Hereby testing upload speeds from here in Rwanda. Kigali. Kagugu.
Banana beer. Coffee. Fruit and yogurt. Home-grown bananas. Thanksgiving.
It’s been particularly difficult to sleep around here lately, mostly because the weather and, specifically, temperatures, have fluctuated wildly.
When that happens, I toss and turn and wake up at least three times per night. It’s not all bad: I get to do the thing where you look at the clock and immediately calculate how much longer you get to go back to sleep, which is always satisfying.
Unfortunately, with such conscious pleasure comes un- or subconscious terror, as exhibited by my recent fever-esque dreams. One stands out.
I’m standing about midway up a slope looking toward the bottom. At the bottom of the slope is a road. To the left is a grove of trees, and in that grove is an opening.
So I’m standing there look in the grove of trees and I start to walk toward them. All of a sudden, one zebra shoots out like a slingshot stone and gallops past me. And I watch it and it comes toward me, passes within ten feet of me, and runs beyond, up the slope. Weird, I sleep think.
Next comes a water buffalo. Those are big, at least, when I’m dreaming. It rumbles by, and not just figuratively. The stones near my feet dance their ways out of the dirt and jump on the surface and the buffalo moves bye. It’s slightly closer than the zebra.
I’m getting unnerved, mostly because I’ve never encountered these animals before. But it’s still pretty cool.
I’ve actually ridden the next animal. A giant grey African elephant lumbers out of the thicket and seems to eye me. It’s hard to tell because elephant eyes are small and non-directional. They aren’t set forward like a hunter animal. You can see only one at a time.
So the elephant eyes me with one eye and starts to walk, then trot, then run at me. It flares its ears out like it’s charging. It does not trumpet, which disappoints me. That’s not the first thing on my mind, though, as the elephant crashes forward.
I hop out of the way at the last minute like a matador before a giant, grey bull. The elephant with its side-ways eyes sees this and veers at the last second as well, kicking me over with its back right leg. It must be spite, because the pachyderm keeps running after I’ve been kicked over. I roll up the hill defying gravity and rest near an exceptionally tall patch of scrub and grass. I’m dusty and soon-to-be bruised but satisfied.
Picking myself up, I dust off my clothes (a weird set of khaki safari wear that I do not own in real life) and look to the opening in the tree stand. I worry about what’s next, because elephants are big, and nothing else on land is bigger.
Something smaller creeps up to the edge of the trees and stops. I can barely see it unless it moves.
The leopard is one of the hardest to spot predators on the African savannah. Their spots help camouflage, and their stealthy habits and nighttime hunting preference make them hard to spot. They have heads large for their body size and can climb well.
It’s crouched at the edge of the tree thicket, watching me, Ben, standing in the middle of nowhere. I’m a tree in Iowa before a massive thunderstorm: certain to be gone by the end.
The leopard scoots along the grass, then starts bounding toward me, never taking either of its eyes off mine. I freeze, fascinated at the motion of the cat. Grass sways, wind blows, just perceptively. I swallow, waiting for the pounce. It never comes.
The leopard sweeps past me, whipping grass into my leg. A minuscule amount of air escapes my nostrils.
And it comes from behind, on my shoulders. I’m knocked over, and there’s weight n my chest, needles digging into my skin.
The I wake up, and my stupid cat is sitting on my chest. I haven’t trimmed his nails in awhile. And he’s hungry. He wants breakfast.
And I’m tired, because it’s 5 am. But it was a neat dream.
Well, did ya?
I had no job to bike to this past Friday, National Bike To Work Day. So what was I to do?
Well, I heard plenty of biking stories on NPR and read lots of updates on twitter, Facebook and news sites. I was getting itchy to pedal. So, I fried up an egg sandwich, put some coffee in a thermos and biked down 15th Street to the White House. Breakfast in Washington, D.C.!
