Saturday, August 30, 2008

Tidewater Potomac - Day 7

Indian Head, MD to DC

It rained all the way to DC.

The good news was that I was feeling much less "washed out" than I had been for the last several days, to the point that I briefly considered riding all the way home.

Because of the rain, I simplified much of the route by simply riding up Route 210 and skipping some of the side roads. Just trying to read the map with fogged and rain-splattered glasses was a challenge.

I had a hard time with the directions getting into and out of Oxon Hill Farm park. While at the park (which was beautiful by the way...I had no idea it existed) I developed a "flapping" noise that correlated with my wheel rotation. I checked it out and discovered that about 12 inches of tread from my back tire has separated from teh tire and had wrapped itself around my rear sprocket. An inspection of the rear wheel revealed that the tread was loose all around the circumference of the tire. I rode on carefully only to have another strip peel off and get caught in the sprockets again. I stopped again, removed much of the loosest tread and proceeded with great caution.

Exiting the park I again had no clear idea which direction to travel. I don't know if I chose the wrong path through the park and was exiting at the wrong point, or whether I just failed to read the map correctly. After several exploratory starts down one street and another, ended up taking a wrong (but not bad) road up the wrong side of 295. After a few minutes I found myself at the southern entrance to Boling Air Force Base and, having an ID card, decided to go ahead and ride up through Bowling and Anacostia Naval Station to get to the Frederick Douglas bridge. I was stationed at Anacostia Naval Station for 13 or so years of my military career, so this was familiar territory.

I was apprehensive about the ride over the bridge until I spotted the pedestrian pathway on the south side of the bridge. I was quickly over the bridge and then down into National Stadium. Being familiar with DC, I abandoned the directions and made my own way to the US Capitol, down the mall, to the White House, to the Lincoln memorial and then across the memorial bridge. I rode north up the Washington parkway trail to Arlington then across the Key bridge into Georgetown where there is a bike shop. I had my rear tire replaced then rode back down the parkway to Crystal City for the night.

The weather put a damper on what was otherwise a great day of riding. Tomorrow, I ride home.

48 Miles

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Tidewater Potomac - Days 5-6


The hotel staff finally ran me out of the hotel at noon. Sigh. Another late start, but with clean clothes.I decid;ed to do laundry, and that gave me more time to work on the blog, catch up on email, etc.

After two hours on the road today I started running out of steam, and the chilly, overcast, on-again off-again rain, and more family drama didn't improve my morale. Towards the end of the day I decided to short-cut around part of the published route and head for a hotel. After comparing the three motels grouped near a major intersection along the ride, all of which were very old, what I think of as 1950's style motels (single story with two great "wings" of rooms extending away from an office with plenty of parking in front of each room), I decided on one that seemed the most well kept. These places were all pretty run down and did a lot of weekly/monthly rentals. It reminded me of some of the older military housing I occasionally stayed in when I was traveling in the Air Force.

56 Miles


I got up and out of the hotel in fairly good time this morning and pedaled on in the rain. Not occasional showers like yesterday, but a good steady downpour and nice and cool too! Not that I'm complaining. Like yesterday I started feeling fatigued again after twenty miles or so (although not so bad as yesterday) and decided to take another short-cut around one of the scenic loops of the ride then checked into a hotel in Indian Head, where I'm now doing laundry again and drying out my shoes and just taking the afternoon off.

Tomorrow I ride to DC and there isn't much opportunity for short-cutting, so I'm hoping to get plenty of energy back today!

39 Miles

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Tidewater Potomac - Days 2-4

Day 4, in which I emerge from the wilderness, ride past a Starbucks and a Five Guys, and reconnect with the internet.

I have got to get much better at finding internet connections and charging the cell phone while on the road. Well, maybe not so much charging the cell phone. Before I left I told people they could call me on the cell phone if they needed anything - I didn't expect them to take me up on it. Two and a half days of intense family drama. On the one hand I'm glad I was in touch and able to participate; on the other hand it can sure scrape the icing off the cake of a relaxing "get away". Apart from that the ride has been great so far.


Sunday was another great day for riding, mild, breezy with a bright blue sky dotted with lots of clouds. I headed away from Fredericksburg on Route 3 which, for the first part of the day was four lanes with a nice wide shoulder. I was treated to mile after mile of beautiful rural scenery. Fields of corn framed by distant treelines, farm houses. wildflowers everywhere. still four lanes and fairly light traffic, so it wasn't too bad, but it caused the anxiety level to rise slightly and I had to pay more attention to the road and less to the scenery.

