bicycle routes

Bike to MLK Jr. Monument Day

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21 January 2013.

It was a crisp friendly day down near the Potomac River in Washington DC – the day of President Barack Obama’s Inauguration for his second term in Office. People gathered to pay tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr., a man whose nationally celebrated holiday is also today. The sun was clear, the sky was blue and Memorial Bridge along with Independence Avenue were both closed to general through-traffic.

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One can certainly see the array of visitors and the inviting weather.

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The memorial features several informative elements – more than just a work of public art and tribute. There are also several quotes from his writings and speeches. Below are a few snapshots from the surrounding wall around the statue.

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“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy” – 1963.

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“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly” – Alabama, 1963 (Letter From a Birmingham Jail).

This trip began and ended on my bicycle – I planned an arc to the journey. I left Northern Virginia and went to the Pro Shop, a full-service bicycle shop in Georgetown.

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I needed some brass nipples in order to build a new wheel set for a planned commuter bike – only one part of several projects underway. I got the components (Thumbs up the Pro Shop) and then headed around the city along the river on the Mt Vernon Trail to the Memorial Bridge. It was closed to traffic and was enjoyed by groups of happy pedestrians and mall visitors – many walking four or five abreast. Thanks to the National Park Service for doing this. Independence Avenue was also closed to through-traffic – an arrangement which made it easy for visitors and walkers to enjoy the full spectacle of memorials in the area of the National Mall. I crossed the bridge and sped along Independence Ave on my fixed-gear to the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial. There I was met by hundreds of fellow Americans enjoying the same thing (though most without bicycles ;)). The route of connected trails allows travelers who use bicycles to cross the Potomac River in many key points – both sides of the Key Bridge in Georgetown, both sides of the Memorial Bridge at the Abraham Lincoln Memorial and over I-395 at 14th Street. These access points to the District all connect to the Mt. Vernon Trail – which runs along the Virginia side of the river. But for those in the District, there is also a network of trails (though more akin to wide sidewalks) that run along the river. The area is well connected by path/trail for use by bicycles.

It was a multifaceted journey on my bike that brought together history, tribute, sights of the National Mall and bicycling.

Did anyone else ride their bikes to the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial on his holiday? If so, how was your trip?

Thank you.

Feel free to leave comments.

All pictures above were taken by JL.

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85 Miles and an Airport

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Does anyone know the Warrenton-Fauquier Airport? It’s a tiny local airport being used by single-wing planes and maybe even crop dusters. I assume this fact because it’s surrounded by farms that smell of real farm-work. Quite beautiful cut fields, cows in the mud and tractor lawn-mowers.  There was some kind of trick-plane taking off  behind another single-winged plane. They were taking off at the same time – which looked like they were supposed to be practicing their time in the air together. The highway (Highway 28) I took to get there is not very busy during the early-early afternoon. But these cars do fly fast. There is a minimum shoulder and in some places there is none at all. This did not worry me, but it was noted.On the return trip, a freight-train rolled to my left through the trees. very cool.  A day of bikes, cars, planes and trains.
Highway 28 exits south out of Manassas‘s historic downtown toward proper highways – large bridged interchanges and everything. Then it narrows to 2 lanes with basically a foot of “shoulder” on most of it. The shoulder is inconsistent too. It switches back and forth from a foot to too narrow to use. Bikes needs a little room to play. That is, they need a little room to react to wind and cars. If the bike is already on the edge of the shoulder or in the gutter, there is no space to think and accidents are more likely to occur. Plus, Virginia state law permits bicycles to ride on state highways such as this. The speed limit is only 45 mph. This means then that going south of Manassas and back north again via bicycle presents a situation in which drivers themselves must take on the responsibility alongside the cyclist for the cyclist’s safety. On other words, it takes a village of drivers to produce safe bicycle traveling – assuming of course the cyclist has also followed the laws and rides appropriately. 
I connected to 28 South through Centreville, Va on the Fairfax County Parkway Trail. The description of the trail at TrailLink says this path is inconsistent but very usable. Their words are true. It is full of cracks, weeds growing through it at regular intervals (I have written on this in another post about the W & OD Trail) and it crosses lots of streets and driveways (which are closed in by bushes and trees which makes it hard to see if any cars are pulling out). The other downside with this trail is that drivers, while seeing if they can take a right out onto the main street (in this case, Braddock Rd), hog the space where the bike needs to go right onto the trail through the intersection. Once today, I had to make sure a huge SUV saw me before I went around it to the front. And twice, I was hoping cars would stop for me as I crossed the intersection to get to the trail. We worked it out. I got home safely – though quite tired fighting long slow climbs and constant gradual winds “against me.”
It was a good 85-Mile round trip. I finally got to use the Fairfax County Parkway Trail and had never been through historic Manassas before. 

Post any comments or route suggestions below please.