A Chapter Closes in My Life (i.e. Thanks, Dave!)

A quick post (yeah, it’s been too long) about the retirement of David Letterman:

As most people know, Letterman left NBC on less-than-happy terms in the spring of 1993.

I left Salt Lake City, Utah, for Connecticut (for both happy and less-than-happy reasons) in August of 1993.

And the week after I arrived in Connecticut after a cross-country journey in my little Dodge Raider, Dave launched The Late Show with David Letterman on CBS (“the Tiffany network”).

I remember watching his first CBS shows from the living room of the group house I called home in Rocky Hill. I had just signed on to a job (Assistant Manager at the Wethersfield outlet of Strawberries Music), and was relieved to have found a source of income. Everything would be OK.

I sensed the same relief in Dave’s first week of CBS shows: he’d landed on his feet, and everything would be OK.

Now Dave has ended his 33 year experiment on television, from his fitful start on daytime TV, to two successful, groundbreaking, thoroughly enjoyable late night shows that blew apart the paradigm set by Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show. He was equal parts silly teenager and old grump, wearing his flaws on his sleeve and able to parry and dodge with the most evasive of guests. He was a master interviewer when he chose to be, and a first-rate smart ass just as often.

Along the way, he moved the goalposts for all late night television hosts to follow. The Jimmys (Fallon and Kimmel), Conan O’Brien, Seth Myers, Craig Kilborn, Craig Ferguson, and James Corden all owe their shows to Dave.

(A special nod to Craig Ferguson, to my eyes the only late night host to push the medium beyond Dave’s model by further deconstructing the tried-and-true Carson formula.)

His final episode ran long, and rightfully so. He didn’t want to leave any member of his Worldwide Pants family unrecognized. He wanted to give the CBS Orchestra (still the World’s Most Dangerous Band) their full due. His face beamed when he recognized his wife and son in the audience. And he let the Foo Fighters play him out.

I feel lucky to have attended two tapings of Dave’s show, both times with Sam, back in the late 1990s, both times ending up in the 3rd row, right in front of Dave’s desk (I must’ve impressed the producers who interview the audience while it queues in the lobby to score great seats twice). Seeing the show in person was a treat, especially hearing Paul Shaffer and the band play full-length songs. These are NYC memories I’ll always cherish.

With Dave leaving the TV landscape, a chapter in my life comes to a close. It happens shortly after another chapter in my life closed (my job at Georgetown University), so it seems strangely appropriate.

So thank you, Dave. May your retirement be full of happy memories with Harry and Regina.

the one year anniversary of #projectfemur: quite the ride

It’s now been a whole year since #projectfemur began.

On January 11, 2014, a simple, tumbling fall while trying to avoid hitting a tree brought forth a broken femur, surgery, bilateral pulmonary embolism, and months of tough physical therapy.

One year later, I’m essentially back to normal. The leg is strong. I’m walking and running normally. My flexibility is closer to my “normal” every day. I’m riding my bike again. I’m back on skis and smiling every time I carve a high-speed GS turn on hardpack or ski the trees through deep powder.

I have many people to thank for this. My orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Scott Faucett, put me back together again with skill and kindness. The doctors and physical therapists at MedStar National Rehabilitation Hospital (especially Claire and Katie, my OT and PT, respectively) kicked my butt (and my arms) back into shape. The pulmonologists at George Washington University Hospital helped me through my pulmonary embolisms. And the superior physical therapy skills of Scott Epsley and Megan Poll at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital have finessed my stride and balance back to full power.

Most of all, though, I need to thank my family and friends for being there throughout this injury and recovery. From sprite and her undying love and support, even when I’ve been a really annoying, petulant, or grumpy gus, to my mom and dad and sprite’s folks, the family support has been nothing but awesome. And to all of the friends who called, wrote, visited me in the hospital, took me to lunch, lent an empathetic ear, and made me smile and laugh when I felt like crap: you are all rock stars and I love you all.

It’s been a long, strange year, full of ups and downs. I’ve learned a lot about myself and my potential, and I’ll be channeling this resolve quite a bit in 2015. #projectfemur is a way of life for me now, a rallying call, and as I continue to heal and progress, it’s an arrow in my life’s quiver.

And how did I spend the day today, you may ask? I was coaching the Liberty Mountain Racing Team athletes, even taking on Lower Ultra with some high-speed GS turns, smiling the whole time, thanking all of the ski patrollers I saw. Many remember my case from last year, and they smiled back knowingly. The image at the top of this post was snapped this morning, just after arriving at Liberty Mountain for my coaching day.

