It started with a breakfast burrito.
Brian (known in the Twitterverse as @sharrowsdc), DC area bike commuter, blogger and Friday Coffee Club (FCC) attendee, wanted a breakfast burrito. He had it in his head that her could find a tasty one in the DC suburbs. So her rode his bike into the wilds of Northern Virginia with mixed results.
Lisa (@ramblingrider), another blogging bike commuter from the FCC, found Brian’s escapade inspiring and proposed that it would be fun to do a ride into deepest Northern Virginia in pursuit of freshly made beer-like beverages. John (@dirteng), yet another bike/blog/coffee aficianado, sat down and mapped out a century (100-mile) bike ride to three northern Virginia breweries. The route would take us to Whites Ferry Maryland by way of the C&O Canal towpath, across the river on the cable ferry, south to Leesburg VA, back along the W&OD trail and, after meamdering through Falls Church and Alexandria, back to DC on the Mount Vernon Trail. Along the way he identified three breweries for liquid refreshment, Lost Rhino in Ashburn, Mad Fox in Falls Church, and Port City in Alexandria.
By Friday night we had a team of five riders lined up; John, Lisa, and I would be joined by Kevin (@bicyclebug), yet another bike/blog/FCC triple threat and Crystal (@crysb) who’d be a triple threat if not for the fact that her bike commute takes her far from the FCC’s home base. Friday night we also had rain. The towpath is unpaved and notorious for becoming a quagmire in certain spots. We needed a new route. With help from yet another triple threat named Mary (@gyspybug) who knows the roads of Montgomery County, Maryland by virtue of her randoneuring adventures with her husband Ed (@dailyrandonneur), John mapped out a new route on the roads.
We agreed to meet at Baked and Wired, a Georgetown coffee shop at 8 on Saturday morning and head out by around 8:20. I decided to ride to the start.
|A really healthy breakfast is key.|
After a rather disgusting breakfast of Trix, blueberries and orange juice, I rolled away from home. The ride in was pretty darn nice. The MVT was empty but for a bunch of runners taking advantage of the comfortable morning temperatures. The river was placid and the skies were an interesting mix of clouds and the rays of the rising sun.
|Early morning on the Potomac|
At Baked and Wired, we were having coffee, tea, and a bite to eat when in come Mary and Ed, who swung by on their tandem at the start of their overnight bike ride to the upper Shenandoah Valley. It was a great surprise that lifted our spirits. We blew an hour chatting and hanging out.
|The starting five! Kevin, John,. Crystal, me and Lisa|
A little after 9, they bid us safe travels and we wound our way uphill through Georgetown. A few miles into the ride in the Palisades neighborhood of DC, we met up with Chris (@bilsko), yet another bike commuter from the coffee club. Chris was enjoying the morning with his cute-as-a-button daughter Maya. Chris couldn’t join us for the full ride, but promised to ride out the W&OD to meet up with us for the last couple of beer stops.
|Chris and Maya|
Off we rode on MacArthur Boulevard. One small hill near the reservoir, gave way to miles of flats. I was feeling oddly strong despite having logged 140 miles from riding to work during the week. As usual it didn’t occur to me that we had a tailwind. Along the road we saw two deer, one close enough to almost touch from our saddles. We hit the first big hill near Great Falls Park. This one usually gives me trouble, but, thanks to Lisa reminding me to take a hit from my asthma inhaler before the ride, I had no trouble at all going up the windy, long hill. We continued on Falls Road to Potomac Village where we stopped to regroup and assess our pace. Everyone seemed none the worse for wear so we headed west on River Road.
|We show off our Sharrows pins bought from Brian in support of WABA|
River Road has a series of challenging hills. Way down and way up. As we headed west we saw many bicyclists coming our way, speeding down the downs and slogging up the ups. After a couple of pretty challenging hills we pulled over to regroup. Crystal, who had plans in the early afternoon, had to turn back and we thanked her for her company. (We need to ride again, Crystal!)
|Crystal says goodbye|
River Road continued to dish out the hills and we continued to roll along. We passed an old one-room schoolhouse, a golf course, more mansions that you could shake a bike pump at, a Buddhist temple, a closed country store. The weather seemed to be on our side this day. Puffy clouds and warm but not oppressive temperatures. Pretty darn good bicycling weather for August in DC.
|John tweets, Kevin reaches the top of the hill|
At the end of River Road, we reached a T. A right would mean more miles; a left would take us along a shorter route, but up a difficult hill on Mount Nebo Road. We went with the Nebo. The road soon became narrower and a tree canopy formed overhead. We turned right, looked up, and thar she blows, Mt. Nebo Road. The steep hill had two short flats sections along the way, which was good because without them I’d be lying along the side of the road with the roadkill.
|John thinking of IPA|
|Lisa thinking of Porter|
After the hill came miles of flat roads. River Road began again, but, this time, unpaved. The good news is that it was dry; the bad news is that there was quite a lot of little water-filled potholes and washboard. Most of it was avoidable, but I managed to chatter through a couple of teeth rattling stretches.
