I rode my bike into work for the first time in the season. There was a very brisk wind from the NW, which was great, since I travel SW and the tailwind pushed me along. If only it could be that easy every day. I lost a couple of week because of early daylight savings time. I don’t like to ride when it is still dark. Only now is it getting light when I have to ride.
It is 17 miles from my house to work by the routes I take. I usually enjoy the ride. It is like a mini-journey with several distinct segments. First I leave to complex and cross the freeway. Then I climb a hill along narrow Shreve Road. It is a typical suburban street. About two miles from home, I catch the W&OD bike trail. It follows the old railroad right of way, so it is not very hilly. There is a big bridge across Leesburg Pike, but then you go down a segment punctuated each block by city streets. This is not so good, because you really cannot safely get up speed. After crossing Lee Highway, you come to the next segment.
This is the part you can fly. It is gently downhill, well-paved bike trail next to Route 66. It goes under the streets, so you don’t have to stop for a couple miles. It is a pretty ride with Four-Mile Run on the right side. Beavers dammed the creek a few years ago until local authorities persuaded them to leave. There are lots of flowering trees, especially crape myrtle and oak and poplar forests. The trail goes through some crowded neighborhoods, but you cannot tell.
Bike/running/walking trails on old railroads are good. They form long narrow parks that provide passages and a lot of accessible green space. It is a matter of geometry. A square park is compact with little surface area to intersect with neighborhoods. In some places, the W&OD park is only about 100 yards wide, but the green impacts lots of space and the acreage goes a lot farther.
You pass under Wilson Boulevard along the creek. It doesn’t take much rain to make the creek rise and flood because there is so much hard pavement and rooftops in the watershed. One time I was riding home during a thunderstorm and almost got swept away by the creek. I saw that the path was flooded, but I figured it was shallow enough to muscle through. I got a head of speed and hit water higher than my waste. I had to get off the bike and pull it out. After that, I was a little more circumspect around the creek. It is very unstable.
Right after Wilson Boulevard you come up a little hill and go down some city streets to Carlin Spring Road, then down some more little streets past Glebe Road into Arlington neighborhoods. They are very pleasant. I have to track north, a little out of the way to catch Clarendon Boulevard. I used to be able to go down Pershing and through Fort Meyer, but since 9/11 you can’t pass through the fort. Clarendon has a bike trial on the street. You feel a little safer, but not much, since you still share the road with cars and trucks, many of which consider bikes a nuisance that don’t belong on the roads. I cut across Hwy 50 at Rhodes Av and head toward the Iwo Jima memorial, then downhill along Arlington Cemetery and across Memorial Bridge into Washington.
Usually I then go past the Lincoln Memorial, along the reflecting pond to the Washington Memorial and then along the Smithsonian Mall to work. Today, however, I cut south along the Potomac to the Jefferson Memorial to see the cherry blossoms. They are a little behind this year. Its been cooler than usual, but a couple of warm days will get them back on track.
Anyway, it is a nice ride with good variety. I know I have provided too many details, but I feel very much attached to my bike trails. I have been riding variations of this trail on this bike (I have put thousands of miles on this bike) since 1997 and some of the closer in sections since 1985, when I lived in Clarendon. One of the things I like best about living in Washington is that an ordinary ride to work can be such an adventure.