State to National Capital

Before heading to Washington, I spin around Annapolis since I was too tired to explore after my sprint to the Chesapeake Bay Bridge the day before. I ride around the historic district and admire the tidy shops and painted facades.

I learn that the Maryland State House is the oldest in the nation still in legislative use and was the capitol of the country for less than a year in 1783-84. It’s where Washington resigned his commission before the Continental Congress and where Congress ratified the Treaty of Paris to end the Revolutionary War. Important stuff happened here.

I move to a landmark of a different kind: Chick & Ruth’s is home of the world’s largest milkshake if you believe the menu (I believe it—a six-pound shake!). I settle for a regular 20 ouncer and rank it pretty average, although better than the one in Margate City, NJ. Now that I’m biking almost everyday, my body demands ice cream for breakfast, and so I must obey.

I also pass the Naval Academy but don’t have time for a tour. I once visited as a child and still remember how socks must be folded perfectly to “smile” in order to pass inspection. That right there ended any Naval ambitions.   

Maryland Route 450
Back at Deborah’s condo, I get ready to ride to the nation's capital, but waste more than an hour trying to figure out the best route. Google Maps is determined to send me onto busy roads with no shoulders.

I settle for Maryland 450 West. The shoulder is narrow and sometimes overgrown or littered with thick branch parts, forcing me into the single lane of traffic moving at 50 mph. Worse, I encounter hills—the first since my first day in Highlands, NJ fresh off the ferry from Manhattan. I walk the bike several times as cars shoot uphill around me.

MD 450 is no good time on a bike, but where it intersects multi-lane MD 3 is absolutely terrifying. Traffic on MD 3 has big trucks and fast cars. Stopped at the light before the left turn onto MD 3, I couldn’t tell if there was a shoulder on the far side. I feel the heat of anticipation rising off cars behind me waiting to gun it on green. When the light changes I roll forward and take a deep breath as if biking off a cliff. At the last second I find salvation: a shoulder. Half a mile on MD 3 and I reconnect with MD 450 West.

Downhill to D.C.
From here on in gets better because a sidewalk or separate bike path keeps me out of traffic. The Anacostia Tributary Trail System (pictured above) offers several miles of worry-free biking along a tributary as I close in on DC.

I don’t know the exact place where I enter the capital, but spotting my first Capital Bikeshare rack I know I’m close. I scream with joy like seeing a relative on the street: NYC and DC bike share are united! Blue bike meets red bike.

I breeze past Union Station, the Capitol Building and National Mall. Seeing the Washington Monument absorb late afternoon sunlight almost brings me to tears. One week after nervously setting out into the unknown, I’m in the nation’s capital feeling confident yet curious about these landmarks so different from those in New York.

I haven’t been to D.C. since I was a White House intern back in the Clinton Administration. The first thing I notice now is that D.C. is bike friendly. I can cruise sidewalks along The Mall with no hassle. You’d never get away with that in NYC. I end up at the Lincoln Memorial overlooking the Reflecting Pool and Washington Monument. Incredulous tourists can’t believe the license plate on Travoy. Yes, I came from New York. On this bike. In one week.

Into Arlington, Virginia
Daylight is fading, I’m out of energy and hungry for dinner. My oldest college friend is hosting me for the weekend and we’re going out for Bolivian food tonight since we both share a love of South American culture.

I have one more bridge to cross into Arlington and it’s beautiful. Unlike NYC, the bridges around DC are flat and wide for bikes. Rolling past Arlington National Cemetery as shadows envelop the bright white grave markers sends shivers down my spine.

I walk the bike up a hill near Iwo Jima (Marine Corps) War Memorial where bikers Mike and Christine recognize what I’m riding.

“Well, you’re a long way from home,” Mike says. I tell them the story and they love it. We exchange Instagram handles and I finish the ride into Arlington, pulling in at 8 PM.

Tomorrow it’s off to explore the local landmarks, and I’ve got just the outfit for the occasion.