This is Memorial Day Weekend, so I wanted to pay my respects to the service members who died while in military service. I therefore chose Quantico National Cemetery for my destination. It’s about 15 miles away on the far side of Prince William Forest. My route took me over the relatively quiet but poorly maintained Joplin Road. I did this ride last year, but I took the shorter route up Rte 1 and through Dumfries. I was still getting back into cycling then and the 11 mile route was all I could handle. Armed with a proper road bike and much greater endurance, I chose the longer route and accepted the 30-mile round trip would be shorter than I would have liked.
Before I left, I did my usual inspection of my bike (remember, kids, pre-ride inspections are important!) and was dismayed to see my bike wheel rubbing against my brake pad. After only 35 miles since leaving the shop, the wheel was out of true. One of the spokes was so loose I could turn it with my fingers. I broke out my spoke wrench and made the correction. Impressed with myself, I embarked on the ride. Subsequent events would prove I am not as smart as I would like to think I am.
I dodged the pot holes and cracking asphalt on Joplin Road and made it to the cemetery at a leisurely pace of about 15 mph. Once through the main gate, I pedaled up a road lined with flags and past the Visitors’ Center, where people gather for the start of funerals. Although tomorrow is the official day of remembrance, there were several people paying their respects. I was dismayed to see a “No Bicycling” sign near the entrance. I took the sign to mean “no recreational bicycling” and was prepared to inform any persons questioning my activity that I was there for the express purpose of paying my respects. As it turned out, no one confronted me and I was left alone with my thoughts.
Although located immediately next to Quantico Marine Base, the cemetery is available for the use of all branches of the military. As one might expect, the majority of the markers were USMC, but there were plenty of Army, Navy, and Air Force markers as well. The cemetery is very nicely laid out, with pavilions and benches for those wishing to rest a spell. There are several monuments, mostly to famous Marine units.
I pedaled to the far end of the cemetery and dismounted for a break. It was here that I checked my rear wheel and saw that it was once again rubbing slightly against the brake pad. If I was smart, I would have predicted my first-ever spoke adjustment would be less than perfect and I would have brought my spoke wrench with me. Sadly, my spoke wrench remained in my tool box in the garage. I would therefore be forced to put forth a little more effort on the way back.
And that is precisely what I did, retracing my route on Joplin Road and making it home at a rather pedestrian pace of 13.8 mph (including stops at the cemetery). I’ve since tinkered with my wheel and it once again looks good. We’ll see how long that holds up.
I enjoyed today’s trip and used the 2+ hours to reflect on the sacrifices of so many people – some of them my friends. I wish I had some proper tribute to offer them, but somehow the words fail me. Wherever you’re at, I hope you are able to take a moment this weekend and remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice for your country.