Archive for the ‘cycling’ tag
I’m excited to finally share the plans we’ve been working on for the past few months! In short, we’re spending this summer riding our bicycles across the United States and interviewing people along the way about where they live.
We’re calling this trip “Migration Trail” for two main reasons. The motivation for the trip is our bi-coastal move – we’re moving from DC to California for me to start my graduate program in Geography, and decided to make it an adventure by doing it as a bike tour.
Since we are moving to a completely new-to-us place, we’ve built upon the idea of interviewing people along the way about the places where they live and how they came to live there – whether it be a recent move or their family has been settled in the area for generations. We will be posting what we learn to my website to help people explore the variety of circumstances that bring people to all kinds of places in our vast country.
Our cycling route takes us up to Michigan, west across the northern part of the United States, then south through California. Plenty of miles. One hundred days on the road – give or take.
We start Friday, May 24th. That’s only three weeks away! We still need to wrap things up at work, finish packing and ship our pod to California, iron out everything we need to take care of beforehand (medical stuff, bills, insurance), and make our final goodbyes. Our first week will be mostly on the C&O Canal Towpath and the Great Allegheny Passage to Pittsburgh, and we’re inviting friends to join us for the first day or two of our trip.
So, after looking over our route from our recent five-day shakedown bike tour, I plugged the actual route into the GPS Visualizer tool and got this graph. Red vertical lines separate different days.
It’s not beautiful, but it shows how far we went and the elevation change over the course of the ride. Even though I planned the route and divided up our days of riding ahead of time, it turned out that we did ride further on days without major climbing – the first and last days. Those two days were spent primarily on the C&O Canal Towpath.
You can see the C&O on the graph as the nearly-horizontal (flat) sections. The first little spike on day 1 is Persimmon Tree Road. The 800-foot climb on day 3 is Gum Springs Road. Really satisfying climb with a chilly and fast descent. Adam and I are working on generating some other visualizations on our own for our upcoming trip. More soon!
Miscalculated in the last blog post – we’ll be riding for five days total. Here are days three and four, with only one day until we’re back in DC.
Day 3: Gettysburg, PA to Williamsport, MD
We did a lot of climbing the third day of our trip, and it seemed at the time like it was entirely into headwinds. There were very few periods of relief from either climbing or riding hard into the wind (which felt like climbing), so we took many breaks just to give our legs time to recover.
Started the day with some of the strongest winds I’ve ever experienced while riding a bike. Our surroundings were a lot of flat farmlands with little tree cover to shield us. We were relieved when a road took us into the woods through a valley. The route started off as an innocent-looking valley, but we quickly realized its intention was to climb the side of a mountain. Okay, I write this as if I didn’t plan the route myself…
The biggest climb of the day was Gum Springs Road, which took a lot out of us. As soon as we crested it, a light rain began to come down; at first refreshing after the climb, then increasing as we descended. The descent down the mountain was exhilarating and a welcome reward after endless climbing. After another (shorter) climb, we descended quickly down Buchanan Trail Road. This was a scary two mile stretch along a busy highway but we survived with only a few bike shimmy worries. Adam spotted the perfect spot to cook some well-earned lunch. After lunch, more wind and more climbing.
It was exciting to reach Hagerstown, Maryland, which had the first bike lanes we had seen since we left DC. I had also been hearing a mysterious metallic noise from my front wheel which I was convinced was a broken spoke, but it didn’t seem like that was the case when we stopped at Hub City Cycles to inspect it. None of us could figure out what had caused the noise, so chalked it up to possibly something that had been caught near my fender. We chatted awhile with the two guys working there and I bought an extra spoke for the front wheel just to have as back-up. It’s always going to be what you don’t have that ends up being what you need.
It was a short trip from Hagerstown to Williamsport, still windy. We passed two Sheetz gas stations and a Waffle House. Unfortunately didn’t stop for the Waffle House since we weren’t in the breakfasting spirit (I’ve been to only one Waffle House, in Georgia, and it was great). But with Ed‘s advice to us – “If you see a Sheetz, stop for awhile” – we decided a coffee and juice break was in order.
Williamsport, Maryland is another nice town that looks like a good stop for cyclists. We just rode through to meet up with the C&O Canal path and headed downriver to stake out a camping spot. Adam set up the tent and started a fire while I prepared dinner. We ate huddled around the fire pit and were down with the sun.
