“Now you know what it’s like” – Um, not really

I enjoy my commute to work by bike, but Thursday mornings are special, because I have breakfast with the guys.  Been doing this for maybe 22 years.  We rotate restaurants, in ABC order: Anita’s (Vienna), Bentley’s (Falls Church), Bob + Edith’s (Arlington), McLean Family Restaurant (McLean), and the Virginian (Vienna).  Each restaurant has a different character.  And each shapes my bike commute differently too.  They all add to the overall length of commute, but they change the commute in different ways.  The restaurants in Vienna are closest, meaning getting up the latest (still early), but they leave me with the longest rides to work.  Conversely, Bob + Edith’s is the furthest from home, requiring me to get up at 5:30 a.m., but leaving me with the shortest commute from restaurant to work.

Today we were at McLean Family Restaurant. The distances from my house to MFR, and then from there to the office, puts it in the median category on both counts.  What I like about my commute from MFR is that it takes me off of the W&OD/Custis Trail-my usual route to work.  My commute from MFR includes Chesterbrook Road, a winding, twisty up-and-down road that is great fun, and eventually the C&O Canal path. Then usually the CCT to DC.

Today was warmer than the past few days.  Rain threatened but it wasn’t yet raining when I went to breakfast. Perfect! I don’t mind riding in the rain but don’t like sitting through breakfast in wet tights and shoes (raincoat protects torso).

It was raining when I left MFR. With raincoat on I was quite comfortable. I was actually looking forward to the commute. Generally, I avoid the C&O Canal path when it’s wet, because I am usually on a road bike with skinny tires. But last year I discovered the joy of riding on the C&O in the rain on my cyclocross bike. So today I rode the cross bike and was looking forward to riding on the canal all the way to Georgetown instead of crossing onto the paved CCT.

Approaching Glebe on Chesterbrook, I took the lane to turn left. The car behind honked at me during my turn. Then he sped ahead and turned right on Old Glebe, same as I was going to do. But he slowed down, then came to a complete stop, forcing me to stop suddenly. The driver rolled down his window and yelled “Now you know how it feels!” In other words, he deliberately slowed and stopped and forced me to stop so he could yell at me.

I am not sure what the “it” was that he referred to – my forcing him to slow for a second I guess because I was on the road? I had actually done everything right. I can say as far as being taught how he felt, I think I do get how he felt, though I didn’t share his emotion. His feeling was one of anger, mine more bemusement. He appeared to me to be one of those drivers-a minority I think-that just hate cyclists and cannot stand to be slowed down for a fraction of a second by one, totally ignoring that we are traffic too just like all the drivers and their vehicles that they have to deal with when they drive on public roads. When I have these (infrequent) encounters, I always wonder why. Is this guy anti-bike (my first assumption)? Is he angry at other drivers too? Is he angry because something bad just happened to him? (Seriously, I think of the George Thorogood song that goes “My baby left, my mule got lame. Lost my money on a poker game.” etc etc.).

Maybe he’s angry because driving makes him that way. Maybe he should get on a bike. Hard to be angry when you are biking, I can tell you that.

Anyway, I continued on my route and very much enjoyed the dirt and mud from Chain Bridge to Georgetown. I wonder how that guy enjoyed the rest of his commute.


Coffeeneuring wrap-up

Where City/Town What Nolan Drank What I Drank Comments
McLean Family Restaurant McLean VA Chocolate Milk Coffee Usual ride to/from Clemyjontri playground. Full breakfast at MFR. We love MFR!
Star Nut McLean VA Strawberry Smoothie Mexican Mayan Mocha Usual ride to Clemyjontri. Best coffee!
Green Lizard Cycling Herndon VA Mango Smoothie Mocha Out and back on the W&OD.
Sweetbites McLean VA Chocolate milk mocha Usual Clemyjontri ride. Great pastries at this stop!
Caffe Amouri Vienna VA Mango smoothie Dark drip coffee Trip to Reston Zoo! Nolan rode a horse and a camel. We ride home in the dark from Caffe Amouri.
Greenbury’s Coffee and Tea McLean VA Chocolate milk Drip coffee Usual ride to and from Clemyjontri.
Mike’s Deli at Lazy Sundae Falls Church VA Chocolate shake Drip coffee Usual ride to and from Clemyjontri, with detour through Falls Church

Best coffee: Mexican Mayan Mocha at Star Nut in McClean.

