Riding into the Sunset

For 25 years, I've had a trusty companion who took me where I needed to go, brought me along on adventures near and far, filled me with joy, and never complained along the way. It took me to sandy beaches, to river side trails, to green forests, to busy city streets, to rural highways, and to the pages of the Washington Post, in beautiful sunshine, tropical storms, blizzards, hail, sleet, and snow. My Mt Shasta Capella has been favorite way to get where I'm going, and what a great ride it has been.

I first got the bike when I was 11 years old as a gift from my mother. It was probably a bit big for me and I didn't ride too far afield when I was young, but as I got a little older I used it to get around town and go on some adventures. It was my first "real" bike that came from an actual bike shop (its predecessor was a Huffy Stone Mountain). It felt so much faster and more responsive. When I got my driver's license, it didn't get as much use, and sat in the garage more often than not. When I went off to college, it went with me, although it still didn't get on the road much. It wasn't until a few years after I graduated that I went on a bike ride with my dad and realized just how out of shape I was that I resolved to make a change in my life. My bike was more than happy to oblige.

It wasn't without its challenges. In addition to the physical challenges I faced, the bike's components needed some upgrading for the miles I started riding. I ended up losing 30 pounds the first 2 months, and eventually would lose about 50. However, being a larger rider at the outset meant that I went through equipment much faster. I ended up getting new wheels that could take what I was dishing out complete with a generator on the front and stout hub on the rear. I got racks to carry all my stuff when I commuted and went on bike tours. I went from platform pedals to clipless pedals. I went through countless brake pads, chains, and snapped my fair share of seat rails. But we kept on riding together. I only started keeping track of miles in the last few years, but I've easily ridden 15,000-20,000 miles astride its frame.

Last week I had my rear hub fail due to a broken pawl spring, and while I was getting it looked at I noticed there was a crack in the frame by the seat post. Not something that would be catastrophic if it continued working its way around the seat tube, but a good reason to stop riding it. I may look into getting the frame repaired, but for now, the Mt Shasta is enjoying some well deserved rest.

For the first time in a quarter century, I have a new bike. It is a Surly Ogre. Currently it is almost completely stock save a new rack, but like its predecessor, that won't last for long. I am looking to build it up with a generator and other such niceties, and once that has happened, I'll be certain to share that here.

I am grateful for the many years of service the Mt Shasta provided me, and look forward to many years of fun and adventure on my new Surly Ogre.

Freezing Saddles 2016 Results

Me riding in the snow (Photo by Reba)

It has been a while since I last posted. Although I haven't written much, I have been doing a lot of riding. For this year's Freezing Saddles competition I rode everyday for the 79 days of the competition totaling 1,410 miles and earning 2,200 points. There were a lot of strong riders this year, and out of 264 participants, 58 rode everyday. I ended up 48th in the points competition and smashed my previous records for winter mileage.

Once again, Freezing Saddles was a lot of fun. It was great sharing in camaraderie with my fellow winter cyclists, many of whom have become my friends. It is also rewarding to earn the realization that you can do a lot more than you may have thought, and that what most people think is crazy can be a great deal of fun.

Riding Every Day: 1,000 Miles Before March

2016 has been a good year for biking, even if the weather hasn't been wholly cooperative. As of this afternoon, I have surpassed 1,000 miles for the year, and it isn't even March yet. Last year I reached 1,000 miles on the 13th of March, so I'm about 2 weeks ahead of last year's pace. I credit the higher mileage with the fact that I have ridden my bike every day so far this year, a feat which has taken some logistical work. Between a blizzard blanketing the mid-Atlantic earlier this year and visiting family in Florida, I had many excuses not to ride. I did not use them.

