The Curious Case Of The Malfunctioning Garmin

davis ford

I know what you’re thinking.  You’re thinking, “Yo, Steve, I’ve been carefully studying the above ride map and what’s up with you starting your ride at a different spot than where you ended it?  That has to be about a mile away.  You never do stuff like that, bro.”

Of course, you are right, although I’m not sure why you’re thinking in hip-hop slang.  That’s weird.

I like the positive thinking, but I'd prefer something more accurate.

I like the positive thinking, but I’d prefer something more accurate.

I didn’t actually start my ride a mile away; that’s just the spot where I got my Garmin GPS to start working.  Until that point, it was stubbornly refusing to cooperate.  After turning it on, it simply gave me the encouraging status of “working” and then spun its wheels.  After several minutes of patiently waiting, I tried to turn it off, only to be greeted with a long beep that continued until I pressed the power button again.  Then it finally shut off.  I was optimistic when I hit the power button again, but the thing simply gave me the same “working,” message (which was increasingly looking like Exhibit A in a false advertisement lawsuit I was contemplating).  I wasn’t going to sit around all day, so I started my ride and hoped the Garmin would come to its senses.

I’ve used my Garmin 494 times since I got it in 2011.  It’s simply the most reliable piece of gear I own.  I’ve dropped it, been hit by a car with it, been rained on, baked, froze, and just about every other thing that you might expect to happen to a GPS while riding or running. When something works 494 times, you kinda expect it to work on the 495th time.  When it doesn’t work, you’re somewhat at a loss for what to do next.

Convinced that the thing wasn’t going to fix itself, I decided to start fiddling.  To be honest, I probably should have moved to this stage much sooner in the process, but fiddling doesn’t come naturally for me.  I like to have a rational purpose for doing something and pressing buttons for no good reason doesn’t seem very logical to me.  Except that it was logical.  After pressing the button that causes the Garmin’s stop watch to start/stop, the device snapped out of its coma and immediately began giving me the display full of data that I’m used to seeing.  Why this solved the problem I have no idea.

With the case solved, I headed toward Davis Ford.  This is a picturesque area that is always nice to visit.  You can even take some pictures if the traffic is light or you don’t mind cars flying past you at 60mph with only a couple of feet of shoulder to separate you from them.

This is the bridge with the Occoquan River to the right.  You can see there is still quite a bit of grit on the shoulder from the winter snow plowing.

Davis Ford

Davis Ford is named after a family which owned a lot of land on both sides of the river back in the late 1700s.  Beyond that, I can’t find much else about them.  The exact crossing seems to have changed over the years.  Washington and Rochambeau moved part of their armies along this road as they traveled from NY City to Yorktown.  In the Civil War, Confederate troops from Georgia bivouacked along the river on the lookout for a Federal incursion southward.

Towards the other end of the bridge, there is a view of some sand bars that would be interesting to explore when it is less muddy and I have a boat instead of a bike.


I then climbed up some hills on Davis Ford Road and eventually made my way home.  I stopped at the less historic Lake Terrapin (created a few years ago by a home developer) for another picture.


I’m pleased my Garmin is fixed but less than excited about the snow that is currently falling outside my window.  With the official start of Spring only days away, Winter doesn’t seem ready to release its grip just yet.

Signal Hill

I wasn’t going to ride today because rain was forecasted and I wasn’t interested in all the muss attendant to a ride in the rain the day before heading to Virginia Beach.  However, the skies cleared in the morning and by early afternoon the sun was out.  It was time to investigate Signal Hill.

Located in the southeastern portion of Manassas, Signal Hill is not a terribly impressive piece of topography.  Once upon a time, it was probably a gentle hill from which signals could be given (radio or semaphore, depending on the age).  Today, it is a suburb, but the road which bears its name encouragingly leads toward some rural areas.  Perhaps I had found a pleasant bypass to the Prince William Parkway.  It was time to find out.

These Canadians have not yet decided to move north.

Before reaching Signal Hill, I decided to double my pleasure by venturing down Buckhall Road.  This required a brief portage of my bike from Lake Jackson road to the end of Burkhall Road – a distance of about 50 feet through some waist-high cat tails and over a guard rail.  This sort of road design is quite common around here.  It is an obvious attempt to keep traffic on the main roads and away from the housing areas.  It is very frustrating when trying to find new and interesting ways to get about.

Buckhall Road

Buckhall Road was a pleasant, if short, country lane.  If it was three or four miles long instead of barely one, it would have been fantastic.  As it was, I contented myself with several pleasant views and pondering the existence of a Sikh Community Center in such a place.  Before I had time to settle in, I had reached the Prince William Parkway, which I needed to cross to get on with my ride.

This is the view shortly before the end of Buckhall Road:

In short order, I was pedalling through suburbia and in no time I was at Signal Hill Road, which turned out to be quite hilly (which was expected, given the name of the place) and quite busy (which was a disappointment).  My failure was complete when the road gave way to one of the interminable gravel roads that seem to pop up in the most inconvenient of places around here.  I doubled back and eventually found my way to the parkway and onward to Davis Ford Road, a route which I regularly take.

Signal Hill Road

Ten miles later I was home.  With each attempt to find new routes around my area, I have greater empathy with the explorers who searched for the Northwest Passage.  I took stock of my year-to-date progress and was pleasantly surprised to find myself 185 miles further with eight additional rides compared to the quarter-point of last year.  Here’s hoping I can keep up the pace for the next nine months.  For now, though, it’s off to the beach and some of the flattest cycling routes you will ever find!