Days since injury: 366
Days since surgery: 365

last call 2014: a (somewhat little known) tradition continues

For the past 10 years, I’ve had a year-end music mix that I give to friends and family. It started out as That Was The Year That Was, a compilation of favorite tracks from the previous year, with the title copped from a Tom Lehrer LP. Starting in 2005, it became Last Call, and that name stuck.

The whole thing started out as a CD (remember those?), and some years it spanned two discs. Of late, I’ve only rattled off one hard copy for sprite’s dad, and otherwise have distributed the mix via the Internet as MP3 files.

This year, in addition to the MP3 version and the one-off-CD, I’ve decided to use online streaming services to share the mix with you. Aside from one track (where I offer a substitute of the same song by the same act), everything is out there.

“Little Maggie” – Robert Plant

This is the opening track from my favorite album of 2014, lullaby and… The Ceaseless Roar (weird capitalization intentional). Plant’s extended U.S. journey complete, he recorded this album back in the UK, fusing his worldwide influences to traditional English songs. The sound is an intoxicating blend of beats and blues.

“Cherry Licorice” – The Felice Brothers

This brother act sounds like a modern day interpretation of late-60s Dylan, perhaps with a bit more harmony and the ability to carry a tune. They playfully jangle through their songs.

“The Ghost of Tom Joad” – Bruce Springsteen

This was the title track on Springsteen’s all-acoustic album from 2xxx, but here the song is reinvented around part-time E Streeter Tom Novello’s searing lead guitar.

“Nervana” – Pink Floyd

This is a bonus track from the album that most – including me – never thought would happen. I like this track because it centers on the interplay between Gilmour, Wright, and Mason: it’s a truly collaborative effort, and it shines as a result.

“Digital Witness” – St. Vincent

My runner-up for album of the year is St. Vincent’s eponymous album. Annie Clark’s songwriting is at full power on this album, and the whole collection of songs is a tour de force. This particular track, about the often disconcerting influence of the rapid-fire digital information age, grabs you and shakes you – awesome stuff.

“Word Crimes” – “Weird Al” Yankovic

Robin Thicke’s “original” (which was a note-for-note reworking of a Marvin Gaye song, according to an in-progress lawsuit) is a misogynist’s wet dream. Yankovic decides to write about poor grammar, and the song improves one hundred percent – if not more.

“Invisible (RED Edit)” – U2

The best song the boys from Dublin released in 2014 never made their album. They performed this song live during the premiere episode of Jimmy Fallon’s reboot of The Tonight Show. Given Bono’s recent bicycle accident, it may have been the band’s last performance of this song for a while.

“Bad Self Portraits” – Lake Street Dive

This band has such talent, and they showcase it in full force on their 2014 album, Bad Self Portraits. I hear they put on a great live show, too, though I’ve not had the chance to see them yet. I do know that their live gigs sell out quickly, so if you hear that they’re coming to your town, it’s best to snap up the tickets quickly.

“Your Love Is Killing Me” – Sharon Van Etten

Sharon Van Etten is developing into a wonderfully complex singer-songwriter, and her latest album, Are We There, shows a new level of maturity and depth of themes (not that she was lacking either in her previous work).

“Bad Dream (The Theme)” – Nick Thorburn

Did you listen to the Serial podcast? If so, you’ll recognize this track as the show’s theme. It’s simple and spare, and worked well for the show (and for this mix).

“Maggie Said” – Natalie Merchant

I’m not normally a fan of Natalie Merchant (her singing through and then past the note isn’t my cuppa), but this is a great song and ties in well with the opening track of this collection. So…. here it is.

“All About That Bass (feat. Kate Davis)” – Postmodern Jukebox

Sure, Meagan Trainor’s version was the hit, but this trad jazz interpretation is such fun, and brings a more mature, smoky angle to the hit song. I chose to use the YouTube version here because you see the band performing it live (and this is the recording on the official release, as well).

“Down In The Willow Garden (Take One – Electric)” – The Everly Brothers

Sadly not available online, this is a recently-unearthed gem from the 2014 reissue of their Songs Our Daddy Taught Us LP. Last year, Billie Joe Armstrong and Norah Jones covered this album, track for track. If you can track down this CD, it’s worth the money. For now, here’s one of Don and Phil’s last live performances of the song, dating back to 2005.

