Big Nellie, my Tour Easy recumbent and ride du jour, got the call. I rode to the Mount Vernon Trail and headed north. I stopped at the Morningside bald eagle nest to see if I could spot some eaglets. Unfortunately, the new foliage on the tree makes the nest hard to see so I had no luck.
The weather was gorgeous, high 60s with a light breeze, a tailwind for the start of the ride. In addition to making the riding much easier, the tailwind was helping me get my bent legs. When you ride a recumbent, you use your leg muscles in a slightly different way than on a conventional bike. When I finish a ride my thigh muscles aren't sore but my hamstrings are tired. It's similar to how my legs used to feel after a long run (lord, I still miss running after 25 years!).
Rather than fight the throngs of people on the MVT all the way to DC, I took the Beltway over to Maryland. The Woodrow Wilson Bridge has a wide trail on its upriver side. Bump outs along the trail allow you to check out a pretty darn nice panoramic view of the city. (It's also a pretty cool place to watch the Alexandria fireworks which take place one week after Independence Day.) The riding on the bridge trail leaves something to be desired. There are massive expansion joints that give you a good jolt when you ride over them. Once your reach the crest of the bridge there are no more joints until you get to the Maryland side of the river. The trail takes you up across the Beltway and then down in a spiral (quite fun to take at speed) and a long downhill back to the river near National Harbor.
I turned off before National Harbor to take the 0.8 mile (so said a sign) climb to Oxon Hill Road. This is an honest climb and you will feel you've paid your dues when you get to the top. A left on Oxon Hill Road and another left on Bald Eagle Road put me into Oxon Hill Farm. I followed the trail signs and made my way down the bumpy but paved trail through Oxon Hill Cove Park. I feathered my brakes in the hopes of seeing a deer but there were none visible. Even with the braking I easily passed 30 miles per hour. On downhills, riding Big Nellie is like street luge.
I followed the trail to DC Village, a rather depressing enclave of drab buildings enclosed with fences topped with barbed wire. Normally, I ride right up a hill to Martin Luther King Boulevard, but I read that you could ride along the flat land next to Bolling Air Force Base. That worked for a mile or two but then the nice young guard at the base gate told me that people without a sponsor can't cut through the base. I climbed up Chesapeake Street to Second Street which dumped me out at the intersection of South Capitol Street and MLK Boulevard. I toyed with the idea of riding down South Capitol to Anacostia Park but decided to check out the street vibe on MLK. After passing Saint Elizabeth's Hospital complex (I didn't see John Hinkley despite my cries of "Jodie, Jodie, Jodie.") I started to see some happy faces. All the way up MLK, people I passed said "Hello" and "Nice bike." A motorcycle cop was eyeing the bike with a smirk to which I replied "Great gas mileage." He laughed. I passed some old folk sitting on the front porch playing electric violin and conga drums. They were excellent!
I cut over to Anacostia Park at Good Hope Road where I could see the brand new bridges coming from the west side of the river. This whole area is going to be transformed when the bridges open. Let's hope it brings some jobs with it.
As usual the park was hopping with all kinds of team sports. I think some where playing flag football but they hadn't started. I planned on riding north to Benning Road but the trail dies north of Pennsylvania Avenue, so I backtracked and rode over the Anacostia on Pernnsylvania. I had the sidewalk to myself, blue water below. Once off the bridge I became confused. For some reason I thought I was in Northeast DC when I was still in Southeast. I rode toward the Capitol to get my bearings. I was looking to take 13th Street North. After a dozen red lights (must not kill!) I finally cleared the confluence of diagonal streets on Capitol Hill and started making some progress. Pedal, pedal. Through scenic (not) Brentwood. Finally I came to Varnum Street and headed east. Except Varnum Street doesn't go very far. A left and a right and soon I was on Michigan Avenue, not the best cycling street around.
Once across Eastern Avenue I entered beautiful downtown West Hyattsville. Nothing to see here, mister, move along. I spotted a Checkers burger joint with a line that looked like it went out the door. I later realized that there was no door. The customers were standing at a walk up window. Very Southern California, if you ask me. Michigan was now Queens Chapel Road, just to be difficult, I suppose.
I looked for a place to buy a housewarming present but I was in car hell and the thought of stopping was unappealing. I took a right turn and there was a nondescript supermarket. All the customers were hispanic. One old man sitting outside the store looked at my bike and asked with a smile, "Where's the engine?" I pointed to my legs and said, "That's the engine!" He laughed.
Sure enough the place was filled with unfamiliar brands with Spanish labels. And everything was in bulk. Hmm. Maybe I can get her a huge bundle of these corn husk things; I'm sure she'll like them. Wandering around I found a florist shop of sorts in the back and picked up a couple of lilies that looked like they'd fit in my pannier. I grabbed a can of soda and a candy bar for the engine off I went.
Her house was 100 yards down the street on a corner. I could tell because she showed me a picture of her front porch with a nice swing on it.
There was an SUV in the driverway, which meant that somebody other than her - she's car-free - was home. After ringing and knocking her tenant came to the door and let me in. She wasn't home. So I left the lilies on the counter in the kitchen with a note and headed out.
I backtracked up Queens Chapel and Michigan in heavy traffic - no fun. At Catholic University I jumped on the Metropolitan Branch Trail for about a block until it dead ended at some construction. Argh! After a few blocks on some mercifully calm side streets I picked up the MBT and flew straight to Capitol Hill. I stopped to take a picture of the Washington Coliseum, once known as the Uline Arena. It's primary claim to fame being the site of the very first Beatle concert in America (before their appearance on Ed Sullivan). They played in the round. After every couple of songs. They pointed their amps and Ringo's drum kit in a different direction. A far cry from concerts these days.
|The Old Washington Coliseum - History Happened Here|
I crossed Capitol Hill and eventually found myself on Maine Avenue. The sidewalk is now designated as a trail but getting to it was pretty insane. The Fish Market draws huge crowds on nice days. I don't know about you but when the sun is shining and the breeze is blowing the first thing I think of is shellfish. (I hate shellfish.)
In no time I was back in Virginia weaving around all the fair weather trail users. I stopped to watch some planes land and to drink my soda and eat my candy bar. Then it was a straight 11 mile shot to home. The crowds were thinner south of the airport and I made pretty good time even into a headwind. I stopped again to check out the Morningside nest. No luck this time either.
It was such I nice day I decided to tack on a mile or two before going home. Most of the Fort Hunt area is pool table flat so this was a nice way to unwind. I arrived at home with 50.5 miles on the odometer. Thanks to my recumbent my body felt fine.
I grabbed a drink, the newspaper, and some pretzels and nuts and headed for my new deck. Feet up, sun shining, I fell asleep like a contented cat only to be awakened by the laughter of my teenage daughter and her friends. She's 17 today. We had Boston Cream Pie instead of cake. Way better than shellfish, if you ask me.