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!

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Jefferson Memorial, 2018

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Washington Monument, 2018

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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:

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Fantastic Thai Food @Nunu’s

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Wednesday Ramble to Bolivian food

 

 

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As I left Bethesda…

 

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

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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.

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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: https://chasingmailboxes.com/2018/03/11/errandonnee-2018-the-details-of-our-lives/

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.

Healing?

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.

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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. 🙂

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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:

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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:

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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!

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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.

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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…)

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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.

Coffeeneuring Conclusion

I finished #7 today with a short ride, not far out of my neighborhood, with a very good friend. It was great to get him out on his recumbent again and we rode in the new bike lanes. Sadly, today one was blocked because they’re putting in a crosswalk with pedestrian refuge island. Sadder still, the crosswalk is going in NOT where people cross, but where “line of sight” will be compliant with VDOT standards. When will planners start to look at where people actually naturally cross barriers (the yellow spots) and design accordingly?

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The yellow is where people cross right now — to the entrance of the shopping center and to a bus stop directly across from a walking path. The green is where they’re putting the crosswalk in — and having to create an entrance to boot!

 

We rode up the lanes and worked our way over to our goal, just past Fairfax County Parkway on Sunset Hills where it turns into Spring Street. Turning into the Sunset Park light industrial area we saw a bakery, two cafes, Dunkin Donuts, a gelato place and our destination, Weird Brothers Coffee. It was excellent coffee (my usual latte) and the price was right (Rick paid – ha ha).

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Not the most visually arresting sign!

The portion was generous:

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The bike parking left a lot to be desired:

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After coffee and solving some of the world’s major problems, we left there and went north on Herndon Parkway to the W&OD trail access and rode back to Reston. Rick peeled off to his neighborhood and I crossed Reston Parkway to get home. Near my house there is an elementary school which has often had terrible traffic issues.

Thus, I’ve been excited to see the restriping going on around the school. In some places they’re putting in bike lanes. Although usually I love bike lines, in this case I’m ambivalent about them.  What the safety folks really wanted to do was get rid of the parking on both sides of the street because of the danger to the kids of all that congestion. That required removal of car parking.

In my imagination, I see this occurring in a meeting: “Aha! we now have room for a bike lane!” But they never needed a bike lane through there to begin with – just less congestion from on-street parking, and now it will just annoy the people looking for a place to park and make them blame cyclists. Moreover, in the parts where they do allow the on-street parking, they’ve put down sharrows and they’re not all in the right place, nor were they necessary. They could have just left it to the cyclist to determine where it is safe to ride. With the sharrows, drivers will insist we have to use them (similar to them getting mad when we don’t use a bike lane).

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The yellow tags in the left side of the photo is where the center line will go…the sharrow puts the rider firmly in the door zone which is a real danger in this area with all the school parking.

It is exciting to see infrastructure come to Reston, but sometimes I wonder if anyone who actually rides this route was listened to!

Nonetheless, a little over 9 miles round trip and a sweet finish to the 2017 Coffeeneuring season.

I wasn’t finished though. After a quick trip home for some lunch I biked to Herndon to help with after school bike shop. A cold front was moving in and I had head winds the whole way. The school is northwest of my house. The winds were out of the north west. Sigh. The kids have done a great job getting the bikes ready for the holiday giveaway. They’re almost all ready – just tweaking to go. And wrapping with big bows!

That northwest wind made riding home from bikeshop chilly but tailwind the whole way was SSWWEEEEET! Arrived home in time to make a Blue Apron dinner special. Life is good.

 

Coffeeneur #6 – Closing In on the Finish

Took a long ride out to Leesburg today to visit my Coffeeneur #6 site. I rode with my buddy Laura for the first part until she split off at Ashburn to go see her son. I don’t blame her – if I could veer off to see my son, I would too. Plus he promised to fix her bike so who would turn that down?

On our way out we had the thrill of riding in the new bike lanes on Colts Neck Road in Reston. VDOT turned this road into a road diet and it’s WONDERFUL. (This photo is on my way back, but I liked it so much on the way out, I retraced my steps going home!)

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This used to be 2 lanes each way, no bike lanes, and peds crossed at their own risk.

Near Herndon we discovered this delight along the trail!

Bike pump, stand and TOOLS! It’s in the short section of the W&OD between Van Buren and Elden.

When I got out to Leesburg I went to King Street Coffee. What a lovely little place with excellent skim latte (I know, no imagination), and delicious pumpkin cake!

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Don’t judge me — I rode 20 miles to get this cake…and it served as my lunch. King Street Coffee also has a restroom, good bike parking, and a great location in an old building in the historic part of Leesburg. Think about it – they named it King Street because when the town was formed, the people there lived as British subjects!

This was one of the inside walls of the place. Kind of interesting, right?

