I met my friend Charmaine one year on the 50 States Ride. This is an event put on by the Washington Area Bicyclists Association. The ride is 65 miles, 500 cyclists, 7 pages of directions, innumerable stop signs and stop lights, car traffic, 4 rest stops, and many, many, many hills. The idea is to cover all 8 wards of the city and ride on every road named after a state. (Please don’t make Puerto Rico a state. Please!)
|Crossing Calvert Street at Sunrise|
Charmaine has a rule: she only does an event once. I have no rules, and far less common sense. This year was my fifth 50 States Ride. (One year, I missed Vermont Avenue somehow, hence the 249 States in the title.)
|Lisa (R) is all smiles|
This year I teamed up with members of the Friday Coffee Club, a group of caffeinated, two-wheeled, bi-pedal, bike commuters whom I have come to know over the past year. Many of these desperadoes also blog. (DC bike commuters are blogaholics.) Our cast of characters began with Lisa, Ed, Mary, John, Kevin, and my non-blogging friend Jeff. Jeff and I have done several rides together. (Which may mean that Jeff has less common sense than I.) Just a minute before we left, Justin and his wife Katherine showed up.
|Mary and Ed before the Start|
|This May Take a While|
While waiting for the festivities to begin, we chatted and took pictures. Lisa even participated in a group yoga session. These folks were all kinds of flexible, but the ride would soon fix that.
At 9 a.m. we were led en masse down a long windy path to the side of Calvert Street where we waited patiently for the walk signal to cross the street and begin our journey to Wyoming. Once underway, in no time (about 3 blocks) I became separated from my peeps and was assimilated into a borg-like cluster of cyclists led by Dolores, a volunteer course marshall. Dolores, a blonde haired black woman had been trained by WABA in the mysterious art of following the cue sheet from hell. She had the perfect attitude to lead a group through spirals of city streets to pick off state after state, which is to say, she is a hot ticket. We had a great time riding through downtown DC, laughing all the way. Somewhere behind me my peeps were assimilated into their own rolling borg. Ed and Mary, who routinely skip the streets they ride every week, went hunting for coffee. They would re-appear between cups.
|My Peeps Are Back There Somewhere|
|Ed and Mary (across intersection) Seeking Espresso|
At one point on Capitol Hill I lost track of Dolores. My new bike borg was led by two rather serious, silver haired, white male marshalls who promptly managed to screw up Washington Avenue at the base of Capitol Hill.(Note to WABA: clone Dolores!) Back on track the two old dudes guided us down the left lane of Independence Avenue for a half mile with buses passing us on our right. I ride in the city all the time and found this to be – let me use a technical term – INSANE!
|A Little Crowded at the Intersections|
We turned up toward L’Enfant Plaza and I split off from the group to use a rest room. After returning to the course, I rode down the side path on the Case Bridge. This runs above the Washington Channel alongside I 395. At the base of the bridge was another cluster of literacy challenged cyclists. They were executing a switchback turn instead of going straight. NOT ON THE CUE SHEET!!!! I reached Buckeye Drive, our next turn, and there was Dolores. “They turned, didn’t they?” she said with a laugh. (They figured out their error without too much trouble.)
|On Case Bridge over Washington Channel|
|Justin and Kevin on Ohio Drive|
A couple of turns later I was on Ohio Drive along the Potomac and joined up with Justin, Katherine and Kevin. We got to talking and missed a turn but recovered without much trouble. We soony crossed the Anacostia River where we made it to the Anacostia Park rest stop. Ed and Mary, by now sufficiently fortified with caffeine, were there to greet us.
|Kevin at Anacostia Park Rest Stop|
Our reassembled team headed out to conquer the hills of Anacostia. Mississippi, Alabama, Texas, Massachusetts and Minnesota were going to be painful. As we climbed the bumpy hill on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, a Metro bus driver pulled up behind us and started honking his horn at us. This went on for several blocks, and it made us all wonder how this idiot has managed not to get fired.
