It would hard to come up with a nicer day to ride a bike than today. So off I went aboard the Cross Check for Chevy Chase. Not the comedian but the neighborhood on the top side of DC.
Just before leaving I put a message on social media about my plans and Ricky responded. He said he’d meet me at the trestle.
Riding the Mount Vernon Trail on a nice weekend day is an exercise in patience. When I wasn’t dawdling behind some tourists I was going uncharacteristically fast, thanks to a day completely off the bike. My lower back/hip issue was still in evidence but it clearly wasn’t slowing me down.
I stopped just north of Old Town Alexandria when I saw a big snowy egret right next to the trail. I hope you like the picture because I nearly was run over by a half dozen cyclists while I took it.
I rode along the river on the Virginia side until the 14th Street bridge then switched to the DC side. I slalomed through the crowds all the way to Water Street in Georgetown. Water runs upstream to the Capital Crescent Trail and so I flowed. I wore my bell out passing trail users of all types of humanity.
The Capital Crescent connects to the Georgetown Branch Trail in downtown Bethesda. The GBT is scheduled to be shut down on Tuesday for 4 – 5 years as a light rail line is constructed along the right of way.
I rolled onto the trestle and Ricky was there talking with some other cyclists. I posed for pictures among the tree tops and high above the creek.
Then we rode off to Ryan’s house to take care of his cat. And drink some of his beer.
Ryan has a pretty terrific man cave. Basically it’s a bike mechanic shop. I want one.
After the beer, we rolled back to the GBT and went our separate ways. I headed down into Rock Creek Park and headed for home. Road work has a section of Beach Drive, the main drag through the park, closed. Ryan told me to take a right at the detour and a left onto Ross Dr. I missed the turn onto Ross and ended up climbing a big hill on Military Road. I knew I had screwed up but there was no easy way to fix what I done broke so I kept spinning. It was a long way up but the road back down was a breeze, literally and figuratively.
The rest of the ride was the usual cruise along the river. With puffy white clouds above. And a steady breeze from the south.
As I rode south of the airport I noticed some trees beginning to change to red and yellow.
I may not have the trestle to ride to but fall days offer plenty of terrific riding in the weeks ahead.
The State of Maryland has broken ground on the Purple Line. This is a light rail project that arc across the top of DC connecting two spokes in the wheel of the Metro rail system. The right of way will include a paved trail which is great news for cyclists. Unfortunately, while it is being built the Georgetown Branch Trail, an unpaved trail that connects the Capital Crescent Trail in downtown Bethesda to downtown Silver Spring will be closed. That trail includes one of my favorite places in the DC area, the Rock Creek Trestle.
The trestle carries the trail at tree top level over Rock Creek Park. I go there to catch my breath, to eat lunch, to check out the fall foliage or simply to show off the view to friends. I’ve been there dozens of times. Unless plans change, September 4 is the last day to ride to my perch in the sky.
I waited for the temperature to rise. I didn’t want to ruin a good spring ride by freezing my toes off. At 11:00 I leaped into action. Sort of. I kept misplacing things. After 45 frustrating minutes I head out on the Cross Check for a bagel. In Bethesda. Over 25 miles from home.
The Cross Check still doesn’t feel right but rather than mess with the set up I decided to ride it a ways. After six miles I stopped and slid the saddle back. I was feeling cramped and too upright. Afterwards I felt more comfortable. I breezed through Old Town with its abundance of well dressed church goers. (My church has two wheels, by god.)
North of Old Town the Mount Vernon Trail started getting crowded. The crowds didn’t bother me but the impatient riders passing with bike oncoming did. Some of these were Lance Mamilstrongs. Others were new to riding on busy, narrow trails. Thankfully, I managed not to get hit. I crossed over to DC and rode Ohio Drive and its pathetically designed side paths up to Rock Creek Park. The side path in Rock Creek Park improves somewhat. After a couple of miles of mediocre, it becomes downright horrible. Tree roots, 90 degree turns, pinch points, blind, low descents under overpasses. People with dogs obstructing the entire path as they admired each others pooches. Must not kill.
I finally made it to Beach Drive which is closed to cars. It was apparently open to every grade school kid in a 100 miles radius today. They were swarming like gnats. It took a while to get clear of them. Once I did, I found myself cruising up the gradual incline at 14 1/2 miles per hour. I wasn’t straining at all. The Cross Check was just getting it done.
I took the Georgetown Branch Trail to the Rock Creek Trestle. I love hanging out in the treetops over Rock Creek. A woman was sitting in the bumpout on the opposite side of the trail. She was speaking on her phone in a Spanish accent. Next to her was a copy of Nick Hornby’s latest book. I love Nick Hornby. I passed up the opportunity to strike up a conversation with her because my tummy was having a conversation with my head. FEED ME!
