Wandering Around Brentsville

brentsville wander

We’ve had a colder and snowier winter than most, but for the past several weeks there has been a small bit of solace: the nicest weather of the week has occurred on the weekend.  Such was the case on Saturday when the temperature reached 70 degrees in the late afternoon.  The skies were cloudy and the wind was brisk but I wasn’t about to complain.

I had no particular place to go, so I wandered on the country roads between Brentsville and Nokesville looking for something interesting.  It didn’t take me long to find it.  I bet this won’t stay on the market for long.  The possibilities for its use are endless!


The roads around this part of the county are straight, flat, and car-free.  Below is a picture of Crockett Road, but it could just as easily be Hooe Road, Valley View Drive, Flory Road, or several others in the area.


Here is a shot of a humble homestead, no doubt occupied by a laborer or tradesman working paycheck to paycheck.  It’s typical of the construction that has occurred here in the last 15 years.


On Parkgate Drive, there was plenty of activity on the farms.  And by activity I mean animals laying about enjoying the warm weather.  Here is a typical scene.


It was very nice and worry-free riding.  I saw several other cyclists about and even happened upon two very serious cyclists as I turned back onto Crockett Road.  It was one of those awkward moments where they were clearly stronger riders who were just spinning their wheels and I showed up at precisely the wrong time, only fifty feet behind them and closing.  I didn’t want to overtake them as this would be viewed as a challenge and I didn’t want to sit on their wheel as this would be viewed as being rude.  I could see them downshift and begin to pick up their pace.  Meanwhile, I found a reason to stop and take a picture, thus defusing the entire situation.


On my way back through Brentsville, I noticed that the general store was up for sale, as was the old house that is next to it.  It looks like the proprietor is ready to move on to other pursuits.


Heading home on Brentsville Road, I took this picture of Broad Run, which regular viewers will recognize.  I am particularly proud of this picture as I took it while riding at normal cruising spread with (of course) a car passing me at the precise moment I wanted to take the shot.  All things considered, it turned out well, I think.


My final item of interest is the Woodbine Family Worship Center, which has a unique warning for people who wish to park on their premises for other than religious purposes.


I reached home in fine form and when I compared notes from previous rides, I realized I had just tied my longest ride of the year to date.  Had I known that earlier, I would have done a few donuts or cruised up a few side streets to set a new mark.  I guess I will have to take comfort in the fact that warmer weather will mean this mark will soon fall.

Weekend Mosy

I’ve been getting lucky with the weather these days with the weekend weather being the best of the week.  Last weekend was good enough to get in a ride before another snowstorm which shut the city down on Monday.  Things slowly melted during the week until the best weather arrived on Saturday.  So I set off to check on some places I haven’t visited in a few months, just to make sure everything was as it should be.

At the Aden Country Store, I made a rare (for me) right turn onto Fleetwood Drive.  This lonely outpost of civilization has saved me more than once with a cool beverage and some shade.  It’s hard to believe its only five miles from suburbia.


Fleetwood is a nice country road, full of farms and fancy estate “McMansions.”  Here’s a barn that caught my eye.


While on Fleetwood, I took a moment to capture a picture of a white tree, standing out from its neighbors.


Moving on, I noticed preparations continue apace for the new Brentsville K-8 school which is, confusingly, located near Nokesville.


I wandered down Marsteller Drive to check on the old Iron Bridge east of town.  Last May I wrote about the history of this bridge and a project that was underway to move it so a larger, safer bridge could replace it.  I was interested to see if work had begun.  The answer – no.


Onward I went toward the Manassas Airport.  I traveled along Broad Run (why the creeks are called “runs” around here, I do not know) and spotted a photo opportunity that won’t be available to me in a few months.  At this time of year, the brush along the creek banks hasn’t grown, so I was able to manage a short, muddy, walk in cycling shoes to take a picture.  I noted with approval the water is less muddy than a few weeks ago.  You can see we still have a bit of snow to take care of before Spring can officially begin.


