Tale of Two Centuries

I rode my first two centuries of the year in the last few weeks.  Both were fun, though they were very different.

On Friday July 28, I rode my first century of the year, Bike to the Beach, a fundraiser for autism.  Among other things, the ride provides funding to Keen Sports, a program for disabled kids (not just autistic kids, but kids with ANY disability – none turned away) that Nolan participates in.  The ride – from D.C. to Dewey Beach–was both great and, well, difficult.  Not difficult in regard to the route—the 107-mile ride was very flat, and I didn’t go very fast – 6 hours 20 minutes for the 107 miles, or just under 17 mph average.  It was difficult in that it leaves at 5 a.m., so I had to get up at 3:40.

ride start

And we’re off at 5 a.m.

Plus after the ride finished, I had to wait for a bus back to D.C., then wait in pouring rain for my bike to arrive by separate truck, and then drive home, getting in after 11 p.m.  I was pretty tired.  But felt great that I’d both completed a century and raised money for Keen $895 myself; over $5K for the Keen Team of which I was a part.). And we finished the ride before the rain hit.

Doing this ride was more gratifying than other centuries as I accomplished something for a worthy cause.  You also get a different group of participants–some were accomplished cyclists no doubt, but there were many who had never or rarely done a century, or even any long ride (one of my teammates had never ridden more than 35 miles – she finished). There were people cheering us as we finished, and they never let up. I eventually joined them and cheered the stragglers.  Some autistic kids joined the ride for the last several miles too.

The next Thursday a friend told me he was doing Mountain Mama in Monterey Virginia. So I decided to do that.  Most difficult century I’ve done.  10,000 feet of climbing.



I rode a lot in the small ring, often matched to the largest cog (34X29), sometimes in the 34X27 or the 25, at speeds of as low as 7 mph.  When I finished a climb, I had a fast and frankly often scary descent.  The first descent was the worst due to hairpin turns and the fact I was still in a group of riders, some of whom were braver/riskier than me and descended faster through the hairpins passing me on both sides.


A bit of flat riding, but you can see the hills.

My top speed was 45 mph, and it would have been higher if I hadn’t kept my speed down by feathering the brakes and sitting up to catch air.  The ride took 7 hours and 3 minutes (on bike time; 8:15 including stoppage time at the well-equipped and friendly rest stops), for an average speed of 14.2 mph, easily my slowest century ever. (Second slowest would be a 105-mile century I did on Skyline drive, time 7:05, average speed 15.1 mph.)

next 4 miles

A welcome sign at top of the third to last climb.

It was an awesome ride, and I don’t know why I didn’t see lots of cyclists I know from DC there.  I registered day of ride, and I was cyclist number 211, so it’s a small century in terms of riders.

trees and hills

Another great thing: nestled in the mountains, it is colder there.  Temperature at ride start was only 55, and it was only 70 at ride end at 4:15 p.m.



Project 80K and 8K

This year I embarked on what I call Project 80K and 8K, with no fanfare.  8k means I will bike 8,000 miles this year. That’s probably what I do in a normal year, though I don’t usually keep track.  (The last year I kept track was 1980—my last year racing.)  80K means I’ll get my weight down to 80 kg., or 176 pounds.  I am actually aiming for 175, which is my college weight.

So how am I doing?  I started the year a bit slow.  Mileage-wise, my months have been as follows:

Jan.        651 mis.

Feb.       455

March   600

April       917

May       998

Total YTD= 3634 miles

So I started slow, but am getting in good position to meet my goal.  212 of those miles were with my disabled son Nolan on a tandem.

nolan and me selfie

Nolan and me at Star Nut in McLean VA.

April was a pretty good month, because I got back to doing a longish ride every weekend.  The last weekend in April I did three rides, including a 20 miler with Nolan – an out and back group ride from the Wiehle Avenue metro to Fairfax County Springfest in Chantilly.  Nolan enjoys group rides, and his rides need a destination so this ride was perfect.  We saw turtles, a hawk, and an owl at Springest.

May was an even better month.  I finally got some dirt road riding.  I rode to a place near Middleburg to meet my wife and Nolan the second to last Thursday. That meant a 63-mile day, including my daily commute followed by my ride to Middleburg.  My route included the W&OD (to Smith’s Switch Station Road), then some really busy roads, followed by some rural roads, both paved and unpaved.  Would have been great ride had it not rained, but even in the rain it was pretty great.  I did have to stop for ten minutes during a torrential downpour though.  Glad I took my raincoat.

That Friday I rode about two miles with Nolan on dirt roads.  It was too hilly where we were staying to do more with Nolan. Saturday I did a short ride, some on dirt roads, by the Philomont General Store and on roads local cyclists would know, such as Jeb Stuart Road (NOT in the direction where you have to ford the creek).  Sunday I road home, but by a circuitous route that took me over many dirt roads, including several I recognized from past rides. It was a pleasant 77 miler, despite about 45 minutes of rain early on.

bike loudon

Bike on a bridge over a creek on a dirt road in Loudon Cnty.

