Coffeeneuring #4: Leaves and Beans

I wasn’t planning on going far. I slept in and read the paper. No matter how hard I tried, the crossword puzzle was just not happening.  I decided to take Big Nellie for a ride for a cup of coffee and do some leaf peeping.

The mandatory first leaf peeping stop around my house is Fort Hunt Park. Fort Hunt was once one of the perimeter defenses for our capital city but those days are long gone. Only a few ruins remain of the nineteenth century fort.  During the Second World War, German prisoners from U-boats were secretly held here and interrogated.

Now, Fort Hunt Park is a place for high school cross country meets and group picnics. It’s empty parking lots and 1 1/4 circular drive are an ideal place to learn how to drive.  The maples lining the entrance to the park are old and majestic. At this time of year they explode in color. As I took these pix, a cyclist stopped and pulled out his camera. He said, “It looks like Vermont!”  Indeed.  Check it out:

Fort Hunt Park circuit road
They call me “Big Red”
It just doesn’t get any better than this
Oh, yes it does!
“It looks like Vermont.”

Fort Hunt Park is located just off the Mount Vernon Trail about 4 1/2 miles south of Old Town

Drunk on foliage, I rode the Mount Vernon Trail to Old Town. I had tweeted that I was out and about doing my coffeeneuring run for the weekend. The response would have been underwhelming but there wasn’t any. I stopped at Grape and Bean for a cuppa French Roast. The place had a vibe that didn’t appeal to me. Very laid back but stodgy at the same time. They didn’t have any quick eats like muffins or cookies to go with my coffee. And I didn’t much go for the coffee either. Way too strong for my taste.  I drank it none the less and got a pretty good buzz.

French Roast

Big Nellie tied to a hitchin’ post

I decided not to waste a good speed rush and headed north toward the city.  As I rode, I spotted more beautiful trees than I could count. I rolled past a spirited game of flag football near Daingerfield Island. A receiver was hit on the numbers by a pass right next to the trail. He dropped the ball. Good D or steel hands? It was hard to tell.

Transpotomac Canal Park on the Mount Vernon Trail

As I headed north, my legs started to feel their oats and I was soon cruising along effortlessly.  I crossed the Potomac River on the 14th Street Bridge, ever grateful for the people who added this sidepath.

Ramp to the 14th Street Bridge
14th Street Bridge Side Path

I rode the east bank of the river past the Lincoln Memorial, some beach volleyball courts, and the Kennedy Center. The walkers along the path near the Kennedy Center slowed me way down. I know it’s a nice day out and you may be new to town but you all need to get some situational awareness, folks. Walking four and five abreast is really obnoxious. And what’s with walking on the left when everyone else is obviously walking on the right? Must not kill….

Trees and Beach Volleyball near Lincoln Memorial

I banged a left (where the heck did this expression come from?) on K Street and made it lickety split to the Capital Crescent Trail.  Once on that sucker, Big Nellie let it all hang out. We were cruising along nicely at around 15 miles per hour going up hill.  The sun had ducked behind a cloud and the temperature dropped quickly. In fall and spring, you can never be sure about the onset of cold and/or rain.  I hoped for the best and spun my way to Bethesda Row, the bustling downtown section of Bethesda. I spotted some funny plaques on the wall of the Barnes and Noble as I locked up my bike. Since it was around 2 in the afternoon, Bethesda Bagels was not crowded. I bought a decidedly unhealthy lunch and Big Nellie and I headed for our sky box.

I do believe the good doctor was right
Smart ass.

Heading north out of Bethesda, the Georgetown Branch Trail is the Capital Crescent’s unpaved extension into Chevy Chase (the town, not the actor) and Silver Spring (birthplace of Goldie Hawn).  It crosses over Rock Creek Park on a restored railroad trestle, cleverly named the Rock Creek Trestle. (I wonder how many consultants were hired to come up with that name.)

Georgetown Branch Trail

On the trestle, I ate lunch in the tree tops. I gazed down at the creek below and all around at the trees changing colors. If you ride a bike in DC, you really owe it to yourself to ride up here.  Way down there are little people running and riding wee little bikes. Hi, little people.

Big Nellie on the Trestle
Trestle and Trees

Rock Creek and Trail Way Down There

Clearly, I was needing calories. And my everything bagel with veggie cream cheese and massive chocolate chip cookie had them in abundance. Sadly, my feed bag had taken a couple of falls on the bumpy ride north and the cookie was more like cookie bits. The bagel had opened and smeared its contents all over. It wasn’t pretty but it sure was tasty. I washed it down with an iced tea.