And that was that.  I finished off a pleasant 38-mile ride and am now looking forward to increasingly warmer weather and longer days.  Daylight Savings Time started on Sunday so I will hopefully be getting my mileage up to respectable levels.  On my Facebook page, I regale readers with a short bit of history for the year that corresponds to my mileage to date.  Sadly, we are still mired in the 3rd Century.  I hope to get to the Dark Ages very soon!

The One Lane Bridge

BridgeThis weekend’s pedal took me toward Nokesville, where I viewed a scene I have always enjoyed with a new perspective.

White is the new black.

White is the new black.

But first, let me share my latest purchase – a pair of Shimano shoes to replace my Bontragers that served me faithfully for two years before finally snapping a strap.  I purchased the shoes online – a dangerous practice that I hope I won’t regret.  I like the way the shoes look and they feel quite nice when I first put them on.  Unfortunately, I developed a very painful hot spot on my right foot.  This is common for me but the intensity of the pain was not.  Lets hope a slight adjustment in the cleat and more miles on the bike (and less running) will solve the problem.

So back to the ride.  The weather was a little cool and there was a stiff breeze to contend with, but my pace was a crisp 16.5 mph all the same.  The shoes must make me faster, or perhaps it was my new white socks.  Clearly, I should have gone to white a long time ago.  Then again, it was only two weeks after I switched to white handlebar tape that I wrecked my Trek 2.1.  Perhaps white only works on your person, not your machine.  These things are always difficult to sort out.

After 22 miles, I reached my destination, a one lane bridge over the railroad on the outskirts of Nokesville:


I’ve been over this bridge a few times.  In preparation for this blog post, I did a little research on the bridge and discovered it is something of a local landmark.  Built for use by locomotives in 1882 by the Keystone Bridge Company out of Pittsburgh, the wrought iron construction and wood planks are definitely unique.  Within twenty years of its construction, trains had grown in size to the point where the bridge could no longer handle the load and it was converted for use as a highway bridge.  In 1977, it was placed on the National Historic Register and is considered to be one of the more significant landmarks around Nokesville, which may say something about Nokesville that its residents would not appreciate.


The bridge is in serious need of repair – shockingly serious, really.  Much of the metal is corroded and the deck’s wooden planks in such poor condition that the bridge was briefly closed in 2007.  The Virginia Department of Transportation lists it as “structurally deficient” and gives it a grade of 47 (out of 100) for a health rating and 24.3 (out of 100) in a sufficiency rating.  I don’t know much about bridge ratings, but those numbers can’t be good for the 2,200 cars which cross it every day.

Norfolk Southern Railroad owns the bridge and wants to move it to another location so larger trains can use the rails but the residents wouldn’t hear of it.  The bridge was patched together and the issue kicked down the road until this year, when VDOT decided to spend $4.6 million refurbishing the bridge and building a second single lane bridge next to it.  That should be an interesting project to watch unfold.

49 Miles


My birthday came this week.  Cycling tradition dictates that I am to ride my age in miles on my birthday.  Unfortunately, I had to work that day and there are other traditions such as the eating of cake that I was compelled to participate in, so the ride did not occur on the exact date.  However, I was able to manage a 49-mile ride on Saturday.

The weather is trying very hard to be Springlike.  It was very sunny and the breeze was mild.  The temperature started in the 40s and struggled to reach 60.  Later in the day, there was a period of about 90 minutes where I could describe it as being “warm.”  But that was later in the day.  On the ride, full cold weather kit was required.

This farm always has plenty of activity.

This farm always has plenty of activity.

I fiddled with my seat height for no good reason whatsoever.  I raised it about one centimeter in the hopes that it would somehow help my speed or alleviate the sensation I sometimes get that my legs are too cramped.  Within ten miles I began to feel an uncomfortable ache on the side of my left knee.  Fortunately, it didn’t worsen, but I think I’ll be lowering my seat back down.

As always, the excitement came near Catlett, just a few hundred yards from the Tenerife Incident, an excited Spaniel decided to give chase, mustering the most ferocious bark he could.  He maxed out at 15 mph.  I shall add his information to my dog top speed database.

Other than the seat and the dog, it was a pretty uneventful ride.  Car horns were blowing at higher than normal levels.  TIP TO CAR OWNERS:  you don’t need to tap your horn to let us know you’re behind us.  We can hear you.  We’re not the ones encased in glass and steel with a radio playing.

