2021 in Photos: Beauty’s Where You Find It

Thoughts about this last year are a jangly jumble, but to roll them all into one phrase I quote Madonna in saying: “beauty’s where you find it, not just where you bump and grind it.” This has been a year of embracing change, accepting our impermanence, and seeing opportunity in each day even on days when I would have preferred to stay under the covers.

January

In January I started a Master’s of Business Administration (MBA) because I’m not sure exactly why. I already have a Masters (in something else) but ultimately craved something positive to look forward to in 2021. I applied on a whim, to my great surprise was selected, and started school three weeks later. 

It was a tumultuous month in the city, and not because of grad school. I can’t even talk about it because I have such strong feelings so I’ll just put these two photos up and let that suffice. This was how 2021 started in the District.

February

Despite some chilly (for D.C.) days in February, my friend C and I still made the weekly commitment to meet up for an epic mall walk. I’ve never done as much walking in the city as I have these last two years, and almost all of those miles are with C! During this ongoing health crisis and reduced social interaction, these meetups have meant so much. 

Mall walk with cvanbu

Vaccines also rolled out to more and more groups. I think we started to see a light at the end of the tunnel, and businesses began making plans to reopen. 

The Anthem

March

The rest of nature has no idea what’s going on in the land of the humans. If anything, it’s probably been a bit of a reprieve from some of our regular human ways.

Peak blossoms on Hains Point with Felkerino

As usual, the cherry blossoms returned this March to enchant us and Felkerino and I made sure to do a few laps under their canopy at Hains Point. As a cyclist, I don’t think there’s a better place to spend peak cherry blossom days.

Dramatic rescue of Whiskey

We also witnessed the rescue of Whiskey, a small dog (Yorkipoo? I don’t know my dogs) who had managed to climb up onto the train tracks over the Potomac. Saving little Whiskey was quite the operation, using both law enforcement boats as well as fire trucks and involving multiple responders.

In the end, Whiskey was retrieved from the tracks, wrapped in a mylar blanket, posed for a group photo with the responders, and returned safe and sound to his owners.

Rescuing Whiskey, a multi-jurisdictional sffair

April

We still masked up, but continued to find creative ways to see friends and family outdoors in the crisp April air. Wisteria bloomed and vaccination to the wider population started in earnest. 

Hi!

May

Vaccination Day, Convention Center

In May I became fully vaccinated. It felt surreal, it provided relief. I learned about why the mRNA vaccines were able to be developed so quickly. I felt myself imprinted in history.

May was also the month that the BroodX cicadas made their way to the surface of the earth after 17 years of living underground to let us know “Hey! We’re still here!” These strange bugs were just the pandemic distraction the city needed.

They flew clumsily about, mated if they were lucky, laid eggs in tree leaves, and died a few weeks after. Their larvae fell off the trees, crawled into the ground, and there they will reside before hopefully resurfacing again in 17 years. 

BroodX Cicada time

The cicadas both fascinated and freaked me out. I read a piece in the Washington Post about Benjamin Banneker’s study of cicadas (he apparently documented three emergences) and how he initially viewed them apocalyptically – futilely trying to kill all that he saw on his initial experience of them.

Through his study of the cicadas, Banneker came to understand the BroodX cycles of emergence. I find them disconcerting, but one of my takeaways from the past two years is that there is a lot going on in the natural world so be curious, stay humble, and pay attention.

June

School continued virtually into June and it was brutal. I had to keep writing “I am lucky/happy/fortunate/insert positive word here for the opportunity to learn new things.” Completing two three-credit courses over six weeks was no joke, especially when the regular job doesn’t stop for school. 

Time outside was curtailed although I still snuck out for morning runs and short rides. I started riding my Rawland Nordavinden more over the last year, as I didn’t have a need to carry any commute clothes or food or what have you. It’s such a fun bike and I really love the pink Ostrich front bag. File under glad I didn’t sell this bike.

July

July was a much-needed break from school, books, and teacher’s dirty looks (kidding about that last one, mostly). Felkerino and I attempted a ride-from-home tour up to Pittsburgh and back, but I got pretty sick on the third day or so, unable to keep any food down, and we ended up on an Amtrak back to DC.

Packing the tandem

Our tour was revived after a couple days of rest and recuperation. We relaunched in State College and pedaled a modified route filled with snappy hills and quiet roads. Good job coming up with Plan B, Felkerino, and thanks to Amtrak for getting our jumbo-size tandem bike home in one piece.

Commence Plan B

Similar to last year, I spent a lot of time bringing home local produce from the farmers markets and I continued in the CSA. I have written about this before, but thanks to both of these, my whole approach toward food has changed. While still a fairly terrible cook, I at least have the advantage of eating nourishing tasty food grown in areas closer to me. 

Early season fruit

I still eat the occasional pepper from Mexico or cherry from Washington state, but when possible I prefer to purchase food from more local growers.

August

Memory doesn’t always tell the truth, but my memory tells me I loved August. School was just getting going and there were still long days to enjoy.

New Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge during a run

Riding more had improved my fitness and my state of mind. Imagine that! The heat of August helped me sweat out the toxins of 2021 (and 2020 for that matter) and, while sad to say goodbye to summer, I looked forward to fall. 

August ride on Skyline Drive

September

During fall semester, the university returned to in-person class using specific COVID protocols. This felt weird initially, as I had grown used to operating from home and was completely out of practice with any kind of commute or in-person group interaction. 

