A Preview Of Coming Attractions

handymart2Like a prospective home buyer measuring the windows for drapes, Spring made an early appearance this weekend, which made for two pleasant rides.  The winter weather has kept my miles to an embarrassingly low level.  How low you ask?  This weekend’s 57 miles of riding represents almost one third of my mileage for the year.

Not good.  Not good at all.

It was nice to get on the road in shorts and half-fingered gloves.  No leggings, booties, helmet covers, winter gloves, or jackets.  My only concession to the temperatures in the low 60s was a pair of arm warmers.  There was plenty of sand and pebbles on the side of the road, the refuse from the winter’s snow plowing efforts.  Multi-use paths were still a bit dicey in the shadier spots.  It’s a shame they don’t clear them of snow.  Actually, that’s a bit of an issue in DC, where many cycling commuters count on clear paths to get to work.  Down here in suburbia where almost nobody cycles to work, its less critical.

My route took me into Fauquier County.  Along the way, I crossed over Cedar Run and noticed it was quite swollen due to the recent snow melt.

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Things are very brown right now.  Even the water is brown.

At Mile 20, I was very happy to see the Handymart was once again back in business.  Last summer I discovered that it was out of business, which is a shame because it is at a very nice distance from home to serve as a resupply point (twenty miles, in case you didn’t catch that in the preceding sentence).  More than once, it has been an oasis to me as I struggled home with little water or food.  It’s good to know it is once again able to do so.

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On the way home, Sowego Road seemed pretty so I took a picture.  There was even some green in the trees!

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This house has been unchanged for the past several years.  It seems like a very nice farmhouse but it has never been occupied.  It’s sad to see it slowly fall into ruin.

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There was even some wildlife out, or to be more specific, domesticated farm animals.  There’s a pig in that crowd somewhere.  All of them were a bit camera-shy and were beating a hasty retreat when I stopped to take a pic.

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And just in case you didn’t believe me, here’s what the path looked like about two miles from home.  Walking through that snow caused it to impact inside my cleats, making it impossible to clip in again until I dug out the ice/snow with my fingers while muttering in a PG-13 manner to no one in particular.

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Last pic of the BEARD

Last pic of the BEARD

Sunday proved to be an even nicer day and I ventured out without even the protection of arm warmers.  Before you know it, I’ll need to put ice in my water bottles (the first time is always an important occasion in my cycling year). Unfortunately, this was only a visit from Spring.  Winter weather returns tomorrow and the long-range forecast is not encouraging.  All the same, I intend to disassemble my Biological Extreme-cold Affects Reduction Device (B.E.A.R.D.) at the end of the week.  Mother Nature is on her schedule and I am on mine.  It’s time for Spring.

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Spring Has Sprung

You’ll never guess what I did yesterday.  Go ahead – try.

Nope.

You’re way off.

Wrong again.

Ok, I’ll tell you.  For the first time in 2013, I put ice cubes in my water bottle!

I’m thinking this should be an event I commemorate each year.  It’s worthy of blog reports, music, speeches, and all manner of fanfare.  It really is not possible to overdo the significance of having the temperature reach a point where ice cubes are necessary.  It was wonderful.

(By the way, my apologies to the people of Wyoming, whom are now under about a foot of freshly fallen snow.  Someday, Spring will come your way as well.  I promise.)

I’ve been getting in quite a few local rides as of late and hopefully will get enough miles into my legs to make my upcoming 300K ride at least possible for me, if not comfortable.  The trees are beginning to blossom and I noted with interest that DC’s famous cherry blossom trees are now in full bloom, three weeks later than last year.

I passed by some trees on my way to Neabsco Creek last night.  I’m not sure if they are precisely the same species as the famous ones in DC, but they’re close enough in my opinion to warrant a photo.  Imagine trees like this surrounded by thousands of people and you have the annual DC Cherry Blossom Festival.  I think this was nicer.

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Monday night’s ride was my first of the year in summer kit (shorts, half-fingered gloves, etc…).  It was fantastic and it is always a pleasant sensation to see how much faster I can go in decent weather.  My 18.4mph pace was by far the fastest of the year.  Tuesday night’s ride was much slower due to the need to stop and take photos for your viewing pleasure (and for my recovery as well).

After the cherry trees, I made my way to a couple of marinas at the mouth of Neabsco Creek.  The marinas were largely deserted at the late hour and I hoped the setting sun would make for some nice pictures.  I shall let others be the judge of that.

My first stop was at the Pilot House boat shop which also serves as a business which sells used boats.  You can see Neabsco Creek in the background.

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And here is a view of the marina from the deck of the Pilot House.

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A few hundred yards up the road I found an inviting plank and pedaled to the end of it.  I was perilously close to the edge of the deck as I took this photo and briefly wondered what I would look like if I accidentally backed off the edge of it in my cycling kit.  Comical, I suspect.

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The view looking east.  You can see the Virginia Railway Express bridge in the distance.