“Going To California (mandolin & guitar mix)” – Led Zeppelin

Jimmy Page has been on a slow march remastering kick for the Led Zeppelin catalog, and the remaster of their incredible fourth album was released in 2014. While the bonus tracks weren’t quite as amazing as I (and many other fans) hoped, the instrumental-only versions of the two acoustic songs on the album are sonic gems.

“Waitress Song” – First Aid Kit

They’re Swedes! They’re sisters! And the harmonies they produce are simply stunning. This is an act that rocketed up the charts in 2014, and while they’d likely be a perfect fit for, say, the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival, methinks they’re now a bit… big for such an event.

“A Sky Full Of Stars” – Coldplay

While Coldplay’s latest album isn’t quite as strong as their previous work, it’s not really lacking, either. This song is fairly standard Chris Martin fare, and it bounces along nicely.

“Real Love” – Tom Odell

The British retailer, John Lewis, is known for gorgeous holiday adverts. 2014’s ad featured this haunting version of John Lennon’s “Real Love,” and the moment I heard this rendition it was stuck in my mind – superb.

“Hope For The Future” – Paul McCartney

Macca’s big release for 2014 was a song for… a video game. Destiny was one of the big video game releases of the year, and somehow Macca landed a track in the game. The video features the Fab singer in the game’s environment as a hologram. And the sentiment of the song matches my theme for 2015…

Happy New Year, one and all!

Last Call 2014 cover

bringing it all back home: #projectfemur hits the slopes

Well, it was bound to happen: last Saturday, I donned my trusty Lange boots, clicked into a well-worn pair of skis, and got on a chairlift.

Destination: to ski again, this time at Mount Snow, Vermont.

I happened to be up north for the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, staying with sprite’s folks in north-central Connecticut. We drove up to Connecticut in a winter storm that produced much rain, freezing rain, sleet, graupel, and snow, arriving to a wet, 5-inch accumulation in Connecticut. But that same storm dumped 12-14 inches of fresh, fluffy snow on top of a very good man-made base at Mount Snow, so my choice of venue made sense. Also, it’s only 90-or-so minutes from sprite’s folks’ place, so the drive isn’t an all-day time suck.

I arrived at the resort about 20 minutes before the lifts started turning, and there was already a large queue at the Bluebird Express lift, the only chair serving the summit of the mountain. That was fine by me, as I wanted to start my day on something a bit less of a full commitment. So, after picking up my lift ticket (pro tip: buy online in advance, it saves a decent amount of money), I donned my skis, tightened the strap on my new Briko helmet, and proceeded to the Canyon Express lift, which serves the lower half of Mount Snow’s front face.

As I rode solo on the lift (all of the crowd – and I mean all of it – was heading toward the summit on Bluebird), I surveyed the open terrain: two rolling intermediate-level slopes, recently groomed, with excellent snow cover. I assessed my legs, and both seemed up to the task. I did have a little trepidation, as I wasn’t able to get a needed shim installed on my right boot to compensate for the loss of femoral length (1.5 cm) on #projectfemur. But this was going to be a low-key, low-speed day, so being a little bit out of balance wasn’t a big deal.

Most of all: I was elated to be back on skis!

As I promised myself and friends, I took it easy. The lack of shims on my right boot meant that turns involving said foot would be awkward, and that flat-footed gliding would be nigh-on-impossible. But, just like riding a bike, the feel came back. My back wasn’t in the best of shape (strained it a week prior), so I decided to mete out my runs in small chunks. Eventually, I waded into the crowd to catch a ride to the summit, where I snapped the panorama you see at the top of this post – it was a beautiful day, ideal for skiing and being outdoors.

After three runs of short-swing, slow GS turns, and stance drills, I retreated to the base lodge for coffee and some light stretching while I waited for the lunch spot to open. I figured that taking an early lunch would allow me to enjoy shorter queues as the crowds ate.

As you can see, the queue for Bluebird Express was quite large while I ate my chili and enjoyed a local microbrew (and Canyon Express was handling the overflow, and had a decently long queue, as well):

After lunch, I decided to explore more of the open terrain at the mountain, heading over to the Carinthia area. Yes, it’s technically a terrain park, but this early in the season most of the runs are groomed, without the rails, jumps, and other trappings of the park crowd. The snow was soft and easy on my legs and back, and I was able to enjoy a slow ride up one of the few old-school, fixed grip lifts remaining at Mount Snow.

