Cherry blossoms and social distancing

Since it’s cherry blossom time and today is peak bloom, I decided to ride to DC to see the show. I did my best to stay as far from people as possible. If someone on the trail stopped, I stopped ten feet behind them. If I passed someone (or someone passed me), I held my breath until I was beyond them. (I even adjusted this for wind speed and direction.)

When I got to National Airport I was amazed at how empty the economy parking lot was. There were fewer cars than yesterday.

Out of frame to the right was yet more empty parking spots.

Rather than take the 14th Street Bridge directly to the Tidal Basin and the crowds, I decided to ride another mile to the Memorial Bridge and skip the Tidal Basin entirely. I did a big loop, thanks in part to very like vehicular traffic, and ended up in East Potomac Park where the main road, Ohio Drive is lined with cherry trees.

I rode to Hains Point along Ohio Drive. The road had very light traffic.

There’s a golf course to the right of this picture. I spotted a ball in the grass and passed it by. After a minute of thought, I decided to ride to Hains Point a second time and retrieve the ball. I know it’s been there for a few days and its been rained on so the odds of it carrying the virus were small. Still, I touched it like it might explode and placed it in the side pocket of my saddle bag. I rinsed my fingertips off with my water bottle. (And washed my hands with degreaser and with soap and water when I got home. Paranoia strikes deep.)

During the second trip to the point, rain began falling. Temperatures and the humidity felt more like mid May than mid March so the rain felt good. An added benefit was that it cleared out most of the tourists near the Tidal Basin. This allowed me to take the 14th Street Bridge back to Virginia.

I must say that people seem to be doing a great job of social distancing. I only saw one cluster of people with more than three or four people in it.

Finally, I learned just before leaving for my ride that one of my nieces and her boyfriend are sick. They live locally and are in their twenties. He interacted with someone who tested positive when he was at a party out of town. So presumably they are both infected with the coronavirus.

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Greetings from Elbownia

Here at the Rootchopper Institute we’re social distancing our butts off. Of course, my preferred SD method is to ride my bike alone. I’ve been grinding away at it for nine days in a row. Rather than getting worn out, I’ve been getting stronger. This is exactly what happens on a bike tour. It makes no sense either on tour or at home but it is what it is.

Yesterday’s ride took me over the Woodrow Wilson Bridge, down the corkscrew ramp on the Maryland side, and up the long hill past the casino complex to Oxon Hill Road. From there I made my way into DC via the streets of Anacostia. I rode past the derelict buildings of Saint Elizabeths (no apostrophe) Hospital and down MLK Jr. Boulevard. Eventually, I made it to the Anacostia River and took the Anacostia River Trail to Benning Road. There I crossed over to the west side of the river, rode south between the river and the rotting hulk of RFK Stadium all the way to the Navy Yard. Soon I was passing Nationals Park, Audi Field (soccer), and the Wharf eventually making it down to Hains Point to check out the not-ready-for-prime-time cherry blossoms. (I did managed to shag three golf balls from the rusty spring hackers on East Potomac Yard course.) Then it was up the Potomac River past the Jefferson and Lincoln Memorials, across the Memorial Bridge to the Mount Vernon Trail and back home. A nice 43-mile spin in 70-degree temperatures.

Today’s ride was a recovery ride. I made it six miles, nearly to Old Town Alexandria, before I realized that I had forgotten my water bottles. I used the Wilkes Street tunnel to turn back home. On the way I passed my local bike store. The plan had been for the store to re-open in March, but from the looks of things it’s going to be quite some time before that happens.

Within a mile or two of this bike shop there have been two other large fires in the last month. And sometime in the last few months a hotel was struck by lightning. Coincidence?

After fetching my water bottles I made my way down to Mount Vernon, home and burial place of George and Martha Washington. I can’t remember the last time I saw it closed, but such are the “circumstances” these days.

My ride home took me to Route 1. As I waited at the traffic light I took note of the remarkable fall in gasoline prices since the financial and commodity markets went haywire.

