It was high time that I got off the couch and rode into the city to test ride some bikes. My current stable includes a 12 year old recumbent with 38,400 miles on it, a 24 year old touring bike with 38,400 miles on it, and an 8 year old travel bike with 15,000 miles on it. So? I wanna new bike. I’ve been good. Waaa!
I took The Mule, my touring bike, and rolled out to the city. Wrapped up in thoughts, I missed a turn in a neighborhood called Waynewood that has curvy roads instead of a grid. (I actually have heard it referred to as Whitewood, because there are so few people of color living there.)
Once back on track I took East Boulevard Drive to the Mount Vernon Trail. East Boulevard runs parallel to the GW Parkway and was once lined with small houses, cottages really from back in the day when a trolley line ran down the middle of the Parkway. The Washington area is filled with neighborhoods like this where people with money once escaped the heat of the city. Over the past decade, many of the small houses and undeveloped land have been cleared for massive egoboxes that are triple the size that any rational person would need. This week several cottage houses and trees were bulldozed to make way for more mega-homes. Sad.
The trail was busy, as it always is on a nice Sunday morning in the summer. I managed not to get mad at the long clusters of families riding slowly. They will stash their bikes in the garage soon enough, probably once the temperature falls below 70 degrees.
Once in Alexandria, I took the Woodrow Wilson Bridge across the Potomac River to Maryland. The path is wide but two walkers managed to take up 3/4ths of the width with their bodies. They really needed the walk.
On the Maryland side I slogged up to Oxon Hill Road. It’s not a difficult climb but there is no shade and it goes on forever. The massive lot on the hillside was once empty. It is now the site of the construction of a casino. What a shame that all that effort isn’t going into something that produces something beneficial and lasting.
Once at the top of the hill I had to deal with the fact that MDOT can’t figure out how to build a bike lane to the Oxon Hill Farm. I rode against traffic for a few hundred yards in silent protest to MDOT’s stupidity. (They recently made changes that made this situation worse, making the left turn into Oxon Hill Farm illegal.)
A rather beat up road goes around the farm and back down the hill to Oxon Cove Park. The path through this park sucks. It’s all weeds and potholes. A deer bounded across my path to take my mind off how this route could be made so much nicer for not a lot of money.
Once out of the park I rode the steep uphill on Blue Plains Drive to Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. (Are you following all the ups and downs? You’d think MDOT would build a bike trail along the river. You’d think wrong.) A left at the top of the hill took me through some of the poorest parts of Anacostia. There were groups of men sitting in the shade every 100 yards or so. They didn’t look very happy. I rode past the old Saint Elizabeth’s hospital. This was what Karl Childers in Sling Blade called a nervous hospital. For a minute I imagined what a godawful place this must have been back in the day. It’s closed now. Old red brick buildings behing walls and chain link fences slowly giving in to the passage of time. Why can’t they bulldoze this mess instead of those cottages?
After riding through an uninspiring commercial neighborhood, I turned into Anacostia Park. As I made my way northeast along the river I stopped to refill my water bottle. The first two water fountains I tried were not working. On a humid 90 degree day. Go DC!
I finally found a fountain that worked near a roller skating facility. Shortly thereafter I left the park and headed across the Anacostia River, northwest up busy Benning Road. Most BikeDC people I know leave the city to get away from their daily battle with cars. Every so often I go into town to play with the beasts.
I rode through the gentrifying areas of Northeast DC then into Northwest. After a million traffic lights I arrived at the new Bicycle Space mother ship in Adams Morgan. This bike store is NICE! And there are beaucoup bikes on display. So many bikes. I want them all. Just what I needed.
I said hello to my friend Rachel (Don’t Call Me Bob) Cannon who conveniently works for Bicycle Space. What a coincidence! I promptly had me test riding an All City bike. I took it on a loop that included a hill. Riding it out of saddle up the hill was not to my liking so I went back to the shop. where Rachel was prepping a Surly Cross Check for me. Ryan, from the No Wrong Plan tour, came into the shop while the Cross Checvl was being adjusted. He told Rachel and me that despite the fact that he really liked a particular Salsa Warbird bike, he couldn’t buy it because it would cost him too much in divorce lawyer fees.
He joined me aboard the Warbird for one of two test rides on the Cross Check. We were coming to a stop at a traffic light when Susan, Ryan’s wife, saw us and said (I kid you not), “Ryan, no more bikes!”
The Cross Check is a tweener bike, not quite for touring, not quite for road riding. I really liked it a whole bunch, but this whole bike buying thing was really about getting a new touring bike, a Surly Disc Trucker. So Rachel ordered me up one in my size and I will go back in next weekend to do a ride-off. Stay tuned.
Before I left, Rachel told me that her friend Kate is returning to the east coast, because the correct number of Kates to have is N+1. Rachel and Kate are like Mary and Rhoda to me because listening to them talk is like sitting in on a sitcom. Kate and Rachel did the Great Pumpkin ride a few years ago (I joined them for a post-ride beer). It looks like they’ll be back for a repeat. We’ll have to figure out some logistics because a car is needed to get to the ride and they are both car-free.
After the bike shop I picked up some food at a 7-11 and rode to Meridian Hill Park to sit in the shade and read. All was great until a man doing a Humans of DC knock off came by and started talking to the barechested, dreadlocked man of about my age sitting on the bench next to me. I couldn’t listen for all the chatter so I packed up The Mule and rode for home.
At Lafayette Park near the White House swarms of disoriented tourists were obstructing every possible pathway. Once clear of them, I had to deal with the tourists who stood in the 15th Street cycle track as they took in their surroundings. Next came the rent-a-bike tourists riding blindly across the cycle track nearly causing a bicycle pile-up. You probably didn’t know this but Washingtonland is a theme park. We should have funny people in costumes milling about. Oh, I forgot, we do. They’re called politicians.
A few minutes later I was riding past tourists on the Mount Vernon Trail at Gravelly Point Park. Look, Ma. Pavement! Let’s walk four abreast so that all these bikes have to stop or ride across the grass through all the other tourists.
Anabolic touroids. Must not kill.
Thankfully, the rest of the ride home was uneventful. The Mule felt slow, however. I thought to myself, “Wouldn’t that Cross Check be nice right about now?”
After 43 miles I arrived home. It was HOT. I put The Mule away in the Old Bike’s Home. and returned to the couch.