Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Flat Tuesday (Part 2 of 2)...

So, the nine of us together again, we headed through Bethesda on the CCT. We passed the Bethesda Row Cinema and ducked into the Wisconsin Avenue Tunnel, a long, starkly lit and industrial-looking concrete passageway that, curiously, is fenced along both sides like some subterranean alley to the gallows. A little past midpoint in the tunnel, twin gates loom large on either side, suggesting that travelers may find themselves sequestered on the other side of Wisconsin Avenue upon returning too late.

We exited the tunnel on the far side and the sound of gravel bits crunching beneath our wheels and the alley-oop of the occasional pothole signaled the beginning of the Georgetown Branch Trail, a subsection of the greater CCT. The Georgetown Branch Trail is a makeshift route that heads westward to Silver Spring along a rutted path of crushed stone whose future remains in question, owing to the opposing interests of the Maryland Mass Transit Administration. The MMTA has plans to run the Purple Line through this area, and the fight is on to preserve and complete this section of the CCT.

We pedaled on, negotiating the loose, uneven terrain and dodging scattered puddles on skinny tires. We stayed close together, knowing that only two or three of us had an idea of exactly where we would break away from the trail to head back on the second half of the loop. That break came just before the Rock Creek Trestle—an old B&O Railroad project that passes over the Rock Creek stream—when we took a right on Jones Mill Road.

We started spreading out now along the road, a natural process born of equal parts riding ability, lighting system efficacy, and knowledge of the route. Eventually, we came to Beach Drive, where we paused briefly to make sure everyone had caught up.

Once on Beach Drive, we hugged the edge of the road, winding our way one by one along the sinuous ribbon of asphalt. Ahead, only the vast, enveloping blackness that descended like waves between the temporary pools of artificial daylight dug out in the night by approaching headlights, and the forelorn flasher of a faraway rider, pulsing like a feeble heart in the body of darkness. Behind was a sort of mirror scene, as the brilliant pinhole and spectral cone of a slower rider's bike light appeared suddenly from around a sharp turn, and the taillights of passing cars flared briefly, then faded away in the distance like dying embers.

The tranquility of this section didn't last. Rick suffered the first flat of the night, again living up to his nom de jour, a fact I didn't let slip by him. After about fifteen minutes during which he and Markie, kneeling side by side in the grass like genuflecting choirboys, combined talents to make things right, we were back on the road again.

Not long after this episode, I got my payback for heckling Rick. In spades. We had just found our way onto a narrow path that maybe only Markie and Butch can identify. At a small footbridge, I heard and felt that dull thunk! that signifies failure of the tire to protect the rim, as the elevated threshold of the bridge bit deep into my front wheel. Twenty feet later I was riding rim.

We all stopped while I changed the flat. An oversized tube combined with a skinny, new, wire-bead road tire and a cross rim meant that this was going to be far from quick and pleasant. The tube was so big, it didn't seem like it would need air once I stuffed it into place. With a little help, a dash of payback sarcasm, a lot of strength, and just the right amount of luck, I was back rolling within about twenty minutes or so.

The luck piece didn't last long, as almost immediately a squirrely feeling from the rear tire let me know that it, too, had suffered a snakebite at the bridge. I let Gary know I had another flat and that I would try riding it out, since the tire was compressing nicely to insulate the rim from the road. Gary caught up with the others, who had stopped to wait, and it was quickly decided that we were too far off to ride out the flat.

Near an overpass just off the path we had taken, I sat down in the dropping temps to go to work, hoping I could patch what would turn out to be a double pinch flat. Markie headed off home to grab an extra tube, taking with him one of my tire levers. I finally busted the tire off the rim with the help of a lever Gary loaned me, at about the time that DT found an extra tube he had. The tube was the right size, but turned out to have a Schraeder valve. Damn, somewhere there was a God of Petty Tricks who was laughing Its disembodied ass off at this hapless turn of events, and plotting the next fiasco from the safety of a faraway cumulous cloud.