Day 4: Williamsport, MD to Harpers Ferry, WV
That was the coldest night of camping we’ve had yet. Temperatures in the mid- to high-20s last night left us shivering to stay warm and not getting much sleep by the time the sun rose. I kept looking at my watch and predicting when sunrise would be because it meant the day would start to warm up. Unzipped the tent around 7:30 to see that our panniers were covered in frost. We had been out of water since the previous afternoon, since we ran out and the water pumps along the C&O weren’t on (the handle was removed on the pump at our campsite). The nicest part of the morning was talking to the helpful NPS rangers who were checking the water quality at the campsite – they helped direct us to where we could meet Falling Waters Road, which brought us to a well-stocked general store in Downsville. We bought lunch and dinner supplies as well as some breakfast to fuel us for the day.
There was a fair bit of climbing today, but overall it seemed that we descended more than we climbed. If “day three legs” are bad, day four legs are close to empty. The stretch to Antietam was really beautiful and made up for the exhaustion. We only took a quick break there to enjoy the sun and another snack.
It wasn’t much further on to Harpers Ferry, where we’ll be having an early night. Riding back to DC tomorrow!
Two days of bike touring! Two to go. It’s been a beautiful ride so far.
Day 1: Washington, DC to Frederick, MD (58 miles)
As we loaded our stuffed panniers onto our bikes, I started to wonder what we were getting ourselves into: “This bike is really heavy.” “Maybe our first day shouldn’t be 60 miles, or should I have chosen a slightly less hilly route?” But after loading up, tweeting a picture, and pushing off, we found that the bikes carried the weight well. The extra weight was hardly felt while riding through flat DC, and made the bike very stable. Once we got onto MacArthur Blvd, however, we started to feel that we were carrying some extra pounds. I spun thoughts of the gear I should have left at home.
After a full day of riding with this stuff, I can safely say there’s no reason we need two pot sets (the one larger MSR set will do). I think the amount of clothes we packed is well suited to lasting us four days at a time before we need to do laundry – lots of practice from traveling light (thanks, increasing airline fees). And though we have a lot of weight from the food we’re carrying, it’s nice to be able to cook our own meals wherever we want, like a perfect picnic spot overlooking the river. I’m trying to take more photos since that’s something that’s easy to forget when you’re looking for the next turn you need to make or just chatting away with the people you meet.
Speaking of meeting people, I guess riding bicycles loaded for touring makes you something of a novelty. Lots of people were out on the C&O Canal Towpath enjoying the early spring weather, and my favorite moment was when a family of four stopped in their tracks to watch us ride by – the boy waved the entire time we were passing and the mother speculated out loud, “They’re going the whole way!”
We traded photo favors with another family with three kids, all of whom were on bikes. Well, the littlest was in one of those seats that goes near the handlebars and holds each leg – not sure how to describe that well. The father told us he always ended up with the extra weight, which in this case was a cute pink backpack and two stuffed dogs tied to the handlebars. After cleaning up our lunch supplies, we also talked awhile with a woman who lives in Bethesda and regularly rides the C&O. Her husband was still getting back up speed after he was in a bad accident last year when he was doored by a car and his helmet was split open. She had an unusual looking helmet and told us that’s what her husband bought for the two of them after the accident, after evaluating safety ratings.
We rejoined the world of paved roads at Nolan’s Ferry, which meets New Design Road. This was really pleasant riding: smooth roads, gently rolling hills, and drivers that rode fast but gave lots of passing room. We gave our CouchSurfing host a call and met him at his place earlier than we expected to arrive. The total for the day was about six hours on the bike, and about an hour off the bike for lunch and photo opps. Not too bad for riding fully-loaded!
Day 2: Frederick, MD to Gettysburg, PA (42 miles)
Rain all day! We had originally planned on camping out tonight, but it looks like we might grab a motel and get dry. Rode through beautiful Maryland farmlands, mooed at cows, took rainy photos at Gettysburg Battlefield. We crossed Route 15 too many times – a little tricky in places – and had a lunch stop at a local BBQ joint called Chubby’s. That was a nice sweet tea and get-warm break.
Rain and cooler temperatures make you appreciate hills. Climbing a hill lets you warm up inside. Descending is less fun.
Entered Gettysburg, Pennsylvania around 3pm and decided to grab a coffee and upload this blog post. Thanks to friends who have been tweeting nice messages at us. Bike touring is great, even on less-than-perfect weather days. We’re learning a lot so far.
By this time next Friday, Adam and I will be on a short shakedown bike tour before our longer ride this summer. It’s still early in the season, so our routing choices for next week’s bike tour were based partly on which campgrounds would be open by then. We have the option of camping at the free hiker/biker campsites along the C&O Canal, which are open year-round, but don’t want to do the entire ride on gravel.
Our tentative plan to get a good mix of experience – and test the gear we’re carrying – is as follows:
Day 1: Say hello to Friday Coffee Club, then set off towards Frederick, Maryland.
Day 2: Ride to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, then camp at Caledonia State Park in Fayetteville, Pennsylvania.