Best drinks for both us: tie: Star Nut and Green Lizard and Caffe Amouri all offer excellent coffee and smoothies.

Favorite place: McLean Family Restaurant: full breakfast and great service, and they treat Nolan great.

Favorite ride overall: Week 5-round trip ride to Reston Zoo.

Best pastries: Sweetbites! Where the owner is an environmental scientist turned pastry chef. I took some biscuits home.

Most visited locale: McLean, since it is on the Clemyjontri route.

Farthest ride: Green Lizard Cycling, 11 miles out and 11 miles back. I wasn’t sure Nolan could go 11 miles without complaining but he did! We’d never been that far on the W&OD.

Nolan and I complete coffeneuring!

My son Nolan and I have completed coffeeneuring for the second year!  Not bad for a 13 year old with intellectual and physical disabilities.

Coffeeneuring ride #7 began as the usual ride to Clemyjontri playground on Saturday, Nov. 14.  When we left the playground around 2 or so, Nolan was hungry and wanted waffles.  That mean going to McLean Family Restaurant.  We’d been there before for coffeeneuring, so we couldn’t count that.  We had also exhausted good coffee stops in McLean. (We haven’t been to Chesapeake Bagel bakery, and I thought of that, but he wanted waffles, so…)

Nolan at McLean Family restaurant:


We were both wearing Dartmouth College Cycling team hats.  I was pleasantly surprised he agreed to wear one.  He usually objects to hats or gloves.  His hands were cold after the ride as he did refuse to wear gloves. We were both wearing green wool trainers from Belgium too.  We don’t go fast but we look good.

After MFR, we stopped at Your Dog’s Best Friend, the pet supply store next to MFR.  They have a “guard cat,” Rambo.  We always visit him before or after MFR.  Nolan petting Rambo:

petting Rambo

We then shopped at Treasure Trove,  the used clothing store nearby, where I bought a Christmas present for my daughter.  Nolan is greeted by name at all of these places, which I really like, as we are regulars.

Now we needed to go somewhere for our final coffeeneuring ride.  I chose Falls Church, which is not too far out of the way for us and because we hadn’t been there.  I would have liked to get a hard cider at Mad Fox, but I checked their menu and the only kids drinks are “fountain drinks.”  I try to make these rides fun for Nolan (rule #1 on a tandem: keep the stoker happy), so instead we went to Mike’s Deli at Lazy Sundae, which is just off the W&OD on West Street, next to the 7-11. Nolan had a chocolate milk shake and a cookie, and I had a decent if not great cup of joe and a crumb cake.  Very bike-friendly, as far as location goes.  No bike rack though. They have outside seating, which was nice considering the great weather.

Nolan at Lazy Sundae:

Lazy Sundae

Ride total: including everything, probably 15 miles.

Coffeeneuring with Nolan #6

Another ride to Clemyjontri with Nolan; another stop for coffee and other beverage on the way home.  This time we went to Greenbury’s Coffee and Tea in McLean, Virginia. I had a drip coffee; Nolan had chocolate milk.  We split two pieces of cake, one red velvet and the other lemon poppy seed.  Everything was good.

Bike-friendliness?  The shop was a bike to work pit stop, so I’ll give them credit for that.  Otherwise, it was not more or less bike-friendly than any other place in McLean.  There was no bike rack within sight.

I forgot to take a photo.  So, as proof we stopped there, I give my word of honor as a lawyer and officer of the court.  Plus, here’s a cut and past of my charge card statement:

11/09/15 PURCHASE PP*GREENBERR MC Lean VA CARD1445   $13.92

The ride totaled 14 miles.  The last 2 miles were in the dark.

6 down, 1 to go.

Coffeeneuring with Nolan ## 4 and 5

Saturday October 31 we did the usual ride to Clemyjontri, the World’s Greatest Playground.  On the way there, Nolan wanted a drink, so we did the coffeeneuring part of the ride before rather than after the playground.

