Double Double Nickels

A double nickel is 55. The first time I heard this expression was when Jimmy Carter imposed a national 55 mile per hour speed limit during an “energy crisis.” Back in the 70s an energy crisis existed when you couldn’t find gas for your tank. Driving 55 on a wide open highway clearly designed for speeds of 70 or 75 miles per hour is enough to make you crazy. I once got a ticket for going 65 on I-66 in Virginia. The very same highway now has a 70 mile per hour speed limit. I should ask for a refund.

The energy crisis also introduced us to right on red. I am willing to bet that thousands of bicyclists and pedestrians have been mowed down by cars that don’t both to stop when making a right on red. It happened to me when I was on a bike trail.

I wonder if the lives saved from the double nickel exceeded the lives lost from right on red. Personally, I think these two changes began the erosion of the public’s regard for traffic laws. We got rid of the 55 mile per hour speed limit decades ago. We should do the same with right on red.

Screed over.

The contractors working on our house were not nearly as noisy as usual but their choice of overwrought oldie latin ballads on their boombox was getting pretty irritating. How long is this singer going to hold the vibratto note on “quiero”? Fortunately today was an absolutely perfect day for a bike ride.

I hit the road with the intent of riding to Bethesda for some pizza for lunch. Bethesda is about 25 miles from home so in my mind this makes sense. Your sanity may vary. I rode the Mount Vernon Trail to Crystal City. Then rode by a scenic and vast Pentagon parking lot before cruising around the north wall of Arlington Cemetery. I circled around the Iwo Jim Memorial (forever fixed in my mind by a nincompoop radio news reader who called it the Statue of the Two Jimas). Next I took Lynn Street through Rosslyn and the Intersection of Doom which is doomier thanks to construction. (I cannot even begin to describe the Intersection of Doom other than to say a bunch of roads, trails, and on and off ramps to I-66 and the GW Parkway all converging  at one end of the Key Bridge over the Potomac River into Georgetown. Look up “hot mess” in the dictionary. You’ll se a picture of the Intersection of Doom.)

Over the Key Bridge then up a side street into Georgetown where students meandered with big smiles on their faces, a sure sign that classes aren’t underway yet. I managed to miss a turn but soon found myself headed west-ish on Reservoir Road past Georgetown Hospital (and more construction) and the Bauhaus-y German Embassy.

Reservoir took me to MacArthur Boulevard which I planned to take to Persimmon Tree Road then up to downtown Bethesda. By the time I got to Persimmon Tree Road, I had already clocked 24 miles. Downtown Bethesda seemed a bit too far away so I decided to continue on MacArthur to the Old Anglers Inn where I could get something to eat.

Did I mention it was a perfect day for riding a bike? Well, it was. I got to the Old Anglers and I didn’t want to stop. So I refilled my water bottles and cut over to the C & O Canal towpath and headed back home. The towpath was bumpy in parts but after about a mile things smoothed out and I was cruising along with a tailwind.

There was plenty of evidence that this has been a hard year for the towpath. The towpath was narrow where it runs along the top of a huge wall near Carderock. (It’s a long way down.) The Billy Goat B Trail was closed. And crews were out clearing large trees that had fallen across the towpath.

After a mile of repairs the canal became blissful. Low humidity. Warm temps. A tailwind. Shade. The crunch of tires on the towpath. Ahhhh…..

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My bliss was interrupted by an ominous sign. It’s a good thing the sign is there because this part of the river looked really inviting.

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Eek.

No skinny dipping for me.

Other than being all kinds of messed up under the Beltway, the towpath was in pretty good condition. About three miles before the end of the canal, I cut over to the Capital Crescent Trail. This took me to a protected cycletrack on K Street along the Georgetown waterfront.

Next I took the side path along the Rock Creek and Potomac Parkway and Ohio Drive past the Watergate, the Kennedy Center, the Lincoln Memorial, and the Jefferson Memorial. (For you out of towners, this is pretty typical of DC. You can’t go a mile without seeing some famous building or other.)