Port Conway Road (Route 607) was a simple two-lane road with very light traffic, the kind I spent a lot of time riding on my way to Richmond and back. After crossing 301 though, the road got even narrower and, if possible even more scenic than before. I wanted to stop and take pictures every hundred yards. I came across a patch of tall daisy-like flowers, rolled past tall trees angled over the road and dirt roads that felt as if they led back in time. This was definitely the highlight of the day.

When I merged back with Route 3 it was a high-speed two-lane with no shoulder and the anxiety level ramped back up again. Definitely very scenic still, but I was focused on staying as far to the right as possible, looking out for broken pavement and loose gravel and occasionally pulling over to let traffic pass. If I hadn't gotten started so late in the morning (curse my excellent procrastination and dawdling skills) I'd have taken the Leedstown Alternate and no doubt had a much more pleasurable ride.

I stopped in Oak Grove for a late lunch/early dinner at Bowies Restaurant, a rustic country diner where I enjoyed some down-home cooking and friendly country service.

I was too late to see Washington's Birthplace Monument, which closed at 5 pm, but did ride down to their picnic area overlooking the Potomac River. The grounds were teeming with deer, many of which stopped to watch me ride by. It was also my first sight of the Potomac river this trip. I was hoping to spend more time riding within sight of the Potomac, but the route is well inland.

From there it was a relatively short ride down to Westmoreland State Park for the night. I checked in to a nearly deserted campground. Racing the impending nightfall I quickly pitched my tent (having practiced this in my living room at home) then rode down a very steep hill to the river to enjoy the sunset and wade into the Potomac while making calls on the cell phone.

54 Miles


Monday the plan was to ride down to Burgess and get a ride across the Chesapeake Bay to Maryland. I "broke camp" (I'll have to spend some time writing about camping) and rode out to a very overcast and cool day. A few miles down the road in Montross I found a great coffee shop/art gallery called The Art of Coffee. They had Wi-Fi but I was unable to connect all the way through to the internet, so contented myself to make a few notes and nursing a coffee along while recharging my cellphone.

I was preoccupied with family issues and didn't do a very good job taking pictures or paying a lot of attention to the scenery. My big goal for the day was to rendezvous with Captain Danny Crabbe for a charter ride across the Chesapeake Bay to Point Lookout, Maryland. I called Danny before leaving home after discovering that the cruise to from Smith island to Point Lookout referenced in the Adventure Cycling route ran only on weekends. Danny Crabbe runs his own charter fishing operation and is listed as an alternate. I was concerned about getting to my destination in plenty of time for Danny to take me across and return before dark (and get me across to Maryland with enough daylight to set up camp.

I rode up to Danny's home late afternoon and was warmly greeted by his wife Bonnie who offered me ice water and asked a lot of questions about my trip. I met Danny a few minutes later and with little delay I was lifting my bike down into his boat and we were off. It was a surreal ride across the bay. The water was a steely gray and the sun only shining through occasional breaks in the gray overcast sky. We saw a number of sea birds but not another boat anywhere. It was if we had the entire bay to ourselves.

I'm not sure how long the ride took, less than an hour I think. We pulled up to a dock at Point Lookout State Park and I nearly dropped the bike in the water while trying to hang one of the panniers. Danny warned me that a storm was forming up over the bay and I might encounter rain, and then was off. I rode up through the parking lot and tried to decide whether to turn right or left at the main road.

After going the wrong way, twice, I found a closed camp office and checked myself into a camp site. I completely had the place to myself and didn't see or hear another person the entire time I was there. Very eerie. And can I tell you it was hot and humid! My bike computer said it was 81 degrees, and it must have been near 100% humidity. It was a long and uncomfortable night.

61 Miles


Fortunately the weather turned cooler sometime in the wee hours of the morning. I got up, dawdled, and finally broke camp and packed it up. As I was riding away from my camp site I remembered that I'd forgotten to take a picture of my camp when it was set up. A couple of miles outside the state park I remembered that I'd forgotten to tour the Point Lookout civil war POW camp. I could have gone back, but always seem to be driven by an urgency to get down the road. I pedaled on, into gray skies and cool headwinds.

I think today more than any other I felt out of energy my day just felt like work. I'd planned to maybe stop in Leonardtown or maybe go on further. By the time I hit Leonardtown I was ready to stop for the day. I rode into town only to discover the only hotel was under renovation and that the next nearest hotels were eight miles back up the road along Route 235. It was an effort, but eight miles wasn't a killer. As I approached the intersection with Route 235 I saw the Target store logo on a sign, quickly followed by miles of "civilization", Starbucks, Best Buy, Five Guys. It was like a consumer oasis. I checked into the Super 8, wolfed down a Five Guys burger, charged the electronics, washed clothes and watched part of the Democratic Convention.

And now, all I have to do is turn off this computer, pack my bags and roll down the road.

