Monday, April 1, 2013

Riding to Mount Vernon

My social ride last weekend took me along the Potomac River almost all the way to Mount Vernon. I wish I could say I started the ride in Houston, but actually, my wife and I were in Washington DC visiting with our kids and rode the Mount Vernon Hike and Bike Trail with them. Both my son and daughter in law are avid cyclists, having bicycled across the United States to raise money for Habitat for Humanity. The route we followed is shown by the red line on this map:

The start of the ride is indicated by the green circle with the black arrowhead inside, at the upper left in the picture. Just to the right of that, across the river, is Washington DC. Just below Washington DC is Washington Reagan Airport. Watching the planes take off and land as we biked this part of the trail was a special treat. At the bottom left is Mount Vernon, the home of George Washington. As you can see, we almost made it there.

We started our ride at Big Wheel Bikes in Arlington where my wife and I picked up the bicycles for our ride. My son and daughter in law had put their bikes on their bike rack and we all drove from their home to Big Wheel. This is my second time renting from them and both times have been fantastic experiences. They are friendly, professional and have a large selection of quality road bikes to rent. This is what their shop looks like:

I now feel like any time I am in DC and would like to ride, there is no need for the annoyance and expense of trying to transport a bike, I can just rely on my friends at Big Wheel. An added benefit of renting from them is that a bike trail leading to the Mount Vernon trail, among other places, runs right behind their shop.  These are the bikes my wife and I rented:

Of course, no bike rented sight unseen will be the same as your own bike, so mine was quite a bit more aggressive than I am used to, and both my wife and I were taken aback by the skinny, hard saddles. (We both ride Brooks B17s at home.) Both bikes were exactly the sizes we requested, but apparently the Surlys we normally ride are sized a bit large, so these bikes were both a bit smaller than we are used to. Next time, I think I might request a bike one size up. The bikes they gave us were light and responsive, in perfect repair and adjustment, and were a lot of fun to ride.

In the above picture, you can see a young woman with a dog in the background. That is my daughter in law with her dog. We had decided to try an experiment this trip, bringing the dog along in a trailer so she (the dog) could join in the fun. To do that, we also rented a doggie trailer (named the "Tail Wagon") from Big Wheel. This is the dog in the trailer:

Don't let the dog's calm demeanor in this picture deceive you; she hated the trailer! Unfortunately, after a spate of barking when we started, she seemed to calm down, so when she started barking again after a rest stop, we hoped she would calm down again. We were 15 miles down the trail before we realized that was not to be, that we had turn around and go home. As a result, we ended up on a long ride with a vocally miserable dog. A word of advice to any dog owners reading this: before buying a doggie trailer, rent one to find how what your dog thinks of the idea. Here are the parents of the dog, with the dog safely zipped into the trailer:

This is my fourth time riding with my family in DC and my second time riding this trail. The first time I rode this trail, I borrowed my daughter in law's bike (the red Schwinn in the picture) and my son and I made it all the way to Mount Vernon, had lunch at the restaurant there, and then rode back. That ride, taken almost four years ago, was my first experience with either indexed shifters or clipless pedals; the bike shoes I wear today I purchased in DC so I could ride her bike. For last weekend's ride, the barking dog was definitely a distraction, and as you can see from our dress it was still a bit early in the season, but all in all my wife and I had a wonderful time. (The embarrassed parents of the misbehaving puppy might feel differently.)

More generally, including a bike ride on a trip away from home adds a lot of interest to my cycling. Next week, I will be flying to California (where I have a Bianchi Volpe stored) to visit with my dad and take a bike ride with one of the original Modesto Roadmen, one of my best friends from High School. I most definitely will be describing that ride in a future post.

For those new to this blog, each week I am posting an update of my training results; see my previous posts for explanations of my aerobic training program, MAF tests, and this graph.

My MAF test results continue their upward trend, despite (or perhaps because of) the fact that I have started my ramp of weekly long rides, currently at 55 miles and increasing at approximately 10% a week. On the one hand, the stress of these exhausting rides might be expected to interfere with my aerobic training progress, but on the other, their training benefits might help. I will discuss this in more length in a future post.


  1. I just discovered your blog and have "caught up" on your interesting story. At first I was tempted to offer advice but randonneuring is a ultimately a journey of discovery and it seems that you are the kind of person that likes to figure things out themselves. I definitely understand that approach. Good luck and enjoy the journey.

  2. Thanks, Iron Rider, I really appreciate it when people comment on my blog. If do ever do want to leave advice, I would enjoy reading it very much.