I haven’t missed a weekend ride in over three months, but my streak was in jeopardy this afternoon. Parenting and social obligations kept me off the roads on Saturday and early morning rains and the promise of afternoon thunderstorms put Sunday at risk. So when the skies cleared and the roads were dry at 2:00, I made my move.
The weather radar showed a band of thunderstorms moving through the area. My house was on the southern end of this band. I hoped I could travel further south to Quantico MCB and miss the storm. Unlike so many of my plans, this one actually worked. My wife reported that it rained pretty hard about 15 minutes after I left. I didn’t feel a drop.
My goal was the wildlife refuge on Quantico Marine Base. I’ve seen signs for this area on my previous trips but I have never ventured down the path which leads to it. With the assistance of the wind associated with the storms, I reached Quantico at a pace of 19.5 mph, eclipsing my previous best time by 2.5 mph. Despite the wind, I will take full credit for that mark! I took the long way around the base to add some miles to my ride and hit the North Branch Trail (so-named because it is on the north bank of Quantico Creek) ready to see something new. This is what I saw:
I was very surprised by the coolness of this place. There are several viewing areas along the trail, with wooden viewing platforms complete with helpful signs describing the wildlife you may see in the area. I ate my Clif Bar while sitting on a bench and thought of my friend, Joel, who prefers traveling by kayak to other land-based forms of locomotion. He would enjoy this place, I think. I took a self-portrait and hit the trail.
Quantico MCB has a mountain biking club and is host to a race in the Cranky Monkey series. I don’t know much about this event, other than it repeatedly dashes my hopes when I look for organized rides in the area, only to see this one. The reason why this is important to today’s story is because Quantico is home to a gazillion mountain bike trails, or so it would seem by looking at the maps posted along the trail routes. The North Bank Trail is one of these routes and I traveled it for about two miles.
The trail was a lot of fun to ride. I’m not really into mountain biking but I can now at least appreciate what the attraction is. The twists and turns were fun and you definitely need to have your wits about you. I was forced to dismount a few times to go over logs or extremely rutted portions that I didn’t trust my tires on. If you zoom in on my Garmin page, you’ll see portions of the ride where I am apparently traveling in the creek. Fortunately, that is not the case. I was either at the viewing stand or traveling over a bridge like this one:
In places, the trail leads you down to the water’s edge, offering nice views.
Eventually, the trail brought me back to Russell Road and I began my journey home. I felt surprisingly strong at this point, probably because I hadn’t done much riding in the previous week and I was not trying to push a bike with a broken wheel. It was a refreshing change. I pedaled through Dumfries and eventually met up with my nemesis, Van Buren Road – three quarters of a mile at an 11% grade. As is always the case when we meet, I had the distinct impression that the hill was laughing at me. This was the first serious hill I ever attempted (way back in April). Back then it took me to my lowest gear and nearly broke me. Today, I kept it in the middle sprocket, stood up on my pedals, and attacked. It was still pretty tough but I believe the hill now has a grudging respect for me. I was feeling so good that I took the long way home, adding a couple of miles to my route via Spriggs Road.
I suspect I’ll be back to the wildlife area again, both by bicycle and other times when I bring my wife via the family car. It’s a nice place to relax for a bit and enjoy the scenery!