DC by bike — Part II

So somewhere between running two miles on pavement in Five Fingers (after having not run at all in several weeks) and walking around our nation’s capitol last Thursday, I developed shin splints.

As I walked to meet Chrissy for dinner at Mandu (a Korean restaurant) that evening, I winced with every step and wished I’d ridden her bicycle instead (I chose not to due to lack of night time riding gear, i.e., lights, reflective vest, etc.).

A note on the food front — I’d scoped out veg-friendly restaurants ahead of time, making note of some that sounded interesting (and affordable) and were not too far from my friends’ apartment.  Mandu was the only one on my list that I actually visited on this trip.  I ordered the vegetable mandu (dumplings) and a noodle soup-type dish — both were okay, but not particularly noteworthy.

We made it back to her apartment after dinner, with me looking longingly at the bicylists that passed by, where I began plotting a bicycle excursion for Friday.  My friend Natalie, who has almost zero experience cycling on the streets of DC, had agreed to accompany me (with lots of experience cycling in StL, but zero experience cycling in DC) on an adventure.

She was nervous about cycling, period.  I was nervous about heading out on unknown streets (apprehension applicable to both driving a bike or a car in an unknown, traffick-y urban area).  I knew we could have a good experience on my familiar StL roads, but what would happen in DC?  I desperately wanted it to go well and be a positive experience for Natalie.

From my time walking around DC, I’d already seen a variety of bicycle infrastructure “improvements,” including the standard door-zone bike lanes, as well as some variations, including a two-way segregated bike lane (on 14th St. NW, I believe) positioned between the sidewalk and a lane of on-street parking and the two-way bikes lane right smack-dab in the middle of Pennsylvania Ave.  DC felt like a veritable hodge-podge of cycling facilities.

Armed with a DC bicycle map, I plotted our route with a very specific and simple goal: avoid streets with bike lanes!  I picked Rock Creek Park as a destination, and chose a straightforward route to minimize turns (less to have to remember).

On Friday morning, I pumped up my adopted bicycle’s tires (it was lonely, ahem, Chrissy) and rode to pick up Natalie.  My short solo ride did a lot to boost my confidence that riding a bike in DC is not so different from riding a bike in StL, and that our excursion could, indeed, be a positive experience for my friend.

We rode south on 6th St. NW, and then headed west on P St. NW, which took us to the south end of Rock Creek Park.  On our way, we navigated the slightly crazy traffic circle at Logan Circle and opted to become pedestrians and walk around the very crazy DuPont Circle (having experienced it that way, I was all prepared to bike through it on our return trip, but it was so congested, we decided walking would be faster).  The trickiest part of the entire ride was figuring out how to connect with the trail in Rock Creek Park, which we rode north for a bit to the zoo.

We retraced our route back to Natalie’s place for some much-needed cooling, refueling, and rest time (temps in DC were in the low 90s the whole time I was there, making most every endeavor — walking, biking, sitting — a sweaty one).

With that, it looks like we’re working on a three-parter here, since my Friday riding left me wanting more.  And more there was!

DC by bike (and foot and Metro) — Part I

After a few solo days in StL last week, during which time I clearly had a bit too much time on my hands (as evidenced by a blog post ev.er.y day for seven days in a row), I skipped town and headed to our nation’s capitol for a much needed mini-reunion and ladies’ weekend with some fabulous college friends.

I was on the fence about the trip, but the direct (non-stop) Southwest flights from StL to DCA (Ronald Reagan International Airport) sealed the deal.  (Southwest offering flights to DCA is a relatively new thing — exciting b/c DCA is much closer to central Washington, DC, i.e., much more accessible by transit.)

Natalie met me at the airport with a spare SmarTrip [transit] card, so I didn’t even have to navigate the Metro by myself (it was actually fairly straightforward).  After dropping off my bags, and picking up our friend Jennifer, we walked to Sweet Green, a DC-area made-to-order salad restaurant.

Having overdosed a bit on lettuce in the days leading up to the trip, a salad place might not have been my first choice, but the combination of close, fast, healthy, and affordable kept me from voicing any hesitation.

Fortunately, they had some base options other than just lettuce, and I chose a combination of kale (one green which has been missing from my life recently) and warm grains.  I was excited to see that many of their ingredients were sourced locally, including the kale, [hard-boiled] eggs, and homemade spicy pickles that I chose for my salad.  Tasty and a fun twist on a “regular old salad.”

I was up early on Thursday morning, so I headed out for a short run, destination Bicycle Space, a local bike shop that carries Yuba bicycles.  (The day before I left StL, I had the brilliant idea to find a Yuba dealer in DC so I could take the Mundo for a test ride.)  The run turned into a bit of a scavenger hunt, as the shop had moved, and the address I had was their old location.  I tracked down their new shop, knowing they would not be open that early, but planning on some window shopping.

I returned from my run with my brilliant plan in jeopardy, having not seen any Yuba bicycles in the shop.  I waited until opening time to call the shop, where an employee confirmed that they did not have any Yuba Mundos in stock, but they were expecting a shipment soon.  Not soon enough for this visitor, but they helpfully directed me to a different bike shop in the DC-area.

Natalie graciously offered to drive me to The Green Commuter, in the near suburb of Takoma Park, MD.  Ironic that my one car-trip of the visit was to ride a bicycle, especially given the name of the shop.  But there it finally was — a Yuba Mundo in real life!

The shop employees were great, adjusting the bike for me and letting me take it for a spin, knowing that I was from out-of-town and wouldn’t actually be making a purchase from them.  So, yeah, no photo evidence, but I finally rode a longtail (and one of the bikes we are considering).

After driving back into DC, we grabbed a quick lunch and hopped on the Metro to the National Mall area, where we spent the afternoon walking, browsing museums, etc.  It was super hot, but I somehow resisted the temptation to cool off in the fountains that we passed.

I’ll pause there for now.  Check back later this week for DC — Part II, which includes much more biking than just a test ride (as well as the limited number of photos I took on the trip)!