The following weekend saw me do three rides again, one with Nolan.  May put me over 700 miles per month average, so I am now on track for 8000 for the year.

My weight? Despite formulating Project 8K and 80K before the New Year, I didn’t even bother to weight myself or start dieting until April.  On April 3 I decided I needed to start, and I weighed myself.  14 stone, 12 pounds.  It sounds better that way, since no one knows what a stone is.  But it’s 208 pounds. Ouch.  Next day, after first day of my diet, 209 pounds! Double ouch.  But today I am down to 195, so I am off to a decent start. Still, I doubt at this pace I will reach 175.


Coffeeneuring with Nolan ## 7 and 8

Nolan and I wrapped up our coffeeneuring adventures a couple of weeks ago but I neglected to write it up.  On November 6, we did our 7th coffeeneuring.  We had gone to Clemyjontri playground on the tandem, as we often do.  On the way back, we had lunch and drinks at Chesapeake Bagel Bakery in McLean.  I had a drip coffee, which was fine. Nolan had chocolate milk.  We ate ham sandwiches.  Bike-friendliness?  Same as most other McLean locations, maybe a little less friendly as I had to park the tandem a couple doors down. nov-7-chesapeake-bagel-bakeryNolan had a Keen Sports class at Kilmer Middle School, so we had to hurry. I dropped him off, rode the tandem solo to Café Amouri, where I got a good cup of coffee (ginger spiced latte), and then picked Nolan up and rode home.  Had to fix a flat, first we’ve had on the road that I recall.  Total distance with Nolan was about 14 miles.

On November 19, for coffeeneuring #8, we rode to Bentley’s Family Restaurant on Route 50 for breakfast.  I had drip coffee and bacon and eggs; Nolan had chocolate milk, Belgian waffle, and bacon.  This is a great place for breakfast.  Easy to access by bike (maybe one mile from the W&OD by side roads), and easy bike parking.  We’ve been there twice since in fact.  bentleys-nov-19Nolan’s a happy kid.  His new wool jersey is rather long, and his old wool trainer is getting too small!

After the restaurant, we rode to Bikenetic to purchase spare tubes, then to Clemyjontri, and then home.  About 18 miles total.

That wraps up the official part of coffeeneuring, but then Nolan and I are always coffeeneuring.


Coffeeneuring with Nolan ## 4, 5 & 6

Coffeeneuring with Nolan isn’t really about going to get coffee.  It’s more a combination of errandoneuring and coffeeneuring, or just trying to work cycling into our day.

Coffeneuring # 4

On Saturday October 22 we did our usual ride to Clemyjontri playground, followed by lunch at McLean Family Restaurant, or MFR for short. We had already used MFR for a coffeeneuring trip, so this wouldn’t count for that, but we were hungry and looking for sustenance.  After that, we rode to Claude Moore Colonial Farm in McLean, near the CIA. This is a reconstructed 18th century farm.  Nolan enjoyed the animals, especially Helen the blind chicken who alone among the chickens is allowed into the farmhouse.  We fed Rosie the cow.

Then we rode to Greenberry’s Coffee & Tea in McLean. Nolan had chocolate milk, I had a cappucino, and we both had croissants.  It was very good. I also ran into an old high school friend of my son Brian and we had a nice chat.  Greenberry’s is bike-friendly enough (see my posts re biking in McLean).


Total mileage: 14.

Coffeeneuring #5

The next weekend, Nolan was invited to the French Embassy for a special event, a Euro Festival for disabled kids and adults. (I studied French for years, including in France, where I also worked as an illegal immigrant laborer, but do they invite me? Non!) It was called Keen Day for Special Needs Children.  We were going to drive, because my wife was going to go, but she backed out. When I checked and saw that the embassy is in Georgetown, I realized we could bike it, so we did. It was a beautiful day for biking, and we had a blast at the festival.  We saw Greek dancing, which we joined in on, Irish dancing (which Nolan declined to do), and did a zumba class. If you haven’t zumbaed with disabled kids you missed something. They are totally unself-conscious. It was great to see everyone having such fun.  The event was organized by Keen, which stands for Kids Enjoy Exercise Now. They have sports and other events for disabled kids.greek-dancing

We rode to the embassy up Foxhall Road, but returned via 35th Street in order to ride down the steep cobble-stoned hill.  Nolan enjoyed that.  I wouldn’t do it again on the tandem as it is very steep and the tandem’s brakes not the best.

We returned by the Custis and W&OD trails, stopping at Mike’s Deli at Lazy Sundae for lunch and coffee.  I had a regular coffee and a burger; Nolan had a chocolate milk and hot dog.mikes-deliThe coffee was good by deli standards. Mike’s Deli is bike-friendly in that it is right off of the W&OD.  (I have been told that it will be moving to the corner of Broad Street and Shreve Road, at the site of the old Arthur Treacher’s.)

Total mileage: 24, one of Nolan’s longer rides.  He held up well, never complaining.

