on the southern side of the deck. Before I could figure out what it was, a small fox with dinner in its mouth padded out from under the deck and continued north along the ocean side of the dune. I tried to snap a photo, but my phone's camera wasn't fast enough. That evening, I pulled out a puzzle I'd brought (but had never put together) and set to work with B on assembling the dratted thing. It took nearly the entire week to put together (others finished the rotten thing in the wee hours of Thursday morning) and almost everybody put at least one piece into the puzzle.

On Monday, I rode the multiuse trail down to Duck to visit Duck Donuts. Thanks to the torrential rains from the previous week, many of the low spots on the trail were humongous puddles or mudholes. One puddle was so deep, the water came over the tops of my pedals on the down stroke. Just before the heart of Duck, I had to cross Rte 12 to ride in the diamond lane on the shoulder. I had the unfortunate luck of riding, thankfully very slowly, into a pothole disguised as a mud puddle. The front tire went in and the bike came to a complete stop. I hopped off the bike into ankle deep water. Ugh. I wrenched my bike from the sucking mud and walked it twenty feet or so until the diamond lane was again clear. By that point, I was too annoyed and frustrated to stop for a doughnut; it would have tasted of ash.

I continued on southward until the diamond lane disappeared and found myself pedaling around a blind corner with traffic whizzing past. Bollocks to that, I decided, and crossed the street where I found this gorgeous path heading back to the north:

A lovely, tree-lined portion of the Duck bike trail. Much calmer than the diamond lanes along Rte 12, 10/5/11.

When I got home, I found a hose and spigot and washed all the mud and sand off my bike. She was filthy. In the afternoon, T, M, and I visited Kitty Hawk Cycle Company where T bought lots of accessories and M got lots of great advice from the proprietor about what type of bike she might find most comfortable and useful. If you're biking on the Outer Banks and need a quick repair or gear, go see that guy. In the evening, several of us enjoyed a cut-throat-which-turned-helpful-when-it-got-way-too-late game of Trivial Pursuit. Seriously, we were up until nearly 2am and were practically giving each other the answers just so someone would win. I finally won with, I think, the Smashing Pumpkins as my answer.

Tuesday was Scott 's and my night to cook for everyone. We grocery-shopped in the morning and decided to drive farther down the Outer Banks than we'd explored in years past. I wanted to check out Manteo since I'd found an adorable-looking B&B online that is located there. The main street is picturesque and the pace seems relaxing. We drove up to the Fort Raleigh National Historic Site but didn't explore much because I wanted to save that for a dedicated trip to Roanoke Island. We got home in plenty of time to lube my bike's chain and to heat up lasagna, thaw out lemon icebox pie, and make a lovely salad for our merry crew.

Wednesday was supposed to be Scott 's and my day for biking to the Currituck Beach Lighthouse, but he wasn't feeling well. I headed back down to Duck and planned to ride all the way down to Southern Shores, but when I left Duck, I decided that ride was going to be boring and tedious, not to mention spent fully in the sun. I turned around and explored quiet residential streets and then spent several hours wandering through the Scarborough Lane shopping center (that thing went on and on and on). Like a doofus, I'd left my basket at the house so I rigged up a fairly successful pannier out of a couple of reusable shopping bags that I always carry. The items in the bag made it heavy enough that it didn't bounce around or jump into my back spokes. Always a bonus. Happily, T accompanied me on the way home just before I reached the Sanderling Resort area.

I spent the afternoon watching the waves again and then realized that the wind was fairly high. (Okay, the wind is almost always high on the ocean side of the dune, but it was especially high at this point.) I jogged back to the house and grabbed my bat kite. It popped right into the air. Hmm, thought I. I disassembled the bat kite and jogged back to the house and grabbed my humongous butterfly kite. Last year, C, Scott , and I spent a good half hour running up and down the beach trying to get that monster airborne. This year, it practically flew out of my hands and soared like I've never seen. T joined me and set her kite aloft. Eventually, Scott wandered down to the beach and held my kite while I chased sanderlings and gulls through the surf. Man, that water was chilly!

