Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Calling All Crows! Calling All Crows! Mass Murder on the Interurban Trail.

Murder, as in "A Murder of Crows", is a flock of crows.

And a big murder it was. Thousands, without exaggeration, of crows descended upon the trees along the RUSA Permanent 0531 route (Mercer Island Redmond Orting MI) at dusk to roost for the evening. And we happened to be just right there--on the Interurban Trail--for the event.

Those crows fought and cackled to get just the perfect roosting spots, and it all came down to an unknown-to-us-but-obvious-to-them pecking order. It was loud and raucus as the dim winter light faded into (what else?) crow blackness.

Our 200k permanent dream died an timely death too as we DNF'ed after about 100 miles. DNF, for the uninitated, is Did Not Finish. In fact, rather than cycle back to our vehicle in the grocery store parking lot on Mercer Island, we ended up catching a bus at Southcenter Mall that took us to the SeaTac Airport Light Rail station from which we caught a train home.

Here's our story, and we're sticking to it: we got a little overly ambitious. While I had been riding permanents and cyclo-commuting to work since October, DartreDame (my wife, Pramila) hadn't ridden since her last (and first) 200k in October: the Three Rivers Cruise. We hadn't really realized that she hadn't ridden since then until we were driving over to our start on Mercer Island.

Huh?, we said. Well, we told ourselves, if the ride was too challenging for Dartre she could simply peel off after the Lake Samammish loop that made up the first part of our 200k permanent.

But things had gotten off to a poor start even earlier when I realized I didn't know how I was going to fasten Dartre's light onto her bike until mere minutes before we were supposed to leave the house. My poor planning meant that we actually started about 20 minutes late. To make that time up prior to the first time controle we had to really hustle, and it took some of the starch out of us.

Dartre though still felt good and happy she had made the controle, so when the peel-off time came it also went, but without Dartre peeling off. The downside of that decision is that once we began the next leg of the journey, down to Orting, it was a long, down-and-back leg with no further peel-off opportunities. You can see the route below.

And so, about 20 miles prior to the Murder on the Interurban Trail we knew we wouldn't finish. Dartre was too pooped--imagine trying to do 200k without having even ridden at all since October! Basically, that's like riding your bicycle quarterly and doing only 200k's. What was I thinking?

Well, part of what I was thinking was that my Achilles hurt. Yep, same as it used to. This time it was linked to my new shoes (more on a future post) and the fact that we'd moved my cleats back putting my pedal spindle well behind the ball of my foot. Supposedly more power and less ankle movement, but as I'm learning perhaps, at the expense of more Achilles stress.

All this means is that when Dartre felt like she had to abandon, I was ready to support that decision. Lots of lessons learned, and I hope to tackle it this weekend or next.

Is a DNF a failure? Undoubtedly, we didn't meet our objective for the day, so yes. But it's also an attempt. How many Saturdays have I not attempted. Are these DNA's?

For a while, maybe especially on the bus to the Light Rail station, I was remorseful. But then I realized that I'll get more riding in for sure this month because of it. We learned. Dartre got the training she needs for another attempt. We stayed united. We tested our bodies, our selves.

So yep, we Did Not Finish, but we Are Not Finished. And after all, 100 miles is 100 miles!

As for bird groupings nomenclature, Wikipedia comes through again. Below is a list of these endearing names. The pic of the old Hitchcock movie poster is also a Wiki find.

Enjoy, you Rascal of Randos!

A flock of birds

A dissimulation of (small) birds

A siege of bitterns

A peep of chickens

A brood of hens

A clattering of choughs (i.e. jackdaws)

A covert of coots

A herd of cranes

A murder of crows

A herd of curlews

A trip of dotterel

A dole/dule of doves

A flight of doves

A badling of ducks

A mob of emus

A charm of goldfinches

A gaggle of geese

A flight of goshawks

A rasp of guinea fowl

A cast of (tame) hawks

A lease of (tame) hawks

A siege of herons

A clattering of jackdaws 

A train of jackdaws

A desert of lapwings

An exaltation of larks

A tidings of magpies

A sute of mallards

A sord of mallards

A watch of nightingales

A parliament of owls

A covey of partridges

A muster of peacocks

A nide of pheasants 

A nye of pheasants

A congregation of plovers

A bevy of quail

An unkindness of ravens

A building of rooks

A walk or wisp of snipe

A host of sparrows

A murmuration of starlings

A flight of swallows

A herd of swans

An eyrar of swans

A spring of teal

A dole/dule of turtledoves

A fall of woodcocks

A herd of wrens

Keep it well-named,


  1. Curio:
    A riddle to explain the situation:

    You are definitely in trouble, but you have nothing to fear.

    The answer to the riddle is another question:
    How long has it been that you can ride 100 miles in January and have some sense of dissapointment?

    See, nothing at all to fear.

    PS:DNS = did not start.

  2. A DNF is only a failure if you don't learn anything from it. It sounds to me like there were many lessons learned from this ride; Good, bad or otherwise, just take it at that.

  3. I love this list -- especially a mob of emus and a charm of goldfinches!

  4. Curious,

    You should come ride our Feb. 200km and our Feb. 300km. We ride right through the area where the Birds was filmed.


  5. well, i have to admit i almost forgot later how bad i must have felt to quit 20 miles before the end--and was feeling my own remorse! But hey, i've been thinking about it and i'm realizing i'm just proud for getting to 100! just six months ago, that would have seemed inconceivable! So thanks, curio, for sticking it out with me and for taking the DNF with me. always fun to be out there with you! and i promise i will be out there again. dartredame

  6. My mother-in-law, Maya, tried to post the following comment, but had trouble so I am posting it for her. She uses the term "Achan" which is Hindi or Malayam for father. Here's her post:

    I loved the words for collection of birds. The last time I heard these words was when my beloved Achan wrote them down for me- I still have the paper in my quotation book which I started almost thirty years ago.
    I also am amazed at the physical activity you do- and for encouraging my daughter (your dartre- hee hee) to do.Maya