Coffeeneuring #6

On Sunday, we road to Vienna to get haircuts.haircutAfter the haircuts, we went to Jammin’ Java in Vienna. JJ is primarily a music venue, but it also has a coffee shop.  I had a cappuccino; Nolan had a smoothie, the “Natural” I think it was called.  They were both good, though they only offered one size cappucino, and served it in a paper cup.jammin-java

Bike-friendliness: it is near the W&OD.  You can ride up Maple Avenue from where the W&OD crosses it, but there is a better way by side streets from a side trail off the W&OD.  We ride roads to get there (Gallows to Electric etc.), and they are wide and bike-friendly too.  There’s a bike rack on Elden Street or you can lock up right in front.

I can’t say I love JJ as a coffee shop, but it is one of my favorite music venues.  I have seen Bill Kirchen here (think Hot Rod Lincoln), as well as That One Guy, among others.  When my son Brian was in high school, he formed an Irishy folk-rock band that played a Sunday afternoon gig here as part of a show of high school rock bands that also included his friend Michelle’s punk band. (Michelle later became our “adopted” daughter. Long story for another time.)

Distance: 6 miles.

Shameless Plugs

My son Brian’s current band Kendall Street Company occasionally performs in the D.C. area.  They’ll be performing at Gypsy Sally’s on December 20.  The band played last Friday night at the Bayou on Penn, where they wore Halloween costumes.  Here’s Brian in shark suit playing bass:


Another shameless plug, coffee-related: You can buy a coffee named the “Michelle”, after our Michelle, at Pineapple and Pearls, where she is a barista.

Coffeeneuring with Nolan 2016 – Our First Three Rides

It’s coffeeneuring time again.  September brings centuries, and then October brings coffeeneuring.

I participate in coffeeneuring with my 14-year old son Nolan.  He is intellectually and physically disabled, but can ride a tandem that I have modified only slightly (back rest and special pedals).  He loves riding the tandem.  When he wants to ride, he says “bike clothes.”

Coffeeneuring is the perfect ride for us.  Nolan can’t join me for longer rides, and our rides tend to be shorter rides to some place we need or want to go to.  Pretty much all of our rides involve stopping at a restaurant or coffee shop.  The main challenge of coffeeneuring for us has been to expand our usual route and try new places.

This is our third year doing coffeeneuring together.  We have done three rides so far.

Coffeeneuring #1 (Sat., Oct. 8).

It was raining but Nolan insisted on a bike ride.  First we went to the City of Falls Church Farm Day at Cherry Hill Park, where they had a petting zoo, and Nolan rode a pony and the train.


Then we went to Cafe Kindred, 450 N Washington St. (Route 29), Falls Church, http://www.cafekindred.com/ . I had a Dutch Apple Pie latte, which was excellent. Nolan had chocolate milk and a cookie.  nolan-at-cafe

This is a great place for coffee.  With the latte, they serve a tiny cookie and a shot of sparkling water.  apple-pie-latteThey also have great food (and beer on tap!), and they are very friendly. Gary gave Nolan a T-shirt on our previous visit, and on another visit when we arrived late and they were closed Gary opened up for us.  I highly recommend it if you haven’t tried it.

It is bike-friendly, being very close to the W&OD.

Total distance: 7 miles.

Coffeeneuring # 2 (Sat. Oct. 15).

Nolan and I first rode to  Clemyjontri Playground.  We go here often. It is pretty much Nolan’s favorite place on earth.  This is a playground designed for disabled children and able-bodied children alike.  Among other things, it has a carousel. Nolan’s favorite things to do here are ride the swing and the carousel. (He used to call the latter the “horse-around”—a term he coined—but now he says “carouself,” like there’s an f on the end.)


Here he is on the carousel:nolan-at-clemy


After Clemyjontri, we rode to McLean Family Restaurant, our number one stopping point on our rides. They have breakfast until 3, and we usually get breakfast. (side-note: we often wee Newt Gingrich here with Calista, but they were not there this time) Nolan had waffle, turkey sausage and milk.  I had a corned beef and cheese omelette and coffee.  The coffee is pretty good by diner standards.


I forgot to take a pic of our coffee stop, so only photo from this ride is of Nolan on the horse.

Bike-friendliness: fine.  It is in the business part of McLean, and there’s no bike rack, but plenty of room and places to lock your bike, and I have never had problems riding through McLean.


Total distance: 12 miles.


Coffeeneuring #3 (Sun. Oct. 16).


Another day, another trip to Clemyjontri, this time followed by a stop at Star Nut Cafe in McLean.  I had a cappucino and a croissant with spinach and feta. Nolan had a mango smoothie and a plain croissant:nolan-at-star-nut


As always at Star Nut, the coffee, smoothie, and croissants were excellent. They always are.  The ambiance here is great.  Though you order at the counter, they bring your order to your table and you pay when you leave.  They have a nice patio area that overlooks a fountain too.  The place has a sort of old world feel, and in fact there are always conversations going on in foreign languages.


Bike-friendliness: good.  See above re biking in McLean. They have a bike rack in the parking garage at the back of the shop, but we prefer to just park along the side nearer to the entrance.

From there we rode to Nolan’s sports class, so our total distance exceeded yesterday’s by a bit.


Total distance: 13 miles.

“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.