Lost in Suburbia

Nice day, no?

I fiddled and diddled. Messed around with some crossword puzzles. Then I launched. I intended to ride for a couple of hours but the good weather got the best of me.

I headed south toward Mount Vernon. On the way I got a good look at the Fort Hunt bald eagle nest. The thing is massive. I didn’t have my good camera with me so I didn’t try to take a picture of it. I’ll bet it’s twice the size of the Belle Haven or the Morningside nest.

Little Nellie must have been feeling frisky because we blew right by Mount Vernon and kept going. We hung a left into Fort Belvoir, riding through the base and eventually ending up on Telegraph Road.

The ride was a roller festival. Up and down every mile or two. Every third or fourth hill was a challenge but my legs were fresh. My normal bike commuting week, when I ride all five days, is 150 miles. This week I rode only 109 miles over three days. Fresh legs are good. The weather was splendid, around 70 degrees, light winds and low humidity.

After riding the ups and downs of Old Colchester Road in southern Fairfax County, I reached US 1 just north of the Occoquan River. Southbound traffic was backed up for about a mile. I guessed (correctly as it turns out) that I95 was a parking lot. Traffic was spilling over to all the side streets and soon I was in it.  Near the old Lorton prison complex, I found myself on a narrow road in a long line of cars. I bailed.

A block later a cyclist flagged me down. He was from Pittsburgh. He was riding across country in stages. He was totally, utterly lost. Welcome to Fairfax County! I set him straight. Shortly after sending him on his way, I stopped to check out a roadside historical marker. Did you know that a series of Nike missile sites were arrayed around DC and Baltimore during the Cold War? Did you know that Lorton Virginia had nuclear warheads on its Nikes? This may explain why Lorton’s official motto is Just Nuke It.

I ended up on Ox Road. There were no oxen on Ox Road. Just a herd of unyoked SUVs. I tried the side path for a few miles but it was bumpy and the pristine pavement of the paved shoulder called to me. This may be the only road in all of Northern Virginia with a paved shoulder. So I rode with the big dogs. Other than having SUVs buzz past me at 50 miles per hour for an hour, I was having a great time. Whoosh.

North of Burke Virginia (I have been to Burke ten times in 30 years. I live seven miles away. You figure it out.) I stopped at a Burke eatery called Tiger Mart. I dined on a fine Snickers bar and some cheese crackers. The guy behind me in line bought a quart of oil. He must have been thirsty.

The roadway narrowed. I entered Fairfax City which has a road network designed for peak traffic, in 1956. At one point we were down to two narrow lanes, a curving descent and a recommended speed of 20 miles per hour. I went 23. Take that Fairfax City.

North of the charms of Ffx City, I entered cycling hell. In a half mile, I had to negotiate six interstate on/off ramps. Thank God the drivers were kind to me. There are no accommodations for cyclists along this stretch of road. I believe the traffic engineers who designed this mess  should be required to ride a bike through it  in the rain at night without lights.

Having survived the I66 hellhole, I cruised down Maple Avenue into Vienna. Ooh, more traffic. What fun.

I stopped twice to buy some real food but long lines turned me off so I hopped on Little Nellie and headed for home on the W&OD trail. The W&OD is predominantly downhill and refreshingly free of motor vehicles. Zoom.

I took a right on the Mount Vernon Trail near the airport and headed into the wind for the last ten miles. Happily, the trail was not congested with weekend wanderers. I arrived home after 69 miles. The Snickers and crackers had worn off.

Off to Chevy’s for some Dos Equis and a burrito.