Little Nellie and the Marshall Plan

A few weeks ago I read about an old plantation from colonial days called Marshall Hall. It is, or as you will see what’s left of it is, located a bit downriver fom Mount Vernon on the Maryland side of the Potomac River. I’ve been wanting to go exploring in that general area. Today the weatherman was kind so Little Nellie, my Bike Friday, and I set out to check things out.

We rode the Mount Vernon Trail to the Wilson Bridge and crossed over to Maryland. I swiped my hand through the lavender on the overpass on the Maryland side of the river. It smelled divine.

The half-mile long slog up to Oxon Hill Road is all too familiar. Once at the top we hung a right into the Oxon Hill Road construction zone. It turned out to be not half bad, mostly because the drivers were well behaved and patient. We continued past the strip mall and down the steep hill where we easily broke 30 miles per hour. Thirty on 20 inch wheels is a bit hair raising, I must say.

We followed Livingston Road which as a cycling route leaves much to be desired. There is no paved shoulder, the side of the road is often patched or crumbling asphalt, drivers were a bit more aggressive, and, well, the scenery is ugly. Once we crossed Indian Head Highway the route gradually improved. We re-crossed Indian Head Highway and the road became rural: dense trees, fields of grass, goats and horses, crazed survivalists shoot AK47s.

Okay, I made that last bit up.

They were uzis.

It’s hard to tell on Google Maps just which road leads to Marshall Hall so in a bit of inspired daring we chose to ride down Old Marshall Hall Road. After a couple of miles I turned off onto Barrys Hill Road which led us to (New) Marshall Hall Road. This was a highway with no one on it. (I looked for Bono but he wasn’t around.) Huge paved shoulders, flawless pavement, and not a car in sight. And it was flat. Ah.

I neglected to mention that the ride thus far had been hillier and bumpier than I am used to, so I was getting beat up by Little Nellie’s 20 inch wheels.

After 27 miles of riding we pulled up in front of Marshall Hall. It has seen better days.


We took a side trip to a small graveyard for the Marshall peeps. The stones were flat against the ground and the inscriptions had been worn down by 200 or so years of exposure to the elements.


I checked the sign at the entrance and learned that there had been amusement parks of one sort or another here for about 100 years from the late 1800s to the 1970s. No trace remains of that part of history. 

We spent a few momemts at the nearby boat launch and took pictures of the Virginia side of the river. It was hard to figure out what was what since this is an entirely new perspective. We were between Fort Belvoir and Mount Vernon.

On the ride back we took a slightly different route that allowed me to avoid about 1 1/2 miles of Livingston Road. Along the way I spotted an upside down turtle on the side of the road. As I bent to turn it back over, I saw the blood next to it. On closer inspection I could see that the shell had been flattened and the turtle’s insides had been crushed. No more snapping for this one, I’m afraid.

There were many, many hills on this ride but easily the hardest one was the long steep ride up Oxon Hill Road. This sucker is a beast. The shoulder is paved but the pavement is covered with the droppings of a cement truck. You have to earn this climb.

We did, but I was pooped. And my back was sore. So we headed home. 

Marshall Hall was a bit of a disappointment but I think it will be worthwhile to further investigate the roads down thataway. Once you get about four miles south of the beltway the roads are actually quite rural and the drivers mellow out.

Some pix are over on my Flickr page.


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