My route was circuitous at best. I had to go up 12th Street to R Street and over to 15th because I wanted to use bike lanes and avoid salmoning and otherwise illegally cycling on a day when many movie and beginner bikers were on the streets. Not that my care ensured complete adherence to the law, but I felt good setting some sort of example.
Biking down 15th Street Friday morning was an experience. For those of you outside the District, this street has a two-way cycle track on the west side of the street running for more than two miles. It’s a terrific addition that has helped increase bike ridership in the District.
Friday it was very crowded. It wasn’t a problem when moving: I wasn’t in need of passing, though those who were we’re smart about it. Stopping at lights and stop signs became an issue, however. Most people I encountered Friday morning didn’t like stopping at red lights. They did when cars were driving through the intersection, but the minute they didn’t see cars, they bolted through. This meant hopping out of line, passing people in front of them, and often, doing it
dangerously clumsily. I was annoyed but didn’t say anything. I didn’t want to leave a sour taste in anyone’s mouth. Should I have spoken up? I didn’t see anyone do anything that was immediately dangerous, but it’s a bad habit to learn.
I reached the White House without incident, however, and unpacked my sandwich. So many bikes driving along the street in front!
As I was eating, I met a new friend. I threw a tiny piece of bread to a local squirrel. The following images were captured.
It was cool until the squirrel tried to jump into my pocket. That thing got too close.
After he tired of my lack of bread dissemination, I turned back to the White House. I’m so lucky to live in this city. I get to do things like ride my bike to the White House. I get to succeed and represent my country abroad as an FSO. I have great friends and almost interminable opportunities for my career. I get to see wildlife that’s too friendly and also skittish. I get to see others enjoy the same things I do even though they don’t do it the same way I do.
No, I didn’t get to bike to work Friday. But I got to enjoy the District with many others doing so for the first time. Hopefully, they’ll get out more often after this and see the things I see outdoors.
I’m going on a bike trip!
Yes, if you’re reading this, and it’s between 8 am Tuesday, May 15 and 7 pm Thursday, May 17, I’m likely somewhere between Georgetown and a trail shelter on the Appalachian Trail north of Harper’s Ferry, W.Va. I’ve been looking forward to this trip for some time, as it’s my little vacation away from the city before I start my new job.
I’ll bike 60 miles to Harper’s Ferry and then hike a total of 28 miles out and back on the Appalachian trail. I will sleep at two different shelters on the trail and visit Maryland’s Gathland State Park and the Harper’s Ferry National Historical Park.
Here’s my layout:
front and back bike lights
bike repair multitool
bike tube repair kit with CO2 pump
Osprey Stratos 24 backpack
sleeping pad (inflatable/foam combination)
fleece sleeping bag
lightweight Primus stove with fuel (fits in mess kit)
titanium pot/pan set
Nalgene bottle (32 oz)
bike bottle (20 oz)
Camelback resevoir (70 oz)
microfiber camp towel
swiss army knife
first aid kit
two wicking running shirts
cotton short-sleeve tee shirt
cotton long-sleeve tee shirt
two pairs hiking socks
two pairs biking socks
four packs ramen noodles (oriental flavor)
four packs instant oatmeal
four Kashi TLC granola bars (crunchy)
beef jerkey (one package)
two gatorade mixes
one starbucks Via coffe packet
self-mixed trail mix (peanuts, peanut M&Ms and cocoa almonds)
Bike lunch (boiled egg, tortilla with hummus, peppers and tomatoes)
Should be a fun trip! I’m expecting rain Tuesday on the way up, but that doesn’t bother me on the bike. Hopefully it’ll be done by the time I get to Harper’s Ferry (planning an 8 a.m. departure and expecting a 1 p.m. arrival. Then, expecting to get to shelter approx nine miles away by 6 p.m.). Once I putz around on the trail for a day, I’ll come back to Harper’s Ferry Thursday morning, check out the town on what’s supposed to be a beautiful day, and then bike home on the canal trail (all downhill to the bay).