Riding in the Blizzard

After completing Freezing Saddles last year I realized that one of the reasons my position on the leaderboard was not higher was due to the fact that I had largely taken the weekends off to let my legs rest. Since each day you ride at least a mile gets you 10 points and each mile gets you 1 point, having nearly 3 months of weekends off can give you a serious point deficit. So, when I decided to enter the competition again this year, I also came to the decision that I would do my best to ride everyday. Happily, I've met that goal by riding through a blizzard, climbing over mounds of unplowed snow, riding through torrential downpours during a tornado warning, transporting my bike thousands of miles to ride while in Florida for a week, and by using a rental bike one day in Key West that was provided free once they heard what I was doing. It has been a lot of fun.

Riding in Stuart, FL

It has also been a surprise how my legs have adjusted. Initially, not taking my customary break on the weekend made my legs feel tired and leaden. However, in time things got a bit easier. Now with 60 consecutive days under my belt, which is by far the longest riding streak I've ever had, I look forward to completing Freezing Saddles having ridden every day, barring the unforeseen of course.

Riding a Rental Bike in Key West

The Freezing Saddles site generates a lot of metrics from the ride data it takes in from Strava. As of tonight, here are a few fun ones. So far this year I have spent 4 days, 38 minutes in the saddle. I have ridden 269.63 miles in temperatures below freezing. I've spent 4 hours and 9 minutes riding before sunrise and 1 day, 9 hours, and 38 minutes riding after sunset. The coldest ride it measured was 11.5 degrees F for 1 hour and 42 minutes (my bike thermometer registered lower). The ride with the most rain this year was 1.21 inches over a 57 minute ride.

The amount of fun I have had is immeasurable.

It has been fun setting goals and seeing myself progress toward them. I'm definitely looking forward to the miles ahead.

2015: The Year in Review

2015 was a great year for cycling. I surpassed previous annual and daily mileage records, commuted by two wheels more than any previous year, and participated in my first Freezing Saddles. Even more fun, I got more involved in the cycling community in the DC area and have made a lot of great new friends as a result.

Regarding mileage, I smashed my previous annual record by 1,969.5 miles and spent an additional 196 hours on the bike. I biked 51 of 52 weeks during the year.
September was my highest mileage month at 650 miles. October came in second with 511, then January with 455, June with 437, and August at 413. My lowest mileage month, at 349 miles was February, which was largely due to severe snow conditions involving cancellations of work and needing to find alternate routes. I also completed my first English century. I made it a point to stop making excuses and ride whenever possible. That meant riding when the thermometer was at 3°F up to when the heat index was well in excess of 100°F. I rode in rain, sleet, snow, winds in excess of 50 mph, and with headwinds that seemed to keep their position no matter which way I was riding, and on with studded tires paths that were regrettably unplowed. There were also picture perfect days with tailwinds and sunshine. I loved every minute of it.

I also became a regular at the Friday Coffee Club at Swing's in DC in 2015, attending 33 weeks, making many new friends, and savoring at least 3 dozen delicious coffees. I also went to 7 Hump Day Coffee Clubs at Best Buns in Shirlington, where I met more great people and enjoyed coffee and conversation. The only reason it is lower in number is that it ends earlier and is more challenging for me to get there in time from where I start. I hope to get both numbers up in 2016, they are a lot of fun.

The year started with the beginning of the Freezing Saddles cycling competition. It did not take long for the freezing part to come into full force as there was significant snow on the 6th of January. It was a cold but fun ride, complete with the formation of beard icicles. I soon met my amazing Freezing Saddles team at the opening happy hour and made several fast friendships. We would go on to do some fun rides together and finish in second place for the competition. Due in large part to the competition I surpassed the 1,000 mile mark before the first day of Spring, a first for me.

After the conclusion of Freezing Saddles, I kept riding, as usual. I had the pleasure of passing by the blooming cherry blossoms each day on my way into work, attended yet another Bike to Work Day, and waxed poetic about the beauty of Spring as viewed from atop a saddle and two wheels. In mid-August I surpassed the mileage record I had set for the entire year in 2014. At that point I privately guessed that I'd probably get 4,500 miles for the year, and doubted I'd reach 5,000. I ended up riding on average a century for every week I rode, at 5.112.6 miles.

