Monday 20 August 2007

Sunday Recovery Ride in Washington and Virginia

After yesterday’s 100 mile ride on Skyline Drive, I did not feel much like going for a ride but instead did things around the apartment in preparation for my upcoming move. But the weather looked pretty good, and by 3 pm I was determined to go for a short ride. I pumped up the tires on the Marinoni and headed out the door...

One of the things on my “to do” list was to get a photo of myself in front of the Capitol wearing my Fat Cyclist Pink Lemonade jersey, made by Twin Six and really comfortable. The Fat Cyclist has put up a group on Flickr so that those who bought the jersey, which will help pay for treatment of his wife’s breast cancer and ultimately a vacation in Italy for her, can model, preferably showing something of the local environment as well. I found what looked like a good spot and stood on the curb to compose the photo. The first few tourists walking by looked like the kind of people who would have run off with my camera, so I had to wait a bit, standing in the heat, before I found some people who looked more trustworthy. I persuaded one of a pair of tourists, from India, I think, to take my photo and, in return, I took two photos of the two of them. Everyone was pleased with the transaction, and I have posted the photo of me on Flickr.

This done, I headed off to Hains Point, my usual lunchtime circuit, but this time I wanted to get a picture of “the Awakening,” the large sculpture by Seward Johnson, who is famous for life-like bronze pieces. “The Awakening” is a five-piece work that portrays a giant breaking free from the ground. It was temporarily installed at the southern end of Hains Point in 1980 to mark an International Sculpture Conference being held in Washington and has been there ever since. It is wildly popular and people come all the time to sit on the giant’s hand, or on his head and get their pictures taken. I have seen it used in a Nike print ad in running magazines. It was announced this year that the sculpture will be moved to a new development in Prince George’s County, Maryland, but who knows if this will actually happen. I thought it was a good idea to get a photo before it actually does get moved.

Then I crossed the 14th Street Bridge over the Potomac to Virginia. The bridge has a fairly narrow sidewalk/bikepath and the rush of cars make it very noisy and quite unpleasant. It also is awkward to get onto the path, which you enter near the Jefferson Memorial. In fact, the problem is when you return, since the road near the Memorial is one-way the wrong way if you are heading back into town. There are, of course, no signs to indicate this is actually the route to get you over the river.

Crossing the bridge, you turn right and then loop underneath it to join the bikepath and head towards Alexandria. This cloverleaf is one of the oldest in the United States, opened in 1932, and the Mount Vernon Memorial Highway, heading south from Alexandria to Mount Vernon, is one of the oldest limited-access highways in the United States. The northern part, the George Washington Memorial Parkway, was the last word in highway construction when it was built in the 1950s-1960s. (The Parks Service has a nice on-line brochure ("Highways in Harmony"!) about the Parkway) The bikepath, which is actually a multi-use path, was constructed in the 1970s, and is about 25 miles long, running from Mount Vernon to Theodore Roosevelt Island. It is quite narrow, with a lot of tight curves and is extremely popular, so it is a route if you want to ride your bike quickly. Of course, there are always idiots who want to train on the bikepath at high speed and I saw one on, I regret to say, a Specialized.

Nonetheless, it is quite a nice ride. After passing directly around the Reagan National Airport, where people still put out their lawn chairs in the park at the end of the runway and watch the airplanes take off and land, you ride parallel to the river and into Alexandria. Then you are on city roads for a little while before reaching the detour caused by the Wilson Bridge construction, a project that seems to be taking decades. But after you negotiate this you are riding with minimal stop-and-going, along wooden-planked bridges through marshes, past a big picnic area at Belle Haven and some nice residential areas.

At one point, you can look across the Potomac and see Fort Washington, which for many years was the only defensive fort protecting Washington. It was built originally in 1809 but when the British came through in the War of 1812 it was quickly abandoned. The current large stone structure was begun in 1824 and extended for decades afterwards.

The bikepath goes through little forested stretches and even has a few tough little hills in it before you reach Mount Vernon. The Mount Vernon Memorial Highway ends at a big traffic circle and there are a number of commercial structures–gift shoppe, ye old hotel–that are part of Mount Vernon although not constructed by the Father of His Country, who was more involved with the rye whiskey distillery he had built just up the road.

With the weather looking a bit threatening, I turned around and soon found myself crossing the Potomac on the 14th Street Bridge and going home. My very relaxed 3 hour ride had covered nearly 70 km (42 miles). When the first tourists in a car visited Mount Vernon in 1904, it was a six hour roundtrip from Alexandria!


Will said...

Nice Fat Cyclist shirt photo!!!

I am lost somewhere in the mountains of Wales as we speak.


Sprocketboy said...

Hi, Will. I have also seen your pictures on Flickr. We look so Un-Fat, though. And how can you be lost in Wales: your Garmin Edge was the reason I got one of my own!

Unknown said...

Hey The Donkey rides again. Let me know next time you are headed to Haines. Lonely after the first warm up lap.

Sprocketboy said...

Alas, today was my last ride at Hains Point. Or my attempt to, since I discovered after two blocks that my front tire was going flat. The bike is going home and will be packed up now...but I will ride with you in the Rockies!