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DC AIDS Ride 4: Ride 2 - Shirlington to Mt. Vernon

Ride 2: Shirlington to Mount Vernon
Saturday, February 7
Distance: 19 miles

My second ride--didn't even feel it.

As warm as the first ride was, this one was cold.  The weather forecast said light sprinkle, possible showers.  It started dripping soon after I got into my car after buying Gatorade and a Cliff Bar at the Safeway. By the time I got to Shirlington it was already pretty drastic.  My fingers were starting to chill as I reattached my front wheel to the frame.

I met up with Shepi and the rest of the riding group at this bike shop in the middle of Shirlington Village.  Shirlington Village itself is a strange little place.  It seems like some northern Virginia real estate developers decided that the intersection of Shirley Memorial Highway and Four Mile Run needed a little town, and built Shirlington.  It grew somewhat like other suburban developments built around the time (late 1940s), with windy streets leading nowhere and roads so wide traversing them seems to require a covered wagon.  However, the planners had enough forethought to create this Village in the middle, a two-block stretch of Main Street, USA in the middle of Suburbia.  While its main thrust nowadays seems to cater to a yuppie clientele craving that Old Town Feel, it manages to do so without being terribly irritating.  It is something like Pleasantville--when you get to the end of Main Street you fall off the world.
Main Street USA--the view from the end of the world
The Shirlington movie house--Sundance in Virginia

A good movie joint at the end of the street plays some of the more intriguing films on current release.  The restaurants on the strip are pricey but the food is usually worth the cost.  The little christmas lights on the trees down the middle of the brick-paved street are a bit much, but in general Shirlington Village leaves me with a good feeling that other planned communities such as the Reston Town Center, with its Disney-and-Bennetton version of Small Town America, try but fail to provide

In any event, we met there and, despite the 40-degree weather we headed out into biking land.  We crossed over Interstate 395 on a bridge, biked down a street to Glebe Road and then got on the Four Mile Run trail along the creek of the same name.  We biked past some apartments, a water treatment plant and got on the Mount Vernon trail just south of Potomac Yard, of recent X-Files fame.  Unlike its televised counterpart, however, the Yard is less of a creepy train yard and more of a giant strip mall. They do have an IHoP there, so maybe there's some redemption to be found.

The Mount Vernon trail snakes its way along the George Washington Parkway from Theodore Roosevelt Island down to the home of the man on the dollar bill.  We passed the marina at Daingerfield Island, then biked behind Marina Towers (inhabited by such celebrities as Strom Thurmond and my older brother), behind a power plant and through Old Town Alexandria.  As we passed the Torpedo Factory, an arts education center in the middle of Old Town, I heard a violinist in her late teens playing the Mozart Violin Concerto No. 5, which I've been practicing for the last 6 years.  That gave me an additional boost.

We got out of Old Town and back on the Mount Vernon trail, but it was getting colder, wetter, more miserable and in general unpleasant to bike. Without quite making it all the way to Mount Vernon we turned around upon popular demand and looped back.

I was surprised to hear we had biked 19 miles by the time we got back to the bike shop.  It had definitely felt like an easy ride.