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TOUR DE UNITED

9 October, 2006

I woke to the unfortunate sounds of wet streets in Baltimore. Hmm, I thought, this could be ugly. After showering and getting into my base layer of bike shorts and cycling jersey, I walked up to my studio to check the radar on weather.com and discovered a vibrant green band helpfully outlining our bike route for the day. I figured viewing the map “in motion” might make me feel better. Er, no. The storm appeared to be oscillating over the route rather than just passing over it.Undeterred, I went down to the kitchen for a cyclist’s breakfast of one Chocolate flavored Powerbar. This was the first Powerbar that I have ever knowingly ingested and I have to say that it was incredibly vile. It was so dense that it was difficult to swallow. I guess that’s why the company recommends drinking 8-14 oz of water with every bar. Yuck.

Having packed my bag the night before, all I needed to do now was finish getting dressed and strap everything on. My bag isn’t very roomy, so I ended up stuffing my powerbars, powerbar gelpacks, spare tubes, phone, camera, DC United scarf, wallet, and keys into the various pockets of my raingear. Anything I needed to stay dry went into a ziplock bag.

At 8:15 AM I bade farewell to my wife and son and headed out the door. I clipped into the pedals and rode the short distance to the Inner Harbor and the National Aquarium to wait for Sean, my riding partner. I took a picture of my bike under the shelter at the Aquarium, which was fitting because the rain started shortly after I dismounted. Sean arrived a short while later, so I took a few more ceremonial shots to commemorate the event.

It was time to go and we realized that we were about to embark on what would most likely turn our toes to prunes and make us look less than sane. As we had been referred to as “nutters” more than once in the lead-up to this trip, it should be no surprise that we saddled up and started riding out of the Inner Harbor. Looking like two nylon-skinned sea-beasts knifing through the Nor’easter, we got more than a few head-swiveling stares/sneers. The time was 8:45 AM.

We had hoped that the line of green from earlier radar viewings would continue moving away from us, but naturally it did not. In fact, it just seemed to dump more and more rain in increasingly voluminous sheets on us as we pedalled out of downtown and along Pigtown’s Washington Boulevard.

Our route continued on Hollins Ferry Road, which I believe is an ancient donkey path leading from one old river crossing to another. It appeared that the last time it was paved was 1943. Needless to say, it’s not the smoothest portion of our ride. The rain only highlighted this fact. Fighting up one incline, trying to avoid wheel-smashing potholes and parked cars, the rain decided it needed to double in intensity. This was the only point in the ride when I said to myself “This is fucking stupid”.

Sean, thankfully, enjoys pain. Yes, he’s a masochist and a devotee of the Marquis de Sade. It’s good to have a riding partner like that to put steel in your spine and keep you moving when cooler heads might convince you to take some shelter until the rain slowed down. Sean figured that the water would find it’s way into our shoes no matter what precautions we might take, so why not just get on with it. We did.

After Hollins Ferry, we turned onto Hammonds Ferry, which was another donkey path that was improved more recently and is far smoother than Hollins Ferry. I always wondered if Hollins and Hammonds were rival businesses at some point. If they were, I think Hollins probably came out ahead. There’s a Hollins Market in SoWeBo (Southwest Baltimore), so he’s got that going for him. At any rate, Hammonds Ferry Road took us out past the beltway and into fabulous Linthicum, MD.

At this point the ride went jungle. We still had our traveling companion, the Nor’easter, which was nice. We led the rain down a few roads and then plunged into the Patapsco State Park. This part of the ride was devoid of cars and wound up and down hills and carried us through the heavily forested park until we emerged on the west side of the woods in Elkridge.

Following Race Road, we skirted the edge of the Park with nary a soul around but ourselves, and of course, the damn rain. On a more pleasant day, this part of the ride is terrific. The road is flat and you get the chance to pedal at a steady cadence while the countryside rolls by.

I tried to stop and take a picture that I had been planning on taking for some time, but the amount of rain pouring down made me change my mind about drowning my camera, so I pedalled on. The shot would have shown wetlands that look like a primordial swamp. Earlier training rides had revealed a view that you would expect to be decorated by swooping pteradactyls. Moving on, I glanced to my right and saw runoff pouring down the hillside that looked like either fake muddy water from a Land of the Lost episode, or the chocolate river from the original Willy Wonka movie. I was reminded of the vile Chocolate Powerbar.