One of my goals for the Summer was to take a Friday off and finally finish my first full English century in excess of 100 miles. As ever, time kept flying by and when Labor Day weekend was upon me I realized that the goal was in danger of being unmet. I had plenty of leave, so I took off the Friday, made a stop along the way at Friday Coffee Club, and ended up making a 106.9 mile journey up the C&O and back home via the W&OD. I even managed to grab lunch with my wife and dodge a thunderstorm while still getting to the finish before dark.

I rode a full week after that and then did my second ride of the WABA 50 States Ride for a metric century in a downpour followed by another 19 miles home. Between those two weeks, I biked 396.9 miles contributing to September being my highest mileage month.

In October I rode in my first Great Pumpkin Ride with my friends Reba and Robert for 68 beautiful miles in Fauquier County. In November I did my first WABA Cider Ride, also with Reba were we got to explore some of the Anacostia branch trails and the Agricultural Research areas in Greenbelt for a fun 47 mile ride. December brought the WABA Holiday Party and a happy hour with some Mount Vernon bike friends.

I feel lucky to have had such a great year both on and off the bike. Thanks to everyone who helped make 2015 so fun and memorable.

The WABA Cider Ride 2015

After having such a wonderful time on the Great Pumpkin Ride with Reba and Robert I was eager to have another fun ride and WABA's Cider Ride seemed to fit the bill. The ride came in two flavors, a shorter 23 mile "McIntosh" route, or the even more delicious "Honeycrisp" route at 47 miles. Needless to say, I preferred the Honeycrisp option and I was lucky enough to be able to join Reba once more for the ride.

We parked downtown a few miles from the start and made our way to the Dew Drop Inn. When we got there we were greeted by our friend Sam who handed us our cue sheets and wished us well. The ride was a "show and go" style ride, so after getting our bearings, we set out with a group and made our way on the Honeycrisp route. We were on city streets for the first few miles and then got onto the Northwest Branch Trail and then the Northeast Branch Trail. As we wound our way around the Northeast Branch of the Anacostia, we went around the end of College Park Airport, which is the oldest continuously operated airport in the world. Shortly thereafter we took a ride alongside Lake Artemesia before joining the Paint Branch Trail as we deftly avoided the busy Route 1 we were soon to cross. After a short climb we crossed Route 1 and made our way to the first pit stop at Proteus Bicycles.

While at Proteus I had some of the cider and doughnuts on offer chatted with a few friends who I knew while there. Next we made our way to Rhode Island Avenue toward Beltsville where we rode onto the grounds of the Beltsville Agricultural Research Area. Here the traffic significantly reduced and we enjoyed the views of the research farms on gently rolling terrain. Our next (unofficial) pit stop was at the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center. From the entrance there is a loop road that is popular with area cyclists that ends in a surprisingly large visitor center where we took a break and enjoyed looking at a craft fair that was taking place that day and got some fresh water. It looks like a cool place to visit when you've got time to walk around with exhibits in the visitor center and paths around the area.

After completing the loop and retracing our route a bit on Powder Mill Road, we went down Springfield Road to Beaver Dam Road and then back to Research Road, where we had a good climb up the hill on a mostly closed road. Shortly thereafter was our next pit stop at Greenbelt Lake Park. It was surprisingly pretty with a brightly colorful sylvan scene alongside the lake. Water and cider were in ample supply, as were assorted pies. While there we saw a few of our friends, including Ted and Dave from coffee club. Dave and Jean were doing the route on their tandem.

Next we made our way through Greenbelt and I started noticing my pedal start to click and make noise. I knew this meant in was soon about to fail from prior experience, so I tried my best to use good technique and baby it so it would last for the rest of the trip. We entered Greenbelt (National) Park and headed over to Riverdale Park and then Hyattsville to the Trolley Trail. Reba noticed the Arrow Bicycle Shop close to the route, so we went in there and the mechanics were very helpful. They are a Speedplay dealer, so they had all the right tools and shot some fresh grease into the pedal to give it a better chance to make it home. Really nice guys, and if you're in the area they are worth a visit. From there we continued for the last few miles on the Anacostia River Trail and then back onto the streets of Colmar Manor and Mount Ranier until we got back into DC for the final segment back to the Dew Drop Inn.