There were long lines at this station and the one next door. Of course, the handles on the pumps may be a fine place for the Covid-19 virus to hang out but you take your chances when you can save 40 cents a gallon.

The ride home was brisk. I don’t know what got into my legs lately but I was accelerating up small rises in the road and I didn’t have a tailwind.

After the ride, I spent 20 minutes scraping loose paint from an exterior wall on the house. During dinner, I had a slight and very brief twinge of nerve pain in my lower right back. Oddly, this is good news. I am scheduled to have a new kind of injection in my lower back on Monday, but I haven’t had the slightest bit of pain in six days. Tomorrow I go on a six-mile hike. If that doesn’t bring about some serious pain in my back or my left leg, I am declaring myself cured and cancelling the injection.

Now if only I could do the same for the coronavirus. I guess I’ll just have to keep bumping elbows for a while longer.

51 miles without stopping

Yesterday was the first real test of how my stenosis recovery is affecting my bike riding. It was in the high 40s when I left home, back on The Mule for the first time in a couple of months. A nice little tailwind pushed me to DC where I found my way to Rock Creek Park after 15 miles of dodging kiddies on wee bikes and bouncing up and down over scores of tree roots. I am pretty sure that the CrossCheck does a better job of cushioning my back from these bumps. Nevertheless, I made it to DC without medical intervention.

Up the creek I rode. For 1 1/2 miles the trail bounced me all over the place. Then I arrived at the cross over point where Beach Drive is closed to cars. The pavement is new and deliciously smooth. The ride is a gradual uphill all the way to Maryland. The creek was babbling. Roller skaters, both old school and in-line, were in heaven. I made it to East West Highway and began the short climb to Jones Mill Road, the halfway point.

Jones Mill took me over a series of rollers to downtown Bethesda where, rather than stay on Woodmont Avenue, the street that I was on, I started wandering about looking for the Capital Crescent Trail. Soon I found myself pointed back the way I came on Woodmont. Hmmm.

I checked the Google, turned around, and rode to the trailhead, managing to avoid two unsignalled right hooks by drivers.

The trail was almost completely blocked by dog leashes. It was like a scene from that Tom Cruise movie where the jewels are protected by criss-crossing lasers. I cruised on through (sorry) without incident. The next seven or so miles were gradually downhill, weaving in and out as I passed walkers and more kiddos learning how to subdue their unruly bikes on training wheels.

By the time I made it back to Georgetown I was pooped. Normally, I get this far without too much fatigue. Normally, I stop in Bethesda for lunch. Today, I was abnormal. So I stopped and ate some mini cookies that Mrs. Rootchopper had put aside on account of their blandness. The bag had only 150 calories of food in it so the cookies barely put a dent in my pathway to bonkdom.

Of course, the last 15 miles was into the wind. Just grind it out, my brain said. My knees and lower back were not in complete agreement but they had no say in the matter. I descended from the 14th Street Bridge to take a hard right onto the Mount Vernon Trail. It was here that I discovered that my brake pads were so worn that they no longer could stop The Mule.

Derp.

I somehow managed not to hit anybody or anything. I even managed to stay on the pavement.

I carefully worked my way through the crowds at Gravelly Point Park and the tourist throngs in Old Town. Claiming no victims, I cruised homeward. I arrived with 51 1/2 miles for the day. My back and knees were sore, but it wasn’t stenosis, just what-hell-are-you-doing-to-us muscle fatigue.

Today’s plan: buy some brake pads.

Aftermath

For the last 31 years, I have lived within a mile of US Route 1 in Fairfax County, Virginia. Hereabouts Route 1 is known as Richmond Highway because, prior to the building of Interstate 95, it was the main route between the north and the Virginia state capital.

It has been the armpit of the county for most of the time I’ve lived here, lined with predatory lenders, run down motels from the 1940s (or earlier), trailer parks, a staggering number of truly bad restaurants (including the legendary Dixie Pig barbecue joint), and some rowdy clubs including the long-gone Hillbilly Heaven owned by Dan Ackroid’s in-laws.

