There Is No I in This Nelle

There’s Big Nellie. There’s Little Nellie. Then there’s Nelle. No big. No little. All awesome.

Nelle tweeted that she was riding to Jones Point Park to check out the Washington Area Bicyclist Association’s bike class for adults. I’d was looking for an excuse to go for a short ride so I thought I check this out.

I rode to the Park. The bike class is held underneath the Woodrow Wilson Bridge. It’s a paved parking lot that nobody uses for parking. Seeing as how you can’t park there, you might just as well learn stuff there. There are sword fighting classes, intense fitness classes, little kids’ bike classes, and, now, bike classes for grown ups.

The bridge is about 5 – 5 1/2 miles from my house. When I was about 100 yards away, I realized that I had left my lock at home. I swung by the class to check it out. Nelle wasn’t there and the instructors were much to busy getting their students set up to ride, so I figured I’d go back home. I took a hilly route just for variety’s sake. The 10 1/2 round trip was uneventful. It would have been eventful but for the fact that I biked past my friend Lisa who was walking a dog near Belle Haven Park.

Once back at the class I found Nelle who was talking to WABA member named Dave. Dave supports the classes out of enlightened self interest.  He figures that the more people we get riding in Alexandria (the city abutting the park and Dave’s town of residence), the better biking will be for everyone in Alexandria, Dave included.

Jason also showed up. He’s a former WABA trail ranger who had ridden down from North Arlington. After talking a while, Nelle got the idea of riding back to DC by way of the Wilson Bridge. Jason and I decided to ride with her.

We crossed the bridge on the busy side path. On the Maryland side we enjoyed riding the corkscrew trail down to the river’s edge. We took a left up Harborside Avenue and began the long ride up to Oxon HIll Road. I had plenty of time to check out the new casino being built. It’s huge. I said the ride was up a long hill but Nelle didn’t seem to notice. She was nice enough to wait for Jason who was not far behind and me who was waaaaaay behind.

Apparently, this hill is Oxon Hill because the road at the top is called Oxon Hill Road. Recently MDOT completely redid Oxon Hill Road so I led a tour of the improvements. Prior to these changes Oxon Hill Road was a lousy place to ride a bike. No bike lanes, broken pavement, heavy traffic going too fast, etc. Now there are bike lanes, sometimes protected from other traffic by an island. Also there were three roundabouts which did a nifty job of calming traffic. I took Nelle and Jason to near the start of the Matthew Henson Trail. This paved trail goes through the woods and some fields. It doesn’t seem to connect to much but thought it would be good for Nelle to know where it was in case she encountered it at work somehow.

We took Fort Foote Road back about half way to where we started on Oxon Hill Road. It’s an uninspiring suburban street that has much less traffic that Oxon Hill Road. Nelle was interested in Fort Foote but I checked it out and there’s nothing much to see anymore.

Back on Oxon Hill Road we headed for Oxon Hill Farm. The bike connection to the farm requires some idiotic sidewalk riding but being idiots we found it easy to navigate. The route through the farm goes down a steep, bumpy, windy road. There are deer and wild turkey in the woods along the descent but not today. We hooked up with Oxon Hill Farm Trail and rode it along Oxon Cove. At the bridge over Oxon Creek we stopped so that Nelle could eat one of her anabolic steroid chews. She said it was a chewy candy snack. After seeing her fly up Harborview Avenue, I have my doubts.

DSCN4864_1274.JPGWe checked out some Canada geese goslings and a swimming snake in the creek then headed into the corner of SE DC. Here near the police academy we admired the creepy Guns to Ploughshares sculpture, made from guns that DC police had taken off the streets back in the days when DC was the murder capital of the US. Chris Roell who runs the weekly BicycleSpace ride in Anacostia appeared out of nowhere to tell us about the sculpture and Anacostia. He explained that the sculpture was once located in downtown DC. Just the thing for tourists, right. DC thought better of it and moved it to its current location. We thanked Chris and his riding partner Sara (I think. My fusiform gyrus is still messed up.) and headed on to Anacostia.

We climbed a steep hill to Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. I climbed it. Jason rode up it numbly. Nelle took it like it wasn’t there. (Sugar candies, my ass.)

Once on MLK we rode through depressingly down trodden neighborhoods. There was plenty of car and bus traffic and a bumpy road surface just to keep things interesting. At one point Nelle got impatient with a car that was blocking her way. She hopped off her bike, picked the car up, and tossed it aside. Sugar candies. (Okay, I made that up.)