I backtracked on the GBT to Bethesda Row where I bought a drink and a bagel. I sat and ate and watched the people stroll by. This street is really good for people watching. And dog watching too. A golden retriever with waves of flowing red hair was laid out on the sidewalk next to my bench. What a beautiful creature. (Full disclosure: I grew up with a golden retriever. They are the best dogs. Dumb as dirt but they will let you use them as a pillow when you watch TV. And they will defend you to the death.) I want to be a golden retriever in my next life.
After my snack, I headed over to Bradley Boulevard. I rode through Bethesda amid azaleas and dogwoods in bloom. The temperature was perfect for riding. The traffic was light. Yay spring!
Bradley to Kentsdale to Newbridge to Democracy to Falls. I was cruising among the megamansions of Potomac. I hear they have real housewives here.
A left onto Falls took me through Potomac Village and all the way to Great Falls Park. Cars were parked illegally everywhere. I took a right to ride down to the C&O Canal on the access road. After a fun half mile glide, I came upon a half mile line of cars waiting to get parking in the parking lot. I rode past the cars and made it to the admissions booth. I was waved in. It was National Parks Day. Admission was free. “Free” sounds like a good idea. Sometimes it’s not. I rode very slowly through the throngs for at least 15 minutes. It was like riding on the sidewalk in Manhattan. Nothing ruins nature quite like tens of thousands of well meaning people.
After the falls the crowds thinned a bit and I could get up to about 10 miles per hour. Carefully, I avoided spooking the strollers near Widewater, easily one of the best parts of the entire 185 mile long park.
I finally cleared the swarm and brought my bike up to a 13.6 mile per hour cruising speed. Why 13.6? I don’t know. I just locked into that speed.
I am happy to report that the Cross Check loves the towpath. I can see many gravel rides in the future. (North Central Rail Trail? Anybody? Bueller?)
I was on autopilot all the way back to Georgetown. I switched over the paved Capital Crescent Trail at Fletchers Boat House. It has way too many tree roots until you get to the last mile which has been recently paved. Zoom.
K Street under the Whitehurst Freeway was a parking lot. I think we need to just ban cars in certain places on Sundays. They are just too big and clumsy. We could pile them up and burn them. We could invite all kinds of latter day hippies, techies, and spiritual whack jobs. Maybe we could do this in the desert. Rosslyn on a Sunday would work. We could call it “Burning Car”. Maybe we could get the drum circle from Meridian Hill Park to come and not keep a beat.
The ride home retraced my northbound journey. The trails were not as busy as before. Behind the power plant near Old Town, the MVT goes through some blind curves. As I approached I rode my brakes. Sure enough a rider came around the curve on my side of the path. I avoided a head on collision for sure. The rider seemed shocked that passing two pedestrians on a blind curve might not work out so well. I do hope she doesn’t drive a school bus for a living.
I rolled south on Union Street in Old Town. A police cruiser pulled out in front of me. I followed it to the intersection with Gibbon Street. This is where Alexandria police ticket cyclists for rolling through the stop sign. So I watched as patrol car 1414 rolled through the very same stop sign. It was the third such incident this week. The League of American Cyclists will soon designate Alexandria as a Bicycle Hypocritical City at the Silver level.
I rolled home with my lungs burning. The pollen and towpath dust had caught up to me and my asthma was really giving me a hard time. I made it home in a bit of discomfort with 69 miles on the odometer. This was easily my longest ride of the year. But for the asthma attack I could have kept going. Let’s see if I wake up with any back issues tomorrow morning.
Today I had the day off for Veterans Day. I still kind of like the original name, Armistice Day, the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, and all that. It’s a decent Paul Simon song too. No disrespect to Veterans, mind you. My father was an amused Veteran. He used to tell the story that medical school students were drafted and left in school. The army would take them out to a base on Long Island and march them around. My father said they were pathetic, skinny, pale, uncoordinated. Gomer Pyles but with brains. My father stayed in the reserves through the Korean War. All this was before my time.
Having the day off, I decided to do one of my favorite rides, from my home in Mount Vernon Virginia to Bethesda, Maryland with a stop at Rock Creek Trestle. The temperature was in the mid-50s when I left with a strong northwest breeze, a headwind. You don’t get many windy days in the DC area when its warm so the breeze was a portent of many cold windy days to come.
