Everyone knew that this evening was going to involve severe weather. The ride in on Little Nellie, my Bike Friday, was actually kind of nice. At Constitution Avenue along the mall, I could see the blue lights of a pair of police cars blocking traffic one block away at 14th Street. Traffic was a mess. The drivers were all irate. Dudes, get a bike. I rolled across Constitution and up 15th Street unimpeded. At Pennsylvania I could see more police cars and more closures. (Later I learned that there was a suspicious car parked down the street. They knew it was suspicious because the driver wore a top hat, had greasy dark hair, and had a long waxed mustache that he twirled in his long bony fingers.)
Attendance at Friday Coffee Club was about half of last week's, even with my old commuting buddy Charmaine making her first appearance. As we chatted, I drank an extra large coffee and inhaled a sugar encrusted pastry bomb. (Most people call these fritters. Fritter sounds like something small. These babies are huge.)
Fortified with manifestly unhealthy food, I took a direct route down G to the Kennedy Center as suggested by @lkono, a Friday Coffee Club regular. (We missed you today.) It was an easy straight shot until I got stuck behind a cement truck. The cement truck pulled over to allow a fire truck and ambulance come towards us, going the wrong way on our one-way street. I bailed onto the sidewalk and avoided the whole thing.
I hopped on a bike trail in front of the Kennedy Center and headed across the TR Bridge. The side path here is ridiculously narrow. I had to stop three times to let DC bound bike commuters by. I still made excellent time. So, a tip of the helmet to @lkono.
My boss also bike commutes. Several members of the staff like to provide him with weather updates. Today he was peppered with them. At a gap in the storms he left the office and made it home to NW DC with no problems. I checked the radar and realized that the storms were tracking along my route down the Potomac River. There was no avoiding them. I guessed that I could maybe ride the gap between two cells and make it home okay.
The first cell hit between the TR and Memorial Bridges. Lots of rain and a rumble of thunder or two but nothing too scary. Under the Memorial Bridge the trail narrows. I had to slow to a crawl to get by a runner who was taking shelter. On the south side of the bridge, the rain had almost stopped. Sweet!
Once I cleared the shelter of the 14th Street Bridge I could see trouble ahead. Dark clouds loomed. White caps on the river. A clear sheet of heavy rain tracking straight for me. In seconds I was soaked all over. The rain was coming down diagonally. The winds were picking up. The planes at DCA were on a ground stop. Pedal, pedal, toil and trouble.
In about 5 minutes the rain abated and the winds calmed. For the rest of the ride I was treated to a sprinkle or two, and a pocket of cold air from time to time.
South of the Beltway the trail was littered with fallen branches. I rode over and around them without incident. At Belle Haven Boulevard I saw a serious two-car crash, one car t-boning the other. Passersby had stopped to offer assistance. No emergency personnel had arrived yet. I hope the driver on the receiving end of the crash is okay.
By the time I arrived home I was almost dry. Another batch of storm clouds loomed in the distance. Go ahead and loom; I'm heading inside.
Freaky Friday was over. I've been bike commuting in DC and touring elsewhere for more than a decade. I've ridden through much worse than today. I've had trees fall near me. I've sought shelter with a dozen other people in the Belle Haven Park bathroom. I've stopped at the Torpedo Factory because of lightning. I've ridden through flooded streets in East Potomac Park and in Old Town Alexandria. And once, in Ohio, I unknowingly rode during a tornado warning. (Massive tailwinds and blinding rain made for an amazing ride.)
I hear the weekend calls for perfect biking weather. Yes.