Brief but beautiful

I woke up on Thursday in a really bad mood, still contemplating the road ahead with radiation treatments. I didn’t really want to inflict myself on anyone else so cancelled my registration for the RBC Ramble ride, scheduled for wheels rolling at 10.

But around 8:45 I decided I could be in a better pissy mood on the bike than at home so scrambled to get my act together and tell Laura I was on my way.

Amazingly, I remembered all my stuff and got to her house to pick her up in plenty of time to meet our riders at Skatequest.

There were six of us setting out down the W&OD to see the cherry blossoms at Hains Point and the Tidal Basin. Laura was the ride leader and I rode sweep along with my fellow trail patroller (and president) Bob.

The ride was quite uneventful, except missing the turn-off for lunch.

The cherry blossoms were out, as were the tourists. It is not a banner year for the beautiful spectacle that the trees often provide, and which has prompted the huge festival and influx of tourists, but beauty is found in the smallest of nature’s nod to timeless processes.

The cherry blossom watch reminds me of waiting for a baby to be born. Interpreting the signs correctly and getting the word out has become more exact, but still, natural processes have their own time line. Great anticipation fuels speculation which brings out “experts” from all walks of life. (Like all those strangers who give you baby advice when you’re very obviously pregnant)

But, the blossoms are brief, and subject to the vagaries of weather. A little too warm too soon, or a vicious cold snap, and everything in terms of “peak date” and how fluffed the trees are changes. Add wind, and the staying power of the blossoms are ever so fleeting, their purpose fulfilled as they are swept away. We had all of those conditions leading up to the bloom, and the poor trees were probably confused!

Nonetheless, it is always worth a ride down there. NEVER have I found it worth driving though so although people disparage Metro, I am grateful that it was running just fine and we could catch it home.

It was my longest ride yet since December, and while I was tired, I wasn’t completely wiped out, so I know I’m on my way back. Just short of 30 miles.

And, my pissy mood evaporated too. Funny how that works!


Jefferson Memorial, 2018


Washington Monument, 2018


Magic Surly Straggler, 2018


The Road Back

Today is the last day of the Errandonnee, put on by Mary of Chasing Mailboxes. I wanted to participate this year as part of my ‘victory lap’ but weather forced me to stand down a couple of days. Ordinarily I would double up and still complete the challenge, or I would have ridden in less than ideal conditions, but this year I just don’t have a whole lot of extra energy as I recover.

Dr. S released me to ride outside on March 15 so I drove home and hopped on my bike. It would have been hilarious for anyone watching to see how I was running around trying to find all my cold weather biking stuff! When I last biked outside it was December 11 and (ahem) I didn’t put everything away.

So I biked that day 10 miles, then the weather was crappy. But once it was bearable again I rode to and from George Mason University for the Maker Faire, Sunday, 25 miles. On Monday I rode 11 miles doing errands.

Then it snowed and it took several days to melt off enough that I felt safe to ride. I’m already not great on wet bridges. Add double vision and … yeah.

So the following Monday and Tuesday, just under 15 miles each. Wednesday 22, Thursday 20 and Friday (yesterday) 25 miles home from seeing the Other Doctor.

Dr. S had said the remnant of the tumor (they had to leave it due to location) has grown, so sent me to The Other Doctor, Dr. L. He is very cautious and instead of a “one and done” wants to do the same amount over many sessions because the location is so close to the brain stem.

28, maybe 29 treatments, M-F, probably starting April 16.

Most common side effect is fatigue, and it’s 25 miles biking home from Bethesda. So if I can time the appointments right, I can ride 10 or 12 of that and then hop on Metro. And then come home to take a nap.

So, on the eve of Easter, I’m counting my blessings. Two very successful healthy children. Good health care. A husband who is always ready to drop whatever he is doing to come answer a “Mayday” (yesterday in Vienna at the 25 miles in the rain and headwinds point), a home, heat and a/c, transportation, resources sufficient to more than provide for our needs and many of our wants. And friends and family who are awesome and loving and supportive.

Here are my photos from my attempted Errandonnee:


Fantastic Thai Food @Nunu’s


Wednesday Ramble to Bolivian food




As I left Bethesda…


So take THAT stupid tumor. You are not the boss of me!


Second Ride!

Today was the Maker Faire so I decided to bike to it. It’s not a pretty or easy ride. I could have done half of it on the W&OD and it would have been prettier and easier, but 6 miles longer. I’m thinking about whether it would have been worth it.


For example, this is one of the intersections I had to cross. What would someone in a wheelchair do? And it’s not at an insignificant intersection! It’s near a grocery store (the only one in the area) and lots of multi-family housing. The corner I was standing on has a PARK on it – no one would be going there in a wheelchair or with a stroller, would they?

