No Wrong Plan: Day 3 – Meyersdale to Pigmans Ferry on the GAP Trail and the C&O Canal Towpath

No trains. No birds. Just bleary eyes. We woke up and ate breakfast in Yoders. The kitchen had been fully stocked while we went out for dinner and ice cream last night. We ate our full and headed outside dreading another encounter with the Meth Man.

The first order of business today, as it was yesterday, was chain maintenance. The limestone grit covers bicycle drivetrains. If it gets wet it can solidify and freeze up gears, cause chains to skip (mine already skipped a couple of times on the way here) and derail, and incapacitate brakes. A few minutes each morning kept our machines in working order.

We climbed back up to the GAP trail. It was a three step operation. First, we rode uphill to a flat cross street. I slowed to take a picture of a beautiful victorian house that had both a tower and a wrap around porch. (I am a tower person; Mrs. Rootchopper is a wrap around porcher.)

Kevin and Ryan rode ahead and turned uphill. The hill is interrupted by train tracks then continues steeper still to the trail. As I approached the tracks I head a horn. The gate wasn’t down so I proceeded across. I looked left and spotted an Amtrak train coming round the bend. The gate came down behind me.

Pedal. Pedal.

The train gave me a little adrenaline boost which helped me get up the last bit of hill.

On we rode on a slightly damp trail. The trail was wet like a baseball infield, just damp enough to keep the dust down without making it muddy.

We continued the climb through the woods, trestle after trestle over gurgling streams. The water ran more slowly up here, I suppose indicating that we were nearing the top. To our left a freight train rumbled past. It was pulling only new black tanker cars, probably oil from fracking operations.

IMG_0578

Soon we came upon a series of photo ops. First, the Eastern Continental Divide which is marked by a small tunnel. Our climbing was over! Yess!  A map inside the tunnel showed us what we had accomplished and what was in store. A 70–ish mile gradual climb of 1,400 feet would give way to a 1,600 foot downhill run over the next 20 miles.  We took pictures celebrating our achievement and headed downhill to our next landmark, the Big Savage Tunnel. It’s long. It’s lit. It’s a hoot (and much easier than climbing the mountain on the roads). On the eastern side of the tunnel the terrain changes abruptly. The tunnel of green gives way to majestic vistas of rolling mountains with farms as far as the eye can see. We stopped and  gaped at the view. Wow!

Back on the bikes we soon reached another landmark: the Mason Dixon Line. This marks the border of Pennsylvania and Maryland. South of here slavery was once legal.

Onward we rode, now spinning freely at 18 miles per hour. If this were a paved trail, we’d have easily topped 20. Our next landmark was the Borden Tunnel. This one is shorter but rideable behind Kevin’s generator light and with Ryan’s headlamp. (My camp headlamp was useless.)

Soon we arrived at Frostburg where Ryan said the “F” word: he had a flat rear tire. Good timing. We needed a break. We decided to use a $1 bill to boot his tire (covering the hole the puncture made) even though he was carrying two new tires.

After the repair, we rode onward, downward, curving with the trail as it ran back and forth across the tracks of the excursion railroad that runs between Frostburg and Cumberland. We continued to pass westbound bike tourists, all were smiling despite the effort of their climb.

We entered a very dark tunnel, shared by the rail line. This was a bit disorienting for me and my crappy camp light. I focussed on the reflective material on Kevin’s back and concentrated on staying upright.

After a stop to admire a barn and the countryside it was located in, we came to the Bone Cave. This cave was filled with bones of ancient critters. Kevin found it fascinating.

Onward we decended through Woodcock Hollow. A ridgeline loomed to the east. Covered in green with some rocky parts for visual variety. Woodcock Hollow gives way to The Narrows where US 40, a river, a train line, our trail, and our train line all squeeze through a gap in the mountains. In a few minutes the trail became paved as it wound its way into Cumberland. We had biked the GAP!

The canal boats on the C&O were towed by mules. We stopped so that I could pose The Mule with a statue of a mule and its driver.