52 Miles

What can you say?

You know I love the smiley face

The beach and cliffs at Westmoreland State Park

Riding through walls of corn

Heading out from Point Lookout State Park

Lawn art just outside St. Mary's College

Entrance to the Washington Birthplace Memorial

My first sight of the Potomac from Washington Birthplace Memorial

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Tidewater Potomac - Day 1

It was 2 pm before I finally locked the cats in the house, said goodbye to my neighbor who was smoking on her front step, pushed my bike down the front walk and off the curb and started pedaling up the street. I was beginning to think I might not get started at all today. With the exception of my trip to Richmond a couple of weeks ago I haven't traveled much in the last couple of years, but I never remember having such a problem tying up whatever it is that I seem to think are essential loose ends and just getting my butt out the door. And I worked on loose ends all day yesterday as well!

I gotta tell you I was in a weird mood riding up the street this morning. A feeling that wasn't quite depression, or loneliness, or melancholy but similar. I had the feeling while riding along familiar streets that I was only visiting here after being away for a long time. Sort of alien, disassociated. Of course racing around doing chores for a day and a half combined with not eating anything all day I'm sure had a lot to do with it. I rode down the street to Subway and wolfed down a foot-long then stopped in the grocery store next door for bananas before finally setting off, at nearly 3 pm now, and finally getting started.

I took took the same exact route to Fredericksburg that I took on the first day of the Richmond trip. Down Dumfries Road to US Route 1, Route 1 through Dumfries and Triangle to Quantico Marine Corps Base, then down through Garrisonville and finally linking up with the Adventure Cycling's Tidewater Potomac route on Map 3, just about where 651 meets 628. I've got the route mapped at and I take it because being retired military I can get on and off of Quantico fairly easily and it cuts about 15 miles off the alternative, which is to go west along Dumfries Road (Route 234) and pick up the route at Independent Hill, where it intersects with Hoadley Road.

It was a nice day to bike. The weather was warm and humid with a nice breeze and huge clouds that blocked the sun most of the day, but no rain. The ride through Quantico and down to Fredericksburg was very nice, scenic and except for a few busy spots, very low traffic and enjoyable. My favorite spot was just north of Fredericksburg. A mile or two after turning right onto Potomac Run Road (CCW directions on Map 3) at the bottom of a rather long downhill run there is a swamp (bog? partially-submerged foresty area?) off on the right (west) side of the road. I've ridden past this spot three times now and two of the three times was treated to the sight of great blue herons, and what look to be smaller white herons (I have no idea really what kind they are...just a guess) taking off and flying back into the woods (do they see me coming?). I didn't get good pictures but the swamp is just very lush and green and interesting looking. I've got a picture below.

My weird mood didn't really break until a couple of hours into the ride, shortly after taking a banana break (hmm, bananas as mood boosters? I'm not normally a big banana consumer, but am following the advice of my fabuous, beautiful and very smart girlfriend Pattye who told me I should be eating bananas and dried apricots). Within the space of a few minutes, pedaling the bike started feeling less like "one more chore" I was getting out of the way and more like fun! I was worried about fatigue setting in (I'm not in really great shape and maybe logged 20 miles on the bike in the last 10 days) but I just kept feeling stronger all afternoon until I finally pulled into the motel just before dark.

Dumfries Town Hall

Along Ramoth Church Road (Rt. 628)

Rt. 628 at US Route 1

The Swamp on Potomac Run Road

Tree Canopy north of Fredericksburg

Bike Friendly Fredericksburg

Ride Details

I wanted to pass on a few notes to my fellow Tidewater Potomac cyclists that may or may not be much value.

Map 2 is my neck of the woods and I'm happy to field questions from anyone interested in cycling in this area.

Where Hoadley Road meets Dumfries Road (Route 234) is a big grocery store, a Subway and other sandwich shops, a hardware store and a bank. This is a great place to stock up or take a break because there isn't much else in the way of services between here and Fredericksburg.

Hoadley Road is a high-speed four-lane road with a lot of traffic and (thank goodness) a nice wide shoulder along most of its length. Sadly, a 13 year old was struck and killed here recently, so you're right to be cautious. Most of the route between Independent Hill and Fredericksburg is semi-rural two lane roads with relatively light traffic. There are a few small hills, and a lot of wooded area and shade. There are a lot of places along the route where the trees grow close to the road and their branches join overhead. Very scenic and good shade.

45 Miles

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Day 8 - The Ride Home

66 Miles The Route

Slept in late then got up, posted the blog, and generally took a very long time to get under way this morning. When I finally hit the road the body was just sluggish and lazy. It got better the further I went.