I skied until 1:45pm or so, as my lower back started to ache and impede my skiing motions. I managed nine runs for the day, soaking in each one as I did my first outdoor bike rides back in August. There was a lot of smiling, laughing, and joyful yodeling easily traced back to me.

Yes, there’s work to be done – namely, getting my right boot shimmed and re-aligned to the new reality of #projectfemur. But it was skiing, it was brilliant, I was back in my element – home, again.

use the road safely (in memory of sam felder)

One year ago today, my friend, Sam Felder, was riding his bicycle to work, as he did most days. He said goodbye to his wife and daughter, then set off for his office at Facebook.

Only on November 18, 2013, he never arrived at work. Instead, he was struck by a car at a dangerous intersection. He suffered severe brain trauma, spent time in multiple hospitals and rehab centers, and eventually succumbed to his injuries on April 11, 2014.

Given I’m a year-round bicycle commuter, and given Sam was a big-time proponent of using a bicycle for everyday tasks (and for making the roads safe for everybody), here’s my plea to all users of the road:

If you drive a car/van/truck, please be mindful of your fellow road users, especially the most vulnerable: pedestrians and cyclists. Obey the posted speed limits. Stop at all stop signs and red lights. Check your blind spots. Use your turn signals. Give cyclists at least 3 feet (1 meter) of clearance when passing. Only pass cyclists and other motorists when absolutely safe. Never use your cell phone while driving. Never text while driving. And don’t get angry at slower road users, as they have every right to be on the road.

If you ride a bicycle, please be mindful of you fellow road users, including fellow cyclists, pedestrians, and drivers. Make eye contact with drivers. Ride courteously, but visibly. Wear bright clothing, especially if you ride before sunrise or after sunset. Use lights when it’s dark or raining. Indicate what you plan to do with clear hand signals. Don’t run red lights or stop signs – ever. Ride predictably. Don’t talk on your phone or text while riding. Be kind to your fellow rider, and encourage your fellow cyclists to do the same. And don’t snap at motorists: you win more fans with kindness than anger.

If you are a pedestrian (including runners), please be mindful of your fellow road users. Be visible, especially at night, and wear bright clothing. Don’t tune out the entire world with your music, as hearing is a safety mechanism. Make eye contact with your fellow road users. Don’t jog in bike lanes – ever. Smile. Act predictably.

For any mode: be the best advocate you can be for complete streets.

Above all: be safe. It’s the least that Sam would want as his legacy. If you can, chip in a few bucks in Sam’s honor to The Alliance for Biking and Walking. Volunteer with your local cycling or pedestrian advocacy organization. If you drive, join an auto club that also supports cycling and walking.

And say “I love you” to your loved ones. Hold them close. Show them you care.

R.I.P., Sam Felder. And we love you, Julie and Sylvia.

(Cover photo by Sam Felder, covered by Creative Commons.)

ten on tuesday: the music died too young

The first of two (!) posts today, inspired by Carole’s typical prodding. Her topic: list ten musicians who you wish were still on this mortal coil.

  1. John Lennon. Need anything be said here?
  2. George Harrison. Again, need anything be said?
  3. Otis Redding. He finally had mainstream success the week he died. Such a voice…
  4. Buddy Holly. I think he would’ve given The Beatles a run for their money in the early 60s.
  5. Freddie Mercury. Even though his voice was damaged from smoking and his failing health, he brought the show. And now that homophobia isn’t a thing in rock, I think he would’ve flourished.
  6. Eva Cassidy. She was blessed with a wonderful voice, but was only hitting the big time when cancer struck her down.
  7. Keith Moon. I think he had a lot left in him, and The Who was never the same after his passing.
  8. Jon Entwistle. Same goes for “The Ox,” whose bass lines and licks were always stunning.
  9. Rick Wright. The quietest member of a quiet band. His keyboard sound was the glue of Pink Floyd, and his recent work with David Gilmour was most lovely.
  10. Janis Joplin. Oh, those blues. Oh, what a self-destructive life.

I could carry on: Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain, Dusty Springfield, Cass Elliot, and so many more deserve to be on this list. But that’s my ten.

Anybody you’d add to this list? Leave a comment!

