To Dulles with Randos

Mike is a randonneur, a cyclist who rides appalling long distances on cans of Coke. Mike is loquacious. Mike is to talk as a hungry fat man is to chips and queso. Mike also likes airplanes, the bigger the better. And for some reason, Mike is hell bent on cycling me to death.

Mike invited me to join him and some other cyclists of the randoneuring persuasion for a ride out to the Air and Space museum at Dulles airport.

The weather was perfect: 70 degrees, light winds, puffy white clouds on a background of blue, blue sky. Mike and his wife Lisa left their home in Tacoma Park in DC (pretty much at the northernmost corner of the city). They were riding a DaVinci tandem.  This particular tandem has an interesting feature: the stoker (rider in the back) pedals completely independently of the captain (the rider doing the steering in the front). Ed and Mary were riding their gray Co-Motion tandem with synchronized pedalling. Lane was riding a single bike, blue and of indeterminant ethnicity and vintage. It had a little plastic spaceman zip tied to one of its seat stays and a little plastic rocket facing aft, zip tied to the rear fender. He’s either a Bill Lee fan or works in the aerospace industry.

Now one thing I should mention about these five folks is that they ride everywhere and NEVER get tired!  Mike knows every back road from Charlottes to Canajoharie. They also ride fast even when they aren’t trying.

Since I am not similarly indefatigable and expeditious, I left my house in Mount Vernon VA about 30 minutes before they headed out. I spent the first hour or so dodging runners on the Mount Vernon trail. They were out in great abundance because the weather was perfect for running and their fall marathons are only a few weeks away. After a while I started thinking of them as moving bollards.

At National Airport I hung a left and followed Four Mile Run to Shirlington where I picked up the W&OD trail. I had planned to meet the randos at the intersection of the Custis trail and the W&OD in eastern Arlington County. The randos had stopped for coffee in Arlington. Caffeine is to randos as the blood of virgins is to vampires.

In short order they appeared and stopped to allow Lisa the first of her 453 wardrobe changes. Leg warmers, arm warmers, long fingered gloves, and jacket went on and off throughout the day, more often than not while we were moving.

Once we were underway I could tell we’d be riding fast, because my speedometer had 17, then 18, then 19 displayed. These are numbers that I, the 12-mile-per-hour commuter, makes rare use of. Not that I was having trouble keeping up. The Mule was cruising along and I was not breathing hard at all. It probably didn’t hurt that I was often in the slipstream of a tandem or two.

Up the W&OD we went to Vienna VA where we stopped at Cafe Amore for rando blood. I was disappointed that Dean Martin was not singing “When the moon hits your eye, like a big pizza pie, “ when we rolled in. After a wardrobe change, we were back on the bikes. After about five miles of trail, Mike took us off the trail and onto the roads of Reston. The first quarter mile was a bit of a shock, being that we had to climb a rather steep hill, but the remainder of the ride through McMansion heaven was on rolling roads with little traffic. Here I learned that you don’t want to be in front of a tandem on the crest of a hill. They go downhill like Big Nellie with a fairing. Voom.

After a few wrong turns (Mike knows the roads but sometimes doesn’t speak their language), we found ourselves blasting down narrow bike paths between neighborhoods. How Mile knew about these trails of certain death is beyond me. We managed to survive and inexplicably popped out a couple of miles east of the museum where we stopped at a strip mall for food and blood.

I tried a Slim Jim type food-type product. I don’t think it is coincidental that the diameter of said Slim Jim is about the same as the diameter of my carotid artery – at least before I ate it that is.

While we were dining on the sidewalk of strip mall, we heard a roar. We had thought we were too late for the arrival of the enormous new Airbus Stratohippo, a two decker jumbo jet. Alas, by the time we spotted it, it had already flown behind some trees. All we could see was it’s tail fin passing by above the tree tops like a shark fin in the water. I could almost hear the cello from Jaws as it went by.

A few minutes later we were parking our bikes for free next to the museum. It costs $15 to park a car there but the museum is free, so biking is the way to go. Lisa watched the bikes as we took ten minutes (which is how randos say “half an hour”) in the museum. There are planes and spacecraft galore in this place. The big ones are a Concorde SST, a retired space shuttle, and a big, sleek, stealthy, black Blackhawk spy plane. There are scores of others parked and hanging from the rafters willy nilly throughout the place.

Mike and the Blackhawk
Mike and the Blackhawk

After getting our fix of aerospace and aviation stuff, we mounted our bikes for the ride back. The first five miles were another Mikeroads fest. I swear the locals don’t know these roads like Mike does.) If not for the sun casting an easterly shadow in front of me, I would not have had a clue as to what direction we were riding. We eventually rejoined the W&OD and headed for Reston Town Center. There most of us bought gelatto, but Ed went for espresso. He will henceforth be known as Vlad the Imbiber.

Back on the trail we headed east. I started to lag, no doubt the result of toxic gelatto. The others were riding at 20 miles per hour while Lisa made origami bicycles on the back of the DaVinci. I noticed that several times during the ride, she would sit up, stop pedalling and adjust her hair. The tandem never slowed as Mike compensated with more pedal power. Sheesh.

Every so often, Ed and Mary would let free the reins and the Co-Motion would zoom ahead like one of the cruise missiles at the museum.

The four randos kindly let me catch up east of Vienna. In Falls Church they left the trail for the streets. I stayed on the W&OD and made my way through a charity 3K fun run. Once in to Arlington the two-legged bollards dissipated so that I could enjoy the gradual downhill all the way to US 1 near the river. I doubled back at US 1 and rode through the streets of Alexandria to avoid riding on the Mount Vernon Trail for a few miles. I rejoined the trail south of Old Town and found my butt to be rather sore. The discomfort was soon forgotten when I noticed that I was going 0 miles per hour. Somehow the motion sensor on my bike computer had gone kaput. Argh!

Aside from that little technical glitch, I was pretty darn happy with the day’s events. A good 76-mile ride in good weather with good folks to a good museum is always a good thing. Thanks to Mike for thinking this ride up and to the rest of the randos for humoring me and The Mule.

Some more pix of the ride are over here.

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3 thoughts on “To Dulles with Randos

  1. When you get a chance to spend more than an hour at the museum, tag along on a guided tour. I am not normally an airplane fan, but a former blackhawk pilot led our group and I was captivated the entire time. It’s a spectacular place. And, well worth the 15.00 car parking fee.

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