Tuesday, April 3, 2012

30 Days of Biking: Day 2

Today's bike journey took me to Mt. Vernon (George Washington's Estate). I've ridden the Mt. Vernon trail a bunch of times, but never all the way to "Mile 0". I was curious to see what it was like.

I've been to Mt. Vernon once before, but that was only to visit the Mt. Vernon Inn; The Boy had an old friend who got married at the Inn. It was a great wedding & a beautiful venue (coincidentally, it's the first choice on our list of wedding venues so far). I never got to see the actual Estate, however.

I didn't this time either. I got a late start on the ride, so by the time I arrived it was closed to visitors. That's okay though, my main goal was simply to ride there & back. I can visit the Estate another time.

The ride itself was mostly uneventful. I rode Kermit the Hulk, since I need to get used to riding it for next month's Unity Tour ride. I rode the 15th St cycle track the entire length, and then got stuck in a mob of tourists & buses. AAARGH. I managed to maneuver around them without screaming. In fact, a lady cyclist rode up next to me and asked me how I managed to be so nice & patient with them. HA! If she had only heard my internal monologue, I'm sure she would have been mortified (something about the only positive about a nuke hitting DC is that it would wipe out all the tourists and their screaming children...burn, burn, burn...)

Anyway, it cleared out once I hit the bridge and the Mt. Vernon trail. The trail was busy, but not annoyingly so. Everything was fine until I reached Alexandria. The trail breaks off in Old Town. There are places where you need to ride on streets (which is fine) but the signage is inadequate. At one point I ended up riding along an 8 lane highway! Whoops! Luckily my iPhone has GPS and a map program, so I was able to figure out my mistake and backtrack.

Once I got out of Old Town and back on the trail proper, it was smooth sailing. Until I stopped for a water break and Kermit fell over and the chain came off. ARGH. (I need a kickstand!) I got the chain back on, but my hands were filthy. Then of course I ended up wiping bike grease on my face and every other exposed body part because I didn't think to bring any sort of rag or cloth. Yuck.

The trail gets very twisty and a little hilly at the end. Almost like mini-roller coaster. You really gotta watch your speed because people pop out of nowhere.
When I reached Mt. Vernon, I briefly considered stopping in the Inn for dinner. But then I realized I was covered in bike grease & sweat, and my hair looked like something a squirrel would burrow in. I know this because one almost tried. Plus, the Inn strongly suggests reservations, of which I had none. Instead I sat outside on a bench eating my trail mix, trying to avoid becoming some random squirrel's new nesting spot.

Heading back to DC was pretty much the same, except that I quickly realized my lights were dying. I had been using my Knog USB rechargeables since I still haven't had lights installed with my Dynamo hub. The Knogs are great...if you recharge them once in awhile. The sun was quickly setting, and I knew the trail was going to get very dark. There was nothing for it except to get in gear and get to Old Town as quickly as possible. I knew once I got there I would be fine, since I'm familiar with the trail. I set my eyes on the yellow dashed line on the trail (which was getting dimmer and dimmer) and went. I love night riding, but not when I can't see! I made it safely back to DC though.

Back of the Jefferson Memorial. There was a bike corral setup for the Cherry Blossom festival.

Riding Kermit along the MVT. You can see my Knog light on the right.

The MVT. This is pretty much how it looks all the way there.

Saw these two tiny islands in the Potomac

Kermit, after she fell :-(

I always manage to get dirty.

Welcome to Mt. Vernon!

There is bike parking at Mt. Vernon, but it's crappy. The bike racks are pretty useless. The design is all wrong.

Half of the sign is missing, but I guess that it says that you can rent u-locks. Neato.

The Mt. Vernon Inn! (wedding venue?)

This squirrel was sitting on the bench, eating some nuts & seeds. So was I. It was like we were best friends. Or maybe he just liked my hair.

GW Parkway info.

View of the Washington Monument on the way back.

Map of the ride.

Total miles: 41
Note to self:
-get the dynamo light system installed!
-bring a rag/towel
-raise the seat up just a tad
-get a bell


  1. I love that they have U-locks for rent, that's being uber bike-friendly. Some people, when they're in the doctor's office, glomm a few of those thin rubber gloves and throw them in the kit, and when you have to "mess" with the chain you put the gloves on and stay clean. Also, +1 on the bell, got to have a bell.

  2. You were right across the street from my place during your "8-lane oops moment". I think what happened, based on your map, is that after coming up the short hill adjacent to the Beltway, you crossed Washington St and continued straight ahead instead of turning left. That's how you wound up on Route 1.

  3. Another option on the chain thing is to use a wax-based lube like White Lightning. These don;t get nearly as dirty. Also, you can always wipe your hands on the grass or in some dirt after messing with the chain.

    As I said on Twitter last night, my back up light is a camping light that I bought at REI. It goes on your head with an elasticized strap. I rode from G'town to Mt. Vernon at night with one and it worked fine.