Sunday Trail Mates

This time of year not even Sunday afternoon brings out many riders on theW&OD.   Today I passed or was passed by other riders only four times.  Three of them were slightly eventful.  Two of those four riders were the same guy.  I had to wait for him to get on the trail to start my ride.  He was anything but a cycling fashion plate, with a thermal jacket and street pants with rubber bands or something holding them tight at the ankle.   Rode pretty fast, though, and I only caught up to him after the light at Gallows Road and the crossing at Sensony Lane.  It always takes me a quarter-mile or so to get really geared up, especially with a 39° wind in my face.

When I did catch up with him, though, I went straight past him with my usual “On the left . . . Thank you.”  I was on the Fuji today, so was not going as fast as I can on the Trek, and when I was halfway up the hill to the bridge over I-66 on Virginia Lane he passed me (silently) at a pretty good clip.  He was a good 25 yards ahead of me as we swept downhill to the foot of Virginia Lane and back onto the Trail.  Like most of us, he rode in the street rather than on the trail, which between the bridge and the foot of the hill is effectively an asphalt sidewalk for several homes lining the street.  Too narrow to stripe along that stretch, the trail is navigable only with difficulty, each driveway and house front walk being a potential intersection.  Two cars passed us on the way down, but they had made their turns and were out of the way when we hit the bottom and took the left-hander back onto the Trail.  I knew I would catch him, because he was a freewheeler rather than a spinner like me who wants to keep the pedals pushing resistance just about every second I am out there.  Took me a little distance, but I was past him by the time we hit the crossing at Shreve Road.  That was the last I saw of him.  Whether he fell off the pace or reached his destination I don’t know.

The third slightly eventful passing was on my way back.  I had turned around at my usual spot, where the Trail, after running beside Four Mile Run Drive for a couple of miles, comes to South Shirlington Road.  Had I continued straight, the Trail would have taken me to the junction with the Mount Vernon Trail at National Airport.  But I went back on the street as far as South Oakland Street, as I usually do, past the lineup of (privately owned?) large trucks and the Ecuadorian food truck, that seems to do a good business every day of the week, summer or winter.  No stop light at South Oakland, but there is one a quarter mile or so farther up, at South Walter Reed Drive.  It’s a real pain to hit the pedestrian button there going northwest, but necessary to do so.  You have to pull way over on the median strip between trail and street, reach around to the far side of the utility pole, and punch the button.  Then, already out of the clip, you have to walk while straddling the bike back to the left-hand side of the trail.  Latecomers, who don’t need to press the button, are to your right.

When the walk sign went on, I began my crossing as usual from the left hand side, but drifted to the right on the way across to be in the right lane when I had completed crossing the street.  As I approached the other side a rider came past on my right at full speed.  He’d obviously hit the crossing just as the light changed, and thought where he went was the most efficient line to take.  Since I was accelerating into his path not expecting to be passed on the right, I got quite a surprise as he pounded by.  I muttered to myself “that was a dumb thing to do,”  and may have characterized him in certain uncomplimentary ways.  By the next light, at George Mason Drive, I’d caught up with him.  He waited quite a while as if for the light, but then pointed his bike the other way; it was his turn-around point.  He smiled and said “hi”; I bit my tongue.  When the light changed, I didn’t get the pedestrian light; though first in line, the jerk hadn’t pushed the button!  My earlier characterizations were totally substantiated.

©Arnold J. Bradford, 2011.

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