The dirt road dropped us where the C&O passes Whites Ferry. We pulled in to a grassy spot and prepared to use the rest room. As we parked out bikes, Ed and Mary showed up coming down Whites Ferry Road from the north. Another great surprise. Mary bought a bunch of peaches which she shared with the fruit lovers among us. We chatted so long that we missed the first ferry, but 15 minutes later we were on the next one, chatting up a storm.
|Ed, Mary and the Lead Sled roll into Whites Ferry|
|Kevin riding away from Whites Ferry|
The seven of us rode away from the river to US 15, a high-speed, two-lane highway with mercifully big shoulders, We rode 15 into Leesburg where Ed and Mary headed west on Route 7. We picked up the W&OD and headed east. From here on out, the ride would be predominantly downhill and into a headwind.
|Is that a hematoma in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?|
We took a break at a trail side quarry and, shortly thereafter, left the trail in Ashburn for Lost Rhino brewery. This off-trail riding took us into the soulless auto-oriented wasteland of Loudoun County. Endless empty fields awaiting development. Traffic signals that would not recognize the presence of our bikes. Porsches and pick up trucks, Lost Rhino, take me away!
|Lisa, John and Kevin on the W&OD|
|Lisa thinks this ride rocks, or is it the quarry?|
The roads were depressing but the beer and food were worth it. I had a pilsner and a bison dog. I’d tell you what the bison dog tasted like, but I inadvertantly bit into a jalapeno pepper hidden under the other toppings. This fried my taste buds. You’ll have to try the bison dog yourself, I’m afraid. The beer was certainly tasty though. We toasted our FCC friend Lauren (@lkono) who tweeted that she rode her bike and had a Guinness in our honor, a Hoppy 25 ride! in her new home of Dublin, Ireland.
|Lost Rhino Pilsner, first beer of the day|
After retracing our soulless tracks we were back on the W&OD. Where once there were farmers’ fields, now were housing developments and highways. Sterling, Herndon, Reston. The headwind kept us honest. The downhill grade kept us in a good mood.
|I don’t often drink beer, but when I do, I prefer Lost Rhino root beer.|
As we approached the Dulles Toll Road underpass, we spotted a cyclists waving up ahead. It was Chris and his brand new Surly Disk Trucker! (Serious bike envy ensued.) Now we were six. We rode through Vienna and, after cresting a hill, enjoyed a noticeable downhill stretch In Falls Church we stopped to buy some lemonade from two enterprising little girls. A few minutes later we were sitting in the Mad Fox brew pub downing another brew and some light snacks. Delish. Here we stopped to toast Brian for inspiring our adventure.
|Chris is man enough for some trailside lemonade.|
|Lisa at Mad Fox|
Back on the trail we rolled into Arlington. Near Bluemont Park we veered off onto the old Four-Mile Run Trail. After stopping to let Chris fall off his bike somehow, John charted a course through Bailey’s Crossroads. With me leading, we promptly got lost in a low-ish income neighborhood of garden apartments and 20 year old cars. Then the clouds opened up. With some help from some rather soggy locals, we made our way to the trail along Holmes Run. Unfortunately, most of the storm drains empty into Holmes Run so we spent a few miles following the bumpy trail and splashing through gushing water spewing from big pipes and the stream itself.
|Creepy tunnel under I395|
Twice more I led us astray but the determined efforts of biking beer drinkers would not be denied. We finally found Port City brewery and went inside to partake in refreshment. As we drank to our health, the skies opened once again. A staff member took our picture and we stepped outside to enjoy our wet saddles and the final ten miles of our journey.
It was getting dark by this point. Since I ride through Old Town almost every day, I led the way to the MVT. At the base of King Street, I turned south for home and the rest of the crew turned north for DC. Adios, amigos.
|We arrive at Port City|
|The final five! John, Lisa, me, Kevin and Chris. Cheers!|
By the time I reached the Wilson Bridge underpass it was dark. I decided not to stop and put lights on. Instead I rode the abandoned MVT back to the neighborhoods of Mount Vernon. The street lights and my mental map of every bump in the streets were sufficient to get me home in one piece. About 1/2 mile from home, the skies opened up again. I didn’t care. I’d just ridden 111 miles on The Mule. I don’t think I’d ever ridden this far on a non-recumbent bike. I was soggy. I was tired. I was chuffed.
So ended the Hoppy 100. And to think it all started with a breakfast burrito.
For more hoppy fun, check out some more pictures on my Flickr page.