Because of my little detour last night I'd abandoned my plan to try and explicitly map out US Bike Route 1. I gave up totally when, having picked up the trail, I lost it again at an unmarked intersection and went about two miles out of my way (four miles round trip). Since the route is unpublished, it MUST have accurate signs. I didn't want to be repeating that all day long, so I reverted back to the route I'd used to come down.

The weather was perfect and the scenery was fantastic (well, except for on-again, off-again headwinds). I made several brief stops on the way back (succumbing to my general lethargy) and it was dark before I finally rolled up to my front door with slowly deflating front tire.

My mileage today, 66 miles was a one-day personal best. Hopefully I can get back to this level quickly when I go on vacation at the end of August.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Day 7 - Wrapping Up

62 Miles The Route

Our offsite wrapped up today with presentations from all the division chiefs on what their division did and introducing (now?) their teams. We were done by 10 am. The Austin crew took off for the airport and the rest of us were invited to attend an optional conversation with Rich and Joe. I don't think anyone took them up on the optional session because as I was headed out the front door with my bike, Rich was checking out and Joe was headed out to his car.

My plan was to follow Bike Route 1 back. I rode down to Canal and 2nd, which was certainly where Bike Route 1 southbound picked up, but it wasn't at all clear that that's where the northbound side picked up. I could have backtracked southbound for a ways then picked up the signs for the northbound, but being far too lazy for that I decided to simply retrace my ride from Monday until I picked up the northbound route. A couple of miles later I picked up the route and was happily pedaling my way back into the countryside.

The weather was great except for an on-again, off-again headwind (which wasn't too back except a few times when it got rather strong). I stopped in Ashland for spaghetti and meatballs and fill up the water bottles. US Bike Route 1 and Route 76 parallel for a ways in Ashland, which was interesting.

After Ashland, nothing but farmland, rural homes and trains. I was glad I packed extra water, or I would have had to resort to knocking on doors asking homeowners for water. There were no convenience stores, general stores, gas stations, hotels, motels, etc. I was hoping to find a motel as I got back close to the the "other" Route 1 and I-95, but there was nothing, and I knew there wasn't going to be anything else along the route until I got to Fredericksburg some 20 miles further up the road. So when the odometer hit 50 miles and the clock went past 6 pm I decided I'd better break off from the route and look for accomodations.

I rode back to Route 1 and headed north. I thought that sooner or later I'd hit a crossroad that would have access to I-95 and would stand a better chance of finding a motel.

Now I know you're thinking, why didn't I just look up a hotel in advance. I should have done more research, but I wasn't sure where the Bike Route 1 went exactly and I figured that surely I would have run across some small town somewhere along the route. Shouldn't assume!

Anyway, about 10 miles up Route 1 I hit civilization, a large strip mall with a Food Lion and, just down the road to I-95 a Quality Inn hidden behind several fast food establishments and a couple of gas stations. My milage as I rode up to the motel was 60.9...pretty remarkable as my goal for today had been to do more than 60.

I got a room, dropped my gear then rode back to the strip mall for carbonated water and Chinese, then slept 10 hours.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Day 6 - Presentations (Riverside Ride)

17 Miles The Route

The teams presented our customer service and business process improvement suggestions this morning, followed by Jon Wooditch giving an interesting presentation of the history of 53, highlighting the idea that we're constantly changing. Someone passed me a note with something like "translation: stop complaining about BPD".

I think all of the presentations referenced the SharePoint in some way. I think I heard both yesterday and today a universal desire to have a service directory of some kind on the portal, which is great. I've been thinking about how best to start that. We of course started the OIG Services directory some time ago, but I think we need something more structured. I should have plenty of time to think about it on the way home...tomorrow.

Several presentations from IT which were good but got way too technical for most everyone and I think left more people confused than enlightened. Not the speakers' fault...just impossible subject matter.

This afternoon was diversity which was very interesting. Diversity is no longer just about achieving racial integration in the workplace. It's all about integrating differences in culture, education, background, age, experience, etc. They played a very interesting video that made the business case for diversity, drew parallels from nature and presented success stories. Very good presentation.

Concluded the day with a video montage on VA wheel chair olympics which was very moving and really helped put a face on who we're ultimately working for.

I picked up my laundry today and was stunned at the price. $15 for wash & fold for two polo shirts, one pair of shorts, one pair of trousers and two briefs. I could have gotten that done at the hotel for about $20.

I've decided to bike back on the US 1 bike route. Part of my ride down turned out to be on the US 1 bike route, so I'll be going back over some of the same ground. I'm going to try to define the route and put it up in because I'm having a hard time finding out what the actual route is.

For today's ride I decided to take the US 1 bike route south and see what it looked like and maybe try to put it into as well. Turns out to be a very scenic ride. Pictures follow.