We went to Sweetbites in McLean.  It’s on Elm Street, between Chain Bridge Road and Dolley Madison (123).  I had a mocha.  Nolan had two chocolate milks.  They were both very good.  The chocolate milk was made using the good dark chocolate they use for making mocha coffees.

What really made this a treat however were the pastries–a biscuit and a blueberry muffin.  They were out of this world, and I purchased a bag of biscuits to take home for dinner (a coffeeneuring first).

Bike-friendly–the usual comment about McLean.  Good enough for bikes if not perfect (no bike lanes or paths).  Unfortunately, no bike rack here either.  We leaned our tandem against the wall.  No problem.

Photo of Nolan at Sweetbites:


Note that he’s wearing a Halloween appropriate jersey under his trainer.

From there we rode to Clemyjontri.  A boy named Jonathan asked Nolan to play with him, and they did play together for a while.  Might not seem like a big thing, but given Nolan’s development level he doesn’t generally play with other kids.  I was pleasantly surprised that Nolan did try to play with Jonathan for a while. (Nolan said that Jonathan’s mother was a “big girl.”)

Then we rode home, stopping for a late lunch at McLean Family Restaurant. Ride total was about 14 miles.

Nolan trick or treating that night:

Nolan Halloween 2015

He was a train engineer.

Sunday, we rode to Reston Zoo, a small private zoo in Reston.  I didn’t want to ride Hunter Mill Road with Nolan  (too narrow and uphill), so I sought a route from Google Maps.  It showed a route through Lake Fairfax park, which I knew to be unpaved.  Google maps does this, as i learned the hard way trying to get to my Daughter’s concert at a middle school (she was student teaching there) last week, but that’s another story. So I took the W&OD to Wiehle Rd., and on a path I found (also using Google maps) that ran though woods and suburban neighborhoods for a couple of miles.  Fairly hilly and covered with wet leaves.

At the zoo, Nolan rode a horse and a camel.

Nolan on horseNolan riding camel Nov 1 2015

He had a blast.

We left and returned the way we came, stopping at Caffe Amouri in Vienna for a mango smoothie and a dark drip coffee.  Both were excellent.  We had an almond croissant and a muffin too. Also good.

Very bike-friendly, as it is on Church St. just a 1/2 block from the W&OD. It has a bike rack, but it didn’t work for our 20 inch tires. We leaned the tandem against the railing and locked it to the railing. No Problem.

Ride distance: about 24 miles total, though the cafe is just 3 miles from out house.

We need 2 more coffeeneuring rides to complete the 7 over the next two more weekends.  But I am traveling next weekend, so Nolan and i will need to do two the following weekend, the final one.  Let’s hope for good weather!

Coffeeneuring with Nolan, ## 2 and 3

Catching up on my coffeeneuring reportage.

Coffeeneur # 2 (Oct. 17) was the usual ride to Clemyjontri Playground, where we spent hours, mostly on the swing and the carousel. On our way home, we stopped at Star Nut in McLean.  Nolan had a strawberry smoothie. starwberry smoothie

I had a Mexican Mayan Mocha.  We each had croissants.

coffee and croisants at Star Nut

The coffee was great.  And you can’t get this anywhere else.  Mexican Mayan Mocha is to a mocha as Mexican Hot Chocolate is to hot chocolate–it has cinnamon and other spices in it.

Bike-friendliness: okay.  There’s a bike rack in back though we parked along the building.  It’s in McLean, where there are no bike lanes, but we have no problem negotiating there on a tandem.

Distance: 14 miles round-trip.

Coffeeneur # 3 was on Sunday Oct. 25.  (We did the usual ride to Clemyjontri on Saturday, and stopped at McLean family Restaurant, but couldn’t count that under coffeeneuring rules because we’d already been there.)  Something new today: an out and back ride on the W&OD with no playground stop.

We went to Green Lizard Cycling in Herndon, right by the W&OD. Nolan had a mango smoothie.  I had a mocha. We also had croissants.  Everything was great, including the very friendly service.  I also bought some handlebar tape on the table of deeply discounted stuff.  A friendly employee took this picture of Nolan and me by our bike outside:

Nolan and I at Green Lizard

Note Nolan’s great new wool jersey.

Bike-friendliness: 5 stars.  It’s a bike shop, with bike rack in front (not adequate for our tandem), and just across the street from the W&OD.  You can’t get bike-friendlier.

