It’s Like January in Providence

I used to live in Providence. The weather in January was unbearable. It was cold and wet and the streets inevitably turned into glaciers. Going outside was an exercise in misery.

DC is like that. Sort of. In August. It’s hot and muggy and the bugs are biting. I did a 50 mile bike ride yesterday. At 20 miles I stopped to take a meditative moment and enjoy the view of Belmont Bay from the back of the ranger offices in Mason Neck State Park. I took off my helmet, settled into a rocking chair, and admired the few. For about a minute. Then the bugs starting feasting on my lower legs. ACK!

The View before I Went Off My Rocker

I hopped on the bike and rode on, the breeze dissipating some of the heat and humidity. I decided to cut through Fort Belvoir on the way back. A guard at the Kingman Road check point had other ideas.  After 9/11 Fort Belvoir became part of DC’s security theater and was closed to people without a military id. A few years later without publicizing it, access was reopened to people with photo id. I could finally go onto the base and enjoy low traffic, roads that were fun to ride on. Now it is closed again. I realize the military has a job to but Fort Belvoir has become a shitty neighbor. Closing the base to local cyclists is the equivalent of giving stop sign tickets to bicycle commuters on the empty streets of Old Town on weekday mornings. The prime accomplishment is to piss people off. It doesn’t make anybody safer.

Screed over.

The ride home was uneventful. As usual I didn’t drink enough water and I arrived home zonked. So today, rather than grind out miles in the heat, I am staying inside and watching the Nats on TV. You can’t do that when its cold and wet and icy outside.

Passing the Audition, My Cross Check not VDOT

After yesterday’s successful shakedown ride, I had to take my Cross Check out for a longer romp. So far the bike feels wonderful, especially during the first 30 miles. I might need to tilt the handlebars up a tad to avoid shoulder fatique but, compared to the dial in process for my other bikes, this is going really well.

After toying with the idea of driving to the country, I decided to ride from home. I headed south to Mason Neck State Park. Door-to-door this is about a 45 mile round trip. To up the mileage, I did a mile-and-a-quarter lap in Fort Hunt Park. I was riding at 16-18 miles per hour without a big effort. This just does not happen.

Down the Mount Vernon Trail to Mount Vernon. I was stuck behind a family who were struggling on the long uphill slog to George’s house. I downshifted and blew by them. This just does not happen.

I continued pastDSCN4054 Mount Vernon, down the highway to US 1, speed in the high 20s. Across Route 1 and up a long hill on a side path. VDOT was kind enough to place an electronic sign in the middle of the path. Why they do this when they have ample space in the weedy transition between the path and the road is beyond me.

At Telegraph Road I had to use a beg button to get across the road. I would have been better off just starying on the road. I jumped on the trail on Telegraph only to find a bike lane in the road. VDOT make up your mind!

It was a long hill but I made it without medical assistance. Over the top and down and up and down and up and down and up until I reached Gunston Road, the main drag of Mason Neck. I stopped to give a lost driver directions to Ikea and then headed down toward the neck.

Gunston Road is a two-lane road with no shoulders. Many of the vehicles on the road are pulling trailers that are wider than the vehicle itself. The road dead ends at the Potomac RIver. The speed limit is 50 miles per hour. Why? Because VDOT probably thinks boaters have a need for speed or something.

After two close passes by trailers, I bailed onto Belmont Road. With no traffic, I tried riding no hands. Success! After a mile, I encountered a dead end sign. Um, VDOT, can you put a sign at the turnoff please?

Back on Gunston an SUV buzzed me, then another trailer, then a guy on a road bike. Oof.

I finally reached the abrupt dowhill and turned into Mason Neck Park. Just after turning I turned again onto a path through the woods next to the road. This is a sweet ride, made sweeter by the Cross Check’s ability to eat bumps. Curves and bridges and trees went by. Soon I arrived at the end of the line on Belmont Bay. What a pretty day.

After downing a drink, I headed back home. I took a right on Gunston to check out the quiet neighborhood on the river. New developments have sprung up along the road, but the end-of-the-road neighborhood retains its charm and style.

I did a loop through the neighborhood before heading for home. I took a left at Springfield Driveto avoid a half mile of boats and SUVs. Back on Gunston, I set my jaw and rolled. My reward was a fun, shady, curvy downhill on Old Colcheser Road. This gives way to big, sunny, ugly Telegraph Road. I endured at 30 miles per hour. Weeeee.

Going fast was fun so I took the Farirfax County Parkway. It has an enormous shoulder so this is actually pretty safe by VDOT standards. It has a side path too but who cares when you have your own 8 foot paved shoulder.

Turning off on Backlick a remnant of the pre-parkway era of crummy roads in this area, I arrived at Route 1. I was shocked to see the destruction caused by a wideninDSCN4055g project that politicians hope will improve on gridlock in this area. This will encourage still more development to the south solving not a thing in the long run.

I waited for the light to turn green but it was operated by a metal sensitive wire in the road. The Cross Check has insufficient steel to activate the switch, a fact that I could only learn after getting stiff in a very long light cycle. I noticed a beg button to the left. VDOT, this is not England. Bikes don’t ride on the left. Once the oncoming cars went through the intersection, I blew the red light.

I rode into Fort Belvoir and stopped behind a van at the security checkpoint. The van was being given a serious search. After waiting a discrete amount of time, I walked over the curb and used a different lane. I think the van was operated by the base’s security people. They were testing the thoroughness of the security. I showed my drivers license and rolled through.

Up the hill and through the base I rode. A sign said that the golf course is open to the public.Woot.

I rolled by the Officers’ Club past the roadside signs that announced a seafood buffet on Friday! Woot. Woot.

Down the hill I rode to Walker Gate. I smoked that sucker only to find for the first time since 9/11 the gate was close.

I rode across the base to the Route 1 gate which dumped me onto a three-lane highway without a paved shoulder (go VDOT!).

I reached the Mount Vernon Highway and realized that the breeze from my riding had disguised a pretty hot day. I slogged away riding the gradual uphill to Mount Vernon.

After a short water break at the end of the Mount Vernon Trail I took off downhill on the MVT. A family was riding up the hill. Their ten-year-old was struggling with his head down. He veered into the left lane. He’s lucky I wasn’t a Lancelot trying to time trial down the hill. I braked and called out to him. He looked up, realized he was in the wrong place and, with a fatigued wobble, moved to the right.

A half-mile later at Riverside Park, a begining bicyclist on a pink bike with tassles and a training wheels was riding between his mom and dad who were on foot. The three abreast left no room for any other trail users. Mom, who was on the left, had headphones in. I rang my bell. She stepped further to the left making a bad situation worse. I think this family has situational awareness issues. Or maybe they are just more important that the rest of us.  Regardless, the Cross Check had a simple solution: go overland. I swerved onto the grass and blew past them.

Thus, within a mile, I encountered two examples why kids shouldn’t ride on the Mount Vernon Trail. It’s beyond their skill level or their parents’.

The rest of the ride home, I was on fumes. Nothing to eat for four hours will do that to you. I rolled into home after 62 miles.

I think the Cross Check has passed the audition