I crossed the Potomac on the 14th Street Bridge and headed home on the Mount Vernon Trail. About five miles from my house the first double nickel happened. The Mule turned 55.

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Dang, The Mule abides.

I pulled into my driveway with the second double nickel. I had ridden 55 miles.

Did I mention that it is perfect weather for a nap?

Zzzzzzzzzz

A Sunday Ride with The Impermanent Resident

Did you know peripatetic is a noun? If you look it up, you’ll see a picture of my friend Florencia right next to it in the dictionary. Would I lie to you? 

Flor and I have been doing rides together since we met on the 50 States ride in 2007. It doesn’t seem possible that seven years have passed since we met. We were going to do it again this year, but she has a conflict. Boo. Her friend Emilia is riding for the first time and is a little worried that she won’t be able to handle the 50 States course. So Flor thought it would be a good idea to get us together for a little shakedown ride.

Florencia at the Watergate
Florencia at the Watergate

It was a nice Sunday morning so I decided to bypass the Mount Vernon Trail and ride Fort Hunt Road to the streets of Old Town and Potomac Yards in Alexandria, Crystal City in Arlington, and (according to the sign on the side of the road) the Pentagon reservation. (Apparently the Pentagon was one of the little known tribes of the pre-colonial days.) I met up with Flor at the Jefferson Memorial. Emilia was a no show. Sad face. Flor later told me that the two of them are doing a 120-mile two-day ride in the weeks ahead. I do believe Emilia will drop me after about 10 states.

Flor and I soldiered on. We rode the Halfvasa route from DC to Potomac Village and back. We managed to survive the onslaught of tourists on bikes and idiots looking for parking spaces on K Street in Georgetown. The Capital Crescent Trail had little traffic allowing us to settle into a nice groove. At Fletcher’s Boat House we cut over to Resevoir Road managing to avoid several toddlers who seemed determined to die by under our front wheels. 

The ride up reservoir was long and slow. For me. Flor didn’t seem to be working with the same gravitational field. We rendevoused at the top and proceeded side by side out MacArthur Boulevard chatting all the way. The hill near the reservoir made us work a bit but we cruised over the top and enjoyed the breezy downhill on the back side. 

Flor Is a Way Better Photographer than I
Flor Is a Way Better Photographer than I

MacArthur has no shoulders making it hard to ride side by side so we took to the side path and chattered away. Yoga, rolfing, vegetarian food, being a proud big sister, DC condo values, riding motorbikes in Thailand, and Montessori education. She has a lot going on. She also gave me an update on our pal Richard who rode the 50 States with us in 2011. It’s good to hear that he’s still the kind of person who never has a down day.

Along the way, Flor yelled, “DEER!” There, dead ahead. was a young deer grazing in the grass next to the road. As we approached the deer bolted, thankfully away from us, and joined two others in the roadside shadows. 

We reached the dreaded hill at the end of MacArthur and slowly, ever so slowly, made our way up. The chatter stopped. The work was honest. We made respectable time. After a brief stop to discuss our route, we headed down Falls Road to Potomac Village. 

We chilled in the shade, enjoying iced drinks and continued the conversation. Once we were talked out, we headed back to DC via the Avenel neighborhood of massive houses. “They’re just boxes holding stuff. Once you get enough stuff, it owns you.” Life according to Flor.

We made our way back to MacArthur. Since Flor lives in the city uphill from the river and the memorials, I thought it would make sense to cut through Georgetown instead of heading downhill to the river. And so we did. 

Once we crossed Rock Creek Park, Flor took over navigation. She knew the best route to her place. Just before we got there she asked if I wanted to go to Meridian Hill Park and hang out. And so we did. 

We sat in the sun and talked with Jeff, a friend of Flor whom I met at a happy hour last winter. We talked and listend to the drum circle drummers until the sun wore us down. Flor and I headed to our respective homes. She got the better of the deal by about 15 miles. Or maybe not. Riding down 16th Street to the White House followed by ten miles along the Potomac River is a mighty fine way to go.

Flor and I took some pix.