All posts by Steve

Biking DC with Hilary

An extraordinary day.

It’s yet another business trip. However, Steven timed the trip to include an extra day in Washington, DC, to go bicycling with Hilary, older sister of Jadin’s friend Kara, daughter of Michelle, now residing and working just outside the enemy-occupied federal district.

Steven rented a bike from Conte’s Bike Shop in Arlington, VA., which delivered extraordinary service — from the first email query, to the phone conversation where Charles Conte asked questions about the ride we were planning, to the bike that Steven currently rides, to size and comfort and equipment — before anyone talked pricing. And … his pricing was ride in line with what other stores charge. Then, despite a busy store Saturday afternoon, Stephan rolled out the rental wheels and spent about an hour fitting the bike to Steven, to make it comfortable, efficient. Along the way, Hilary learned a bit about how to fit her new Fuji, purchased used on Craig’s List — along with lessons about pedals, shoes, safety equipment, pumps, wrenches … Charles and his team run a super store and deliver extraordinary service.

We kicked out of the hotel driveway in Arlington at 8 am, traveling 18 miles down the Potomac to Mount Vernon. DC was across the river. It was cold — temps in the 50s. We reached the house that George built about 10 am, taking our time to sightsee and snack along the route.

The route is mostly flat. We sailed …

Steven and Hilary outside the plant sale at Mount Vernon. We didn’t go in — because the plan was to ride. Steven is NOT proud of his winter weight gain. Hilary is all muscle and stunning.

In one of the parking lots we borrowed a three-way wrench and lowered Hilary’s seat by about an inch. She swung back in to the saddle to meet an entirely different and far more comfortable bike — no stretching to reach the pedals, and reaching past the stem to the handles was no longer stressful.

Hilary and her first mimosa at lunch.

On the way back, we stopped in Alexandria at Virtue Feed & Grain for lunch outdoors. At the table next to us, two other bike riders exchanged contact info with Hilary; they’re looking for more people to ride with. Bikers are friendly people!

18 miles down to Mount Vernon, then 18 back, with that stop for lunch, we opted to cross the bridge for Steven to sightsee. This is when a special day became an extraordinary adventure.

We crossed at Georgetown, carried the bikes down flights of steps to cross the tow path, and into history.

Steven and his winter weight gain in front of part of the Watergate.
A more familiar view of the curved Watergate structure.

We looped around the tidal basin across from the Jefferson Memorial and arrived at the FDR Memorial.

With Fala.
A bronzed line of Americans on a bread line in the Great Depression.
Despair. Hope. Pride.
Listening to a Fireside Chat. The power of radio to transform and inspire.

And then we visited with Martin Luther King.

As we walked our bikes up to the four stone mountains, the Jefferson Memorial is visible through the rock. The two great men stare at each other across the Tidal Basin, at opposite ends of history, slavery and freedom.

From there, we went to see Mr. Jefferson.

And Mister Washington.

Enemy-held territory, as seen from the Washington Monument.
Of all the stone monuments in DC, this is the ONE that resonates most with Steven.
From the steps of the Lincoln Monument, a selfie shot of the reflecting pool and Washington Monument.
Amazon Hilary. Steven’s favorite photo from the day.
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Luke is in the desert and whining. Whaah.

Some days the universe is brilliant.

Princess Leia’s Stolen Death Star Plans (say it out loud in the same rhythm as you would Sgt. Peppers Lonely Heart’s Club Band) is the project of Palette-Swap Ninja, who has gamely rendered a parody of every Sgt. Pepper’s song as the story of A New Hope.

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Special delivery

The new mailbox arrived from Bold Manufacturing.

Steven rented a hammer drill from Home Depot and learned how to drill concrete. Four holes, less than a minute each. Not so difficult, if you have the correct tool. Steven’s hand drill, even on hammer settings, would not cut the mustard.

Bolts inserted, post fitted, washers on, nuts wrenched down. Post up.

Then it took another hour to drill out the concrete from around the existing/old mailbox post. The post would not come free. Steven texted Gilsa Concrete for assistance winching or cutting the old post. They opted to cut. Turns out the post is solid steel, not hollow, mounted in place with a second ball of concrete at least two feet down; that sucker is not coming out, and we will leave a segment permanently buried.

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Biking the Circuit of the Americas racetrack

COTA opened up the Formula 1 track to bicyclists!

A small sample of the Schwab team.

Jacquela and Steven rode with Team Schwab — 20+ people.

Several hundred bikers turned laps.

The hill at turn 1 coming off the Pit/Grandstand straight is 144 feet and it feels nearly straight up. Jacquela made it. Steven did it twice.

Steven’s third ride of the year. Jacquela’s first. Still breathing heavy the next morning.

