A New Way North

The last several years have seen an amazing number of road construction projects around these parts.  Today I cobbled together a new route from Mount Vernon to DC that barely used the Mount Vernon Trail.  This is welcome news to those of us who hate the trail on summer weekends when it becomes incredibly congested with volksmarchers, rollerbladers, runners, little kids on bikes, etc. 

The New Road to Crystal City

From home I took Fort Hunt Road (not the most bike friendly road, I’ll admit) to US 1.  Then I took the new bike path from US 1 to South Washington Street.  Instead of crossing the street and picking up the Mount Vernon Trail to DC, I turned left and picked up South Columbus Street. I rode this and South Alfred Street all the way to the north end of Old Town Alexandria where I picked up US 1 again for a half mile.  After using the a new side path to cross over the railroad tracks that Amtrak uses, I picked up a bike trail along a new road that goes straight north all the way to Crystal City.  I picked up Clark Street beyond Crystal City which took me to Boundary Channel Drive.

Then I crossed over into Lady Bird Johnson Park and picked up the Mount Vernon Trail at the Humpback Bridge. 

Big Nellie on the Bridge to LBJ Park

After visiting LBJ’s memorial, I followed some signs to get back to the Mount Vernon Trail.

LBJ Rock. Note the Resemblance to the Man Himself

They Even Put Up Signs

The trail under the bridge emerges directly across from the monuments in DC.  Pretty nifty how that all worked out.

The Jefferson Memorial Is Directly across the River

All in all a pretty cool new route into town.

Zach and Nick on Tour

Zach and Nick on Tour by Rootchopper
Zach and Nick on Tour, a photo by Rootchopper on Flickr.

I always try to stop and chat with the bike tourists I encounter around DC. Like many of these tourists Zach and Nick are riding the East Coast bike route. (You can get maps that guide you from Bar Harbor ME to Key West FL.) A few years back I happened on Nancy Wright, a teacher from Vermont who was riding the perimeter of the lower 48 US states!

From personal experience I know that encounters such as this one are very reassuring and helpful. And if you happen to be near and ice cream shop, buy them a cone. You can get a good miles to the scoop.

Better Late than Never

The DC area sees more than its share of violent storms.  Unfortunately, the bad weather takes its toll on the beautiful old trees along the Mount Vernon Trail.  Three years ago a storm took out a tree that stood directly alongside the trail just south of Dyke Marsh.  The tree was uprooted and fell away from the trail but its root ball ripped up a big chunk of the trail.  This sort of thing isn’t the end of the world. Most trail users could get around the wreckage without too much trouble most of the time. Little Nellie had no trouble posing for this picture. 

Usually the National Park Service gets this kind of damage cleaned up and repaired in a matter of days. This area of the trail is especially scenic.  (One of the two bald eagle nests is located about a quarter mile south of this point.  It is all but impossible to see in the summer when the trees are full of leaves.)  For some reason the Park Service didn’t bother fixing this.  They put up and orange traffic cone and forgot about it.  Until last week when Big Nellie and I came through the area and were surprised to see the trail repaired.

If you look closely you can see the patch in the trail just in front of Nellie. 

Better late than never, I suppose. Thanks to the folks at the National Park Service for maintaining the trail. Without it, my ride to work wouldn’t be nearly as fun.

Go Speed Racer Go

I am getting old. Summer is passing me by. Life is for living. And all that stuff…

I took the day off from work because any day on a bike is better than a day at work.  Any day, even that sucky day when my bike self destructed in the rain on the GAP trail near Rockwood PA in 2003.  On top of that I was sick as a dog.  Still beats work.

Now if only I could figure out how to get paid to ride instead of doing economics.  Okay, right there may be the problem. There are very, very few days when doing economics qualifies as exciting.  In fact, if you meet someone who finds economics exciting, you should back away slowly.  Then when he or she is not looking, make your escape. Don’t look back.

The only thing worse than an intellectually stimulated economist is an accountant pondering contingent liabilities. You can only imagine the dread I feel when I encounter this phenomenon at work.  Yes, it is that kind of workplace that drove me to take today off.

So I rode from my house down to Occoquan Va on the aptly named Occoquan River.  The local folk down there are mighty clever, aren’t they.  The town is only a few blocks long and qualifies as quaint.  Not seeing any food or drink to my liking I decided to follow US Bike Route 1 south in search of food.  The hill out of Occoquan is a real beast.  I was riding Nellie, my recumbent, and spinning my fanny off just to stay upright and maintain my speed which was wavering between 3 and 4 miles per hour. 

Well, I didn’t find any decent food.  The Mickey Ds I stopped out did have air conditioning and free refills on drinks. (They definitely lost money on me.)

Did I mention the ride was hilly. Yessir, I think I broke 30 miles per hour a dozen times.  And on one rather terrifying decent near the Lorton landfill I looked down and saw my odometer passing through 40 miles per hour. It was fascinating and I would have kept watching it except I didn’t much want to die today.  When  I got home I checked the maximum speed recorded on the bike computer. Here it is:

This is the third time in two days that I’ve broken the 40 mile per hour barrier.  Even on my long wheel base recumbent, 40 miles per hour is pushing the limits of sanity.  Lord knows, if I ever get Nellie over 50 I may shave to wear Depends.  Like I said, I’m getting old.