Today was the last Vasa ride ever. Vasa is the first bike event on my #bikedc ride calendar each year. It was begun as a collaboration between the Washington Area Bicyclists Association and the Swedish Embassy. This year the Swedes decided to discontinue their participation so WABA teamed with REI to do one last ride.
The Vasa Ride is inspired by the Vasaloppet 90 kilometer cross country ski event in Sweden. The event is testimony to the fact that, by the end of winter, Swedes go mad.
The full Vasa ride is 100 km, about 62 miles. For mere mortals there are shorter distances. As usual, I did the Halvasan (the Half Vasa).
The Vasa ride is not to be confused with the Vasa ship, named after a Swedish king. The Vasa ship was an ancient wooden warship that sunk on its first trip out of Stockholm. It was the king’s dream ship. Alas, it was dangerously top heavy as it was designed with two levels of cannons high above the waterline. During the short maiden trip, crosswinds tipped it over and it sank. Derp.
The Vasa warship was recovered and reconstructed in 1961. It is on display in a museum in Stockholm. This was one big, ornate boat. If you ever go to Stockholm it’s worth the trip.
Because the rides today began at the REI store in northeast DC instead of the Swedish embassy, the routes were redesigned. I have done the old half Vasa route probably 15 times so I needed a change.
Like the old route, the new Half Vasa route headed out toward Great Falls. Instead of continuing past the Washington Beltway to Potomac, Maryland, it turned north to Bethesda. After a pit stop in downtown Bethesda, the route continued through Chevy Chase to get to Beach Drive in Rock Creek Park. The ride through the park lead back to the city and included a detour. The detour required a climb away from Beach Drive at the bottom of the park. The windy (in both senses of the word) descent back to Beach Drive was the highlight of the ride. The route left the park and climbed through Mt. Pleasant and Columbia Heights. (Note the references to high ground.) It continued due east, around a massive medical complex, past the Basilica, and ultimately back to REI by way of the mercifully flat Metropolitan Branch Trail.
I rode 16 miles into a sometimes rainy, cold headwind to get to the start. I decided to try the electric socks that Mrs. Rootchopper gave me for Christmas. They might have worked okay but I had turned on the power to only my right leg. Derp again. (Later I corrected this. They kept my calves warm but my toes would have been better off with chemical warmers and decent wool socks.)
I rode with Michael B., Friday Coffee Club’s scuba expert. Michael and I have done a couple of Fifty States Rides together. He’s a very powerful rider which is to say, I have a hard time keeping up with him. Peter and Todd (I’m guessing at this name) rounded out our quartet. Unfortunately, plans to include my 50 States Ride partner Emilia in the festivities fell through. Te extranamos, amiga. Hasta pronto.
As the ride progressed the temperature dropped. We had some conversational sleet followed by some conversational snow. The former was a little painful. The latter was just plain pretty.
At the rest stop at the halfway point we ran into Joe. I don’t know when I met him but he always has to remind me of his name. Maybe cold bike rides cause brain malfunctions. I’ll ask Klarence the next time she psychoanalyzes me.
Joe and his friend more or less joined our quartet. We stayed together until Beach Drive where the light car traffic induced Peter and Todd to zoom off the front. Michael patiently waited for me as I slogged up the hills.
Medical Note: Although I slogged up the hills, my lungs were functioning just fine, unlike last summer. It just happens that I truly suck at hill climbing.
As mentioned above, a detour resulted in a climb leading to a twisting, bumpy down hill that woke my ass right up. Actually, I carried way too much speed into the first couple of turns and had to bear down so as not to catch a crack in the pavement or go careening off into the trees. Michael seemed born to descend.
Once we left the park, the ride became more urban. Michael nearly mated with a city bus in Columbia Heights. (The distance between the bus and Michael could have been measured in inches.)
The ride back on the Met Branch Trail felt like we were sailing. All the hard work had been done. On to the soup!
The blueberry soup was plenty hot and hit the spot.
This ride was the fact that it was like old home week. During the day I ran into Steve, Erin, Kevin W., Dan, Jeff and Sam, Judd and Josephine, Cyrus, Kristin, two Elizabeths, and one Grace. (And I’m probably leaving someone out.)
At REI I ran into Lisa with whom I’ve done countless rides. Lisa is the official Taiko drummer and flutist of Friday Coffee Club.
Before leaving the store, I ended up talking camping and running and cycling with Grace for probably 30 minutes. The long talk allowed me to stiffen up for my re-emergence into the cold outside,
I rode home 17 miles, taking an indirect course to avoid the tourist throngs at the Tidal Basin and the cherry blossom festival. Once in Virginia, a tailwind took over. I fell into a trance, and allowed my mind to think of nothing but food. Near Gravelly Point Park I passed two women walking. One said “Hi John” as I went by. I have no idea who it was. I could have hallucinated this.
Once in the door at home, I ate all the things. 63 cold miles in the books.
Thanks to WABA, REI, and all the volunteers that made this a resounding success.