Trail(s): Bethesda Trolley Trail, Capital Crescent Trail, Rock Creek Trail
Distance: 44 miles
Weather: Cloudy and damp; high of 52 F (at most!)
Company: Me, myself and I
On Saturday, I rode 44 miles, the furthest I have in more than 5 years. The last time I rode more than 40 miles was on the AIDS Ride in 2004. A few years ago, just before I came to D.C., I rode 40 miles with my mom at the Terry Bicycles Wild Goose Chase Ride. However, that trip was pretty pathetic. Our departure was delayed, I was out of shape, and we ended up finishing so late that they were starting to put everything away! Considering that history, Saturday’s ride went thankfully well.
But it didn’t seem that way from the start. The weather was, in one word, gray. It was supposed to be a high of 57, but I’d be shocked if it pushed past 52. At one point I could see my breath, and both times I checked the temperature, it was below 50. One giant cloud engulfed the sky, with the sun never making an appearance. I started out with just a bike jersey and long-sleeved shirt, then was so chilled that I went back for my rain-jacket/windbreaker. The rain jacket doesn’t have the best ventilation, so I ended up alternating between hot/sweaty and chilled. Lovely.
Then, there was the company, or lack thereof. I had invited other Climate Riders to come along with me, and thought a few from Maryland might. But the one person who said she was interested backed out at the last minute.
So I started off, crabby, cold, damp, and alone. I pedaled the first 10 miles or so in an unpleasant fog, most of it spent wondering “Why the hell did I sign up for this?” and “If I feel like this 10 miles in, how I am ever going to bike 300?”
Thankfully, I soon hit the Capital Crescent Trail in Bethesda. Whereas much of my trip until that point was on narrow, bumpy trails, the Capital Crescent Trail is wide and well-maintained. It’s also downhill all the way into D.C. Spinning away happily, my mood lifted. Being able to look away from the trail a bit, I took more notice of our flowering trees, from the famous white cherry blossoms to the massive pink magnolias.
I passed a tree full of cormorants, large black birds with swooping necks and orange beaks. I spotted a number of cardinals as well, the proud males with their glamorous red, the females in their protective red-brown. Glancing down at the river, I watched boats of rowers keep time, their oars sweeping through the glassy water. I rowed in high school and graduate school, and loved the feeling of each stroke pushing you forward. I think that’s why I enjoy pedaling on high gears – you can feel the bike move forward each time your foot pushes down, a feeling you don’t get when spinning quickly. A few of the riders were noteworthy as well – I saw a young woman balancing a large Crate and Barrel box on her handlebars. Good luck, honey!
I stopped in Georgetown for a short break, as crowded with students and tourists as ever. I bought an overpriced granola bar at Dean and Deluca and passed on a hot beverage because of the line. Although I enjoyed looking at all of the gourmet treats, I was surprisingly eager to get back on the bike. It may have had something to do with the fact that I left my U-lock at home and was concerned someone would cut through my chain lock. It would be hard to ride in the Climate Ride without a bike!
From there, I moved on to the Rock Creek Trail, another serpentine, narrow trail. Thankfully, it started out with a hill full of yellow daffodils. As I went along, I also watched the Creek running high, splashing down through waterfalls. But the best part was that motorized traffic was barred from using much of the road running through Rock Creek Park, as it is every weekend. When I used to bike into work via the Trail, dodging traffic there was quite unnerving. It was empowering to bike down the middle of it knowing that there wouldn’t be any cars or motorcycles trying to pass me. Well, except for the park police car that scared the crap out of me.
After stopping in Bethesda for my chai tea (finally!), I headed back home along the Bethesda Trolley Trail. Along the way, I ran into one of the many people who don’t understand that one walks on the right side of a multi-use trail, or at least instantaneously forgets it when I cheerfully yell, “Bicyclist on your left!” The lady turned around with a blank look on her face, stepping right into my path, while I quickly put on my brakes to avoid hitting her. But unlike most of these incidents, someone I knew was actually on-hand to witness it. When I triumphantly posted about completing the ride on Facebook, one of my church friends said she saw me gesturing wildly and that it was pretty funny. Harumph. The human parade continued as I passed by the new Whole Foods. There, I saw a little girl, no more than 10, biking along in the road. Most astonishingly, she had a baby carrier on, with a little dog’s head sticking out of the top!
This ride encompassed everything I love and hate about biking – the exposure to the elements, vulnerability to the trail or road’s upkeep, natural surroundings, varying landscapes, and ever-changing procession of people on bikes and foot.