The W&OD Trail is still snowed in from the “Perfect Storm” of 12 days ago. [That was the sudden descent of 6 to 10 inches of wind-blown, wet snow just in time for the afternoon rush hour, that paralyzed the entire metropolitan DC area.] Only for the last couple of days has it been warm enough for significant melting to occur, and even then there are stretches of the Trail the sun scarcely hits, though it’s winter and the trees are bare. In my “Trail Tale” blogs of last February and March I described how long it took after two blizzards for the Trail to become rideable again, and that finally happened in early March only with the aid of a Park Authority snowplow.
Meanwhile our streets are well cleared, especially the main ones. In these situations I often ride what I call the “Cottage Circuit,” a route along local streets whose backbone is the 3-mile swath cut by Cottage Street between Gallows Road and Maple Avenue in Vienna. Three times back and forth on Cottage, plus some noodling around our Stonewall Manor subdivision, and a I have a 20+ mile ride. And if I’m feeling extra strong or in need of increasing my stamina, I can do one more loop for 26 miles in all.
The nice thing about this ride is that it’s a fairly straight run back and forth, with relatively few narrow passages and stop signs. Cottage is wide enough so that there’s room for cars to pass me easily, although it’s also wide enough for Metro busses and school busses. The latter seem to be prohibited from crossing the center line to pass under any circumstances; I’ve had some lugubrious climbs on narrow hill roads thanks to them. But the road gets enough traffic so that it needs paving now and then. Over the last year there’s been a lot of much-needed new asphalt laid on Cottage Street, thanks in part to the Stimulus money I’m sure. So while there are still a few passages that help give me an idea of what it must be like to ride on cobblestones, most of it is great; there’s one steep down-and-up passage where I’ve gained 5 or 6 mph at the top (end) of the stretch because I no longer have to dodge potholes on the downhill.
I get to Cottage by going down Academy, up Jackson Parkway, and down Drexel for two longish blocks. Then I turn east on Cottage and go about ½ mile up a false flat with a nasty rise right at the end to Bucknell Drive. I drift a little beyond Bucknell and do a U-turn just before I get to the median strip that separates the street at its intersection at Gallows. I have to pay attention here to traffic coming up behind me over the rise. Once I get rolling west on Cottage I can hit 28 to 30 mph going back toward the Dunn Loring Pool on the right. Past the pool I start a long rise that crests a block before Cottage crosses Cedar Lane. All along here it’s residential, with parking lanes on each side of the street and wide travel lanes. The subdivision is Dunn Loring Woods, with houses similar to but not identical with our Stonewall Manor models.
The Cottage/Cedar Lane intersection is a pain because the light is activated by a pressure plate all the time. Unless I have a car waiting with me, I have to scoot across when Cedar has no traffic, or cross when the eastbound Cottage traffic gets the light. Once across I go down a long incline, across a 4-way stop intersection at Patrrick Street that I can usually blast through at full speed thanks to the absence of cross traffic. That helps me over the next rise, which takes me down and up the swale I mention above; I can really be flying at that point. Then the street rises gradually, through two busy 4-way stops at Kingsley and Tapawingo, to a crest about 5 blocks from Vienna. I can generally zoom down the incline of those last five blocks, turning right at Locust, the last through street before Cottage ends in the back lot of a commercial block. I go one block, past the Police Station, and take another right onto Center Street. At that corner there’s a civic area, with Vienna Elementary School and a large recreational area on the north side of the street, and Faith Baptist Church on the south side. Then Center Street provides four blocks of a moderately challenging climb, past residential lots many of which were rebuilt several years ago with pseudo-Victorian houses in gaudy colors, sporting big front porches, semi-detached garages, and the occasional turret. A few of the banal 1950s ranch houses are left here and there. Center crests at its intersection at Oak, leaving a sharp downhill and speedy right turn (traffic permitting) onto Moore. A long block gets me back to a left (eastward) turn onto Cottage. From there I retrace my route, which provides a rapid downhill and sharp rise up to and through the intersection at Ross Drive (site of a dreadful house fire some years ago, but that’s another story), a great downhill to Patrick again, and once across Cedar a long sweeping downhill and back to the false flat up to Bucknell.
Usually after three rounds of that I am ready for home. But I don’t go quietly. Taking the downhill from Bucknell one last time, I turn right onto Drexel, then right again onto Stonewall Drive, and hit the three cul-de-sacs at our end of the subdivision, at the ends of Stonewall, Villanova, and Holt. After Villanova there’s a great downhill on McNeil with a sharp right onto Holt, which is fun when I’m in the mood to ride it hard and there’s no sand on the street to slip on. I’m still working on getting the apex of the curve just right.
After the dead end at Holt it’s just a right onto Jackson Parkway, downhill to Academy, up Academy with an all-out sprint, and a short freewheel back into our driveway.
Less than 90 minutes, 20.7 miles, over 1440 feet of uphill. Good workout when the Trail’s unavailable, and even when it’s open.
©Arnold J. Bradford, 2011.