For many decades, the county stupidly used the Richmond Highway corridor as a money pit for haphazard development. It became a crime-ridden traffic sewer, a road to avoid. People who live along the highway are disproportionately poor people of color. They rely on buses and shoe leather to get around and a disturbing number of them have paid with their lives trying to cross the six to eight lanes of vehicular mayhem.

In recent years, the county finally realized that this mess could be fixed with some long range planning including dense development and a bus rapid transit line that may one day, long after I am pushing up daisies, morph into a Metro rail line.

A big part of the redevelopment is to turn sections of the highway into mini-cities with mid rise apartments, street level shops, and such. The intersection of US 1 and Kings Highway was one such mini-city. Last week, an apartment and retail building that was under construction there caught fire. The five-alarm blaze burned for hours. It sent up a smoke plume that rivaled that of the Pentagon on 9/11. (I know because I rode under the 9/11 smoke plume on my way home.) The plume showed up on weather radar and extended well into southern Maryland.

The intersection is on the far side of Beacon Hill, the highest point between Richmond and DC. I decided to test my recovery by riding to it.

The ride up the hill proved to me that yesterday’s two-mile walk didn’t affect my recovery adversely. My lungs,on the other hand, could use some work. It’s one tough haul up that beast.

Below are a few pictures of the devastation. The construction site spanned a residential street. Along one side it was attached to a huge concrete parking garage. Note that in Virginia tall residential and mixed use buildings can be stick built above the ground floor. As you can see there is nothing left of the building above its first floor. On the other side of the street, the building is simply gone. Townhouses that were already completed seemed to have survived but they were closed, probably from smoke and heat damage inside. An new apartment complex (not shown) that ran the length of the project also seemed not to have burned but many of its units were boarded up as well. A few single family homes of recent vintage had significant heat damage to their vinyl siding.

How depressing.

I rode on afterward hoping to give my back a bit of a reprieve from the climb. I meandered north into the Eisenhower Valley, Old Town, and Del Ray neighborhoods of Alexandria city. Then I toured the sound wall along scenic I-395 to the Pentagon and past the 9/11 crash site. There’s a rather interesting memorial at the site but it’s hard to see because the Pentagon is building some sort of secure freight screening facility and there are fences and other obstructions between the highway and the memorial.

My ride took me to the Lincoln Memorial and down the National Mall. Big mistake. The joint was packed with Presidents Day weekend tourists. At a traffic light I chatted with two tourists from Boulder, Colorado. They were on rental e-scooters. They said I was brave to be riding in this traffic. (They’d really freak out during a weekday!)

I made a brief tour of The Wharf where there were hundreds of people milling about. Then I headed back across the river and down the Mount Vernon Trail to home.

The entire trip was 33 miles. Virtually pain free but for the lung sucking I did climbing Beacon Hill.

 

The Mule’s Still Got It. My Knee Not So Much.

After two days of beautiful weather, The Mule insisted on going for a long ride. The Mule was jealous because I went hiking with friends yesterday. The Mule gets like that sometimes. The Mule would have killed me in my sleep if it had seen this view from the White Rocks overlook on Sugarloaf Mountain in Maryland.

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And so I found myself heading northwest along the Potomac River. For 12 miles I rode into a headwind on the Mount Vernon Trail to DC. I crossed the river on the 14th Street Bridge and headed to Georgetown. Next, I took the Capital Crescent Trail along the north side of the river. I had a choice of routes. Either follow the C&O Canal towpath or switch to the somewhat hilly roads. I chose pavement since the towpath was a mess the last time I rode it.

After 30 miles I reached Potomac Village where gas costs more than top shelf single malt scotch.

I turned left onto River Road and partook of the massive rolling hills, views of stupefying mansions, the tony Bretton Woods Country Club, a Buddhist temple, a one-room schoolhouse, and fields of corn. After over 20 miles I had no choice but to climb Mt. Nebo Road. It goes up steeply, three times. Maybe four. However many times, the last one hurt.