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After my coffee I stopped by South Street Under to pick up some of their delicious bread. I eagerly anticipate the next couple of days of yummy flavored morning toast. Mmmm…

I headed back to Herndon to meet my friend Radhika at Green Lizard. On my way out with Laura I had found a small purse on the trail right by their store. It had ID, money, and keys in it so I took it in to Alex and asked her to do some location magic and reunite it with its owner. When I got back this afternoon she said the woman had been delighted when Alex called. Whew!

It was a good ride today – cold, and mostly overcast, with a slight cross-wind, but dry. Any day outside on the bike beats not riding, so I was content.

My last photo — the landscape crew obviously does not appreciate the new bikelanes as much as I do. We don’t even have curbside leaf pickup in Fairfax County so there’s no reason for them to put it here. Sigh.

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40 miles for coffee. One more and my fall goals will be met!

Marching to Coffeeneur #5

I love hanging out with my biking friend Laura. She is always up for last minute creative (sometimes a bit wacky) adventures, and sometimes she initiates them!

Such was our Monday adventure. She had heard that on Monday, the 163rd birthday of John Philip Sousa, there would be a brief memorial and concert by The President’s Own at Congressional Cemetery where he is buried. Even better, there would be CAKE!

The timing necessitated us taking Metro but the Metro rules on when you can take bikes on board made it a little tricky. If we had ridden our bikes to our local station, it’s too far out for us to get on board in time to allow travel time to the destination by when the event was to start. So we threw the bikes on the back of my car and drove to a station that was closer in. It wasn’t quite 10 when we got into the station but the station manager told us to go on in, “Rush hour is over ladies.” (I love someone who exercises some good common sense).

We got to Potomac Avenue station in plenty of time to hop on and bike the .5 miles to the cemetery. Congressional Cemetery is an active burial location and has the graves of many of history’s figures, such as Matthew Brady, and Leonard Matlovich.

The ceremony started with an actor impersonating John Philip Sousa. He was droll and humorous. I don’t know if Sousa himself was ever that lighthearted (my experience with band directors has been that they gravitate to the ‘take themselves way too seriously’ side), but it made for a good show.

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After he spoke the Marine Band marched into the cemetery and took their place in front of Sousa’s grave.

They opened with Semper Fidelis, by John Philip Sousa.

Next was presentation of the colors.

There’s nothing like singing the National Anthem accompanied by The President’s Own! Nobody was taking any knees in this crowd.

The director spoke a few words, largely indicating that he and the Sousa re-enactor had read the same Wikipedia article. 🙂

The director placed a wreath and Laura tells me the tune was Eternal Father. Thanks Laura for correcting me on that!

They finished, of course, with his most well-known march, Stars and Stripes Foreverwhich has come to be known as “America’s March.” The piccolo player was fantastic. Watching the fingers of the clarinetists took me back to my marching band days and the sheer terror of the squeak that might drown out the important moments!

After we got our piece of cake in the little chapel, we walked our bikes over to see Leonard Matlovich’s grave. The entire area around him is filled with graves of gay couples, either buried together or with markers indicating that they plan to be so when the time comes. I would imagine the real estate here is in high demand, so people go ahead and purchase their plot, and perhaps prepare their stone in anticipation of the eventuality. One, at the foot of Matlovich’s grave, is a bench placed by self-described cat lovers. Both men are military veterans, still living, but wanted to give people a place to sit while they reflect on whatever they want to reflect upon. Here is the spot.

There is definitely a change of tone around this area – you can almost “see” history change from the defiant final words of those who chose to come out when it was still so dangerous to the joyful celebration of lives intertwined and then finally allowed legal marriage.

We stopped by to see Matthew Brady’s stone too, but we were running out of good weather indicators so we hopped on our bikes and headed for Rosslyn. We rode up Pennsylvania Avenue, which is always a breathtaking view of the Capitol.

We stopped in Rosslyn for COFFEE because after all, I needed to do #5! We stopped at Joe’s Coffee Shop on the first level of the Metro station. The coffee was good, the bike parking was good (quantity, quality, and visibility while sipping). Fortified, we attacked the hills of Arlington riding the Custis Trail west to the W&OD where we rejoined my car.

On the way home I realized I was going to have to go back to Arlington as I’d promised I’d help with the bike light giveaway that evening. And what I love about Laura, she enthusiastically agreed to come join the fun! We stopped by our houses to drop off bikes and change shoes and then went back to the Wiehle Station and left my car there.

We had a GREAT time handing out lights to people who had been caught by how early it got dark (especially with the overcast). We also provided lights to people who had them, and encouraged them to share them somewhere along the way with those who didn’t.

It was a fantastic day and I’m so happy Laura and can spend a whole day together with biking, Metro, march music, coffee, and STILL be friends!