Once we got to the finish line, we were given a nice green mug with the Cider Ride logo on it and the opportunity to fill it with beer for a discount at the Dew Drop Inn. We enjoyed sharing a frosty beverage with several friends, including Dave who we had seen earlier and John who had started a little before we arrived. A good time was had by all.

Afterward Reba and I made for the exits and headed back toward the car, but we were a bit hungry, so we decided to make a stop at Habesha for some delicious Ethiopian food. I had the raw kitfo and devoured every bit of its deliciousness encased in pillowy soft injera. After enjoying our meal we returned to the car, put our bikes on the rack, and headed on home.

Another great ride with friends in the books.

The 2015 Great Pumpkin Ride

Earlier in the year I was chatting with my friend Reba and she mentioned a fun ride she was planning to do down in Fauquier County called The Great Pumpkin Ride. It is a charity ride for the Fauquier Trails Coalition with a 67 mile ride as well as some shorter distances in scenic Fauquier County. The ride is limited to 1,250 riders and is quite festive, with many cyclists dressing up in costumes. I decided to don an orange cape with a jack-o-lantern pattern on the back (made with electrical tape), and Reba also wore a more stylish orange cape with a screen printed jack-o-lantern. It all happened on October 24th, 2015 and it was a blast.

In the morning I got up before dawn and made my way down to Warrenton to meet up with Reba and her husband Robert for the 9AM start of the 67 mile route. The ride started at the entrance to the Warrenton Branch Greenway where it continued for almost a mile and a half before going out onto the scenic roads of the area. The route to the first stop was mostly downhill, so the three of us really made some good time. The color of fall was out in full force, and while the temperatures were cool, the wool base layer sand my knee warmers did the trick keeping me comfortable. The first rest stop was at a church and was well stocked with water and gatorade. While there we saw our friend Dave from DC who was also doing the ride.

The next leg of the trip was a bit more rolling, but the terrain was never overly difficult. Reba and I got a lot of compliments on our capes as we biked through the countryside. Robert's Rock Racing jersey also got a lot of attention with its Halloween appropriate styling. The next stop was also a church and it had a bunch of snacks, including some of the most delicious miniature pumpkin whoopie pies I've ever had. After grabbing a quick bite and getting some water we made our way to the next stop which promised another treat, beer.

As we headed to Old Bust Head Brewery the route headed upward and we got a bit more climbing in. Fauquier County's beauty was definitely on prominent display as we went down its country roads. Everyone was excited to be have the next rest area be at a brewery and after 55 miles, Old Bust Head Brewery did not disappoint. They were sampling a couple of their beers, an Oktoberfest and their Old Jail Pumpkin-Peach Brown ale. Both were quite refreshing after the mileage. There was live music on offer inside and food trucks to supplement the food at the SAG station. I saw my friend Karen there and enjoyed the food and drink.

From there it was back to our bikes for the last 12 miles or so which brought us some of the most consistent climbing of the route, although nothing too bad. When we got back into Warrenton we made our way to have some beers, food, and conversation about the fun ride we had just enjoyed together.

I'm glad I joined Reba and Robert this year, any excuse to ride with a orange superhero cape on is a good one.

The 2015 WABA 50 States Ride

If the Washington Area Bicyclist Association has a signature ride, it has to be the 50 States (and 13 Colonies) ride. Seven years ago I did the full ride for the first time. It is a 62 mile winding route that goes on every street named for each of the 50 states here in the United States. It has changed a bit since the first time I did the route. It is a ride that really shows you the distinct parts of the district that many never get to see. The the full route has a cue sheet eight pages in length with well over 100 turns. The first few miles lull you into a false sense of ease as you traverse the monumental core from your starting point in Adams Morgan. After you cross the Anacostia river, you are quickly taken out of that sense of ease as you climb and descend the terrain of DC many times.

