Sunday, May 11, 2014

Soggy Trails

We got record amounts of rain last week -- six inches in one day, and rainy a few other days as well. Some of our local roads were flooded, people even had to be rescued from their cars after driving through water. Overall, we're glad for the rain: everything is so green right now!

We went on an easy ride down Beach Drive and decided to try riding along Rock Creek Trail past Randolph Road. We quickly realized that a lot of the path was impassable: muddy, puddley. It was going to take a while for things to go back to "normal."

So, our bike trip ended up being a slow exploration of some local side streets and neighborhoods parallel to the trail that we weren't familiar with. We ended up finding some fun roads and good ideas for future rides. Rain, like necessity: the mother of invention!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Cranberry Smoothie

Just in time for Thanksgiving breakfast!

Last Christmas, S bought me a Ninja high-power blender. We have been using it all year to make fruit smoothies for breakfasts and post-ride snacks. Normally, we use strawberries or a mixed-berry blend, but I had seen a few recipes on food blogs for cranberry smoothies and was intrigued. I was also looking to do something with the bag of cranberries that has been sitting patiently in my freezer since I bought it last holiday season, for a baking project that never materialized.

You don't have to do too much to counteract the tartness of the cranberries; the final result is not an overly sweet smoothie, but it is not a tart one, either. You could always add a splash of agave nectar, or add some more sweet fruit, like mango or a ripe pear.

Cranberry Smoothie
(makes 2 servings)

1 c. frozen cranberries
1/2 c. frozen pineapple pieces
1 banana
1 scoop Vega One Nutritional Shake protein powder
1 tsp. ground flax seed
enough almond milk for easy blending (I just pour in the almond milk directly, so let's estimate somewhere between 1/3 c. and 1/2 c.)

Blend and enjoy!

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Friday, October 11, 2013

Shutdown Bikeride

Although the partial government shutdown began on October 1, I was actually still "essential", and therefore, working, until this past Tuesday. Since then, I've been finding ways to spend my non-essential time. Wednesday was wide open and looked like a good day for a bike ride. We initially planned a more ambitious 60-70 mile ride to Poolesville. We woke up to temperatures in the low 50s, gray skies, and quickly waning motivation. We decided instead to do a quick coffee shop ride in the afternoon to Rockville and back. Because we were going during the week, we felt comfortable riding our bikes on Rock Creek Trail, which sometimes gets pretty crowded with dog-walkers, kids, and other non-bike forms on the weekends. As the leaves fall, the surface of trail becomes a bit more treacherous for bikes, so we also figured this might be one of our few chances left this season to ride.

The skies were gray and it was a bit windy, but at least we felt comfortable we wouldn't get any rain. We dressed a bit warmer than we have been in past weeks and headed out. Our legs were a bit tired from playing tourist in Philadelphia the day before, so we took a leisurely approach. The trails and fields in the parks were empty. The gray atmosphere just added to the eerie feeling.

We stopped for coffee at CremCaffe in Rockville Town Center. This stop for a drip coffee and a cafe au lait counted as one of our Coffeeneuring rides. We also ended up eating our emergency "bike food" (Honey Stinger Waffles) on the way back as we both got unexpectedly hungry.

We made a quick return trip. In contrast to the decidedly flat route, resolved to test our climbing legs on Stoneybrook Drive. We really need to do that more often.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013


So, as you can see, the summer harvest is really kicking in. I glanced out the window this morning and noticed about twenty little cherry tomatoes that were ready to pick. The question is, what do you do with tomatoes when you don't really care for tomatoes? I might try "sun-drying" them at low temperature in the oven.

If I get my act together this weekend, I will be planting some fall lettuce, greens, and radishes.

Monday, August 12, 2013

The RAGBRAI Ride Report

The lovely Mary, who is behind the kick-ass randonneur (and coffeeneur) blog Chasing Mailboxes very kindly offered to let us have a four(!)-part guest post about our RAGBRAI experience. You can read them here:

Part One
Part Two
Part Three
Part Four

Sunday, July 28, 2013

RAGBRAI LXI: We're finished!