I had a headwind leaving DC but now I could tell the wind direction had changed. I was riding effortlessly, except for the steepest hills. As every cyclist knows this either means you put performance enhancing drugs on your Wheaties or you have a tailwind. Since cinnamon isn’t a PDA, I knew it was the latter.

A few miles later I picked up the towpath, expecting there to be only one mile to get to Whites Ferry, where a privately run cable ferry shuttles travelers across the Potomac River. Somehow the one mile was actually four. Yeah, well. At least the towpath was in excellent condition. I spun along merrily and spooked a couple of deer who were hanging around looking for trouble. They put out their cigs and hightailed it into the woods.

I only had to wait five minutes for the ferry. There were a handful of cars on it coming and going so I was off the boat in under two minutes on the Virginia side of the river.

Did I mention that the weather was nice?

I rode to Leesburg and picked up some snackage. Then headed back home along 35 miles of the Washington and Old Dominion Trail. Into a headwind. Sadly, the snackage contained only chocolate and other sugary delights, not anabolic steroids.

I estimated that the ride would be about 100 miles, but my calculation error on the outbound portion of today’s excursion meant it would be a bit more.

All in all, it was a very pleasant day on the bike, except for the last 20 miles which I did on fumes while trying unsuccessfully to ignore a screaming left knee and shoulder. The left knee has been getting worse by the month and will require some medical intervention this fall. The shoulder has a rotator cuff impingement. (Impingement is a fancy medical term for “messed up”.) I could have surgery on it as well.

Did I mention my sore left hip?

Ugh.

This ride, my longest of the year, was well worth the pain.

Away and home

60 miles a day for days on end while carrying 40 pounds of gear. This is a normal day on tour. At home this would be torture.

I’ve ridden carrying no more than 5 pounds for 17 days in a row. Mostly on flat terrain. I am beat up and tired. I cannot figure it out. Partly, the fatigue has to do with riding Little Nellie. The small wheels on my Bike Friday beat my body up. It’s fun to ride because it’s twitchy and nimble but after a couple of weeks my back starts going into spasm.

I had intended to exploit today’s perfect weather here in DC by going on a monster bike ride. Last night I had a couple of minor back spasms. Then I went to sleep only to wake up with stomach cramps. This turned out to somehow be connected to my ingestion of sour dough bread last evening. I know this  because I had sour dough toast for breakfast and my stomach went nuts.

After lazing about for the entire morning, I set out on The Mule to see if my body would respond favorably. It did. I was riding about 10 percent faster. I could barely feel the tree root bumps in the trail. The weather was perfect. The only negative thought I had was whatever will I do when The Mule dies? It fits me so perfectly.

When I got home, I sat on my deck with a glass a merlot. I did the crossword puzzle while listening to a baseball game (Nats won 7-2 over the Cubs) on the radio I  received for my birthday. Bliss.

Tomorrow is another perfect weather day. Mrs. Rootchopper and I are joining a couple of friends for a morning hike on Sugarloaf Mountain in Maryland. I get to try out one of my birthday presents, a new Osprey backpack. (I tossed my WalMart fall-apart backpack. I hated that thing.) Afterward, I shall retire to the deck for more radio baseball. (Our TV is out of commission as a result of the renovation to the man cave.)

Next week I have nothing planned and some awesome weather. I think I shall take The Mule out to the country for a long stroll.

Pedals and Petals

I spent Sunday morning doing yard work, just cleaning up dead branches and vines and such. At one point I jumped to grab a loose branch hanging to within about nine feet of the ground. I never had much ups and have even less now. Suffice it to say, after three tries the dangling branch continued to dangle. My back, always gimpy anyway, decided to go into spasm.

Ugh.

So I ate some ibuprofen and watched the Nats game on TV. It was nice outside when the game ended so I went for a gentle 22-mile ride. When I finished, I was Quasimodo.

More ibuprofen and eight hours of sleep later, I could stand straight-ish. The weather was perfect outside. A sane person would spend the day resting his back by relaxing on the deck. Well…

I decided to ride 20+ miles to Bethesda Maryland to check out the cherry trees in the Kenwood neighborhood. On the way I passed by the Tidal Basin in DC where the cherry trees were clearly past peak blossom.