(Cover image courtesy of Getty Images.)

music review: “the endless river” by pink floyd (a bit of a #tbt moment)

I never thought I’d write a review of a new Pink Floyd studio album, given a few key facts:

  1. The band hadn’t recorded anything since the sessions for The Division Bell in 1993 and 1994.
  2. Rick Wright, the band’s keyboardist, died in 2008.
  3. The still-living members – David Gilmour, Nick Mason, and (even though he’s not legally part of the bad anymore) Roger Waters – seemed content with solo projects and sitting in on other artists’ recordings.
  4. The only recent activity from the band, as a whole, has been reissues and “best-of” compilations, due in no small part to their jump between record labels.

Hell, the last time a new Pink Floyd album was released (the live P.U.L.S.E. set with the fancy LED blinker), I was in college and looked like this (my #tbt moment for this post):

My mugshot from the Connecticut College Voice, 1995 - oh, the hair...

Yes, bits and bats of new stuff were released over the years, primarily in the form of bonus discs in the three “Immersion Edition” box sets for The Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You Were Here, and The Wall. But these were still reissues and not entire albums of new material (yes, my purchase of the Dark Side set marked the 5th CD copy I’ve owned of the album – collectors, I tell ‘ya). Frankly, I thought the band was truly finished, and I was completely OK with that notion.

That said, this past Monday a package awaited at my door: the new Pink Floyd studio album, The Endless River.

The Endless River has arrived!

This album has been over 20 years in the making. In fact, one song – “August 68″ – features an organ track dating back to that very year, recorded on the sly at Royal Albert Hall. Most of the sessions date back to the era of The Division Bell in 1993-94, with the presumed best picks used for the aforementioned album.

However, this album was originally intended (depending on who you ask and when) to either be a two-disc set (one disc of ambient instrumentals, the other featuring lyrical songs), or the precursor to an instrumental collection called The Big Spliff.

Yet these sessions ended up mostly forgotten in the Pink Floyd vaults (likely in David Gilmour’s personal archive), while the members of the band went their separate ways after the huge Division Bell tour. Wright went on to record and release his excellent solo album, Broken China, in 1996. Gilmour retired to life as a husband (to author Polly Samson) and occasional session musician. Mason worked on an exhaustive biography of Pink Floyd, called Inside Out. In 2006, Wright worked with Gilmour on the latter’s On An Island, with both embarking on a short supporting tour for the album.

(And sure: in 2005, Waters joined the other three for a one-off reunion at Live 8 – but that’s neither here nor there, other than being an excellent performance.)

So when word leaked that, sometime in 2012, Gilmour and Mason dusted off the old Big Spliff tapes and were compiling a new album, I was intrigued. Would it be any good? Would it sound like Pink Floyd, and carry on the spirit of the band? Would Wright’s playing be buried under overdubs and loops?

The answer: it’s a fitting denouement to the group, a great listen, though not without its faults.

The album is laid out in four parts (which really only works when played back on vinyl – I only have the CD/BluRay version for reference). There is only one song – the album closer, “Louder Than Words” – with any true lyrics (written by Samson). And most of the playing is by Gilmour, Wright, and Mason, with most additional backing coming from musicians who worked with Pink Floyd for the 1994 tour or for Gilmour’s 2006 solo tour.

From the get-go, the album is full of tell-tale Floyd atmosphere: disjointed voices, keyboard textures, and fluid guitar, essentially picking up where “High Hopes” (closing track of The Division Bell) left off. The first two tracks are longer pieces, at 4:27 and 6:17 in length, and flow seamlessly into each other (as is the case with all four “movements”). The purely instrumental approach hearkens back to the various pieces on early Floyd albums, like A Saucerful of Secrets, Ummagumma, or Atom Heart Mother, and it works well on The Endless River.

Wright’s keyboards are featured prominently, mixed higher than they might have been had this project been completed in 1994 or 1995. And Gilmour’s guitar is its usual lyrical self, weaving through Wright’s keyboard textures. Indeed, the three principal musicians are in fine form throughout.

In particular, Mason’s drums have never been stronger. He eschewed drum machines and sequencers for almost all of his work on The Endless River, and even re-recorded most of the parts he laid down in 1993 – to the better, I’d say.

The weaknesses are in the brevity of some of the quality shorter pieces, which deserved a bit better. The album is only 53 minutes and change in length, so there was plenty of room to expand: even on a two-disc vinyl version, you can fit up to 30 minutes of audio per side without major compression issues. Indeed, some strong pieces are featured on the bonus DVD/BluRay editions, and while a couple would have been tougher to integrate into a seamless soundscape, they could have been incorporated into the whole with a few creative production touches.

