"We're going to take the Metro to East Falls Church, and then we're going to have lunch at Mon Ami Gabi," Jeff said, as we closed the garage door and set off on our bicycles. We were off on one of our epic "urban assault rides," where we use the Metro system to extend our traveling distance. Yesterday was a glorious Saturday -- finally, after a nasty winter and a colder-than-normal spring. I posted on FB that we might not be home until dark . . . and we weren't, though it didn't go quite the way we expected. Like many of our rides, there was a small twist.
First stop was my Weight Watchers meeting, where I weighed in for May. Jeff had breakfast and waited at Einstein Bagels (where I also grabbed a bagel for my post-weigh-in breakfast). After my meeting ended, we set off for the Rockville Metro station, using Russell Avenue, E Gude Drive, Dover Road, and Horners Lane. After a stop at Starbucks, we took the Red Line to Metro Center, to switch to the Orange. Fortunately, the train was not at all crowded, and we were able to get our bikes on and wedge them in comfortably.
Funny thing about Metro: the stations all mostly look alike, and they are all somewhat symetrical. So, it's easy to get turned around, especially if you're me. My first mistake, once we got to Metro Center, was thinking there was no elevator down to the Blue/Orange platform. So, I blithely wheeled past the elevator that actually was there, and carried my bike down the stairs. (This is not any particular feat of strength; my bike is titanium, and it weighs about 17 lbs fully loaded.) Jeff followed, carrying his somewhat heavier bike, managing not to tumble down them or bang any of the stair-sitters in the head. He then mentioned that he could have taken the elevator, but throught that I wanted to take the stairs. I then allowed as how I'd missed the elevator. (I believe my exact words were, "OK, I'm an idiot.") This is a conversational exchange that we have rather often, given my utter lack of a sense of direction and my propensity to miss landmarks. No harm was done, though, and the Orange line train arrived in a couple of minutes. again, the train was not crowded, and the ride to Virginia was uneventful.
The East Falls Church stop is very useful if you're a cyclist, because it intersects with the Washington & Old Dominion (W&OD) rail trail. The W&OD runs from Shirlington (part of Arlington) to Purcelville, a distance of 45 miles. It's a wonderful ride: urban and rural both, and you are usually not very far from food, water, or other necessary facilities. Its one drawback is that it can be very crowded, especially on weekends. Once we exited the station, we found the trail to be relatively uncrowded. As we headed toward Reston (and Mon Ami Gabi), I asked Jeff, "so, how far is it to Reston?" (Yes, I should have known this, but remember, I have no sense of direction or distance.) "About 12 miles," he said, and I mentally projected our total mileage for the day. "OK," I said to him, "that means we're going to do about 50 miles, are you all right with that?"* "I should be," he replied, and we discussed options for getting back home in the event he bonked or had leg problems.
On our way from East Falls Church to Reston, we noticed a new Virginia historical marker, at the intersection of the trail and Hunter Mill Road. I collect pictures of historical markers we encounter on our travels, so here's this one, relating to (what else, in NoVA) the Civil War.
Did I mention it was a gorgeous day? It was, but it was also warmer than normal. Temps reached the high 80s, and it was humid, which is very unusual for early May. We had some water with us, but as we'd been riding in cool conditions all spring, we were not yet acclimated to the heat, and we downed our bottles pretty quickly. So, we stopped at the Falls Church Whole Foods Market (which has outdoor tables and a bike rack) and got more water, and split an orange juice. That gave us the energy to make it to Reston . . . and by the time we got there (1:30 or so) we were both pretty hungry. There was a street fair going on in the downtown area, but fortunately, not right in front of Mon Ami Gabi. I tied the bikes up while Jeff secured us an outdoor table. We both ordered steak frites (MAG has some of the best fries ever! Thin, crispy, and plentiful.) and starters. There was a delicious cool breeze, too; it was just a delightful lunch. The waiter asked if we had biked there; he remarked, "you're dressed like you're biking, but you could just be dressed that way." I laughed and said, "No, we're not poseurs, we really did bike here." He laughed also, and told us to be careful. (I'm sure he understood why we each ordered just one drink.)
As we climbed back on our bikes after lunch, we noticed that it had gotten significantly hotter. I needed some caffeine, so we wheeled over to the Barnes & Noble Starbucks. I got a doppio and finished it off while Jeff dozed off in a storefront chair. The heat, the lunch and "afternoon slump" had hit him, all at once, and he was starting to run out of gas. He said he'd get something at the Starbucks in Vienna, and would see how he felt then. Off we went, back toward the Metro. It was 6 miles to Vienna, but Jeff said it felt like 20. We stopped for probably half an hour in Vienna. Jeff sat inside in the A/C and recuperated a bit. After he came back out, he said, "Let's go to the Dunn Loring stop; it's only about 3 miles." That turned out to be an excellent option, as he had enough energy for that leg of the ride. Again, the train was not too crowded, and we settled in the back of the last car, where we were out of everybody's way.
As we headed toward my arch-nemesis, Metro Center, I tried to figure out the platform/elevator situation. I had finally gotten it through my head that there were two elevators up to the Red level, one on each platform end. And, I thought I had figured out what we'd need to do once we got off the last car of the train: I thought we'd have to wheel our bikes to the elevator on the other end of the platform. What I hadn't remembered, though, was that we were coming into the station from the other direction, so we'd be getting off on the correct end. So, when we offloaded our bikes (unfortunately, into one of the biggest Metro crowds I'd ever seen on that platform), I tried to wheel to the other side without knocking anyone down. Jeff yelled, "No, we take this elevator!" He was right - he is the human GPS, after all - and so I had to turn around and re-thread me and my bike back through the same clump of people (I'm sure I was their PIA for the day). Once we reached the Red platform, we encountered another large crowd. Trains were running 6 minutes apart, so we figured we would wait, if the cars were too crowded for bikes. (We are only supposed to take bikes into either end of a car; we are not permitted to go in the middle door.) We were in luck, though; the arriving train was almost empty. Once again, we got in and secured our bikes in mostly out-of-the-way locations. The long ride back to Rockville in a nicely air-conditioned car gave us both a chance to revive a bit.
Once out of the Rockville station, I said, "let's go get a fancy donut before we head back home." We headed for the Fractured Prune, in downtown Rockville. Turns out they have Gifford's ice cream, too, so I opted for that, seeing as how it was a hot day. It was 10 miles back home from Rockville, and Jeff was not sure he would make it. Fortunately, it had gotten somewhat cooler and more pleasant, but it was also nearly 7 pm. "Let's ride to Fallsgrove (about 3 miles) and then you can see if you want to just wait there," I told Jeff. We made it to Fallsgrove without incident, and Jeff waited at the Starbucks there** while I biked back home to retrieve the RAV. I got home, grabbed a (regular, for a change) Coke, and headed back to Fallsgrove, on my rescue mission.
As we loaded Jeff's bike in the car, I said, "Hey, let's go to Barnes & Noble; there's a book I want to look for." He readily agreed - neither of us turn down opportunities to browse book stores - and we spent about an hour at the B&N in Rio.
By the time we got home, it was indeed after dark. Total mileage: me, 50 miles; Jeff 43. An excellent day, and great training for our upcoming road trip (bikes in tow) to Chicago and the Twin Cities.
*In November 2008, Jeff fell down a set of interior stairs in our house. He smashed both sets of quadriceps, and got rhabdomyolosis. He couldn't walk, and spent a week in the hospital. He is largely recovered, but sometimes one or both legs cramp up on long bike rides.
**I am sure it has not escaped your attention that Starbucks tends to play a large role in our urban rides. It's kind of like a public utility. Always there, always useful.