I had a really good idea yesterday. I was able to leave work a little early and take advantage of the great weather and go on a long ride. This would be helpful as I need to get some miles in before this weekend’s 300 km ride with the DC Randonneurs. I decided to reward you, gentle reader, with a stunning depiction of the bridges of Prince William County. I mapped out a 60 mile ride that would cover nine different bridges. It would be epic and you would have been thoroughly entertained.
Let me now explain how this didn’t happen.
My first challenge occurred in my garage. When putting on my shoes I noticed one of my straps had broken. Once again, duct tape saved the day. I now must decide whether to ride this weekend with these shoes or get new ones. Riding that long on new shoes seems to be a horrible idea, so I’ll just stick with my current pair and ease into a new set later this summer.
After fixing my shoes I shoved off into the maelstrom of rush hour traffic. Minnieville Road was a madhouse and I opted to move to the sidewalk. This meant riding much slower and waiting at crosswalks. I quickly fell behind schedule and this was made only worse when I stopped at the Glascow family cemetery, one of those small plots of land that dot the landscape and remind me of how rural this place once was. Only 100 feet off a major artery lies evidence of a family that was once one of the leading families of the area. Usually, these family names live on in local streets or towns but I cannot think of a single thing named after the Glascows.
Having spent a few minutes stomping about the cemetery, I was now officially way behind schedule. I continued up Minnieville road, pausing at many traffic lights, and eventually made my way into the town of Occoquan and my first bridge – the mighty span over the Occoquan River.
My apologies for the tacky “For Sale” sign. Hopefully, the nearby bird life offsets that. I drive over this bridge every day on my way to work. Tens of thousands of car travel it each day. On this day, there was also at least one bicycle. Here is a view of Occoquan from the bridge. You can see some new townhouses are under construction near the river bank.
My next bridge was upstream in the direction you are looking in the above photo. I made my way on the much nicer pathway on Rte 123 until I came upon Hampton Road, named after Confederate General Wade Hampton who made Occoquan his headquarters during the Civil War. There is no shoulder on this road and traffic was moderate. I then turned onto Henderson Road (named after some guy called “Henderson,” I suspect) where again there was no shoulder and traffic was very heavy.
It’s not much fun cycling in heavy traffic on a narrow two lane road. Everyone seemed to be cooperating, however, and there were no unpleasant comments hurled my way. Still, it’s quite stressful, especially at the intersection of Henderson and Yates Ford roads where I was obliged to inched my bike up a 15% grade to match the snail’s pace of traffic. It was too fast to walk it (especially in my shoes) and too slow to stay clipped in. Good times.
Having made it onto Yates Ford road, I rode downhill toward the road’s namesake. Yates Ford is one of a precious few crossing points of the Occoquan River/Bull Run system and at rush hour the crush of traffic is impressive. The road is downhill, windy, with no shoulders. Even though I was zipping along at 25-30 mph, I could almost feel the weight of a line of cars well over a mile in length behind me. It was a little nerve-racking. I eventually reached the Bull Marina and pulled in to take this pic of the bridge over the ford.
A high school girls crew team was readying their boats for the afternoon practice session. I thought it would be poor form for a middle-aged man to be seen taking pictures of random high school girls, so I will leave the scene to your imagination.
I chewed on some shot blocks and pondered my situation: It had taken me two hours to travel 20 miles. It was looking like my 60 mile ride would take me about 5-6 hours, much of it in heavy traffic. Suddenly, the seven remaining bridges seemed less enticing. I decided to stop my project and simply head home via Rte 234. That route would give me about 40 miles and that would be “good enough” on this day.
I pedaled up a short but steep hill to get back to Yates Ford Road, where I waited ten minutes for a break in traffic to get going again (and I am not making that up). The way home was uneventful, except for the lone expletive that was thrown my way at Signal Hill. Ironically, this was on a very open stretch of road with an ample shoulder and two lanes of traffic each way. I’ve been thinking about mapping each insult inflicted upon me to see if any sort of pattern emerges. So far, it seems pretty random with no correlation between road type or traffic density. The only connection I’ve seen so far is that if there is a pathway nearby, the automobile drivers expect you to use it.
This is my final ride before Saturday’s big day, which I fear I am woefully unprepared for. I’ll spend the rest of the week tapering (which I am very good at) and getting things ready to go. I’ll see you on Sunday or possibly early next week. If you’re following me on Facebook, I’ll be sure to post something there late Saturday or early Sunday.
Historical Marker Segment!
I bagged two more markers, the first being on Minnieville Road at the Glascow Cemetery. I took a poor quality photo with the sun in the shot because it gives a sense of how close the busy traffic on Minnieville Road is to the cemetery.
The second sign is on the eastern end of Occoquan and I came across it while looking for a good angle to shoot a bridge pic.