A tailwind pushed me further to the northwest. I was about to check my phone map for directions to Kenwood when I spotted three people standing in the middle of the Capital Crescent Trail looking up. They were standing under an absolutely huge cherry tree in full bloom. At the next intersection I took a left into cherry blossom heaven. Each street in Kenwood is lined with cherry trees. It was just past peak bloom and a bit breezy so it was snowing blossoms. Because it was Monday, there was little car traffic, and only a few pedestrians wandering around with wide eyes and big smiles.

I stayed in Kenwood for at least a half hour before heading up the CCT to Bethesda Row and lunch. After a slice of pizza and a chocolate chip cookie (my middle name is “Health”) I took off to the west. Bradley Boulevard was a bit hillier than I remembered but I used my bike tour climbing form to its best effect.

I rode through Potomac Village and over to Great Falls Park where I enjoyed the half mile winding downhill on MacArthur Boulevard. The next 25 miles took me through Glen Echo and Georgetown, and across the river to Rosslyn where I picked up the Mount Vernon Trail for the 14 1/2 mile ride home along the river.

I was sucking wind at the end, due to the 64 miles and 85 degree temperature. I was greeted by our own little weeping cherry, which bloomed while I was riding.

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It was the farthest I’d ridden since late August. And my back didn’t mind a bit.

 

Biking with Judd and George

The Friends of the Mount Vernon Trail is a volunteer organization recently started to help the National Park Service with the trail. (The NPS has very little money so it needs all the help it can get.) Today, Judd, one if the group’s founders, led a bike ride from DC to Old Town Alexandria. It being Presidents Day, Judd guided the group to points of interest having to do with George Washington.

I started the day with a CT scan. It took much longer than planned so I didn’t have time to ride 14 miles to the starting point of the ride. With some logistical help from my friend Erin, I rode 12 miles to the 14th Street Bridge and waited for the riders to come across the Potomac from their first stop at the Washington Monument.

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Judd making the turn onto the MVT

There were over 20 of them. They came down the ramp for the bridge and headed south along the MVT. After National Airport they headed west on the Four Mile Run and Washington and Old Dominion Trails. About six miles later they stopped at a marker indicating the northern most point of George Washington’s land. Judd explained how Washington personally took a block of granite and, with his bare hands, tore away chunks of rock to create the marker.

I made that up.

Did you know that George was a dog person? He had a dog named Sweet Lips.

I did not make that up, but its the kind of bizarre info that Judd had discovered in his research.

We backtracked along Four Mile Run, an old trail that meandered along the creek of the same name. I hadn’t ridden this section of trail in over 20 years. It was in surprisingly good condition.

Our route took us to the riverfront near Old Town Alexandria. I missed the turn and tool a few riders about a half mile out of their way. We made it back in time to see the very end of Judd’s remarks.

Judd led us to Christ Church, after some detours caused by the Presidents Day parade in Old Town. Christ Church dates to the 18th century. We went inside and were treated to a presentation by Dell, a church docent. Some of us actually sat in George Washington’s pew (actually, it is a box with a pew facing forward and back). Robert E. Lee also had a pew there. The place just oozed colonial cool. Amazingly none of our group were kicked out for being heathens.

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Heathens in Christ Church

From the church we rode west about a mile to the George Washington Masonic Temple on Shooters Hill. The highlight of the visit was going to the top and walking around the outside. The views were terrific. So was the gale coming from the west.

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Stain glass in the Masonic Memorial

After our tour, we all headed to Whole Foods for beer and food. It’s a good thing because I was starving.

Judd explained how George Washington shopped in this very store.

I made that up.

When I left, I found that my Krytonite U lock refused to open.

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Little Nellie was held hostage

After scores of tries, I gave up and called Mrs. Rootchopper. She brought my spare key to the lock but it didn’t work. So we drove to a hardware store and bought some WD40. I squirted it in the lock. Waited five seconds, inserted the key and rejoiced as I freed Little Nellie! Yay.