My second gripe is with the closer, “Louder Than Words,” and its sometimes ham-fisted lyrics. Don’t get me wrong: Polly Samson is quite adept at writing excellent lyrics, as she did on many Division Bell tracks (e.g. “Keep Talking,” “High Hopes”). And the focus of this song – that, despite all of the infighting that happened within Pink Floyd, the band created musical magic when they simply played together – is clearly written.

But some of the couplets and word choices seem to strain a bit. The opening line:

“We bitch and we fight”

might come off a bit stronger as:

“We curse and we fight”

to these ears. And then there’s the line:

“Let’s go with the flow, wherever it goes”

It just sounds…. weird.

Frankly, while I know it would never happen, I would love to hear what Roger Waters would have done with this tune if given the simple “write a closing eulogy to Pink Floyd” directions that Samson followed. While I’m not sure Waters would have followed anybody else’s direction (especially Gilmour’s, given their historic animosity), I can envision a far stronger lyrical package.

Additionally, having Waters contribute to what is a tribute, in no small part, to Wright would have been a lovely gesture. Alas…

That said, The Endless River is a fine album, and begs to be listened to as a contiguous whole. In fact, it works really well when listened to in sequence with The Division Bell. I can also see somebody (not me, as I haven’t the patience) mixing the two works together to create a bit of an ur-album for the final iteration of Pink Floyd.

If this album is, as Gilmour and Mason have suggested, the true end of Pink Floyd as a band, I’m happy with that. No, it’s not in the same league as The Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You Were Here, or The Wall, but it’s no More, either.

getting locally (and not-so-locally) political: nov 2014 elections

As I did before the April 1 primary, I’m delving into local political endorsements. For my #projectfemur, cycling, skiing, coffeeneuring, and random post fans, I’ll post something a bit more to your liking later this week.

To carry on with the political stuff, go below the fold…

Continue reading getting locally (and not-so-locally) political: nov 2014 elections

coffeeneuring 2014 (sure, this is #projectfemur, why not?)

Riding in the pursuit of coffee (or reasonable substitutes) is a great way to keep #projectfemur in shape.

Yes, I’m riding my bike again – have been since August 8th – but haven’t written about it. That will come soon, but for now? Let’s talk coffeeneuring.

Once again, Mary G. has rallied the cycling troops for the 2014 Coffeeneuring Challenge. The basic rules: over seven weekends, ride in pursuit of coffee, tea, cider, or craft soda, document the experience, and, well, end up writing it all up for folks to enjoy.

Easy, right? So here we go!

Stop 1:
Date: 5 October 2014
Location: Country Convenience, Blue Grass, VA
Bike Friendliness: no racks, but safe to lean bikes against front porch of store – guard cat on duty.
Drink: Pure Leaf Sweet Iced Tea
Distance: 89.3 miles
The store cat at Country Convenience, Blue Grass, VA
Notes: This is a favorite ride of mine, especially during foliage season. The second rest stop is at a classic country store, where the store cat is still loving as ever. While the coffee is somewhat blah, I tend to go for cold beverages at this stop (thus the iced tea, which quickly made its way into my bike bidon). The foliage in the Blue Grass valley was stunning and at peak color. The only damper on the day: Chris’ crash only a few miles past the store, which resulted in a broken clavicle (and our having to shortcut the route – and add 500-or-so feet of climbing – due to the wait for EMS to arrive).
Jonathan rides past Blue Grass Valley foliage.

Stop 2:
Date: 13 October 2014 (Columbus Day)
Location: Starbucks, East Longmeadow, MA
Bike Friendliness: no rack, but felt OK leaving bike outside for 5 minutes.
Drink: double espresso
Distance: 22.9 miles
The Rudi Projekt and a double shot.
Notes: This was a recovery ride and foliage excursion the day after the Great River Ride, so the pace was mellow. The foliage at Hurds Lake was stunning (see picture below). I stopped to say hi to Chip at Competitive Edge Ski and Bike (he’s due for hip replacement this fall). As it was late afternoon, I decided to take the most direct route back to Somers on Route 83, which passes a Starbucks. The barista knowingly asked if I wanted a lid for the espresso (I didn’t), and the hand-pulled (!) double shot was very tasty. Glad I had my full set of lights on the bike, as I rolled home after dark.
The foliage at Hurds Lake, Somers, CT

