Trail / Road: Millenium Trail, residential streets
Distance: 9.5 miles
Company: Four other riders
I love traditions, but admittedly have never hosted a “2nd annual” anything until recently. This Saturday, I led the 2nd Annual Dessert Ride for the Rockville Bicycle Advisory Committee (RBAC). Although this one didn’t go quite as well as the first, I do hope that I can lead a 3rd Annual one in the future.
I created the Dessert Ride last year as part of the committee’s bicycle safety campaign. As the best way to reduce accidents is to increase the number of cyclists, we focused on helping people learn some basic road-riding skills and improve their confidence. Many people in Rockville bike recreationally but don’t use it for transportation because they think it’s impossible. It’s easy to get intimidated by the six-lane thoroughfare cutting through the middle of town. So I designed my rides to help show others that they can safely bike to a variety of destinations using residential roads and multi-use paths. I choose places I personally enjoy going, which not-surprisingly, often involve food. While the Dessert Ride was my first one, I’ve also led a ride to Rock Creek Park with a picnic and will be leading a progressive dinner ride later this summer.
This time around, I had four people show up, a few less than last time. A father on a 20-year-old Bianchi and his eight-year-old son were the first there. The dad said that he only rode “a few times a year with my son” and that he’d ride more if he got a new bike. But then he followed that comment up with, “But who am I kidding?” I wanted to tell him that Rockville has so much to offer that he didn’t need to wait, but I didn’t want to be preachy. After them, along came along Sarah, who has been on two of my past rides. Last was a man around my age on a beat road bike almost completely covered in activist and punk stickers. He was a little mysterious – he asked everyone a lot of questions, but didn’t provide a lot of answers himself. I was glad that he was there, but it was a little unclear as to why. He was clearly an experienced cyclist and I don’t think he bought anything at any of the stops. I suppose everyone has their reasons. Unfortunately, we didn’t get any of the riders from last year, even though a few had showed up to the mayor and city council ride that kicked off Bike Month.
I decided to switch both the route and destinations up from last time. Even though the locations for the first Dessert Ride were excellent, I wanted to highlight some different businesses and locations people could ride to. We started with the Les Delices Bakery, an odd little shop in a strip mall. As it’s right on the Millennium Trail, I’ve ridden by it probably 20 or 30 times but had never stopped before. In fact, my riders seemed more familiar with it than I was. I got sugar cookies with M&Ms, which were much drier and crumblier than I prefer. But I should have known that they would be French-style, considering the name.
The second leg of our journey was by far the most challenging. It was on the bumpiest, most narrow, least well-kept part of the Millennium Trail – a glorified sidewalk. Plus, it has almost no shade, parallels a busy road, and includes a substantial hill. It wasn’t the hottest day of the summer, but the brutal D.C. humidity combined with the sun made for a tough climb. The eight-year-old was having it the hardest, if only because he had to rotate his wheels so many more times to go the same distance. Whenever I asked if he was okay, he made a face and grumbled, “I’m fine.” While he was walking up the hill with his dad, I was trying to keep up with my other two participants. They were both riding slow, yet were substantially ahead of us. That’s one of the biggest challenges of leading these community rides. Even if no one is a “fast” cyclist, there’s still a huge amount of diversity in speed, strength, and endurance.
Unfortunately, our second stop didn’t reward our effort. Although they sold cupcakes, there were only three or so choices, a far cry from the variety at Cake Dreams, where we stopped last year. They also had ice cream, but it was the boring Bryers type that’s never as good as you’ll hope it will be. Rather anti-climatically, none of us got desserts. At least now I know not to include it on future rides.
But our third stop made it all worthwhile. York Castle Tropical Ice Cream falls in the category of hidden treasure in plain sight. Much like a number of Rockville’s best ethnic restaurants, it’s a hole-in-the-wall in a strip mall along Rockville Pike, the city’s major, multi-lane road. They make their own ice cream, but their choices are particularly impressive – guava, Guinness, lychee, grapenut, and rum raisin are all regular menu items. When we were there, their specialty flavor was Spanish cherry. For all of its variety, I’ve certainly never seen Ben and Jerry’s offer Guinness or lychee ice cream! I ordered a two scoop cone – banana and chocolate, as I couldn’t decide on just one. Flavor-wise, it was excellent. Unfortunately, two scoops was much bigger than I had anticipated and far more ice cream than I should consume at one time. After much weeping and gnashing of teeth, I actually threw some of it away. Unlike our first two stops, it definitely seemed like everyone enjoyed this one. The eight-year-old was particularly happy that he finally got to have ice cream.
Heading back, I lost three out of four of my riders, although one was on purpose. The young man had another engagement to get to, so he left straight from York Castle. The rest of us headed back to Rockville Town Square and somehow Sarah and I got separated from the dad and his son. They weren’t far behind me one moment, but then were gone the next. As soon as I realized it, I doubled back, but couldn’t find them. I didn’t see any ambulances in the vicinity, so I felt reassured that they didn’t have an accident. I waited at the end, emailed the dad from my phone, and then biked home after about a half-hour, still concerned. Thankfully, the dad emailed me back – they had gotten stuck at a light and I must have missed them when I doubled-back. Although everything turned out fine, I felt like a terrible ride leader. It’s so easy to lose sight of your own responsibility.
Even with a small crowd, a hot day, and 2 out of 3 of the stops being less-than-exciting, it was still a fairly successful ride. And as it becomes more of a tradition, the more I’ll learn about the best way to lead it.
Do you ride for dessert? What’s your favorite destination to ride to?