Clanking along the Anacostia

Sunday was the sixth Cider Ride, an event put on annually by the Washington Area Bicyclists Association. The first two Cider Rides were in December. This proved to be rather unpleasant, especially the second which was held in a cold (and I mean cold) rain. I’ve ridden all six rides but DNFed on the second. My friend Reba broke her chain. We stood in the cold rain for 20 minutes trying to fix it to no avail. I took the sag wagon back with her.

The Cider Ride has three lengths, the Candy Apple (10 miles), the McIntosh (30 miles) and the Honeycrisp (55 miles). Normally, these rides are held on the same day, but this year the shorter rides were held on Saturday to allow for social distancing. I rode the Honeycrisp.

I checked in at the Dew Drop Inn registration desk where I picked up a cue sheet and a Cider Ride tin cup. The cup has a carabiner built into its handle. I attached the cup to my saddle bag so that it could clank as I hit the bumps along the route.

Before setting off on The Mule, I made sure to partake in my favorite fall energy snack: warm apple cider and a doughnut. Having shocked my pancreas, I followed the route along neighborhood streets through Northeast DC and into Mount Rainier Maryland. Here, the route switched over to trails along the Anacostia River and its tributaries up into College Park Maryland.

Lake Artemesia

At about 13 miles, I hit the first pit stop at Proteus Bicycles in Hollywood. I had another cup of warm cider but, mindful of my health, I resisted the urge to snarf another doughnut and ate a banana instead.

Cider Ride 2020 pit stop in College Park

Back on the bike, the ride followed roads and entered the USDA’s agricultural research facility. The research area was nearly traffic-free through fields and woods along Beaver Dam Road. You know you’re in nerd heaven when you cross Soil Conservation Road.

After a mile on Springfield Road it’s on to Powder Mill Road. This road is a two-lane highway, but has wide, smooth, paved shoulders. The Mule and I were cruising along with robust celerity thanks to my amazing fitness and a strong tailwind. A turn into the Patuxent Research Refuge began a three-mile bit of wooded Zen on winding Scarlet Tanager Loop Road.

After the loop, my pace slackened as I backtracked into the wind on Powder Mill Road. So much for Zen. We continued past Springfield Road until we hung a looey onto Research Road.

Research Road climbs over a ridge into Greenbelt. The half-mile-long hill was manageable. The headwind was not a particularly welcome addition to the festivites, however.

In Greenbelt I passed a socially distanced outdoor church service before hitting pit stop number 2 staffed by WABA’s Colin Browne. Few riders had come through so there was an abundance of cider and doughnuts. I did my best to remedy the situation. Burp.

Cider Ride 2020 Pit Stop in Greenbelt

After another mile or so on the roads, I followed the route back onto a trail. Here I encountered a chain link fence with a big, open gateway through which the trail passes. Bounding along the side of the trail were two deer. They saw me and flinched at cutting in front of me to use the gateway. I slowed in case the deer bolted across my line of travel which could have made for a rather unpleasant collision.

Free of the deer, I made my way down the trail then onto some residential streets into beautiful downtown Hyattsville Maryland. This town is loaded with shops and restaurants and watering holes. Many of these are located on route along the Trolley Trail. I was sorely tempted to stop at a trailside open air eatery for a beer and a hot dog. With profound inner strength I pedaled onward.

I followed the route to return to the Anacostia River about a mile later. From here I crossed over the river to Bladensburg Waterfront Park, and pit stop number 3, staffed by WABA’s Jeff Wetzel. Jeff and his volunteers were sitting facing downriver into the wind. They too had abundant supplies of doughnuts and cider. Having survived the caloric temptations of the Trolley Trail, I succumbed to my dietary fate and washed a doughnut down with a cup of cider.

Back on The Mule, I put my 10-page cue sheet away. From here I rode the Anacostia River Trail downriver eight miles into a headwind before taking the 11th Street Bridge across to the west side of the river. Next, we followed the west bank ART upriver past RFK Stadium. A left turn took us around the stadium and through Capitol Hill to the First Street Cycletrack at Union Station. A mile later we picked the Metropolitan Branch Trail. A tailwind pushed The Mule and me all the way back to the start where more cider and doughnuts awaited us.

Cider Ride mugs

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