A full day-to-day ride report to come, but I am thankful that we've completed 430 miles across Iowa, with zero mechanical incidents, and the only side effects only very sore and tired muscles and some fantastic tan lines. Currently, we're still at a distinct zombie-level of sleep deprivation, but more on that to follow!

Ft. Madison, Iowa

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Summer Garden 2013

I didn't manage to plant any vegetables this spring, except some cherry tomatoes, which are now starting to ripen. Of course, tomatoes are my least-favorite vegetable, so I'm not quite sure what I am going to do with them yet. I'll have to plan out some fall vegetables to start in August: maybe radishes, spinach or some other greens?

In the meantime, our front flower bed is turning out to be looking very colorful. I planted the lamb's ear a few years ago, having fond memories of seeing and feeling lamb's ear in an herb garden in the local regional park that we used to go to as kids. As it turns out, lamb's ear spreads quite quickly, so I am re-thinking that location. I may remove it entirely and put it somewhere else, or keep it in a container for next year.

Finally, after we got our new front patio installed this spring, I needed to add some shade-loving perennials to border it. I planted some salvia, which may not flower until the fall, and this very nice variegated coleus.

What are you growing this season?

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

New Socks

I didn't get any rides in last weekend as I was travelling, first for work, and then up to Boston to visit some friends. I did, however, manage to visit Wheelworks, a most excellent bike shop near our friends' home. This shop carried all sorts of great brands, even Salsas, which you rarely see in stock here. Among other things, we got to admire a $10,000 custom, belt-driven tandem. Hard to find that around the DC area.

Anyway, I also picked out these most excellent socks:

This should count as some sort of training, right?

Thursday, July 04, 2013

Patuxent River Rural Legacy Ride

We got very lucky for our first organized metric century ride for 2013: a perfectly sunny day riding through shady country roads, mid-80s and low humidity.

The Patuxent River Rural Legacy Ride, sponsored (and well-organized!) by the Oxon Hill Bicycle and Trail Club, took us through rural southern Prince George's County, down into Eagle Harbor in Charles County, and then returning back to Merkle Wildlife Sanctuary for a post-ride picnic in the shade. Each of the three rest stops was by the water, which really added to the ride. We were well-fed, well-hydrated, and S's knee seemed to cooperate after another bike fit to drop his saddle and change his handlebar positioning somewhat.

There were a fair number of hills, which seemed to always be down hill to the rest stop by the water, and then back up hill after the rest stop. I would have taken more photos, but I again had low-battery issues with my phone, unfortunately. All in all, the ride was a good experience, people were friendly, and we had a good test of whether we'd be prepared for RAGBRAI. Well, a test of what one day of RAGBRAI would be like, anyway.

I felt very good during the ride, but man, it really only after after I get home, take my shower and sit on the couch that I realize how much these longer rides take out of me! And the next day... it really is the next day that makes the difference, which, again, makes me nervous for 7 days of serious riding coming up in 2.5 short weeks. However, we did manage to take an easy ride on the following Sunday, finishing with crepes at our favorite crepe place in Silver Spring. I've realized why I'll never be a competitive cyclist: my motivations for riding are entirely food-based.:) But, I can easily see myself settling into the "cyclo-tourist" role. I've also realized why I'll never be a great bike blogger, which clearly requires updating one's blog more than once every 2 months.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Perfect Weather

This past Saturday was one of those objectively beautiful spring days on the East Coast (at least for those of us without seasonal allergies): gorgeous blue skies, no humidity, the lightest of breezes, the temperatures staying reaching into the low 70s. It was unquestionably a perfect day for riding. S and I decided to take a long ride --out past Potomac, up towards White's Ferry, where we'd cross the Potomac River, ride into Leesburg, and then jump on the W&O Railroad Trail to head back towards Washington. Perhaps it was only because the weather was so perfect that our ride didn't veer into disaster (or at least grumpy-rider) territory. There were some definitely lessons learned; fortunately none of them were catastrophic.