Next up was lunch at a cafe in the touristy part of Cumberland. The sammiches were good and the beer was cold. We had ridden 150 miles in 2 1/2 days. Once fed and watered we were ready for more.

The C&O Canal towpath has a very different character than the GAP trail. Like the GAP, it is mostly unpaved but it is much bumpier with many more tree roots and rocks. This means that riding requires much more focus on the trail and less on the scenery. As it turns out this is just fine because the scenery is constant for long stretches. The canal, usually on the left. is either filled with clear water, a stagnant swamp, a bog, or a wooded sunken tract. To the right more often than not is the Potomac River. Woods and mountains encroach on the canal, towpath, and river in various configurations. Wildflowers, purple and white, line the towpath for miles and miles. This different sort of trail results in a different meditative quality to the ride. Where the GAP lets your mind wander and lets you feast your senses on your surroundings, the C&O rewards your wandering brain with a jolt of a rock or tree root.

Focus. Pedal. Breathe.

We stopped to admire a canal lock and lockkeepers house. A solo hiker bound for DC chatted with us. He was stocky but had calves of steel. We hadn’t seen the Meth Man all day so he became the Anti-Meth Man. A solo rider heading west warned us that there was no food to be had for many miles ahead. I was happy that I kept and apple and a banana from Yoders.

At after a few more miles we spotted Pigmans Ferry campsite near a farmers field with no animals in sight. We pulled off and set up camp. A short day of only 48 miles. Ryan cooked up some mac and cheese with Velveeta. I thought it was disgusting, but it was fun to watch his cooking process. I decide to eat my remaining food rather than take the chance that a critter would find it while I slept.  Anti-Meth Man showed up and made his dinner, Thai food in a pouch. He had is act together for sure. Westbound cycle tourists, a family of three, set up camp at a distance.

The campsites on the canal have water pumps. The National Park Service treats the water with iodine. The water here had a brown tint to it. It didn’t taste all that bad, but I was reluctant to gum up my water bottles with the taste. It was useful for bathing and getting all that GAP grit off our bodies.

At sunset I looked westward across the farmer’s field. A distinct yellow haze hung in the air. Ryan had been sneezing all day. I had itchy, watery eyes (despite having taken an antihistamine). Each day I was awakening with eye boogers from all the pollen. Ick. As annoying as this was, I’ll take pollen over cold rain any day of the week.

I am not a good tent sleeper. I think I need a thicker sleeping pad. I closed my eyes and listened as frogs peeped in the woods. Birds tweeted. A train whistled in the distance. ZZZZZ.

Check out my pix on Flickr.

All Is Quiet (nearly) on New Years Day

New Years Eve was a mellow affair. My wife, daughter and I went out to dinner then our daughter went to a party and we went to see Unbroken. As my wife put it, “It’s a mediocre movie about a great story.” I agree. The book was intense.

Nothing says ringing out the old year like watching a man dessicate in a life raft on the pen sea for weeks followed by getting beaten to a pulp over and over again by a sadist in a prison camp.

We walked out of the theater at 11:58 and drove home as fireworks filled the midnight sky over Old Town Alexandria.

The New Year dawned with me sleeping in (sort of, 7:15 is as good as it gets these days). I did about 45 minutes of yoga. Okay, probably closer to 35 because I just don’t have the patience for doing it properly.

After breakfast and some chores I took off for Great Falls Park in Maryland. I had hiked the Billy Goat B and C trails last summer in my old hiking boots. I ached afterwards. I was really looking forward to how my back and legs held up with my new hiking shoes and orthotics. It was clear right away that this was going to be a much better experience. 20150101_121529

IMG_20150101_131743 20150101_115040

I started on the C trail in a counterclockwise direction. This took me to the C&O Canal towpath. I could not believe how much faster I was walking than last summer. A great blue heron stalked something in the water. Some kids played along the edge of the canal. The sun beamed down on me and the canal glistened with just the thinnest layer of ice possible. I kept hearing an exotic birds sound, almost like the sounds of a ray gun in a science fiction movie. Where was it coming from? I couldn’t figure it out for the life of me.