Back on the night ride (searchlight from the Pentagon, commemorating September 11)

It didn’t take me too long to figure it out again, and I reveled in rides home from class. Because there had been no need, I had not done much night riding in the city over the last year. They city has a different character after sunset. It’s quiet (especially once the kickball leagues hang it up for the year) with little vehicular traffic. The city takes on a contemplative feel and I just love it.  

After two years of steady work, in September the New Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge opened to traffic. That includes both bicycle and pedestrian traffic as well as vehicular traffic. To commemorate the opening, Mayor Bowser hosted a 5K over the bridge and Felkerino, C, and I walked it together. It was such a thrill.

The new bridge is not only aesthetically more pleasing, the walkways along the side are significantly wider (and not crumbling into the Anacostia!). 

The New Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge 5K start

In addition, cars have to pass through two roundabouts – one on each side of the bridge – which significantly slows down the car traffic. Until these roundabouts were built, crossing that segment of South Capitol was terrifying due to both the speed of the cars as well as their tendency to blast through the red lights. 

October

In October, the Coffeeneuring Challenge returned for its 11th year, and Felkerino and I continued our adventures close to home. During this month, the city closed Georgia Avenue and opened it only to cyclists and pedestrians.

Talking with Colin and Kristin, and looking down Georgia Avenue

Not only was it great fun, it was beautiful to imagine what our cities could be like with increased spaces dedicated to non-motorized transport.

Reimagining Our Spaces. Felkerino and Mr T in DC on Georgia Avenue

November

November was a month of more coffeeneuring, more walking, and more exciting bike infrastructure! I regularly used the new G Street cycletrack en route to school. It was a wonderful change. And then, and then! At the end of the month, the city extended the 15th Street cycletrack south to where it intersects Independence. What a thing of beauty! So much thanks to WABA and the city for the positive changes being made here!

G Street cycletrack!
15th Street cycletrack!
November ride home from class on Pennsylvania Ave, one of our first cycletracks

In November I also ran the Rock ‘n Roll Half-Marathon, my first in person running event since October of 2019. I surprised myself by crying as I crossed the starting line. I was so grateful to be able to participate and to feel healthy after a year of having to take it easy and nurse my Achilles back into shape. 

Rock Creek Parkway on the RnR Half-Marathon, so glorious!

December

December started out tough, as my school mojo went missing. I was a bit worn out from all the virtual work (both job and schoolwise) and the nerve of my professors to keep giving us homework. Just kidding, I realize homework is all part of the game here.

Ultimately I made it through the semester and completed one full year of this program. Big sigh of relief.

Last day of 2021 classes

C kept my spirits high by encouraging our winter explorations and vivid fall color lingered as if to say no moping allowed.

Ginkgo time

I don’t remember ever having so much fun looking at leaves and studying plants as I have these last two years. To repeat Madonna, “Beauty’s where you find it, not just where you bump and grind it.”

Soaking up the last of the leaves

As I write, the sun has set for the last time in 2021. I am grateful for so many things: my partner Felkerino, my good friend C, to have one full year of the MBA program in my noggin, and to have been alive and healthy this year. My eyes look forward to what lies ahead.

Eagle passing through the New Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge

P.S.

I also want to add a note of remembrance for two coffeeneurs who passed away this year, Peter Baker and Lonnie Wormley. When I created coffeeneuring, I did not realize what a special community would grow. I did not imagine coffeeneuring would still be going after more than a decade. And I also did not grasp how, even though we may not know each other in real life, we still touch each other through our common interest in cycling and even coffee. Small acts connect us. Tailwinds, coffeeneurs. 

5 comments

  1. Beautiful photos and storytelling. Love the cycling infrastructure improvements. Congrats on a year of MBA. Thanks for creating community.

    Like

  2. Love this walk down 2021’s memory lane (or should I say memory rollercoaster??) You spent more than your share of time keeping MY spirits up during our epic mall walks and farmers’ market visits, my friend. I’m glad to get to spend so much fresh air time with you. Here’s to high hopes and low expectations for 2022!

    Like

  3. MG, I really like your messages in this blog post. 2020 was tough on everyone, but by 2021 we’ve all realized that we grab what’s meaningful and appreciate what’s around us. Thanks for opening your heart and expressing it so eloquently. Happy New Year!

    Like

  4. Thanks and Nice Job on all of this, MG!
    I grew up in Springfield, VA … but the family moved to Boulder, CO, in the early 70s.
    I “stayed loyal” to DC for decades (e.g., ‘Skins over Broncos, etc.) … but I’m A Colorado Guy now, and I got into bikes here more than I ever did there ~:-)
    These pic’s – especially the cherry blossoms (Dad took us there on Easter Sundays) – remind me how pretty a town DC still is,
    regardless of whatever other ugliness still comes into & out of it … !
    I first joined this list for the Errandonnee, and hope you bring it back … ?
    I’ve done what I could to promote it to my CDPHE colleagues, and might start doing the same re: Coffeeneuring this year.
    As you can see from my website, my job officially focuses on cleaner cars … but the boss also lets me promote bikes.
    I remain ever-hopeful that COVID (i.e., turning most office jobs into telework, distancing making transit less of an option, AND sparking a bike & e-bike sales boom)
    will ultimately get more people onto bikes for more/different things for the foreseeable future … ?
    I also look forward to riding around the DC area someday “soon.”
    Thanks/Congrats again, Best to You & Yours, and #KeepOnRiding . . . PvH / #CDPHEbikes

    Like

  5. MG have you guys ever flown with your tandem? Maybe a train trip in the distant future would be fun, getting a ticket and then riding the tandem to other stops. Our tandems do not decouple. So, that always has been a problem for me. Maybe I am wrong?

    Like

Comments & questions welcome - moderated for trolls and spam.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s