Quiet country road

Lesson #1: Turn off your phone's screen to conserve power! I've been using the Runtastic app to track my mileage, etc., which is great, but uses my phone's power to do so. For whatever reason, I didn't turn off my screen when I put my phone into my jersey pocket, which meant that over the first few hours of riding, I unknowingly made some pocket phone calls, played some computer games, and at one point, realized that I was playing Pandora radio. When I stopped to figure out where the heavenly downtempo music was coming from, I realized it was me and my now-low batteried phone. Not good. Fortunately, intending to charge his phone at our lunch stop, S had brought along a cable, and our Powerocks portable magic stick battery. I was able to plug my phone into the stick battery and slowly recharge from White's Ferry until we stopped for lunch in Leesburg and could access a wall outlet. We've gone ahead and ordered an extra magic stick battery so that each of us will have one on future long rides.

White's Ferry

Lesson #2: Check out questionable new routes on Google Earth. Of course you can't always do this, but our "shortcut" on River Road that we thought we'd discovered ended up being three miles of unexpected gravel, which neither we nor our bikes were prepared for. Fortunately, no flats and no wipeouts.

Lesson #3: Set a defined meeting point. S and I have similar riding ability and we virtually always ride together, if not at least in visual sight of each other. Once we got to the W&O Trail on Saturday, I was feeling great and S wasn't. He urged me to go on ahead, and we had a plan to meet in Reston for coffee. Having only a vague recollection of where the turn-off for Reston Town Center was, and feeling good trying to keep up with some of the more aggressive riders on the trail, I ended up some 5 miles beyond where we should have met up with each other. And now with a low phone battery again. S ended up having his coffee alone, and I sat on a bench and had the last of my energy bars with some warm water. Fortunately, we were able to meet up later, which is fortunate for our last lesson learned.

Herndon, VA

Lesson #4: Even when riding a bike, check the Metro weekend track work schedule! Our plan had been to ride to somewhere along the Orange line, and then when we got tired, simply take the bikes on the Metro back home. This plan had only one slight flaw to it, which was that the Red line wasn't operating between two critical stations we needed to get to. Once we figured this out, this meant that we had to take the Red line in the opposite direction and add on an extra few miles to the end of our journey to cycle from a more distant station back to our home.

All in all, we rode 82 miles--definitely our longest ride to date, and although I definitely felt wiped out that night (and the next day), I felt good and knew that I could do it. Had S been feeling a bit better, I might have pushed him to finish our route and make it a century. Maybe next weekend.

What are your cycling lessons learned (the easy way or the hard way)?

Saturday, April 20, 2013

The Proclaimers, Spring Training, and a few other notes

So, what's been going on?

S and I made a New Year's Resolution to put 2000 miles on the bike this year. This mileage goal probably isn't that impressive compared to more seasoned riders, but for us, this is a task that will require some intentionality to achieve. It's certainly not an impossible goal, but it's one that will require consistent effort. So, like The Proclaimers professed (proclaimed?) "I would walk 500 miles (and I would walk 500 more)," we'll be biking 500 miles, then biking 500 more, then repeating that sequence.:) We're really excited about this. We're close to meeting our quarterly goal of 500 miles by the end of April, assuming we can get a longer ride in this weekend and the next.

How has our riding been going?

I can safely characterize our rides so far as: wind, wind, and more demoralizing wind. There is nothing like wind to suck the lifeforce out of you, like nothing else. Maybe it's always this windy, maybe spring has just been unusually harsh, or maybe the wind is affecting us more due to our improving speeds, but man, oh, man, is the wind just so ridiculously horrible. There have been rides where it seems we have headwinds in every direction we turn (I realize that's probably not possible, but still....) One ride back in February, the crosswind gusts were so serious, I was having a hard time keeping my bike in a straight line and not ending up in a ditch along Tuckerman Lane. When I'm in these positions, I try to conjure up Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen in my head and try to remember the pieces of advice they give during the Tour de France coverage (something about eschelons?), but nothing helps. I'm developing my lower back muscles as I spend so much time in the drops trying to keep out of the wind as much as possible. I keep thinking that when the weather heats up, we'll somehow be happy to have wind, but I am not so sure.

A secret trail

I hesitate to mention our secret trail, but I feel I have to mention it because I can't believe how little use it gets, compared to the jam-packed Capital Crescent and the W&OD. We've recently discovered a nice 32-or-so mile round-trip run from our house out to Lake Artemisia in College Park. We start on Sligo Creek Parkway, move on to the Sligo Creek trail, and then the Northwest and Northeast Branch trails, along the waterway, and through parks, beside the tiny College Park airport, until we reach the lake. The trails are well-marked, well paved, and seemingly lightly used. What gives? I don't know. But we've found it to be a great, flat recovery ride along lovely scenery.

