Saturday, June 16, 2007

Gravel on trail in Reston

Watch for sand and gravel in the north lane of the trail under the Sallie Mae bridge at mile 17.5. This section of trail is very close to the unpaved parallel trail and there is no barrier for the loose gravel when there is a heavy rain. It happens frequently and the situation was reported to the park authority quite a while back. They will eventually come out and sweep it clear, but a long term solution is needed. It's a difficult section to fix. In the meantime, it's advisable not to go into that lane at full speed because the sand/gravel is deep.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Sky blue morning

The lush summer is here on the W&OD. If you like abundant moisture in your air, you are at home.
For my morning commute I enjoyed the heavy air, rich with the fragrance of mimosa and the lulling repetition of catbird calls. There was chicory all along the trail. Sky blue. Staring at and tracking the rising sun. It is a morning flower (top photo). Deep rooted and gritty. By afternoon the flowers have given up trying to understand solar physics and closed for the day (bottom photo).

Chicory seeds are loved by Goldfinches. The plant is a European native with many food and beverage uses. New to me was this one: "While modern farmers might use reapers to cut their chicory, there was a time long ago when only a golden sickle or a knife made from the horn of a stag could be used to cut the plant, which was harvested on certain special days, not as food for livestock but as an aphrodisiac for man." (J. Sanders. 2003. The Secrets of Wildflowers)
I did not see anyone with a stag-horn knife on the trail today.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Piney Branch bridge repair

It's been a year since the bridge over the Piney Branch washed out and repairs are finally underway. As you see from the photo, the streambed is dry beneath the bridge where the work is being done to shore up the old stone footings. They water is being diverted by a pump that runs continuously. It may be a while before the bridge is repaired, but at least there's hope that the end of the unpaved detour is in sight.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Beware: Glass at Rt. 29 intersection

I guess I crowed about my brand new "flat proof" kevlar-banded tires too soon. When I went to get my bike out for the ride home last night the rear tire was flat as a pancake. Why is it always the rear tire? Anyway, I wheeled it into an out-of-the-way spot and we eyed each other warily for a moment. Then I went through my little tool bag and got out two plastic tire levers and a patch kit. I managed to disengage the brake and, after some exceptionally black and greasy maneuvers, got the wheel off the bike. Then I spent 15 minutes or so trying to get the tire off the rim, I even got an assist from another biologist who rides in. He couldn't budge it either but we did answer the question that has plagued philosphers for centuries: How many PhD's does it take to change a bike tire? [answer: more than two!]. Finally I gave up, piled the carcass back in the bike cage, walked to the metro and provided amusement to bored commuters by attempting to clean the black stuff off my hands with a tube of lotion and a used napkin.
Back home, my sweetheart gallantly offered rescue, explaining that I just didn't have enough experience for this kind of skilled job. We drove to my office, got the bike, brought it home, and he attempted to fix it using only the tire levers that I had used. They didn't work for him either! He declared them useless, trashed them, and fixed my tire with HIS tire levers, which due to his immense generosity, are now MY new tire levers. My patch kit was also questionable, so he put a new tube in the tire after carefully removing the shard of glass that caused the flat.

My hero!!
Lesson #1 - don't bother with cheap plastic tire levers.
Lesson #2 - be sure to have a hero waiting in the wings.