Biking-centric Father’s Day Weekend

The schedule of family events for Father’s Day, and the weather (mostly), worked out to let me get two days of riding and over 100 miles of biking in this weekend.

My daughter and her husband (and two dogs) live about 33 miles away by car in Vienna VA. We decided it would be easiest for my wife and I to go to their house for a Maryland-style steamed spiced crab-fest on Saturday, beating the Sunday FD rush.

They live right off the Washington and Old Dominion Rail Trail and after 8 miles of riding on my local roads, I can get on a series of local paved trails that interconnect for a mostly car-free ride all the way using the Matthew Henson, Rock Creek, Capital Crescent, Mt. Vernon, and Four Mile Run trails to connect to the W&OD rail trail.

I’ve done it before – the most direct path is 36 miles. I had time and the weather said no rain until late afternoon (ha!) so I went the long way – 48 miles by heading south on the Mt. Vernon trail and heading west on the Four Mile Run trail just south of National Airport.

8 miles of local roads, 32 miles of nice dry path, 8 miles in a downpour

My wife would drive down later, I carried a change of clothes to shower at my daughter’s and hang-out before my wife got there. I decided to ride my Jamis Renegade bike, with 40mm gravel tires, even though I’d be on paved surfaces the entire time. We’ve had a lot of rain recently and I wasn’t sure about flooded spots or areas that had washed out – I went with sturdy frame and tough tires.

Jamis Renegade in mini-bikepacking mode

I was worried about the trails being crowded, between isolation fever and spillover from the Juneteenth rallies in and around DC. I was out early enough to beat any large crowds and while there were definitely more people out walking and biking than normal, it never became an issue. Montgomery County MD has shut down a few roads to cars completely, so in some places (like Beach Drive south of Knowles Road) there was actually more space to bike.

I had enjoyable rides down Beach Drive before cutting over through Bethesda to the Capital Crescent trail down into Georgetown. One block on the route (Woodmont Ave) is now a bike/pedestrian zone with tables on the street to serve the coffee shops and restaurants. With any luck, that will remain after restrictions are eased.

A bike “portage” up a few stairways to get across the C&O Canal got me up to the level of the Key Bridge to cross the Potomac River into Rosslyn and onto the Mt. Vernon Trail south.

Navy Merchant Marine Memorial just north of the Pentagon

I did’t stop until mile 28, where I ate a few fig bars at the very scenic Navy Merchant Marine Memorial – in the spring, it is surrounded by a sea of red tulips. A few miles later there was a spritz of rain that disappeared quickly, but some ominous clouds were moving in from the southeast.

The trail goes by National Airport and then connects with the Four Mile Run trail and a beautifully restored section of Four Mile Run creek which feeds into the W&OD Trail. With 8 miles to go, a thunder storm caught me and I was drenched. But I could see blue sky ahead and managed to get a bit ahead of the heaviest of the rain, but it was still raining on me when I reached Lauren and Steven’s house.

Historic Frederick MD Bridges (usually) 60 mile Loop

Sunday, I decided to get some hillier miles in and did an old favorite loop, usually called the Frederick Historic Bridges Almost Metric Century. The ride goes over a number of the many covered bridges in the Frederick MD area but also purposely crisscrosses the Monocacy River over many other scenic small bridges.

I started at Utica Park (with open port-a-potties!) and headed NE towards Taneytown. The first bridge crossed was the stone Legore Bridge.

Legore stone bridge

I rode on mostly serene back roads – not a single car passed me until mile 15. Ironically, I hit several stretches of fresh gravel riding (aargh to tar and chip road surfacing…) on my slick tires on my road bike. The day before I rode gravel tires on pavement…

Mile 26 was a snack stop at a Sheetz in Taneytown – oops, I left my cash wad in the bag I used on the Jamis the day before. I had a mask, but no cash – felt like a bank robber… Luckily, I had brought some fig bars – ate those and began to conserve water from my two bottles as the skies cleared. and the temperature rose.

At the northern most point of the ride, the Bullfrog Road bridge was closed over the Monocacy, so I had to detour on busy Taneytown Pike which cut a mile from the usual 60 mile length.

One of many restored covered bridges

South through more covered bridges, through downtown Thurmont and past the Catoctin Wildlife Preserve (rescue zoo) which was doing gang-buster’s business. The route then turns onto Black Mills Road which follows Little Hunting Creek – more gravel! A bit of a slog uphill, one more covered bridge and I was back at the start with 59 miles on the clock.

Avid cyclist, sometimes touring cyclist. My main road bike is a Trek Domane SL6, my touring/unpaved riding bike is now a Jamis Renegade. I'm located in Maryland, about midway between Baltimore and Washington DC.

8 response to "Biking-centric Father’s Day Weekend"

  1. By: BobinVT Posted: June 22, 2020

    Sounds like a great way to spend Father’s Day weekend. Nice that you have so many rail trails available.

  2. By: jpescatore Posted: June 22, 2020

    There are several rail trails around here but they aren’t very well interconnected. But, back in the Arab oil embargo years, MD, DC and Northern VA built a lot of bike paths that provide some useful interconnections in the urban areas.

    My 48 miles was about 22 on rail trail (Washington and Old Dominion, Capital Crescent), 8 on active roads, 5 on roads closed for biking/walking and about 13 on those old, narrow and often not very well maintained park type trails.

    I have a friend who lives in Columbus OH – they have an amazing grid of rail trails across OH!

  3. By: Rich-Illinois Posted: June 22, 2020

    Friend in Arlington, VA mentioned all the bicycle trails, first look at them, nice!!
    Great ride!

    • By: jpescatore Posted: June 23, 2020

      I moved to Maryland in 1978 and even back then Arlington was a shining beacon of transportation planning that included bikes.

  4. By: The Navigator Posted: June 24, 2020

    What a great weekend of riding and time with family – it’s always nice when you can combine them 🙂

  5. By: NancyG Posted: June 25, 2020

    Looks like some wonderful riding and great fun.

  6. By: Alchemyrider Posted: July 1, 2020

    I want 40mm tires.
    Unfortunately, that entails getting a new bike.

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