My arrival in Washington is timely: DC Beer Week is in full swing. Even better, I am just in time for a Bikes & Brews tour sponsored by a local shop called, coincidentally enough, City Bikes. I can’t wait to show Washingtonians my bulky blue behemoth and sip their craft beer.
I ride from Arlington to City Bikes in Adams Morgan, a neighborhood that I remember was artsy but sketchy back in 1999 when I spent a summer interning at the White House. With its diverse restaurants and little shops, Adams Morgan looks just fine now, like Brooklyn but without the hype.
I’m early and find a shady spot on the sidewalk to park myself. I don’t know anyone, but soon attract attention. Riders take photos and ask how and why Countri Bike is in DC.
“Ah man, you gotta have a lotta heart to ride that bike,” laughs one guy snapping my picture.
Another guy in a bandanna and sunglasses with biceps as large as my thighs knows these bikes are sturdy. He spent time in NYC and recalled finding a loose Citi Bike on the Lower East Side. He and his friends took turns popping wheelies and riding over every rough surface they could find. They repeatedly threw it down stairs and even into the river, fished it out and bashed it some more. Only the back fender fell off. The bike still worked, bruised but not broken.
I grimace at the pleasure he took in trying to destroy property and wonder if what I am doing is better or worse. I’m treating this bike as my best friend but (temporarily) have removed it from the bike sharing ecosystem.
Bikes & Brews Tour
The ride to Hellbender Brewery in Northwest DC begins, and despite hilly terrain I easily keep pace with the group, meeting people along the way. At our next stop Atlas Brew Works, I converse with two young lawyers from the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
Over a double black IPA (9.2% ABV) I’m getting useful advice if I should protect my NYC Essential Guide app by registering the name with their office. (Long story short: they suggest adding a TM to the upper right corner of the logo—free to do and requires no paperwork.)
My best connection is with Saul, manager of the City Bikes shop in Adams Morgan. He thinks what I’m doing is great and gives me a warm shout out over social media. He also invites me back to the shop tomorrow to see if there’s anything he can do with the bike to make my ride better.
DC > NYC
That afternoon I play overly patriotic tourist and pose with the bike in front of a variety of landmarks before meeting five college friends for dinner in Georgetown. My first impression of DC (at least since ’99) is very favorable. A low skyline and wide sidewalks give the city an airy feeling. The open spaces along the river and National Mall are inspirational for running and biking and without the crowds that compete in narrow lanes in New York's Central Park.
Granted it’s mid-August and locals are on vacation, but DC feels so much more calm and livable than New York. Even DC's infamous humidity has gone away for the week. Horns and sirens are silent. There’s more room to spread out, plenty to see and do (including loads of free museums and monuments) and people are just as open-minded, educated and friendly, even if I am in the land of lawyers and lobbyists.
I'm digging DC as a potential putting-down-roots alternative to NYC, but I can't linger here now. Tomorrow I'll see Saul and the Washington Monument, and then it's up the C&O Canal Towpath towards Pittsburgh as the ride continues.