White’s Ferry Loop

One of the long rides I try to do every year is the White’s Ferry Loop. This ride links up several trails in the DC are for a 90-mile circuit. Including the 9 1/2 miles to the loop from my house brings the total mileage to 99. Typically, I add a mile somewhere along the way for the full century.

I chose to ride clockwise because the forecast called for heat and humidity. This would put me on the shaded C&O Canal towpath for the hottest part of the day.

I boogied along for 23 miles taking streets and two trails (see below) before stopping at the Vienna train station building to refill a water bottle. Then I was back on the W&OD Trail all the way to Leesburg, about 47 miles from home. Whenever I could I topped off my water botlles. To be on the safe side, I carried five bottles, two on the bike and three in a pannier. I also brought snacks. Peanut butter on bread, pretzel sticks, and a couple of old chewy granola bars.

I rode on King Street through Leesburg, which had many tempting places to eat. In fact, if you stopped at every microbrewery along the way you’d pass out before the ferry.

North of Leesburg is the sketchy connection to US 15, a busy north south highway. I lucked out as there were no cars coming. The highway has a big shoulder along this part (because bicyclists were hit and killed several times in years gone by).

After a half mile , I turned onto Whites Ferry Road for another 1/2 mile of quiet country road to the ferry. If cars are coming toward you, you can take your time, because the ferry is crossing back to Maryland. I arrived at the ferry and waited in the shade for the trip back. As ferry trips go, this one is pretty calm. It only takes five minutes.

The store on the Virginia side is up an embankment. The exterior of the building has marks with dates next to them showing the high water marks for major flood events. Suffice it to say, Hurricane Agnes did a number on this river valley back in the early 70s.

After some ice cream, Gatorade, and a port-a-potty break I headed south on the C&O Canal towpath. The double track of the past is gone, replaced with an unpaved smooth surface. For five miles, that is, until it’s back to the bumps. Riding a recumbent means you feel every bump because you cannot easily lift your butt off the seat.

Near Seneca Creek the towpath is muddy. I was slipping and sliding but I didn’t fall.

From time to time, I saw deer, squirrels, herons, and large ominous looking birds. Mostly I was just trucking along and enjoying the shade. I particular like the sections where you can see the river with all the large rocks randomly poking above the water line and the places where the canal is filled with water and bordered by ominous rock walls.

After 32 miles I switched back to pavement on the Capitol Crescent Trail. This brought welcome relief to my back. The bumpy towpath was messing with my stenosis and I was constantly dealing with achy feet and an achy butt.

The CCT leads to the nifty Water Street cycletrack which connects to a side path that runs past the Watergate and the Kennedy Center along the Potomac River. After passing the Lincoln Memorial I switched over to Ohio Drive, which is the epicenter of the Cherry Blossom Festival in the spring.

At the Jefferson Memorial, I crossed over the river on the 14th Street Bridge which connects to the Mount Vernon Trail and the 12-mile ride home.

All aboard!
Waiting for the ferry
Imagine water well above the treetops. It happens every so often
The White’s Ferry Store serves food and sells snacks.
Groomed towpath is a big improvement
Rocks in the river
Cliffs, canal, towpath
Little Falls Dam northwest of DC

Here’s a cue sheet. Most people just do the loop starting and ending at Step 3.

  1. Three Miles of suburban streets to the Mount Vernon Trail
  2. Mount Vernon Trail north 6 1/2 miles through Old Town Alexandria to Four Mile Run Trail.
  3. Four Mile Run Trail west 3 miles to the W&OD Trail
  4. W&OD Trail 35 miles to South King Street in Leesburg
  5. Right on South King to US 15 north of town, about 3 miles
  6. US 15 to a right on Whites Ferry Road, 1/2 mile
  7. White’s Ferry Road 1/2 mile to the ferry
  8. Ferry across Potomac ($2)
  9. Go 100 yards up the hill on the Virginia side
  10. Take a right on the C&O Canal towpath and ride 32 miles to Thompson’s Boat House
  11. Switch to paved Capital Crescent Trail and Water Street in Georgetown for 3 miles
  12. Right onto Rock Creek and Potomac Parkway path to Ohio Drive (1 mile)
  13. Ohio Drive to 14th Street Bridge (1/2 mile)
  14. Cross bridge to Mount Vernon Trail (1/2 mile)
  15. Take a right on the trail. Go 9 miles.
  16. Re-trace suburban streets home. 3 miles.

