Sunday, April 30, 2006

173 miles from Wilmington DE to Baltimore to Washington DC

What a weekend of biking -- 85 miles on Saturday, 88 miles on Sunday.

We prepared for the ride by heading up to Wilmington, Delaware on Friday evening in a rental car and staying in a Doubletree Hotel. Wilmington is a business town that, aside from a couple pubs, is deserted on the weekend - though we passed the HQ's for all sorts of banks. I plotted out routes til 2am and got up at 8am to start biking. We didn't actually get on the road til 10, for various reasons.

On Saturday, we biked 85 miles from Wilmington, Delaware to a northern suburb of Baltimore, Maryland. We took Route 2 (which has a wide shoulder) to Newark, Delaware, which is the home of a campus of the University of Delaware. Despite the name it is a pretty town with cafes and two bike shops, that's more interesting than Wilmington.

We turned onto the scenic but hilly Route 273, continued on Route 1 which crossed the Conowingo Dam, and followed the first five twists from this cue sheet (in reverse) to reach Rocks Chrome Hill Road. From there, we continued along the beautiful Atlantic Coast route of the Adventure Cycling Association.

En route, Mike took a tumble when the scenery got the better of him and he didn't notice a ridge in the road. Falling in Superman position, with arms outstretched, he scraped up his elbow but good, and hurt his knee and pinky a bit too.
A woman across the road had some sani-wipes in her car which we used to try to disinfect his wounds and clean him up a bit. We continued onward for a short time and stopped for lunch at a market that cooked us a 16" pizza. We picnicked on the sidewalk outside, and Mike wrapped his wound with gauze that they sold. Here's a picture of Mike's cleaned up bruise, and of my unbruised elbow.

The route had an unending supply of crunchy uphills and fast downhills -- it took a toll -- and we arrived just north of Baltimore while it was still light out, after passing through a gorgeous park and lake.

Our pause outside of a pizza shop to book a hotel somehow wasted a couple of hours, as a yacht show had driven up the hotel rates near the inner harbor. These hours weren't wasted, as the shop had an excellent batch of diet Sunkist and we consumed five cans. My phone battery was depleted in the process, so the photos below were liberated from the Web.

The locals were quite friendly and kept coming out to chat with us, regardless of whether we were on the phone or not. A cheerful fellow who was especially oblivious to whether we were on the phone or not ate an entire pizza on his scooter, offering slices to us and giving us an earful. We learned that he had flown just twice in his life and was afraid of his upcoming trip, and that he wasn't worried about his scooter being stolen because it was overinsured. The pizza staff steered us toward the hotels in the area which weren't booked up or exorbitantly priced, and we finally booked rooms at the Red Roof Inn outside of Baltimore.

We gave into temptation and had dinner at Friendly's. They asked for our drinks order but looked at me funny when I asked for a Black Russian. They're a family establishment. They're not especially vegetarian-friendly but I had them combine side orders of mac & cheese into an entree. Mmm. Dessert was a three-scoop sundae.

The Red Roof Inn wasn't bad at all, except after all that biking I needed to soak - and their bathtubs are cramped. Insomnia and the Sopranos kept me awake til 3am and the alarm clock woke me at 6:10 (courtesy of the previous occupant), but I caught a few more Zzz's until the official 8am wakeup. Usually I'm fine without much sleep but it took some time before I was 100%. We stopped for breakfast at Dunkin' Donuts (egg and cheese bagel) and headed into Baltimore and then right back out.

Baltimore has some wide, tree-lined roads -- very pretty. I would have liked to spend a couple more hours there, but we had a lot of mileage ahead. Baltimore also has some sketchy areas, and we went through them too. Stopped frequently in search of a bathroom but none were available -- the mini-marts had bulletproof glass and the 7-11's and gas stations didn't trust the locals with their bathrooms. We finally reached nicer areas, including a really cute downtown whose name I forget.

It was clear that we weren't going to arrive in DC in time for the rally, so with 36 miles to go, we stopped for lunch at a wine store/deli/mini-mart in a little Maryland town. Quite a friendly place - everyone in the store chatted with us, employees and customers alike. We ate at a picnic table outside, though Mike eventually moved into the shade because the sun was so warm ;-).

Our new goal was to reach DC before the Hertz office closed; we were cutting it close. Twenty plus miles later we reached the Rock Creek Trail, which is a gorgeous biking and hiking trail that lasts twelve miles, leading all the way into D.C. The path curves all over -- side to side and up and down -- and speeding over it felt like a Pole Position course. This was Mike's favorite part of the trip and probably mine, too. The photo to the right shows the greenery but the path was actually paved, and fine for road bikes. It is mostly downhill from Maryland to DC, and mostly uphill from DC to Maryland, so we were coming from the right direction!