On Sundays, Sligo Creek Parkway is closed to vehicular traffic between Takoma Park and Philadelphia Avenue. It's not a long stretch--maybe a mile? -- but it is a flat, winding road along the creek. It's hard to get more scenic and peaceful.

Finally, if you see this guy cycling around:

....he's with me.

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Call the Midwife

Call the Midwife is a miniseries currently playing on PBS which documents the lives of midwives in East London in the 1950's. It's a fascinating period piece, observing post-WWII tenement poverty, and life and death choices. It also features the most excellent Melinda Hart as one of the midwives. But, I have to ask: Is anyone else watching it for the bikes? The midwives use their bikes to make housecalls, carrying their equipment and supplies on the back, using a headlight to ride in the early morning through the late evening. Sturdy, sensible transportation cycles weren't the alternative -- they were essentially the only solution to getting around in a tight neighborhood where cars were a rarity. And (not to give anything away), a bike becomes a critical piece of equipment in Episode 6. Does anyone know anything about the bicycles they are using in the show?

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Fall Is For Parks and Leaves (and Coffee!)

Last weekend, we biked up to Olney. We ride through quiet suburban streets and then get to ride through Rock Creek Park and the Lake Needwood park area. Although parts of the ride are getting a bit treacherous this fall due to the leaves on the pavement, I am always amazed at how lucky we are that we live in such a great area, with access to these gorgeous and well-kept parks. The trails can get a bit crowded on the weekends, but I actually think it's nice to see families out for a walk, little kids testing out bikes and scooters, and older couples taking a stroll. It's nice to be a little part of that. Yesterday, we did a quick bike ride to Silver Spring and back (about 11 miles roundtrip) for coffee and crepes (Coffeeneuring Trip #5, for those keeping track). Most of the ride we now do on Sligo Creek Parkway instead off the off-road path, but to get there, we first have to bike on the Sligo Creek Trail. The park was again blazing in yellow, orange, russet.
Our coffee stop was at Fenton Cafe, which serves coffee and crepes. This is a small little creperie off of the main drag in Silver Spring. The cafe has a great list of crepes available (including my favorite, strawberries with creme de marron, or sweet chestnut paste) and we never pass up an opportunity to have crepes along with our coffee. In fact, the coffee is really beside the point here. We sat outside and drank our coffee in ceramic mugs, taking in the fresh autumn air.
The ride back is deceptive -- Sligo Creek Parkway seems like a flat road, but it is slightly uphill on the way back, (and we were working against a bit of wind), so we really had to work to make it back. Although it sounds silly, but with the leaves on the ground covering footpaths and bridges, we missed our turn back on to the trail at first and had to circle back.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Rainy Reston Century 2012

[A long-delayed post about the Reston Century ride in August]

So, we signed up for the metric century (62 miles) ride as part of Reston Bike Club's 30th anniversary Century Ride. What do you need to know about this year's ride? It was really rainy. It rained as soon as we parked in the parking lot in Reston Town Center, as we were getting our bikes and our things together. We sat in the car, figuring the rain would pass over quickly. It did. Then it rained as we walked our bikes over to the pavilion on our way to the start line. We stood under the eaves of the stores in the Town Center and watched it just pitch with rain.

