Better Call Saul

The only touristy thing I want to do in DC (aside from yesterday’s patriotic photo shoot) is to ascend the Washington Monument. Reserved tickets are sold out online, but I line up in the morning for day-of tickets.

Disappointingly, the next available time slot is in the afternoon when I plan to be at City Bikes, but sometimes being a solo traveler pays off: I politely ask and receive a single ticket for the sold out slot at 9:30 AM.

The Washington Monument is dedicated to George Washington’s military successes. I didn’t know that. There’s no triumphant statue of him on horseback, no bas relief of his profile on any facade. I always assumed the Egyptian-style obelisk was a monument to the city itself, which yes I know, is named after the Father of our Country, a fellow Pisces.





Rising 555 feet and 5.125 inches, the monument was built in two stages 18 years apart due to lack of funding. The gap is easily identifiable by the color tone of the stone. Inside at the top, I see cracked and shifted stones from the earthquake in 2011, which I felt all the way in NYC at my cubicle.

Bad memories
I remember that day clearly: I was working on a costing sheet with complicated commissions for a client in the UK named Bianca. There was a lot I didn’t like about Bianca, but what drove me over the edge was her snooty accent (discernible through those 5 AM emails) demanding pricing down to each bottle of mineral water at the Metropolitan Club.

Her client Oracle, based in California, was using her agency, based in London, to plan an event in New York. Oracle wanted to splurge on a distinguished private venue overlooking Central Park, and she’s badgering me about selection of passed canapés and the price of bottled—excuse me, mineral—water?

Then Bianca kept changing the program dates, forcing me to reconfirm availability and pricing with the venue who thought I was f*&%ing nuts. At the height of insanity I spent a Sunday until 2 AM working on what she wanted for Monday morning “her time.” (The program was ultimately held in Dallas, making it a colossal waste of my time, and causing the first tremor of doubt that event planning was not for me.)

Citi Bike meets City Bikes
Fast forward to DC, and after yesterday’s Bikes & Brews tour, I take up Saul on his offer to check out Countri Bike. I’ve gone about 280 miles and could at least use more air in the tires, especially before hitting the rocky 184-mile C&O Canal Towpath tomorrow, which starts on bricks in Georgetown.

The C&O Canal Towpath originates in Georgetown and ends 184.5 miles later in Cumberland, MD.

The C&O Canal Towpath originates in Georgetown and ends 184.5 miles later in Cumberland, MD.

I pedal uphill to City Bikes’ Adams Morgan shop. It’s like bringing an exotic animal into a pet store. Everyone wants a look at this different species. The DC metro area has Capital Bikeshare owned by the same company as Citi Bike in New York, but I’m riding on the latest model bike released just a month ago. These bikes haven’t yet hit streets in DC.

Saul offers immediate relief. He wants to swap out the saddle and pedals. The seat feels like a firm couch cushion. Comfortable for short trips on potholed streets, but not designed for one butt going 30-50 miles per day.

Off with its head: Kevin from City Bikes removes the original seat on Citi Bike.

Off with its head: Kevin from City Bikes removes the original seat on Citi Bike.

As for the pedals, distance cyclists prefer clip-in shoes, which I’ve never tried and would require purchase of $200+ shoes. No thanks. As a middle ground, I get Dimension Combo Pedal toe cages to help with uphill climbs using my faded neon blue running shoes.

I’m especially relieved to hear that the pedals can be changed because one is already showing signs of stress fracture. I’ve seen these pedals crack off bikes in NYC less than a month old. This design flaw is going to be a common problem with the new model Citi Bikes.

I worry no more because Saul & Co. gives me new parts and a tune-up on the house. His enthusiasm for my ride and generosity in servicing the bike give me a boost of confidence.

When I was having second thoughts on my way down the Jersey Shore I said I would reevaluate my condition in DC. Here I am and ready to continue the journey. Next phase: a 355-mile canal and rail-to-trail trip from DC to Pittsburgh. No cars, but lots of roots and rocks.

Giddyup, Countri Bike!