Lunch before it was smashed up

Replenishment complete, I back tracked to Beach Drive and took a left down into the park, breaking the speed limit on the downhill. (I have never failed a drug test, I’ll have you know.) Sections of Beach Drive are closed to cars on the weekends. Although some car traffic is allowed to drive across the park, none can drive the length of the park to downtown DC.  In essence most of Beach Drive is a paradise for cyclists, runners, walkers and roller bladers. And it’s mostly downhill all the way to the Potomac.

If you give a bent a cookie, it will go very fast.  And so Big Nellie did. Down we went curving left and right. Rock Creek bubbled along the canyon floor and the trees put on a show on all sides. Riding a recumbent on a long downhill is more like street luge or tobogganing than cycling.

Recumbent panda – note soft sided helmet
Beach Drive in Rock Creek Park
Beach Drive in Rock Creek Park – Part Deux
Beach Drive in Rock Creek Park Strikes Back
Beach Drive in Rock Creek Park – Curve-y part
Beach Drive in Rock Creek Park – Blur Means Fast
Beach Drive in Rock Creek Park – Follow the Arrows

In one particularly pretty part of the park, the road slaloms, left then right then left. Eventually a right takes the road onto a little stone arch bridge over the creek. As I came off the bridge and accelerated I saw three people walking toward me.  One of them was Kate, a former colleague, whom I last saw on my last day of work at my old job. We were on the office Earth Day team. I was Bike Man; Kate was Walking Woman. (No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t get her to try bike commuting. Fail.)

Kate with her Mom and Dad

I rode past Kate yelling “Hi!!” then, feeling bad for not stopping to chat, I doubled back. As it turns out, the other two people were her parents. Awwww. Such a nice girl.

Trail in Rock Creek Park

After our talk, I realized that I was still over 20 miles from home. Time to boogie. Big Nellie kicked up her heels and we made short work of the rest of the park. If you ride a bike in DC or run or walk or hike or ride a horse or rollerblade, you must take advantage of Rock Creek Park, especially on the weekends. If you don’t, I’m kicking you out of my blog.

Beach Volleyball and Trees, Again

We retraced our route to the 14th Street Bridge and the Mount Vernon Trail. Just south of the airport as I slowed for a street crossing I saw a young woman mounting her bike. As I passed she looked up. She looked like Kate’s twin. Maybe my Earth Day pitch worked after all, on her long lost identical twin sister.  Or maybe, there’s some secret cloning experiments going on at my old office. Hmmmm…..

Instead of talking the Mount Vernon Trail south of Old Town I switched to Fort Hunt Road. This road is pretty typical of the haphazard road designs in Fairfax County. Four lanes narrow to two with a side path on the other side and a parking lane on the right. At the big hill the road drops the path and the parking lane and, eventually, the shoulder becomes a two foot deep ditch. At the very top of the hill a second lane on the right side re-appears for a couple of blocks then the whole thing narrows again. And it gets bumpy.

I was riding along on this bumpy, narrow stretch and a line of cars started to pass me. I was going 20 miles per hour and I could see the cars in my side view mirror. No problem. One car goes by. Another. Another. Then, a white Mercedes came up nearly even with my rear wheel. The driver honks his horn at me. It wasn’t an “I’m passing” honk; it was a “Get our of my way” honk. I guess he was trying to teach me a lesson or something. As he pulled along side me, I gave him the finger. I know I should kept my cool, but what he had just done was extremely dangerous. I wanted him to know that despite our philosophical differences, he was my number one douche bag of the day.

His response to my gesture was to swerve at me as he passed.  Brilliant dude. I delay you for two seconds and your respond with attempted vehicular homicide. He ended up at a traffic light. I thought about stopping and knocking on his window, but that would have been pointless. As he passed me again (without trying to kill me), I turned to him and made a “I took your picture” gesture with my hand.  He sped off.

About a quarter mile later I spotted his car in a parking lot. I took its picture. Check out the license plate. Don’t you just love religious people. So giving. So tolerant. So peaceful. God is amazing; he loves you even if you are a douche bag.

Car owned by Jesus of Benz

I rode home at peace with myself. Even Jesus of Benz couldn’t mess with my day: 54 1/2 miles, another coffeeneuring success, unbelievable fall foliage, and a nice surprise meeting in Rock Creek Park. 

Now for another go at that crossword puzzle.

3 thoughts on “Coffeeneuring #4: Leaves and Beans

  1. Finally got around to reading this. GREAT fall foliage shots!I am totally going to ride the Fort Hunt Rd circuit. Enjoyed a ride in Rock Creek Park a couple of weekends ago (it really is a gift to cyclists) but I'm overdue for a trip to Bethesda and I have yet to lunch on the Rock Creek Trestle. Thanks for the ideas!

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