T's blue butterfly and my rainbow butterfly took to the sky above OBX, 10/5/11.
Thursday was yet another glorious day, weather-wise, and Scott felt well enough for the eleven mile ride to historic Corolla.

My favorite house, 10/6/11.

By this time, I was fairly comfortable with riding on the shoulder of Rte 12 (which was good because a fair chunk of the trip was without a bike path), but whenever we found a trail I obliged Scott by leaving the road and using the path.

A lovely (and tiny) stretch of multi-use trail in Corolla which gave us a breather from playing in traffic, 10/6/11.
After fifty minutes of cycling, we finally arrived at Historic Corolla Village where we toured the gorgeous Whalehead Club. Absolutely worth the price of admission for this lover of things Arts&Crafts and Art Nouveau. After our tour, we rode over to the light house and took a tour of the grounds. We teased each other about climbing the 214 steps to the top of the lighthouse but in the end we decided to save our legs for the eleven mile ride back home.

The Currituck Beach Lighthouse. It's red because the builders (or people who lived near the light, I don't remember the story) didn't want to cover up the lovely brickwork with paint, 10/6/11.
By this point, we were famished and rode out of the historic district and into Corolla proper for lunch at Fat Crabs Rib Company. Scott had the crab cakes and I enjoyed the pulled pork sandwich. The ride home was easy-peasy and I was so warm when we got home that I immediately changed into my swimsuit and ran for the beach. Scott, fully-dressed, followed to keep an eye on me, which was almost warranted. The waves were huge and no sooner had I waded out to hip deep water than a huge swell lifted me off my feet. In the trough, I tried wading back to shore, but the rip was too strong for me to move forward. Luckily, it wasn't so strong that it pulled me off my feet or away from the beach; I simply couldn't move. So, I looked over my shoulder and waited for the next huge wave/swell (which wasn't long in coming). The next wave picked me up and very nearly threw me onto the beach. That was enough ocean time for me! I warmed up in the pool and then the hot tub before showering and dashing out for what turned out to be a very long manicure.

I'd promised the other ladies that we could ride together to Duck when I felt the trail was dry enough for people even more novice than myself. Friday was the day!

Ladies' trip with (r-l) T, B, M, and me to Duck for lunch and shopping, 10/7/11.

The giant puddle and mudhole had shrunk but were still sizable so we hopped off bikes and walked on the shoulder to pass those, but the rest of the ride was a breeze. We took occasional breaks and went at an easy pace. We shopped and shopped, ate a hearty lunch at Fishbones, and shopped some more to let lunch settle.

Shopping! Thank goodness for multiple baskets and the bungee cargo net, 10/7/11.
The ride home was fairly easy and I was so proud of the other ladies. M's first ride on my Schwinn was the day before. T's first ride on her bike was the previous Monday. B had ridden her bike a lot during the week, but the ten mile round trip was her longest ride for sure. So proud! I couldn't ride ten miles in my first week of biking this past May. Friday evening was extremely quiet. I spent the time uploading photos from my camera and packing my suitcases. We all drove up to Corolla for a lovely dinner at a restaurant whose name I can't remember.

Saturday closed our wonderful beach vacation. We cleaned out fridges and pantries and loaded up vehicles. We were on the road shortly after 9am. I had Scott stop at Duck Donuts so I could finally get a doughnut. Happily, he obliged. Traffic off the island wasn't too bad, but I-64W after Norfolk was AWFUL and I-95 N was even worse between Richmond and Ashland. It took over seven hours to get home. I was so grateful that we would have Sunday to recover from the drive.

The full set of trip pictures starts here.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Scariest experience ever

I didn't ride to work yesterday because my body was completely wiped from the rides on Sunday and Monday and I was too much of a wuss to work through it. I did, however, miss my being on my bike so much that I rode it up to Safeway for some post-work grocery shopping. I wore my work clothes (yay, cycle chic; or at least as chic as I ever get) and my little Bell W/O blinky lights. Unfortunately, I didn't consider the fact that the day's light was pretty dim when I set out and would be completely dark by the time I escaped the check-out line. Oops.