It being the day before Easter, I thought I would share pictures of some of the churches I happened across.  I hope your holiday is a happy one.

The old Asbury United Methodist Church, near Aden.  This building dates from the 1870s.

The old Asbury United Methodist Church, near Aden. This building dates from the 1870s.

And the "new" church across the street.

And the “new” church across the street.

Nokesville Church of the Brethren

Nokesville Church of the Brethren

Brentsville Presbyterian (now a historical site)

Brentsville Presbyterian (now a historical site)

How to Turn Your Carbon Road Bike Into A Touring Bike (Or Why I Am Not Cool: Part 7 In A Continuing Series)

Carriage ford rd

Global warming continues to disappoint.  With one week remaining before my 200k ride, I threw on my cold weather gear and shoved off into the teeth of a brisk northwest wind, making the 37 degree temperature feel decidedly colder.  In addition to cold and wind, I was treated to some light snow flurries along the way.  What joy.  After 36.5 miles, I was happy to be done.  This was my longest ride of the year, which leaves me slightly concerned about the 126 miles I’ll be riding next Saturday.

A home from a bygone era, near Nokesville.

A home from a bygone era, near Nokesville.

I’m sure everything will be fine.

In related news, I wanted to share with you my exciting attempts to rig the Trek Madone for long-distance randonneuring rides.  The problem with self-supported rides of 200k or longer is you kinda need to bring a few things with you – things that won’t fit into the fist-sized saddle bag I normally use to hold a spare tube, CO2 cartridge, tire tools, and a $5 bill.  I’ve used a cheap handlebar bag in the past with good success, but I wanted something more substantial to hold a rain jacket, spare gloves, or other items which can come into (or out of) use over a 15 hour event.  The result is this handsome seat bag.


As you can see, it is quite a bit bigger than a typical roadie saddle bag (and it should be noted that using seat bags AT ALL is looked at with some disappointment by hardcore roadies).  I like its traditional look and it will hold the stuff I want it to hold.  Its biggest feature is that it is held to the bike by a leather strap through the rails underneath the seat.  This is important as many seat bags rely on a clamp around the seat post to bear most of the weight.  The Madone’s seat post is carbon and wouldn’t hold up well with that arrangement.  It would be very unfortunate to have my seat post break 80 miles into a ride and this bag will make that event very unlikely.

Loyal readers will immediately recognize the afore-mentioned handlebar bag as well as my night light.  The light is a requirement for most randonneuring events, as are reflective vests and ankle bracelets.  I can now store these items in my seat bag during daylight hours.  Another small item to point out is that my reflectors remain stubbornly affixed to my wheels and rear seat post.  No reasonable roadie would be caught in public with these, but because I have a very strong urge to let passing motorists know I am present, I leave mine on.  The sum total of seat bag, handle bar bag, light, and reflectors is the cycling equivalent of using your corvette to tow a camper.  Until I break down and buy a proper touring bike, I’m afraid this is the best I can do.


All the gear tested out well.  I may not be ready for the ride, but I believe my bike is!

New Jacket

What a difference a week makes.  Last week, I was pedalling in the Florida sunshine in shorts and a jersey.  This week, I was in Northern Virginia, looking at the morning frost on the grass.  Out came the wool socks, leggings, winter gloves, skull cap, and a new addition to my wardrobe – a cycling jacket.

As I enter my third winter of cycling, I figured it was time to break down and buy a jacket specific to the job.  I found a reasonably priced garment on Nashbar a few weeks ago and took the plunge.  The jacket is like most any other one except this has the traditional three pockets in the back which make for easier retrieval of items.  The waist is cut a little higher than normal so it doesn’t interfere with the legs while pedalling, and the cut is a little closer to the body so there is less air drag.

Ta Da!

The jacket’s debut was a roaring success and the ride was pleasant, if cool.  Temperatures made it into the mid-40s by the end of things and I even passed several hardy cyclists as I returned home on Rte 234.  The country roads between Aden Road and Bristow Road were as pleasant as always.  The above pic was taken on Parkgate Drive through the clever use of a 10-second timer on a camera resting on a “For Sale” sign.  Sadly, the autofocus was slightly off.