The first year I did the route the weather cooperated, however, in recent years the ride has gotten a reputation for being a harbinger of miserable weather. This year lived up to that reputation As if on cue, rain began falling right as the mass of cyclists made their way from Walter Pierce Park. The sight of so many cyclists filling the streets of DC was definitely something to behold. The ride sold out very quickly after being opened up to WABA members. The mood was festive and upbeat and everyone seemed to expect the sogginess. I started out the ride with Friday Coffee Club regular Bob and we rode together in the dense mass of cyclists. With all the zig-zagging on city streets, the mass of cyclists started to stretch out due to lights and traffic. By the time we got to Hains Ponit there was a group getting out of the 3 mile loop, and when we got out of the loop there was another group just entering. So 10 miles in, there was at least a 6 mile spread.

After Hains Point the route made a bee-line to the Anacostia river where we crossed over the Pennsylvania Avenue bridge, went down the bumpy path to Anacostia Park, and arrived at the first pit stop. I stopped to water up, ate another half banana, and then was on my way to the first of the climbs that would consume the rest of the ride. Once you leave Anacostia Park there is a long climb up Martin Luther King to Malcolm X and then some more climbing for good measure up Stanton and Alabama. It was somewhere in Anacostia that I ran over some rebar (or so I'm told, I didn't see it, I just heard it). Everything appeared to be fine, but when I got home that night I would see that the sidewall of my tire had been damaged, causing brake rub on the sidewall. Thankfully, it would not put a wrench in my ride. After a quick descent from the heights of Anacostia on Pennsylvania, we made a climb back up to Fort Davis, and then enjoyed a long and glorious descent down Massachusetts. After some zig-zagging we crossed the Anacostia river and headed over to our lunch pit stop at Eastern Market where a break in the rain was our reward for our work.

This year lunch was provided by District Taco (if you paid the extra $10, which I did) in the form of a burrito and chips. I made quick work of the burrito and talked briefly with Boomer who was marshaling the ride and then got back on my bike and headed back to conquer the remaining states. The relative flat of Eastern Market gave way to the steep (over 10% grade at times) but brief climb of Mt. Olivet that the cue sheet mentioned you might want to walk up -- I spun up to the top and then continued to climb to Petworth and then to Takoma. On the way to Takoma the rain reasserted itself with a vengeance. By the time we got to the pit stop there the rain was nothing short of torrential. One of the volunteers advised us to make a detour on the next leg of the route as 36th street had been flooded. I topped off my water bottle, had a gatorade, and used the tent's shelter to change the page on the cue sheet with a minimum of water damage, and I was off to enjoy the free shower and bike wash. Our route took us down into Rock Creek Park and into some beautiful neighborhoods that many people don't even know exist. Then we skirted the Maryland line for a while before looping down a bit before climbing back up to Tenleytown for our final pit stop.

At the Tenleytown pit stop there was free coffee, which as delicious as it appeared to be, I wasn't in the mood to drink. There was plenty of water which I happily consumed. The rain had given up at this point and I enjoyed chatting with the volunteers and thanking them for making the event possible. At this point we were 8 miles from the finish, but I knew what was ahead from my previous time on the ride. This was no time to celebrate, it was time to prepare. Essentially, to get Arizona Avenue in, we were about to go from one of the highest points in the district to a stone's throw from the the lowest. Then we would be climbing back up on hills steep enough to have houses on terraces. After nearly 60 miles it certainly lets you know you're alive. I remember doing the same climbs on a slightly different route in 2008 and finishing, but feeling exhausted afterward. It was a slow and solo affair. This year I felt strong, really strong. I was able to hang with a group of obviously experienced riders, and at the finish of the climbs I was actually leading for a bit. As the end was nearing I felt good, which was fortuitous, since after the celebration at the finish I had another 20 miles to go home.

The celebration was at one of my favorite pizza places, the Mellow Mushroom. Oddly enough, it was my first time visiting the DC location. Upon arrival I was issued the requisite t-shirt and a coupon for a free beer. The beer was delicious and soon gone. I got my favorite Mellow Mushroom pizza and had a few more celebratory beers while chatting with friends old and new before heading home on the bike. By the time I rolled into the driveway I had biked about 82 miles for the day.