Monument Dr and Legato

Worse, it’s very close to Fairfax County Department of Transportation, which makes visiting the Bike Coordinator Office a not-very pleasant biking opportunity.

I did see lots of people on bikes out. On the way over to George Mason University (where the Faire was) I saw a guy with two women. Their bikes were all loaded down with panniers, etc., but they weren’t touring. He was in spandex. The women asked if I knew where the trail continued (they were in a confusing spot). I started to answer and he said, “I know where we are.” I just smiled and pedaled on.

On the way back, some guys who were doing the FC Parkway Trail from south to north were at that same place and asked me how to get to the Parkway Trail. I told them and they listened and rode off happily. It’s one of the places where the trail goes away from the parkway in order to cross I-66 safely. It’s a little jog, and it has wayfinding signs, but getting through it can definitely depend on your attitude.

So the ride was just under 25 miles round trip with a fair amount of headwind and sidewind. But it was outside, it was on a bike, and there was no precipitation.

It’s very easy for me to focus on where I was prior to December vs. where I am now in terms of ease of riding. If I do, I get very discouraged. So I’m going to keep focusing on the horizon (necessary because of the double vision) and pedaling at whatever speed my body allows me to do so.

Now I need a nap.

Back in the Saddle Again

So excited. When I last logged in, I was facing brain surgery. Today is exactly 3 months since it occurred and a visit with my neurosurgeon today cleared me for biking outside again! The tumor was non-cancerous and my recovery has been awesome. He said I’m the poster child for recovery from neurosurgery.

The bad news is that despite biking indoors on the trainer for the last month, I’ve gained a bunch of weight back due to inaction and stress eating. So I desperately need to get back on the bike for my mental and physical health!

Fortunately, he cleared me just in time to join the Errandonnee Adventure hosted by awesome biker Mary @ Chasing Mailboxes.

It’s so simple: 12 errands in 12 days, complete 30 miles running or biking, March 20-31. There are categories, and a few rules (that actually make it fun and more of an adventure).

So, lube your chain and find all your not-quite-warm-yet riding gear and get out there to earn your own Errandonnee patch!

Details are here:

My first outside ride for 2018 on two wheels — today, on the Surly, 10.9 from home to Green Lizard Cycling, Coffee & Beer, and return. Ran into Laura (well, not literally) on the way back and we did a couple of miles together. It felt great!

It’s Good to Have Goals

So … my goal for 2019 is to ride from Paris to Istanbul with TDA Tours, their “Orient Express” ride.

Why wait so long?

2018 will be the year of healing, getting stronger, and doing lots of teaching and advocacy.


Well, yes. This Friday I will have surgery to remove a non-cancerous brain tumor that if left untreated will take my hearing and balance. I’ll be off the bike for 6 weeks. (Clever how I scheduled winter to coincide with this, right?). I’m told that some of the after effects take a while to disappear or normalize. So I’m giving myself all of 2018 to get used to the new normals (if there are any), recover from the sheer assault on the body that surgery is, and build up my advocacy/business side to make some money in order to do the tour. I’ve committed to doing a couple of shorter rides (MS Ride in Richmond with Vanetha), but no major treks like 2017 and 2016.

3900 km (2237 miles)

39 ride days, 11 rest days

Less than 60 miles per day average. Food, culture, Europe … what’s not to like?

France, Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey

And if I like the company, I’ll consider doing their Silk Road ride to celebrate turning 60 when that occurs in 2021!

In the meantime, I’m riding on this kind of stuff and not liking it much.


Quick and Colorful

Today was a project day. My goal was to get some of the Thanksgiving prep done as well as a project or two.

Making the pie crust went well. There’s something very satisfying about making my own piecrust. Sure, I love pumpkin pie, but I could just eat the baked crust and be very happy.

My first project was to use some flannel fabric I’ve had for a while to make pajama pants. I found a simple pattern on-line and started in. I got the pieces cut out and pinned and started sewing using some thread I had on hand. Of course, I ran out about 3/4 of the way through.

But it was a beautiful day so I put on my bike clothes and headed out to Joann Fabrics. It’s only 7.5 miles from my house. I wanted to ride my Cannondale because I haven’t done so for a while. That necessitates putting on my road bike shoes as well as using a backpack. I transferred everything I needed into the backpack, and put on my shoes and then spent another 20 minutes looking for my cleat covers that make it easier to walk off the bike, and protect the cleats. I finally gave up and went outside to prep the bike.

Boy, did the tires need air! They were very happy when I pumped them back up to 100. I got everything set on the bike (including my speaker), set my phone to my playlist and got on the bike. After trying to clip in 3 times it hit me that I had stored the cleat covers … on the cleats. Du-uh.

The ride was uneventful. When I turned down W. Ox Rd I had an intermittent headwind but it was a beautiful, warm day, so I didn’t care. Plus, I haven’t been on the Synapse for a while so the riding felt like flying! It is so much lighter than the Surly!