Finally, if you do this ride, bring water and snacks. There are pumps along the towpath but these may be turned off. Also, the National Park Service treats the water with iodine. The store at White’s Ferry has limited hours so I assume it’s closed. On this day it was open.

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.

A Walk to the Morningside Nest

Bike riding is excellent exercise. It has one shortcoming; it is not weight bearing. After 150 miles of bike commuting, I could use a little change of pace. Today, I decided to go for a long walk.

The Morningside bald eagle nest on the Mount Vernon Trail is about 2 1/2 or 3 miles from my house. Off I went with my hiking boots on. Even with the brisk pace I set, things move by so slowly compared to cycling. For that matter, things more slowly compared to distance running. I arrived at the nest eventually. I call it the Morningside nest because it is situated on the Mount Vernon Trail across from the Morningside Drive exit from the George Washington Memorial Parkway.

Morningside Nest

This time of year, when the trees have no leaves, the nest is relatively easy to spot. In a couple of months it will be almost completely obscured by green. The nest is in a tree that is about 30 yards from the trail. I brought my Canon EOS Rebel camera with a decent zoom lens. I was hoping to see an eagle at the nest but that didn’t happen so I took a picture or two of the nest and walked on. Not 100 feet later I spotted an eagle about 100 yards away, perched in a tree beyond the nest tree at the waterline of the river. (You can’t call it a riverbank here because the Potomac is tidal here; the river’s edge varies quite a lot.)

Thanks to the zoom lens on the camera I actually was able to get a semi-decent picture of the eagle. As soon as I snapped the pic, the eagle launched and headed downriver.
I kept walking and spotted a big woodpecker, maybe 12 inches in length, working on a distressed tree. I tried to get a picture but, not being at the top of the food chain, he flew off as soon as he spotted me.

Morningside Resident Bald Eagle

I continued walking to the Dyke Marsh bridge then reversed course. I took a few more pics of the nest. Now with a blue sky in the background I thought I could get a better picture.

Morningside Nest

I waited for the eagle to return but after 15 minutes I gave up and headed for home. Being used to covering my route home by bike the walk seemed interminable. It didn’t help much that my bum left knee was sending electric shocks into my leg every few minutes.

Despite the knee zaps, I made it home with the feeling that I had redeemed my weekend of couch surfing.  It will be interesting to see how my legs feel when I saddle up for the ride to work in the morning

The pix are here.

The Infinite Bike Commute

It’s Friday. Had to get up early. Had to get out of the house. Conversation and smiling faces awaited at Swings House of Caffeine. So off I rode on Big Nellie. She was missing me after three days of wet-ish weather.

All this switching back and forth has cost me my recumbent legs. Ask anybody who rides one. It’s true. You use different leg muscles on a ‘bent. Spinning is the key. Mashing the pedals is bad. Your arms are rendered useless. They really should put a steering wheel on ‘bents instead of a handlebar because it feels more like driving, except when your going downhill.. Downhills are like luge runs. Woosh!

One of the bald eagles was perched in the tree adjacent to the tree with the Belle Haven nest. He was just hanging out, chewing on his talons, and having a smoke. Actually, I made that part up. It’s hard to tell what he was doing. My suspicion is that eagles perch in trees at sunrise to warm up a bit before heading off to the office. Eagles are not allowed to work at Yahoo.

