Thursday, September 3, 2009

Bicycle! Bicycle!

I want to ride my bicycle, I want to ride my bike...

Let's start with a few disclaimers:
  1. J and I aren't die-hard bicyclists. We don't have matching spandex outfits and we can't talk shop about your $3,000 carbon frame road bike. Rather, taking our bikes out is no more than a great way to explore the city, enjoy a beautiful day, and get some exercise. Both of us love sports and one way to bridge the gap in skill, strength, and ACLs (J has had multiple knee surgeries), is through biking.
  2. Both J and I are still in our mourning period, having had our bikes stolen out of our garage just recently. On the other hand, J and I have just begun our honeymoon stage, having just purchased a pair of Cannondale Quicks.

So rather than rant about how bike thievery is far too common in DC (I've yet to talk to someone who seemed at all surprised that our locked bikes were stolen from our locked garage) or pretend to know more about cycling than we do, here are a few places we've enjoyed on our dearly departed bikes, and look forward to exploring again on our latest purchases.

Mt. Vernon Trail. This is my favorite bike path, not only in DC, but probably anywhere. It has just about everything, including unfortunately, lots of other cyclists. Starting from Georgetown, it winds along the Virginia side of the Potomac, yielding incredible views across the river. The trail is almost completely flat over the almost 20 miles to George Washington's home at Mt. Vernon (an excellent place to walk around after your ride). But as they say in life, the journey is often an even bigger payoff than the destination. In addition to the literally monumental views of DC, the path winds through historic Old Town Alexandria (great place for a snack break!) and wooded areas that feel quite removed from the city. J would say that the wooden bridges through swampy areas look like Tom Sawyer's Island at Disneyland. If you knew how much she loves that place, you'd know that's a huge compliment - although I'd still argue that Disneyland looks like the Mt. Vernon trail as opposed to the other way around... The point is that this path reminds us of the "Happiest Place on Earth." Finally, don't forget to pause at Gravelly Point where you can do your best imitation of Wayne and Garth, and watch the planes fly right over your head on their way into, and out of, DCA.

The Mall/Monuments. Visitors of Casa de B&J are often lucky (or unlucky) enough to enjoy the infamous "march around the monuments" walking tour of downtown. I'm a big believer that those people who drive by, take their generic postcard snapshot, and move on are missing out. There is something so majestic about walking in and around these wonderful structures, but I do understand that a 10 mile death march isn't everyone's idea of a great time. If you're in that camp, a bike ride around the Mall is perfect. You can avoid the traffic and the parking nightmares by being on your bike... just make sure you can avoid the tourists too.

J here to report on a few more of our favorite bike rides. I'll spare you the monumental rant about getting my bike stolen and cut to the chase....

Capital Crescent Trail/Bethesda. The Capital Crescent Trail (or CCT as we serious bikers call it) is a trail from Georgetown to Silver Spring, Maryland. The CCT was built upon the abandoned railbed of the Georgetown Branch of the B&O Railroad. You'll see remnants of the railroad as you pedal under the Rock Creek Trestle, an old rickety-looking railroad bridge. The path winds near the Potomac as you make your way from Georgetown to Bethesda. I'm sure you won't be shocked to hear that I plan my bike rides around restaurants and meals. For example, when B told me we were going to ride to Bethesda, my mind filled with all of the restaurant possibilities in that far off land that some refer to as Maryland. I highly recommend riding up to Bethesda for brunch. Remember, you can burn off the calories from your french toast as you ride the 10 miles back to Georgetown.

Rock Creek Park. The Rock Creek Trail system is a group of paved bike paths and on-road bike routes that weaves its way through beautiful Rock Creek Park in the heart of DC. On the weekends, sections of Beach Drive (the main drag) are closed to vehicles, creating a biker's paradise. On previous trips through the Park we've come face to face with deer, cruised past really old cemeteries, and wandered into the zoo to visit Merlin, my favorite sloth bear.

Eastern Market. I'd ride 50 miles to Eastern Market for blueberry pancakes. Lucky for us, it's just a short ride to pancake heaven. It's not the most leisurely ride because you have to contend with city traffic and lost tourist drivers, but we like to pedal past the Capitol and Supreme Court and check out the beautiful row homes on Capitol Hill. For more on Eastern Market, make sure to read our post here.

DC has a very active bike culture, coming from cyclists and from the city government. For more information, see the Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA) or this very informative site that details some of the major paths/trails. Also check out the news and resources provided by DC here. Of particular note, I would recommend this map, which you can download here or order a free printed copy by email here. It is something that is nice to keep in your bike bag... right next to the U-lock!


J said...

Just to follow up on the DC Bike Maps....I requested one by email and it arrived at our house in about a week. It's free too!

blunoz said...

I also love the Mt. Vernon Trail. I used to jog there on weekday mornings before going to work, and before I injured my knee trying to teach my son to ride his bike without training wheels. My physical therapist encouraged me to use the bicycle to get some exercise and to strengthen my knee. A couple of trips I've done recently and really enjoyed were the C&O Canal Tow Path and the Greater Allegheny Passage Trail.