By this point the sun was setting and the beer was beering my brain, so I folded up the bike and popped it into the trunk of the car.

We drove home. Our home is on property that was once part of George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate.

I did not make that up.

Twice to the end

A Ride with Heather and Daniel

My friend Heather sent me an email the other day asking if I’d like to do a ride on the Mount Vernon Trail to take advantage of the nice weather and her furlough. And so I found myself riding my Surly Cross Check up to DC to meet her at the Capital Crescent Trail beneath Key Bridge in Georgetown.

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Heather brought her friend Daniel, an ultramarathoner and rider of a 29er (a mountain bike with big wheels and front suspension). Heather rode her aluminium Specialized Sequoia which bears absolutely no resemblance to the Mule, my 1991 steel Specialized Sequoia. (Specialized recycles it’s bike names, apparently.)

We began by walking up stairs to get from the underside of Key Bridge to the roadway atop it. Across the Potomac we rode. I stopped before turning onto the Mount Vernon Trail to point out the Intersection of Doom, the bicycle counter, and the glass and steel ick that is today’s Rosslyn.

Down we rode to the trail and across Trollheim, the sketchy boardwalk under the TR Bridge. We came to the staging area of the Memorial Bridge reconstruction project and were delayed by a tractor trailer backing its load onto a barge in the river.

Down by the airport we stopped to admire the planes landing at National Airport. I broke the news to a dismounting cyclist that the porta potties were padlocked shut thanks to the government shutdown. I explained that in order to keep rapists and drug dealers out of the country park users must pee our pants. The cyclist who was by now doing the pee pee dance hit me with a right cross.

On we rode to Old Town were we stopped to admire the hulk of the decommissioned coal fired power plant.

Further south I explained how the fake arches of the Woodrow Wilson bridge were put together. Then it was down the trail past Porto Vechio were an SUV driver failed to stop at the red light and nearly hit me as she turned right  onto the Parkway. Having been hit here once before under nearly identical circumstances at this intersection, I hit my brakes and STOP!! I do wish Alexandria would change this to a no right on red intersection.

As we rode south I pointed out a bald eagle perched in a tree across the road. We made our way through Belle Haven Park then along the edge of Dyke Marsh where I pointed out the nests on the Haul Road and along the trail just south of Tulane Drive.

The gradual climb up to the stone bridge took us by another nest, this one near Morningside Drive.

We continued on the trail with Daniel taking the lead. Despite having sore feet and knobby tires he set a healthy pace. We came to the nasty switchback hill south of Waynewood Boulevard and everyone slowed to wobble a bit.

The ride to Mount Vernon was pretty and uneventful. We are all pretty tired once we reached the top of the hill at the end of the trail. Heather’s husband Rulon appeared as we were about to lock up our bikes. Heather treated us to lunch at the food court.

After lunch I led the descent back toward DC. As we passed Fort Hunt Park I pointed out the big eagle nest across the Parkway. When we got to the stone bridge, I bid Heather and Daniel good bye and headed for home. I finished with 41 1/2 miles on my odometer, my longest ride since Veterans Day.

The Puzzle from Hell

This year we decided to go low key for Christmas. No tree. No presents (we all cheated a bit). Just a few decorations, a shitload of junk food, some board games, and, a 1,000 piece jigsaw puzzle. The puzzle has been on our dining room table for over a week. I swear it was taunting us in our sleep. Looking at it day after day made me see jigsaw pieces as I rode my bike around.

Jigsaw puzzles make you appreciate how painters take what we see and how our brains translate that vision and distill it into bits of paint. That white dot in the puzzle piece is a headlight. The splash of white on the leaf is the reflection of a street light. The black line is the shadow beneath a piece of trim on a building.

Today I finished the painting. The push to the finish involved re-placing a couple of dozen pieces that had been improperly positioned. I laid 999 pieces together and realized the last piece, on the upper left side of the puzzle, didn’t fit! After 10 minutes of puzzle inspection I found a piece of the right side that was misplaced, switched them, and voila! Done.

