My Commute: I am incredibly fortunate to live among one of the nicest bike trails (okay, technically, it’s a multiuse path) in the country. After 3 miles of mostly mundane suburbia, I jump on the Mount Vernon Trail for 11 miles. I get to see and hear wildlife - deer, beavers, foxes, rabbits, geese, ducks, egrets, herons, ospreys, and, my favorite, bald eagles on the way to and from work. (I especially enjoy watching the goslings and ducklings develop over the course of the spring and summer.) The MVT follows the Potomac River, so every day I get a picture post card view of Washington and its monuments. Old Town Alexandria has quaint but outrageously expensive homes, old and new, hundreds of tourists, buskers including a man playing an organ made from wine glasses, even an old trolley tunnel. And to top it off I get to ride past the runways of National Airport. I love watching the planes take off and land just a few feet over my head. A secondary runway ends behind a security fence only 50 yards or so from the trail. It is unbelievably cool to be riding along in my commuting daze only to see a passenger plane roar overhead on take off or landing.
Event Rides: I am not big on event rides but I’ve done a few that have floated my boat.
My first event ride was Bike Virginia way back in 1991. I did it on my Trek 1200 and rode every mile I could possibly ride. The first day of moderate hills was a bitch. The second day we rode in a cold soaking rain. We wore garbage bags to fend off the elements. Our second stop of the day was at Natural Chimneys where there was a huge stone outdoor fireplace. Like manna from heaven. Soon after that the rain stopped. I did my first century on day 3 and followed it up with a massage that felt so good I laughed through the entire thing.
The Backroads Century is the annual fall century of the Potomac Pedalers cycling club. It traverses the Shenandoah Valley between Berryville and Front Royal VA, somehow avoiding any major roads. The scenery is too nice for words. Farm after farm. Little churches. The Blue Ridge Mountains. Little churches. And lots of happy bicyclists. I’ve done the metric century for the last two years. Both days were the perfect romp in the countryside. On the way back I stop for pie at a place called Hill High Orchards. The pies are made in a Sara Lee factory but they still taste amazing.
The Fifty States Ride is held every September entirely within the confines of our nation’s capital. The streets are open to traffic so you have to have your wits about you. The ride spirals and weaves its way all over the city so that riders can brag that they rode on all fifty streets named after a U. S. state. (Texas Street is ironically pretty tiny, by the way.) Originally, this ride was held in August, but it was just too darned hot and muggy. I did it three times (the third after it was moved to cooler September). Each time I rode a different bike. Each time I cursed the hills and the stop signs and traffic lights at the bottom of every one. I swore I would never ride it again, but was coerced into riding for a fourth time last year. That’s when I figured out what is so special about the ride. It’s a social event on two wheels. All the stopping shatters riders into clusters who socialize over the impossibly complex cue sheet. And the people of the city urge the riders on like it’s a stage of a grand tour. It’s somewhere around 65 miles (depending on how many wrong turns you make) but feels like 100. I’m an introvert but I’m met more people through this ride than any other. I’m pretty sure there is a fifth Fifty States Ride in my future.
Bike to Work Day is the annual call for people to get out of their cars and ride to work, I commute by bike over 100 times a year, so Bike to Work Day to me is a bit like New Years Eve to W. C. Fields. Oddly enough, I miss this ride more than any other because of work conflicts. I still have managed to amass a drawer full of Bike to Work Day t-shirts (3 shades of green, plus red, blue, white, orange, and yellow). The festive atmosphere and ample giveaways at the pit stops add to the fun.