We crossed over the 11th Street Bridge and stayed on 11th through Capitol Hill. Mass Ave to us to a little grocery store where we bought cookies. Jason bought a black and white. I bought a chocolate chip. Nelle bought a BALCO sugar cookie. (Would I lie?)

Nelle led us through Columbus Circle in front of Union Station. What an insane mess of traffic. Our reward was the 1st Street cycletrack, a protected two-way bike lane painted lime green. The cycletrack took us to the Metropolitan Branch Trail. Once on the MBT the BALCO cookie must have been metabolized and Nelle flew up the trail. She confessed earlier that she is worried that she might not be in good enough shape to do the four day Climate Ride from New York City to DC in September. Not gonna be a problem lady.

At R Street Nelle continued on the MBT while Jason and I headed across town on the R Street bike lane. At 15th I said goodbye to Jason and headed up the cycletrack to Meridian Hill Park. This involved another tough climb. I was rewarded with a park bench and a sammich I bought back at the cookie stop. The park was packed with people. Usually people are playing frisbee, using hula hoops, doing acroyoga, slacklining and such. Today people were sitting around chatting, reading or just catching some rays.

After eating I headed down 16th Street to the White House, then around the Treasury Building, passed the Washington Monument and the Jefferson Memorial and over the Potomac River on the 14th Street Bridge.

The weather was perfect but for a strong gusty wind and so much pollen that my eyes felt like they were filled with sand. Once across the river, the wind was at my back. I had a nice push for the last 12 miles home.

So my short ride turned out to be 59 hilly, windy miles. Thanks to Jason for the company. Thanks to Nelle, who despite many opportunities to do so, did not drop me. Proving there is no I in this Nelle.

Here are some more pix.

 

 

 

Bridge to Somewhere Someday

Those of us to lived near the site spent ten years of our lives dealing with the delays and headaches associated with the replacement of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge. For those of you who don’t live in Washington, the Wilson Bridge carries I-95, the main north-south interstate on the east coast, across the Potomac river. It is also part of the famous Washington Beltway. The old bridge was built in the early 1960s and was literally falling apart. You could see holes in the concrete decking, erosion of the support pillars, and rust on the steel structure.

The new bridge is about twice as wide and is visually quite appealing. And as a bonus it has a multi-use path on its north side affording views of Alexandria city and DC. The path isn’t perfect (expansion joins make for a jarring ride) but it is a terrific addition to the bicycle route network in the area. There is one problem with the path: it doesn’t connect to much on the Maryland side. You ride across the river, take a switchback to a deck over the highway, spin down a spiral descent on the south side of the road and follow a long curving path to and dirt path paved in a manner of speaking with shells. FAIL.

You can ride this sketchy path directly to National Harbor which looks for all the world like Sodom on the Potomac. It is a development dominated by a massive hotel and convention center with a faux village at its glass and brick feet. The village has many of the usual cookie cutter eateries and shops that I do my level best to ignore. The development also has the statue of the Awakening, Prometheus emerging from the ground. For many years it made the desolation of Hains Point in DC a destination for tourists. Now it is crammed into a narrow riverfront looking for all the world like it was dropped there by a passing aircraft.

National Harbor is growing. Massive townhouses are sprouting from the hill above this off little downtown. It is all fenced in, to set it apart from the run of the mill adjacent suburb known as Oxon Hill. If you want to ride to Oxon Hill, you take a left at start of the shell path, pass through a tunnel made from a corregated steel tube and climb a long steady half-mile hill to Oxon Hill Road.. OHR is not much to write home about but, for the last few months, it has been torn up by construction. About 1/2 mile of the road is now open for use. It features bike lanes on either side. I decided to check the new road out yesterday.

The completed section of road leads to a new outlet mall that attracts an appalling amount of car traffic. Cars are parked all over the place and herds of shoppers need assistance from a dozen police and rent a cops at the intersections. Lovely.

As for OHR, it leads to Fort Washington and other sites rarely explored by most DC-area bicyclists. To really enjoy checking out this area, cyclists are going to have to wait a while. As I found out yesterday, road construction continues past the outlet mall for at least a half mile. I gave up when I had to cede the narrow road to fire trucks and police cars.  From the looks of things (sorry no pictures, I was busy trying to stay alive) the renovated OHR will be a pretty nice ride. For now, you should probably avoid the area. Unless you’re in the market for cheap clothes.