I walked about three miles on the canal and picked up the B trail. It was a bit muddy. I slipped and thought that my back would seize up. But it didn’t. It felt incredibly, wonderfully normal.

The trail had plenty of people on it. We wished each other a happy new year as we passed. I was lost in thought for most of the hike. Turning over events of the past year. Trying to figure out the unfathonable. The B trail took me back to the towpath. I figured out what that exotic sound was. People were skipping stones on the ice and it was vibrating in an eerie pitch. I tossed a couple of stones. Tweek. Tweek. Bizarre.

Back on the C trail, I encountered more people. Some were obnoxiously loud. Once I got past them, I went into a meditative trance. It was so relaxing. Just the sound of the river and my breathing. It’s a wonder I found the path back to the parking lot.

So the year begins. Not a bad start.

Billy Goating (Again)

A couple of weeks ago I went on a short hike in Great Falls Park near the C&O Canal. It nearly killed me. So, of course, I decided to give hiking another go.

The near fatal hike was on the Billy Goat A Trail. The A trail is an continuous nasty rock scramble interrupted by a couple of minutes of walking in the woods. It was not one of my better outings in nature. 

When I was a kid, I used to hang out in the woods near my house all summer. When I wasn’t in the woods I was usually at home painting myself with calamine lotion. So Help Me Hanna! Putting calamine lotion on a poison ivy rash is like treating the leather on my saddle: it gives you something to do when you are bored but it doesn’t actually accomplish anything.

Today’s hike was along the B and C Billy Goat Trails.  These trails and the walk along the C&O Canal towpath that connects them are much more my style. There was beaucoup walking on dirt trails and some fun rock scrambles here and there. I only had to slide down one on my butt. My only complaint about these trails is that there are lots of tree roots and jagged little rocks to negotiate. This meant that I spent a whole bunch of time looking at the ground and not enjoying the scenery. And there’s plenty of scenery,  bubbling water, turtles, huge jagged rock faces, rock climbers, and vultures. (At one point I inadvertantly startled a vulture in a tree along the river bank. After seeing him launch, I am glad he eats carrion and not hikers.)

DSCN3213_362 DSCN3216_354

To do both trails in one go, you have to walk over two miles on the C&O Canal towpath. This is a very pretty walk, completely flat. I am so used to riding it that my subconscious wanted me to run. Running would have ruined the laid back vibe, not to mention my aging knees. The repetitiveness of the unvarying flat surface was much harder on my legs than the rock scrambles and tree roots along the trails.

All in all, the hike was a success. I hoofed it about 6 1/2 miles in 2:30. In my running days I could have easily done the whole thing in under an hour. Those days and the cartilage in my knees are long gone.  

Here’s hoping that I didn’t brush up against any poison ivy. Some more pix are on my Flickr page.

Little Nellie, Big Ride

Bike Friday’s have little wheels and little wheels give a rough ride. That’s okay for commuting since work is 15 miles from home, but for longer rides it becomes a problem, especially with my problematic back. Whenever I ride long distances I take one of my other bikes which have a cushier ride.

Lately though Little Nellie, my Bike Friday New World Tourist, and my back have been getting along splendidly. I decided to take a day off work and go for a long ride. Since it was Friday, I headed into town for Friday Coffee Club. The ride in was uneventful if a bit slow. I had put 180+ miles on my legs in the previous five days.

I had a bowl of Cherrios and a banana for breakfast but decided to have a scone with my coffee at Swings in DC, because I am weak willed. After about and hour of gabbing, I hopped on Little Nellie and headed westward. I worked my way over to the new M Street Cycletrack. It’s pretty nice and extends one-way all the way to Georgetown. I like how there is a parking lane that separates the cycletrack from the rest of the roadway. I don’t like how several people treated it as an extension of the sidewalk or as a loading zone. And then there were two wrong-way cyclists. What is it about people in this city that they can’t clue in to the obvious.