I rode my Cross Check on the Mount Vernon Trail to Old Town Alexandria. The trail was covered in leaves and I was fearful of slipping and falling so I was extra careful. Once in Old Town I decided to leave the Mount Vernon Trail and head through most of Alexandria on a couple of newer bike trails. I picked the first trail up just off of West Street and rode it to the Braddock Road Metro station. There I zigzagged to get on the new trail that runs several miles, nearly all the way to Crystal City in Arlington. No lights. No stop signs. No obnoxious ticketing by Alexandria Police.
I rode through Crystal City and hit every traffic light on the green. This NEVER happens. My route took me on Boundary Channel Drive along side acres of Pentagon parking. Then I rode through Lady Bird Johnson Park, under the GW Parkway, up and over the Humpback Bridge, onto the 14th Street Bridge and across the Potomac River.
During this part of the ride the rear fender of the Cross Check became disengaged from its frame mount for what must have been the 20th time. I re-attached it and decided it was time for a permanent fix.
Once in the city, I rode the the K Street Bicycle Space store where a mechanic did what mechanics do and soon I had a fender that would not fall off. Knock wood. During the repair, I noticed that Paul, the mechanic most likely to play Doc Brown in Back to the Future IV, was working on an HP Velotechnik Street Machine. This is a recumbent to die for. The owner and I talked about the bike. He bought it from a Canadian for $1,500 Canadian. New this bike costs 2 – 3 times as much. The owner, who looked to be in my age cohort, rode it across the country. Dang! Bike envy!!!
Another customer came in to get her bike ready for Saturday’s Cider Ride. I didn’t have a chance to talk to her but maybe I’ll see her during the ride.
From Bicycle Space I headed up Sixth Street to check out the church whose congregation is upset by the possibility of having to share the street with a protected bike lane. Sixth Street is WIDE. I don’t see the problem here other than selfishness.
I wended my way through town and up the protected 15th Street bike lane at Meridian Hill. This short hill is quite a bitch, I must say. I recovered by doing a slow lap in the park. On weekends the park is a hive of activity but today it was nearly deserted. I checked out the view of the water cascade and then headed through Adams Morgan to Rock Creek Park.
On weekends and holidays, Beach Drive, the main drag in the park, has limited car access. I rode north on the windy road, wind in my face, sun on my shoulders. It was a mighty fine ride. I made my way to the Georgetown Branch Trail and to the Rock Creek Trestle. The view from above the treetops is one of my favorites.
After taking some pictures I headed west on the trail to Bethesda. I could tell that my body was not feeling it today. I still haven’t recovered from Sunday’s hike. I slogged on stopping only to refill my water bottles when I should have stopped to eat.
In Bethesda I picked up the mostly downhill Capital Crescent Trail and a tailwind. Ahhh.
Normally I be bombing along this trail at 20+ miles per hour but not today. I was suffering from insufficient junk food syndrome or IJFS. Don’t get this. Eat you donuts, people!!!
On the way home I rode past the Lincoln Memorial. I expected the place to be mobbed with Veterans checking out the nearby Vietnam, Korean, and WWII Memorials. There were plenty of people, many obviously veterans, milling about but I think whatever festivities there were had concluded hours earlier.
I made my way to the 14th Street Bridge and retraced my route to the south end of Old Town. Not wanting to ride the Mount Vernon Trail for the 400th time this year (a guess, but not too far off), I took Fort Hunt Road and Sherwood Hall Lane home. This is a pretty hilly route and I had nothing left in my legs so the going was slow.
Long story short:I managed to ride 55 1/2 miles on a sunny November Day. Not half bad.
We are training for spring. Today the temperature on my back deck reached 66 degrees. After weeks of freezing our asses off, the people of DC are all smiles. Except, perhaps, for the tourist I saw crashing on his Segway, but I am getting ahead of myself.
I started the day doing physical therapy for my foot. It was barely numb when I awoke but I decided to forgo yoga or my other exercises and just do what the PT people told me to do. Dang, it hurts. Raise this, lower that, keep your stomach and your butt cheeks tight. After about a half an hour our was done. My stomach muscles wanted to be traded to another body. And the lacrosse ball that is beating the knots out of my calves is seriously in danger of getting thrown out the window. Ouch.
After a morning of relaxation, I headed out the door on Big Nellie. I was bound for an everything bagel in Bethesda, about 24 miles away. It was 50 degrees outside. Yesss.
As I was waiting for cars at an intersection with Fort Hunt Road near my home, an SUV drove by and made friendly tooting sounds with its horn. I have no idea who it was but I waved at them
I made it to the Mount Vernon Trail which was not particularly crowded. In Old Town Alexandria I took South Washington Street. My physical therapist ran past. Small world.
The ride to the city was so peaceful I went on auto pilot. I stopped at Gravelly Point to watch a plane land overhead – easily one of my favorite free things to do.