Stop 3:
Date: 15 October 2014
Location: Farm Market, Peterborough, NH
Bike Friendliness: outdoor park, no rack, but no worries about theft.
Drink: coffee bean purchase from Parker House Coffee (micro roaster)
Distance: 6.3 miles
Parker House Coffee beans, Peterborough Farmers Market
Notes: This was a lovely pre-dinner/pre-movie ride with sprite. By exploring the roads heading north out of Peterborough, we experienced a lovely Rotary-kept park with spillway falls and vibrant foliage. We found the local farm market, which moved from its former location in the center of town, where coffee beans were bought from the owner/operator of Parker House Coffee (he had samples of brewed coffee to try, which was a tasty treat). We then rolled to Ava Marie Chocolates for us to enjoy “hot” chocolate – the quotes needed as the milk was barely tepid, so the chocolate flake hardly melted. I chalk this up to a tired staffer who was worried about scalding the milk. After this, we returned to our car, locked up the bikes, and enjoyed our dinner and movie. Dinner was at Harlow’s Pub, featuring excellent food and drink (I really enjoyed my pumpkin black-and-tan with a cinnamon rim), and the movie was the excellent My Old Lady.
Spillway at Rotary Park, Peterborough, NH

Stop 4:
Date: 17 October 2014
Location: Amy’s Bakery Arts Café, Brattleboro, VT
Bike Friendliness: no racks, but lampposts and parking meters for locking.
Drink: maple latté
Distance: 7.0 miles *
Hot beverages (cider and maple latté) at Amy's
Notes: We initially attempted to ride in NH, but the road on the other side of the Connecticut River was a bit too crazy for our tastes, so we rolled back into Brattleboro and had drinks and food at Amy’s. We love Amy’s: great drinks (including the best maple latté you’ll ever have, made with locally-roasted beans from Mocha Joe’s and maple syrup from a local farm), and the food there is equally fantastic. The view from the dining area is a technicolor feast in the autumn. After lunch we rode to Grafton Cheese and the Retreat Petting Farm along Route 30. After rolling a little further out, we turned back toward town. I broke off to see the town ski jump, which is up a steep hill. After re-connecting at the town green, we rolled back into town and had fun at Sam’s Outdoor Outfitters, the Brattleboro Co-Op, and Mocha Joe’s.
Harris Hill Ski Jump, Brattleboro, VT
(* – The Strava recording is partial, as the app stopped recording along Route 30 – the full route is plotted here: http://ridewithgps.com/routes/6315947)
The Rudi Projekt at Retreat Petting Farm, Brattleboro, VT

Stop 5:
Date: 18 October 2014
Location: Hot Chocolate Sparrow, Orleans, MA
Bike Friendliness: on CCRT, plentiful racks at store.
Drink: iced coffee (outbound) and quad espresso (inbound)
Distance: 46.2 miles
The Rudi Projekt outsde Hot Chocolate Sparrow, Orleans, MA
Notes: sprite stopped here en route to Coast Guard Beach via the Cape Cod Rail Trail. I’d already taken said trail to Dennis and then back, and met her here for an iced coffee. After we finished our drinks, we continued to the beach where we saw surfers and seals battling for best wave rides. The water was chilly, but pleasant, though I did nothing more than soak my feet.
Shadow waves, Coast Guard Beach
We rode back into the sunset via Sparrow, where we purchased more hot beverages (tea for sprite, a quad espresso for me) and baked goods (pumpkin coffee cake for me, warm blueberry pie for sprite – both delicious), then charged our phones for a spell. It’s good that we had our lights, as the last few miles back to Nickerson State Park (our campsite) were in the dark on the CCRT.
sprite in sunset light on the CCRT, Wellfleet, MA

Stop 6:
Date: 19 October 2014
Location: Savory and the Sweet Escape, North Truro, MA
Bike Friendliness: no racks, but safe to leave bike outside shop while I ate inside.
Drink: coffee
Distance: 53.7 miles
Coffee, bagel, taillight, Truro
Notes: This outing had multiple purposes. I wanted to see sunrise over a Cape Cod beach (something I last did on my 21st birthday, when I was a student at Connecticut College). This meant leaving camp before dawn and riding the CCRT by headlight, encountering foxes and rabbits along the path – and not a single cyclist. I saw sunrise (muted by low clouds on the horizon), then set off toward my second goal: getting all the way to Provincetown. However, a persistent strong north-northeast headwind (20mph) and a hilly route after the CCRT ended made this a tough go, especially given time constraints (had to break camp and head back to DC). I saw folks setting up the Wellfleet Oyster Festival – something to try next time, I guess. I threw in the northbound towel in Truro at this lovely café, having ridden the whole 32 miles to this point on no food at all. The coffee and bagel were most welcome! On the return ride I enjoyed the tailwind (and a more direct start via Route 6) back to Nickerson SP to strike camp.
The Rudi Projekt outside Savory and the Sweet Escape, Truro, MA