Image

Near the end of the cycletrack I was joined by Jacques, Hugo’s dad. He was on his way from Swings to his home in Georgetown. As luck would have it, his house was on my way so we had a good talk for a mile or so. Once Jacques peeled off, I was back on solo mode. I followed Reservior Avenue to MacArthur Boulevard. The cars were going a litttle faster than I am used to so I used the cycletrack along the wide of the road. It’s a bit precarious because turning cars don’t expect to see cyclists when they are turning across the cycletrack.

I survived and made my way to the long hill after the Old Anglers Inn. It’s one of those giant’s staircase hills: riser, tread, riser, tread, riser tread and so on. After dancing with the luxury cars on Falls Road, I turned onto RIver Road heading west. River Road has a series of long downhills followed by long uphills. It can wear your ass out. I just plugged along. I made it through two lane closures with the help of flagmen that gave me defference to the cars.

After a long downhill to Seneca Creek, I momentarilly considered stopping for food and drink at Poole’s General Store. I’ll get some at White’s Ferry, I thought, not wanting to give up the momentum I was building on the downhill.

It was getting hotter but I felt fine. RIver Road becomes a shaded country lane after a while and I was in a world of my own. Then I turned up Mt. Nebo Road and the work began anew. This is another giant’s staircase but much more difficult than the one near Old Anglers.

I was relieved to make it to the top without dying. A short while later I came to a T intersection. I stopped and checked my cellphone for routing options. I decided to ride down to the C&O canal towpath and take that the last five miles to Whites Ferry. I was glad that the towpath was dry but not so fond of the occasional tree route that caught me off guard. I passed several touring cyclsts as I rode. None of them had front panniers just huge piles of stuff on back racks.

I popped out at Whites Ferry where I was to learn that the story and diner were closed. Uh oh. I had to wait for the ferry so I reached into my handlebar bag to check my phone for messages. No phone. Damn!

I looked and looked and couldn’t find it anywhere. I thought about it for a while and decided to head nack to the T-intersection some seven or eight miles back and look for it. I was down to my last half bottle of water and was starting to worry about running out. I passed a campsite along the canal. It had a water pump that was working so I, after testing the water for taste, filled all three bottles to the top. (The water in the well is treated with iodine so no worries about getting sick.)

At the T intersection there was no cellphone. I turned around and headed back to the ferry slowing for every object on the ground that might possibly be a cellphone. I found all kinds of rocks and poo, but no phone. I was pretty diligent when I came to a bump like the speed bump near Edwards Ferry. In several spots tree routes traverse the towpath. I hit a few of these pretty hard so everytime I came to one I slowed and looked hard. Rock. Poo pile. CELL PHONE!!!!

I had blown two hours and 15 miles looking for my phone so I needed to get rolling. The ferry only had three cars and me on it so the load/unload time was brief. The ride up to US 15 was peaceful. The five minute wait for the traffic light was annoying. I rode into Leesburg thankful that the big trucks didn’t roll over me.

There are plenty of places in Leesburg to eat. I couldn’t decide where to stop and I wasn’t all that hungry so I rode on. I banged a left onto the W&OD and headed east. Into a headwind. I am such a sucker for a tailwind that I didn’t notice its gentle assist on the way west. There was nothing to be done but grind it out with one eye on the clouds building to the south.

I as actually hoping for rain at this point. It would have felt great. Lightning not so much. I saw a trailside sign for a beer place but the clouds won. In Sterling I couldn’t resist the big BBQ sign at Carolina Brothers. I really don’t much like barbeque but my belly was all sconed out.

Image

Snarf.

Back on the trail I kept at it. I stopped again in Vienna for an Arnold Palmer and a Snickers bar. My legs were starting to feel it.

Pedal, pedal.

Since when is Vienna on a hill. Oh, Alps. Must be why they named it Vienna.

Pedal, pedal.

I saw a shirtless Mr. Universe walking along the rode. Dude was ripped. I offered to have his child.