Day 3: Head towards Falling Waters, West Virginia (near the C&O Canal).
Day 4: Take the C&O Canal trail to Brunswick, Maryland.
Day 5: Back to Washington, DC – likely not via the C&O.
Works out to about 250 miles total. We will be going at a casual pace, considering our bikes will be loaded up with gear: camping and cooking stuff, food, and bike tools. Feel free to join for part of the ride if you have time. It’ll be a good test run if you’re interested in getting into bike touring! I’ll also recap what we learn from the ride when we get back.
Note: We will also be testing out the TrackMyTour iPhone app on this ride. It looks like an easy way to let family and friends know where you are. Let me know if you’ve tried this app or any similar ones, and how it’s worked out for you. Along with the manual waypoints through TrackMyTour, I’ll be using Strava to record our rides as usual.
I first noticed the addition of this new bike lane on Gallows Road on Bike to Work Day 2012. It’s a great way to connect the area with the W&OD Trail, though there is a long way to go before the casual cyclist feels comfortable here. Formerly I took the sidewalk for the part of my ride that goes along Gallows, but the lane is great if you’re comfortable riding next to high-speed traffic. However, I find this part of Fairfax County a tough situation for anyone riding a bike, as I’ve been yelled at by pedestrians for being on the sidewalk (before there was a lane) and yelled at by drivers for being in the road waiting to turn onto Gallows (to get into the lane). It’s usually a lack of understanding, as legally I’m allowed to be in either.
It looks like there are plans to extend the Gallows Road bike lanes to Old Courthouse Road in phase 3 of the project, to be completed this year.
Thanks to Mary’s Errandonnee challenge for inspiring me to grab a shot of this lane!
When I first moved to DC, I bought a used Trek mountain bike from a seller on Craigslist for $140. I used it to get from home to school and work and back, riding down from Columbia Heights in the morning and back up through Adams Morgan in the evenings. And knowing nothing of bicycle maintenance at the time, I once let a wheel get so badly out of true that I eventually had to alternate between carrying it and half-lifting, half-rolling it the six blocks to the nearest bike shop.
My housemates and many of my friends also rode to get around – it’s just the most practical mode of transportation within the city – but I can’t recall riding for the pure pleasure of it. Cycling was simply a more reliable option than taking the bus: my commute always took the same time and I didn’t have to wait 40 minutes at night for a bus that never came. (That used to happen pretty often when I worked late shifts at work.) On my mountain bike I was slow, but faster than when I was on foot.
2012 was the first year I rode for more than pure transportation purposes. I bought my first new road bike with a recommendation from my friend, who’s an avid road cyclist. I led a team of a six to ride in the Bike MS charity ride in June, which meant I had to train for distances I had never even imagined riding before: a total of 100 miles over two days. Besides getting food poisoning a couple weeks before the ride and losing a lot of fitness there, the ride went well and everyone on my team finished the ride happy and exhausted. We polished off a couple pizzas and about half a chocolate cake afterwards. By then I also knew to keep my chain clean and lubed and how to change a flat tire, and the function of most bike parts.
I’ll pull just a few numbers about my first year of getting more into cycling. Most of these stats come from Strava, where I’ve recorded maybe 80-90% of my rides this year.
Most Elevation Gain in One Month: 9,910 feet in August. I did some riding in Maryland, rode the Reston Bike Club (Metric) Century, and part of John’s Hoppy 100 ride, which I hope he makes into an annual event. I know people that climb more than this in a single ride, but I’m happy with my progress.
Most Mileage in One Month: 391.2 miles in October. This includes a weekend ride to Harpers Ferry and back, the Seagull Century, and several commutes. It’s also the month I got my Surly, which replaced my road bike and became my do-everything, pleasure-to-ride bike.
Longest Single Ride: 127.1 miles. This was my first brevet, the Flatbread 200k.
Mileage on Capital Bikeshare: Over 150 miles. This number may even be closer to 200 miles, considering I usually don’t record my short Bikeshare trips. It’s a great service to get around town, and I’d say a year-long membership is essential for anyone living in DC.
Total Mileage for 2012: 2,397.3 miles since mid-March. I’m shooting for at least 3,000 miles next year.
Below is a screencap displaying my local ride map for the year, created with Jonathan O’Keeffe’s multiple ride mapping tool. The line thicknesses represent frequency of riding specific routes. Suggestions for where to ride more in 2013? Arlington streets don’t appear to be represented, though I take the Custis Trail quite often.
I’m sure all this riding balances out the beer.
2012 has been a memorable year.