Davis Ford

It can be worse than 40 degrees and sunny.  That’s what I kept telling myself as I went on today’s ride.  My objective was Davis Ford, to take a picture of the small bridge over the Occoquan River and compare it to one I took in April.  I also wanted to try a “Zone 2 Workout,” in which you try to keep your heart rate down in that relatively low zone (Zone 1 is your resting heart rate) in order to burn fat and “build a conditioning base” (whatever that is) for next summer’s rides.

I pedaled northward and eventually ended up on the path parallel to the Prince William Parkway.  This is not in the best of shape and I have heard reports of many riders suffering flats on this stretch.  Fortunately, I emerged unscathed and was soon on the steep downhill to Davis Ford.  I pulled over at a small patch of dirt and took a picture of the river:

By way of comparison, this is how it looked in April:

I like April.  I’m trying to get into cold weather cycling, but so far it’s charms elude me.  Apart from the seasonally flavored Clif Bars  (today’s was Iced Gingerbread!) there isn’t very much upside.  It takes longer to get ready, longer to put everything away when you return, you have less hearing due to the skull cap, and less flexibility due to the layers of clothing.  And one more thing – it’s freakin’ cold out.

I was hoping to try a new road – Asdee Lane – but this turned out to be another dirt road.  I really didn’t want to press my luck and flat in weather like today, so I took a less adventurous route.  While traveling through a neighborhood only two miles from my house, I threw in a small wrinkle and went up Saratoga and George Washington roads, which I have never been on before .  Imagine my surprise when I came across an historical marker!

click for details

It’s not a terribly fascinating one, other than it bears a resemblance to the stereotypical “George Washington Slept Here” signs you often see on old buildings up and down the East Coast.  It’s hard to picture Messrs. Washington and Jefferson stomping about this area today.  It’s just a simple subdivision, just like thousands of others that are strung together around Washington, DC.  And no, the picture is not at an angle.  The sign is really tilted that much.

Idiot Of The Ride.  I haven’t had occasion to use this award of late, but a workman passing me in a pickup truck on Spriggs Road has given me cause to do so today.  On a four lane road that had very little traffic, this guy felt the need to pass within a foot of me and blare his horn while doing so.  His passenger was pointing at the mixed-use path next to the road – an indication that this is where they believed I should be.  The irony is that I was lawfully traveling in the road, as far to the right as possible, and the only one who broke the law was this loser, who did not give me the two feet of clearance required by law.  I’m sure hitting your horn as you pass someone for the sole purpose of startling him is a no-no as well.  Merry Christmas.

The Last Great Day Of Summer?

As the calendar moves deeper into October, there are fewer Summer-like days.  Today, Summer made a mid-Autumn appearance with a cloudless sky, low humidity, gentle breezes, and a temperature hovering around 80 degrees.  We may not get many more days like today for some time and I took advantage of it.

I tried to take some pics of the bike from different angles while I was riding.  Here are some of the better ones:

This is the bike path on Rte 234.  Hard to believe you can hit someone on this path at night while using a light, but I’ve almost done it twice!  Walkers, please note that black jackets and jeans are a bad combination at night.

I tried to get creative with a shadow pic.

Self-portraits while mounted (and clipped in) are a bit challenging.  I don’t like my expression, but I thought the image of my arm, the road, and my shadow in my sunglasses was pretty cool.

It took more than a few shots to get this angle lined up properly!

I took these pics over the first seven miles of the ride.  After passing the Lake Jackson Dam on Rte 234, I turned onto the Prince William Parkway and made my way over to Yates Ford Road.  On my way, I ate my first Power Bar and was very pleased.  It is more moist than my Clif Bars and required far less water to wash it down.  I have no idea which has more nutritional value.  I guess I should read the label and figure that out!

After a short while on Yates Ford Road, I turned onto Davis Ford Road and took full advantage of the big descent leading down to the Occoquan River.  I managed to break the 40 mph barrier – barely.  I hit 40.2 mph but I believe I could have squeezed 2-3 more mph out of it had I not been so worried about the car that was following me.  Traveling 40 mph on  a bike in traffic definitely keeps you focused!

A couple of miles later, I came to the Bacon Race Cemetery.  Since there were historical markers, I had no choice but to stop and take some pics.

Bacon Race Church was the first Baptist Church built in Prince William County (c. 1774).  Two more churches were built on this site, the most recent one collapsing in rather ominous fashion on Christmas Eve, 1987.     Below are all the details:

During the Civil War, a South Carolina brigade under the command of Colonel Wade Hampton used the church for its winter headquarters.   Yet another marker for a Confederate happening.  It’s quite remarkable that these historical markers dot the landscape but I have yet to find one which commemorates some aspect of Union activity.  This is especially odd as the area was under Federal control for most of the war.  I can’t imagine why this oversight has occurred!

The church is gone but the cemetery remains.  I hopped off my bike for a moment to take a drink and snap this picture:

The rest of my ride was uneventful.  The horses were out as I passed the farm on Hoadly road and I had a pleasant chat with a 20-something Burger King manager who was pedaling to work on his Schwinn.  He bikes 10 miles to work each way, five days a week.  Not bad!  I pulled into the drive and tried to remember the feeling of cycling on a hot day.  I don’t think I’ll have many more of those for the next six months!