One of the very best things about living in the DC area is Rock Creek Park, a wooden canyon right down the middle of the city from north to south.
When I first moved to DC I signed up for a 10-mile road race in the park. It began at Carter Barron Amphitheater on the eastern rim in the middle of the park. I was unfamiliar with the park’s topography so I attacked the course with confidence. The course went down into the park then up the other side then down into the park then up the other side then down into the park… You get the picture. I was trashed at the finish.
Mostly I use the park for bike riding on the weekends when the main north-south road, Beach Drive, is closed to cars. I ride the Mount Vernon Trail to Georgetown where I pick up the Capital Crescent Trail. This paved trail takes me gradually uphill to Bethesda, Maryland. Then I ride east a few miles east before turning south into the park. For the next ten miles it’s gently downhill. The road follows the creek as it winds its way back to Georgetown.
The National Park Service operates the park. A few years ago they repaved Beach Drive. The smooth pavement makes for a sweet ride.
This time of year is the best time to ride in the park. The angle of the sun is low. The trees are turning. Leaves are falling like snow flakes. And the cool temperatures mean that you don’t end up a dehydrated mess (which is pretty par for the course around here in the summer.)
The park was quite busy today. I saw dozens of families with little kids picnicking near the creek, biking on the road, and hiking the trails.
Today, for the first time, I decided to ride with the big dogs. Normally, I get off the road near Pierce Mill, a mile or so north of the National Zoo. From here south, cars are allowed on the roadway. Today, however, I stayed on the road all the way to Georgetown. Traffic was light and the downhill grade helped me maintain 18 to 20 miles per hour.
About halfway to Georgetown, Beach Drive widens from two to four lanes. No worries. The light Sunday traffic left me with a lane all to myself for about two miles.
At the K Street overpass, cars were backed up from a traffic light near the Watergate complex. I diverted to the side path to avoid the wait. As I did I saw a tall red-headed woman running toward me. She looked familiar and sure enough it was my physical therapist. I didn’t ID her until just as I was passing her. She didn’t recognize me because she was focused on getting across an intersection without being hit by cars, scooters, bikes, runners, baby strollers, etc. Also, between my helmet, sunglasses, and Buff, my own mother could not have identified me.
The 15-mile ride home along the Potomac River was pretty splendid, even with a headwind. Having taken yesterday off from the bike, I managed to ride 51 miles today without the least bit of difficulty.
Time for a nap.