Eventually, it stopped raining and we got on the road around 8:45 am, a little later than I'd hoped. As we biked down through pools of water across the road, I was quickly reminded about how fenders will be an essential component of my new bike. We got to talking with a gentleman riding the 33 mile option as we made our way to the first rest stop. We got about 5 miles in before it started pitching it down again. Fortunately, we were on the W&OD Trail, so we pulled in to a rest shelter, made some friends with a few folks, used the porta-potty, and waited out the storm.
Onward to the Herndon rest stop to fill up with Gatorade, muffins and....another downpour. We wait under a tree until it clears a little bit and we head on again, only to get caught in another solid downpour. We turned off into a residential neighborhood (Alexandra Grove) as the rain tapered off and realized how cold we were. Neither of us have rain gear, and I'm not sure how effective rain gear would have been in any event. Fortunately, I had a rain cover for my handlebar bag, and my phone was inside a ziploc bag, so the essentials were staying dry.
We bike through the charming town of Leesburg and fantasize about stopping on the way back for coffee at one of the bakeries. We managed to stay dry for another hour as we climbed the rolling hills past Leesburg, heading towards the Hamilton lunch stop. I am so thankful that we got past this point (which was by far the most challenging in terms of terrain) without having to also deal with rain.
We get to the Hamilton rest stop a little after noon (after kindly being warned by a volunteer on Route 7 that the police were out ticketing cyclists who didn't come to a full and complete stop at stop signs -- way to make a little extra cash on the weekends, I suppose) and it starts to rain again. The lunch food is set up under a permanent pavilion in a little park. We fill up with bread, peanut butter, bananas, orange slices and cookies. The organizers did a really nice job of having lots and lots of food and there are jugs of Gatorade for pouring. (There is also shave ice, which was probably the least popular item this year, though I am sure it's a welcome surprise when the ride day is a bit hotter!)
Unfortunately at this point, the rain turns from "steady soaking" to "pouring buckets" and we start to hear the first claps of thunder. The pavilion quickly becomes busy with everyone looking for cover. Occasionally, we would bestow our sympathy and pity on a poor sodden soul who arrived. At this point, the rain (and thunder!) is looking really bad and people are starting to talk about how to bail out. We decide to get onto the W&OD Trail and head back west. When the rain starts to taper off (though by no means stop!), we get on our bikes and head back down Rt. 7 to find a road to get us to the W&OD.
We don't even get half a mile down the road before the torrential downpour starts again and the thunder and lightning get dangerously close. We find a building with a deep overhang and pull ourselves and our bikes under it to wait it out. We do see a few cyclists who ride on by, but at this point, it's still thundering and lightning and I don't quite trust the visibility. (To say nothing of my soggy brakes). After waiting under the eave for 10 minutes, we decide to head out again. I will say that bike-car relationships must be at their best in terrible weather. Cars are overwhelmingly kind to us, yielding to us, letting us go ahead. Perhaps they feel really guilty? I don't know. We needed all the sympathy we could use.
On to the W&OD Trail. Some other riders who are bailing pass us as we begin. It's still going to be twenty miles back in the rain, but at least it's downhill and straight. The rain is unrelenting. We are completely, and utterly, soaked. I can barely see in front of me for stretches at a time. I'm slightly cold, which is making my muscles seize up and making this slightly-downhill stretch seem like hard work. At some point, the rain stopped and something bright seemed to appear in the sky (the sun?). Unfortunately, we are still completely soaked. Still, the sun gives us a little energy as we head back towards Reston.
We managed to get back to the Town Center without incident, seeing a few more riders here and there. For a little while, we chat with one guy who lost the rest of his group and was finishing up the century ride. And then we finally make it back to the Town Center, where there is pasta and salad and chicken and soda and ice cream waiting for us. We eat it and pick up our t-shirts and then head back to the car. We probably would have hung out longer, but we were tired and wet. All in all, it was what we would call an adventure. I'm sure if it had been brutally hot, as it often is in August in the mid-Atlantic, the ride would still have been tough in a different way. Starting out earlier in the day wouldn't have solved our problems because the rain stopped and started all day. As it was, we were lucky to have already been at the lunch stop when the worst of it started. I can't imagine what we would have done if it had struck earlier.

Coffeeneuring 2012

We are participating in the second annual Coffeeneuring Challenge, sponsored by the most excellent local biking blog Chasing Mailboxes. So far, we have managed to get in three coffee rides over the last two weekends. There is something lovely about being forced to go out on a ride and find a new place to take a break and have a caffeinated drink. Our personal challenge is to try to find seven new coffee shops (i.e., ones we didn't visit last year) and so far, we've been successful. One find was Cremcaffe in Rockville, which we visited this past Saturday. It's a coffee shop with Israeli flair. We didn't try any of their Israeli breakfast specials (opting for toasted bagels, instead), but the service was cheery and the decor bright. It's a bit off the beaten path, next to the cinema in a strip mall, so it was quiet even on the Saturday morning we visited.