We reached DC just 15 minutes before the Hertz office would close, but getting out of the park was so confusing that we missed the deadline and then some. DC has an incredible series of bike roads in that park that lead to the Zoo, Connecticut Avenue, even the White House, but no signs! A couple of friendly bicyclists directed us, and we eventually made it to the back of the zoo half an hour before closing time.

DC's zoo is the best zoo around, for two reasons: (a) it's a public park that you can just walk into -- no admission or barriers, and (b) the pandas, of course. The pandas weren't available to visit, and (alas) we couldn't find the capybaras, but we said hi to the cheetahs and a giraffe. Did you know that cheetahs can run 70 miles an hour? This photo was taken by someone a year ago, when they were only 10 weeks old. Now they are larger but not yet fully grown.

We left the zoo and headed off to dinner. Turning left at the exit, just a few minute bike ride away, was the incredible Jandara Cafe. We each had strawberry diaquiris and I had their spring rolls and their incredible Jandara Noodles with Tofu. It was so good that I ordered a second one to bring home. Meanwhile, Alamo came through and had a Jeep waiting for us at Union Station -- they'd be open until 10pm.

We had a mad ride through the beautiful DC streets and made it to Union Station with a good 12 minutes to spare, then drove back to NYC.

Mike had left his keys at home and his building's security staff wasted an hour of our time; after refilling the tank ($60 for 80% of a tank!) and parking the car, I didn't get home til 6am. Still have sore legs (good sore) and a reddish face and arms from the sun, but it's all good.


Blogger Mike said...

Cheetahs!!!! Yes, it's good to say hi to them to keep them on your side. So it sounds like you had quite the adventure. Glad it was such a good weekend for you.

6:58 PM  
Blogger Capybaras United said...

Sounds like it was a good weekend for you too!

7:46 PM  
Blogger Bearette24 said...

I love the cheetahs! And the sundae looks so sinful.

7:47 PM  
Anonymous Matthew Belmonte said...

Cool! Glad my route on the 273 from Newark worked well for you. I've never actually done the Baltimore-to-DC segment, and ought to try it sometime.

9:26 PM  
Blogger Capybaras United said...

Thanks Matthew, it was a good route. The Baltimore-to-DC segment was a winner; and DC is so small that you can tack on a few more miles and get to Virginia.

Bearette, the sundae was sinful. Mmm.

10:08 PM  
Blogger LostInTX said...

Wow! what an adventure! You guys always seem to have a good time on your rides.. I'm jealous! :)

3:23 AM  
Anonymous allen said...

It sounds like an amazing ride, D. It reminds me of some of my experiences doing the pilgrimage across Spain this summer. How's m's arm doing?

3:33 AM  
Blogger Mike said...

You know, a ride like this once in awhile is appealing to me more and more. Years ago I rode from Kingston to Watkins Glen in a day (ouch) but it's a beautiful ride that I'd love to do over 2 or 3 days sometime. I'm thinkin' we should do a bike blogger trip sometime...

9:47 AM  
Blogger Capybaras United said...

Mike, that would be great. If you could stand the noncompetitive speed, I'd be up for almost any ride.

Allen, I'm wondering that too. Mike L? Are you safe from amputation? Mike L's wife is a doctor and wasn't too happy to hear that some of the dirt had been embedded beneath the skin and was hard to get out.

12:48 PM  
Blogger Capybaras United said...

Lost, it sounds like you've been bitten by the bike bug too -- the long rides are lots of fun (and a great excuse to spend time outside).

12:50 PM  
Blogger M said...

Hey All!
This is M!
Couple of things:
1) The Rock Creek path that we took which connects to DC is the best bike path I've ever been on..we definitely don't have anything like it in the NYC area that I know of, so I strongly recommend it!

2) Rather then doing a 2-day Phily-to-DC 173 mile weekend trip (my odometer actually had over 185 since I rode my bike to meet up with Capybaras), I would recommend just doing the Baltimore-DC segment (maybe start a little north to make it a full century), so that the next day, you can spend all day touring DC since there's lots of nice stuff to do there (e.g. Zoo..) and so that you don't get back home at 6am..:)

3) Glad to report that the arm, knee and pinky are all doing ok. The arm still has major holes/skin scraped off, so it's nothing you'll want to stare at directly while eating, but last time M's wife Dr. M looked at it, she said she thought it looked like it was starting to heal (but then again, she's in Neuro so what does she know..;)

4) Worse "injury" was sunburns on my hands because of my biking gloves.. They had weird holes/fishnet cloth pattern that gave me the worse-looking sunburn ever!! It looks like a cross between getting crucified and having the flag of the United States imrinted on top of my hands.. Lesson learned: ALWAYS apply suntan lotion when going on a long bike ride!! Not only will it help prevent skin cancer but also, will prevent the humiliation of walking around with something that looks like a flesh eating bacteria got to your hands!!:)

6:00 PM  
Blogger Capybaras United said...

Glad to hear you're OK. I got one heck of a sunburn too though not in a weird pattern. Finally over it!

9:14 PM  

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