Race Road jogs to the east near Hanover, MD and continues on through a more densely forested piece of land. We passed a house that always seems to have roosters running around in the front yard. They were out in force again and looked pretty nasty with their feathers all wet, in fact, I would say that the were revolting cocks…. thank you, I’ll be here all week.

Finally we exited the woods and entered a suburban office park. My knee warmers had slid off my knees by now and I needed to adjust them to maintain some semblance of comfort. We found some minimal shelter under the overhang of one of the buildings and were able to load up on some carbs. Sean opted for more solid Powerbar nastiness, while I decided to give my “Double Latte” powerbar gelpacks a try. They were much better. Much easier to swallow and tasted something like coffee-flavored yogurt.

With the rain still coming down, but lighter now, we continued south and crossed Rt. 100. A quick jog to the west and on to Forest Drive carried us several more miles past a handful of farms and residential neighborhoods before crossing Montevideo Road and up a substantial pair of climbs. By this point the rain and mercifully ceased, althought our feet were still more or less in buckets of water. Reaching the top of the last climb we turned onto Route 175 and headed back east for Brock Ridge Road.

Brock Ridge carried us past the twin sightseeing highlights of the Maryland State Penitentiary and the Anne Arundel County Dump. With a nice breeze blowing now, our rain gear was starting to dry off a bit, but we were still wet in the hands and feet. Crossing over Rt. 32 we proceeded to ride through the Savage Rail Station parking lot and across the tracks at the surface crossing. I felt it was an odd location for a station, since there wasn’t really anything around it but a parking lot and one or two buildings. Not exactly a residential or retail core. The tragic state of our rail system will have to wait for another day. This is about a bike ride.

Still winding through the countryside, we approached Laurel. This part of the ride carried right next to the stables of Laurel Park Racecourse, whic was interesting. I bet the mudders were licking their chops for the days races. The grandstand in the distance was reminscent of some lower-division football stands in England. Just past Laurel Park we crossed 198 and the half-way point of our journey.

After crossing 198 we rode through Maryland City, Maryland. I had never heard of the place before I started planning this trip. It appeared to be one of those places that had ambitions of grandeur at its founding, but never quite made it. At any rate, there was a nice bit of scenery once we left the residential areas behind.

The road ended at Rt. 197 and we crossed over onto Montpelier Rd. My sister and brother-in-law live in a house nearby, so we decided to drop in and say hello. Thankfully they were home, so we had the opportunity to surprise them and ask for a bathroom break and a towel. My sister was a saint and let me throw my socks into their dryer to try to make the rest of the ride more comfortable.

Halfway thereAfter taking some more photos, and even posing for one on our bikes, we continued on. Some fifteen minutes after leaving their house we had our first technical problem… my rear tire was punctured by rock that looked suspiciously like a tooth. I started calling it mantooth. After removing the rock, I pulled out one of my spare tubes and we set to getting my bike fixed so we could roll on. It only took about 15-20 minutes to get the job done and we were on our way. I’m sure more experienced bikers could have done it faster, but this was the first time I had changed out the tube on my new bike, so I’m entitled to a little feeling-out period.

Once repaired, we moved on closer to the Washington Beltway and our final destination. We turned onto Cherrywood Lane and crossed the bridge over the beltway. It was a key landmark and we felt a sense of accomplishment. We passed the Greenbelt Metro station, where we would later pick up Sean’s car and make the drive back to Baltimore.

Having passed the Metro station, we continued through the neighborhood adjacent and linked up with the Indian River Trail. The trail took us to a steep bridge, which we crossed, and connected to the Northeast Branch Trail. We followed the trail for about 4 miles before getting back onto the surface streets and entering the Brentwood neighborhood.

Riding along a street that changed names three times in the space of a half mile, we passed into Mt. Rainier. After a few turns we found ourselves on Taylor St. which carried us into the District of Columbia. We climbed a bastard of a bridge that crossed the Metro tracks adjacent to Cathoic University before circling back under it and on to John McCormack road.

We then turned onto Michigan Avenue and rode in a further mile before beginning a series of zig-zagging turns that skirted along the Metro and Amtrak rail beds all the way into the center of town. We arrived at Union Station at around 1:30 PM. Ceremonial shots were taken at Union Station and at lunch at The Irish Times nearby.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. 9 October, 2006 11:40 pm

    You guys looked well when you rolled into Lot 8–but I guess sitting in the Irish bar helped.

    Yes you are both nutters

  2. 15 February, 2007 1:51 pm

    Hello.

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