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  • Yeah, hitting the W. & O.D. Trail this morning was a good choice. It all worked out, despite a few obstacles. I haven’t used my IPod in a week, and hadn’t charged it – no problem; I’ll go with the mental jukebox, that’ll work. The rear tire on my bike was flat and my little hand pump wasn’t cutting it. No problem, just throw it in the back of the van and take it over to Bikes @ Vienna to get some air. They don’t open until 10 – on a Saturday – really? No problem – go down to James Madison Shell station, they’ll have air. Not only did they have air – they had FREE Air! I riffed on that for awhile, as I pumped my tires up, for free, and the little D. J. in my head spin “Fresh Air”, Quicksilver Messenger Service – “Oooh, Oooh-oooh-oooh, have another hit, of fresh air” – yeah, I love that one. Great song.

    Tossed the bike back in the van, and had to decide where I wanted to enter the trail. Drive out Hunter’s Mill and jump on there, riding the trail out towards Reston and Herndon? Nah – I’ll jump on over by the Community center, and ride towards D.C. That’s right where the Battle of Vienna occurred, 151 years ago, where the Union train came around a corner, right into a Rebel ambush, all because the conductor had tooted his horn at a cow in the tracks a mile back, signaling to the Rebels that the union was coming. Here’s one of the things I just love about this area. Wherever you turn, history is sitting right there waiting to meet you, ready to tell a tale, if you be willing to listen.

    This morning, I was there. I thought about that little battle – I got to witness its reenactment last year, on its Sesquicentennial (what a cool word that is – right up there with penultimate and erstwhile in my book). The highlight of the reenactment had to be when they fired the cannons off. Immediately following the thundering volleys of those 3 “Weapons of Mass Destruction” (back then, that’s what they were), every goddamned car alarm within a mile went off simultaneously, really adding to that Civil War era ambiance! (It did bring a good laugh to the proceedings). Of course, that little battle was also the first time, in the history of man, in which a train was involved in any kind of war or battle. How about that!

    Of course, I also thought about ol’ Martin Hager as I peddled along, retracing the path that train conductor took after he disengaged the engine from the troop cars, and skedaddled out of Dodge, leaving the troops behind to fend off the Rebel ambush on their own. I’m fairly certain young Martin’s journey took him back and forth through these parts several times as the young teenager marched along with Company K of the 61st Pennsylvania Volunteer regiment over the course of his 3 year enlistment, pounding out the cadence to the many battles they found themselves in the middle of. I’ve seen journal entries of his placing him all around this area for much of his time in the war. The background tune to all of this thought process, as I pedal along, is James Taylor’s “Riding on a Railroad” – “We are riding on a railroad, singing someone else’s song, forever standing by that crossroads…there’s a man up here who claims to have his hands upon the reins, there are chains upon his hands, and he’s riding upon the train”.

    I also think back to my own history. Still riding a bike at age 57, almost 58. Been riding a bike since I was 5 or 6. I’ve always ridden bikes. I can remember flying down Fordham Avenue in Pittsburgh, taking the turn down the hill at the top of Midland Street, and wiping out at the bottom of that hill, skidding across the asphalt and stones, right into the gutter on the side, leg all torn up, all tangled up in the bike and blood everywhere, completely freaked out, thinking I’d probably be crippled for life. I was probably 6 or 7 then. No helmet. Nobody wore helmets then - don’t think they even had helmets. I still have the remnants of a scar on the side of my knee from that wipeout. Of course, I was back riding that bike the next day, with the leg bandaged up.

    When things had gotten really bad in Connecticut - college wasn’t going as I’d planned, me and the old man were ready to kill each other, my drug use and drinking had gotten way out of hand - my salvation was that bike. That spring, I started taking long rides, first with my weird friends Arnie and Rob, then with a bunch of the younger crew of the Pilgrim Fellowship (PF), riding all over northern Connecticut, often going right on up into Massachusetts, just riding for all I was worth, day-long trips on the bike. I had kind of unwittingly developed a bit of a “cult-following” among the PF crew at that point, as I was one of the more bizarre individuals they’d encountered in their young, conservative Yankee upbringings, and I felt good about turning them on to something healthy for a change, after having previously led many of them down the road of smoking pot, doing acid, and drunken debauchery. Those things weighed heavy on my conscience. Promoting a healthy habit helped to ease my conscience a bit, plus it helped me to crawl out of my mental anguish and emotional torment.

    A number of times, part of my paths out of depressions included a physical regimen that more often than not involved riding a bike. And, living here in Vienna, right above the W & O D Trail, is like a bike-riders dream location. That trail will take you just about anywhere you’d want to go on a bike. Today was a perfect bike-riding day. There was some congestion out there on the trail, but it wasn’t too bad. There was one, fleeting irritating moment. I had ridden all the way to Arlington, and opted to take the “4 Mile Run” trail that runs you over towards Alexandria, then pulled up about 2 miles down that trail – I’d been going for close to an hour at that point – and took break in great little picnic area there. Just as I’m easing back onto the trail to head back, a couple of young punks coming up the trail at a good clip, one yelled “Aghhhh”, scaring the living crap out of me, as they whizzed by on the left. (You’re supposed to just say “Passing’ on the left”). I had a brief moment of bike-trail-road-rage where I sped up my pace and was gaining on them, when I caught myself and said “WTF, Pete? Whaddya gonna do when you catch them? And what for? Besides, they look like they just graduated the Gold’s Gym Boot Camp program – whaddya gonna do?” I quickly calmed down and got back into enjoying the trail. Idiots!

    I actually enjoyed the many different people out there on the trail. It reminded me what a delightfully diverse area we live in. Every kind of culture and nationality seems to be represented in this metropolitan area, and most of them were out there on the trail today. They all could a been Cowbirders, for I knew!

    As I rode along, different songs popping up, I imagined myself singing the songs, others out there on the trail chiming in on the choruses, putting on a 3 part harmony, had a lot of fun with that. Thinking how much more I’m enjoying this than I would have enjoyed just sitting in my basement cave, thinking, reading, and writing, I remembered an old Jefferson Airplane song, from their very last album as the Airplane, a song called “Thunk”, no instrumentation, just vocals, great song. I’ll leave you with the lyrics:

    Sittin’ round thinkin’, thinkin’ and a-thinkin’, and it ain’t doin’ me no good…
    Well I thunk, and thunk, couldn’t think of anything better,
    I tried, and tried, tryin’ ain’t doin’ me no good

    I write you everyday what could be my very last letter
    Come what may I say, thinkin’ ain’t doin’ me no good, ahh, thinkin’ ain’t doin’ me no good, people,
    Thinkin’ ain’t doin’ me no good – no good!

    I want to know if everything that’s sung will remain
    Within the structure of the person whose mind I wish to claim
    Please don’t say that wantin’ you won’t do me no good, no
    Please, oh please don’t say, wantin’ you won’t do me no good, oh, wantin’ you won’t do me on good,
    Woman, wantin’ you won’t do me no good, no good….

    Well I thunk, thunk, thunk, thunk a lot about you,
    Realized my thunk was nothin’ but a lot of funk,
    Bunked down on in my place

    Only a dream, mmm, only a dream, mmm, only a dream, mmm….

    Thinkin’ ain’t doin’ me no good, ahh, thinkin’ ain’t doin’ me no good, people, thinkin’ ain’t doin’ me no good….No Good.
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