Pedal, pedal.

(Just kidding about that.)

Into Arlington. I saw @Shawnofthedread ridng home from work. Do you know how hard it is to say hi when your mouth is full of Snickers.I wanted to tell him that I had just hit the 100-mile mark but all I could say was “Nom nom.”A little later on Fast Friendly Guy came by. Hi. (Snickers was gone.)

At the end of the W&OD I pressed the button to cross the street to get to the Anderson Trail. A sign above the button said this:

Image

I needed that laugh. Thank you, signage people.

Rather than mess around with the detour near Route 1, I doublebacked and headed up Commonwealth Avenue through Alexandria. It was a nice flat roll through the city. I caught only one light the whole way and picked up the Mount Vernon Trail south of town.

The storm clouds had broken up. The temperature had dropped into the seventies. The last miles were on autopilot.

117 1/2 miles. I was a bit beat up. My left hand was a little numb. My knees and back were a tad sore.

Pretty darned good way to spend a day off, if you ask me

Pix from the ride are on my Flickr page.

Coffeeneuring Number 2: Metric Coffee Ride

Something odd is happening. For the last two months, despite riding Big Nellie, my Tour Easy recumbent, almost every day, I haven’t been able to get the bike moving satisfactorily. Every ride has been a frustrating struggle. Yesterday that changed. Riding my recumbent was effortless. After 51 miles I wanted to ride a lot more.

So, today I did. And the riding was even better. With temps in the high 80s, you cannot complain about the weather. It took me a while to get started though. I spent the first half hour of my ride doing maintenance on The Mule, my 20-year-old Specialized Sequoia. I put a 700×35 tire on the front to match the width of my new back tire. Then I took it for a quick test ride. The Mule likes wider tires. No doubt about it. My test ride did surface a problem: really squeaky rear brakes. So I fiddled with them for a few minutes.

Once General Bike Hospital was over with, Big Nellie and I hit the road. We cruised through some neighborhood streets before hooking up with the Mount Vernon Trail near the stone bridge. I had a noticeable tailwind so I knew that the easy of riding was not all my doing.

In about an hour, I pulled into Saint Elmo’s Coffee Pub in Del Ray for my second Coffeeneuring stop. The coffee was much better than yesterday’s and the blueberry and banana muffin was moist and tasty. I brought a book with me so I could linger over my brew.

I was still hungry so I dropped into the Dairy Godmother, an ice cream store two doors down from St. Elmo’s. I had one of their root beer floats. Ahhhh. Perfection!

Root beer floats should be allowed in the Coffeeneuring Challenge. Root beer is brewed, right?
Root beer floats should be allowed in the Coffeeneuring Challenge. Root beer is brewed, right?

Now that my diet had been shot to hell, I hit the road in earnest. In about two miles I was heading west on the Four Mile Run trail heading for the W&OD trail. I took that to the Custis trail and headed back toward DC along I 66. Just I was getting my kicks, I turned off the trail and worked my way through hilly North Arlington. My destination was Glebe Road which drops like a ski slope down to the Potomac River. Big Nellie loves street luge. Weeee!!!!

Once down the hill I headed northwest on the C&O Canal towpath. Big Nellie’s long wheel base does a wonderful job of absorbing the bumps which are pretty much continuous. I was bombing along at 15 miles per hour passing mountain bikers who must have been wondering how such a strange bike could handle the rough trail.

At Great Falls Park I turned off the trail and rode up a long, long hill. Unlike my experience at the Backroads Century the hills didn’t much bother me. At the top of the hill I mashed on the pedals. I could hear the rear tire digging into the pavement. Down the other side we went. I love doing downhills on my bent. It would have been epic had a car with a kayak on its roof not pulled out in front of me from a parking lot at the bottom of the luge run.

The ride back along MacArthur Boulevard was into the wind, but I didn’t much notice. I was cruising along at 15 miles per hour – about three miles per hour above my commuting speed – with very little effort. I turned off MacArthur and rode Reservoir Road and some alphabet streets across Georgetown.  The streets were rather quiet so I rode down 17th Street straight to the Tidal Basin. I caught a bunch of lights and zipped across the Kutz Bridge, normally a nail biter of ride.

