Saturday, February 18, 2017

Doughnut Ride

I don’t participate in a lot of organized bike rides because most of them are too darn long and fast. Plus, if you want to know a secret, I’m not that jazzed about riding for the sake of riding. However, I do like the “social” rides, which are more about fun than miles. Last weekend I went on a Doughnut Ride, organized as part of Freezing Saddles.

I will say this about the bike community – they’re much better about organizing events around food (and drink) than the paddling community. Despite the oft-quoted (and stupid, IMHO) slogan of “we paddle to eat”, in fact, most of my kayaking meals are at the level of canned tuna eaten sitting on a driftwood log on a muddy beach. I guess the water vs. land thing is the root of it - it’s easy to organize bike rides around restaurants. In contrast, many of my kayak trips start and end at desolate boat ramps miles from any food except for maybe a creepy general store staffed by an extra from Deliverance, and there aren’t many brew pubs to visit in the middle of the Chesapeake Bay.

The ride started in Bethesda, so I had to do a pre-ride ride. I rode into Rosslyn on the Custis, then over into Georgetown. As I passed the former Jack’s Boathouse I felt melancholia for paddling days gone by. I stopped to use a Porta-potty by Potomac Boat Club and let me say: I have camped at some nasty campgrounds and visited many a neglected boat ramp – but never have I seen a Porta-john like that. ‘Nuff said.  As I climbed the continuous uphill grade of the CCT at Jesse speed (that means slowly) a couple of people I recognized whizzed by me. On my “To Do” list – get faster! As I got into Bethesda a woman, seeing my Freezing Saddles hang-tag, called out to me and we rode the last couple of blocks to the meeting place together. 

At the Start

The group met at 202 Donuts in Bethesda. In the online discussion before the ride people realized that with six stops this trip was going to offer the opportunity to eat more donuts than anyone (except maybe Homer Simpson) was going to be able to handle, so we agreed to share. At Bethesda I got a taste of someone’s basic vanilla frosted donut, and it was generally agreed that this was a pretty poor product, to the extent that there was debate over whether it was better or worse than packaged donuts.

The group next headed into Georgetown - right back where I had come from. The Cap Crescent Trail is straight downhill in this direction – a pleasure! We stopped at District Doughnut at Cady's Alley, where I got a maple pecan doughnut and a cup of coffee. This was a distinct improvement over 202, but still nothing to write home about.
At District

Next we crossed Key Bridge and took a rather circuitous and confused route (including some backtracking) down to Sugar Shack on Columbia Pike in Arlington. This place, in my opinion, offered the best doughnut of the day. I bought a blueberry cake donut and went beyond taking a taste - I ate half of it. I texted home at that point and Valerie asked me to pick up a doughnut for her, which I did. I had been peeling off layers as I rode and was low on storage space – I wound up carrying the doughnuts in one of my water bottle cages.

The group was continuing on to additional stops as Astro in DC and then two more stops in Maryland, but I was out of time and close to home, so I said goodbye to the group and headed home.

Calories consumed might have exceed calories burned, but it was fun!

Saturday, February 4, 2017

A Successful Frederick Ride

I've got a problem right now in that my home and my office are separated by fifty traffic-clogged miles of highway. Fortunately I don't have to go to my office every day, but on the days when I do I try to avoid coming home during rush hour, because it adds half an hour and a lot of stress to the ride. Some days I've just worked late. Others I've run on the track at Ft. Detrick (I find running on a track really boring). Unfortunately we're not allowed to use the gym on post (I even tried to scam my way in once - to no avail).

One idea with which I've been experimenting is bike riding - however my initial experiments weren't too successful. Actually, my first ride (in the morning, before work) wasn't bad. I started right near Ft. Detrick and rode out from there, past the EPA Superfund site of Area B and up toward Gambrills State Park. I had mapped out a loop ride. The problem is that I was riding my junker bike and the route turned out to be longer and much more vertical than I expected. After five miles of non-stop climbing I turned around at the wonderfully named Akers Acres and zipped back down. Still, the ride has potential. I will try it again with a better bike and with more time.

My second ride was in the morning as well and I didn't actually get much riding in. The route turned out to be further off the beaten track than I expected, and so I lost fifteen minutes getting there. Then, I had planned to park at a nature preserve but it turned out the parking lot was gated and locked. This led to more wasted time as I drove around looking for a place to park. I wound up parking in front of a church on Main Street in the small town of Jefferson, MD (Maryland apparently doesn't have any "local sons" to be proud of and so names their towns after ours). Once again I had a loop ride planned out but being short on time and parked in a different place than planned (plus it started drizlling) I just wound up doing a short out-and-back ride. Pretty scenery, though - I could see going back there.

Crossing a stream on ride #2

The days are starting to get a little bit longer, which means that if I shift my hours early and leave at 4 PM (which would have been unthinkable at my previous job but is perfectly normal at my new job) I can get some riding time in after work. I mapped out another loop, this one from the Urbana, MD Park-and-Ride lot. The beauty of this location is that, unlike the other two, it's on the way home - when I get to Urbana I've already knocekd off the first 15 minutes or so of my drive home.

I figured that I had about one hour of riding time before the end of civil twilight (that's the time after sunset when it's still light enough to do activities without artificial light). Again, I had mapped out a loop to do. I really need to get some way to do turn-by-turn directions, via a phone app or via a bike GPS. My method for now is to create the route on Google Maps but mostly use a hand-written cue sheet ("go 2 miles then turn right onto Dr. Perry Road") for directions, occasionally checking my position on the phone against the route on Google maps. 

I parked the car and hopped onto my bike. As expected, the first little bit, on a fairly busy road, was a little nerve-wracking. Mindful of a recent bicycle fatality just a few miles away I had my high visibility jacket and blinkie lights on. After a mile or so I turned onto a smaller road and from there on out traffic wasn't much of an issue. I rode down Roderick Road until it dead-ended at a creek. From there I took Peters Road and Thurston Road, which follow the creek.This part got pretty rural feeling - the road was even gravel for a bit in the back part of the ride. I got to enjoy a pretty sunset as I rode past farms and countryside.

I rode past a field with six grazing deer. All six took notice of me, following me with their heads as I rode past.   

At this point the light was starting to fade a little bit and I stopped to switch on an additional blinkie and switched my headlight from blinking to steady on. A left turn took me onto Dr. Perry Road, where I came across some magnificent homes and then a golf course. This was not exactly the rustic back country, but was still quite pleasant. 

From there I turned north onto Dixon Road, which began my return to the parking lot. I was starting to get a little nervous at this point about the fading light, but figured I still would just about make it. Dixon is another nice quiet country road and includes a bridge over another creek. Dixon runs back into Thurston, and from there it was a quick jaunt back to the parking lot - and I made it before the light was completely gone. 

Just about ten miles, with some gravel roads and some nice but not crazy hills. This route is definitely a keeper!