Somehow I managed to make all the lights going up 15th Street. This is a first. I felt like the caffeine gods were on my side. I ahd to get creative at the White House. Crews closed off Pennsylvania Avenue as they disassembled the viewing stands for the inaugural parade. I rode a windy path through Lafayette Park. Some tourists were walking toward me. A little boy spotted Big Nellie and his eyes widened. You could hear his head saying, “Wow!”  I waved at him. As I went past, I heard him jabbering to his mom about that cool bike. In five more years, he’d bea tween and would be telling her, “That guy looked like such a dork.”

I arrived at Swings ready to medicate. As usual the crowd was chatty. Espresso and the prospect of the weekend perks (sorry) everybody up.

Today’s surprise attendee was Reba. Reba lives down near me, but I haven’t seen her in ages. Welcome back! Bob (Don’t-Call-Me-Rachel) Cannon was at the same table. Screw Siontz and Kirk; come to Friday Coffee Club for all your lawyering needs. We also had Chris, Ricky Lee, Will, John (Mr. Hoppy 100) and Aaron at our table.

I had a chance to talk to GOTB (Groupie-of-the-Blog) Kirsten (officially the bestest hugger at Friday Coffee Club). She keeps asking me to take her on the Rootchopper tour, the one where I summon bald eagles and members of the #bikedc community out of thin air. If I had any cartilage left in my knees I’d do a swap. I’d have her give me the Ultrarunnergilr tour of trail running.  In my 20s and early 30s I ran a lot (My marathon PR was 3:04:29. Never forget it.), but nearly all of it on the roads. Trail running sounds like a lot of fun, although I am not sure I could have ever done the 50K run (over 30 miles) that she did last weekend.

The hope is that when I ride to Rosslyn from Swings I get to go across the TR Bridge without stopping. This has only happened once in the last year. The trail on the bridge is too narrow for safe passage of two bikes so I always end up pulling over and stopping. I will get points for this when I go to bike commuter heaven.

Considering it was Friday and I was tired and grumpy by day’s end, the ride home went lickety split. (Yes. I just said lickety split.) I had a consistent tailwind so I broke 20 miles per hour on several stretches between Rosslyn and Old Town. Yowza.

In Old Town, I checked the flexipost that I hit last night. It looked none the worse for wear. I did notice, however, that it was positioned in the middle of the street directly in line with the right edge of the trail. That explains why I hit it (well, that and my general incompetence). I veered to the right to avoid a couple of cyclists cutting across my direction of travel. When I leaned to head back to the left I hit the post.  The reflective material on the post was facing away from me, which explains why my headlight didn’t illuminate it.

I managed to avoid all obstacles, foreign and domestic, on the rest of the ride home. It was another 150 mile bike commute week.

There was a lot of talk about retirement at the office. Retirement is an infinite bike commute. 

Very Nearly Unhappy Hour

Whenever I go for a ride, I always check that my tires have air and that they are spinning freely. This morning and evening were no different.  It looked like there was rain in the area so I rode Little Nellie to work.  The rain stopped within five minutes. The ride was pleasant and uneventful.

The work day ended with my officemates and I going to a bar around the corner for happy hour. I had a couple of pints of (Shiner Bock and Fat Tire Ale).  I didn’t get on the road until 5:40 or so. 

I made it about halfway home before it got dark and I had to turn on my headlight. It has been a couple of weeks since I rode this long in the dark. The trail was swarming with ninjas. I managed to miss six of them before reaching Old Town.

The Mount Vernon Trail hits Pendelton Street at a T. To my left were a line of parked school buses with their headlights on.  I rode just past the stop sign (first mistake) to get a look to my left around the buses. Then I looked straight. There were two cyclists with headlights turning from the street on my right onto the trail. They were passing directly in front of me. I veered to my right to avoid them. Then looked left again to make sure the coast was clear. Then I hit something. It was a flexipost (a sort of flimsy bollar) that had recently been place in the middle of the street. I stopped immediately and righted the post. Since I was in the middle of the street, I quickly re-mounted my bike and continued on my way. Everything seemed to work fine.

