It seems only fitting that on May First my attention turned to workers during my ride. The Public Works Department folks had the traffic down to one lane on North Harrison Street, about two blocks beyond the Harris Teeter, for repaving. They’ve already inserted one annoying little piece of “road furniture” at the secondary entrance to the Harris Teeter shopping center, in order to facilitate more orderly though much slower transitioning between the lot, the other lot directly across the street at the Safeway, and the street. Coming up the rise toward 26th St., I passed the “One Lane” and “Flagman Ahead” signs, and hit milled pavement. I could see ahead that they had blocked off 27th St., where I usually turn left to head back toward 28th St., N. Little Falls Road, and ultimately the W&OD again. So I crossed the opposite lane, which was not only milled but sprinkled here and there with a light coating of tar, lifted my bike over the 1.5” shelf of pavement near the curb, rode on the sidewalk for 100’ or so, and turned down blessedly smooth and unmilled 26th St., went around the corner and down N. Jefferson for a block, and rejoined 27th just beyond the end of the paving project.
Four or five blocks later I decided that I had to stop and brush off my front tire, which had accumulated a variety of small pebbles that had just enough tar on them to stay stuck. The periodic clicking as they hit the pavement on each revolution was bad enough, but I didn’t want to take the chance that some sharp-edged fragment would embed itself in the tire and ultimately cause a flat.
This impromptu detour is only the most recent of a number I’ve made in North Arlington in recent weeks. Once they had the area of 19th Rd., 19th St., and Tuckahoe all shut down, and another time I had to circumnavigate Bishop O’Connell HS because 28th and N. Little Falls were being done. It’s actually kind of interesting to see some different neighborhood blocks, and besides, the work is done in a couple of days. By the next time I ride there, they’ll have moved on to some other blocks, perhaps nearby and perhaps not. And once the repaving is done, the surface is excellent!
Coincidentally or not, today’s ride also revealed a key piece of repaving on the W&OD. Just east of the spot where the W&OD underpasses Wilson Boulevard there has been an evil patch of pavement for several years. About 50’ long, it’s covered with cracks and bumps from tree roots. Riders have worn paths in the dirt on either side so they can hop off and bypass the pavement. If you stay on it, you have to stand on the pedals and freewheel. The upthrust pavement is that difficult. But I’ll now have to put the description in the past tense, because when I reached that spot today there was new, black, smooth asphalt. Not a trace of a bump to be found. Thanks, Park Authority! Last time I rode over that spot I said to myself I was going have to complain. But I never got around to it. I don’t want to exaggerate my influence or the respect in which I am held, but my mere intention to complain got them to do the job. Just saying . . .
If Arlington County is doing busy and active work with repaving, the opposite is true of the Town of Vienna. They closed Cottage Street between Patrick St. and Yeonas Dr. (four blocks) last fall. They did the whole nine yards, I guess. New sewers, new sidewalks, new subsurface, the works. For the duration we have had to take a somewhat different neighborhood shortcut to drive to I-66 westbound.
One of my local cycling rides begins at the Gallows Road end of Cottage and goes almost to where it ends behind the Vienna Shopping Center. I then cut over on Locust, past the Police Station, to Center, where I ride back up to Moore Ave. and hang a right back over to Cottage, where I return to the Gallows Road end. Doing that three times, plus a little loop at the end in my neighborhood, gives me a 20.5-mile ride with 1400’ of uphill. A lot of that uphill comes in the blocks they were repaving.
And now the project is over, the detour signs are gone, and Cottage is open for business so I’m back on my original route. The new pavement is smooth, black, and fast, allowing me to climb with direct-drive energy, not dodging potholes and cracks, and descend with the swift smoothness of a hungry osprey. Just one liiiiiiitle problem: though they had the bleeding road closed for months for a complete upgrade, the Town of Vienna did not, I repeat DID NOT, repave the fourth block, between Walker St. and Yeonas. What’s the big deal, you say? Well, this is the worst patch of pavement I have ever seen on a public street in the United States, a few random blocks of DC excepted. From one side to the other the surfaces is crumbled into coarse gravel, intermixed with small bumps of attached but crumbling asphalt. There are places where the whole top layer is gone, leaving 2”-deep depressions. The ride is so jarring that I often am not sure I can maintain control of my bike. It makes riding the cobblestones of the European “Spring Classics” bike races, such as Paris-Roubaix, seem like a weekend cruise. Even George Hincapie would have trouble with it. I thought the whole purpose of the project was to address this particular patch of substandard road. What were they thinking?
©Arnold J. Bradford, 2013.