Remember, Heal and Reconcile

I had just started making my way back after riding into Washington DC from Pennyfield Lock.  I was stopped in my tracks by this wreath of beautiful roses next to the Potomac river in the Georgetown Waterfront Park.P8290066.jpg The first line on the white ribbon that lay diagonally across the wreath read “Remember, Heal and Reconcile”.  The second line read “400th Year Commemoration 2019”.  I could not figure out what it was all about until today.  And I spent a lot of time this morning trying to get a better grip on this story and really get into it.  You can read an article about it here.   I found this audio clip related to this story also interesting.

Just to give you a high level background, 20 or so slaves arrived from Africa for the first time on an English ship at Jamestown in August 1619.  This notable event was a part of the beginnings of a complete moral disaster that has its impacts even today.  Unfortunately, there are people who still wish to rewrite this piece of history even today.

I also saw this.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn light of the shenanigans going on in government today, and especially at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), it was somewhat ironic to see this on the plaque below the sculpture.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnd this was posted in the same neighborhood next to the river.P8290048.jpgYuk!

Lest somebody thinks that I am a grouch, I really did enjoy the morning and did have a good ride.  Here are some other pictures from the park.

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View of Rosslyn (in Arlington), and the Key Bridge

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Georgetown Waterfront Park

And here is a picture of Swains Lock taken in the early morn.P8290047.jpgLife goes on!

Baking on the W&OD

The dogs days of summer have hit the Washington, DC, area.   The combination of the temperature and humidity makes the heat feel quite intense when you are in the open areas.  I have still been riding my bike regularly.  I start earlier in the day if I can, and ride through the hottest parts of the day.  It is usually not too bad under the trees, although I have gotten the strangest pattern of tans on different parts of my body because of my exposure (enough said!).

But the ride last Friday was particularly brutal.  I had decided to go further out on the W&OD trail in Virginia.  The ride started off easily enough with my crossing the Potomac on the Key bridge into Rosslyn in Arlington early enough in the morning.  I stopped on the bridge to watch the planes on their way into National Airport.

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I rode the short distance on the Mt. Vernon trail along the river towards National Airport, passing the Arlington Memorial Bridge along the way.

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I stopped at Gravelly Point to take some pictures of aircraft coming in for landing at the airport.

After I passed National airport, I had to turn off on to the Four Mile Run trail and ride a few miles to the start of the W&OD.  Things became more difficult once I got on the W&OD.  There was minimal tree cover over the trail and the sun was beating directly down from on high. The asphalt that formed the surface of the trail was also increasing the intensity of the heat.  As I rode out of Arlington, and past Falls Church, Dunn Loring, Vienna, Reston, and finally into Herndon, tackling the numerous ups and downs of the trail, and with the rhythm of the ride being constantly interrupted at the many busy road crossings, my energy levels dropped.  Two bottles of water (one with and the other without dissolved electrolytes) were being consumed quickly.  I managed to find a section of the trail with a little bit of shade just outside of Herndon, had my lunch to try to build up my energy level once again, and started on my way back home.

It was now getting to noon-time and the heat was really slowing me down.  The number of other people I was seeing on the trail was dropping.  Have you heard the song about mad dogs and Englishmen going out in the midday sun?    Since I am not an Englishman, I must be a creature of the other sort!

I determined that I could not do the ride all the way to the turnoff for the Custis Trail in one stretch without a break as I had originally planned.  Back at Vienna I plonked my tired self on a bench outside the old station building where there was a little bit of shade and tried to recover.  I was fortunate to also find a water fountain to replenish my drinking supply.

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I got back on the bike and did make it to my next stop, which was the start of the Custis Trail, without incident.  I parked myself under the shade of the trees in the park and re-energized myself with a fruit and more water.  All of my appetite had vanished at that point because of the heat.  I was gulping down the water.   The mixture with the electrolytes was gone, but I was able to refill the water bottles.

The ride from that point onward was easier because of the shade of the trees that covered the trail.  Once I got back on the towpath I stopped at Fletchers Cove to get a bottle of Gatorade, something that was not a part of my original plan.  That bottle did not last too long either.  I made it back successfully, and the recovery process that evening was actually very good, although I decided that I was going the spend the next day, which was also going to be super hot, indoors!   I am hoping for better conditions during our ride from Pittsburgh.

New Trails to Explore

Ever since I started biking instead of running, the distance that I have been covering in a single day on the trail has become significant enough that I find myself going over the same territory repeatedly, much more frequently than I am used to.   This does not necessarily dissuade me from riding, especially since the biking experience seems to be more about the actual process of biking rather than slowing down to take in the surroundings. However, human nature being what it is, I am always on the lookout for new places to go to and things to experience. During the last few weeks I made my way over the Potomac River into Virginia and up to Mt. Vernon.

So it was that I ended up actively investigating new trails for my ride last Friday on  Bikewashington.org. I saw that there was a way to get to the W&OD rail trail in Virginia heading west.  I read more about the Custis trail that could connect me to the W&OD.  (I had noticed the trailhead for the Custis trail during my ride to Mt. Vernon.)  This trail was built in in the 1980s, apparently at about the same time as Interstate 66 (which is also called the Custis Memorial Parkway in these parts).  Reading the reviews of this trail began to make me nervous.  The 4 mile trail running next to the highway (behind sound barriers) was well laid , but it had too many steep ups and downs.  People talked about the challenge posed by the layout of the trail, and of having to walk their bikes through certain sections.

It was with a little trepidation that I set out for the Custis trail on Friday morning, just a couple of days after having taken a nasty toss on the C&O Canal towpath, wondering if I would have to beat a hasty retreat.  But I was underestimating my physical capabilities.  The hills were tough enough, and I had to shift to low gears to tackle some of them, but I made it to the end of the trail unscathed.  My initial speed for this section was quite slow (as I tackled the city streets of Rosslyn soon after the Key Bridge), but after that I managed to hit a healthy pace in spite of the nature of trail.  I think that my confidence for the August ride just shot up one notch!

There were many miles to discover on the W&OD trail.  The 45 mile trail extends west beyond the Washington Beltway (Interstate 495) and starts at its eastern terminus in Shirlington in Arlington, VA.  As I navigated the trail attempting to realize the maximum distance I needed to cover for the day, I began to get a better understanding for the bike friendly nature of the town of Arlington.  There are trails everywhere! There are bike signs with directions, similar to the road signs (but smaller in size), for every side trail heading off into the local neighborhood.  I saw signs for the Four Mile Run Trail and the Bluemont Junction Trail, both major trails with good connections.  These asphalt covered trails ran through woods and on the sides of roads.  They even had a dividing line running down the middle for managing bike traffic.  At street crossings there were specific traffic lights for bikes.  There were water fountains for replenishing your drinking supplies in strategic locations. All of this was indeed a discovery for me.   I see myself doing further explorations on a bike in Virginia.

I made it back to Maryland without mishap after tackling the Custis trail once again on my way back.  The rest of the ride was uneventful.  The hot and humid day caused me to drink much more water than I expected, and I was thankful that I had refilled my water containers in Virginia.  There were hoards of people on the trail during the ride back.  Now that summer vacation has started, there are kids out everywhere.  One has to be more careful riding!