Over the 14th Street Bridge I rode then up Ohio Drive to M Street to the Capital Crescent Trail. The long ride up to Bethesda took time. Recumbents simply don’t do uphills very well. And since I am not exactly a badass on two wheels let’s just say it took a while.
When I got to Bethesda Row I headed straight for Bethesda Bagels. Since it was well after noon there wasn’t a line. I picked up my everything bagel, toasted with veggie cream cheese and a sweet tea. I proceeded to inhale these comestibles with great vigor. Ah!
I rode the Georgetown Branch Trail over to the Rock Creek Trestle. The trail was somewhat muddy. Recumbents are the best mudders so it was a tense ride. I slipped this way and that several times. The view from the testle differs by time of year. The winter view is, of course, leafless but it’s always fun to be at treetop level with the world.
I reversed course then headed down into Rock Creek Park. All the climbing has its rewards and for most of the next 7 miles I was cruising downhill. The number of people on Beach Drive was impressive. Many families out riding bikes with their kids. I had to be careful not to hit any of them. They wobble and waver and dart out in front of you unexpectedly.
I got on the trail at Klingle Road. This was a mistake. The trail at this point is narrow and crowded and has numerous bumps from tree routes. Once I reached the zoo entrance, I took Harvard Street to climb into Adams Morgan. It’s a healthy climb, too. To recover from my exertion I took a very slow speed spin through Meridian Hill Park. There was a healthy number of people there, no one I knew though. I rode by the drum circle but there was only one man with drums so I decided to head back home.
I took 16th Street which is a nice straight downhill shot to the White House. Along the way I saw the indefatigible Ted a.k.a @MrTinDC.
I shifted over to the 15th Street cycletrack and got behind a long line of tourists on Segways. Normally, Big Nellie looks weird to people I pass but in a cluser of Segways, Big Nellie doesn’t get a passing glance. At the intersection with Pennsylvania Avenue, the Seqways stopped to regroup. One tourist’s Segway jolted to a stop throwing him to the ground with an audible SPLAT. Should’ve rented bikes.
I crossed back over the river and headed home on the Mount Vernon Trail. It was packed with people, most of whom were oblivious to the fact that some people were actually trying to make forward progress. At the south end of the airport I balied out, opting to cut through Del Ray.
I cut over to Old Town and rejoined the MVT at the southern end of Old Town. Mistake. This part of the trail was every bit as chaotic as what I had bailed out on.There was no point in getting upset about it. I slowed down and took in the madness that warm weather brings. And besides, by this point my legs were started to tell me that all that time off in January had taken its toll on my fitness.
I arrived home. Mrs. Rootchopper had opened the windows. The temperature was 66 degrees. (One degree off the record, so I am told.)
So I ended up riding 170 miles in seven days. Not half bad for winter. Tomorrow is a day off the bike as I am going to three doctors appointments.
The Hoppy 100 is the invention of John Roche, craft beer enthusiast and bicycling masochist. It was his idea to combine a 100 mile ride with visits to local craft breweries. It worked out pretty well until the monsoon hit. The second Hoppy 100 was toned down a bit. Instead of 100 miles, John designed a route that was 100 kilometers. And instead of a monsoon, we had a steady drizzle. And a medical emergency involving blood. And a Pythonesque trip to a police station. So it was with a mixture of excitement and dread that I threw my helmet into the ring for the third Hoppy 100.
Now this year’s version was designed to be about 45 miles. In order to get it up over 100 kilometers, I decided to ride Little Nellie to the start at the Washington Monument. There I met Casey (@waterfroggie) wearing a bike jersey from a Belgian brewery. Casey had come from Annapolis via bike and Metro to participate. Obviously Casey was hardcore. Kevin U. (@bicyclebug) showed up to ride his third Hoppy 100. Next came Avery and Kevin-the-Second, a thirsty couple from Arlington (I think). Our starting group was rounded out by the arrival of Rachel “Don’t Call Me Bob” Cannon (@rachelcannon), Peter (@jopamora) and our main man, John Roche (@dirteng).
After introductions we were off in search of brunch. To warm up a bit, we took a ride down to Hains Point, a spit of land along the Potomac River opposite National Airport. It became immediately clear that this was a chatty bunch in no need of beer to loosen our tongues. We crossed over the river on the 14th Street bridge and took the Mount Vernon Trail to the Four Mile Run Trail south of the airport. About a mile later we came upon a barrier forbidding our passage. This was literally as sign that this Hoppy 100 would go just about as smoothly as the first two. Uh oh.
