Day 9: A wonderful (and eery) ride around D.C.

After breakfast Chuck rode with me down to the bike shop to have them look at my wheel. It felt OK to me, but with the load and the rough, muddy C&O Canal Towpath coming up I wanted to check the tension in the spokes with a tension meter. I need those wheels in tip-top for the almost 300 miles of trail and thousands of miles of road beyond them.

The guys at The Bike Rack threw my bike in the stand and took a look, checking the spokes with my favorite bike tool, the Park Tool spoke tension meter. They checked every spoke and told me they wouldn’t adjust a thing on it if it were theirs. All the spokes were at high tension and the tension was balanced among them (if either were off it would make for a weak wheel and a far higher likelihood of a broken spoke down the line). It made me feel good about the wheels I built and my feel for fixing them on the fly when I don’t have shop tools within reach. The guys lubed my chain, shook my hand, and wished me a good trip for no charge. Another really great shop I’ve encountered.

I headed out of the shop and onto the  Metropolitan Branch Trail, which would send me right to Union Station from Chuck’s place. 

I was thoroughly impressed with the trail which took me a few short miles right to Union Station. It was well kept, well used, and with an accessibility element I don’t think can be beat. The trail functions basically as a freeway for cyclists right to the heart of the city. 

After a couple miles I got my first view of the Capitol Building:

I exited the trail  to make my way to the National Mall where I got to experience even more of DC’s excellent bicycle infrastructure.

I saws an interesting van on my way to the National Mall…

I couldn’t help but think how great it was that this is a country where a van like that could be parked so close to the home of the president. I think the city’s propaganda is starting to work on me…

It was a wonderful experience riding through the very place where so much history has played out.

I thought to stop in some of the Smithsonian museums, but I’m saving them for tomorrow as good places to stop during the downpour of an inch of rain the Capitol is set to endure. I did stay long enough to solicit a friendly Spanish couple for a picture in front of the building that the federal government operates out of… Or is supposed to at least.

After the photo I sat on a bench to overanalyze what it means to be an American on the journey I just started a week ago, traveling the country this city administers. I’m not especially patriotic, but I did feel a slight tug on my American heartstrings a bit. The cynic in me says that is exactly what this city was designed for. Another says in a lot of respects I’m incredibly fortunate to be an American in this troubled world, and to be on the American quest I’m on. 

But the cornball feels were only on the increase as I made my way to the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial.

 While I would love to visit them all, this memorial was particularly important to me. I had never seen it in any previous trip to DC, and in my mind no one has done more to advance the American ideal than Dr. King. It was clogged with photo-hungry tourists, but the palpability of their satisfaction at being there was a bit endearing.

 I was particularly moved reading Dr. King’s words along the wall surrounding his sculpture:

And then it was back on the bike around the Lincoln Memorial again, and I was very happy to see all the bikes of a tour group who was taking a moment to enjoy the memorial. It’s the best way to see a city, and I figure bicycle tour groups will get more people on bikes whenever they go home from DC. So yay for bike tours…on National Ride Your Bike to Work Day. 

I headed around the Mall again and saw this guy before my next stop at the hostel on 11th Street.

 Chuck has mercifully saved me from another couple nights in a hostel, but I had to pick up my ukulele that was shipped there. I strapped it down and headed back to Chuck’s.

 We got ready for him to ride off to work and for me to tag behind on my way to the National Arboretum.

I didn’t know what to expect from the arboretum. I’ve never been much of a plant guy, but Chuck said it would be worth it, it was free, and close to Chuck’s work for a beer after the ride.

The Arboretum turn out to be the best part of the day. Such a beautiful, peaceful place. I downshifted into a super light gear and spun my tired legs out while rolling through the park at a snail’s pace to soak it all in. 

As I pedaled along, I looked to my left and saw this:

Turns out these are columns from the Capitol Building and removed in 1958 when the east side of the building was being extended, and were moved to the Arboretum in the 1980s.

I then headed over to the Bonzai collection. 

It was such a delight looking at the incredible plants. I had never expected to see so many Bonzai trees in one place, and they were massive (as far as Bonzai go). I couldn’t help but keep snapping pictures.

See what I mean? Incredible. But this next one takes the cake:

And it has quite a story:

Just as I was leaving the Bonzai museum a huge snake decided to cut me off:

And then I found out about the shooting at the White House. It shook me up, as I had just been by there earlier in the day. I couldn’t help but think of all the visitors who would be scared out of their minds. I felt very fortunate to have been in such a beautiful, peaceful place instead of around that trouble across town. 

I rode around a bit more, making my way to the fern garden…

…before heading back up New York Avenue to Atlas Brew Works to end my riding day. 

I like the chainring accents to the sign. It’s a bike friendly brewery. I tried everything on tap, and Disrict Common was my favorite of the day, but they were all great.

I grabbed a quick bite to eat then made it back to Chuck’s place, and fell asleep in short order. It was a day off the road, but I still probably rode around 30 miles yesterday, maybe more.

The plan was to start the C&O Canal today, but I have been strongly advised against it on multiple fronts. The rain is supposed to be heavy, and the towpath is already going to be muddy making for what would be a miserable slog northeast. It was Chuck’s idea for me to wait a day, so I know I’m not imposing, plus it gives me a day to take advantage of free stuff in DC. I’m borrowing a metro card and the Smithsonians are free, so I’ll head over there. I have one day of wiggle room without needing to alter my schedule to get to Boulder on time, so I’m going to take it now. The rain is bad enough that I think it’s necessary. Chuck has done the C&O/GAP trails before and has told me the GAP can be done in two days, so I may get it back. But either way I’m grateful to take the day off the bike, as I’m not going to ride today at all. My butt and legs need a day off, because they’re definitely going to be put through the ringer in the 5 or 6 days off-road it will take to make it to Pittsburgh. 


2 thoughts on “Day 9: A wonderful (and eery) ride around D.C.

  1. Jeff! Glad to see you are doing so well. Love all the pictures! We hope you are having a great time and are being safe. You are in our thoughts. Look forward to reading more on your blog!
    Love Mallory and Missy from US BANK!


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