Big Nellie Goes Outside

Big Nellie, my long wheelbase recumbent, has been gathering dust the last few years. It mostly gets ridden in the basement during winter days when ice and snow increase the chances for crashing. And, as I found out last winter, it’s a pretty good bike for rehabbing from the occasional life threatening illness. Until this past week, I’d ridden it only 300 miles outside since last fall.

So it was long overdue for some fresh air. And, thankfully, the weather hereabouts decided to cooperate.

The last few days I’ve been taking it on little excursions around DC and its environs.

The other day we took a jaunt over the Woodrow Wilson Bridge to Prince Georges County Maryland. The ride features some rather jarring expansion joints on the bridge and a corkscrew descent on the Maryland side. Next comes the long grind up Oxon Hill next to the new MGM casino, a glitzy monument to American vacuousness.

Once at the top I headed downriver to Fort Washington which guards the Potomac River across from Fort Hunt. Fort Washington is essentially intact while Fort Hunt exists only as ruins among the trees.

I rode into DC on the Maryland side via Oxon Cove Park. The paved road into the park is in need of paving and the path through the park has become utterly derelict from neglect. The neglect extends to the unmowed grass that stands at knee level. Neglected parkland is depressing.

I rode through Anacostia, taking a brief side trip on South Capitol Street. This street is a highway that goes straight to the Capitol but construction forced me back into downtown Anacostia, a place bustling with construction.

Anacostia is the highest crime neighborhood of DC. To see new housing being built tells you a lot about how DC’s real estate market has exploded in the last decade.

I made my way into Anacostia Park and rode along the Anacostia River to the Benning Road Bridge that took me back to Capitol Hill East, just north of the RFK Stadium, an ancient hulk that once hosted the Super Bowl era Redskins and the woeful Washington Senators.

From the edge of acres of empty parking lots I rode west across DC to Georgetown. Traffic along M Street was a mess, nothing unusual. Two cyclists rode in front of me as we edged our way through the big metal boxes. The driver’s side door of a parked car swung open and the leading bicyclist in our trio stopped just before making contact. In a calm voice, he explained to the driver how dangerous what she had just done was. Her face was all “Oops.”

I crossed back over the Potomac River to Virginia and made my way home via the Mount Vernon Trail, a ride that was my commute for six years. Six miles from home, I stopped for a drink under the Wilson Bridge. It’s an impressive and artful mess of concrete.

Today I rode to 17 miles to the Westover neighborhood of Arlington Va to buy some pie from my friend Amy. She wasn’t there and they didn’t have any pie flavors that I liked so I settled for a jumbo chocolate chip cookie and a cup of coffee.

I took Arlington streets to the Marine Corps Memorial. I wonder what Dwight Eisenhower would have thought of the statue with a defense contractors sign in the background.


Immediately afterward, I rode past Arlington National Cemetery. This place is solemn and beautiful but it also evokes in me a sense of futility. Too many gravestones.

I crossed over to DC and rode back across town to Audi Field, the shiny new soccer stadium. I wanted to check out the bike valet. Unlike Nationals Park, the nearby baseball venue, Audi Field’s indoor bike valet does not allow bikes with large bags, which pretty much includes all my bikes. The valet company told me that there is an outdoor valet that allows bags so I may eventually take in a game on the pitch.


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