And it did. I got through Old Town in one piece and even managed to avoid my seventh ninja of the night once I was back on the trail. 

Once at home, I opened my shed. I lifted the front end of the bike off the ground to hang it up. The wheel made an odd rattle. I looked down and saw that the quick release on my front wheel was not closed. The flexipost collision had pried it open.  I don’t want to think what would have happened if the front wheel had come off while I was riding. This would be hard to do since the tire is too fat to clear the break pads, but surely a pothole or a good yank on the handlebars could have brought an unpleasant result.

So I am adding checking my quick releases to my pre-ride check list.



Great Caesar’s Heron

The ride in was pretty darn nice. The roads were still somewhat wet out so Little Nellie got the call again. Temps were in the 40s so I gave the holey sweater and my Marmot Precip jacket a rest.  After yesterday’s soggy ride home, it was apparent that the waterproofing on my Precip jacket and pants is history. Time to look for a sale at REI for replacements. I have beat the crap out of these two pieces of clothing for the last 3 years. Good stuff.

I read in the Post that February and March are bald eagle breeding season around these parts. I have only once seen a pair of bald eagles this winter so I am not expecting a lot of eaglet action when spring arrives. There was no bald eagle at the Belle Haven nest today. In fact other that a stupifying number of geese there wasn’t much in the way of big-ish waterfowl at all. That is until I came upon a big, scruffy looking great blue heron on the river bank right next to the wooden bridge that takes the Mount Vernon Trail under the TR bridge. (Question: why is it so important that the Key and Memorial Bridges look classy but the TR Bridge looks like a rusty piece of crap? Show Teddy some love please.) This bird was impressive so I decided to stop and  walk back with my camera. He was on to me. I must have had birdparazzi written all over my face. He started to walk into the underbrush away from me. He got to the edge of the river and took off about 2 feet above the water. By this point he was too far to get a decent picture but the sight of him in flight made my day.  Herons combine awkward and graceful in a way that few other animals do.

Work was less than intense today. I left a few minutes early. I could have ridden the whole way home without any lights but in the interest of making sure I could be seen I turned them all on as usual. No problem with ninjas tonight. Just hoards of runners. Patriots Day is less than two months away!

During the day friend of the blog, Nancy Duley told me that a police officer was shot in Old Town Alexandria today, about 5 blocks from my commute route. The last I heard he was in critical condition. The assailant was chased and crashed his car on Fort Hunt Road about three miles from my house. He was taken into custody. My bike commute takes me through Old Town Alexandria twice each day.

Another friend of the blog, Kate C., is a police officer in DC. She will be riding her bike from Richmond to DC as part of the Police Unity Tour. This event raises money for the memorial to fallen law enforcement personnel. You can read more about it on her blog. Or you can skip straight to her fundraising page.

As for the ride home, it was a piece of cake. I left work a little early so I was in daylight all the way home. I turned on my lights just to been seen. The Mount Vernon Trail was filled with runners in their shorts. Some of them were moving pretty fast. Patriots Day is less than 2 months away!


I could never be a police officer. Just the thought of doing a night time traffic stop gives me the willies. Friend of the blog, Kate C., however, is a police officer in DC. In a few weeks, she will be riding from Richmond to DC as part of the Policy Unity tour. It raises monet for a memorial to fallen law enforcement personnel.

Seattle, You Can Have Your Weather Back

The day dawned cold and sunny. I had missed a magnificent sunrise. The weather report was for cold rain in the afternoon and evening so I rode Little Nellie. The ride in was nothing special. I did get to see a bald eagle at the Belle Haven nest,  So that was something.

When I left work in the evening, it was sprinkling out but I was prepared for the worst. For the first half of the ride the wind was blowing me around but the rain was pretty much as no show. When I approached Old Town, the rain started coming down. Sideways off the river from the east. The drops weren’t big but there were billions of them. I was surprised that the weather wasn’t really bothering me. This may have been because there was nobody else on the trail. At all. Anywhere. Maybe they are on to something.


