Thursday, May 14, 2009

the official anti dc guide to finding the least worst riding trails in and around dc

If you e-know me at all, you know one of the only things that gets me to leave my hobo lair and engage with "the real world" (not to be confused with my helper horse Sven, who tried out for MTV's The Real World -- frankly, I'm surprised that manwhore equinewhore didn't make it...he'd make excellent TV), is my love of bicycling.

And sure, riding around DC can be annoying, dangerous and just plain stupid, but in between all the ridiculousness, there are some pretty sweet trails around here, some of which are smooth enough to compensate for my bike's general shoddiness. (My bike almost self-immolated in Rock Creek Park once when the terrain got a little rough. My bike's got a mean 'tude.)

In the last 48 hours I've ridden the Capital Crescent trail from Georgetown to Bethesda and the Mt. Vernon trail out to Old Town Alexandria. (And to make up for those extra calories burned, I ate four servings of potato chips in one sitting and now feel like I'm going to puke.) Both trails have their pluses and minuses (the main minus being that they are both located in DC), but there can be only one winner, which means it's time for The Official Anti DC Guide To Finding The Least Worst Riding Trails In and Around DC! Hooray!

Contender 1: The Capital Crescent Trail

Starting off in Georgetown, the popped collar capital of the free world and hence forth to be known as simply "hell," this trail goes up through Bethesda and possibly even further. I don't really know. (I never said this was going to be an accurate guide.) Anyway, it's paved the entire way and offers a pretty flat ride, so on a day like this past Tuesday when it was about 70 degrees, you don't have to worry about breaking a sweat, which means you can put off doing your laundry just a little longer.

The trail starts off decent enough. In fact, once you escape from hell, you'll find yourself surrounded by lush green scenery, chirping birds and what looks like racist signage.

While the trail was overall very pleasant and peaceful, I did come across a very disturbing scene -- a wayward stuffed animal perched creepily on a bench, a sign that clearly indicates someone was probably kidnapped here.

And what better place to nab a kid than in the dank, dark tunnel that composes a sliver of this trail's midsection?

And then when you're done committing crimes in the dark tunnel, you can discard any evidence or dead bodies in one of several smelly industrial sections of the trail.

Or maybe that's a which case, watch out, hooligan! But potential crime sights aside, I found the CC Trail only half decent and, weirdly, that decent half originates in hell and ends when you enter Maryland. From hell to Maryland, you get to ride (what feels like, at least) in nature. But once you hit Montgomery County, you're thrust into civilization again, and you know where The Anti DC stands on civilization. People are annoying. What's more annoying is the scenery. Not only are you suddenly surrounded by what could possibly be minimum-security prisons, but you're also forced to look at traffic.

On the bright side, at least you're not in the traffic, but this scenery in no way, shape or form beats the actual nature you get to see while riding alongside the C&O Canal.

Another downside is that this trail ends in Bethesda.

Bethesda sucks. It's kind of like hell, but without the historic buildings. The only plus is that if you ride into town a little there is a pretty excellent Subway and $5-footlongs have the power to improve everything, even Bethesda.

Contender 2: Mt. Vernon Trail to Old Town Alexandria

Originating somewhere near Jefferson's ass, the Mt. Vernon Trail will bring you all the way to, well, Mt. Vernon. However, if you're lazy, you can make your end goal Old Town Alexandria, which is clearly what I did.

Opposite the CCT, the MVT gets better the farther away you get from DC (as it should be). Specifically, it gets all nature-y when you pass National Airport. However, before you pass the airport, it's worth stopping at the park where you can chillax at a picnic table and wait for landing planes to graze your face.

And here's a still capture of the plane's nether-regions, you aero-pervs.

Once you've had your fill of hoping the airplane's toilet doesn't leak on your head, you continue on and you'll ride through bogs (not to be confused with blogs), forests, meadows and bizarre murals.

And before long, you'll come across a narrow, caged-in bridge that offers one of the most unsafe although enticing locales to stop and take a photo -- a convex safety mirror!

