Wednesday, February 20, 2013


            I had never heard of randonneuring until I started reading bike blogs. They’re intense, long distance sport rides – not exactly my kind of biking. But then I came across the errandonnee – a challenge to encourage transportation cycling this February. There were a slew of rules – quirky enough to make it fun, but sufficiently numerous to make it a challenge. In a nutshell, participants were charged with completing at least 12 errands in 12 days, from at least 7 different categories (from a list of 11), riding a total of at least 30 miles, and making at least 2 trips in the dark.

            I avidly took up the challenge, and my successful completion was serendipitously aided by having already planned to take off work on what turned out to be two of the nicest days one could hope for in February. Here are the results of my errandonnee:

Trip #1 – February 10, 2013 – Sun and Moon Yoga; Category: Community meeting/church – 3 miles

I figured it was Sunday morning and Yoga is as close to church as I’ll get. I was concerned about the temperature, but observed that 38 degrees was plenty warm enough. I forgot to take a photo to document the trip, so am taking the liberty of including one that I took a few weeks earlier when I was thrilled to see the new bike parking.

 Trip #2 – February 10, 2013 – Safeway; Category: grocery store – 3 miles

I went after yoga, so I counted the three miles home for this trip. Also no photo, but my receipt proves that I was there after yoga. I observed that the bike parking outside Safeway still has a ton of plastic on the “staple.” I don’t think it’s getting a lot of action.

Trip #3 – February 12, 2013 – Work; Category (duh) work – 10 miles

I knew I’d have no trouble making 30 miles, since my one-way commute is 10. I happily observed new paving on parts of the Custis Trail. It was my first bike commute to work since shoulder surgery so it was a happy day for me!

Trip #4 – February 12, 2013 – physical therapy; Category: personal care – 3 miles

I went to PT from work on the metro, so I counted the miles from PT to home. I observed – not for the first time – that biking on the sidewalk on the west side of Glebe Road is nearly impossible because Arlington County has chosen to plant trees in the pedestrian area of the sidewalk. I like trees and all, but the placement seems questionable.

PT receipt - I highly recommend Hand-n-Hand

Trip #5 – February 13, 2013 – Work; Category: work – 10 miles

Two days in a row – yippee! I had thought the day before that there was a new curb cut on the Mt. Vernon Trail by the bridge to Theodore Roosevelt Island, but more carefully observed that it had been there all along; it just was no longer blocked by plastic barriers.

Trip #6 – February 14, 2013 – Physical therapy; Category: personal care – 3 miles

I had my combination U lock over the handlebars and, even though I had twisted the numbers, it managed to open itself up and fall off.

Trip #7 – February 14, 2013 – Harris Teeter; Category: breakfast – 1 block

Okay, I was getting a few groceries, but I wasn’t sure I’d be able to use enough categories, so I counted the free samples of bread, cheese, and fruit that I ate while walking the aisles of H-T as a breakfast visit. I observed the truly shitty placement of the bike rack…way beyond all the miles of shopping carts and underneath a ginormous vent that blasted out a hurricane-force, loud, stinky blast of foul air.

Trip #8 – February 14, 2013 – Arlington Central Library; Category: library – 1 mile

I noted a beat up old classic bike already in the rack. As luck would have it, the owner of the cute bike came out at the same time I was leaving. She looked to be nearly 80 years old. We chatted and she told me she can’t be bothered with parking a car everywhere around Arlington. Her bike – get this – was a fixie, no breaks. Go granny!! I asked her how she gets up hills and she told me she gets off the bike and walks. I didn’t think to ask how she stops going down the hills.

Trip #9 – February 15, 2013 – Sun and Moon Yoga; Category: wild card – 3 miles

Although I’ve been teaching yoga for some weeks since my surgery, this was the first class I’d taken – another big hurrah for my recovery. I observed, however, that my combination lock had become a huge pain – the numbers were totally jammed and it made me late for class (boo).

Trip #10 – February 15, 2013 – Big Wheel Bikes; Category: bike shop – couple blocks

The silver lining of my jammed lock was that I got to add another category. The nice fellows at Big Wheel greased the lock for me and it’s been working fine ever since. Oops - no photo and no receipt since I got free service.