In fact, Scott called as I loaded up my basket (and I do mean loaded. good thing I have a bungee net to keep the overflowing groceries from spilling into the street) and asked if he needed to rescue me. I am a self-rescuing princess most of the time and decline his offer, sure that my little blinky lights would keep me safe. I did set the front light on non-blinky mode so that I could actually see the road and not give myself a seizure.

Problem the first: I was wearing my work clothes. My non-reflective, dark work clothes. Dummy.
Problem the second: Front LED light is decent for twilight visibility but not so good for illuminating the road ahead of me.
Problem the third: The neighborhood I ride through to avoid the traffic on Sterling Blvd has no street lights.
Problem the fourth: I just bought a super bright LED headlight and taillight and left those suckers on the dining room table.

That ride home was the scariest damn thing I have ever done. Every time a car came up behind me, I started praying "please see me, please see me". Every time a car came towards me, I prayed the exact same thing. The intersection with the boulevard where I would turn left in my truck but go straight on the bike NEVER has anyone turning left from the other side. NEVER. And of course, last night there was a car turning left. My guardian angel kept me safe and the driver saw me. I rode slowly through the neighborhood (see: dim headlight) and kept as close to the curb as I could. I usually take the lane so I'm not weaving in and out of parked cars, but I didn't trust the occasional neighborhood traffic to see me.

I made it home safe and mostly sound although I was pretty shakey, and I promised myself that I wouldn't leave the good lights at home. Yes, I know I did some very stupid things last night; there's no need to berate me in comments. I can and do learn from my mistakes.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Mileage stats

I was tallying up my bike mileage to see when Rose is due for her post-break-in tune-up and I was surprised to see the following stats:

May: 22.99 miles on C.C. the Schwinn
June: 14.58 miles on C.C.
July: 46.88 miles on Rose the Specialized
August: 53.4 miles on Rose
September: 104.95 miles on Rose
October: 106.12 miles on Rose (that's in less than half of the month!)

I'm at 311.35 miles, as of yesterday evening, on Rose and it's time to schedule her tune-up. :)

Monday, October 10, 2011


I am completely addicted to my bike. Completely. I rode than seventy-six miles on the Outer Banks last week. Seventy-six! And those were just the miles that I remembered to track on my phone. There were a few short toodles around that I missed because I forgot to resume the tracking app. Most days I rode between twelve and fifteen miles with one twenty mile round trip jaunt up to the Currituck Beach Lighthouse. I was a cycling fool and LOVING the flat landscape. The locals aren't kidding when they talk about the headwind being an invisible hill, though. Woof.

There was a bike meet-up to ride to Mt Vernon scheduled for yesterday that I really wanted to participate in but I was too pooped from the SEVEN HOUR trip home (thank you, traffic on 64 and 95) on Saturday to be in Alexandria for 10:45am Sunday. But I still wanted to ride, and I wanted to ride far (for me). Around 11:30 I pointed Rose eastward and rode to Vienna. I made it past the "Entering Town of Vienna" sign and rode on up to the Vienna Station. Good lord, there were a lot of cyclists there. It was a gorgeous day for being out on the trail. I figure we've only got another month or so of comfy weather, so we may as well make the most of it. I was happy to discover that I was neither pooped nor feeling like I wanted to die like I did the last time we rode to Vienna. I made it up the hills with ease (okay, I was in granny gears and yelling at myself to keep pushing while riding up the scary switchback, but I made it) and paced myself pretty well. I guzzled water and munched on a Honey Stinger Waffle (how do I love thee? let me count the ways) while walking around the station and snapping photos. The ride back to the Toll Road felt mostly uphill, but I wasn't struggling like the last time. I didn't need to hop off and walk up any hills and I didn't stop for any other breaks. Even the hill up Greenthorn and Sherwood -- the end of my ride and when I'm the most tired -- were easy-peasy. I felt like a million bucks when I got home and realized I'd ridden twenty-two miles in well under two hours. *rawr*

A fair number of the Ride Me DC folks are doing the Seagull Century on Maryland's Eastern Shore on Saturday with a thirty mile "recovery" ride on the peninsula Sunday. It's not really feasible for me to do either ride so I'll stick to NoVa and see if I'm up to pushing past Vienna. The next scheduled ride is the Great Pumpkin Ride in Warrenton on the 22nd. I'm tempted by the 44-mile route, but I'm going to stick to the 24 miler. I'm also thinking about the Fall Colors & Covered Bridges ride in Thurmont on the 29th and the Halloween Bike Ride (in costume) and Party in Arlington & DC on the 30th.