Cars and Cannons

I stayed up late to watch the Academy Awards. As a result I was operating on 5 1/2 hours of sleep when I headed out into the cold morning on Big Nellie. Winds were light so the ride in was not too difficult.

There are two fly over bridges at the airport. The bridges carry the Mount Vernon Trail over airport access and egress ramps.  Just as I finished riding over the first bridge, a guy on what looked like a mountain bike but with bigger wheels passed me. He was tall and was wearing a backpack. I couldn’t see around him. As he passed another bicycle came from the opposite direction. To avoid a collision he cut back in front of me just missing my front wheel.  When it comes to down hills, faired long wheel base recumbents are king.  I rode up the second flyover bridge right behind Backpack Lance. I couldn’t safely pass him so I had to ride my brakes for 1/4 mile.  Really considerate of you Lance. Fair warning. Next time you get the bicycle death ray.

I heard that a car drove off the Memorial Bridge into the Potomac River last night so I was hoping to see the car nose first in the river. No luck though. Evidence of where the car blasted through the side railing on the bridge could be seen but the car had already been removed. Apparently the driver was not seriously hurt (which is something of a miracle)

A Long Way Down

The ride home featured a wave to Bob (“Don’t Call Me Rachel”) Cannon of the Friday Coffee Club as we passed between the Memorial and 14th Street Bridges.  The sunlight lasted so long tonight. I didn’t need a headlight until I was well south of Old Town. As I enterred Belle Haven Park, I spied an osprey about ten feet up in a tree next to the trail. He was facing toward me with his back to the river.  Ospreys look pretty impressive until you see one next to a mature bald eagle, that is. Then they look like wimps.

As I rode past Dyke Marsh I was treated to an rising full moon. It was orange and a damned impressive sight. I’d have taken a picture but that would have required photographic competence of which I have none.

Early Spring Ride

Looking out the window, the weather seemed dreamy.  I decided to go for a long Sunday bike ride. Just before leaving I checked Twitter and saw that my cycling friend Lisa just arrived at Mount Vernon about 3 miles from my house. I tweeted her to be on the lookout for me.

I interesected the Mount Vernon Trail  1 1/2 miles from my house. I turned right and in about 30 seconds saw Lisa coming my way.  I joined her for her ride back toward DC. Along the way we stopped at the Morningside bald eagle nest. Just as she dismounted behind me on the side of the trail, I pointed out the nest. No sooner had she said that she saw it, a bald eagle swooped in from the skies over the river and landed in the nest.

Lisa at the Morningside Nest

After the bird show, we resumed riding.  I kept getting far ahead of her because I was on Big Nellie and we were heading downhill. Big Nellie goes downhill incredibly fast. (Of course, going up hill is quite a chore, so all is fair.)  We stopped at the Belle Haven bald eagle nest but there were no eagles around. Next I showed her how to get on the Woodrow Wilson Bridge trail. Once she saw it she had to ride it so we took the trail over to National Harbor.

After gettting a drink at a coffee shop we wandered over to The Awakening statue. The Awakening used to be on Hains Point, but the Park Service kicked it out and it ended up in a cramped spot on a teeny bit of riverside beach. We posed for the obligatory pictures and started to leave when we bumped into Ted and Jean from Friday Coffee Club and their friend Jenny. We chatted and then headed out for Alexandria and lunch.

Lisa at Awakening

Lisa and Jenny at DC Cornerstone

We rode through Old Town and stopped at Buzz, a coffee shop and bakery on Slaters Lane. Here we partook of more chat and a light lunch (if you can call coffee and a cookie “lunch”).

Union Street Bike Gang

The wind was making a nice sunny day a little bit uncomfortable (just 10 more degrees and we are THERE, BABY!!!)  I headed home with a mighty tailwind. I rode onto my lawn and just managed to avoid running over the first crocus of spring.

First Crocus of 2013

It’s be here any day now.