For today’s entry, I could regale you with stories of yesterday’s 30-mile jaunt. Frankly, that would have bored even myself as nothing particularly interesting occurred and the route was nothing remarkable. The most interesting aspect of yesterday’s ride was the sensation of feeling the heat rising off the asphalt while simultaneously feeling the cooler breeze generated by my forward momentum.
Instead, let me tell you about a much more interesting and enjoyable trip I took today with Kid #3 along the Mount Vernon Trail, about 1/2 mile from Mount Vernon.
The trail starts at Mount Vernon and follows the Potomac River through Alexandria and up to Reagan National Airport. It’s about 18 miles long, but we sampled only two miles of it today. We loaded our bikes on our trusty Yakima bike rack and drove up to Fort Hunt National Park. In a parking lot right next to the river, we offloaded our bikes and began our trek northward.
The trail is a nice asphalt path, complete with a dashed yellow line down the middle to keep folks on the proper side. The path has slightly rolling hills with fun curves and the occasional wooden bridge. it is dotted with picnic benches and places for fishermen to do their thing. It is a pleasant trip for a casual cyclist, runner or walker. I was able to teach my son a little bit of cycling etiquette such as the phrase, “passing on your left.” The only detraction were the “uber cyclists,” who were using the path as their own personal time trial course. These people were a menace to everyone else on the path, including elderly walkers, women with baby strollers, and yes – middle-aged men trying to pass a pleasant morning with their son. I have no agenda against the roadies – I wish I was able to ride as well as they can – but there is a place for their high-speed rides and the Mount Vernon Trail on a Sunday morning is not one of them. They could easily have moved 50 feet onto the George Washington Parkway and they would be able to go faster without terrifying the local populace. Of course this would have put them into competition with the cars on that road, but that is where they belong, not on a trail for walkers, runners and casual cyclists.
But other than the occasional Lance Armstrong aficionado, it was a very pleasant trip. The sun was shining and their was a slight breeze. All was well with the world.
That is, until my son’s bike broke.
My son rides a crappy Wal-Mart mountain bike. It suits his needs, but the thing is about as reliable as an Edsel. A few months ago, his handle bars came loose and I thought I fixed the problem by tightening the hex nut on a clamp. I thought today’s maintenance lesson was the value of proper air pressure (which I learned personally a few weeks ago when suffering a flat tire). I checked his tires before leaving the house and they were at about 20 PSI. His tires are supposed to be at 50 PSI, so filled them up and suggested his bike might be easier to ride with properly inflated tires, which it was.
Anyway, while trying to go up a moderate hill the handlebars came loose again. Without a proper Allen wrench, I was forced to attempt to bang the handlebar into place with the heel of my hand. I wouldn’t recommend this, unless you’re under the same dire circumstances as I was in. It hurt like hell, but I got the thing into position good enough to make the trip back to the car. My son gamely pressed on, his handlebar all the while getting looser. By the time we made it back, the stupid thing was rotating freely inside its locking clamp.
Despite the breakdown, we still achieved our goal for a minimum distance. I also was able to check out a bit of the trail and I think I would like to come back to give all 18 miles a shot in a solo run.
When we got home, I grabbed an Allen wrench and tightened the handlebars to the point that I thought the wrench might break. To get it any tighter, I’d need a welding torch. Lets see how long this repair lasts!
Oh yeah, one last thing: While driving past Mount Vernon, we passed the longest line of tour buses I have ever seen. There had to be at least 30 of them lined up on the side of the road. When we passed it on our way home, most of the buses were gone, but I took a pic of the area anyway. There are only five buses in this shot, but you can get a sense of how long the line was from it. The line extended down this road and over the slight hill in the distance. Lesson Learned: DO NOT VISIT MOUNT VERNON ON A SUNDAY MORNING!!!