I have been doing some pretty long bike rides (at least in my opinion!) recently in preparation of the six day Pittsburgh to DC area ride with my high-school classmates that is happening at the end of August. I can pretty much do the maximum one-day distance that we will have to cover during that ride, but doing this kind of a ride consistently for a few days is going to be my challenge. After riding a few times I have found that it is possible to get into a rhythm with riding, and that my somewhat weaker left knee is getting stronger and more used to the effort. I am getting less concerned about getting cramps in the leg muscles. I am also learning how to tackle slopes, most of which we will encounter during the section of the ride from Pittsburgh into Cumberland, the halfway point.
I have been riding primarily on the C&O Canal towpath with one diversion a few weeks ago on to The Capital Crescent Trail towards Bethesda. A couple of weeks ago I ventured across the Potomac River on the Key Bridge into Virginia and biked on the Mt. Vernon Trail towards National Airport. I rode to the other side of the airport and during the return stopped at Gravelly Point to take pictures of the planes landing at the airport.
That little venture into Virginia tempted me to attempt to cover the entire distance of the Mt. Vernon Trail all the way from Arlington to Mt. Vernon, a distance of 18 miles. I planned the ride so that I would start off somewhere along the C&O canal, and transfer over to the Virginia side and ride to the end of the trail, finally returning to where I had started so that I could do my required quota for the ride. I started off at Anglers Inn.
Approaching DC, I saw this. I had to stop and take a picture of the black rat snake crossing the trail.
It had been a while since I had seen one these snakes. As I approached the snake with my camera, it appeared to pause on its journey across the trail to look at me (just my imagination, I guess 🙂 ). It eventually made its way into the bushes on the other side of the trail.
I crossed over the river on the Key Bridge at Georgetown on a very pleasant morning. The commuter traffic was headed inbound into DC while I was headed out of town. I descended to the Mt Vernon trail near Roosevelt Island and started to ride. Things were going smoothly. The wind seemed to be blowing against me, but the riding was easy. The trail ran along the George Washington Memorial Parkway, and after riding under a few of the bridges crossing the Potomac into DC, I soon passed National Airport. I was now entering new territory.
Th parkland that I had been riding through after I passed the airport soon ended at the outskirts of the town of Alexandria. I found my way through the city streets to Union Street. I rode through the touristy downtown area with its shops and restaurants. There was a bike lane on the road and the riding was comfortable. Just before the Woodrow Wilson Bridge, the trail detoured away from the road and ran under the bridge. When I came up on the other side, I found myself at the section of George Washington Parkway on the other side of Alexandria. I found the biking trail once again running by the roadway.
The trail ran though parks, crossed swamps over boardwalks, , meandered through wooded areas with streams, bridges, and ups and downs, and even diverted through affluent suburban neighborhoods where a trail could not be laid. The Potomac flowed beside the trail, sometimes close by, and sometimes in the distance. I finally made it to Mt. Vernon and mile zero of the trail in time to park myself on a park bench and have my lunch. The last half mile of the ride was a particular challenge up a hill.
The ride back seemed to be easier on the legs, probably because of the direction of the wind, but it was also getting warmer and I was beginning to drink more of the water I was carrying. Instead on focusing on completing the ride as efficiently as possible, I took more time stopping and taking pictures along the way. Here are some samples.
I was still feeling strong as I crossed back into Maryland. I was able to ride up from the pathway next to Roosevelt Island on to the bridge over the George Washington Parkway and then on to the Key Bridge. I felt good because I had to get off the bike the previous time I had to cover this section.
I stopped at Fletcher’s Cove along the way to replenish the water bottles. It was getting quite humid and I was drinking more water than I had expected. (I even demolished the bottle of water that I had left in the car after I got back!) The rest of the ride was uneventful.