I got what I needed plus a few things that jumped into my basket that might have a Christmas theme…

Before heading back I stopped for lunch at a Japanese restaurant there. I had seen it many times but never wanted to take the time to stop. There are also several other eating establishments so I hadn’t gotten around to it.

Let’s just say it was a learning experience — as in I learned to not stop for lunch there again.

I won’t mention the name because I can’t recommend it. I’ll admit I’m very picky about Japanese food. We lived in Japan when I was young and my dad was a total snob about the quality of tempura and yakitori one should demand. It rubbed off on me. I ordered a bento box lunch which included salad, miso soup, tempura and california rolls. The salad was sparse and the orange ginger dressing was very sugary. The miso was too salty. I thought it was just my taste buds being over sensitive but then the cali rolls and chicken were flavorless and the chicken yakitori was dry.  The final sin was that the tempura was soggy. My bill was $11.61. I gave them a $20 and was waiting for my change … and waiting … and waiting … I finally called the waitress over and asked, “May I have my change, please?” Did she really think I was going to tip her $8?

The sad thing is that there were a number of people in there who think that is what Japanese food should taste like! So, don’t go there. Whatever its name is.

The ride home was AWESOME. The wind had picked up and I had great tailwinds all the way.

When I got home I sewed a little bit more and then put the Surly on the bike rack to do some work on making it a holiday bike. In December I’ll be helping lead a community bike ride in Herndon with a holiday heroes theme. I think this is a good beginning. Once I put multicolored lights on the rack and my Christmas bells on the handlebars, I’ll be ready! Oh, I can’t forget the antlers that go on my helmet. 🙂


After dinner I sewed some more. The first pair of pajama pants is finished except for a little trim that I’ll put on tomorrow. I decided to wear them tonight to see if they hold up to my tossing and turning! I like them so far but I think I’ll make the next pair a little longer. Why are so many pajama pants made to be capris? Hmmm. Here’s the first glance at them:


I love the little bird on the seat in this print.

So, a quick 15 with color in everything I did today.

Back to regular riding

Today was errand day. I dilly-dallied around the house long enough that it was quite nice by the time I set out!

My first goal was to ride in the new bike lanes (again) on Colts Neck to see how the refuge island turned out. The crosswalk connects with a path on the west side (the left in my photos), but on the right, if one wants to stay on pavement (usually necessary for the disabled), one has to choose left or right on the sidewalk. Left takes you to the entrance where there is no sidewalk. Of course, you can take either of the two small sidewalks branching off to the Dunkin Donuts or better yet, there’s one that puts the intrepid person in a wheelchair or with a stroller smack dab in the middle of the Burger King drivethru!

Going right takes you to the main entrance where … yep, you guessed it, there is no sidewalk. Looking at the photo you can see the curb of the “T” — “Thou shall not pass!” But we all know that there will be a goat trail from that curb to the shopping center across that grass pretty soon.

Sigh. Here is the photo. At least there’s a refuge island now to compliment the road diet:


Next I headed to my farthest destination – Trader Joes. I have never figured out that store. It’s always crowded with people who show little consideration for others; the shelves and bins are always crammed with product, making it difficult to see/find what one wants, and I was nearly run over in the parking lot. And it’s not just because it’s the Monday of Thanksgiving week. It is always this way. Today was the third time I went there and came away empty handed. That’s it – I’m done with that place.

From there I went to a different grocery store, searched the entire store and FINALLY found what I was looking for. (I know, I could have asked but I was enjoying the hunt). Then I stopped by the office supply store where a young man, seeing my last name said, “I knew a Westenhoff…” I asked his year at South Lakes – yep, he was in my son’s class and remembered him. It’s a unique name … I dropped off depleted ink cartridges and picked up the supplies for one of my ‘when the weather gets crappy’ projects.

Oh…while I was in there (Office Depot), I saw these shopping bags. If you need to refresh yours, these are only .99!


Do you think the Chinese people who produce all of our crap ever wonder whether we’re sane? It’s cute, it’s a bike, but …

Next was Target as I needed a couple of gift cards and a birthday card for my brother. And look what I found! If you need a white elephant gift, these are only $6 and it’s 3 pair. You can keep the pair with the bikes on them, and wrap up the other two boring pairs as the white elephant.


You’re welcome.

And Then I saw this card! But I decided that since it is HIS birthday and not mine, and he’s not nearly as enthusiastic about bikes as I am, I’d get him something else. But I did like this card! (The sentiment inside didn’t really fit our relationship either…)


And my last stop was yet another grocery store close to my house to get his Amazon gift card because Target doesn’t sell them.

In all, 10 miles and lots of sunshine. Ken’s card and gift card are in the mail. Finished my sister’s package, stored up supplies for my long winter nap, and generally had a good day.