Thursday, January 1, 2015

HBC Rides, final week of 2014

Sam made it to the right coast with A__ for the winter holiday.  We had good -- but crisp! -- weather, and the region is light on traffic from Christmas through to the New Year.  What to do?

Our primary project, I am sorry to report, is this:

What used to be the kitchen wall.
Being a homeowner sure does cut into one's riding!  But we do have time for a total of ~90 miles showing Sam some of the hidden, and not so hidden, gems, as well as a tad of the not-even-so-precious roads and trails in the area around DC.

There is more play in the seatpost on the Focus, so we raise the saddle and switch the pedals and Sam rides the new bike:

No accounting for the photography, of course.
He isn't a fan of the fit, but from a casual glance I would say a 60cm Focus Cayo Evo is about dead-on for Sam.

Ride 1:  Beach/Tuckerman/Glen/River/Persimmon/MacArthur Loop.  36 miles, 2:07

This one is one of my favorites for a quick two hours.  I rode it with A__ some years back when she was in town for work and it is my go-to when I need a quick fix that is more interesting than Beach Drive.  This loop offers it all -- flats, hills, winding roads, semi-urban 'scapes and posh wealth -- and manages to do all of that in 35 miles.

On the 28th it is superlative weather at between 55 and 60 degrees, partly overcast and partly sunny, and imperceptible wind.

We ride out Beach Drive across the Maryland line, where it becomes pancake flat at the base of what I call Temple Mount.  (The Washington LDS Temple sits near the top.)  That out-and-back you see on the map is where we ride to the end of Beach Drive before heading back for the second leg across Bethesda-Rockville.  The road on Beach Drive is too nice to skip those last miles before continuing.

The rollers pick up a tad after we leave Beach Drive and stay with us until we are through Potomac:

The end of the upward-trending flat section is where we leave Beach Drive.

We then follow Tuckerman Road from Rockville Pike to Falls Road.  The first short stretch to Old Georgetown is modestly unpleasant with no shoulder, but after that it opens up and is perfect suburban riding.  At Falls Road we join Glen for a few miles before heading back on South Glen -- that junction comes at the far western portion of the map -- and pick up River Road at Norton.  Glen to South Glen to Norton is the DC region's version of Hollywood Hills.  This is the upscale section of already posh Potomac, Maryland.

River takes us through the small downtown of Potomac, Maryland, which is really a junction with competing outdoor shopping malls, and up to Persimmon Tree.  Maybe my favorite road within easy reach of my backdoor, Persimmon Tree descends 250 feet from Potomac to MacArthur Blvd. on the edge of the Potomac River.  It winds through large properties with pretty -- but no longer obnoxious -- homes.  Traffic is light.

And the final stretch follows MacArthur southeast through Glen Echo, Maryland and into the Palisades neighborhood in DC.  One final climb up Arizona to Nebraska before following Nebraska into increasingly urban environments -- the American University campus, Tenleytown -- and returning home.  Stats for this ride:

Ignore the temp:  I carried the Garmin in my front pocket!

Ride 2:  Rock Creek to Capital Crescent Loop:  25 miles, 1:37

This ride might be described as interesting, convenient, and in parts fun, but not cycling in the sense that we tend to think of it here at HBC.  It is a cold day with temperatures at about 40 and winds approaching the double-digits in speed.

Just to make it interesting we enter Rock Creek Park via the Grant Road climb, which ascends for 1/2 mile at between 7 and 10% in grade.  Right on Ridge and again -- in the interest of not missing a marvelous road -- left on Ross to the junction with Beach Drive and Military Road.  After that winding the loop begins at Beach Drive heading south and then onto the Rock Creek bike trail at Tilden.

Beach Drive on a day very like ours.
The trail from Tilden to K Street is at best unpleasant and -- at some points -- only marginally ridable.   When the running/walking/tourist traffic is heavy it is downright miserable.  For our ride we have the trail mostly to ourselves and we manage the puddles, frost-heaves, and broken tarmac without a hitch.  We leave the trail to follow Water Street along the Potomac at the base of Georgetown and picked up the Capital Crescent by the boat house at the end of the street.

