Trail/road: Bethesda Trolley Trail, Capital Crescent Trail, D.C. bike lanes
Distance: 27 miles
I like to bike to specific places. But most of the time I don’t use it mainly as a form of transportation (although I am quite a bit for 30 Days of Biking). Rather, I generally see it as blended recreation – I have fun biking to a destination, but then I get to have fun at that destination as well. It’s an all-around good time. This weekend, I experienced the perfect combination of both. In fact, being on the bike actually led me to experience more at the destination – downtown Washington, D.C. – than I had ever anticipated.
Wanting to take advantage of the good weather, I decided I would bike down for the Cherry Blossom Waterfront Festival. As I didn’t get out of the house until 5 PM, I knew I’d miss most of it, but I wanted to get dinner at the food trucks and see the fireworks. I took my usual route, with a slight revision that allowed me to avoid riding on the sidewalk along a major street. I also split open the top of my hand from a bizarre mishap, but once it stopped bleeding, it was fine.
Excepting the usual dangers of narrow paths and inattentive pedestrians, the ride was pleasant and I enjoyed the weather hitting just the right spring temperature.
As I turned down the Capital Crescent Trail, I started to pedal harder, hoping to beat the dusk. The falling light was actually very pretty and the ride took my breath away more by my speed than the amount of exercise. Unfortunately, I did have to contend with swarms of teeny bugs. Bleck.
I arrived in Georgetown with plenty of time, not knowing what lay ahead of me. As a large swath of the Mall is closed because of construction, most of the tourists had crammed on to one sidewalk, my only route towards the fireworks. I inched my way along, finally reaching Independence Ave as the sun completed set.
Arriving at the festival, I stopped to gaze at the boats docked in the harbor, gaily lit in pink and purple. I browsed the craft fair and picked up an adorable tea-cup necklace. I grooved on the jazz and soul music rocking from the stage nearby. It was a good night to be outside. Unfortunately, all of the food truck lines were so long that if I waited, I risked missing the fireworks.
So I headed up to Benjamin Banneker Park, an odd little pocket park a couple blocks from work that I’ve only visited once in four years. Nonetheless, it was perfect for the fireworks, with a view over the entire waterfront. Provided by the Japanese city of Nagaoka for the 100th Cherry Blossom anniversary, the fireworks themselves were far more enjoyable than their Independence Day brethren. While there’s no way to get close to the fireworks on July 4th unless you claim your seats five hours early, you could actually hear the booms of these explosions. We were a little too far back for them to light up the entire sky, but they certainly caught your attention! I especially liked the cherry blossom explosions, which would burst to form pink three-pedaled flowers.
Once the fireworks finished, I planned on working my way up the mall so I could take the bike lane into D.C.’s Chinatown. However, I was stopped in my tracks by an incredibly cool sight – the Hirshhorn (the Smithsonian’s modern art museum) had was being used as a giant movie screen. (Check out the photo on the site – my phone did a terrible job capturing the view.) I had remembered reading about the project in the local alt weekly, but to actually see an entire building transformed into a piece of video art was another thing altogether. From March 22 through May 13, this projection is running around the building’s entire 360 degrees, accompanied by various renditions of “I Only Have Eyes for You.” The images, which vary but have a consistent theme of lonely wandering, contrast with the lyrics but complement the tone of the music perfectly.
Traveling north, I stopped at Merzi, a fast-casual Indian place. As I was trying to decide between the various vegetarian options, a confused young man besides me was trying to communicate with the server. After I helped him figure out the menu, he sat down with me. It turns out he was busy all day at a conference helping Japanese and American businesspeople connect. We also chatted about my job and the future of energy in America. Honestly, it was one of those policy-wonky conversations that are both so enjoyable to me and so very D.C.
Wandering to the Metro, I came upon a delightful group of musicians in front of the Chinatown Metro Station – the Brass Connection. The band included tubas, sousaphones, and trombones, most of which were played by young men. The youngest was probably around ten and although he didn’t actually play much, he was a fantastic dancer.
To top off the night, I grabbed a smoothie, ended up putting it in my water bottle (messy!), and pedaled over to meet Chris just as he was getting out of work. We ate at a late-night pizza place and took the Metro home. A perfectly D.C. end to a perfectly D.C. evening.