Trail/road: Bethesda Trolley Trail, Capital Crescent Trail, D.C. bike lanes
Distance: 30 miles
Increasingly, I have become “the bike girl” among my friends. Between doing the Climate Ride and writing this blog, people know my love for biking. In fact, one of my friends recently referred to me as “obsessed” and then in response to my protesting, said, “You write a blog about it!” Guilty as charged.
But it’s not all accusations of mania; I’ve also been getting an increasing number of invitations to come ride. I took up one of these invitations last Saturday, as I went on a ride to D.C. with my friend from church, Melanie.
I cycled down to Melanie’s house, which is conveniently right off of the Bethesda Trolley Trail. She’s an avid runner, but recently hurt her foot. To make up for the lack of pavement pounding, she’s been taking to the bike as an alternative. As I never know how fast others are, I let her take the lead. Soon, I was out of breath working to keep up with her! For someone not used to biking, she was making me feel awfully out-of-shape. Then I noticed that she seemed awfully adept on her bike for someone with little experience. She reached down mid-pedal for her water bottle without wobbling at all. When I inquired, she said, “I used to bike to work every day. It’s been like two years though.” Ah ha! That revelation made me feel a little less wimpy.
After traveling up and down the hills of the Bethesda Trolley Trail, we started flying down the Capital Crescent Trail. We discussed our different reasons for loving for this path. We’re both originally from upstate New York, but different areas. I’m from just north of Albany, which is full of hikers, bicyclists, and other outdoorsy folks. No one cycles for transportation, but plenty do for recreation. On the other hand, she’s from Western New York, where she said that people would yell, “Haven’t you heard of a car?” when they’d see her our running.
From the Trail’s end in Georgetown, we started up the path along the Potomac River and then into West Potomac Park, where last year’s Solar Decathlon was held. It’s an odd little area – near enough to the cherry blossoms, Tidal Pool, and monuments that it’s in the middle of tourist haven, but hardly anyone goes there. Unfortunately, I utterly failed at guiding us over the river – the bridge I wanted to use was blocked by construction – and we ended up at a crowded street near the D.C. Fish Market. Mmmm, fish and diesel fumes. Melanie dodged in-between cars like she was in Frogger, while I picked a much calmer side-street. I can ride in traffic, but prefer not to. I’m also terribly slow biking – figuring that it’s more predictable to act just like a car, I wait my turn to move forward like everyone else.
We met up by the Anacostia Riverwalk, which I had seen for the first time on the Bike Snob NYC trip. This neat little trail parallels the river and highlights an area that was pretty crime-ridden not so long ago. Just before it transitions onto the street, the path ends at the Titanic Memorial. It’s particularly odd because as far as I know, D.C. has no real connection to the Titanic. Nonetheless, the statue, which is specifically dedicated to the men on the ship who gave up their lives so that women and children could survive, was erected by the Women’s Titanic Memorial Association in 1931. Bizarrely, the male figure is in a pose like the “I’m flying” scene in the movie. Perhaps James Cameron was subconsciously influenced? Last weekend, the statue was particularly moving, because volunteers were laying out luminaries, one for each survivor. I can just imagine them glowing in the twilight along the river.
Unfortunately, my geographical orientation went out the window shortly after. Trying to follow the route that we took on the Bike Snob ride, I took a wrong turn and ended up in a section of D.C. that’s still dodgy. Barbed wire fences and unmowed fields with glass were not promising. We ended up all the way down at the Coast Guard center at the ominously-named Buzzard Point before I knew we were definitely not in the right place and got the heck out of there. Lesson to be learned – if it seems like I know where I’m going but it also seems we’re going in the wrong direction, it’s quite likely my confidence is misplaced. In those cases, it’s good to ask.
Eventually, we got back on track and to our destination of Eastern Market. Frankly, Eastern Market is awesome. During the week, it’s a huge, old-fashioned food hall, with local butchers, bakers, fish-mongers, and vegetable-sellers. Much of the food isn’t local, but all of the businesses are. On the weekend, it gets even better. There’s a big flea market, a farmers’ market, food stands including crepes, and a number of talented local crafters. I’m an especially big fan of Mann Made Designs, which makes most of its jewelry from reclaimed materials. Sadly, all of the outdoor food stands were packing up by the time we got there, but we were still able to snag some spinach empanadas in the food hall.
Satisfied, we headed back to Dupont Circle to take the train back to Bethesda and Rockville. Despite the fact that I usually can’t carry on a conversation on a bike due to my wonky hearing, we had some really good conversation throughout. It’s amazing the types of experiences you have from being on a bike that you wouldn’t have the opportunity to otherwise.