You know, normally I'd been scouring the web for local haunted houses to visit on the weekend but what I really want to do with my weekends is ride, ride, ride.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Bike Me DC! - Fireworks Pizza Ride

Scott and I got up not so bright and early to join the Bike Me DC meet-up group in Leesburg for a ride west to Purcellville, VA, and back. Happily, the meet up point was next to the same park that Scott and I had found during our last bike trip to Leesburg.

The Sterling chaper of Bike Me! DC in Leesburg before riding west to Purcellville, 9/25/11.
The Sterling chaper of Bike Me! DC in Leesburg before riding west to Purcellville. Photo taken by John, the ride organizer, , 9/25/11.

I rode in my Ruu-Muu which has pockets on the back in which I stowed my handkerchief and camera. The ride to Purcellville is mostly uphill and I kept both hands on the handlebars while struggling along. Happily, for me anyway, I was not the slowest rider in the group: Scott and I jockeyed for position one of the four slow-pokes. :)

Scott and I round the bend, 9/25/11.
Scott and I round the bend. I've forgotten where this was. John, the ride organizer, was waiting for us slow-pokes and snapping photos of everybody, 9/25/11.

Scott and I reach the western terminus of the W&OD in Purcellville, VA, 9/25/11.
Scott and I reach the western terminus of the W&OD in Purcellville, VA. Photo taken by John, the ride organizer, 9/25/11.

Scott and I jogged across the street to check out Trail's End Cycling where I spotted a sweet-looking Specialized Allez in red and white. I'm still not buying a second bike until next summer at the earliest, and I'm starting to think I might want an actual road bike if I'm going to start riding in half- or metric centuries. Or maybe I'll just get some slicks for my hybrid. That decision can wait until next spring. I did buy up a bunch of Honey Stinger waffles in preparation for long rides on the Outer Banks.

Coasting downhill back to Leesburg, 9/25/11.
I finally pulled out my camera and started snapping photos. Coasting downhill back to Leesburg, 9/25/11.

Scary steep switchback next to Dry Mill Rd, 9/25/11.
Scary steep switchback next to Dry Mill Rd. It doesn't look it in this photo, but the patch ahead is SERIOUSLY steep. The climb up nearly killed me. There's a scarier switchback to my left which I didn't photograph because I needed to control my brakes and watch the wet leaves so I didn't fly off the trail, 9/25/11.

Scott in the tunnel, 9/25/11.
Scott in the tunnel. I couldn't get the camera into my hand fast enough to photograph this stone bridge as I approached but I did snap Scott riding through the tunnel behind me. Too bad it's so blurry, but I'm not too disappointed with this blind, over-the-shoulder shot, 9/25/11.

Coasting REALLY fast along Dry Mill Rd, 9/25/11.
Coasting REALLY fast along Dry Mill Rd. Wheeeeee! Most of the ride to Purcellville is uphill which means the return trip is mostly downhill , 9/25/11.

Celebratory pizza, salad, and cold beverages at Fireworks Pizza, 9/25/11.
Celebratory pizza, salad, and cold beverages at Fireworks Pizza. Three newbies and two veterans. The other half of the group is sitting at the table to our left. Photo taken by John, the ride organizer.

We had a blast and I'm looking forward to riding with these fine folks again. I'm seriously considering the 24 mile route of the Great Pumpkin Ride in Warrenton on October 22. And then there's the 1st Annual Halloween Bike Ride & Party (in costume!) on the 29th. Very, very tempting...

And lastly, today's stats: 21.2 miles in 1:41 with an average speed of 12.5mph. I started to think that the downhills must've increased my average but then I realized that I made it Purcellville in 53 minutes. Hm, that means the return trip was 48 minutes... Yeah, I guess the downhills did improve my speed.