I traveled to Boulder in the spring to visit a good friend, took an end-of-summer trip around Iceland, and spent a long weekend in Atlanta with two of my oldest friends. I rode my bike over a hundred miles in a single day (twice), followed ongoing transportation projects in the area, and organized a couple of local rides that turned out to be very popular. I went on a 50km/31mi hike that lasted 12 hours and left me with more memories than blisters (though it gave me plenty of blisters). I spent a lot of time in a tent, though I would have liked to spend more. I read some great books and also started writing more. I made lots of new friends and reconnected with others.
There have also been some bad moments in the year, such as the time my friend got into a bad crash. Or the time our apartment got burglarized. But these have also served as important learning moments, teaching me and those around me that although you have to be careful, you can’t prevent everything.
On another note, Adam and I spent the year tracking our drink consumption and are working now to summarize that information. We’ve got a year’s worth of data. It makes for a good feeling to track an aspect of our lives for an entire year, and in total it comes to something like 16,000 fluid ounces of beverages between the two of us to make sense of – so as you can imagine, this’ll take some time. We’ll find out if the metrics we tracked were the worthwhile ones, and see what else we can cull from the data.
For now, I can easily see that the brewery I most represented this year was New Belgium, a Colorado-based brewery that is well-loved in DC. Their traveling festival, Tour de Fat, even came to Washington, DC for the first time this year. Adam’s most represented brewery was Chocolate City. The Chocolate City brewery is practically next door to us, so we’re lucky to be able to fill up growlers on Saturdays.
We had beers from about 121 distinct breweries this year – and I say “about” because tonight’s drinks are still to be recorded. It’s hard to say whether there’s an observer effect here, whether we’re drinking more or less or opting for more variety because of our decision to record our drinks.
Looking forward, here are my resolutions for 2013. I’m keeping them to the goals I really want to focus on and think are achievable this year. Besides these, I have other projects in the works that will become better realized the new year.
- New Year’s Resolution #1: Read all of Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time. I’m going to begin by rereading Swann’s Way (the first volume of seven volumes total), since I last read that four years ago. Just some 3,000 pages to go.
- New Year’s Resolution #2: Learn to enjoy running. I try this every year, but I think having a dedicated running buddy will help this time around. Our goal is to run a 5K in the spring, maybe work up to a 10K later in the year.
- New Year’s Resolution #3: More civic participation! Volunteer with local organizations and give back to the community. What’s your favorite local cause?
- New Year’s Resolution #4: Ride more brevets than I did last year. Hopefully that’s easy because I rode only one brevet – my first – in 2012.
- New Year’s Resolution #5 is another bike-related one: Ride 3,000 miles in 2013. Evenly distributed that’d be 250 miles/month – doable! In 2012, I rode about 2,400 miles from April to December.
Happy New Year!
What a successful event! The Hains Point 100, a century ridden entirely as loops around Hains Point, was an idea by Megan Jones sprouted a few weeks ago. She decided to make it a fundraising ride for WABA’s Women & Bicycles advocacy program, which will work to support women’s cycling in the DC area.
The Census Bureau reports that women make up only 2,985 of the 9,300 DC residents who commute by bicycle. To put it another way, there are more than twice as many male cyclists than female cyclists. WABA’s new program intends to address this gender gap in cycling and get more women on bikes. Megan noted this morning that the ratio of women to men at the Hains Point 100 ride was very similar, but that it was important for everyone to help in this effort.
Lots of great local sponsors – and one not-so-local sponsor, New Belgium Brewing – pitched in to provide snacks, prizes for riders, and donations. Plenty of people brought food (especially baked goods) to keep the picnic table full as well. Hains Point worked as a great location for this kind of ride since it’s a short 3-mile loop and riders could take a break or grab snacks when they came back to the meeting point.
I rode a few laps and got to see lots of DC area cycling folks out today on a beautiful winter day. Megan (and others) successfully rode over 100 miles each, and raised a lot of money to support the cause by putting on this event.
You can donate here: WABA’s Women & Bikes Program.
This Saturday, I rode to Baltimore from DC with Adam using a route sourced from the Bike Washington website and the Google Maps bicycling directions. Bike Washington is great resource for local trails, and for this ride I only diverged from their route in a few places; in hindsight, I should also have used their directions for entering the city of Baltimore instead of the Google directions which involved a few dicey maneuvers. But that’s to be expected when Google’s routing is fairly automated while Bike Washington route is written by people who’ve ridden the route. Tried and tested.
We had a nice time in Baltimore, walking through a holiday bazaar in Fells Point, eating a huge lunch among the throngs drinking nog, and snapping a few photos. By the time we started to head back, our daylight hours were numbered so we grabbed the B30 bus back to Greenbelt Metro station. Good to always know your bail out options!
For those interested, here’s the cue sheet I wrote, as well as some commentary, after the cut. Directions begin from the Metropolitan Branch Trail.