Look how small my bike looks! More importantly, look who ridiculous my head looks! While I would like to blame that on the mirror, my headgear looked pretty special all on its own with the helmet layered over the brimmed hat, but you know what? Safety and wrinkle-free face first.

Finally, after about eight or nine miles (I guess), you'll reach Old Town, which is a significantly bigger payoff than Bethesda. Not only are there sailboats and ducks to greet you at the waterfront, but the town's patrons also named a street after the Western European half of my lineage.

Respect. Mt. Vernon Trail for the win!


Beach Bum said...

Most of my commute to work is through the Mt. Vernon trail. If you want to visit the ghetto of Arlington (where I live), you can get off on the Four Mile Run exit, and take that to Shirlington, continuing on Four Mile Run towards Columbia Pike taking the W&OD Trail (that goes on for like 50 miles or so to Purceville -- wherever that is -- I think).

You can then exit the W&OD when you hit Custis Trail, making your way back to DC (it ends on Key Bridge, where you can go to Georgetown, or take the Mt. Vernon trail again on an endless loop).

De in D.C. said...

I was also going to give a shout out to the W&OD trail, which, if you take it for long enough, intertwines with a horse trail. You definitely pass through some scenic concrete factories first though.

Patty Duke said...

I was wondering how to spend Sunday. Old town it is. Thanx.
BTW I enjoyed the airplane video. You should try this area at night, while just a bit tipsy not drunk. The experience is awsome.

patrick b said...

that looked like a lota'fun!!!

Ben (The Tiger) said...

Old town Alexandria is lovely.

Denizen of Tennallytown said...

Apparently Mayor Fenty's office paid off Yahoo! Finance to report Washington DC as... wait for it... a BEST BARGAIN CITY. You heard right - the city where a studio apartment starts at $900, the median single family home is in the 400k range, and a single cupcake costs $4.00.

Of course, I'm sure this includes the "Greater Washington Metropolitan Area", where living in Urbana, MD or Lorton, VA is somehow considered part of DC. Sorry, but a 2 hour commute to work each way does not earn you the title of "Washingtonian" - simply "One Who Wastes His Day Commuting." If you took DC away, these places would be considered yokeltowns.

N said...

Is the Capital Crescent trail uphill? I am lazy and map my routes around the city to avoid hills.

Ned Schneebly said...

N, in my view; it depends upon how you define 'uphill'. Given your statement about avoiding hills; yes, it is uphill.

Marissa, sweet stem shifters. Hey! That's the technical, formal name for them: Stem Shifters

Daniel said...

Nice. I've been thinking about taking the initiative to find some decent trails for a while, but I seem to keep not doing it. Thanks for being an enabler and doing it for me... sucker. Also, cycling in boat shoes? WORD.

Marissa said...

beach bum: W&OD is next. Thanks for the tip!

de: Awesome. I will try and get out there to the horse trails.

patty: That's not a bad idea. To watch planes land with a bottle of wine. Or five bottles. Whichever.

patrick: It was, actually. There's something about riding a bike that makes everything better.

ben: Parts of it are of it are just like everywhere else. The waterfront is nice. It'd have been nicer with ice cream, but, you know, I can buy three cans of beans for the price of a cone.

denizen: Holy crap. Really? Wow. DC is NOT a bargain. Not even for the East

n: I guess so. I didn't notice the incline while riding until I was heading back to Georgetown and I got there in half the time.

ned: Yeah, my stem shifters are pretty sweet...when they function.

daniel: Boat shoes is the only way to cycle. Yeah, these two trails are pretty straightforward. Easy, short, no way to really get lost, although that can be a drawback depending on your view.

FoggyDew said...

Both trails are fun but, it should be pointed out, the MVT (hey, all the others are abbreviated) does not fulfill your maing criteria of suck. You said, "The main minus being that they are both located in DC." None of the Mount Vernon Trail is in the District. That alone should elevate its status.

Marissa said...

foggy: Duly noted. The MVT keeps getting better!