Fifty States Ride IV: The Reunion Ride

The Fifty States Ride takes place each year in Washington, D.C.  The idea is to ride on each of the streets named for the fifty states.  The 65-mile course is designed to cover the entire city.  If you want to know what DC really looks like, this ride is for you. The streets are open to auto traffic so it is just you, your wits and a cue sheet against the topography of our nation’s capital.  Did I mention DC is hilly?  Yeah buddy!  Is it ever! What makes the ride especially challenging is the fact that at the bottom of nearly every hill is a stop sign or a traffic light.  No hill hopping here.  This is why I call this ride the Hell of the Mid Atlantic.  Originally, the ride was held in August which meant 90+ degree temperatures. Apparently this was too much fun so they moved it to September when the humidity is only slightly uncomfortable.

Spending so much time at a standstill makes this an incredibly social ride. Riders strike up friendships throughout the course.  The residents of DC, often accused of hostility toward cyclists, offer encouragement, course corrections, and sometimes food and water to the riders.  Who says this city has no heart?

After last year’s ride, I decided to retire from the Hell of the Mid Atlantic.  Three times is plenty. It’s too hard. I’m too old. Then came Florencia. I met Flor on my first ride five years ago.  She seemed to float up the hills and, despite truly  oppressive heat and humidity, she didn’t seem to break a sweat.  It was so gross out that at least one rider decided to take a dip in Rock Creek, which can’t be the cleanest urban waterway in the world.

Florencia, our social director

Using Facebook, Flor put out the call to her 2,642 personal friends for riders to join her for this year’s ride.  Jeff, who I met through Shane who rode with Flor and me way back in 2007, signed up first.  Then another Jeff who I didn’t know. Then Richard. And Veronica. Finally, my friend Paul, who also rode with us in 2006 joined in. Veronica’s friend Amy came too. The Florbook Seven was formed. Our social director was pleased with herself.

Wipe that smile off your face, Paul.
Richard, Florencia, Jeff, Amy, Paul and Veronica with my Sequoia in the foreground

At the start I saw Lisa, a rider from work. And Mary whom I met last year. And her husband Ed.  (Two nights earlier I attended an Elbow concert at the 930 Club in DC only to find myself standing next to Mary and Ed. Small world.)  Mary also blogs and we both post pictures on Flickr.  You can check out her blog entry on the Fifty States Ride here.

Mary and Ed went off with some of their friends. And Lisa with hers. The Florbook Seven set out together alone.

Lining up for the start

The ride corkscrews its way around downtown and Capitol Hill for what seems like forever.  The riders pick off a dozen or so states as they follow their cue sheets, hoping not to make a wrong turn.  Speeds are slow and talk flows.  At this point I took lots of pictures knowing full well that the hills are not too far away.

Florencia and Veronica, with Paul, in yellow, behind
This guy hauled a music wagon with his massive bicycle.
On Corcoran Street
Florencia and Jeff
Downtown
Richard and Jeff at a stop light

And so we rode, and stopped, and rode, and stopped.  Eventually we passed the White House along a car-free section of Pennsylvania Avenue.

Paul near the White House
Richard near the White House
Florencia and her cue sheet – all 9 pages of it
Florencia and Jeff

Occasionally, we fanned out on the route. Along Pennsylvania Avenue, I opened up a sizable gap so I waited for the crew to catch up near the Archives.

My peeps pass the Archives on Pennsylvania Avenue

Somewhere along this section Veronica confessed a misconception.  When she signed up, she thought it was a 50-mile ride.  Her longest previous ride had been 40 miles. She didn’t look too pleased, but I assured her that we’d get her through to the end. She seemed like a pretty determined rider, the weather was good, and we were riding at a pretty casual pace so she seemed confident that she’d make it.

We made our way out of downtown and across the Anacostia River to scenic Anacostia. That’s sarcasm, folks.  Anacostia is poverty stricken and the riding here is hilly.  Up Martin Luther King Boulevard. Down Alabama Avenue. Up Stanton Road, Mississippi Avenue, and more of Alabama.  The crew stopped for a breather but I pedaled on slowly not wanting to stiffen up.  They caught up to me at a light about a mile later, all remarking on that last monster hill. Payback came on Massachusetts Avenue as we all glided at thirty miles per hour back toward the river.

We cruised through Capitol Hill and stopped at Eastern Market, near the half way point.  Here Flor and Paul re-enacted some pictures I took five years ago. Somehow the only pictures I have of Flor from that ride are of her eating.  She offered Paul some tasty looking chocolate, which was actually soap. Paul was tempted.

Florencia eating – Are Powerbars food?
Florencia tries to poison Paul

After eating at Eastern Market, Florencia and Amy decided to head home. This is not entirely surprising since we had already been riding for four hours. The rest of us, devoid of real lives, decided to continue on. We were joined by Tito who had been riding alone.  Poor Tito was lonely. Now we were Veronica and Her Boys.

Tito
Richard

After Eastern Market the course opens up quite a bit and the pace improves. We took turns leading the group. Richard the Young rode like a colt.  He was such a strong rider that he seemed to be constantly riding past turns. He came back to us time and again. No worries.

Since I was a three-time veteran, I led during some of the more confusing sections.  Mostly I hoped the group would follow when I surged ahead to get some momentum for a hill coming up.  Lucky for me, my legs seemed to get stronger as the ride went on.

Veronica and Paul watch Jeff checking his tube.

Jeff had our second flat of the ride (Amy had one in the morning).  He tried to find the cause but gave up and re-installed the suspect tube. Fearing that he’d flat again and delay us, he rode on ahead alone. Jeff, the noble one.

Paul, Tito and Richard contemplate the universe.

Well past the forty mile mark, Veronica seemed to have no problem with the hills.  I took a shot of her over my shoulder. For somebody who expected to be miserable, she sure looks like she was having a good time.  Maybe it was the fact that the cue sheets were running out.

We escorted our fair lady through the far northern section of the city and down into Rock Creek Park.  In Chevy Chase, Richard stopped to ask a woman on her front lawn for some water.  Without hesitation they agreed.  Then they asked the rest of us if we wanted some too.  Nice people.

The last rest stop was at American University.  After that would come the dreaded Arizona Avenue hill, steep, bumpy, and long.  Veronica steeled herself for the challenge while Tito called his next of kin.

Veronica with Jeff at AU.  No worries.
Tito on his smart phone.

I am proud to report that Veronica and her boys passed the Arizona Avenue challenge unscathed. I managed to make a wrong turn a few miles later but corrected my error so that we might enjoy the thrill of riding on Idaho Avenue.

About 15 minutes later we arrived back where we started at Kalorama Park. We crowded into The Grill from Ipanema across the street and commenced celebrating. The boys were proud of their Lady.  Richard seemed utterly unphased.  We toasted our triumph with cold beer and ate some pretty darn awesome Brazilian food.

Cheers!
Rookies no more!
Brazilian munchies
Good food. Great ride. New friends.
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