Half a Vasa Is Better than None


Swedes are crazy people.  You would be, too, if you lived way up north and didn’t hardly see the sun for most of the winter.  At the end of winter, as proof of their insanity (as if the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Abba were not enough), thousands of Swedes participate in a very long Nordic skiing event called the Vasaloppet. Along the way, they eat lots and wash it down with warm blueberry soup.  (Would I make this up?)

I belong to the Washington Area Bicyclists Association (WABA).  Every March, WABA teams up with the Swedish embassy to host a bicycling version of the Vassaloppet.  Some folks do the entire 60 mile ride. They must be Swedes. I, however, am of Irish extraction. I don’t do 60 mile rides in 45 degree weather. So I did the Halvvasa, which apparently is Swedish for Half Vasaloppet.

Pre-Ride: The Crowd Gathers

I drove to DC at an ungodly hour for a Sunday morning.  Coffee was my co-pilot.  I parked near the Jefferson Memorial and rode my Sequoia two miles along the river to the ride start/finish at the Swedish embassy along the Georgetown waterfront. This would be the test ride for my recently repaired front fork.

Bike Friday Club of DC – Jonathan and Me

The full Vasa ride had already left on its 60 mile trek. I picked up my cue sheet and found Jonathan Krall, like me a member of the Bike Friday Club of DC. We chatted with some other Halvvassed riders then headed out into a steady headwind.

Regina – Have Smile, Will Ride

The route takes trails and roads west to Great Falls Park, mostly along the Capital Crescent Trail and MacArthur Boulevard. This is a pretty flat ride save for a short-ish hill near the reservoir. We rode past Glen Echo Park, a mothballed amusement park of yesteryear and over the Cabin John Bridge.

The climb up into Great Falls is challenging.  It’s probably 1/2 mile long which is long enough to find a climbing rhythm.  We took Falls Road into Potomac Village spotting a flock (“flock” isn’t the right word here) of vultures snarfing down Sunday brunch – a deer carcass on the side of the road. Gross. 

The Boots Rider Had a Moustache on Her Bike.
Dude, Get Off My Dream Bike
Blue Bike, White Tires, Boots!
Welcome to Sweden

After a 15 minute chat in Potomac Village, we reversed course,  Before we reached the vultures, we banged a left through the Avenel development.  Oaklyn Drive was pool table smooth with several rolling hills.  It’s as nice a biking road as you will find. As I was about to pass the riders in front of me, I caught sight of a bicycle moving very fast on my left.  He was the lead rider in a club ride.  The club riders.soon were three abreast along side.  As they made their way past us, a car came from the opposite direction. The club riders compressed toward us. Thankfully, the driver was not playing Angry Birds on his iPhone and we all survived the encounter.

Swedish Innovation Exhibit

The ride back was very pleasant with a light tailwind that upped our cruising speed by five miles per hour.  Smooth sailing.  I fell into a pleasant 15 mile per hour groove and lost contact with Jonathan as he faded into the distance ahead of me.

A lovely, enthusiastic WABA volunteer called out to me at Reservoir Road and I made the right hand turn back down to the Capital Crescent Trail. Another 5 miles of scenic river riding and I was back at the embassy.    I had forgotten my lock, so Jonathan used his cable lock to lock our bikes together. Thanks, Jonathan.

Blueberry Soup

We entered the embassy and had some warm blueberry soup to celebrate our day.  We chatted with a bunch of other riders, including Mark Blacknell, whose name I have seen a million times on the Internet.  Mark is the current WABA president.  Frankly, I have no idea what that means, but his security detail and bullet proof bike were very impressive.

After Ride – Trying Out a Utility Bike

Good ride. Well done, WABA. Thanks for the hospitality, Swedish Embassy.

Until next year, skol, y’all.

2 thoughts on “Half a Vasa Is Better than None

  1. The photos and your description make the ride look and sound like so much fun! I'm sorry that the hubs and I didn't make it and get to make your acquaintance. He hasn't ridden much this winter and wasn't up to the distance. I didn't want to go without him. Next year…

  2. I believe we parked in the same lot! I was traveling a few minutes ahead of you, however, so the lot was empty except for my truck. I enjoyed the pedal over to the embassy. That's a pleasant route on a Sunday morning, despite the temperature.I really enjoyed Oaklyn Drive as well. As always, the Swedes did a fine job. They stepped up their game this year with an official Grand Marshal and costumes at the soup line!And yes, the deer carcass was gross.

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