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I am doing the puzzle in the middle of the day because I woke up with a head cold. Reason enough to lay about in sweatshirt and sweatpants and eat some chicken soup.

Now to bed….

Hazy, Hot, Humid, and High

No I did not drop acid.

With lousy air quality in the forecast for yesterday, I jumped in my car and drove 2 1/2 hours  to the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it town of Rice, Virginia. This is one of the handful of parking places along the High Bridge Trail, a rail trail that runs about 31 miles from, well, nowhere to, well, no place. Before it gets there, it passes through the cute town of Farmville and goes over the High Bridge.

Trail users are required to pay a user fee of $4 per car. (Bring ones.) You have to pay more for parking with a trailer or if you are riding a horse. Although I did not spot a horse, I saw evidence of their presence. I suppose the higher fee covers clean up costs.

The trail has a firm crushed limestone surface that is on a par with the GAP Trail and much better than the C & O Canal towpath. It was dry and had been baking in the sun for a few days so it was almost as firm a surface as asphalt. Pretty much any commuting bike would work just fine.

The Rice trailhead is 7 miles from the eastern end of the trail. I headed east for my 14 mile warm up. The trail passes through farmland and woods. As with most rail trails, the view is obscured by trees and/or a berm running parallel. No worries. It’s still pretty.

Every few miles there are bathrooms. I didn’t use them but they looked like pit toilets. There is no water along the trail because heat stroke is the unofficial pass time of central Virginia.

After seven miles, the trail ends without much fanfare. I turned around and headed back to the car. Then kept going until reached the High Bridge 4 miles later. The bridge was an engineering masterpiece back in the mid 1800s. In addition to being long and high, it had two tiers. The top tier was for trains and there was a lower tier for people on foot or horse. The rail trail uses the top level.

Lee’s army used the bridge on its retreat from the relentless pursuit of the Army of Northern Virginia after Richmond fell. Lee’s troops tried to burn the bridge but the northerners were too fast and made it across using the lower level, eventually catching the rebels at Appomattox Court House about 35 miles to the west.

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Image may contain: sky, bridge and outdoor

The bridge deck is above all but a few tree tops. And it’s a long way down (125 feet) to the Appomattox River. It’s also quite long as you can see (2,400 feet).

A few miles beyond the bridge the trail passes through the town of Farmville, home of Longwood University and Greenfront Furniture.

I stopped at a gas station for some food. I actually bought real food: two apples, and a banana. Of course, I also picked up a candy bar, because I am without shame. More importantly, I bought 40 ounces of water. 20 went into my water bottles. The other 20 went into me. I had only ridden about 21 miles so far but I was zonked from the oppressive heat and humidity.

Being a bear of very little brain, I rode on. After another 15 miles the trail ends unceremoniously near the town of Pamplin. I think it is slightly uphill heading west because my riding speed was around 10 miles per hour heading west and 13-14 miles per hour on the return.

There isn’t much to see except trees, a deer or three, a groundhog, a bunny rabbit, some pretty impressive kudzu, a small logging operation, and a burnt out school bus. I suppose that’s the point. Even on a hot day, the High Bridge trail will take you away from your spreadsheets and meetings and bring your chill out.

When I arrived back at the car, I dismounted and was surprised by a gentle breeze. The car dash board told me it was 88 degrees. It was approximately as muggy as Baton Rouge in April. (Been there. Done that. Sweated through my suit.) This pretty much tells me that my 63-mile ride had left me roasted and toasted.

There was some discussion at home that the car I was driving had a faulty air conditioner. I am pleased to report that it worked just fine. In fact, I had to turn it down. I was frozen by the time I got home. When I opened the door of the car in my driveway, the disgusting swamp air of DC came crashing in. My windshield immediately fogged up. Gross.

If you decide to do this ride, I recommend keeping an eye out for peak foliage time (and cooler temperatures) in October. Instead of riding the eastern 14 miles, use that time to linger on the bridge and have lunch in Farmville.

Oh, and I forgot to mention that there is a craft brewery on the trail in Farmville. Because beer.