Stop 7:
Date: 26 October 2014
Location: Capital Teas, 8th Street SE, Washington, DC
Bike Friendliness: bike rack outside DC Doughnuts.
Drink: darjeeling tea (hot)
Distance: 10.2 miles
Helmet, doughnuts, teas, Barracks Row
Notes: sprite and I had wanted to try District Doughnuts at their new brick-and-mortar location, so we set off to do just that. When we arrived, the sign said “CLOSED,” but the staffer inside saw our sad expressions and motioned us to enter. Although the shop had technically been closed for 15 minutes, there were plenty of doughnuts, and we bought a half dozen to share with our friend, Sarah, who was meeting us to pick up some unpasteurized cider that sprite had procured for her. We bought teas at Capital Teas, and took our loot to a pocket park at the south end of Barracks Row, enjoying the sunlight and friendship. On the way back to The Burrow, we stopped at the National Botanical Garden and took in the lovely plants and afternoon sunlight.
The bikes and District Doughnut

TOTAL DISTANCE: 235.6 miles

Once again, coffeeneuring was a fun adventure! It was fun to do a few outings with sprite, and fun to visit the coffee venues, new and old.

You can see all of the pictures from the various coffeeneuring stops here.

Days since surgery: 289

starting re-entry… slowly… (#projectfemur)

It’s less than a month until I’m back to riding full-time on the road. I’m keeping busy during that time.

The workouts continue, with increasing intensity and focus. My time in the gym is spent mostly either in the weight room, where I’m building leg and arm strength, or in the stretching area, where I can work on core strength and flexibility. The latter is something I’m working on a lot in PT, where Scott and Megan have been working diligently to make my repaired leg every bit as capable as its healthy neighbor.

Next challenge for that: rotational flexibility. To visualize what that is: I can’t sit cross-legged on the floor right now, as my right leg can’t rotate and lie flat just yet. Soon – just another goal in my sight.

This morning I started the next step in my bike training with Matt at District Cycle Works: morning workouts on a Wahoo Kickr. This is a major step up from the Star Trac eSpinner I’ve been using at the gym, as it allows me to use my own bike for the workouts. It also pairs with my Garmin Edge 500 and my iPhone to record my rides and the associated data, including power output. This opens a whole world of possibilities for my workouts as I head into the home stretch.

Most of all, though, it’s fun to be able to workout with friends who will actually converse with me.

Wahoo!!!

That’s something that’s sorely lacking at the gym, where folks tend to fold into the insular shells provided by the ever-present earbuds.

Just so you don’t think it’s all about the bike (do I owe that Armstrong guy a royalty for trotting out that phrase?), I’ve also spent some time on the beach, where I tested out my run.

Running!

It was awesome!

I’ve also been dipping my toe back into local government – very local, as in the Advisory Neighborhood Commission’s Transportation and Public Infrastructure Committee. Basically, this committee advises the ANC (which is a step below the District Council) in all matters walking, cycling, parking, and parks. While I was brought into the fold because of cycling, as a pedestrian during my convalescence, I’ve gained a lot of knowledge of mode share issues that affect this committee. I’ve already penned a letter to DDOT, asking for follow-through on motions passed by the ANC back in 2012, and look forward to doing – and learning – more as my tenure grows.

And I’ve been working with some of my fellow ski coaches to come up with a fitness plan for our junior racers. I’d like to see all of the athletes come into the ski season in peak physical shape, not only to allow them a great chance of meeting (and exceeding) their goals, but also to provide them more safety against injury. Hopefully this will get some traction within the team – I know similar plans helped me achieve my skiing goals when I was younger.

What else is there to say? Sometimes you need to look at the details to see where you need to go…

Shados in surf

Maybe Jimi Hendrix said it best, regarding the impending next steps of my #projectfemur recovery:

“And so castles made of sand, fall in the sea, eventually.”

Sandcastle at Bethany Beach