Even though the conditions were less than ideal, I am glad I did the ride again this year. It showed me how far I've come over the last few years in my biking ability. I went from struggling to finish to finishing with the pack and adding on extra miles to ride home. With the prior week's century and commuting miles I rode nearly 400 miles in a fortnight while completing the first and third longest mileage days I've ever done in the same period. I have another big ride scheduled this year that I'll be riding with my friend Reba and I can't wait.

A Summer Ending Solo Century

Throughout the Summer I have been quietly telling myself that I would take off one Friday and go for a nice long bike ride. As each week passed I would have plenty of excuses and the long ride never materialized. As the Friday before Labor Day was approaching, the promise to myself left unfulfilled was front and center in my mind. So on the day before I decided no more excuses. I decided on a route, put in for the leave, and basked in the anticipation for what would become the longest ride I had ever done.

The route was simple. I would start out on the Mount Vernon Trail, go into DC to have coffee with friends at Swing's for Friday Coffee Club, and then I would keep on going up the Chesapeake and Ohio (C&O) Canal all the way up to White's Ferry. From there I would cross the Potomac on the ferry, hop on US-15 into Leesburg and get onto the W&OD Trail. Around lunchtime I would take a spur into Ashburn to meet my wife at her office, then go back to the W&OD to take it to its Northern terminus in Shirlington. Then I would hop on the Four Mile Run Trail to get back to the Mount Vernon Trail, and then head back to my starting point. From start to finish, about 105 miles.

Friday Coffee Club

The first leg to Swing's was routine -- it is a trip I take most Friday mornings. I enjoyed talking with friends and got some encouragement for the trip ahead. With a big helping of coffee and pastry I fueled myself for the ride ahead. I have ridden the C&O Canal many times, but most of those times my bike was fairly heavily laden for camping along the towpath. For this trip my motto was "fast and light", or as fast and light as I get. The only things on my bike besides myself were my rack trunk (with tubes and tools for breakdowns) and my water bottle. In my estimates for how fast I would go, I looked at things through the lens of my previous adventures on the canal with dozens of pounds of gear. I was immediately surprised at just how fast I was going. My average speed was actually faster than my first leg on the paved Mount Vernon Trail. I was making good time.

Leaving the Beltway Behind

Along the way the canal reminded me of why I have fallen in love with it each time I've followed its crushed stone pathway. The sheer beauty of the place, and the solitude under its green tunnel are a tonic for the soul. When I reached the beltway I felt the reality of the trip come into focus and felt a big dumb grin go across my face.


Wide Water on the C&O

There is something almost hypnotic about the sound of tires on the towpath gravel. When combined with the meditative one-two-one-two of your legs as you pedal, it works wonders for clearing your mind. I saw ducks and herons in the shallow waters of the canal and felt the warm glow of the morning sun. This was a vacation day well spent. As I continued on the towpath, I made it to Wide Water, one of my favorite sections on the canal. It feels as though you are biking alongside a rocky canyon with still waters that serve as mirror-like surfaces to make the rocky sides even more impressive. Shortly thereafter I made it to Great Falls, where I took a short break to take some photos from the bridge over the rocks by the falls and to get a cold drink from the concessionaire. After watering up, I continued on my way.

Great Falls

Me at Great Falls

After a few more locks, the watered section of the canal ends and nature has taken back what was once dug out for water-borne commerce. Trees filled the old canal bed and many creatures enjoyed traversing the lush green ditch. At one point I came upon three deer. Two of them crossed my path before I got to them, but a third was not fast enough to do so. She ran alongside me on the canal bed for almost a quarter mile before finally getting enough steam to pass me. It was an exhilarating ride. After that encounter the canal's green tunnel thickened and the variation in the scenery dropped by the wayside. After passing by some hiker/biker campsites (one of which was occupied later in the day than I would have expected) I made my way to milepost 35 and White's Ferry.