Trip #11 – February 15, 2013 – Barnes and Noble; Category: (non-grocery) store – 2 miles

I went in search of literary journals and discovered that there are more bicycle-oriented magazines than literary journals. I again forgot to take a photo, so here’s my receipt. I tried out two new pubs: Tricycle (it’s a Buddhist journal – but, well, good name, too) and Bitch (how can you go wrong with a name like that? I’d seen my daughter reading it and figured I’d check it out).

Trip #12 – February 15, 2013 – Trader Joe’s; Category: grocery store – 2 miles

As the photo shows, a bag of dog food pretty much fills the pannier.

Trip # 13 – February 16, 2013 – Westover Post Office; category: wild card – 1 mile

They have a very strange style of bike parking at the post office, but weird parking is better than none.

Trip #14 – February 20, 2013 Night Trip #1 – Lost Dog; category: dessert – 2 miles

So, the only part of the errandonnee that gave me problems was getting in the night trips. I was never leaving early enough in the morning for it to be dark and then it started getting cold and I couldn’t face going out at night just to satisfy my obsessive adherence to the arbitrary rules of the game. So here was my plan: I biked to the Ballston metro in the morning and figured I would work late enough that by the time I biked back to my neighborhood I could stop and do two errands in the dark. Moreover, I was quite aware that there were 3 meal-oriented categories, none of which I would have really used. But, I decided I deserved to stop for a cookie after all my errandoneruing.

Trip #15 – February 20, 2013 Night Trip #2 – Westover Library; category: library – 1 mile

I walked from where I parked by Lost Dog so that I wouldn’t have to re-lock and strap my light back on. I didn’t want to take the chance of having my good rechargeable light stolen. A few weeks ago, my front blinking light that I left on the “workhorse” bike was stolen while it was parked at the East Falls Church Metro.

So, my final tally: 11 days, 44 miles, 15 errands, 10 categories, 2 night trips, and a whole lot of fun on my bikes. Thanks to Chasing Mailboxes for creating the challenge. It gave me an incentive to do more biking than I otherwise would have – especially on some of the colder days. 

As you can see, it was plenty dark by the time I got home

Tuesday, February 12, 2013


            At last – my first post-surgery bike commute to work. I feel like I’ve crossed a major threshold to full healing. I’m still not lifting much weight with my right arm, but I managed to carry my commuting bike down the stairs with my left hand and had the joy of reuniting with it after a 10 week separation.

            The weather was a perfect 48 degrees, the sun was shining, and I greeted once-familiar sights like old friends: the flat curves on the Custis Trail that bisect the duck pond and the steep hairpin curves that end behind Big Wheel Bikes; the slender, sad-looking man that I think of as the ghost of the Custis Trail, who seems always to be walking there – no matter the weather, day, or time; the steady stream of pedestrians on the approach to Rosslyn; the ride along the Potomac on the Mount Vernon Trail, the arc of clouds crossing the river with me as I ride over Memorial Bridge; wheeling past the White House, happy to have Obama there for four more years; and, of course, the Pennsylvania Avenue cycle track – lights timed just right.

            And there were new sights to appreciate: freshly resurfaced sections of the Custis, making me remember last winter’s detours for repaving; a new curb cut on the Mount Vernon so that it’s no longer necessary to make two sharp 90 degree turns by the bridge to Theodore Roosevelt Island. But the morning’s highlight was the geese: a multitude of Canada geese were gathered on the National Mall honking noisily, some with long necks reaching upward, others elegantly curved toward the ground, in search of food; some languidly paddling in the water of the reflecting pool, others fluffing out their feathers or preening.

            During this winter of rehab, I’ve been feeling fat, lazy, and confined – missing my usual activity level and the boost of well-being I count on my bike for. But, just like yoga (which I tell my prodigal students will always be there for them when they return), the bike was there all along, patiently waiting for me to feel ready to hop on and ride…all the way to work. Spring is nearly here, and, at least today, I’m optimistic that my old self will bloom along with the daffodils.