The ride was 22 miles roundtrip.  Nolan held up well.  I’d never taken him past Hunter Mill Road before, and I haven’t done that recently even.

Cannonball Century with Mary

My sister Mary bought a used LeMond (853 tubing and full Ultegra – a great find) this summer and started riding more. So in August I proposed to her that she ride a century with me, though she’d never ridden that distance. I normally do about three every fall. Mary agreed, and she started on a training program to work up to 100 miles. We signed up for the Cannonball Century, run by the Fredericksburg Cyclists Club, which I’d done before. This is a well-supported century run on rural roads. It is mostly flat, but has some hills in the last 10-15 miles. (I told Mary it was flat with one hill at the end, which was honestly the way I remembered it. It’s flatter than any of the other centuries I have done.)

We did the ride on my 1994 trek T200 tandem. It’s a great bike that hasn’t been used in years. I regularly ride my Green Gear Family tandem with my son Nolan who is disabled (and I’ve ridden on it with other children and adults at times), but the Trek hadn’t been ridden in years and was sitting in the shed. To get it ready for the ride I had Bikenetic install new direct pull brakes and levers, as the cantilevers (old XTRs) weren’t up to par. They also replaced the front wheel (couldn’t find needle bearings to replace broken ones in old hub) and installed a new stoker seatpost clamp, and new bar tape. I adjusted the timing chain, and installed a second odometer for the stoker and pedals for the stoker.

Mary flew down from Rhode Island on Friday (in time to see my son’s band, Kendall Street Company, play a great show at the Bayou on Penn on Friday night-but that’s another story). The ride was yesterday. It was in the low 40s at the ride start so we were bundled up. But we started shedding layers at the first rest stop at mile 13. We left that stop with another tandem team that outdistanced us after a bit. We never saw another tandem after that.

We stopped at every rest stop (there were 5, so the ride was essentially broken into sixths), and after a bit in between stops as both of our butts hurt. I think my problem rested not with my beloved Arione saddle, but with the fact that we were always seated, as I don’t have the experience to stand and ride with a stoker.

At mile 30, we had to stop to adjust Mary’s saddle. We also discovered we’d broken a spoke on the rear wheel. (We’d heard a noise a few miles back but the wheel seemed okay as we were riding and we continued on.) I removed it and adjusted brakes and wheel to nearly but not quite eliminate brake rub. We hoped there’d be a mechanic at the next rest stop and there was but he didn’t have spokes. Time to get a Kevlar emergency spoke for the future. Fortunately, the wheel held up for the remaining 72 miles.

I have to say that with my limited experience piloting a 700C tandem with an adult (the Family Tandem has a lower center of gravity and of course my 13 year old is smaller than an adult) I wasn’t sure what to expect as far as piloting the tandem, but I had no problems. We never rode in a group. On steep twisting descents I used the brakes to control speed, adopting a more conservative approach than I would riding my single bike.

We finished in 6 hours and 20 minutes—20 minutes slower than my first guesstimate as to our time, which was based on wishful thinking, but 5 minutes faster than my more realistic estimate for the 102 mile ride. This is an average of 16.1 mph.

Except for the spoke problem, the ride went great. Mary rode strongly. My ancient Trek odometer stopped working, so it was good that I’d installed one for the stoker. Mary kept track of where we were and when a turn was coming up, which was very relaxing compared to trying to read a cue sheet while paying attending to the road. Another great thing about having a stoker: when I wanted to remove a layer while riding such as my long-fingered gloves, for example, Mary would do it and stick the removed item in my rear pockets. No need for me to fiddle with it. The food at the rest stops was great, and included homemade breads and cakes, and great sandwiches that were not just PB&J, such as ham, turkey and cheese with apple butter (great!), and hummus with tomatoes and cucumbers (yummy).

We took so long to do the ride with all the rest stops and extra stops that we skipped the party at the end in order to have dinner with the family.   So I missed the after-ride hamburgers that I have always loved. But truth be told I really ate a lot during the ride.

Thanks Mary for riding with me. And thanks Fredericksburg Cyclists Club for another great century.

Here we are at ride end:

Mary and mee Cannonball Century