Historic White's Ferry

Me on White's Ferry

By this time the Summer sun had mustered its full strength to make the day sultry and thirst inducing. I took the opportunity to get some Gatorade and water from the convenience store at the ferry and enjoyed every last drop. The ferry itself was quick, efficient, and pleasant with some time to savor my recently acquired refreshment. Two dollars got me from Maryland to Virginia on the cable towed vessel and after a short but steep climb, I was on my way to US-15 and Leesburg. On US-15 there was a wide-enough shoulder that allowed me safe passage, however, once it became Business-15 that disappeared entirely. Thankfully traffic was light, motorists were polite, and Leesburg wasn't very far. Soon enough Business-15 became North King Street and then South King Street and then I turned left onto the Washington and Old Dominion Trail (W&OD) leaving motorized traffic behind.

I made some good time on the trail, and even saw Friday Coffee Club friends Ed and Mary on their tandem heading out to West Virginia. The scenery on the W&OD is not as rewarding as the C&O, but the smooth surface is a welcome change. One exception is the section near Luck Stone Quarry, where there are some impressive views of the quarry from the trail. Lunch with my wife at her office in Ashburn was waiting at mile 65 of my journey, so I didn't dally, keeping up my pace as the skies started to open up above me. As I reached Ashburn, an impressive electrical storm was commencing, and I made it to her office in the downpour where I was graciously greeted by some of her co-workers who were excited to meet her crazy husband who was making this long trek.

After 65 miles, the sandwiches, chips, and drinks that my wife had gotten for me were positively delicious. I practically inhaled them. It was so nice of her to go out and get everything for me in anticipation of my arrival, I'm lucky to have such a supportive wife. The break was longer than planned since the electrical storm showed no signs of relenting and thunder could be heard reverberating around the office. Finally, a break in the storm allowed me to head back out onto the road, retracing my route to the W&OD.

Iced Coffee at the Green Lizard

Once back on the trail there were menacing clouds behind me, so I went straight down to Herndon where after continuing to outrun the rain I made a quick stop at the Green Lizard for a delicious iced coffee. Afterward I returned to the trail and the clouds looked like they might catch me again. Thunder was heard and flashes of lightning lit me from behind, but thankfully they finally faded off in the distance behind me as I continued down to Vienna. After arriving in Vienna around mile 84 I stopped for water at one of the old train stations they have along the route. I ended up having a great chat with another cyclist named Lee while slaking my thirst who was going on his own long ride that day and rode along with me for the next few miles on the trail.

A Mural in Vienna

The Northern Trailhead of the W&OD

I enjoyed the descent into the Northern terminus of the trail at Shirlington and after a stop to take a picture of it, I was back on the bike and onto the Four Mile Run Trail. At this point I was starting to feel the mileage that I had undertaken on this sunny and hot day. The last few miles were on my very familiar Mount Vernon Trail, but I could feel myself slowing down as the miles made me more tired. I crossed the 100 mile mark in Jones Point Park according to my cycle-computer, and a bit before that on Strava. I took a break there to cool down and stretch and then went to Belle Haven Park to water up one last time. I decided to take my normal route with its last two finishing climbs and was happy to make it home before dark. It is the longest ride I have ever completed.

Jones Point Park

When I set out on my journey, I wasn't sure if I would be able to complete it. I had done a mostly full week of commuting in the preceding week, so I had many miles under my belt already. By the end of the weekend I surpassed 200 miles for the week. I ended up exceeding even my most positive expectations for the trip. I think this is due to my consistent riding all year and all those miles I have racked up on this record breaking year. I was surprised that while I was tired, I wasn't hurting at the end of the ride. It was great to be able to reach a personal goal and surpass my own expectations. It was definitely a fun ride.

Me at the end of the ride

Breaking mileage records everyday

I have been doing a lot of cycling this year. Last Year I hit 3,143.2 miles by the end of the year. This year I hit 3,000 miles by the middle of August, and as of this post I have surpassed last year's mileage record. Every mile from here on out is a new record for a calendar year.