I was curious to see if there would be any election signs still standing 11 days after the event.  Just as I was beginning to believe they all were retrieved, I spied this handsome specimen near Bristow (Mile 16).

This being a rural area, I was not surprised to find a sign supporting the Republicans.  Of note, only Mr. Wittman won his election.

Having tested my jacket and finding an election sign, my objectives were complete and I turned for home.  I’ll leave you with a picture of Flory Road, which captures the landscape I pedaled through rather well.


Although I have traveled west of Route 28 on several occasions, it is still a major step for me and I still view it as “the frontier” of my cycling range.   Beyond Route 28 lies Route 29, which I have crossed only once about 13 months ago.  If Route 28 is “The Frontier,” then Route 29 is “The Unknown.”  So it was with a bit of excitement that I headed out this morning for the town of Haymarket, about five miles beyond Route 29.

My first attempt at a shadow self-portrait

To get there, I needed to travel up Bristow Road about 20 miles where it would eventually intersect the dreaded Route 29 (also known as the Lee Highway).  This is a major intersection, dumping thousands of cars each day off the nearby interstate to a sprawling shopping center.  My strategy of leaving at 6:30 AM on a Sunday worked well – when I got to the intersection, there were only a dozen cars there.  And thank goodness for that as I discovered the entire mess is under construction, complete with rutted asphalt, pylons, and tons of gravel.  Moving through there with heavy traffic is precisely the sort of thing that has kept me away for the past two years.

Haymarket is a small town which briefly held a district court in the early 1800s, before Fairfax, Loudon, and Prince William Counties decided to keep their own courts.  Nothing much happened there until 1862, when Federal troops entered the town looking for a sniper.  After entering every house and generally causing a fuss, they failed to find their target, so they decided the best option would be to set fire to the entire place.  Everything burned to the ground, with the exception of St. Paul’s Church and three or four nearby buildings.  History does not record if the Federals found their sniper.

St. Paul’s Episcopal

After pedaling down a flag-lined main street (named Washington Street), I pulled up to St. Paul’s and found it to be in a pleasant grove of large trees, making photography a challenge.  This building was the original courthouse and was sold to the Episcopal Church in 1833.  Although it was only 8:00 AM, it was already quite hot and it promised to be much hotter.  In anticipation of the increased fluid needs, I brought my Camelbak along for the first ride this year.  In the end, I’m glad I did.

The trip home brought me back to Lee Highway, which I pedaled on for a couple of miles.  Even at this early hour, there was plenty of traffic and occasionally very little shoulderto ride on.  My flagging spirits were buoyed, however, when I came upon an old tavern at Buckland.

Buckland Tavern

Nearby signage informed me that the tavern had been in this area since the early 1800s and was a favorite watering hole for people traveling between Alexandria and Warrenton.  Signs also alluded to a nearby cavalry battle in 1863, but offered no other details.  Fortunately, I conducted a quick internet search and am able to inform you that Confederate General Jeb Stuart won a smashing victory over Union General Judson Kilpatrick while protecting a Southern retreat after the Battle of Bristoe (which I passed earlier in my travels today).

Having satisfied my historical urges, I turned south on Vint Hill Road and made my way to Nokesville, a town on the near side of Route 28 that many of my travels seem to take me through.  The rest of the ride was uneventful.  I managed the 54 mile trek in the sedate pace of 14.5 mph, which was fine by me.  My chief purpose (other than seeing something new) was to get at least 3.5 hours in the saddle prior to the USAF Crystal Ride in two weeks.  From here on out, I’ll be working on sprinting, which is what I expect to be doing for the majority that 90 km event.

Vint Hill Road

For those of you in the United States, here’s hoping you enjoyed your Memorial Day.  I include the below photo by Martins Blumbergs in honor of the occasion.

Historical Marker Segment!

This has been a banner week for historical markers.  This one was outside the Tavern at Buckland Mills.  In it, we get a synopsis of the town’s origins and the tavern’s history.  I came across this at about Mile 28 on a hot day.  It would have been very nice if it still served as a “refreshing stop!”