50 States – I’m Gonna Miss You

Tomorrow is the sign up day for the 50 States ride from the Washington Area Bicyclists Association. As far as I am concerned, if you ride in DC and you haven’t done this ride, you are a maroon.

I’ve done this ride seven times: 2007 – 2008, 2010 – 2014. (If you’ve ridden it more, please let me know.) Here are some fun facts you should do know before doing it:

  • Sign up immediately. The 500 slots will fill by tomorrow.
  • To ride, you need to be a WABA member. It’s a good organization and it costs next to nothing. (Members get discounts at local bike shops. You’ll get some of your money back every time you buy some bike stuff.)
  • You will get to see nearly every nook and cranny of DC. It’s an amazingly diverse place. If you do it more than once you will see a city transformed.
  • You will get a cue sheet that is 9 pages long. This is a clue that this ride is a different animal.
  • You will think that a 60+ mile ride can be done in 4 or 5 hours. You will learn that this is no ordinary 60+ mile ride. Plan on riding all stinkin’ day. It ain’t easy.
  • You will have fun, even if you thought the ride was much shorter than it is.
  • You will get lost. Probably multiple times. It’s even money that you will miss Texas altogether.
  • You will stop at approximately 2,306 red lights. Same for stop signs.This is where you meet people. Even if you are an introvert. It is also where you learn that clipless pedals are overrated.
  • You will go to rest stops run where you will also meet people. The rest stops are staffed by incredibly kind volunteers. Hug them. (Okay, maybe not. You’ll be all sweaty.)
  • You will see people in the neighborhoods all around the city and they will wave at you and cheer you on.(This is a big change from the early years when they cussed you out for clogging up their streets. I kid you not.) They will tell you where to make that tricky left and right turn on Alabama Avenue SE. They will take your picture, even in the rain. They might even stick a banner on their house with your twitter handle on it.
  • Try to remember that you are riding through places where people live. Don’t run them over. Wave. Smile. Say “Hi.” The next time they see a bicyclist while they are driving they might just wave, smile, and say “Hi.” You get what you give.
  • You will discover that WABA employs a sadist. You can ride downhill but there is always a stop sign or stop light to steal your roll. All the whil,, the WABA sadist sits in a bar in Adams Morgan drinking an ice cold beer and laughing at you.
  • The WABA sadist is also a cartographic and planning genius. How the route avoids conflicts with other events in the city is some kind of miracle.
  • You will despise Cathedral Heights and Fort Totten. You will LUUV Minnesota Ave.
  • Some of your new friends will abandon you. If you do the ride multiple times, they may abandon you more than once.
  • It will rain. If not, it will be hotter than Venus. You would not be the first person to jump in Rock Creek to cool off.
  • You could do the entire ride eating nothing but almonds if you don’t mind having your face all puckered up. I recommend buying the lunch. It just makes things easier and you get to spend your time comparing notes and meeting people at the half way point at Eastern Market.
  • Any bike with lots of gears and brakes will do. Feel free to ride a single speed bike because you don’t really need that meniscus in your knees anyway.
  • Go to the after party and get your free beer and t-shirt. You earned it.


As for me, I am not doing the ride this year. I will be out of town. You can have my slot.

One thought on “50 States – I’m Gonna Miss You

  1. You should change your plans and do it again! I’ve done it twice. The first time was in 2006 and it was three weeks after I bought my first adult bike, a heavy, bulky hybrid that seemed so graceful and light in the morning. What a daunting but beautiful introduction to riding all over DC! I was sooo proud of myself for making it despite those crazy hills I didn’t even know were in DC! My old roommate did it on a tall bike one year!

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