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On my way home, I rode next to the creek, looking for signs of wildlife.  Although I could hear all manner of creatures, a photographic moment didn’t present itself to me.  I took this picture of the wetlands instead.  It’s hard to believe this is less than two miles from the heavily trafficked Route 1 and I-95.

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Historical Marker Segment!

You gotta stay on your toes in the historical marker business.  The people who put these signs up are never done with their work.  You think you’ve covered a stretch of road and have seen all there is to see, only to discover that a new sign has been erected.  Such is the case here, where a new sign now stands at the entrance to a series of walking trails at Julie Metz Park.  Travelers can now learn the story of the Lee family (including Light Horse Harry Lee, father of Robert E. Lee) and the plantation they built in this area in the in the 1700s.

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Grumbling And 2nd Order Effects

There’s lots of grumbling in DC these days.  Let me briefly touch on three topics:

1.  Bike DC.  There have been a few follow up articles on the cancellation of DC’s only open streets ride, Bike DC.  It seems ride organizers were unable to navigate the complicated and ever-changing bureaucratic requirements of five different agencies.  The two culprits most-often mentioned are DC Mayor’s Special Events Task Force and the National Park Service.  Many cities have open street rides, including Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Miami, Boston, New York City, and many other places.  Not DC.

There was a 2nd-order effect to cancelling the ride.  The Washington Area Bicyclists Association (WABA) is now in a difficult financial situation.  Bike DC is historically WABA’s biggest fundraising event of the year.  It also generates more new members at Bike DC than at any other event on their calendar.  This has caused WABA to scramble for new funds, including an email drive for donations which hit my inbox last night.  WABA is DC’s major cycling advocacy group and is largely responsible for the successful bike lanes and bike share programs in the District, along with many other smaller programs and events.

So thanks again, DC. Well done.

2.  Marine Corps Marathon (MCM) Registration.  Yesterday, tens of thousands of people attempted to register for the MCM and Active.Com was not able to handle the load.  The result was chaos, with Facebook and Twitter sites lighting up with horror stories of people trying to log on for over two hours, only to learn the race had sold out.  Most frustrating was the fact that the system would let you fill out all your personal information, to include credit card data, only to crash at the very end.  Some people report their card being charged two or three times.  To their credit, MCM immediately acknowledged the huge problem and issued a statement saying the experience was not up to their high standards and they would completely reassess the registration process for next year.

An inauspicious start to this year’s event, which I am certain they will overcome.  As for myself, I was very happy to have been preregistered with my completion of last weekend’s 17.75K run.

3. Spring.  The weather is getting ridiculous.  I have seen several wanted posters of Punxsutawny Phil (aka the Groundhog from Groundhog Day) for the crime of fraud.  I hope he is prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.  Last night’s television weather forecaster grimly informed us that the day’s high of 49 degrees was actually spot on the seasonal average high for the end of February.  Wonderful.  It does appear that Spring-like weather will make a brief appearance this weekend before darting away again.  Hopefully, I will make the best of it.

Night Issues

Like a future home owner inspecting the property he will soon own, Spring stopped by Northern Virginia yesterday to make sure everything is in order.  Temperatures were in the low 60s with a mild breeze.  After enjoying my 75 minute commute home, I set off to enjoy the evening.

It’s always fun to break out the Spring cycling wardrobe.  Fingerless gloves made an appearance for the first time in many weeks.  I was wearing a cycling vest and boldly left my skull-cap at home.  I brought my camera for some more exciting night photography.

An extremely rare self-portrait at night.  Unfortunately, extended shutter openings mean a little blurring.

An extremely rare self-portrait at night. Unfortunately, extended shutter openings mean a little blurring.

The ride itself was pleasant.  As I rolled over small hills, I passed through different thermal layers.  Cold air was settling into the low ground while the tops of hills remained temperate.  Being warmer at higher altitude is always an odd sensation, even if the “higher altitude” is only 30 or 40 feet.

Anybody can take "shadow pics" during the day.  Here is my first-ever nighttime shadow.

Anybody can take “shadow pics” during the day. Here is my first-ever nighttime shadow.

As always, the night ride had some excitement to it.  I came upon a jogger who was completely oblivious to my existence due to his iPod.  I eventually got his attention by moving my headlamp back and forth across his path.  Later, I threw my chain when I had to quickly stop for a car zipping up on a crossroad, unaware that someone might want to use the crosswalk he was stopping on.  Finally, my camera battery died due to my own failure to keep it charged.  I still managed a couple of pics.  Night photography is definitely “a work in progress” for me.  Thank you for your patience.

This one is so bad it's almost good.  There's a fire station somewhere in the background.

This one is so bad it’s almost good. There’s a fire station somewhere in the background.

Today is supposed to be even warmer than yesterday, at least until some thunderstorms roll in this afternoon.  I expect it to be colder, rainy, and windy by the time I’m ready to roll.  The extended forecast is for Winter to return.  I guess I shouldn’t be too greedy.  One night is better than nothing it all.