Christmas Comes Late

My kids bought me a gift certificate to Performance Bikes. So I took advantage of the good weather to ride to their Springfield Virginia store.

Here’s a tip for bike store companies: try locating your store in a bike friendly place. To get from my house to the store, I rode across US 1, over to South Kings Highway through some neighborhoods. South King’s highway is hilly and has no shoulder (way to go VDOT) even though there is ample room for one. Riding up a hill on Big Nellie, my recumbent, with cars zooming past at 40 miles per hour is not a lot of fun.

Once over the hill I picked up Telegraph Road which has a bike lane for all of 200 yards. In that 200 yards the bike lane gets spliced by a turn lane. Just a totally stupid design.

Next came hilly Kingstowne. Lovely name. Sounds so regal. It has side paths with are asphalt sidewalks so I rode in the shoulderless street. The roads in Kingstowne feed into the Fairfax County Parkway, I-95 and the Springfield Mall area. There is beaucoup traffic. A very unpleasant place to ride a bike. As I crossed Beulah Street I actually picked up a wide paved shoulder (I knew you could do it VDOT). After a turn this took me all the way to the store which is located in a strip mall with very cramped car parking and no bike parking.

In the store I bought some rain pants because my old Marmot Precip rain pants were shredding. The Precip pants are intended for hiking so it’s not surprising that they wear out when confronted with the friction of a saddle (on a regular bike) and a chain (on a recumbent). I also picked up some chain lube and a bell which will probably go on my Cross Check.

For the ride home I made my way back to Beulah Road and took its bike lane south, around most of Kingstowne and the vast Huntley Meadows Park. (Well worth a visit for a leisurely stroll in the woods and out through a marsh on a wooden deck.) When I picked up Telegraph Road I was now two miles or so south of where I rode earlier. Here the road has been redesigned with bike lanes on both sides. After riding up a hill, I let Big Nellie take off on the downhill. About halfway down the hill I took a right on the new Jeff Todd Way. There is a wide side path but at the speed I was going getting on the sidepath would have required a 90 degree right turn through a curb cut. Instead I maintained my speed and stayed in the street.  Jeff Todd goes up and down. On the downs I was going 30 miles per hour, nearly the speed of the cars. On the ups, I was crawling. The right lane seems to be wider than usual and the passing cars gave me plenty of room.

The rest of my ride involved re-crossing US 1, riding to Mount Vernon, and then home via the Mount Vernon Trail.

So my little errand covered 22 1/2 miles. Just the thing for my last day of staycation. Tomorrow it’s bike commute number 1 for 2016.

 

Now We’re Getting Somewhere – Taking a Mulligan

I needed a grease injector to service my pedals. It’s a bit of a mess trying to do it with a baby medicine injector. Not enough oomph in the lilttle plastic plunger.

My local bike store doesn’t sell them but Performance does. I could have ordered it online but that would have taken away a prefectly good excuse to ride over to their Springfield store. A couple of weeks ago, friend of the blog, bike commuter, and Friday Coffee Club devotee Reba told me that Mulligan Road was now open.

Mulligan Road is the new road that connects US 1 with Telegraph Road near Fort Belvoir. Woodlawn Road used to serve this purpose but the military closed it for security reasons after the 9/11 attacks. Traffic has been a mess ever since. In true Washington area style it only took 13 years to fix the problem.

The road seems to have been recently renamed, Jeff Todd Way. Jeff Todd was a local businessman who was very active in the community. He died in a car crash in 2011.

Whatever the name, it was time to check out the road on two wheels. Big Nellie got the call.  I stepped out of the house and was smacked by searing heat. Labor Day may be the first day of meteorological autumn but somebody forgot to tell the weather gods.

To get to the new road, you ride the Mount Vernon Trail to the end at Mount Vernon. Then you keep going down the Mount Vernon Memorial Highway all the way to US 1. At US 1 you’ll see a mess of road construction which will soon be cleared up. Cross US 1 and you are are on the old Mulligan Road. It has been moved a bit to the south and widened. (The old entrance to Woodlawn Plantation has been removed. Access is now available from US to the south. Good luck with that if you are on a bike.)

In a half mile you come to Pole Road. This used to be the end of the line for Mulligan Road, but not anymore. A new road winds up (and I do mean up) through Fort Belvoir. It’s a four lane highway with a 40 mile per hour speed limit. The road isn’t quite done yet. For one thing it needs another layer of asphalt to make the road bed even with the concrete edge of the road. The right lane seems extra wide which I hope means there will be a bike lane.

Up, up, up. Put me in the zoo.

After cresting the hill, you get a nice reward descending through broad curves until you start to ride up again to Telegraph Road. Telegraph is a bit of a mess heading south. The hill you just came down now goes back up, and then some. There’s no bike lane (yet) so it’s just you and the constant flow of impatient drivers yearning to get to I-95 and go absolutely nowhere.

Just before the crest of the hill there is a sign saying “End of Bike Lane” which suggests that maybe there is supposed to be one. Not 30 yards later a new bike lane begins. Signage is not VDOT’s strong suit. This bike lane continues all the way to US 1 south of Fort Belvoir. I turned right at Beulah Road expecting to do battle with heavy car traffic but to my surprise I was given a bike lane of my very own. Yay! It continued all the way through Kingstowne to the Franconia Springfield Parkway. (It wasn’t actually my own. It was used by a man driving a car while messing with his smartphone. He kept weaving all over the road. I caught up to him at a red light and yelled at him to put the damned thing away before he killed somebody.)

I could have taken a side path all the way to Performance but the wide paved shoulder on the Parkway was too nice to pass up.

Mission accomplished thanks to the folks behind the Fairfax County Comprehensive Bicycle Plan.

The ride back was more better because the other side of Telegraph was in much better shape including an on-road bike lane. I turned right onto Mulligan/Todd and saw a wide side trail. I do hope this is not going to replace on on-road bike lane because the right lane is extra wide and can easily accomodate a bike lane.

Ever notice how the ride back seems so much faster once you know where the roads go? I flew down the long hill on Mulligan and zoomed right across Pole Road without so much as recognizing it.

Mulligan/Jeff Todd will be finished soon. I have sent a note to Adventure Cycling so that they may consider adding it to their Atlantic Coast route.

I took a whole bunch of pix so you can see for yourself over on my Flickr page.