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.