I was across the 14th Street bridge in no time and headed into the wind on the MVT going 17 miles per hour. The sun was setting and it seemed to be doing so rather quickly. I was wearing sunglasses so I knew I’d have to stop soon to switch to my regular glasses. I was having such a blast riding that I didn’t stop until Old Town Alexandria 3 1/2 miles later. There I put my light on my helmet and activated my red blinky lights.

The helmet light did a fine job of illuminating all the bike riders without lights heading my way on the dark section of the MVT south of Old Town. The light also helped give me some early warning about the clouds of gnats hanging intermittently over the trail.

I arrived home in the dark after 64 miles. Unlike yesterday, I actually felt somewhat tired. I definitely could have ridden more though.

I really think it’s unfair for my cycling fitness to peak just as the cold weather comes around. If the furlough continues, maybe I should just ride to Cuba. I’ll bet Raul could use a cycling economist. He might even find me essential.

Could It Really Be Spring?

The weather report called for temperatures in the low seventies. I prepared by taking yesterday off the bike, mowing the lawn and doing a number of chores. I waited until I saw a 5 and a 0 on the digital thermometer in our house.

Off I rode on Little Nellie and felt very strong. It was obvious that I had a tailwind. About three miles from home, I passed the Morningside nest and spotted a white head. Hopefully, we’ll have some eaglets soon (if we don’t have them already). A mile further on I looked left as I crossed the Dyke Marsh boardwalk.  The pair of geese I saw earlier in the week were still waddling about. It was a bit troubling that papa goose was on the far side of the Parkway. It would suck if he became roadkill.  (My wife and I once saw a black SUV mow down a mama duck and a few of her ducklings as they tried to cross the Parkway. The surviving ducklings were a sad sight, waddling around in a panic.)

The Mount Vernon Trail was very crowded, which is typical of a warm, sunny weekend day. The tailwind made passing easy. I cruised to the city with surprisingly little difficulty. At Gravelly Point, a plane came in for a landing. A man transfixed by the plane wandered directly in front of me looking up. “YO!” He came back to reality and hopped out of the way.

The tailwind became obvious when the trail curved along the river bank. Little Nellie was a happy camper.

I turned to ride up the ramp to the 14th Street Bridge. Now with the wind in my face, it was time to work a little. Bikes were coming down the ramp in a long line. There was a fence on the left and a highway ramp on the right. There were three bikes in front of me. They stopped. No warning. The two women in front were having a conversation. The guy in the back said nothing. I veered to the left (thankfully there was a little room) and stopped with my front wheel next to his rear wheel. For some reason I blurted out “What the fuck are you doing?” It was louder than intended, perhaps because my expectations of a smooth ride to DC had been dashed. The guy turns to me, objects to my remark and starts explaining the situation (as if it wasn’t self-evident) . While he’s jabbering, I look up and two cyclists are coming down the hill, passing the long line of bikes, straight at me. I turn to my new personal friend and yell, “Move your god damned bike NOW!”

I think this blows my chances at the Cherry Blossom Festival Mr.Congeniality award. And I am sure he thought I am a total asshole. He has a point. I don’t care. Safety comes first.

On the DC side of the bridge, chaos. I weaved through the buses and tourists. I could see that the trees along the Tidal Basin were nowhere near full bloom so I headed for East Potomac Park. Into the wind.

I saw a few nice trees but the whole experience left me frustrated. If I hadn’t lived here for decades I’d swear that this whole cherry blossom thing is a hoax.

A Lonely Bloomer on Hains Point

I rode upriver to the Lincoln Memorial, crossing Constitution Avenue through one epic traffic jam. I spotted a Park Service employee helping people cross the street. He just laughed. It was so bad that there’s nothing he could do.