Unique. Extraordinary.

And COTA is apparently doing this every Tuesday evening for several weeks!

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Rocking out

Steven was not about to allow the team from Gilsa Construction have all the fun when finishing out the driveway.

At 9 am, Whittlesley delivered 6.5 yards of Santa Fe mix rock, 2-4 inches in size. The truck dumped in the street. Steven shoveled into the pile rock that skittered across the street, making Emerald Hill safe for car traffic, bikers and morning dog walkers. Gilsa shifted the entire pile 20 feet down the street to the foot of the driveway.
Gilsa busted the concrete formboards away from the concrete pads — see sledgehammer — and began cutting landscape weedblock cloth to size to cover the exposed roadbase in the drainage channels.
Here, the formboards are removed from the two new walkway pads at the front of the house.
Neto, left, and Jose, orange shirt, deliver a wheelbarrow laden with rock to the drainage channel off the back corner of the garage.
About two hours in, Gilsa is about a half way down the main drainage channel at the long ribbon of driveway that reaches all the way to the street. The team delivered the rocks via wheelbarrow, while Neto kicked the rock into position and Steven, on his knees, moved rock by hand to fill voids.
By 4 pm, the center drainage channel is completely rocked.
And Jacquela gets first drive on the new driveway.
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Concrete driveway ballet

The first concrete mixer is scheduled for noon. The team from Gilsa arrives at 8 am to prepare.

Digging out and forming up for the two pavers that will extend the front walk to the street — after removing the old pebbled concrete fan from another era.
The roadbase in front of the garage doors is trenched for emplacement of conduit and pull lines — planning ahead to ensure we have the ability to pull electrical cable under the new driveway slab from the electrical box at the back of the garage.
At the back corner of the garage, two conduit runs travel to the front of the garage, and one travels across the roadbed to what will be the opposite side of the new driveway. Mauricio from Gilsa, left, supervises.
The two conduit runs emplaced in the trench across the garage doors.
Gilsa ran this pull cord through the conduit runs.
One of the things we learned trying to pull electrical cable through conduit is to use larger-radius turns in the conduit. Stiff electrical wire does not turn tight 90-degree angles.
The first mixer is backed up as far as the oak trees will permit.
Spraying the discharge chute at the back of the mixer to ensure the cement does not bind to the chute.
This toad came to inspect the job site.
The first load of concrete travels down the discharge chute into the maw of the Bobcat.
The Bobcat dumps the first load of concrete.
And the ballet begins. Flinging concrete at the form for the curb at the top of the driveway.
Leveling the new concrete to grade.
Pounding rebar into the garage slab to join the slab to the new driveway.
Porting the steel mesh into place that will reinforce the concrete.
The ballet continues, with float and shovel.
At the head of the driveway, near the street, this is the cleanout to the main waste line that connects the house to the sewer system at the street. Very important to protect.
The ballet continues.
Pounding a stake into place to brace a form.
A long view down the driveway, with the shape of the ribbons beginning to emerge — while carrying a lumber form into position.
Pouring concrete into the forms for the extension of the front walk.
Alejandro signs the delivery receipt for the second cement mixer.
Finishing one of the pads in front of the two-car garage.
The front walk, extended to the street from the front of the house.
Looking down the driveway toward the street, with both concrete ribbons nearly complete.
At the back of the garage, the missing slab is formed, with the conduit for the sprinkler control line embedded — one more punch-list item taken off the to-do list.
And done. The view from the street, looking toward the top of the driveway.
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Rocking it

Steven met at the landscaping yard with Mauricio from Gilsa Construction to pick out the rock to use in the drainage channel down the center of the new concrete driveway.

We picked a “Santa Fe” mix of reds, grays and browns, 1-3 inches. The colors will complement the red cedar privacy fence at the front of the house, and the gray paint on the body of the house. The size should be large enough to not shift when rainwater travels across the rock.

And … Steven asked Jacquela to marry him while visiting Santa Fe and Taos. So … the Santa Fe mix is an easy decision.

A close-up on the Santa Fe sample mix, wet, against gray concrete.
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Grading and forming

Alejandro and Juan from Gilsa Construction arrived to regrade the roadbed, prepping it for concrete — and to build the lumber forms.

Alejandro works the scoop on the Bobcat down the long run of driveway to the street.
The chunks of asphalt rubble get loaded into the dump truck. The truck took two loads away.
Juan, front, and Alejandro, back, sledgehammer the forms and braces into the roadbed. There will be a rock channel down the center of the driveway to collect water and carry it from the back of the driveway all the way to the street, with the ability for water to percolate into the ground to feed the oaks — and to reduce impervious cover.
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