D.C.- Day to Night from the Seat of a Bike

I started the day on Tuesday waiting for Papillon Cycles [link] in Alexandria, Virginia to open.


I had made arrangements with the shop to assemble and check out my bicycle following my arrival in the Washington, D.C. area.  It’s not that I don’t feel comfortable putting my Surly Disc Trucker back together by now; it’s just that I want a second pair of eyes on the bike before I take off on an almost 2,000 mile/3,200 km trip.  I felt like John, the store manager, and John, the mechanic, gave my bike ample attention during the couple of hours that it was there.


I was charged less than what I had been quoted over the phone for the assembly, and what I have been quoted seemed like a perfectly reasonable amount to me. I’d highly recommend the shop to anyone touring in the area.

On leaving the shop early in the afternoon I bicycled the four miles/6.5 kilometers or so back to Rosslyn, which is where my hosts Daniel and Sarah have their apartment.  The afternoon was spent handling a few things I needed to get out of the way before leaving up the Towpath and it was after five in the afternoon before I was able to wheel my bike back outside for a quick spin over to the capital.


I rolled down the surprisingly steep hill the apartment was on and shortly was crossing the Potomac on a surprisingly narrow bikeway on the side of the Interstate 66 bridge.  I must look like a longhorn steer to approaching cyclists, as they generally cringed up against the railing as we rode past each other.  Trust me, I was cringing too.

My first goal was ride by the Lincoln Memorial.  At the end of the bridge, though, the bikeway forced me to do a loop-de-loop around the Kennedy Center.


I could just feel myself absorbing culture as I pedaled by.  Shortly afterward, I reached the Lincoln Memorial.  There’s lots of striking places in D.C., but Old Abe’s stone verandah is my favorite.


I think a lot of other folks agree with me.  The view in the other direction isn’t too shabby, either.


I decided next to ride around the long pointy park with all the cherry trees.


Don’t ask me why, but it’s been on my bucket list since I was a kid growing up half a country away in the Chicago ‘burbs.  I learned that its name was “West Potomac Park”


and I had no idea that it was filled up in the middle with a golf course.

By the time I’d made the four mile/6.4 kilometer circuit of the perimeter of the park dusk was clearly approaching.  I rode towards the Washington Monument and the National Mall area.  The monument exerts an almost gravitational force as you look at it


and it was all I could do to let it pass by over my left shoulder.  I headed along the mall towards the Capitol dome off in the distance, passing the Smithsonian Museum


and a several other associated museums I should know the names of on sight but don’t.


The Capitol grew nearer as the museums tapered off.


I’d forgotten that it actually is up on a hill as I rode the circular drive around it.  This is another one of those iconic places that is both totally amazing to be at and yet almost mundane in its familiarity at the same time.


It was really starting to get dark. I made a quick detour across the street to look briefly at the Supreme Court building


and then headed back up the mall, this time on the north side.  I turned around to gawp at the Capitol building one last time, though.  Hey, I’ll be 66 in a month- maybe it’s the last time I’ll see it.



The Washington Monument at night is perhaps even more stunning than it is when it is silhouetted against a brilliant blue sky.


So too is the White House, regardless of the fact that it has not had a worthy occupant for several decades now.


I couldn’t leave Washington without going back one last time to look into Abraham Lincoln’s reassuring face.


I sense that he’s trying to tell us something.  Maybe it’s “Hey folks, don’t fret.  It’s just a bad run- but the Republic has survived worse than these last couple of guys.”  We’ll see.


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