I back tracked on the opposite side of the Mall and past the White House. Pennsylvania Avenue was not very crowded. Cherry Blossoms, even disappointing ones, trump the leader of the free world.

I don’t much like cycletracks but on this sunny day it seemed like the most civilized way to ride through town. All but one turning car yielded to me so I felt safe. At Meridian Hill Park, here were no drums to be heard and no acroyogis or hula hoopers to watch so I plodded up the hill and kept on keeping on. The cycletrack dies out at 16th Street so I took for a ways. At a four way stop, a car behind me went through the intersection out of turn. The car that had been slighted laid on his horn and followed the offender up 16th, passing me. He stayed on his horn for a block until he pulled up next to the offenders who were obviously lost. They exchanged words. The offenders turned onto a side street out of which came a DC police cruiser. The cop pulled over the SUV driver, apparently for making a public nuisance out of himself. I felt bad for him. He won’t win Mr. Congeniality either.

I turned off 16th and found 14th with a bike lane. It ended at a T on Aspen Street. A left turn and soon I was cruising down a series of S curves into Rock Creek Park. This road is part of the 50 States Ride so I have ridden it several times. It is the bestest.

At the bottom of the hill I turned right and headed for Chevy Chase (the neighborhood not the actor). I spent a few minutes on Rock Creek Trestle The creek is way down there.

Reversing course, I made for Bethesda Row and its fine array of eateries. After crossing a busy street the trail makes a hard left turn. The woman cyclist in front of me was wearing the full bike rider kit (matching lycra top and bottom). She clipped into her pedals and seemed to be going at a snail’s pace. As I was about to pass her, she waved me by with her left hand. In her hand was a lit cigarette. Carbon makes bikes go faster, or so they say.

I ate at Bethesda Bagels because it’s good and I am boring. I always eat there when I bike to Bethesda.

Instead of dealing with the Capital Crescent Trail crowds I headed out on the quiet side streets of Bethesda. A right hand turn put me on Bradley Boulevard, normally a busy road but not I had PEDs in my pedals. After passing through Avenel I picked up Falls Road. A left on MacArthur Boulevard had me descending through the woods of Great Falls Park, The windy road is flawed only slightly by the bumpy pavement, otherwise this one rivals the downhill into Rock Creek Park.

I was headed into the wind but the descent made me unaware. At the Old Anglers Inn, I jumped on the C & O Canal towpath for the ride back to DC. Now that I had slowed down, the headwind was annoying. Little Nellie’s short wheel base does not make for a comfortable ride on rough surfaces. I bounced along slaloming among the walkers and runners. I spotted a big great blue heron standing still on a log over the canal. Even with the bumps, the ride on the C & O Canal is a thing of beauty, Except for the gnats swarms. For about four miles I encountered clouds of flying black bugs They don’t bite but they get into everything, your mouth, eyes, hair, ears.  And your whole body gets covered in them. Ick.

After switching over to the paved Capital Crescent Trail, I looked at the Seussian Cormorants perched in the trees along the Potomac. They do this every year, feeding on the fish swimming up river to spawn.

Back in the city, I decided to avoid the cherry blossom scene and the Mount Vernon Trail, I took the Teddy Roosevelt Bridge to the MVT for about a mile then crossed over to the Pentagon. With a stifling headwind, I followed roads past the vast Pentagon parking lots and Long Bridge Park, through Crystal City and Potomac Yards. In Old Town Alexandria I followed Columbus Street, several blocks from the touristy madness. After waiting at a stop light, I started pedaling when it turned green. The car opposite me starting coming through the intersection too. A green taxi coming from the cross street blew through the light. I think the light must have been back lit for the driver. If I had had a tailwind instead of a headwind, I’d have been roadkill. The taxi missed us both.

South of Alexandria, the Mount Vernon Trail wasn’t crowded so I hopped on it and slogged into the wind.

At home, I took inventory: my hands hurt. my back hurt. my arms hurt. my knees hurt. My face and thighs burned.

Spring is here.

For some pix check out my Flickr page here.