Rock Creek bike trail from  Solid red is the actual trail.
 In contrast with the Rock Creek trail, the Capital Crescent is smooth and pleasant riding.  The traffic is still light, but not nonexistent, and we are pushing into the north wind as we slowly climb from Georgetown into Bethesda, cross the towpath and Canal Road at the footbridge, and then climb in slightly more earnest (maybe approaching 4% in parts) until a tunnel not far south of Mass. Ave.

Capital Crescent from  Dotted line denoted very ridable but unpaved.
Just north of here we encountered old family friends N__ and J__ out for a walk, so we stopped for a brief chat and then continued on.  In Bethesda the Capital Crescent turns to dirt for the few miles until Jones Mill Road, but it is a well-groomed dirt trail that our 28mm tires handle without difficulty.

Although it is usual to join the road at Jones Mill, this has been a bike-trail loop so we follow it further across East-West Highway and back to Beach Drive at the DC line.  The chill is coming on fast as the sun goes down and we hurry over the short rise at Wise Road and back downhill to Bingham Drive and Nebraska Avenue to return home.  The sun is setting and Nebraska heads straight west, rendering forward visibility nonexistent on the first climb on Nebraska; fortunately we can ride in the parking lane while cars drive by blind several feet to our left.

Stats on the tourist's loop of Bethesda and DC here:

Ride 3:  Sugarloaf from Poolesville:  26 miles, 1:43

For the final ride of 2014 we park in the public lot in Poolesville Maryland on a 28 degree morning with a beautiful blue sky. The plan is a Sugarloaf loop that can be finished in time to grab a bite before taking Sam to the airport.  This is winter riding:  we are dressed in layers top and bottom with full insulated gloves, wool socks, and warm hats.
Sam on Hwy. 109, fully kitted for winter.
From Poolesville we head west on White's Ferry Road, turning north toward Sugarloaf on Martinsburg Road. Martinsburg is a lovely quiet stretch with few cars.  This short video is from that stretch:

Martinsburg joins Hwy. 28 not far past the power plant at Dickerson and we follow that much busier road past the little market and under the Marc Train tracks before turning right on Mt. Ephraim road.  Mt. Ephraim is another of my favorite roads in the region.  The pavement is good, it boasts rolling hills and light traffic, and the views of farms and up toward Sugarloaf Mountain are lovely.  I frequently envision driving to Sugarloaf for a tempo workout on Mt. Ephraim -- a perfect road for 15' hard rides back and forth with a finale of repeats on the Sugarloaf climb.

The Sugarloaf Climb

Sugarloaf ascends maybe 500 feet over 1.5-2 miles, a relaxed 5-6% average grade but one of the few longer climbs this close to DC.  We reach the parking area up top and descend quickly, though we are hampered by the low winter sun's limiting visibility on the technical turns.  We leave through the opposite side of the Sugarloaf parking lot, east toward the tiny town of Comus where we turn back south on Highway 109.

109 is a beautiful road through farmland with a series of mid-sized rolling hills, up and down past tiny river valleys, before crossing Highway 28 and returning us to Poolesville and the car.  We load up and return to DC in ample time to get Sam to the airport.

Stats on the final ride of 2014 here:

Ignore the temperature reading -- the unit was in my pocket!


sam said...

Nice rides, all. I was partial to the latter, as the country roads are more what I'm accustomed to in the northwest. While cold, the sun made it quite tolerable. I wish only that we had a little more time to extend the route.

Sugarloaf was a treat. I wasn't sure what to expect, and was anticipating a climb in the four-digits. At 500 feet, you were right to comment that it would make a great place for some hill repeats. Perhaps a good climb to try that 'everest' thing all the kids are doing these days.

Max said...

4 digits. Around here. Hah.