|Little Bike Leads the Way|
While our bus affair was going on, Lisa was making like Claudio Chiapucci. She flew up the hill. Um, Lisa, I meant to tell you that this is the first of three. About a mile later, Ed and Mary led us up Alabama Avenue, or, as it’s know to local cyclists, the Hillary Step. Ed and Mary climb like goats. I climb like a manatee. Somehow we all came together at the top. Ed was breathing normally. I could have used supplemental oxygen. A woman in a parked car gave us enthusiastic high fives as we rode past. While I was suffering on the incline, I did make note of all the new houses and a spiffy new library we were passing. Nice to see that Anacostia is growing.
|Lisa just before the Hills Begin|
I took over at the summit to lead us through the tricky Texas Street section. Texas is a short side street in a dead end neighborhood. Here, new construction of another sort reared its head. Speed humps! Every 100 yards a speed hump spanned the road. Pedal. Wham. Pedal Wham. All I could think of was why would anyone speed on these dinky side streets. They don’t go anywhere!!!! Later in the ride we were treated to brand new rumble strips. What joy.
|Somewhere on Alabama Ave (Dolores on Far Right)|
After we got humped, we cruised through the silken roads of Fort Dupont Park and were soon zooming down Mass Ave toward the Anacostia River. What bliss after all that climbing.
|The New Anacostia Trail Bridge Looks Spiffy|
Soon we were back on Capitol Hill and eating burritos at the lunch stop, where we met up with Rachel and Laura, two Coffee Clubbers. Rachel was working the event for WABA and Laura was casually riding around town and decided to pat us on the sweaty back for moral support.
|Rachel Doing Her Paparazza Thing at Lunch|
The burrito was tasty but not exactly what you want slogging around in your stomach during a bike ride. After lunch I headed out with Jeff, Jeff’s friend Erica, and Lisa to conquer the second half. The constant tweaking of riding partners is normal for the 50 States Ride. After twisting and turning we hit Montana and Hawaii Avenues. Steep, bumpy and hard were they. There is no try, only climb.
The northeast and central northwest parts of the city is where the ride opens up a bit. The streets are less inviting (particularly South Dakota Avenue). The turns seem less frequent; speeds increase. Idaho stops become the rule. Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Arkansas, Georgia all fall by the wayside. We picked up Ann, a young woman rider on a Trek 520 touring bike. As we were riding, the temperature gauge on my bike computer passed 90 degrees. My water bottles were emptying. This ride was getting serious.
Somewhere in this blur of heat and hills, we found a rest stop at a house owned by friends of Mary and Ed. I seriously needed some water and they had it in abundance. Perfect. At this point Lisa headed for home. She (and Jeff and I) were doing a ride the next morning so she wanted to leave something in her tank for that ride.
After resuming, Jeff and I nearly missed a turn. We were distracted by a tall woman with legs up to there walking down the side walk. This was decidedly not a glamorous part of town. She stuck our like Manute Bol at a Munchkin reunion. A rider behind us called to us and we made the turn to stay on course.
Soon after that I nearly missed a turn up near Silver Spring. No Manute, just fatigue. Dolores reappeared. Just what I needed. I followed her up a long hill. Down Alaska we sped toward 16th Street. We flew into Rock Creek Park which was shady and much cooler. What goes down definitely goes up, however, and we were out the other side of the park and climbing again.
A little boy ran up Beech Street and said “LEMONADE! NAME YOUR PRICE!” We couldn’t refuse his offer. Cold. Wet. Sweet. Chug. Ahhh!
Fortified we wound our way through Chevy Chase, Tenleytown and AU Park. When we reached the AU rest stop, we could see clouds building. We made our stop a short one. Nebraska sloped down to a left on Arizona. The downhill route continued, but in short order we took an abrupt left and began a steep, bumpy climb back to AU. With legs of lead, we sucked it up and carried on. About 20 minutes later we had mastered our last three states, New Mexico, Idaho and Connecticut.
|Ann and Jeff at Calvert and Connecticut|
We returned to the park which had been long abandoned in favor of an after party at the Mellow Mushroom pizza place in Adams Morgan. We pedalled over to the party where we met up with Ryan, whom I had met a few days before at a Bike Arlington happy hour. Rachel was there still working. Laura showed up. Ed. Mary. Justin. Katherine. John. And many, many others.
|Calvert Street 1/2 Mile from the Finish|
We had made an honest effort. We had earned our refreshment and our t-shirts.
Cheers, mates. On to the next ride. Up before the sun at 5 for the drive to Berryville.
Additional pix can be found on my Flickr page here.