This is the first time I’ve combined biking, hiking and camping in the same trip without a car. The bike should be OK with the sleeping pad and bag, hiking boots and rain jacket on the rear rack. I’m used to biking with a loaded backpack to work for commuting purposes, so that shouldn’t be a problem. I scoped out the trail Sunday and it looks fine as long as I miss the big stones. I’ll be super once I hit the AT itself. I’ve hiked this part before. Fun!
I’ll fill you all in once I get back.
(Note: this blog post was lost in an app crash Sunday. I’ve tried to recreate it here)
I often think of canals as dead waterways. They’re man made for purely human purposes: transporting goods or irrigating crops. The water doesn’t move on its own. Most are so old and unused that they’re in serious disrepair and sometimes completely dry, the exact opposite of what you want in a canal.
These thoughts were in my mind when I pedaled out to the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal trail Sunday. I’ve planned a trip to Harper’s Ferry, W. Va. via the trail and my bike. Once there, I plan to hike the Appalachian Trail for a day or two. I wanted to avoid local roadways, especially in light of the recent traffic death of a local cyclist on a busy road. The C&O Canal is a straight shot to Harper’s Ferry from Georgetown. Sunday, I was riding the trail to see if my bike could handle the unpaved path.
Once you get past the fairground-esque first few miles of the Capital Crescent Trail (which parallels the C&O for the first mile or two), the trail becomes serene. Maybe it’s May and spring clouds my vision. My preconceived notions on canals are eroding: The C&O Canal is a lively treat to enjoy this time of year.
First off, the surface. The trail isn’t paved but it might as well be. Small stones mix with sand and what seems to be clay to form a naturally hard concrete-like surface (trust me, I know this. More on that later). There are a few bigger stones that you ought to avoid (again, trust me).
Second: there’s so much wildlife out there! Right off the bat I saw several families of Canada geese swimming along looking for grass to eat.
When I stopped to take that image, I heard a rustle behind me in the leaves. It was a big ole skink! It was too fast for me and I didn’t get a picture, though.
I biked along after the geese and had a hard time keeping my eyes on the trail. The canal is really pretty at this part because there’s actual water in it. And water means more wildlife. I saw some turtles and fish, but I didn’t take any pictures of the fish.
Along the trail there are lock houses where the lock keepers lived and operated the locks for boats moving along the canal. You can rent some of them and sleep in them like a cabin. They’re rustic (read: no heat or running water) though.
I biked all the way to the Capital Beltway, about ten miles out. Not a bad stretch at all. The trail won’t be a real problem on my bike as long as a keep my eyes on the ground. I was putting my water bottle back after a slurp when I missed a stone, hit it, and eventually wiped out.
I should be fine for the big trip (see next post) so that’s good. And to the family who offered to help me get first aid: Thank you and sorry for scaring your little boy by crashing in front of him.
I don’t often drive cars here in Washington, D.C.
I usually enjoy driving when I do drive. I like driving through larger cities with all the big buildings blocking out what I might be able to see in a smaller town. I also like driving and watching wide open spaces when I’m supposed to be paying attention to the road.
But I prefer a bike or walking if I have the choice for the exercise, convenience and cache of
it them. Makes me feel cool.
We’re I the kind of person that needed to drive a lot, I would love a license plate like this:
I’m not fortunate enough to live in Oregon right now, so it might be difficult to get this plate.
They might have running, camping or state parks or nature license plates in those places, but I feel like a cycling license plate serves two good purposes:
1 – The people you want to be more aware of cyclists on the road are definitely other car drivers. Anything that makes them think of the two-wheeled conveyances is a good thing.
2 – You can satisfy your
witty snarky/ironic friends by sporting a license plate celebrating something other than driving on your car.
I’ll usually do my part when I’m not on a bike to bring drivers’ attention to bikes on the road whether I’m driving or walking. I also won’t hesitate to yell at/chase a cyclist if they disobey traffic laws. Trying to make drivers pay attention to bikes on the road makes little sense if the cyclists themselves bring on ridicule.
Note: the District of Columbia does not have a cyclist plate. They have very few special cause plates.