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.)

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