Why is this year so much higher in mileage than the past? A big part of it is that I decided make my default decision for every commute to be to bike, unless there was a compelling reason not to do so. Comfort was not a compelling reason. nor was snow, nor rain, nor extreme temperature. Lightning, distant appointments, equipment failure, and illness were about the only reasons that kept me off the bike with a few exceptions. What I found out was that rain, snow, cold, and extreme heat just aren't that bad. On the days when I didn't bike, I missed biking. On the days when the weather was 3°F or when the heat index was at 110°F it was certainly challenging, but there was a sense of accomplishment in being able to test my limits and find myself up for the challenge. When it was pouring down rain, snow, or sleet I found out it just wasn't that bad. I've even come to enjoy riding in the rain. I have also started to take on the majority of the routine maintenance on my bike, which helps to reduce equipment related time off the bike.

In the Winter, Freezing Saddles helped me to stay motivated in the face of the cold weather and challenging conditions. As of this writing my highest mileage month was January at 455 miles, which is not something I would imagine most people would be able to say. February had my lowest mileage at 349 miles, due in large part to the lack of snow removal on my commuting route. But I was able to get around that by finding new routes and eventually wearing through my studded tires. I've biked in all but one week this calendar year (largely due to illness) and my mileage has been remarkably consistent.

Most importantly, it has been a lot of fun.

Bike Commuting in Spring: An Appreciation

After a long cold Winter, the beautiful Spring we have been experiencing this year has been deeply satisfying.  As the season has been progressing, I have been enjoying the changes that nature has offered up as temperatures have been steadily rising.

At first Spring brought challenges.  Instead of dressing solely for the cold, now you also had have appropriate clothing for the afternoon's warmer conditions, too.  It was well worth the price paid.  As the chill fell out of the air the first shoots started to make their way from the barren brown branches.  Suddenly, what had been stark and mundane exploded in pink and white as the first harbingers of the vernal renaissance, the cherry blossoms, came into their full splendor.  With the trees no longer barren, the paths also exploded with tourists enjoying the fluffy clouds surrounding the Tidal Basin.  The mornings, still brisk with the lingering memories of the winter cold, became awash in more and more sunlight shimmering over the Potomac. The trees became increasingly green in waves just as regular as those on the river they surround.

In time those small shoots became broad leaves providing some shelter from the sun on the trail, reminding me of life starting anew.  The green stalks of flowers broke through the ground after the ample rains. They reached ever skyward with delicate buds becoming an astonishing array of petals of every color soaking in the light from above.  Soon the mornings lost much of their chill and the air became heavy with the sweet perfume of honeysuckle and the vegetal bite of freshly cut grass.  As the temperature rose, the need for cover in the rain fell, and the sheer joy of cycling as gentle drops came down upon you took hold.  What may have been a source of annoyance in the preceding months became a source of child-like wonder and broadening smiles.

Eventually, the relative solitude I enjoyed on the trail in winter was replaced with an army of cyclists and runners savoring its every inch. People sat on benches and at tables to feel the warm breezes gently caress their skin while watching the beauty of nature.  New life entered the trail in the form of goslings, ducklings, turtles, and birds of every variety.  Each day brought new discoveries.  Gigantic bald eagle aeries, osprey nests, brief glimpses of a fox that failed to see you were there, deer watching you glide past them, and scores of people enjoying the beauty surrounding them. The air filled with birdsong, making the turn off the trail to go into work progressively more difficult each day.

If I were not on two wheels, pedaling through this verdant strip of ever-changing beauty, I would miss all of this.  Either with my hands angrily gripping my steering wheel in traffic, or by passing the time reading the paper filled with bad news on the train, I would merely be transiting through nature on the way to get somewhere.  On a bike, the journey is every bit as important as the destination. You are a part of nature, not apart from it. I am truly fortunate to have one of the most beautiful commutes in the world.

As Spring becomes Summer, I look forward to enjoying each moment of serendipity as I ride with the wind at my back and a smile on my face.