During the week, I am a mild mannered bike commuter. On four day weekends, I am El Velo Loco. I am also bent, as I am riding Big Nellie, my Tour Easy recumbent.
Yesterday, I decided to go exploring in southeastern Fairfax County. I spent about five hours riding up and down hills. I had intended to ride to Clifton Virginia, cross the Occoquan River and make my way home through Prince William County. I missed a turn. I rode by a prison. It’s been closed for ten years but the guard towers and walls are still there. I can’t imaging living near something like that. I ended up riding down to Mason Neck, an isolated part of Fairfax County. In the process, I rode down an old road that used to cross over the main railroad line on a single lane old wooden bridge. Nowadays, the bridge is blocked off. I went around the barricade and walked my bike over the span. The wood was weathered with ruts where car tires once drove. Southeastern Fairfax County used to have several one lane bridges, twisty roads with blind curves and hills.
Temperatures for this hill-fest topped out at 88 degrees and it was muggy to boot. I was pleased with my riding though. I never felt uncomfortable and I had no trouble breathing.
Paul is a friend from grad school who occasionally does bike rides when he’s not playing hockey, softball, selling used CDs, DJing, or going to concerts. Oh, and he has a day job too. Paul told me about a new eatery called Haute Dogs and Fries that specializes in hot dogs (and fries). They have one location in Old Town Alexandria and another in Purcellville Virginia. The former is seven miles from my house; the latter is 55 miles away. Guess which one I rode to?
Aw, you’ve read this blog before have you?
I headed out to P’ville at 8:30. It was comfortable outside but I knew that would change. I lucked out with a strong breeze out of the east. I rode the Mount Vernon Trail to the Four Mile Run trail. On the way, I passed Nancy Duley who was veloworking again.
The wind pushed me along Four Mile Run until I picked up the Washington and Old Dominion Trail near Shirlington. 45 miles of mostly gradual uphill is a little like riding a false flat for 4 hours. It looks flat but there is a persistent incline most of the way. I spun away through Arlington, Falls Church, Dunn Loring, Vienna, Reston, Herndon, Sterling, Ashburn, Lessburg, Clarks Gap, Hamilton Station and finally P’ville. Along the way I stopped and topped off my water bottles at every opportunity. At 33 miles, I re-applied sun screen. I brought some snacks and munched away at them whenever my energy felt a little low,
The trail was surprisingly uncrowded. This might have had something to do with the heat and humidity. The temperature peaked at 91 degrees, but it was a wet heat. It was not a lot of fun when the sun broke through the clouds.
There were several stretches where the trail tilts downward as it goes west. I would crank it up to 20 miles per hour. By Leesburg, it was apparent that the tailwind was now coming from my left side. No worries. Pedal, pedal.
I arrived in P’ville around 1:30. After a stop in a bike shop where I inhaled a Gatorade, I made my way to Haute Dogs, in a new strip mall in town. There are several dogs with heavy toppings like chili, cheese, and hot peppers. After 5 hours in the heat, these did not sound appealing so I ordered a Fenway Dog (with relish, mustard and onions I think) and fries. The dog came on a grilled bun and the fries had some sort of seasoning. It was way good. So was the ice cold Coke. Nom nom.
Back on the bike, I found that I now had a tailwind! Woo hoo! It varied a bit, but there was no doubt I’d get an assist most of the way home.
And that gradual uphill was now a gradual downhill. Suffice it to say, I spent a lot of time in my big ring. I continued to stop now and then for cold water and snacks. (I had a chocolate chip ice cream sandwich at a trailside barbecue place in Ashburn. Nutrition is important, you know,)
I’ve been riding the W&OD for a couple of decades. It’s amazing how much it has changed. It used to pass through woods and farmers’ fields beyond Reston. Now, more and more of these rural scenes have been replaced by housing developments and highways. Nature still makes an appearance along the trail though. I saw a huge black snake, a black squirrel, a bunny rabbit, and an indigo bunting during my travels.
Despite the heat, I was doing pretty darn good on my ride home. Around mile 80, my knees started complaining. The only thing I could do was to focus on spinning in low gears and keep on pedaling.
When I finally made it back to the Mount Vernon Trail, I was greeted with a headwind for the last nine miles home. At least, along the river, it was a little less hot (cooler just doesn’t do the trick here).
On the spur of the moment I took the US 1 connector path instead of the MVT south of the beltway. Car traffic getting on to the Woodrow Wilson Bridge across the Potomac River was backed up for over a mile. I rode past the line of forlorn drivers thinking that I was so glad to be on a bike heading in the opposite direction. The drivers’ misery nearly took my mind off the hill I was climbing. This was followed by a bigger hill where Fort Hunt Road crests Beacon Hill. It took a while and my knees were barking but we made it without much drama. The downhill on the backside was so much fun I decided to add one more hill on Sherwood Hall Lane. This made for a final mile that was all downhill. Ahh.
Next time I go to Haute Dogs, I will visit their Old Town location. Because it’s there.