Socially distant along US 1 in the soulless exurbs

After day riding in the basement yesterday, my soul couldn’t take it anymore. I hit the roads on The Mule. People on the Interwebs have been complaining about inappropriate crowding on the trails around here so I eschewed the trails and stayed on streets. I made my way across US 1 past WalMart and Cosco and the car wash and the trailer park and through the table flat streets of lower Hybla Valley. After five miles I was once again back to Route 1 where it passes through Fort Belvoir.

Fort Belvoir is an absolutely wonderful place to ride a bike but it has been closed off to civilians for many years. It seems our military can’t distinguish between a harmless old dude on a bike and a maniac intent on mass slaughter. (Hint: my frame pump does not have a bump stock attachment.)

Route 1 is a six-lane death trap that the geniuses at VDOT decided to put unprotected bike lanes on. They were so confident in their work that they put a wide multiuse path alongside the same roadway. Being a bear of very little brain I chose the bike lane. (You knew I’d do that, didn’t you.)

I made it all the way to beautiful Lorton, Virginia. According to one of my favorite DJs, Lorton rhymes with how Ralph Kramden pronounced “Norton!” (NAW-un, I think.) What a coincidence that it has all the style of a Brooklyn sewer worker.

Lorton is nothing but four lane roads and eyesores. It could be anywhere and feels like nowhere. Pharmacy. Car Wash. Bank. Strip Mall. Fake town square. Highway ramps. Endless traffic lights.

Once in Lorton I made my way further south on a road that follows the right of way of the main rail line to Miami and a buried natural gas line. These scenic parts are obscured by trash, scrub brush, and sumac.

After a couple of hills, I was back at Route 1 for a five minute wait to cross the highway at another forever traffic light. I rode past a gas station and a Seven Eleven, up yet another hill, and finally came to a stop at an unsignalled intersection. I was going to make a left but decided that it would be wise to yield to the endless stream of jacked up pick ups and SUVs that were clearly in a hurry to get someplace.

Funeral delayed, I took a left onto two-lane Old Colchester Road (Note to VDOT: no need for the “h”) and began a mile-long, shaded, winding downhill on brand new pavement. After 14 miles I was due for some decent cycling. There were modest homes on big, treed lots. One had horses in the yard.

After about four minutes I crossed a creek. There to my left was the one thing that can make an ugly sewage treatment plant uglier: construction of an even bigger sewage treatment plant. And, of course, it was back up a hill until I hit Route 1 again. At a light. A very long light.

Green! Off I went down hill on Telegraph Road through scenic small business parks. Table tops. Pest control. Landscape contracting. Pet food outlet. So much ugly to see. You could sell tickets.

Onward past Fort Belvior’s wee landing strip, up another hill, down a hill, up a hill, down a hill. Each hill was helpfully interrupted by traffic lights, strategically placed to steal your momentum. What made the traffic lights more annoying was that there was very little traffic to be controlled.

Down another long hill. My lovely little bike lane disappeared as I sped at 25 miles per hour into an ever narrowing roadway. Then I got a lane again to get through a new six lane intersection with two sets of traffic lights. Joy.

Once past all this it was up yet another hill. Red light at top, of course. Down again. Roadway narrows again until it expands into six lanes. Fortunately, all the drivers were home infecting each other. I cruised for a mile to Huntington Avenue, a four-lane road with no paved shoulders that goes past a Metro station. Empty.

Finally, I re-crossed Route 1 one last time, because what could be more fun. Yes, another traffic light. I made my way toward home, up two more hills on Fort Hunt Road.

Did I mention it was windy?

Did I mention that pollen levels were through the roof?

I arrived home after 30 miles, a couple of dozen hills, 212 red lights, and countless epic vistas of sub- and exurban ugliness.

The exurbs tried and tried to steal my soul but The Mule would not let them. The Mule abides.

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