Being very familiar with the trails in these parts, I routed us without delay across Four Mile Run via the US 1 bridge to a parrallel trail. After re-crossing the Run about a mile later (and encountering a man dancing rather erratically to his own jam in the middle of the bridge) we reconnected with the Four Mile Run Trail and sped hungrily to Shirlington. In Shirlington, we encounted a street festival of sorts but the assorted crafters and dog people were no match for our hunger and thirst. We met up with Kathy (@arlingtonrider) who conveniently lives in Shirlington and reserved brunch accomodations at Busboys and Poets. We were joined by Bob “Don’t Call Me Rachel” Cannon (@Rcannon100) and his wife Elizabeth.
We ate and talked and talked and ate. Rachel, just back from a summer interning at a museum in Alaska, told many tales about the resourceful and eccentric residents of Haines. She is still adjusting to life in the lower 48, particularly when it comes to prices of food. She could be the only person I have ever heard say, “Food is so inexpensive in DC!!!” (When we first moved to DC, whenever we drove out of town, my wife and I would buy groceries there because food is so costly here.)
Stuffed and caffeinated, we headed out on the Washington and Old Dominion Trail. A light drizzle began to fall but we were not deterred. We knew that in just a few miles we would be tasting a fine pint of beer. Ahh.
Elizabeth bid us godspeed and with Bob in the fold we left the W&OD and began our ride through North Arlington. We rode up. And up. And up. And up. There were a few downs in between but the ups won out. The crew did itself proud on the hills with Peter easily taking the King of the Mountains. (I suck at hills. How much do I suck? Rachel hadn’t ridden a bike in three months and she whupped my ass.) At Glebe Road, the high point of our time in Arlington, Kathy turned around and headed back to Shirlington.
After another mile of spining we found ourselves looking down at a narrow switchback that gave way to a scary steep side street that took us to Chain Bridge. All this hill is missing is the slalom poles and some snow. We were but one brake failure from certain death. Rachel’s front brake was not working so we all stood by and cheered as she plunged to her doom.
I just made that up so that her parents would freak out. (She’s fine. Really. Just some surface wounds and a mild concussion.)
We made it safely to the bridge and across the Potomac River. The skies were gray and depressing.
We took the unpaved C&O Canal Towpath to the Capital Crescent Trail. The CCT was our route up to Bethesda. Normally, the CCT is thick with exercisers but not on this misty, gray day. After some confusion in Bethesda Row, we found the unpaved Georgetown Branch Trail. The rain had turned the GBT into a slippery mess, and Little Nellie’s wee tires were not very happy skidding this way and that. Helpfully, the rain intensified a bit.
In Silver Spring Maryland we went through a maze of streets until we found Denizen’s Brewery. It was 2 o’clock. Denizen’s didn’t open until 3. Fail.
Peter and Casey headed for their respective homes. The rest of us decided to ride on and, leading the way without a clue, I took a wrong turn. We stopped to regroup and the skies opened up. We huddled under an awning and comiserated, with the emphasis on miserated. We decided to ride a few blocks to the Fire Station restaurant and seek refuge from the deluge.
The service was slow but they had beer. Yay. And hot soup. YAY! We ate and talked and checked the radar on our smartphones and talked etc. After 3, we decided to backtrack to Denizen’s where we found Peter hanging out with his wife and kids. They were on their way to get ice cream because nothing slays a gray, drizzly summer day like ice cream
Except beer. The folks at Denizen’s were exceptionally nice and so was their beer. We huddled in a non-air conditioned corner drying our outsides out and wetting our insides. I should point out that we only had a couple of drinks at each bar so we weren’t getting drunk. Except for Rachel who was useless after her 8th pint. (I totally made that up. Sorry Mr. and Mrs. Cannon.)
After an hour of hanging out, the rain turned into a light drizzle. Avery and Kevin-the-Second headed off to the Metro. Bob reversed course to head back to his home in North Arlington. John, Rachel, Kevin, and I headed back into DC. We decided to skip the last two breweries since the evening was nearly uponus. We took the Metropolitan Branch Trail. For about half it’s distance, the MBT is just some signs on streets. During this bit, Kevin U. veered off for home. Near Catholic University the MBT becomes and honest-to-Jesus bike trail. (Was the Pope in on this?) It is gradually downhill, the rain had stopped, and we had a tailwind. Bike joy was had.
Rachel turned off to head for a dinner date with friends. John and I rode to the end of the trial and parted company.
From there, I headed home. Once across the Potomac I was treated to an empty Mount Vernon Trail and a persistent tailwind. I arrived home just before nightfall with 70 miles on the odometer.
Many thanks to John Roche for designing the route and recruiting such a fine crew.