Butch gave me a hand with the patch, which didn't take, likely due to an insufficient roughing up of the rubber. In the meantime, DT kept circling on his bike, every so often saying, "the writing is on the wall" like some two-wheeled prophet of doom. I finally looked up to see that the writing was indeed on the wall, DT having quoted verbatim a sophmoric burst of self-referential graffiti scrawled on the overpass abutment. I ended up with a tube from someone else (Markie?). All told, it was about a half hour before we were rolling again.

After what seemed like an interminable period, we made our way back into Georgetown. I shouted out to a random fixie rider who was riding into M Street from Wisconsin Avenue, inviting him to join us. He did, a young guy riding a Jamis. We locked up the bikes outside Pizzeria Paradiso and headed in and down the stairs to the now familiar milieu of Birreria Paradiso. I think it was around 9:30; we were late and had some catching up to do.

We crowded the bar, taking every available seat, now ten strong with the arrival of the newcomer, who grabbed the last seat by me. (I'll be the first to admit that it's a little unsettling, if not altogether inauspicious, that I can't remember this kid's name, but I can remember the name of the beer he ordered: a Jever Pilsner.)

Beer flowed; in particular, a new addition to the already outstanding tap lineup: Bear Republic's Red Rocket Ale. Nice! Also new on tap was Clipper City's Loose Cannon, which laid claim to the beer engine and found its way into 10 or 20 oz glasses, your choice.

Pizza came and went almost as fast as the beer. I opted for my usual standby, the Atomica, a savory blend of mozzarella, salami, tomatoes, black olives, and hot pepper flakes that fairly overflowed the whole wheat flour basin of crust (if you're a local and haven't found your way to the Birreria, you really owe it to yourself to see what it's all about—just remember to leave a few seats open at the bar on Tuesday nights). Eventually, several riders peeled themselves away from the bar and paid their tabs, leaving DT, Gary, and me to represent via another pint. We drank the last one and headed up and out, wondering whether Gary's and DT's bikes would still be there, since they had locked up with some of the guys who had left. The bikes were there; the hooligans who left early had seen fit to stuff them up in the tree for safekeeping next to my bike, which had been hanging alone.

We saddled up and took off into the chilly air of the approaching morning. We crossed Key Bridge and veered right and up the endless climb on Key Boulevard that we lovingly refer to as "DT's Hill." The 48T felt sluggish as I ramped up to drop the hammer; not at all like I remembered it from weeks past. Of course, it had to be the ring, and not the bevy of strong beers I'd just finished throwing to the bottom.

We rode through Clarendon, where no vestige remained of a Mardis Gras parade that had traced our course earlier in the evening, and got back on the Custis Trail at Fairfax Drive. Fifteen minutes later we were back at the cars without incident, completing a nice loop that covered almost 40 miles of mixed terrain. The next day found me back at Performance, swapping out the undersized Vittorias for some beefier Panaracer Urban Max tires that came heavily recommended from Butch and Jason. We'll see how they hold up and whether I've paid my Karma debt. At least for a while.

6 comments:

Hjalti said...

You're a good storyteller.

Tim Wise said...

Nice post. Where is the outlaw for these drunkard rides you do? That Clipper City beer sounded tasty.

iconoclasst said...

The outlaw? Too far away and not getting any closer, now that he's in Frederick.

I guess there could be something called the Frederick Fixed Fifty this year, assuming he can map out something in time...hjalti (who posted above you) would be a great asset in that regard.

Hjalti said...

Any interest in this? My biggest problem is finding a weekend to do it. They are filling up fast. I'm thinking April 9th.

iconoclasst said...

Any interest in this?

Oh yeah!...

2drunk2shift said...

Great pics. M street is where Jinx Proof Tattoo Parlor and a Great Indian Restaurant directly across the street. Got lots o tattooing and drank mucho beverages in that area.

Hope you had fun, peace beeatch.