Last year, the 50 States Ride and the Backroads Century were scheduled for Saturday and Sunday on the same weekend. Being a biker of very little brain I signed up for both and survived to tell about them.
During the 65-mile 50 States Ride, Liza (@ramblingrider) dropped out in Tacoma Park thereby missing out of the joys of Alaska, Oregon, Utah, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Arizona, New Mexico, Idaho, and Connecticut Avenues. She swore she’d ride the whole thing this year, so I agreed to ride along with her. Unlike last year, Lisa did not sign up for Backroads this year. Kristen (@Bobbishaftoe), however, did and asked if I’d ride it with her. Not recalling the ride to be particularly difficult (and proving that I have long term memory issues) I agreed to join her for the metric (65 mile) version.
Fifty States in a Monsoon
After a rude 5:30 wake up, I drove to DC and parked my car about 1 mile uphill from the start of the ride in Adams Morgan. The course is hilly and the forecast called for rain so I was riding The Mule my best bike for both conditions. The forecast called for a long, soaking rain in the mid to late afternoon. I rode down to the start and there were all kinds of people I knew: First, I ran into Mike with whom I used to work. Then I talked with Ryan Sigworth (@ryansigworth) who was a volunteer at the check in desk. Ted (@MrTinDC) and Jean (@jerdling) took off early. We saw Kate (there’s always one Kate) (@girlonabikedc) sneak away into the pack of early departers, too. Jeff, who has ridden with me on a dozen rides over the years, stopped by to say hello. Kevin (@bicyclebug), Lisa, new dad Justin (@jantos), Dave (@darsal), Kirstin (@ultrarunnergirl) and Tom (@ultrarunnerhubz – okay, I made that up) gathered together and started en mess at the back of the crowd. As we pulled away, Felkerino (@dailyrandonneur) and MG (@gypsybug) appeared, disguised as husband and wife bike rider. As usual, they planned to skip a few states in favor of coffee shops.
The start of the course was very different this year. Instead of spiralling around the streets of downtown hitting one stop light after another we picked off a few states then headed east and then south to Capitol Hill. Somewhere along the way Felkerino, MG, Kirstin, and Tom headed off course for espresso. Near Union Station the rest of us missed the unsigned Delaware Avenue. Being dedicated to the task and anal retentives, we circled back for the entirety of Delaware’s magnificent 100 yards of pavement. What a thrill.
The course took us across Capitol Hill and down Independence Avenue where Justin and Dave stopped to help a rider whose rear rack had fallen off and was dragging behind his bike on the pavement. Next we cruised over to Hains Point, a favorite flat ride along the Potomac River. One year not long ago, the course passed by a massive construction project in what is now called Near Southeast DC. Seeing the beautiful Nationals Park at the same location was an indication of how DC is changing for the better. Riding past the Navy Yard a few blocks later was a reminder of another sort.
Once over the Anacostia River, we rode over a whole bunch of tree roots into Anacostia Park where we hit the aptly named Anacostia rest stop. Here we rejoined the espresso club and watched Kate ride away. I think she was on a mission from God.
We launched anew into the hills of Anacostia. Pedal, pedal. Huff and puff. Last year I rode most of the ride with Laurie, a loquacious course marshall. It was nice to fall in with her once again as we rode into the wind up the first hill up Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. We were rewarded with a tailwind and much funny chatter from Laurie and her entourage as we climbed up Stanton Road and Alabama Avenue. In short order we picked off Texas and were zooming down Massachusetts Avenue at great speed. Most of the riders were trying to stay in the narrow bike lane but I said PSHAW (which is my wont) and got in the main right lane and let ‘er rip. Big fun.
Soon we were back across the Anacostia River and at the mid-ride lunch stop at Eastern Market where Kate was waiting with her gorgeous bike Kermit. I snarfed a chicken burrito and chatted with Kate and Alex (@alexbaca) who was communicating her ass off for the Washington Area Bicyclists Association.
After lunch we did another loop on east Capitol Hill then headed north where abundant hills awaited us. Pedal, pedal, huff, and puff. Damn this city is hilly. Riding up Hawaii wasn’t exactly Haleakala but it sure felt like it.
The ride took us into a bunch of spirals to pick off Colorado, Iowa, and other states of hilly repute. We then reached the third rest stop at the home of Mike (@rattlingfender) and the other Lisa (Eaker), to whom he claims to be married. Mike shouted my arrival (ROOTCHOPPER!!!) causing me great embarrassment and ego inflation. The awesome Rachel (@rachelcannon) from WABA was staffing the rest stop. We made tentative plans to do a ride in October.
We, now rejoined by the espresso crowd, spent way too much time hanging out and were rewarded with the first raindrops of the day shortly after heading out. Along Alaska Avenue the rain began to fall. We entered Rock Creek Park and stopped to don rain gear causing the rain to stop for about 15 minutes.
Along Rock Creek, the espresso gang peeled off for the after party (SLACKERS! This will go on their Permanent records – a little randonneuring pun there). Kevin zoomed on ahead of us and Lisa and I rode as a duo as the skies opened. Nothing like a monsoon, hills, and traffic for a fun day out on the bike.
We passed Kevin at the last rest stop enjoying some rest in the rain. We were now focussed on getting out of this rain. Down we rode to Arizona Avenue with cars all about. I am hereby recommending that we kick Arizona out of the union. At the base of a long hill, we turned onto a side street and started the steep, bumpy assault on Mount AU. Curse you, gravity.
Rejoined by Kevin, we rode a few more hills in the rain and the traffic. Kevin and I took the sidewalk to avoid a road closure. Lisa decided to be a good citizen cyclist and took a detour. Not knowing what happened to her, Kevin and I waited in the rain next to a police station for 10 or 15 minutes before concluding that Lisa was not dead.
Ten soggy minutes later we were done, and celebrating at Mellow Mushroom, site of the post ride party. There were Rachel, Kate, Felkerino, MG, Dave, and many other soggy cyclists. We had ourselves some pizza and hoisted (can you say “hoist” when it’s a plastic cup?) us some beer, still crazy after all these years.
After the party I went to get on the Mule and it’s rear tire was flat. I pumped it up the best I could and rode a mile uphill to the car, hearing the squish of my flattening rear tire all the way.
Despite the rain and hills and the flat tire, I had a great time. I’ve done this ride six times over the last decade. It’s always a great social experience. If it wasn’t for this ride, I wouldn’t know most of the #bikedc people I know. I wouldn’t have seen first hand how all areas of the city have blossomed. The people of DC, especially in Anacostia, never fail to cheer you on and make sure you stay on course. If you haven’t done this ride, DO IT.
Lastly, a tip of my skivvy 22-year old rain hat in thanks to Ryan, Alex, Mike and Lisa, Rachel, and all the other volunteers who made this ride happen. You are awesome.