We’re back, safe and sound, from a pleasant four days at Fort Story, VA, which is adjacent to Virginia Beach. Among the cookouts and walks on the beach, I managed to get a couple of rides in. I was hoping for a few more, but the weather didn’t cooperate. Sunday featured strong winds with gusts to 35 mph. With high temperatures in the 50s, even walks on the beach proved to be a bit challenging.
Monday dawned cool but sunny so I embarked on my first ride, a circumnavigation of Naval Air Station Oceana. The route featured a run down Pacific Avenue and the heart of the Virginia Beach strip. I agree that Pacific Avenue is a nonsensical name for a road along the Atlantic Coast, but as subsequent events will soon demonstrate, this is not unusual for Virginia Beach.
Pacific Ave was moderately busy, but I managed just fine on the road. After six miles, I cleared the heart of the city and pedaled past the Virginia Aquarium (which remains on my “to do” list). There was a decent pathway which I made use of until it suddenly turned into a rather uneven sidewalk and I was forced back into the road in heavy traffic. I was now travelling on General Booth Boulevard and I was hoping to find a marker which provided the background on the road’s namesake. I did not find one and my subsequent research provides a hint as to why. It seems Major General Paul Booth of the Virginia National Guard was instrumental in helping repair the city after a major hurricane struck in 1962. For this, the City Council named a prominent boulevard after him. That’s the good news. The rest of the story includes charges of racism (only 38 out of 7,740 guardsmen were black under Booth’s watch), a penchant for showing favoritism toward the children of politicians, and reports of go-go dancers in his mess halls. Booth retired in 1970, the same year he was implicated in an illegal diversion of government surplus items. It’s probably just as well the city didn’t put up a marker. He must have done a heckuva job on that hurricane cleanup – the street is still named after him.
At Mile 15, I turned onto Dam Neck Road and found a fantastic pathway. Although “Dam Neck” may sound silly, it actually makes some sense as the area is also goes by that name. I’m not sure where the original dam was or why it had a neck. After four great miles, I turned onto London Bridge Road. You will be disappointed to learn that there is no bridge on this road, nor is there any obvious connection to London Bridge or even the city of London. Equally inexplicable is what happens to a cyclist when he reaches the intersection with Virginia Beach Parkway. At this point, the pathway simply ends. The intersection doesn’t even have a crosswalk. It would seem pedestrians are not invited to cross here. Fortunately for me, I had a bicycle with me and I simply crossed with the cars when they had the light.
The road’s name changes at this point to North Great Neck Road, which makes sense as I was on a peninsula, one of the largest in the area. In addition to a horrible sidewalk which forced me onto the street, there were some other oddities to be seen, including a church which looked like an office building and a middle school under construction of a size normally reserved for small colleges. After crossing a bridge over Broad Bay, I turned onto Shore Drive and made my way home.
And it is at this point that I can share one of the most remarkable things about the ride – over 28 miles, I climbed only 121 feet. My elevation chart is provided below for your amusement:
See that small bump at Mile 8? That was a bridge. And that larger bump at Mile 24? That was a larger bridge. Most of my climbing was done on two bridges. This is the one of the flattest pieces of ground I have ever been on. I’ve been in hillier deserts.
The next day was warmer and I decided to take on my Time Trial circuit I invented last year. The circuit consists of four laps of a 6.5 mile loop around Fort Story. Last year saw me reach an 19.9 mph average pace. This year I came nowhere close and finished with an average pace of 17.2 mph. My biggest problem was a steady 10-15 mph wind. Other problems included the utility workers installing new telephone poles and causing minor traffic jams and the extremely friendly security guards at the fort’s entrance who are very interested in striking up a conversation with passing cyclists. They were very curious to learn my distance traveled and my time goals, yet failed to appreciate the effect these “extended” conversations might be having on those goals. No worries. Here’s hoping I made a convert out of at least one of them.
I had hoped to take a short spin on Thursday, our final day, but awoke to find more high winds. I decided idyllic pictures along the boardwalk would have to wait for another trip. Thus was the rather inauspicious conclusion to the cycling portion of my vacation. We’re hoping to head back to Virginia Beach in June, when the weather should be more cooperative.